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October 01, 2008

Love Jesus...

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Greetings, Dear Friends!

And to those visiting, I say welcome!


I post every Wednesday and my sole purpose is to nourish your soul along the way.

Before I get into my topic, I have a little business to take care of. Each month I give away a $10.00 gift card to Caribou Coffee. My son suggested I switch to Starbucks. What do you think? 

Anyway, today is the day to award September's winner.

And the winner is...Tina Greenland! Tina, Congratulations! email me at: info@susielarson.com and claim your prize.

*Just a note: winners have to contact me. I'm not able to chase you down! Thanks so much!

One more note of business. My quarterly Ezine comes out on October 15; if you haven't signed up, be sure to do so today! I give away lots of fun books from fellow authors; I include some devotional thoughts and great book recommendations; and I offer some health and balance tips. Here's the link to subscribe:


Now, on to my topic...

This morning during my prayer time, I pondered Jesus' words to His disciples regarding the woman who lavishly anointed Jesus' head with expensive oil:

"...For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her." (Mark 14:6-9)

A little later during my prayer time I read from Revelations, chapter two regarding the Church of Ephesus. 

This church, from all appearances, had it together. They were known for their incredible work ethic, their patience, their intolerance of evil, and their ability to discern the legitimacy of those who talked a good talk. They had grit and perseverance and they were very, very patient.

AND YET, God took issue with them. So much so, that unless they repented, He promised to come quickly and remove the lampstand from their place. 

Just where did they miss the mark?

The Bible says, they 'left their first love'. 

They were about their Father's business with out their Father's fellowship. 

Think about another story in the New Testament. Mary and Martha. Both had access to Jesus. Both loved Him. To quote author William L. Ford III who addressed the difference between Martha and Mary's focus, "Martha was consumed with how she served...Mary was consumed with WHO she served..."

Hang with me, I'll be making my point soon.

Let's just jump to one more Bible passage. In 1 Corinthians chapter 13: 3 it says:

"If I give away all I have to the poor and give my body up to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing."

Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm passionate about social justice issues. I want the Church to be mobilized to feed the poor, rescue the oppressed, and to set captives free!

I use a portion of every one of my speaking engagements to draw attention to the work of my heroes at the International Justice Mission.

In fact, just last night, my husband and I (and a few of our friends) attended Sara Groves' 'Art-Music-Justice' tour and I cried through most of the program. It was amazing.

So, what's my point?

I believe that many people, Christian and otherwise, are stepping up to meet the needs of the oppressed because God is pressing the issue. His heart burns for these precious people and He'll use whoever is available to do the things that He cares about.

But, in light of the anger and political divisions in and outside the Church, you can see how 'Social Justice' can become a religion all its own.

It's noble to do this work. Every one agrees with that.

Jesus, on the other hand, well, He's a little more controversial. 

I'm walking carefully here, so please stay with me.

At the end of the day, it's our oneness with Jesus that matters more than anything. And when we fan that flame, nurture that love, and live from a place of intimacy with Him, we'll do the things He cares about. We'll be provoked to care about the poor; we'll be compelled to help the helpless; we'll be moved to make a difference in our world.

But if we stray away from our 'first love' passion, and we use all of our energy to diligently do the work (minus the worship), in a short amount of time, it'll become about us; about what we're doing; about what others should be doing.

The result? Self righteousness. Judgement. Exhaustion. Frustration. Feeling overwhelmed by the vast need around us. Feeling under-qualified to make a difference. Feeling prideful that we're doing more than the next guy. Feeling insignificant that we're not doing as much as the next guy. And so on.

And yet, when we abide in the Vine, fruit happens. Life happens. Needs are met. People are revived. And we're made new in the process. When we hook up to our Life Source, life flows through us and produces an impact that we never could on our own. 

My friends at the International Justice Mission are perfect examples of this.

Each and every person I've met and worked alongside, has been a godly, humble person. They are so connected with the heart of Christ behind their work, they give off no expectation that 'you should really be doing more' or that 'I'm someone special because I'm doing what matters'. 

On the contrary.

They are so connected to the heart of Christ in this thing, that they face the worst of the evil on this earth with a brave and humble heart knowing that God is with them. They can receive your $5.00 gift with utter humility and gratitude as if you have just given them a million dollars. 

How do they walk such a narrow path? 

Under Gary Haugen's leadership, every IJM staffer places a high priority on prayer and oneness with God.

The days are speeding up and the end is nearer today than it was yesterday. 

One day we'll all give an account for what we did with what was offered us.

What did we do with the offer of fellowship with Jesus?
We're we willing to face and admit the poverty of our own soul?
Did we serve on our own strength, or did we serve out of our fullness in Christ?
Did we place a high priority on our time in Jesus' presence?
Did we tend to things that burn in God's heart?
Did we live by faith?

Considering the Church of Ephesus who seemed to have it all together but ran the risk of losing their 'lampstand' because somewhere along the line, they wandered off track...may we pause and consider the path we are on today.

