Author Archives: Bethany Harris

About Bethany Harris

Jesus + Cameron + Coffee http://thesurrenderedlife.net

Jer. 21-22; 2 Kings 24; Titus 2; Ps. 112

It’s not always easy to define success and find security. The world defines those things by what they possess: wealth, popularity, beautiful treasures. Our culture promotes a very self-centered approach to life, teaching that the key to happiness and fulfillment is found in having more. More money. More friends. More things.

Scripture says quite a different thing.

Psalm 112 reminds me of how God defines success.

This scripture says the key to success and security in life is the fear of God that leads to obedience. When I live in reverence of God, I can rest in the power of God to provide for me as I follow His will for my life.

And what is that will for my life?

Psalm 112:4-5, 9 NIV

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,

for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.

Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,

who conduct their affairs with justice.

They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,

their righteousness endures forever;

their horn will be lifted high in honor.

God’s will for my life is that I am gracious.
Do I bless those around me with undeserved kindness and understanding?

God’s will for my life is that I am compassionate.
Do I go the extra mile to care for those who are suffering?

God’s will for my life is that I am righteous.
Am I striving to honor God in the daily choices I’m faced with?  

God’s will for my life is that I am generous.
Do I give freely, or even sacrificially, for the sake of furthering the Kingdom of God?

God’s will for my life is that I am fair.
Do I make truth and honesty a part of every interaction with others?  

God’s will for my life is that I am merciful.
Am I patient with those around me? Am I forgiving those who have hurt me?  

Success in this life will be found when I love God and love others.

While the world defines success by what they take and store for themselves, God defines it by what I give away.

It’s a scary thing to be generous. It’s a scary thing to give of myself physically, emotionally, and financially. But when I trust God to provide for my needs, I can look for ways to meet the needs of those around me.

Instead of being fearful and worrying about what I have and if I’ll have enough, I must choose to fear God, live in reverence to Him, and look for ways to be generous in the lives of those around me.

When I am gracious, compassionate, righteous, generous, fair, and merciful, God blesses me richly. He provides for my needs. He brings joy into my life. He honors me for honoring Him. And what I receive from Him is so much better than anything I could take for myself.

Psalm 112 (NIV)

1 Praise the Lord.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord,

who find great delight in his commands.

2 Their children will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

3 Wealth and riches are in their houses,

and their righteousness endures forever.

4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,

for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.

5 Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,

who conduct their affairs with justice.

6 Surely the righteous will never be shaken;

they will be remembered forever.

7 They will have no fear of bad news;

their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

8 Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;

in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

9 They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,

their righteousness endures forever;

their horn will be lifted high in honor.

10 The wicked will see and be vexed,

they will gnash their teeth and waste away;

the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.

Father, forgive me for being caught up in the world around me and believing that I need to provide for myself, take for myself, and protect myself to be safe and secure. I know that You are willing and able to provide for my every need. Help me to step out in faith to be generous to those around me. Help me to see the needs you want to use me to meet and help me to glorify you as I choose giving over taking and keeping. Thank you for all the ways you provide for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

 

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Filed under 66 Books, Old Testament, Psalms

Nahum 1-3; 1 Timothy 2

1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may life peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Timothy has an interesting challenge for us when it comes to godly living: rather than doing what the pagans do (and if we’re honest, what comes naturally), he urges us to offer thanksgiving and prayers for those in our lives – particularly the authorities in our lives.

The result, he says, pleases God.

How does it please God?

Because when we pray for and give thanks for our authorities, it causes us to live at peace with those people in our lives, and to set an example of holiness and godliness. An example that points to Jesus as the Lord of our lives.

This example stands in stark contrast to what we see in the culture around us, where people frequently and openly disrespect and disparage those in authority, whether it’s their boss, a cop, or even the president.

God doesn’t want me to blend in with the culture around me. He doesn’t want me to join in with negativity. He wants to me offer thanks for the authority, whether good or bad. He wants me to pray for my authority, whether easy or hard. He wants me to choose peace with my authority, to choose love with my authority, and to choose holiness in my interactions with my authority.

When I put God in control of my relationships, it pleases Him because it allows Him to work behind the scenes in a person’s life, for the purpose of the gospel.

