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5 posts from March 2011

March 29, 2011

Seeing Others (and yourself) Redemptively...

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 leave a post, share an insight, bless lots of people, and just maybe you'll win a jolt of java for you and a friend!

 Now on to my topic...

Do you have someone in your world that has made a decision about you, has you judged, and won't let you off the hook? Or maybe you have your mind made up about a certain person because of some of the things they've done. You have them pegged in your mind and you refuse to believe anything different about them.

What's a person to do? 

Let's look at Jesus.

In the Gospel of John, chapter one, we read about when Jesus went to Galilee and called Philip to come be His disciple. Philip went off to find Nathanael and told him, "We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph, from Nazareth!" 

Nathanael's response? 
"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" 

But Nathanael went with Philip, and as the two men approached Jesus, here's what Jesus said about Nathanael:

"Here comes an honest man. A true son of Israel."
If Jesus was petty, He could have taken an offense with Nathanael. But Jesus always looks at people redemptively. Rather than getting tripped up by our humanity, He sees the destiny written over our lives. He knows we are works in progress and uses us in profound ways though we still have such a long ways to go. 
 
If Jesus can extend us such grace, how is it that we can be so un-forgiving with one another?

Second Corinthians 5:16 reminds us, "So from now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view." 

We have to fight sometimes to get that eternal perspective on certain people, that's our call as Believers. As Christ followers we must guard our hearts and minds from forming judgmental attitudes and wrong perceptions. We may even be quite convinced that our perception is spot on; we may be partially right about what we see and still totally wrong about our conclusions. 

There's always more to the story. And God always has a bigger picture.

Jesus is the One who knows things fully - and with all of our dirty information at His disposal, He still loves us. No one can gossip enough to Jesus to make Him change His mind about us! And we aren't afforded the luxury of holding on to past offenses because we think someone owes us. And we are nobody when it comes to judging others. In the whole scheme of things, our judgments hold no weight with God. In fact, it's just the opposite. He distances Himself from the proud, but draws near, and gives grace to the humble. 

When we judge others, we come to a conclusion about them. The very word conclusion is synonymous with: finish, close, and verdict. This is important: There's nothing redemptive about a wrong or limiting conclusion. We do great damage when we assume a conclusion when God is still busy, active, and changing lives every minute of every day.

Jesus is still working in and through all of us! He knows what it's like to be on the receiving end of wrong assessments and judgments. Even today many think He's nothing more than a figment of our imagination. Even so, He is God and He's coming back in all of His glory!

When Jesus died on the Cross, many thought the enemy had won. But there was more to the story.

When we judge others based on what we think we know, we are sinning, and Jesus knows there's more to the story.

When others judge us, we can hide in the shadow of His wing. We can embrace the refining work of the Lord in that safe and precious place. And we can trust Him - the One who has all of the information - to defend us. 

 If someone has a snapshot of you when...and they've come to a conclusion about you based on a chapter of your life, refuse to let it weigh you down. They are accountable to God! Rise up and say, "The Lord isn't finished with me yet! He renews! He restores! And I am a work in progress. I'm not who I was. I'm not what I do. I am someone He enjoys!"

Be joyful in the fact that God knows you fully and loves you deeply.

Humbly embrace your own call to love others in the very same, deep and wonderful way.

Lord, forgive me for the countless times I've summed up others because of how they've affected me. Forgive me for forming judgements with only partial information. Forgive me for not pushing past my human tendency to judge when Your spirit inside me calls me to love and to intercede, and to forgive. I want to be a clean vessel used for Your holy work. I want to live with a pure heart that I might see You in every person I meet, because, in one way or another, they were made in the image of God. Make me more like You, Lord. Amen.
"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12).
PS ~ If you haven't signed up for my FREE Quarterly E-zine yet, you might want to. I'm doing a great book giveaway again. I write some devotional insights, great book recommendations, great quotes, and a prayer to send you on your way. The next issue releases on April 15th; here's the link:

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March 23, 2011

Recipe for Greatness

Lake Vermilion Greetings, 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 leave a post, share an insight, bless lots of people, and just maybe, you'll win a jolt of java for you and a friend! 

