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3 posts from February 2010

February 17, 2010

Grace and Power...

Flame  

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!

A Quick Note:

I am thrilled to announce the release of my next book: Growing Grateful Kids: Teaching Them to Appreciate an Extraordinary God in Ordinary Places." Let me tell you, I am excited about the message in this book. If you have children at home (or grandchildren you want to influence spiritually), pre-order a copy today. I do believe this book will equip you to parent from a spiritual perspective (but it's loaded with lots of practical application). You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll be inspired and encouraged (that was my goal, anyway). :) 

Now on to my topic...

I am excited about what I have to share with you today! I hope I can convey in words what I have in my heart, because it feels like an important message for us all (namely me). 

If you are a Christ-follower, you know that grace and grace alone has saved you. You no doubt know or may have memorized this verse:

For by GRACE we are saved - through faith - not of ourselves, but is a gift of God, not by any works, so that NO ONE can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

Grace, grace, where would we be without grace? We would be lost. We'd still be orphans. We would not have the identity and inheritance we do now. We get to feast at His table because He invited us, not because we were worthy guests. Thank you, Lord.

But unfortunately, far too many Believers think that's where grace stops. As if to say that grace gets us in the race, but then we take it from there. Saving grace is precious and priceless but there is more to grace, far more, in fact. 

Here is another verse to ponder:

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 (2 Corinthinans 9:8). 

Can I just say, that verse is bursting with the promise of provision! He gives us grace and more grace.

Around this time every year, I start to feel weary from my travels and in deep need of some rest and relaxation. But for me, those days do not come until about late May. The other morning during a powerful prayer time with my husband, I asked God for grace and more grace to carry me through - and not just to get through - I asked for abounding grace to propel me into a place of abundance during my spring speaking tour. 

As I boldly asked God to fulfill the promise of 2 Corinthians 9:8, He gave me a picture in my mind of something that surprised me at first. Let me explain. And stay with me, because this is important. 

In my mind's eye I saw a picture of the main level of a house, but as I began to boldly pray, my perspective rose above the main level to a hidden upper room so to speak. In this upper level every thing was bigger, more bountiful, and oversized. In comparison, the lower level looked like a Barbie-doll house. The lower level furniture was tiny, like little toys. The 'upper level' was in every way, superior. 

The more we prayed, the more I sensed that the upper room represented that place were grace and power fuels us; the place where we function closest to Jesus and where we draw on His strength. When we go at it in our own strength, or we take a God-given assignment and turn it in to striving, we end up on the lower level, where the fruit, the furniture, the sense of perspective are like little toys compared to what we produce when we are in step with Jesus and totally connected to the Vine.

Our Pastor friend Mark Spencer used a candle as an analogy for operating in the grace and power of God. He said, "When a candle burns the wax as it should, you see a constant and steady flame. But when the candle starts to flicker, you know the flame is burning into the wick - which you don't want to happen."

Are you experiencing a steady flame in your life right now? Or are you burning the wick and is your flame starting to flicker? Are you where God wants you to be right now? Or are you running your own race? Maybe you started out with a God-given assignment but now you're grinding it out on your own strength.

It may be time to pull back and seek the Lord. Ask Him for grace and power. Ask Him to redirect your steps so you can find that sweet spot of service in step with Him. Take some time to rest in Him that He might strengthen you and refresh you. Most of all, get a vision of what that upper room, of what that higher level is supposed to look like for you.

How would your life look different with an abundance of grace and power flowing through the work of your hands? What kind of results would seem supernatural to you? I tell you what, that's what God wants for us and from us - a supernatural, exponential return on His investment! Ask God to fulfill this promise in your life. Ask Him to speak to you about life-adjustments necessary in order to function from that place of abundant grace. 

As we draw on the Lord's strength for the Lord's specific call on our lives, we will find our greatest joy, our greatest strength, and our greatest results. His highest will for us is our best-case-scenario and the place where we most love to serve. May we all live and function from such a sweet spot. 

So sorry for the extra long post. Have a blessed, grace and power-filled week!

~Until next week...

February 10, 2010

With Him, You Can...

Breakthrough Sunrise  

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!

A Quick Note:

I am thrilled to announce the upcoming release of my next book: "Growing Grateful Kids: Teaching Them to Appreciate an Extraordinary God in Ordinary Places." Let me tell you, I am excited about the message in this book. If you have children at home (or grandchildren you want to influence spiritually), pre-order a copy today. I do believe this book will equip you to parent from a spiritual perspective (but it's loaded with lots of practical application). You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll be inspired and encouraged (that was my goal, anyway). :) 

Now on to my topic...

This week my friend Melinda Schmidt (WMBI) and I had a conversation about how so often our God-sized call is somehow connected to our past painful experiences or even our missteps. I have a friend who was a battered wife, and eventually opened up a women's shelter. My sister was relentlessly teased as a young girl and now serves as an amazing youth pastor (she is intentional about building honor into the lives of her teens). I know of a Bible scholar who, when she was a teen, was especially tempted to do drugs (and she did). Later on she recognized that the devil saw her potential and worked to sabotage her call before she ever realized she had a gift. Well, she ended up a college professor and works to teach her students how to steward the gift of their minds. 

It's far too easy to become so introspective about our past pains and missteps, that we miss the greater opportunity before us. What if? What if we dared to turn the tables on the enemy by making something of our suffering? What if we dared give God the broken pieces of our lives and asked Him to do something great with our offering? You know what? That's what He does best. 

Whatever gaps there are from our past, whatever potholes we tripped over, God can fill them in and bring restoration. He not only wants to heal what's broken, He wants to pour in wisdom where there once was brokenness that we might be of service to others. 