God wants everyone to come to a saving knowledge of the truth. Shouldn’t I want the same? And if I do want the same, how do my interactions with others reflect this? How do my prayers reflect it? How does my attitude reflect it?

Our primary purpose in life is to know God and make Him known. When I seek peace and pursue it by praying for and being thankful for the people God has placed in my life, I’m able to make God known in the most vibrant and significant way possible.

But when I gossip, when I complain, when I become negative and resentful about the people in my life who annoy me, frustrate me, or inconvenience me,  I make myself known. And that’s not a good thing. That means God has to deal with me before He can deal with them.

When I choose a humble and godly attitude, I show my trust in God to provide for, encourage, protect, and lead me, even as He uses the people in my life to do so.

Father, thank you for your patience with me. Forgive me for choosing negativity and selfishness over gratitude and humility. Help me to see people as you see them, and help me to make my priority making Your name great and making You known. By Your grace, I will choose gratitude. By Your grace, I will pray for those you’ve placed in my life. By Your grace, I will choose peace. Help me to be set apart in my behavior towards others. Help me to point to You in all that I say and do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.  

 

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Isaiah 36-37; Ephesians 6; Psalm 76

If there’s one thing Christians have in common, it is suffering. Trials are part of God’s plan for our lives because through resistance, pain, and turmoil, our faith is proven strong and He is proven faithful. Much as I wish there were another way, real growth only comes through those times of testing.

The account of Sennacherib coming against Hezekiah and the nation of Judah in Isaiah 36-37 has a lot to teach me about how to handle persecution, suffering, and trials.

First, Hezekiah recognized that this was a spiritual fight, not a physical fight.

Isaiah 36:13-15 NIV
Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, “Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you! Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’

This encounter was not about one king fighting another – it was a spiritual battle, and it was about God. In my own life I often fail to recognize God at work in my circumstances, instead chalking things up to not getting enough sleep, a day of bad traffic, someone else’s ignorance, or even dismissing things with the mindset of, “that’s just how it is.” But what if God wants to use everyday difficulties to grow me and to teach me how represent Him in every painful or frustrating circumstance? Even more, what if He wants to use my daily frustrations to defend His own power and glory through my responses?

Next, Hezekiah understood the importance of not engaging the enemy in conversation.

Isaiah 36:21 NIV
But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, “Do not answer him.”

Oh. My. Goodness. Do you have any idea how hard that is? When someone attacks me, I am overwhelmed with a desire to defend myself and put them in their place. But that urge is far greater when the person attacked is someone I love and respect. Yet, when their beloved King was disparaged, the people remained silent.

Oddly enough, silence is one of our greatest tools in a trial. My gut reaction is the complete opposite – it’s to defend, accuse, cry, fuss, and demand. But when I begin to engage the enemy in conversation, I quickly find myself on a slippery slope to justifying compromise. At best, I end up overwhelmed and discouraged; at worst, I throw caution to the wind and engage in sinful behavior to deal with the pain.

Finally, Hezekiah sought God’s direction.

Isaiah 37:1, 15 NIV
When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord

Rather than engaging the enemy in conversation, Hezekiah engaged God in conversation. This chapter records a beautiful plea from Hezekiah, where He reminds God of His power and His promises and asks Him to defend His name and intercede for Judah.

Sometimes I take the “keep silent” part a little too far, and I don’t go to the Lord with my struggles. In doing so, I miss out on what God is doing in the situation because I’m not seeking His direction, and I also cut myself off from my only source of hope, as He is the only one who has the power to deliver me from what I’m going through. Therefore I have to make a conscious effort to engage God in conversation, reminding Him of His promises and asking Him to intervene in my life.

Isaiah 37:35 NIV
“I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!”

God gave Hezekiah and the people of Judah a great victory.

I want that victory, too.

So whether I’m just “having a day,” or I’m going through a months-long trial, I will choose to see what God is doing in my situation and look for what I can learn through it. I will choose to take my thoughts captive and refuse to entertain and engage the temptations that come to me. And most importantly, I will pray and plea with the Lord for His direction and deliverance.

Father, forgive me for losing sight of you in the messiness of life. Help me to see you in the things I go through, and help me to represent you well. Help me to keep my mouth shut with the enemy and my mouth open with you. Help me to seek Your glory and help me trust You for deliverance. Thank you for how you’ve delivered me before. Thank you for being loving and faithful in all you do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Filed under Isaiah, Old Testament

Isaiah 12-15; Romans 12

Romans 12 is one of those portions of scripture that I often find myself in a love/hate relationship with. It contains such great encouragement! But it also contains such difficult instructions and directions.

