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HOW GREAT IS YOUR FAITH!

(NKJV)Matt. 15:22-28..."And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, 'Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely domon-possessed!'

But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, 'Send her away, for she cries out after us.'

But He answered and said, 'I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'

Then she came and worshipped Him, saying,'Lord, help me!'

But He answered and said 'It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs.'

And she said, 'Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master's table.'

Then Jesus answered and said to her, 'O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.' And her daughter was healed from that very hour."

What was so great about this woman's faith?

By the time my son, Jesse, was 11 yrs. old everything in our home was chaos. He went into uncontrollable rages and all I could do was hold him tightly with his arms in a straight jacket position until he stopped. The rages and screaming had been going on since he was a baby. He was hypersensitive to all that was around him. Now he was getting bigger and stronger, and harder for me to control I cried out to God year after year getting, what it seemed like to me, ignored.

We all come to a crossroad sooner or later in our faith. Is He God or isn't He? Do I believe in Him or don't I?

Finally we found out what was wrong with Jesse....we had a name...Tourette's Syndrome....but it gave us little help or hope. When I read Matt. 15:22-28 one day I felt the Lord was telling me this is the kind of faith I will need for Jesse.

I asked the Lord what was so great about this woman's faith? This is what I see in this story.

First of all she knew He was the promised Son of God, the Jewish Messiah. She knew He had the power alone to heal her daughter. She was sure of who He was.

Then, she was persistent, she didn't give up, because she knew who He was...He was her only hope.

She didn't give up when He ignored her. Nor did she give up when He denied her. Even when he humbled her, she did not give up. She knew she had no merit of her own, yet she believed in Him....in His mercy.

I believe Jesus intended to answer her all along, but was testing and purifying her faith. Sometimes, when the Lord withdraws from us or denies us our request for a time, it either makes us give up, or it purifies and intensifies our faith. We become all the more earnest, and we resolve all the more that He is our only God, our only answer. If I perish I perish! But I will continue to pray until He answers! This is true love, and true faith, I believe.

Matthew Henry's commentary says, "Faith can find encouragement even in that which is discouraging and get near to God by taking hold on that hand which is stretched out to push it away."

One night while laying in bed, sick with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, unable to do anything but lay in bed, things with Jesse getting to the unbearable point for our whole family, even dangerous, to where he was about to be placed in a children's home, I layed there and cried out to God. "God! If You don't heal Jesse, I don't think I can believe in You anymore!"

What happened next is very difficult for me to describe in Words. I felt His presence inside and outside holding me. I felt in my spirit the sense of the roots of His love and grace so deeply entwined throughout my entire being and every part of my heart held by Him. Suddenly I knew...it was never me holding on to Him, but He always ever holding on to me! I knew then, that I could never not believe in Him.

I wrote a song I'd like to share with you during this time:

NO MATTER WHAT I'LL PRAISE YOU

O God, I've been praying for so long
And I've been crying
I've been crying and crying for so long
But it seems as though You just don't care
Even though I pray and I pray
I need to hear You Lord,
And just know that Your there

It's been such a very long time
And I just know
That if You're really, really God up there
And You really care
That You'll answer my prayer
Oh..oh...ho...ho, m...m..hm...hm

But no matter what I'll praise You,
I'll praise You even when I cry
I'll praise You even when I don't know why
I'll praise you when I just wanna die!
There's no one else but You Lord,
Only You are God, and I will praise You
All of my life.
Oh..oh..ho..ho, m..m..hm...hm

So I'll just keep on coming and coming Lord
Don't turn me away
No I can't stop praying and praying oh, Lord
I know there's just no other way
And I just gotta pray and pray
Until You answer, Lord,
And everything is ok

It seems like a very long time
But where else can I go
When You alone, O Lord, have the words
Of eternal life
Oh..oh..ho..ho, m..m..hm..hm.

~~Chorus~~~ But no matter what I'll praise you.......

© copyright by Ginny Larsen 1990

Jesse gave his heart to the Lord, July 4 of this year. He still has a long road ahead, but has the start of his healing. He now reads the Word daily and prays seeking that relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ..the one who makes us whole. We are praying and helping him and have seen some good things the Lord has done in Jesse. Glory to the Lord!


LAYING ASIDE THE WEIGHT

(NKJV) Heb. 12:1-2.."Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

During a very difficult time in my life this portion of scripture worked in my heart daily. I couldn't leave it until I knew I could obey it and it had had its way in my heart, accomplishing what the Lord had sent it forth to do in me.