I've had a GREAT line up on the show this week! All week long we're talking about the things that can hinder our growth in faith. Monday we talked about media, Tuesday, addictions, today we'll talk about 'religion', and tomorrow, unforgiveness. Check out podcasts of the shows - I think you'll be blessed: Live the Promise Podcasts

Now on to my topic...

While reading through the book of 2 Chronicles I found myself both intrigued and grieved by the ripple effect of a King's choice of whether or not to follow and honor God.

When a King humbled himself and trusted the Lord, God gave him victory and granted his efforts success. When a king exalted himself and trusted his own efforts and acted on his own whims, many people paid with their lives. Kingdoms fell, God's people were enslaved, and idolatry flourished.

Just today I read about how King Uzziah started out by seeking after God and God blessed him as a result. But then we read this in chapter 26:16

But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall.

Why are we so quick to idolize our own efforts?

Though a king's choices have far more reaching effects than our choices, we must embrace the fact that our choices matter, and that people are deeply affected by whether or not we honor God and live a life of greatness. 

Here are a few things I observed about greatness by reading about some of the Kings in the Bible.

Embrace Your Identity - Obey Him Fully: Do you remember the story in 1 Samuel 15 when Saul did not follow through with obeying the Lord (I just blogged about this last week)? This is what Samuel said to him, "Although you may think little of yourself, are you not leader of the tribes of Israel?" Saul had a job to do but he minimized the importance of his identity and his choices. We do the same thing.

We cower, we run, and we hide from the GREAT things God wants to do in us and through us. We justify our partial obedience and we dance around the things God has asked of us. We put off taking our next step into the unknown zone because the comfort zone feels better to us. And this is what the Lord says: You may have forgotten how important you are to Me, but remember today! You may not understand your important place in history, but embrace it today! Are you not My beloved? Have I not promised to take you to high places? Do you not have access to all of the riches of Heaven? Remember who you are today. Obey me fully. No more hiding.

Humble Yourself - Trust His Timing: Do you remember the story of when David was in the cave with (a raging, jealous) Saul (see 1 Samuel 24)? Clearly the Lord had delivered Saul into his hands, right? David was a God-fearing man and even though deliverance seemed to be at his fingertips, he would not take it until the Lord gave it.

I can think of a number of times when my 'dream' was at my fingertips, there for the taking. But I knew deep inside it wasn't my time yet. I would have had to drop the ball on something else to grab hold of what I believed God had promised me. It was so close, but not close enough to be mine yet. But when my time finally came, it was like plucking a ripe piece of fruit from a tree. 

Are you there? This is what the Lord would say to you: My beloved one, I have you! That dream in your heart? I put it there! Trust me in this, and see if I won't establish you beyond your wildest dreams. I love to work mightily through my people, but first I must do a mighty work in them. Humble yourself before me; refuse jealousy or a competitive spirit; embrace Me, embrace My timing, and I will establish you. I promise.

Tune Out the Enemy - Face Down Your Fears: Remember when a young David faced down Goliath? By all appearances, David had no physical chance of winning a fight against this beast of a man. And Goliath knew it. He spewed all kinds of insults David's way. But David didn't acknowledge Goliath's taunts. He refused to allow himself to be singled out. instead he spewed back, "Who is this Philistine that dares to defy the army of the Living God?" If David would have spoken to Goliath, he would have said something like this: 'When you come against me, you come against the host of heaven, so don't try to bully me with your insults. I am not alone in this battle and you are going down!" (okay, my paraphrase). :)

If the enemy's voice rings loud in your ear, tune him out, and listen to what the Lord has to say to you: My brave and precious one, you are not alone! Not by a long shot! Even if what the enemy says feels true to you, remember that I AM TRUE and I will establish you! This is not about your ability, it is about Mine. You have a choice of whether to be brave or to cower in fear. Be strong and courageous! I am with you! I will not forsake you! And you cannot please me without faith! Put those fears under your feet and follow Me to the high places I have for you! We have a great adventure ahead. Remember, never allow yourself to be singled out. As My child, you are a part of something greater than you can imagine; and far greater are those who are for you than those who stand against you! Listen to My voice alone!"

