Author Archives: Bethany Harris

About Bethany Harris

In a word: passionate. About Jesus, church, ministry, music, reading, family, friends, and sometimes even iced skinny soy mochas. http://thesurrenderedlife.net

Song of Solomon 4-6; Matthew 19

Matthew 19:16-30 NIV

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

Ah, how much of myself I see in this rich young man.

This young man was arrogant enough to think he had a right to heaven by his deeds. And if I’m honest, I have to admit, there are times when I fall into the trap of focusing on my works and glorifying myself. “At least I’m not like…”

Jesus was patient with this young man, and I’m thankful He extends the same loving-kindness to me. Instead of rushing to point out all of the failures this man was hiding, Jesus instead took it one step further and brought him to the heart of the matter – and He does the same for me.

It’s not about what I technically do or say that’s right. Jesus wants more than that – He wants my heart. And not just a piece of it – the whole thing. But I like to argue with Him. “But God, why can’t I keep this and have you, too? Isn’t enough that I don’t do this other thing? Isn’t enough that I do this good thing?”

The young man turned away sad when Jesus asked for His heart. It’s easy to dismiss this man as being foolish, but how many times do I initially respond the same way when Jesus reveals a change that needs to take place in my heart? “God, I don’t know if I can do this…”

But Jesus doesn’t apologize for asking me to surrender. Instead, He promises to be worth it. He won’t fail me, and He won’t forget me. You know what will? That little piece of my heart that I’m trying to keep.

For the rich young man, it was his money and comfort. For me, it’s control. For others, it’s a relationship. A habit. That one thing they don’t know how to live without. But it will always end in suffering.

Jesus offers a better solution. He offers Himself. And with Him, everything else.

“Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.” –CS Lewis

Lord, keep me from chasing things and people that won’t satisfy. Forgive me for seeing comfort and security in the things and people of this world – and ultimately, for seeking those things within my own heart. I know that You are worth leaving everything for. You’ve never failed me yet, and you won’t start now. Help me to remember Your faithfulness, and help me to persevere in following You above anything else. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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Proverbs 13-15; Matthew 9

In Matthew chapter 9, we see a series of people that came into contact with Jesus.

They had different issues, problems, and needs: a man who was paralyzed, a tax collector who had been known to take advantage of people, a woman who had suffered with bleeding for a dozen years, the heart-broken father of a girl who had died, two blind men, and a mute.

They all came to Jesus and were changed, according to their faith.

The paralyzed man walked home.

The tax collector became a Disciple.

The woman who bled was healed.

The girl was raised from the dead.

The blind saw.

The mute spoke.

And while Jesus was busy ministering to these needy people, the Pharisees looked on and despised him for it. They saw these people as broken, useless, and worthless. But Jesus saw something different.

Matthew 9:35-36 NIV

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus’ compassion never ceases to amaze me. Jesus was passionate and strong about the things that mattered most. He didn’t shy away from conflict or from telling people the truth, and there are many times we read of him rebuking the Pharisees or those who were trying to destroy the work of God. But Jesus was also kind, compassionate, and gentle with those who were broken both physically and spiritually. He saw them far differently than everyone else – to Him, they had worth; they had potential. Instead of leaving them to their own devices, he introduced them to the power of God to change their lives and give them meaning and purpose. He knew the missing ingredient, and He was determined to share with them the hope that He had to offer.

There are so many broken people in our world, in our states, in our cities, and in our neighborhoods. How many of them are simply sheep without a shepherd, waiting for someone to share the hope of Jesus with them? Will we see them like Jesus, or like the Pharisees?

Matthew 9:37-38 NIV

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

I want to have the eyes of Jesus when I look at the world around me. I don’t want to be like the Pharisees, who saw people as obstacles; I want to see people as the gifts God has given me, the people He has entrusted to me, for the purposes of His kingdom. I want to offer healing, help, and hope in the name of Jesus. I want to be a worker in God’s kingdom to bring in the harvest of souls to heaven!

Father, forgive me for getting so caught up in my own comfort that I’ve missed those around me who are suffering and need You. Help me to be a vessel of your love and grace to those who are suffering, both physically and spiritually. I want to be a faithful worker in Your Kingdom, and to be a faithful representation of your compassion and kindness to those the world has written off as worthless, useless, and unnecessary. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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1 Kings 4-5; 2 Chronicles 2

Solomon’s vast wisdom, given by God, reaped many wonderful rewards for him personally, and for Kingdom and his people:

He established structure and organization that brought a balance with leadership and a peace to the people. He won over all his enemies so that the land experienced peace and safety, and the people of his kingdom were happy. They had all that they wanted and needed and it brought them joy. And Solomon himself was rich and had many benefits from his wise decisions.