It's time to think BIG! What God-sized thing is God asking of you at this stage of your journey? When our boys were growing up, we constantly challenged them, "We cannot please God without faith. So, what are you believing God for these days?"

Also, woven into our spiritual DNA is evidence of our calling. If you have children, look for it in them. Notice how they respond to some of life's inequalities. Take Moses, for instance. One day while walking among the Jewish slaves, he saw an Egyptian beating on of his fellow Hebrews. Moses stepped in (but he mis-stepped by killing the man and covering it up). Another time, during his journey to the land of Midian, Moses stepped in and stood up to a few shepherds who were bullying the daughters of a priest. Moses was a stand-in-the-gap sort of man.

But, when the moment came and God called Moses to step up, what was his response? 

"But I can't speak. I'm a clumsy speaker! They'll never listen to me! I can't do this!!!" Moses argued with God.

Here's the deal. When God calls us to step up, it'll never seem like an opportune moment. He calls us for 'such a time as THIS." Though we would prefer more margin in our schedule, more money in our bank account, and more spring in our step, God prefers to find His people willing and ready when He calls. Those moments never seem like the right moment for us, but as far as God is concerned, they are precisely the right moments to serve His Kingdom purposes. 

May we give God the whole of who we are. May we ask Him to heal and restore us and make us new again. May we dare to ask Him to use us in mind-boggling ways. He loves such requests!

But know this, when He calls us, we WILL be tempted to look down, to take a 'natural inventory' and to measure it against the task at hand. When we do this, we will come up short every time. We may protest because of our limited inventory. But, during such times, God simply asks us, "What's that in your hand? Let's use that." 

Read God's response after Moses expressed his doubts and insecurities:

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Pay close attention to this. I will make you seem like God to Pharaoh." 

That verse about knocked my socks off. 

When God is for us, who can stand against us? When He calls us to it, He'll bring us through it. When He leads us to a need, He'll provide every step of the way. For the Christ-follower, God is in us, works through us, and surrounds us like a shield. We are called to make a God-sized-impact on this earth! And with Him, we can!

Right now, He's searching the earth, looking for those whose hearts are devoted to Him; those who will step out in faith, like David with Goliath, like Moses with the Pharaoh, like Peter with the religious leaders, and like Esther on behalf of her people. 

For whom has He called you to advocate, speak up, or stand in the gap?

This is our watch. This is our chance to change the world. And with Him we can. And we must.

Blessings to you.

Until next week~

February 02, 2010

Preparing for Promotion...

BeautifulPath  

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!

A Quick Note:

I am thrilled to announce the upcoming release of my next book, "Growing Grateful Kids: Teaching Them to Appreciate an Extraordinary God in Ordinary Places." Let me tell you, I am excited about the message in this book. If you have children at home (or grandchildren you want to influence spiritually), pre-order a copy today. I do believe this book will equip you to parent from a spiritual perspective (but it's loaded with lots of practical application). You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll be inspired and encouraged (that was my goal, anyway). :) 

Now on to my topic...

As I prayed about what to share this week, one idea kept surfacing in my thoughts. I think a number of you may be walking a rough road right now, but that road may be leading you to your next place of promise. God is getting you ready for a promotion!

As I've mentioned before, the Old Testament story of Joseph is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. And since I've referenced his story several times on this blog, I won't spend too much time on the details of his story. But I would like to highlight a few of the bumps in his road; places on his journey that both softened and strengthened him, and made him ready to do great things.

The obvious bumps in Joseph's road were the betrayal of his brothers and subsequent slavery, his refusal to dishonor his boss's wife and the false accusation and prison that followed. But I would like to highlight a few of the not so obvious challenges; ones that you and I face every day; and ones that may qualify or disqualify us for promotion: 

Stewardship: Joseph had a dream of leadership and management on a large scale. And yet, first he was given the task of managing households and prisons. Scripture reminds us not to despise the days of small beginnings. Are you serving in a place that feels too small for your giftings? God is with you! Embrace contentment and thanksgiving. Don't grumble there. Don't let that place define you. Keep your eye on the horizon because one day, God will open up new doors of opportunity. But faithfulness in-this-place is crucial if you wish to be fruitful in the next place God has for you.

Being overlooked: God used Joseph to interpret the dreams of two prisoners. In fact, Joseph was completely accurate in his interpretation; everything happened as he suggested it would. To the one prisoner who was about to be released, Joseph said, "Please mention me to Pharaoh! For I am innocent and did nothing to deserve this place!" (my paraphrase). But, once the man was released from prison, he forgot all about Joseph. I know this happens in the refining process: God uses us in a powerful way, but the person who could help us, make a connection for us, or open a door for us, is either looking the other way, or simply forgets all about us. What will we do during such times? This is a perfect test of the heart; it exposes our ambition and impatience. This is a great opportunity to humbly embrace God's timing and to trust that He'll deliver us when we are good and ready. And an important note: we must NOT put our hope in mere men. God-alone has the power to open doors for us and He knows how to get to us; He knows our address.

Walking out his dream: Okay, just so I don't make Joseph sound perfect, I'll address something he could have done a little differently. When you consider that Joseph's brothers didn't like him all that much to begin with, it wasn't all that wise for Joseph to flap his dream in their faces; especially since his dream involved them bowing before him. This is very tempting when we have a dream taking shape in our souls. Of course we should humbly share our dreams with safe people who will call our gifts out of us. But as we grow into our calling, it's much better to walk it out, then to spend time talking about it. 

Once Joseph got past the bragging, he walked out his dream beautifully. He surrendered to God; he submitted to the Lord's refining work in his life; and he embraced his lot, each and every time. And when it was his time, he stepped from the prison to the palace like it was no big deal. He was ready. May we be as ready.

What's God doing in your life? I'd love to know.

Have a great week~