Author Archives: Bethany Harris

About Bethany Harris

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

Zech. 5-7; John 7; Ps. 126

Psalm 126 (NIV)

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,

we were like those who dreamed.

2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,

our tongues with songs of joy.

Then it was said among the nations,

“The Lord has done great things for them.”

3 The Lord has done great things for us,

and we are filled with joy.

 

4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,

like streams in the Negev.

5 Those who sow with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

6 Those who go out weeping,

carrying seed to sow,

will return with songs of joy,

carrying sheaves with them.

 

What a beautiful passage! This song was a long time coming. The exiles were finally returning from captivity and they were overjoyed at God’s deliverance.

But they weren’t always this joyful. In fact, while the psalm begins with rejoicing, the last half reminds us of what it took to get there: sorrow. There were tears and weeping. There was strife. There was pain.

But that suffering was not the end of their story! And it’s not the end of ours, either.

Though we walk through valleys, they are simply the way we must take to reach the mountain top. One day we will reach that victory. One day we will experience that deliverance. One day we will experience that joy.

In the midst of sorrow, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and fearful. But in this passage I’m reminded that God never ends a story in pain. He only uses the pain to bring greater healing, greater joy, and an exceedingly great reward.

Those who sow in tears WILL reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, WILL return with songs of joy.

It’s not an “if.”

It is a promise.

It is coming.

It’s on its way.

And all will see how Great God is when He delivers us from our sorrow and pain!

I once heard it said that the only thing harder than waiting on God is wishing you had.

Instead of focusing on the pain and suffering, I will choose to focus on the promise of deliverance and joy. I choose to live in hope. I choose to live in faith. Deliverance is coming. It may not look like I expect, or come when I expect, but it IS coming and it WILL be good.

Eventually, we will each receive the promise and be able to join in with the others who’ve gone before us in saying, “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy!”

 

Father, thank You for the incredible encouragement You offer through Your word. Thank You for Your promise that You will not leave things undone. Thank You for working good out of bad, and for trading tears for songs of joy. Help me to wait for Your deliverance so that some day soon I can stand and proclaim Your power in my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Leave a comment

Filed under Old Testament, Psalms

Ezekiel 40-41

In today’s passage Ezekiel receives a vision from God about the new temple. It is beautiful and detailed, with every inch designed to glorify the majesty of God Almighty!

God cares very much about displaying His glory and might. Thankfully, He does not dwell in a temple anymore, but rather, inside each of us who has come to know Him through Jesus.

With this in mind, as I read this passage it prompted me to ask myself a question:

What kind of temple am I?

Am I a beautiful dwelling place for God to display his power and might? Do I have rooms for Him to fill with His presence?  Does my adornment show His affection and provision in my life?

As much as I desire to be a beautiful dwelling place for my Father, I must admit that I don’t always succeed in making room for Him or in displaying His glory in my life. There are times when the things that are meant to shine begin to dull as I allow the world to cloud my eyes and my heart. I find it easy to let my life become cluttered, the rooms so full of me, my desires, my plans, and my pleasure, that there is hardly room for Him and His desires, His plans, and His pleasure. And sometimes I find myself tempted to take the credit for what I accomplish, attempting to make my life glorify myself instead of Christ.

It is a daily effort to make myself a dwelling place worthy of the glory and majesty of God Almighty, and it begins and ends with humility.

Instead of making my life and my choices about me, I must choose to point to Christ with my attitudes, speech, and behavior on a daily basis. I must choose to make room for Him. I must choose to dwell on His goodness in my life. I must choose to rely on His power and not my own. I must choose to evict myself so that He can dwell in my every moment, because I cannot be filled with Him when I am still full of me!

 

If thou could’st empty all thyself of self,

Like to a shell dishabited,

Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,

And say, “This is not dead,”

And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou are all replete with very thou

And hast such shrewd activity,

That when He comes He says, “This is enow

Unto itself – ’twere better let it be,

It is so small and full, there is no room for me.”

-T. E. Brown

 

Father, thank You for loving me and choosing to make me Your dwelling place. Forgive me for not always succeeding in making room for You. Help me to shine for You instead of me. I will empty myself so that I may be filled with You to glorify You in all that I say and do. I welcome you in my heart and my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Ezekiel, Old Testament, Uncategorized

Ezekiel 31-32; James 2

James 2:14-24 (NIV)

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

 

Faith requires action.

It’s easy to say I believe something. But it’s not always easy to prove it.