In verse one, we’re reminded to live in light of what Jesus did for us on the cross. How do we do that? By living surrendered to God in body, mind, and spirit. This is how we find freedom, and this is how we can discover the will of God in our lives. Ultimately, when we live surrendered, we learn to see through God’s eyes:

First, we can see ourselves through God’s eyes, and that causes us to live in humility. It causes us to live our gifts without comparing our gifts. It causes us to serve others without worrying what they will do in return.

And then we can see how this humility causes us to see our brothers and sisters in Christ through God’s eyes. It allows us to recognize that there can be diversity in unity. It causes us to value our differences, our unique personalities, and various gifts that God created us with. It allows us to be generous and welcoming. It allows us to treasure others and treat them in such a way to make them feel treasured.  It allows us to love with an enduring and sacrificial love.

Finally, it allows us to see outsiders and enemies through God’s eyes. It moves us to forgive when we’ve been hurt. It gives us the ability to meet others halfway, to extend mercy, to seek harmony, and be generous even when people attempt to take advantage of us or mistreat us. It causes us to seek peace – to chase after it, and to make every effort to have it, even with the people who constantly provoke us. And it’s what allows us to overcome their evil with good – the goodness that can only come from God’s grace as we live surrendered to His will.

The “Romans 12 Christian” is one I long to be, but I must confess, I fail more often than I succeed.

Instead of seeing myself accurately, I often get puffed up in my skills and attribute them o myself instead of seeing them as gifts from God to be used for His glory. I can easily fall into the trap of comparing myself to others to justify my own shortcomings. And I struggle greatly to serve others if I don’t think I’ll get anything out of it.

Instead of seeing my brothers and sisters in Christ accurately, I often find myself impatient with them, feeling frustrated with the differences in everything from gifts and talents, to personality and communication styles. I struggle to devote myself to others and to be generous and sacrificial, instead focusing on how I wish they’d be more like me.

And I especially struggle with those who are outsiders or enemies. I don’t like choosing forgiveness. I’d much rather nurse the hurt into a grudge that demands justice. I’d much rather focus on my rights. I’d much rather focus on their failures. And I’d much rather justify my sinful behavior as a result of their provocation. But God calls me to forgive as I’ve been forgiven – “In view of God’s mercy.”

And so, in view of God’s mercy, I will choose humility in how I see myself and others.

In view of God’s mercy, I will value the differences between believers.

In view of God’s mercy, I will extend forgiveness when it’s undeserved.

In view of God’s mercy, I will seek peace and pursue it.

In view of God’s mercy, I will make every effort to love as I’ve been loved.

In view of God’s mercy, I will live surrendered.

 

Father, in Jesus’ name, thank you for the mercy you showed me at the cross. Thank you for offering your one and only Son to take my place on the cross and to rise again, defeating death, so that I could live with You. Help me to live in the light of that mercy. Help me never to forget it or take it for granted. Rather, let it move me to surrender. Let it move me to love as I’ve been loved. And let me learn to overcome evil with good by letting Your love flow through me. Amen.

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Isaiah 4-5; Romans 2; Psalm 115-116

Psalm 116 NIV

1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.

2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.

3 The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.

4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: “LORD, save me!”

5 The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.

6 The LORD protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.

7 Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.

8 For you, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,

9 that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

10 I trusted in the LORD when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”;

11 in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”

12 What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me?

13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.

14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.

16 Truly I am your servant, LORD; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains.

17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD.

18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,

19 in the courts of the house of the LORD– in your midst, Jerusalem. Praise the LORD.

 

Oh, the love of Jehovah.

He heard me. He paid attention to me. He was moved by my plea.

He stretched himself to reach me.

How can I do anything else with my life but tell of His love, His power, His deliverance – for His glory?

I was dying. I was dead.

I was overcome by sin, and powerless to free myself.

I was physically and emotionally broken.

But then I called out to God. I begged Him to rescue me, to save my life, and to save my soul.

And He did.

Because He is full of mercy and love. He is compassionate and gracious.

He is good, even though I am not.