Dear Friend,

Though it's important to cultivate skills and always be learning, it's even more important to identify yourself as someone God loves and whom God has called. Hone your craft, practice your skills; be a great steward of the gifts God has entrusted to you.

But remember this: To truly walk in places that are far beyond your qualifications, to make an impact that is bigger than you are, you need God. You need to remember that it's in HIS hands to make great. And He really wants to do great things through you.

Embrace Your Identity. Obey Him Fully. Humble Yourself before Him. Trust His Timing. Tune out the enemy. And face down your fears. That's a recipe for greatness.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us (Ephesians 3:20 MSG).  


March 16, 2011

Know Who You Are!

Light Through the Trees

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 leave a post, share an insight or story, bless lots of people, and just maybe you'll win a jolt of java for you and a friend!
One more quick note: Hop over to our Faith Radio webpage. I post a blog there more than once a week. Plus, we have some POWERFUL shows for you to listen to! And, with one click of a button, you can share a show or blog post with a friend. One of my favorite recent shows this past week was with author and theologian David Timms. Click here to listen!  (you'll love his Aussie accent and his deep love for Jesus).  If the link doesn't work, just check out my show page and scroll down; David was my guest on March 10th. 

Now on to my topic...

One day while reading 1 Samuel, chapter 15, I was intrigued and unsettled about King Saul's decline. He started out as a strapping, handsome, capable, unassuming young man with a respect for the things of God. But he evolved into a prideful, insecure, hasty, territorial leader who valued his opinion above God's direction, and this led to his demise. 

In one particular instance, God had commanded Saul to destroy a town because of its utter wickedness. Saul only partially obeyed. And when confronted by the prophet Samuel, Saul was full of excuses, and even threw his own people under the bus by telling Samuel it was their fault. 

Let's read Samuel's response to Saul (from 1 Samuel 15:17-19):

And Samuel told him, "Although you may think little of yourself, are you not the leader of the tribes of Israel? The LORD has anointed you king of Israel. And the LORD sent you on a mission and told you, 'Go and completely destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, until they are all dead.' Why haven't you obeyed the LORD? Why did you rush for the plunder and do exactly what the LORD said not to do?"

Saul had a wrong view of himself and of his importance. And so often, we commit the same sin. When we underestimate the call on our lives, we begin to value our opinion more than God's. We then elevate our emotions, our territory, our wants, and our desires way above our mission and our eternal significance on this earth. 

And what was Saul's response?

He initially denied his disobedience (ever do that?), made excuses (how about this one?), and blamed his fellow comrades (yup, I'm guilty). 

But when Samuel refused to let Saul get away with his side-stepping, Saul finally came clean. Let's read his response because it exposes his wrong thinking:

Then Saul finally admitted, "Yes, I have sinned. I have disobeyed your instructions and the LORD's command, for I was afraid of the people and did what they demanded...

When a person loses sight of their value and their call, here are some of the side effects:
  • Low level of obedience
  • Pride and insecurity 
  • Fear of other's opinions 
  • Loss of eternal perspective 
  • Loss of the fear of the Lord  
We must understand how VALUABLE we are to God and that we are DIVINELY CALLED to listen to His voice, to obey Him moment by moment, to change the world for His Name's sake, and to bear fruit that lasts long after we are gone. 
We are treasured in God's sight. We are equipped with all we could ever need to do great things. We are covered by His promises and guided by His precious Holy Spirit. We know His voice and we follow Him.
When we see ourselves as God sees us, we will:
  • Walk in a holy confidence (a knowledge that we are something special to God)
  • Walk in a holy dependence (a knowledge that apart from God we can do no good thing) 
  • Embrace a Kingdom passion (a heart to build God's Kingdom and not our own) 
  • Embrace a Calvary love (a heart that grows in its capacity to love others)
May you remember once again how important you are - because you were designed and called by God. May you hold loosely your emotions, your opinions, your territory, and your imagined rights, that you may cling tightly to God's promises and His place in your life. True humility is simply having a right view of ourselves in light of eternity. We are small; we are nothing without Him, but everything to Him.
Have a blessed week!
Oh, and if you haven't signed up for my FREE quarterly E-zine yet, you might want to! Every few months I email out an E-magazine that offers some great book giveaways from my fellow author friends, a devotional, book recommendations, great quotes, and a prayer to send you on your way. My next Ezine releases on April 15th
Sign up by going to my website below:

 

March 09, 2011

God's Above & Beyond Provision...