Because of the peace, safety, and wealth, of the nation, the time finally arrived for Solomon to construct the temple. Again, he used wisdom, and again God blessed him for it! He sought help from Lebanon and received it; and in the midst of his interaction with this pagan king, Solomon gave testimony to our God, the One True God, in an attempt lead Hiram to salvation.

Having the material and ready to begin building, Solomon yet again showed his incredible wisdom in the way he managed the workers, hiring three times as many as were necessary, in order to work out shifts of work so that no man would be gone from home for a vast amount of time.

Is it any wonder the people loved this king?

Solomon didn’t use his intellect to rule harshly, to wage war on other nations, or to elevate himself. Instead, he used his wisdom to love God and love others.

Wisdom without love and compassion only serves to make a person arrogant, conceited, and harsh. But wisdom that seeks to honor God and show love to others brings about peace, safety, and joy.

I don’t have the wisdom of Solomon, but still, I must consider – how do I lead? How do I use the wisdom God has given me? Do I use it to lead with love and compassion, or do I use it to separate myself from others and become rude or harsh in my decisions?

God’s blessings came through Solomon’s humility. If I want God’s blessings in my life, I, too, must choose humility.

Lord, I want to love You and love others in the decisions I make. Help me to use the wisdom you’ve given me to glorify you, not myself. Help me to see the people I interact with as you see them, and help me to go the extra mile to benefit them with the choices I make. Thank you for Jesus’ example of wisdom and love, as He became the lowest servant to love the least of these. Help me to follow in His steps and make my decisions based on what glorifies you and benefits others and not just how I, myself, will benefit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

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Filed under 1 Chronicles, 1 Kings, Old Testament

2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Chronicles 20; 2 Corinthians 3; Psalm 20

2 Samuel 11:1 (NIV)

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

Ah, David. How far you fell and how fast you slipped.

How easily I stand in contempt of you – and yet, are we not more alike than I’d want to admit?

You made one small decision, and that one small decision changed the course of your life and many other lives. You took that one step, and that one step led to another, which led to another, which led to yet another. And before you knew it, you’d reached unspeakable places – places of adultery, betrayal, and murder.

And while I have not reached those unspeakable places, I’ve often found myself unexpectedly in places I’d never set out to reach – places like bitterness, anger, resentment, and discouragement. Where did it start? How did it happen?

One small step.

Your first small step was staying home instead of leading your army to war. I’m sure you felt justified. You wanted a break; you deserved the rest. You trusted your leaders. So you stayed behind.

My first step is often the same. I need a break. I deserve a reward. I have to rest. And so I withdraw.

By withdrawing, you found yourself in a place you weren’t supposed to be, you saw things you weren’t supposed to see, and you acted on the desires and impulses of the moment.

And when I withdraw, I find myself alone, vulnerable to temptation, and acting on the desires and impulses of the moment.

Because one indulgence makes the next easier. Until you’re out of control. Until I’m out of control.

But God was faithful to you, even after your shocking failure. In His mercy, he sent you Nathan. Nathan, who so eloquently pierced your heart with the truth. Nathan, who warned you of the dire consequences of your actions. Nathan, who came back when you repented and showed you the love of God.

And God is faithful to me, even when I fail Him. Over, and over again. In His mercy, He sends me people. He sends me His word. He sends me the truth to pierce my heart. And He opens my eyes to the course my feet have chosen and the consequences that await me.

And like you, I cry out for repentance. And like you, the Lord loves me. He restores me. He refreshes me. He affirms His love for me. And He helps me to move past my mistakes and find my identity in Him instead of my failures.

 

Oh, Lord. I could never thank you enough for caring enough about me to chase me when I wander. Father, open my eyes to the weight of my choices and help me to recognize that there are no harmless steps when it comes to my relationship with you. I can either chose to move closer to you or father away; and Lord, I want to be closer! Help me to seek you more than me, and help me to desire your rewards more than my personal comfort. Thank you for your mercy and love, even when I fail. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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1 Corinthians 12; Psalm 140

Have you ever had one of those days? You know, where everything goes wrong and you feel like an idiot? And then the thoughts start running through your mind…

“God can’t use me. There are others who are so much better. I’m not like them, so I’m not good enough.”

Or maybe it was one of those other days. The ones where you’re ready to go and someone slows you down. Then the thought process goes more like…

“This makes sense to me. Why can’t she understand this? Why don’t they just do it my way? This would be so much easier if I could just do it myself.”

Unity in diversity. It’s a great idea; but sometimes, unfortunately, it’s simply that: an idea. Especially within the church. It’s so easy to begin to see differences as a negative and to get caught up in comparison, for better or for worse.

