« November 2009 | Main | January 2010 »

5 posts from December 2009

December 30, 2009

A Word for 2010...

Vermilionsunset  

Greetings, Dear Friends!

Susie Larson here...

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 Starbucks gift card to someone who posts on my blog. So share a story or an insight, bless lots of people, and just maybe you'll win a jolt of java for you and friend!

Time to announce the winner for December...Melissa @ Breath of Life, congratulations! Contact me through my website (link above) and leave an address where you would like the gift card sent. You must claim your gift card before I announce next month's winner. Bless you, and enjoy!

Now on to my topic...

If you're like me, you've been pressing in, seeking God, and asking Him for a word to take with you into the coming year. And though He has spoken a number of things to me personally, I want to share a word that I think applies to us corporately. 

In my book, "Embracing Your Freedom" I wrote a chapter titled, 'Refusing to Blend In' in which I described the scene in Lot's household prior to his town's complete destruction. Because of Abraham's prayers for his nephew, Lot was given a chance to escape certain doom. The Lord sent angels to warn Lot and his family. In a day when hospitality was akin to honor and respect, how did the townspeople respond to Lot's guests? They pounded on the door and demanded to have relations with the visitors (a sanitized way for describing gang violation)!

Lot was mortified, and what was his response to the crazed crowd? He offered to throw his two virgin daughters out to the mob. Imagine. This kind of moral collapse doesn't happen overnight. 

Lot finally heeded the warning of his visitors and told his family they needed to escape before the town's impending destruction. And how did his future sons-in-law respond? They thought he was only joking. Lot had blended so long with a godless people that he had lost his influence when it really mattered.

Our country is on a speedy moral and spiritual decline. If we sounded the alarm, would anybody listen?

But here's something that about knocked me upside the head while studying this story. Read the following verse:

Sodom's sins were PRIDE, LAZINESS, and GLUTTONY, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door (Ezekiel 16:49).

Though Sodom was known for its moral depravity, the Bible records these three things, no four, as the sins that contributed to its destruction. 

Read it again:

Sodom's sins were PRIDE, LAZINESS, and GLUTTONY, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door (Ezekiel 16:49).

Sound familiar? Are we there yet? 

These are sobering times but there's still room for God's mercy. We still have time to repent and recommit ourselves to a God-fearing-walk-of-faith. 

Let's look at these 'sins' one at a time:

Pride: Any time we exalt ourselves, our will, or our ideas above God's, that's pride. Any time we put aside love to grab for ourselves, that's pride. Any time we refuse to forgive, to receive godly correction, or to be teachable, that's pride. Lord, God, forgive us for thinking too highly of ourselves. Forgive us for exalting our will above Your own. Forgive us for stiffening up when You are asking us to bow down. We humble ourselves before You now, and say once again, that You are God. We are not.

Laziness: To be lazy is to be spiritless, lethargic, and apathetic. I want to make a more spiritual application. To be lazy is to let go of the Promised Life. It's a refusal to go after the God-sized call on our lives because unbelief is easier. Laziness breeds more laziness, which attracts more of its kind. It's time to wake up, step up, and to actively walk in faith; it's time to engage our spiritual muscles, vigorously oppose the works of the enemy, and to run the race to win. Lord, forgive us for our love of comfort and ease. Forgive us for putting so much effort into not having to exert any effort. We are a self-preserving people who, if left to ourselves, will preserve ourselves to death. Wake us up, Lord! Ignite our passions and our faith! Help us to grow into our God-sized call!

Gluttony: To be a glutton is to be an over-indulger, impossible to satisfy, one who consumes more than he or she needs. Lord, forgive us! As we enter this new year, let's make a commitment to practice restraint. More often than not, let's stop eating before we get full. Let's say no to ourselves on occasion, and make ourselves deal with it. Let's practice fasting on a regular basis. We can fast from media, desserts, certain meals, our favorite latte, etc. Buffet your body and make it your slave to that after preaching to others, you won't be disqualified (see 1 Cor. 9:27). Lord, God, forgive us for being such perpetual consumers! Forgive us for accommodating our endless appetites! We know that every good gift comes from above and that You will always provide for our needs. Help us to live more simply, Lord. 

Ignoring the Needy: You can imagine how it makes God feel when we consume way past our need and turn a blind eye to the hungry and the hurting all around us. Look through the Bible with fresh eyes this year. Notice how often the poor and needy are mentioned. God's heart burns for the widow, the orphan, the hungry, and the voiceless. In no uncertain terms, their plight has much to do with our calling. Though our earthly economy is in shambles, God's Economy is still strong! And when we give to the poor, we lend to the Lord and He will repay us (see Prov. 19:17)!  Father,  forgive us for ignoring the desperate needs all around us! Break our hearts with what breaks Yours! Help us love what You love and hate what You hate. Give us the courage and conviction to stand in the gap for the hungry, the hurting, and the poor. May we share their burden the way You have shared ours. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen.