As Graham Cooke once said, "Christianity isn't rocket science, it's about living under the love of Christ. It's about letting Him love you and living in response to that love."

Take time today to ponder your fellowship with Christ. Nurture that love-affair. Rest in His care. Do what He says. 

No more. No less. 

Trust Him to carry the world on His shoulders. Be humbly grateful for the call on your life. Entrust others to Him as well. 

First and foremost, love Jesus today. Enjoy the fact that He is crazy in love with you. 

Until next week~

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Comments

Dear Linda,

You said it better than I did. Thanks for stopping by.
Bless you!

Susie

Kelly F,

Amen and amen.
Bless you~

Dear Crissa,

Nice to meet you!
Thanks for all you do for the organization we love so much!
My husband and I pray each morning for IJM and for those waiting for rescue.
God bless you!

Dear Karissa,

Thanks for your post. I hope and pray that as you slow down, you fill up. May God Himself restore and renew you in every way!
Peace to you~

Hi Kathy,

Thanks for sharing about the book you're reading. Isn't it great that we get to serve alongside God as friends, and not as hired help?
What an honor...
Blessings~

Dear Stephanie,

Thanks so much for your transparency. May God draw you to Himself and restore you to full health, energy, and strength! He restores our soul and leads us beside quiet waters. What a good God He is. :)
Blessings to you~

Dear Deena,

So nice to meet you!

I just emailed you regarding the review copy.

Have a blessed day~

Dear Marilyn,
I'm so glad that God met you at the retreat. We sure had a sweet time, no?

Blessings to you~

Thanks for your ministry at Camp Lebanon. What a blessing you were to so many thirsty hearts. So many of your experiences resonated with me personally as I have also gone through a couple MS scares, Lymes, and years of migranes, but am now very healthy. What an encouragement to hear how God has used your pain for His glory.

Thanks for the great blog, Susie! I've been so busy with life that I haven't had time to read, but I am sure glad that I stopped by today! When you said "Did we serve on our own strength, or did we serve out of our fullness in Christ?" it really made me think...

I'm a teacher (public school - so I can't talk about God, unfortunately) and I've been so run down lately...trying to figure out what I can do for my kids to help them succeed and what I can do to be a better teacher and what I can do to be more organized. I've been 100% completely and utterly exhausted...and not at all relying on Christ to help me...

I have a student in my class who is especially troublesome - and rightfully so, as she comes from a very poor home life. I know that God put her in my classroom for a reason...yet I've been relying on myself to make progress with her. Guess what...it hasn't worked!!

My goal for tomorrow and the rest of the year is to pray and rely on God to give me strength to get through each day and meet the needs of my kiddos. If God put her in my class for a reason, then I need to lean on Him to help me! He obviously has a plan and He has given me such a great burden to help this poor child. I'm truly honored and blessed that He chose me...and I need to remember to choose Him every day. Without Him, I can produce no fruit. (And His love can shine through me, even if I can't talk about Him directly!)

Thank you so much for your great words of encouragement!!

Karissa

Susie,

Thank you so much for your aknoledgment of IJM. We are all so encouraged by your appriciation of the people here and the work accomplished. We are so blessed to have people supporting our work and sharing with others what we do. Thank you.

Dear Susie,
Thank you.

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still..." Exodus 14:14

Peace,
Kelly in Ohio

Susie,
A wonderful and very timely message. I wonder if the current emphasis on social justice could become another form of legalism just like any other "work" that is performed to prove one is truly spiritual. A cup of cold water given from a heart filled with the love of Christ is worth more than 100 good things done to put self on display. We need to let God show us our true motives in all things.
Love you friend,
Linda

I commented a couple weeks ago how I wonder am I doing enough. And your response to me was so right! If I'm abiding on the vine the more clear things are to me. And in doing that I have a clear focus. It's not my will but God's will be done. I want serve God, not men. Thank you so much for reminding me how much I am loved by the God of the universe! How awesome!

Peace and love ~Becca

Susie, I am reading a book by Bob Sorge called "The Fire of God's Love". In it he conveys similar thoughts about the difference between a servant and a friend of God. It's all about the love-the first love as you so stated here so well. God bless your ongoing ministry!
Love, Kathy

Thank you, Susie! Have you ever been at a point where you knew the Lord was trying to tell you something, but you weren't sure how to put it all together? That's where I was until I read your post. Unfortunately, when you mentioned self-righteousness and exhaustion I saw myself. Praise God, it is His kindness that leads us to repentance. Thank you for being faithful to share what God places on your heart.

Susie!

I found you through Virginia Smith's newsletter, and I'm SO glad I did! She also recommended your book, "Uncommon Woman". I write book reviews at A Peek At My Bookshelf, and I'd LOVE to help promote your books! If this is possible, contact me via my email listed here:
thedeena63 at hotmail dot com

God bless your richly in all of your endeavors for Him!

Deena Peterson
Independent Reviewer Totally Dependent on Jesus

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