Breakthrough Sunshine

Greetings, Friends! Susie Larson here!

And to those visiting, 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 leave a comment, share an insight, bless lots of people, and just maybe you'll win a jolt of java for you and a friend.

Also, be sure to check out our Faith Radio Page and Facebook page. Every day we have great guests on the show, and every day I pose a faith question on Facebook. We give books away practically every day! And, every day we're looking to hear from you! If you're not able to listen to the live show, you can always catch a podcast of the show whenever it does work for you. Check it out. You'll be blessed!

Now on to my topic...

Recently I had a conversation with a friend about her journey through the wilderness. It's been a slow and sometimes agonizing passage for her. The thing is, if she didn't love and fear God, she could take a few steps to the right and land herself on the fast highway that leads to her desires. But truth be told, that would be her way, not God's way. And above all, she wants God's highest and best will for her.

As she shared about the weariness in her steps, I leaned in, grabbed her arm, and said, "Listen to me, friend. Your sacrifice of praise and your sacrificial obedience have not gone unnoticed by God. There is NO sacrifice you could make to Him that will not met with a totally disproportionate response of His great love, and grace and provision! Any gift you give, any offering you make, and initiative you take to obey Him when it costs you, will be responded to in ways you cannot imagine. He is a disproportionate God! Understand your wealth in Him. Though you feel the pain of this sacrifice now, get a vision for the response He is preparing for you!"

I felt especially inspired to share that with you today as well. 

Some of you are making huge sacrifices for His Name's sake. Some of you could so easily grab for yourself a counterfeit version of something He has promised you, but ultimately, you want to wait for God's best for you. Do it, my friend. Wait for God's best and see if He won't absolutely blow your mind with His goodness, His grace, and His attention to detail. 

If at all possible, get your eyes off of what it's costing you right now, and lift your eyes to the Heavens, your unlimited supply. If you're lacking in strength or perspective, get alone with God. Spend extended time camping in His presence. Open your hands to receive more of what He so lovingly wants to give. Remind yourself of His Word and His promise to you. Strengthen yourself in Him by reminding yourself who you are TO HIM! 

There is no gift you can give, no prayer you can pray, no act of obedience that you can initiate that will not be met by overwhelming love, provision, goodness, grace, and power. You may not see its evidence right away, but it is there, affecting change, making a difference, and moving mountains. One day your eyes will see it. So know it now. Stand on the faithfulness of God now. Today. Believe Him for big things. Entrust your cares, your sacrifices, and your gifts to Him.

There is no better, no safer place than with Jesus. And, you'll not receive a better return on your investment of trust, time, and talents. God is in the business of exponential, over and above, beyond our wildest dreams, kinds of answers. Your everything is safe with Him.

Open your arms wide. Look up. Trust Him. He is good and He is crazy in love with you!

~Until next week.

 

March 01, 2011

Wait for the Lord...

Hipsta Sunrise

Happy Wednesday, Everyone! Susie Larson here...

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. And, it's time to announce the winner for February. Drum Roll Please...

Starla Smith, congratulations! Please email me your mailing address (before I announce next month's winner) at: info@susielarson.com  Congratulations and thanks everyone for your posts! 

We had a number of powerful shows last week. I talked with Dannah Gresh about a very spiritual insight on sex. I talked with Gary Thomas about his contemporary classic, 'Sacred Marriage.' And I talked with Ruthanne Garlock about spiritual warfare and standing strong in the battle. You can listen to a podcast of any of these shows by going to: www.faith900.com  (Go to the Live the Promise page and you'll find the show archives there).

Now on to my topic...