As we venture into the coming year, may we live differently than those who do not acknowledge God. May we walk in love and embrace the freedom we have in Christ. May we humble ourselves before Him and honor Him with our lives. May we refuse to be gluttonous-consumers and be Kingdom Movers instead. And instead of pulling back from our giving, may we step up and give more, knowing full well our investment is a sound one. 

May this be a year that we prepare the way for the Lord - for Him to be big in our lives, for Him to have mercy on this land, and for Him to bring His Kingdom to earth through us.

Until next year~

December 22, 2009

Love Came Down...

Christmas Deck light  

Greetings, Dear Friends!

Susie Larson here...

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 Starbucks gift card to someone who posts on my blog. So share a story or an insight, bless lots of people, and just maybe you'll win a jolt of java for you and friend!

This month, in light of our Savior's birth, we've spent the past few weeks exploring different ideas around giving and receiving gifts in light of eternity. 

Now on to my topic...

In just a few days, we'll celebrate the greatest event this world has ever known: the day when Love came to earth. 

Try to get your mind around such a sacrifice. Jesus left a perfect place for us. He entered an unstable, unsafe atmosphere, for us. He gave Himself over to sinful men, for us. He came to die, for us. As Sara Groves so eloquently said at her Christmas concert the other night, "Jesus came to earth and entered into our suffering because of WE were the joy set before Him."

He came to us. He didn't leave us in our sin or abandon us in our need. He came to meet us in the midst of it all. He made a way for our rescue where there was no other way.

Even so, Jesus knew that His in-the-flesh appearance on earth wouldn't be enough to convince everyone of His purpose, His power, His provision, and most of all His love. He lived and died amidst the rejection and misunderstanding of many. And He knew it would be that way. 

And so it goes today. This afternoon, while running a few last minute errands, I came face to face with the painful reminder of the state of things in our day. After paying for my items, I gathered up my bag, hoisted my purse onto my shoulder and wished the cashier a Merry Christmas. Without thinking about it, she replied, "Merry Christmas to you too." Which was great, but what she said next totally surprised me. She leaned in and whispered, "Oops. I'm not supposed to say that." 

"Say what?" I asked. 

"Merry Christmas," she said, "I got in trouble the last time I said that to a customer."

My goodness. Lord, have mercy on us! 

I couldn't help myself. I smiled and said to her, "Well, as far as I know, we still live in a free country, so I am happy to wish you a Merry Christmas. Bless you." She smiled and whispered to me, "You too." 

Emmanuel. God with us. Jesus came to earth to show us love, forgive our sin, set us free, and make us new. And yet we live in a day that materializes the idea of the holiday while completely extracting from it the depth and meaning of it all. Jesus saw this coming, and yet, He came to us anyway.

If people refuse to acknowledge God's love, does it make His love not so? No. He loved us first.

This is real love. It's not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins (1 John 4:10). 

If we go through times of desperation and discouragement, does it diminish His presence and power in our lives? No. He's always with us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can't, and life can't. The angels can't, and the demons can't. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away (Romans 8:38).

If it's difficult for you to comprehend your value, does it make you less valuable? No. His love defines you and makes you whole.

May you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. THEN you will be filled with the fullness of LIFE and POWER that comes from God (Ephesians 3:18-19)

All too often we rate our holiday based on the number of presents under the tree and the number of things that are going are way. But that's an earthbound perspective. 

Every Christmas deserves our embrace and our most joyous celebration. Every Christmas matters because God is with us! Jesus came to us! Love came down and kissed our lives and now we get to live super-naturally. We have heavenly assistance, divine presence, and powerful promises available to us. God IS with us!

Jesus left Heaven and came to earth so that one day, we will leave earth and meet Him in heaven. He is with us and one day, we will be with Him. Face to face.

Wonderful, wonderful Christmas. We celebrate our Savior's birth!

God bless you all~



December 16, 2009

Give Him YOU...

Christmas - Believe  

Greetings, Dear Friends!

Susie Larson here...

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 Starbucks gift card to someone who posts on my blog. So share a story or an insight, bless lots of people, and just maybe you'll win a jolt of java for you and friend!

Last month, in light of the Thanksgiving holiday, we explored some uncommon aspects of giving thanks. 

This month, in light of our Savior's birth,we'll spend the next few weeks exploring differentideas around giving and receiving 'gifts.' 

Now on to my topic...

Today was a frigid cold yet sunny day. While shuffling along on the treadmill at the Y today, I looked out the window at the beautiful blue sky, and I wondered about something. What kinds of gifts does Jesus want from me this season? What kinds of gifts does Jesus want from you?