I read Hebrews 12 for about a year everyday. Each day it was like something new and fresh from the Lord.

One of the lessons the Lord strongly spoke to my heart through it was that if I wanted His deliverance...His ressurection life...I had to accept the pain of the cross.

There is pain, yes, in going to the cross with our flesh. I wanted to run away from and escape that pain. I even wanted to commit suicide to be free from the race that was set before me. I didn't want to face or accept what the Lord had allowed into my life. If I had run away I would have missed the greatest opportunity to really know Him in the intimacy He intended me to and to see His power to work in every situation.

Jesus looked at the joy set before Him! He endured the cross...despising its shame!

Look to the joy set before you. We also have that joy set before us. Not only the awesome joy of eternity sharing His glory, but the joy of surrenduring all to Him now and knowing the special intimate fellowship there is with Him in this life in sharing His cross.

There is a freedom, a release like no other when we stop struggling, lay that weight, temptation, sin, whatever we are holding onto for our life, significance, happiness...even fear of the future....lay it at His feet, accept whatever pain that causes you to put that to death, and soon our painful surrender turns into a joy in His presence, peace, and an intimacy with the Lord. There is no other way to find it except by way of the cross.

Will you accept the pain of the cross for the joy set before you?

By Ginny Larsen

God bless and keep you!

From my husband: PSALM 137:1-6

By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept When we remembered Zion. We hung our harps Upon the willows in the midst of it. For there those who carried us away       captive asked of us a song. And those who plundered us       requested mirth. Saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" How shall we sing the Lord's song In a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you Let my tongue cling to the roof of my       mouth-- If I don't exalt Jerusalem Above my chief joy.

I used to play in a gospel band. It was wonderful to worship the Lord with our instruments. We used to go to a coffee house in Fargo, North Dakota about once every other month. It was my favorite place to play. One time when we were there I had just read Psalm 137.

  I thought to myself, "What if captors took us and demanded us to 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion'?" Would we say, "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?". The Isrealites in this Psalm were under the Babylonian captivity. They longed to return to Jerusalem to worship their Lord. They would come to Jerusalem to worship, we come to Jesus to worship.

Then I saw a parallel: Would we say in our captivity, "If I forget you, O Jesus, let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth--If I do not exalt Jesus above my chief joy."

Whenever I read this Psalm, I examine myself. Can I still say that I exalt Jesus above my chief joy and if I do not, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth? It is my desire that Jesus, the one who gave His life for me, would always be exalted above my chief joy.

I am hoping that you all feel the same way.

By Bob Larsen


THOUGHTS ON PRAYER

What is prayer?

I don't pretend to be an expert on prayer and all there is to know about it, but over the 27 yrs. of being a Christian the Lord has taught me a few lessons on prayer that stand out to me that I would like to share.

An offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies. (a quote from a young boy in Scotland when asked by D.L. Moody...what is prayer?) from "The Kneeling Christian," Zondervan Books.

The turning of the soul to God. Ps. 25:1..."Unto Thee O Lord, do I lift up my soul." What a beautiful description of what prayer is! When we desire the Lord Jesus to behold our souls, we also desire that the beauty of holiness may be upon us. When we lift up our souls to God in prayer it gives God an opportunity to do what He will in us and with us. It is putting ourselves at God's disposal. God is always on our side, but we are not always on His side. When man prays, it is God's opportunity. (From "The Kneeling Christian" Zondervan books.)

In my own life I have found prayer to be a means of communion, at the deepest levels, with God, who has become my savior and my dearest friend. One particular time when I was worshipping the Lord, His presence overwhelmed me. It was a sovereign act of God, nothing I had earned from Him or conjured up. His presence was so strong I felt as though if I opened my eyes I would find myself in Heaven before His throne. I couldn't say anything. I was just in awe and felt very humble. Then the Lord let me understand that this was the power of prayer...not correct prayer formulas, or methods, but knowing God, being in His presence and entering into His fellowship in surrender and adoration of Him. It is there where our prayers are answered.

No I don't have this experience everyday, and in fact that was the only time I can recall that strong of a presence from God, but that isn't the point. It wasn't what I felt that mattered. That was for a lesson He taught me. But by faith we can daily walk in unbroken fellowship with Him. We have continual access to His throne room!

Rom. 6:10,11..(Amplified Version) says, "For by the death He died, He died to sin [ending His relation to it] once for all; and the life that He lives, He is living to God [in unbroken fellowship with Him].

Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God [living in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus."

So, I believe, first and foremost, prayer is coming to God to know Him, and to love Him, and to submit to Him. When we have done that, we have his presence and unbroken fellowship. We can know His will.

1 John 5:14-15 (NKJV)..."Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us, and if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him."

But how can we ask according to His will unless we know Him and know His will? By reading His Word with a heart of surrender to all that it says and entering into fellowship with Him in response to His Word, in Worship, thanksgiving, and surrender. This is being in "His secret place" I believe. This is where prayers are answered.

Another time, in prayer, I felt I didn't have adequate words or knowledge of how to pray. I struggled and prayed, "O God, help me to pray better!" In my heart He assured me that He accepts my weakest prayer. It's not the words, but the heart. "Likewise, the Spirit also helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which canot be uttered." Rom. 8:26 (NKJV)

The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. He takes our weakest prayer before the Father and intercedes on our behalf according to God's will.

What a wonderful privilege God Has given us! But how often do we use it? Why is it so often neglected in our life? It is one of the most precious gifts we have! He promises He will hear the prayer of the righteous. He promises to answer. He promises if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. It is through prayer we come to know, and love, and enjoy fellowship with our Abba, Father.

We have access to His throne of grace and mercy at any time. Heb. 4:14-16..(Amplified Bible).."Inasmuch then as we have a great High Priest Who has [already] ascended and passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession [of faith in Him]

For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weakneses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning.

Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God's unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it]."

I am reminded of the wonderful old Hymn, "What a Friend We Have In Jesus."

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!

O What peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged.
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness.
Take it to the Lord in prayer

Are we weak and heavy laden
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior still our refuge,
Take it to the Lord in prayer

Do thy friends dispise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer,
In His arms He'll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Let us not forget to go to that most wonderful of all friends, who layed down His life for us, each day in prayer!


MORE THOUGHTS ON PRAYER

What is prayer?

Prayer is as natural as breathing to the one who abides in Christ. You become conscious that He is in all your thoughts. You can hardly think a thought without thinking it unto God, or becoming aware of the feeling of His Spirit toward what you are thinking , if your thoughts wander toward ungodly things. There is a sense of communion...of fellowship...conversing with His Spirit in your inner being, even though it may not be in words.

You hate sin because you are instantly aware that that fellowship has been damaged. You sense immediately that you have grieved His Spirit who now dwells in your inner most being.

Immediately, you are also grieved and confess your sin and ask Him to cleanse and deliver you from all unrighteousness, and you know He will, because He has promised. You want nothing to break that communion again.

Rev. 3:20 (NKJV)..."Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with me."

John 14:23 (NKJV)..."Jesus answered and said to him, 'If anyone loves me, he will keep my Word; and My Father will love Him, and We will come to him and make our home with him.'"

Rom. 6:11 (Amplified Bible)..."Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God [living in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus."

1 Thess. 5:17 (NKJV)..."Pray without ceasing"

Prayer, then, is our spiritual breath.

When we pray we must also believe in His goodness and mercy. In the amplified Bible the definition given for faith is, "that leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness."

Heb. 11:6 (NKJV)..."But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

Are you seeking Him diligently? Trusting in His goodness to hear you? Or is it a half hearted effort done quickly just to say you did your "prayers" for today?

Are you delighting yourself in the Lord?

Ps. 37:4 (NKJV)..."Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart."

I've found that works two ways. If you are delighting yourself in the Lord, communing with Him, enjoying His fellowship, delighting in His promises and the treasures you find in His Word, feasting at His table and rejoicing in His love...it is He, then, Who forms within you desires that are good and worthy. Then when you ask in prayer, you are asking according to your desire, which is also according to His will and pleasure to give you.

I've heard this verse misused badly as an excuse for coveteousness, quoting only the last part, "the Lord gives you the desires of your heart" they say. But they completely miss out on the entire meaning and God's much higher purpose.

Yes God is good, and wills our highest good! If we delight in Him, we will trust completely in His goodness. We will know He will reward our diligently seeking Him. We will know and trust in His perfect love.

Have you found that place yet where you know Him and are known by Him? There is only one way to find it. It is through the way He Himself provided. If you don't yet know how you can have a personal relationship with God, and have your sins forgiven, please take the time to go here and find out.

God bless and keep you!

WEEKLY DEVOTIONAL

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