But our differences were part of God’s plan.

1 Corinthians 12 (NIV)

Verses 4-6:
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Verse 12:
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

Verse 15-17:
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

Verses 21-22
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,

Instead of comparing myself to others, I need to focus on honoring others. I need to remember that we are all on the same team. The ones who are stronger, I can support and respect as I follow in their footsteps. The ones who are weaker, I can encourage and strengthen as they grow in their faith.

1 Corinthians 12:26-27 (NIV)
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Father, thank you for the diversity in the church and for your supernatural grace to bring about unity in the midst of the differences we all have. Thank you for you caring enough about each of us to give us a purpose and role in your church and in your mission to rescue the world. Forgive me for making your mission about me and comparing myself to others. Help me to build up the body of Christ and help me to see others as you see them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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1 Samuel 16-17; 1 Corinthians 3; Psalm 9

1 Samuel 17:26 (NIV)
David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

For more than a month Goliath had taunted the Israelites, and his taunts were working. The men were terrified and refused to fight. They were overcome by the size of this giant and they let their fear dictate their actions.

David, however, saw the situation differently. Or, rather, he saw it accurately: David knew that Goliath was not just defying the army; he was defying God Almighty. And David refused to let him get away with it.

David was not afraid of or intimated by Goliath. He was bold, and he was confident. Why? Because David knew Goliath was a mortal man who had dared to defy the Lord God, and David knew that God would defend His name and His honor before the Philistines and before the Israelites. So David took action.

1 Samuel 17:36-37 (NIV)
Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

While the Israelite army cowered in fear, David was determined to defend God. He stood up for God’s honor, confident and unafraid. He saw more than his circumstances; David saw his God.

1 Samuel 17:45-47 (NIV)
David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

Oh to have a fresh vision of God!

I want to be like David –

  • who was moved to action when someone disparaged the Lord his God
  • who was confident to challenge those who challenged God
  • who defended God’s honor even at his own personal risk
  • who had such a great understanding of God that he was unaffected by his circumstances
  • and who was the ultimate example of what it means to walk by faith and not by sight.

And God was with him.

1 Samuel 17:50-51, 53 (NIV)
So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran. When the Israelites returned from chasing the Philistines, they plundered their camp.

Father, help me to see you like David saw you. Give me a fresh perspective of your power and might. Help me not to give into the fear of what people will say about me, how they will react, or what they might do, when I defend you. I want to stand up for you and defend your honor, regardless of opposition. Help me to trust you to defend your name through me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

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Judges 17-18; Mark 15; Psalm 89

Mark 15 (ESV)

2-5:
Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.”  But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

17-20:
And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

27-32:
And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

I can’t get over Jesus’ response to His immense suffering.

Jesus was severely mistreated; He was mocked, insulted, beaten. He suffered at the hands of the government, at the hands of the people He’d come to rescue, and even at the hands of God.

And yet, He didn’t resist. He didn’t respond. He didn’t react. He didn’t even open His mouth.

Jesus knew the reason why this was happening, so He submitted to God. And because He submitted to God, He also submitted to the people who were being used by God to bring about His sacrifice.

In my life I face far less opposition. I am rarely mistreated and I hardly face persecution. But when I do, I most definitely resist. I respond. I react. And I almost immediately open my mouth.

I tend to have a way with words. God has gifted me with an ability to communicate both orally and in writing. But my greatest asset is also my greatest liability: when I feel threatened, when I feel attacked, my first reaction is to fight back.

Unlike Jesus, I forget that there’s a reason behind this suffering. I forget that God is in control. I forget that God loves me. I forget that these people who resist me or hurt me are simply instruments in God’s hands, for God’s purposes.

But what would happen if I let God fight my battles, instead of taking matters into my own hands?

What would happen if I let God defend me and validate me, instead of trying to prove myself by myself?

What would happen if I submitted to God’s goodness, love, and control in my life, not just when it’s pleasant and things are going my way, but when it’s hard, when circumstances are painful, and when people provoke me?

That kind of faith is not easy. It requires humility. It requires silence. It requires surrender.

I may not know what’s on the other side, but I do know this: because God is good, because God loves me, and because He is in control, I can trust that He will use those moments in my life to make me more like Christ, to make me a testimony of His grace, and to glorify Himself through me. God will fight for me – all I have to do is get myself out of the way.

Father, thank you for your patience towards me. Help me to follow Jesus’ example of submission. Keep me from needing to justify myself before others. Help me trust Your plan and give me the grace to let You defend me. Let me glorify you with the words I say and the words I don’t say. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

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