Picture an assortment of wrapped gifts from you under His tree. What's inside of each package?

Okay, I'll go first...

For starters, every significant thing I accomplished this past year, I give back to Him. Stuffed inside this package is also every hint of pride or shred of ambition that wants a place in my life. Nope, I give all these things back to Him. He'll love this gift.

Next, I give Jesus my right to be offended. When people overlook me, misjudge me, dismiss me, or are simply rude, I give up my 'right' to react to them. Smooshed in this box is the tendency to believe the worst, connect the dots and draw wrong conclusions, and keep a tally of wrongs done to me. Yes, I know Jesus will cherish this gift.

Tucked in a little box and wrapped with a beautiful bow, I give Jesus perspective. When I'm tempted to look down, I'll decide instead to look up. I know He'll appreciate this one.

This next gift needs a large box and lots of wrapping paper. All of my hopes and dreams are in this box. Dreams for my kids, for my husband and me, for our country, for the Body of Christ, for the lost, the poor, and the broken; dreams for the slave and the human trafficking victim. I have lots of dreams. And God's promises are true. I give this very precious gift to God, knowing my dreams are safe with Him. 

A beautiful gift bag holds my time. I give Jesus my time to decide how it should be spent. My commitments are on the table for Him to rearrange or change altogether. This is a scary one for me even though I know He's good. Yes, He's good. This is a perfect gift for Him.

Finally, in a medium sized, shallow box, I place my fears; the fears that trip me up and make me stumble on occasion. In Christmases past, this gift required a much larger box. But healing has come and is coming. God has worked and God is working. My fears are smaller now; less powerful; less significant. Still, they're there. Jesus really wants my fears. He told me as much. So, I wholeheartedly give my fears to Him. I know He'll be thrilled to receive such a gift.

I love our Savior. What He really wants for Christmas is me. And He wants you too.

What gifts do you have for Jesus this year? I'd love to hear from you...

Until next week~

December 08, 2009

Embrace the Season...

Presents under the tree  

Greetings, Dear Friends!

Susie Larson here...

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 Starbucks gift card to someone who posts on my blog. So share a story or an insight, bless lots of people, and just maybe you'll win a jolt of java for you and friend!

NEW RELEASE!!!

I am very excited to announce the release of my newest book, "Embracing Your Freedom: A Personal Experience in God's Heart for Justice." 

Bless my socks off and pick up a copy today! I believe the message of this book is an important word for women in our day. Follow the Amazon link below to get a look at my book. Please post a review if you've had the chance to read 'Embracing Your Freedom' (thank you so much!):

Embracing Your Freedom on Amazon...

Last month, in light of the Thanksgiving holiday, we explored some uncommon aspects of giving thanks. 

This month, in light of our Savior's birth, we'll spend the next few weeks exploring different ideas around giving and receiving 'gifts.' 

Now on to my topic...

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I've been walking through a spiritual battle of sorts. I'm thankful to say that I'm now on the other side of the battle and thrilled to be! Not that any circumstances changed, at all, but Christ made Himself at home in my life in a new and deeper way (Gal. 2:20). My resolve to follow Him was strengthened and my understanding of the importance of humility and surrender increased exponentially. 

Looking back over the past few weeks, it occurred to me that we as followers of Christ are often in one of two seasons: A season of reaping or a season of refining. Sometimes we experience both of these seasons at the same time, but in different areas of life. 

Many people today are walking through a refining season of life. Times are difficult. Plans fail. People let us down. The enemy presses in hard. Resources are scarce and it's tempting to wonder, where is God?

Refining seasons are not fun at all but they are essential to our spiritual maturity and growth. What do we do during such times? 

We embrace the season with all of the faith we can muster. We trust that God is up to something good. We stand strong against the threats of the enemy. We keep our shield raised high, and we determine through it all, that God is always good. And then, we keep walking.

The following verse got me through some of the worst times in my life:

Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest (Psalm 126: 5-6).

When everything in our lives feels out of control and out of our hands, what do we do? We kneel down, we plant our seeds of faith, we water them with our tears, and then we cry out to God and declare Him faithful. Those who dare to do such a radical thing, will come out the other side carrying a harvest in their arms. What a payoff. Plant a few seeds. Carry a harvest in our arms. God's Word is true.

*This past Monday I was a guest on Along the Way and talked about this very thing. Check it out if you're interested. It was a good interview: Susie on Along the Way...

Now let's address the season of reaping...