He rescued me, and He keeps on rescuing me.

He teaches me and grows my understanding of Him, of me, and of the world around me.

Now I can rest in Him.

Now I need not work and labor and be overcome by life.

Now I need not give in to worry and anxiety about the future or the past.

Because He has been good to me. And He continues to be good to me.

He was good when He delivered my soul from death.

He is good when He delivers me from my fears and sorrows.

He is good when He keeps my feet secure and holds me up when I begin to fall.

And so I can walk freely and confidently as a testimony of His goodness and grace.

I trust in Him, so I can speak with confidence before Him.

I can express myself to Him when I’m fearful, overwhelmed, and discouraged.

I can express myself when it feels like the world is against me.

And He will rescue me again like He has done before.

How can I ever repay such love and kindness?

I will tell of His love and share His mercy with those around me.

I will live to reflect His grace and power.

I will worship Him both in word and deed.

I will show my love by my life surrendered to His glory and will.

May I never grow tired of sharing how God has delivered me from death.

May I never grow tired of sharing with others how they, too, can find life.

May I rest in the confidence that I have been a faithful servant.

May gratitude never leave my heart or my mouth.

May I glorify the Lord as long as I live.

 

Father, thank you for rescuing me. Let me never forget it or take it for granted. Help me to find confidence to share your rescuing love with those around me. Help me to live for your honor and glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

 

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Filed under 66 Books, Old Testament, Psalms

2 Kings 6-8; 2 Chronicles 20; Matthew 28

2 Kings 6:15-17 (NIV)

When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

My father once said fear reveals that we’re walking by sight. It’s true. It’s far too easy to get caught up in what we see and to become overwhelmed as a result.

Like Elisha’s servant, I often suddenly find myself in some circumstance that takes me by surprise and seems impossible to overcome. And much like the servant, I cry out, “Oh no! What am I going to do?!” believing it depends on me to solve the problem.

But Elisha had faith, and he calmed the servant down by encouraging him with the truth of what was unseen – “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And when Elisha prayed, the Lord opened the servant’s eyes to see what was unseen – God’s power and might that was at work behind the scenes.

Now I’ve never been surrounded by an angry army, but I’ve had plenty of other trials and problems that have felt just as intimidating. The temptation is to give in to fear and attempt to take matters into my own hands. It’s in those moments that I must choose to remember God’s promise that He who is in me is greater than the one in the world. I must choose to remember God’s promise to be with me and never to leave me nor forsake me. I must choose to remember God’s love that is working all things for my good. I must choose to remember how God has delivered me before so that I can have faith that He will do it again.  Ultimately, I must choose to surrender to God’s plan and stop trying to fix it myself.

In 2 Chronicles we see a similar situation unfold when Jehoshaphat finds out that there are three armies on their way to wage war against him. Overwhelmed, he gathers the people to stand before God and they cry out for help and direction. They remind God of His promises, and they beg Him for direction. And they refuse to act until He answers.

2 Chronicles 20:12-13 (NIV)

“Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.

And God DID answer:

2 Chronicles 20:15-17, 20-23 (NIV)

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.  Tomorrow march down against them. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”

As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.”

As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.

God told them they would not have to fight the battle, but to still prepare for war. And so by faith, they fixed their eyes on God’s power and promise. By faith, they suited up and set out. By faith, they sang praises to God. And when they began to sing, God began to deliver. And God is no partial deliverer, either – true to His word, by the time they arrived, there was no one to fight! Instead, they were rewarded with treasures so bountiful it took 3 days to bring everything home.

A line in a favorite song of mine says, “Come, Lord, do what only You can do – You can do anything!” I’m so thankful that God works behind the scenes in my life. God works in my praying. He works in my praises. When I choose faith, I choose Him; and He can do anything.

 

Father, please forgive me for my tendency to focus on what I see, and what I can do. Forgive me for trying to figure things out on my own and take matters into my own hands. Help me to remember that You know what you’re doing. You’re in control. You’re working in my waiting. You’re working in my praying. You’re working in my worship. Lord, I choose faith. I choose to focus on You instead of what I see, and I choose to remember that even when it looks like I’m surrounded, I know that I’m really surrounded by You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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Filed under 2 Chronicles, 2 Kings, 66 Books, Old Testament

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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Filed under Matthew, New Testament