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4 posts from March 2009

March 25, 2009

Will We, Or Won't We?

Godmoving

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. 

Each month I give away a $10.00 gift card to someone who posts on my blog. This month the gift card comes from Starbucks, so leave a post, share an insight or story, and bless lots of people! Maybe you'll win a treat for you and your friends.

Also, if you've read one of my books and are willing to post a review on Amazon, I have a treat for you. Once the review appears on Amazon, email me and let me know. I'll send you a free copy of one of my books (your choice). Here's my email: info@susielarson.com

Now on to my topic...

I've been thinking a lot about the power of the will; God's will and ours. God's will is a powerful, raging river, full of grace and mercy, strength and provision. Our will is a disjointed, smooth path - easy to walk on, but leads us away from our appointed destiny. 

When God's will crosses your will, what do you do? What's your first response? Do you go your own way and do your own thing, or do you - in spite of your emotions and your feelings - jump in the river? 

God's Word reminds us, "I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me." We can. But so often, we don't.

Read this great excerpt from by John Henry Newman (written in the 1800's - taken from "Joy & Strength):

"Why is it that we in the very Kingdom of grace, surrounded by angels and preceded by saints, nevertheless can do so little, and instead of mounting with wings like eagles, grovel in the dust, and do but sin, and confess alternately? Is it that the 'power' of God is not in us? Is it literally that we are not 'able' to perform God's commandments? God forbid. We are able. We DO have a power within us to do what we are commanded to do. What is it we lack? The power? No, the will. What we lack is the simple, earnest, sincere inclination and aim to use what God has given us, and what we have in us." 

Something I've learned along the way is that obedience to God brings power to my faith. Every time I've forsaken the smooth path of selfishness that I might  jump in the raging, unpredictable river of obedience, I've gained momentum in my walk of faith, I've learned on a new level just how powerful God is, and I've learned to mistrust my selfish inclinations on a whole new level.

Even Jesus submitted His will to His Father in Heaven. He came to earth specifically to do the Father's will (See John 6:38). Likewise, we are here to do the Father's will. 

How is it that we so easily take the freedom He offers us, and use it to go our own way? All around me I see people walking away from their commitments to love and to forgive and to live as Christ-followers. Not that we can do anything on our own, but as we stay closely linked in fellowship with the Father, He will move in us to will and to act according to His beautiful purposes for us (See Phil. 2:13). 

What comes up when God crosses our will with a command to obey? Stubbornness, selfishness, entitlement, pride, excuses, explanations, and the list goes on. 

What does God want us to do when faced with the opportunity to take the easy path or the raging river? He wants us to trust Him and jump in! May we leave our imagined rights on the river bank and trust God to take us to that next place of purity, of promise, of provision. His ways are always best.

And let me tell you, every time I've chosen to obey - even when it cost me dearly - I came out the other side far more grounded and and strengthened to do the next thing God had for me. Though it seems like an oxymoron to lose your footing in the river and gain your footing in faith - it happens, it's true. And those who choose their own way miss out on the blessing of this adventure of faith and unfortunately reap the consequences of their unbelief and disobedience.

We must not take our cue from the masses around us. Many are running down the path of least resistance. But may we have the honor and the humility to trust God more than we trust ourselves; to love Him more than we love our personal comforts; and to submit to His will more than we do our selfish ways. If we say we love Him but don't obey Him, we don't really know Him. If we say we follow Him but we repeatedly walk away from His invitation to jump in the river, we really aren't following Him. Even if we perform miracles in His name and are in the center of one supernatural act after another, but continue to disregard His will and refuse to obey Him, we will not enter the Kingdom (see Math. 7:21). 

We are saved by grace, but we are identified as ones who listen to His voice and who do what He says.

"My sheep listen to My voice: I know them and they follow Me" (John 10:27).

Want His will? Here it is:

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in ALL circumstances, for THIS is God's will for those who belong to Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

Obey Him today, even if you don't feel like it. God's will for you is always your best-case-scenario! And on the other side of that obedience waits blessing, power, and provision.

Be blessed!

PS ~ If you've never signed up for my quarterly E-zine, you might want to (next issue comes out mid-April). A number of my author friends and I give away some free books, I write a devotional insight and offer some great book recommendations; I share some great quotes and a prayer to send you on your way. Here's the link to sign up:


March 18, 2009

How Jesus Sees Us...

Cottageinthewoods

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. 

Each month I give away a $10.00 gift card to someone who posts on my blog. So stop by, leave a comment, bless lots of people, and maybe you'll win a gift card to Starbucks!

Also, just for fun, I'm going to do a little giveaway this week. If you've read one of my books and haven't posted a review on Amazon yet, would you do me a favor and post a review? Then email me letting me know you're review is posted and I'll send you a free copy of one of my books (you choose). If I get an onslaught of takers, I'll have to limit it to about five, but let's see what happens. My publisher loves to see new reviews pop up every once in a while. Here's my email address: info@susielarson.com

Now on to my topic...