The other morning, I was reading the 32nd chapter of Exodus. Moses was up on the mountain having a face to face encounter with God. This Israelites hadn't heard from him in a while and they got bored waiting for him.

Let's look in at their response:

When the people saw how long it was taking for Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. "Come on," they said, "make us some gods who can lead us. We don't know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt."

This fellow? 

Moses risked his life to secure their freedom. God used Moses to preform mighty miracles on their behalf. Moses wasn't just a fellow, he was the one God used to save them.

Moses' journey with the Israelites very much parallels Christ's journey with us.

And with that in mind, I noticed three things about the Israelites' reaction to Moses' delay:

  • Impatience with God's plan.
  • Minimizing God's place in their lives.
  • A willingness to default to idol worship.

And we do the very same thing.

We just have to look back over our shoulder to see some of the mighty ways God has moved on our behalf. We don't have to think too far back to recall the times He has met us and spoke directly to our hearts. Our faith is encouraged when we remember the ways God has come through for us when we needed Him most.

And yet, when we are asked to wait longer than we want for the thing He has promised, we get impatient, and we wonder about plan B. We are very quick to make a back up plan when God takes too long to come through for us.

Wouldn't God appreciate a little help on our part to, you know, hurry the plan along? I mean He has the whole galaxy to manage, and well, this is just a little itty bitty thing to Him. Right? Wrong. 

Nothing is too hard for God, but that doesn't mean little things mean nothing to Him. He is the God of detail! Look at the butterfly, or the hummingbird, or the pedals of a flower. Try to wrap your brain around the human body! He loves detail and cares deeply about the details of our lives.

God is big. He is near. And He is intimately engaged in this journey with us. Even when He seems silent, He has a divinely wise purpose for being so.

His part in our journey is of ultimate importance to us. He hasn't forgotten us. He doesn't ever accidentally look away when we take our leaps of faith. He catches us when we jump. He lifts us up when we stumble. And, when He makes us wait, it's because He's making us ready. 

Our part is vitally important as well.

We must not think for a minute that He won't come through for us. During the waiting season, we'll be tempted to get bored and lose heart. We'll be tempted minimize God's involvement in our process. And we'll be tempted to build a counterfeit with our own hands. The time in between the promise and the realization of it, matters. Infinitely so.

The time in between shows us what we're made of. The time in between is like the tide that pulls back to sea and reveals the garbage on the beach. The time in between reveals our motives, our intentions, and our character. When you are waiting for a certain breakthrough, how do you spend the time in between? Do you see it as a time to leave the Well and play in mud puddles instead?

Do you stay by the Well but just bide your time by chewing your nails and watching the grass grow?
Or do you consider your time of waiting an active season? A time to lean in and listen. A time to keep your ear bent towards heaven and your eyes fixed on Jesus?

Waiting is a true test of our hearts. 

When we don't get what we want when we want it, our impatience surfaces. Our selfishness rears its ugly head. Our sense of entitlement makes us clench our fists and grit our teeth. And that's why the time in between is so important. 

It's a time to humble ourselves and admit our need for more of Christ's character in us. It's a time to allow God to make us more fit for the blessing He so longs to give. And, it's a time to pursue a deeper relationship with God. More than the treasures we receive from His hand, may we treasure the gift of better knowing His heart.

Over and over again, we read stories from the Bible of people who mishandled the time in between.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is of Joseph from the Old Testament. God gave him a mighty vision for his life, and then allowed him to endure one injustice after another. And what did Joseph do with his time in between?

He was faithful and patient and humble. And every time, he landed on top of his circumstances. His character proved him ready to handle the management of a mighty nation.

This morning I was reading from the book of Matthew where Jesus was warning the disciples not to be deceived. He said that many will be partying and getting drunk right up to the moment Christ returns to earth.

Here again, whether we like it or not, we are living in the "time in between" when Christ came and when He comes again.

Will we get bored of waiting and make our own idols?

Or will we use this time to deal with what our inconveniences bring up in us? Jesus wonders this, "When I return will I find faith on the earth?" May He find faith in our hearts and faithfulness in our footsteps! No matter what breakthrough you're waiting for, be faithful in the waiting.

Have a blessed week~