Over and over again in the Bible we read about the idea of sowing and reaping. Of planting seeds and of gathering a harvest. For every serious follower of Christ, it's a given that we regularly plant seeds. We plant seeds of faith when we seed a need. We plant seeds of life and encouragement into those we meet. We plant seeds of God's Word in the barren places of our lives, knowing, that one day, life will spring forth and a harvest will grow. Furthermore, seeds are planted in us. Again, for the earnest Christian, when the soil of our hearts is prepared and healthy, a bountiful crop will result (See Mark 4). 

When we enter a seasons of reaping and of favor, it's wonderful! We begin to see the fruit of our hard work. We see evidences of our faith become actual substance. We eat from the fruit of our labor. But a caution here: When the wind is at our back and we see breakthroughs all around, it's tempting to loosen our grip on the Vine; to think that life is good because, perhaps, we are good. 

Anytime life is good, it's because God is good. And when life is bad, is God still good? You know the answer. Absolutely. Yes. All of the time.

Stewardship is important during seasons of reaping. Every good gift comes from the Father. We can do nothing apart from Him. We are blessed to be a blessing. God allows us to partner with Him in this Kingdom work, but it's His work. He gives to us, trusting that we'll give some away. We are flow-through accounts to a world in need. 

Read this powerful passage:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for foodwill also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God (2 Corinthians 9:6-11).

Are you in a season of refining? It's painful, I know. Embrace the season and trust that God is good. Plant seeds of faith. Believe that this painful season will change. Bow your knee to your Maker. Hang on to your identity. Envision the harvest. No seeds are more precious to God than those planted in difficult times and watered with tears of desperate faith. Envision the harvest because that kind of sowing is a big deal to God.

Are you in a season of reaping? It's wonderful, I know. Embrace the season and steward it well because every good gift comes from above. Sow more seeds. Give more away. Believe for greater things, knowing that another season of harvest will be yours in due time. 

Seasons come and seasons go for this is the walk of faith!

Press on in His name.

~Until next week...

December 02, 2009

A Greater Love...

GayHeadCliffs  

Greetings, Dear Friends!

Susie Larson here...

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 Starbucks gift card to someone who posts on my blog. So share a story or an insight, bless lots of people, and just maybe you'll win a jolt of java for you and friend!

NEW RELEASE!!!

I am very excited to announce the release of my newest book, "Embracing Your Freedom: A Personal Experience in God's Heart for Justice." 

Bless my socks off and pick up a copy today! I believe the message of this book is an important word for women in our day. Follow the Amazon link below to get a look at my book. Please post a review if you've had the chance to read 'Embracing Your Freedom' (thank you so much!):

Embracing Your Freedom on Amazon...

Last month, in light of the Thanksgiving holiday, we explored some uncommon aspects of giving thanks. This month, in light of our Savior's birth, we'll spend the next few weeks exploring different ideas around giving and receiving 'gifts.' 

Now on to my topic...

Can you think of a time recently when you didn't get your way? Maybe somebody promised you something and then they forgot about it. Or maybe you had every right to think a certain someone would come through for you only to be left high and dry. How did you respond to such a disappointment?

Recently I spent some time reflecting on the following passage:

"Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever" (1 John 2:15-17 NLT). 

I like this version because it describes how the world offers 'only a craving' but not the answer for our souls, not the real and lasting satisfaction for which we were designed.

Read this excerpt from my, "Believer's Bible Commentary":

When a banks is breaking, smart people do not deposit in it. When the foundation is tottering, intelligent builders do not proceed. Concentrating on this world is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. So wise people do not live for a world that is passing away. But he who does the will of God abides forever." (p. 2314).

Just how does a 'love for the world' manifest in us? Well, in many ways, but here's one: Our want for credit and glory and recognition! Even when we are overlooked and have a seemingly legitimate reason to gripe - we must know that it is in those places where we have the opportunity to please God most. Can we serve and give just for Him and Him alone? Do we always have to receive our 'fair pay' and proper credit?

When an insatiable craving for recognition rises up within us, and we grab for ourselves something God would have eventually given us, the love of God through us, diminishes in those competitive moments. During those times when we love and crave what the world loves and craves, God's love ceases to operate within us. But when we humble ourselves, and trust God's timing and goodness, when we die to our imagined rights that we might live for Christ, the power of the Kingdom is released in those hidden and obscure places. 

Consider Joseph in the Old Testament. He was falsely accused, horrifically betrayed, and then overlooked in prison after being used of God to help others. What was his response? In all things, Joseph humbly honored God, knowing that God would establish him in due time.

Will we be faithful in such a test? Faithful with the opportunity to love when an offense would be easier? Will we refuse to pick up a stone, and pick up our cross instead? 

We die daily that we might grow deeper. 

May we love and live and serve and give for an audience of One. He will establish and bless us in due time.

John 15:13 ~ Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

God bless you this week!
Until next week~