This morning during my prayer time I was absolutely struck by the way God sees us. In the Gospel of John, Jesus called Himself the Vine and and referred to us as the branches. 

Vine branches aren't strong and sturdy, they are pliable and bendable. And when they're severed from the Vine, they become brittle and, well, dead. Read this great excerpt from my "Believer's Bible Commentary":

A vine branch has one great purpose - to bear fruit. It is useless for making furniture or for building homes. It does not even make good firewood. But, it IS good for fruit-bearing as long as it abides in the Vine!" (p. 1550).

We were made to bear fruit!

Jesus also called Himself the Shepherd and us, the sheep. 

Sheep are vulnerable, defenseless creatures - and not the smartest animals on the planet. They need the Shepherd to guide them and keep them safe. Jesus said, "My sheep know Me, and they know My voice." Proverbs 9:10 tells us, "Knowing the Holy One results in understanding." The more we know Jesus, the more we understand Him. The more we understand His love, the easier it is to follow Him. 

Just as in the Vine analogy where He cares for the branch, the Shepherd lovingly cares for His sheep. Here's an excerpt from my Bible study notes:

"God's knowledge and love for His children involves personal affection, faithfulness, and constant providential care. WE are engraved on His hands. We are never out of His mind, for God's eye continually watches out for our good." (Life in the Spirit Study Bible - p. 1623).

Jesus also compared Himself to a man going on a journey, entrusting His possessions to His servants. We are those servants. We've been entrusted the priceless message of salvation, freedom, unique gifts and supernatural power to make a difference in our world, and Jesus - in no uncertain terms - makes it clear that He is after a return on His investment in us. He expects us to operate on a basis of increase, not decrease, of advance, not retreat.

So, in summary, we're branches - made for a very specific purpose. We're made to stay closely connected to Him. We're made to bear fruit. We're sheep - we're not always smart and pretty defenseless on our own. Yet, for those of us who follow Him, we're protected, provided for, and we have all of Heaven on our side! We're stewards - we are expected to give God a return on His investment in us. 

We have this priceless treasure in these earthen vessels that we might remember that all of the good things that come from us are because of the power of God within us.

We are utterly dependent on God and yet when we partner with Him, He uses us to change the world.

God sees us as fragile and yet significant beings. Though petty and distract-able at times, we are always priceless to Him. Though we are not built for some things, we are made to bear fruit - lots of it - fruit that will last long after we're gone. 

You and I - human as we can be at times - were made for great things.

Isn't that just simply amazing?

Be encouraged today to know that even on your weak and weary days, you are strong in Him. It's okay to remember your need, in fact, it's essential. You need Him. So do I. But wonder upon wonders, He has already made provision for our need!

Blessings to you this week!

PS ~ If you haven't already signed up for my quarterly E-zine, you might want to! Four times a year I email out a E-zine filled with fun book giveaways from my fellow author friends, devotional insights, great book recommendations, cool quotes, and a prayer to send you on your way. Here's the link to sign up:

March 11, 2009

A Clear Past...

BeautifulPath

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.

Each month I give away a $10.00 gift card to someone who posts on my blog. This month I'll give away a gift card from Starbucks, so leave a comment, share a story, and bless lots of people!

Now on to my topic...

A couple of months ago I was praying my way through the 23rd Psalm, and you know how this happens, a certain verse came off the page and begged for a deeper look. Here's the verse:

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (v.26).

I pondered the idea of 'mercy following me' and and considered it a fresh blessing from heaven!

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 139:5 ~ You both precede and follow me, You place Your hand of blessing upon my head.

The Lord of mercy follows us, covering our our (repented of) missteps and mistakes with His grace. He picks up the broken pieces of our lives and makes a beautiful collage of redemption. Every sin repented of, every misstep acknowledged at the Cross, is covered in Covenant blood. It's wiped out.

So when you or I strain our neck to look backwards at our past mistakes, Jesus is there. And if we don't see Him there, we are not seeing clearly. We are seeing a distorted picture. A fake one, actually. Because in the light of God's mercy, our past has been altered! Our past has been changed!

It is forgiven. In Christ, I'm forgiven and so are you. 

God takes every horrible situation and makes something out of it. He shapes circumstances and people and redeems every lost thing. He goes before us and clears the way. He walks behind us and paves the disjointed paths of our past with a fresh covering of mercy.

Often when the enemy gets us to consider our past, he does so by singling us out and amplifying our mistakes in the absence of grace and mercy. For the Believer, this is a totally distorted picture. For the Believer, this picture is a lie. 

Everyone has a past. Everyone has said, done, and thought things they'd rather forget. We've hurt others. We've been hurt by others. We've sinned in ways too many to count. But the point is: ALL have sinned and fallen way short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

Don't let the enemy single you out! 