I once heard someone say that a faith that costs you nothing is not faith at all.

Here in James 2 we read of the importance of putting action into our faith. As an illustration, we are reminded of Abraham’s faith, when he carried his son to the altar to sacrifice to God. While he did not physically sacrifice him, Abraham proved his faith in God by surrendering his son to God’s will, whatever that may look like, believing that God was good, God loved him, and that God would keep His promise to Abraham. But this was not an easy journey for Abraham – it took him decades to learn this kind of faith.

But what about me? What does my faith look like? Do my actions match my speech?

It’s easy to say I believe God loves me. But am I living as though I am confident of His acceptance?

It’s easy to say I believe God is good. But when bad things happen, am I choosing to “trust and obey” until I see that goodness?

It’s easy to say God answers prayer. But is prayer my first response when I am in need?

It’s easy to say I love my neighbor. But am I actually encouraging, strengthening, and providing for them as opportunities arise?

It’s easy to say I care about the lost. But when was the last time I shared God’s hope with someone who does not know Him?

My dad used to say, “Your walk talks and your talk talks but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.”

What does my walk say? Does it say I have faith in me, in my own abilities, and in what I feel to be true? Or does my walk show that I have put my trust in God and I believe Him to be who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do?

Faith in myself leads me to be self-centered. If I’m not noticing those around me, if I’m not praying for those I know, if I’m not offering encouragement to those who are hopeless, if I’m not providing for those in need, it is a sign that I’m paying more attention to me than to God.

But when my faith in God is secure, I can trust Him to provide for me. This leads me to be a giver. I can be generous with everyone I encounter and give of them what I have received from God, whether spiritual, emotional, or physical.

 

Father, forgive me for becoming self-consumed and unaware of those around me. Forgive me for not trusting You to provide for me and for becoming overly concerned with my own needs instead of letting you provide for them. Help me to see those around me. Help me to meet the needs of those you place in my path each and every day. Help me to prove my faith by my actions of love and generosity. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under James, New Testament

Jeremiah 50-52; Hebrews 5

There’s so much rich truth for encouragement in Hebrews, and in this chapter.

But there is one short verse that stands out me today.

Hebrews 5:8 (NIV)

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered”

Jesus was undeniably the Son of God.

And yet, He still had to learn obedience.

He still had to learn submission,

He still had to choose to yield His will to His Father’s.

And how did He learn this submission?

Through suffering.

In the midst of His suffering, He choose submission, and that’s when He was made obedient, and therefore, according to verse 9, perfect.

It’s easy to submit to God when His will matches my own.

It’s easy to submit to God when it does not cost me. When it’s easy, pleasurable, and comfortable.

But that’s not where my faith is proven.

My faith, like Jesus’s, is only proved genuine when I choose submission when it costs me – ultimately, it’s proven through my obedience in the midst of suffering,

In the midst of affliction, my flesh cries out and demands obedience. It’s easy to submit to myself in those moments. It’s easy to turn to food, to entertainment, to distraction. It’s easy to turn to self-defense, to anger, and to resentment.

How I respond to suffering reveals what’s truly in my heart, for better or for worse.

When life is easy, I speak easily and freely of the joy of obedience. But when God brings friction into my life, I must make a choice. I can either obey my flesh, or I can learn obedience through submission to God by doing the right thing at the right time, regardless of how I feel.

Thankfully, I’m not alone in this struggle.

Jesus Himself struggled.

And He overcame.

And now He is my high priest, ready to help me, to strengthen me, to comfort me, and to equip me to overcome as He, Himself, did.

What I have discovered is that when I chose obedience to myself in my suffering, things get worse. But when I choose obedience to God, things get better. And not necessarily circumstantially, but internally, as my attitude improves, peace floods my soul, and my actions honor God.

And the greatest thing of all is that when I choose obedience in suffering, I experience a greater, deeper, and richer relationship with God, as I learn how to depend on His strength and not my own.

 

Father, thank You for your patience with me. Thank You for caring enough about me to let me suffer for the sake of my spiritual growth. Thank You for not leaving me alone in the midst of my suffering. Thank You for the comfort of knowing that Jesus, also, suffered, and He is ready and waiting to help me in my trials. Help me to see my afflictions through Your eyes. Help me to prove my faith genuine by submitting to Your will over and above my own. In Jesus name, Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Hebrews, New Testament

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.  

 

1 Comment

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.  

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1 Timothy, New Testament

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.

2 Comments

Filed under Isaiah, Old Testament