Goliath tried to do that to young David. But David had the presence of mind to disregard those 'singling out' comments and shouted out, "Who is this Philistine that defies the armies of the living God?" In other words he was saying, "When you defy me, you defy the armies of the Living God! You will not pick me apart or single me out!"

Our strategy for standing strong against the enemy is to be strong in the Lord. We must not look at our pasts alone, with the devil, and a large HD TV (amplifying every mistake and misstep). Everything about that scenario is wrong. 

If we must look back, may we do so in the presence of love and grace and mercy, with God at our side, and amidst an army of Believers who have likewise sinned, but have been forgiven and redeemed. 

One redeemed sinner sends a thousand to flight, and two? Ten thousand! 

There's power in numbers and the mercy of God has our back! Praise be to God who always leads us in His triumph! As we dwell in the presence of the Lord from day to day, it becomes easier and easier to acquaint ourselves with His mercy, grace, and love. We are surrounded by His provision and forgiveness which is not so hard to grasp when we walk closely beside Him. 

Do not fixate on what lies behind you! Look forward to what God has set before you. Fix your eyes on Jesus and run the race marked out before you with focus, faith, discipline, and love. Miracle breakthroughs are on the horizon. 

Blessings to you this week~

PS - If you haven't signed up for my E-zine, you might want to! Four times a year you'll receive an email magazine with great devotional insights, free books from my author friends, great quotes, and great book recommendations. Here's the link in case you're interested:

March 03, 2009

A Deeper Hunger...

Beautifulvermilionsunset

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.

Each month I give away a $10.00 gift card to someone who posts on my blog. So leave a comment, share a story, and bless lots of people!

Well, it's time to announce the winner for February. Drum roll please...

Congratulations to Kimberlee (you posted on February 26th), you won a $10.00 gift card to Starbucks!!! Here's the catch. You have to email me to claim your prize. I wish I had time to chase you down but I don't. :) Here's my email: info@susielarson.com

Now on to my topic...

Last week I posted about the importance of being purposeful in the way we walk out this faith journey. Especially in these times. Please read it if you get the chance. This week's post sort of piggy-backs on last week's post. 

Recently Deuteronomy 8 has been swirling around in my heart and mind. Let's read a passage from that chapter: 

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers.

Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 

Many people are going through a testing time right now. In different ways, many of us are 'going without' things we are used to having or things we have taken for granted. For me, it's food. I'm very limited with the kinds of food I'm able to digest. So, 'manna' for me is God's grace to eat the same few foods day in and day out.

Maybe you're used to having more money than you do now; or maybe you're used to having more time; less stress; better health; stronger relationships; a greater level of respectability; a title; a strong sense that people understand you; a job; a marriage; a best friend; a church; a strong sense of God's direction. The list is endless. 

We are in a testing time as a nation. And Believers are definitely feeling the sifting in their souls. 

What does this have to do with the passage in Deuteronomy 8? Here's the parallel: Right now (much like the Israelites), I believe the Lord is allowing His people to go without certain things to test what is in our hearts. If we're honest, we will admit that certain things surface in us when we don't get our way. 

God knows what's in our hearts. He's showing us what's in our hearts. Our maturity is revealed when we lose things we are used to having. Will we still obey the Lord? Will we continue to humble ourselves before Him? Our hearts are tested in this process, revealing what's inside of us. It's a humbling process but God's grace is sufficient for us.

He wants His people to stand strong during these turbulent times. And if our security is a false one, we will stumble and fall. Now is not the time to be grabbing for quick fixes to fill in the gaps of what's missing in our lives. Now is the time to shift every hope onto the Rock of our Salvation. 

What's the manna for you and me? It's the daily mercy and grace God offers us. Whatever we we are missing in our lives right now, God's grace is more than enough to see us through. In fact, His grace is better for us than getting our way. His presence surpasses the surface satisfaction we enjoy when we get what we want; His Word actually delivers us from our earthbound tendencies and transforms us into people who are free and not bound by the things of this world.

And why is this important? Because we must learn in the core of our beings, that we don't 'get life' from getting our way or from having what we want. We as Believers live by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. 

We 'go without' so that we may learn to hunger more for Him. 

In whatever area we are going without - there's a promise available to us.

The Deuteronomy passage tells us that we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. When our attitude flares or anxiety ruffles us, there's a WORD within God's 'every Word' that's specific to our situation. 

The solution then, is not to get our way, but to trust in the ll knowing ways of the Lord and to mine the Scriptures that we might find the inheritance verse that speaks to our situation. He tests us and refines us that we might, more and more, find our deepest needs met in the object of our deepest desire. Jesus Himself. 

He won't let us go. He's just teaching us to rely more on Him and less on the things of this world. He loves us so very much. 

Until next week.

PS ~ If you haven't signed up for my quarterly E-zine, you might want to. Four times a year I email out a wonderful E-zine packed with good stuff (free books, a devotional thought, great quotes, great book recommendations, etc.). Sign up today: