Posted by: Tamara Harrison | July 24, 2011

My desert experience

Did you know that right after the Apostle Paul became a Christian, he went to Arabia for 3 years? So what? you say. I’m getting somewhere with this.

Paul had an amazing conversion experience in which Jesus Christ personally came to Paul, telling him He is in fact the very Son of God. Paul wasn’t seeking out Jesus. In fact, Paul was seeking to murder anyone who followed Jesus. In his mind, and as far as his extensive study persuaded him, Jesus was not the promised Savior…this was one thing Paul was convinced of.

On his journey to persecute other Christians for believing in Christ, Christ Himself shows up to Paul and tells him who He is. Paul puts his faith in Christ, is saved, and then gets put on a mission to preach the message of Christ. Amazing.

But first, before he writes all those awesome letters we read in our Bibles, he goes to Arabia for 3 years.

We don’t know what he did there. We can only speculate. But in my humble opinion, I think he went there to rest in Jesus. To learn about Him. To make sense of everything. To study and pray and seek and think. To discover who he is in Christ. To renew his mind and be transformed from Christian-hater-persecutor, to Jesus-lover-preacher. And I think he needed a desert experience to do this. Paul, alone in the desert with God, spending a very long time figuring things out.

I think that this desert experience was extremely valuable for Paul. I think it must have been painful at times as he probably spent hours in anguish reliving his persecution of Christians. Hours replaying God’s appearance to him on that road. Hours thinking about what God’s purpose was for him and how he was going to accomplish it.

But I imagine that during this time he rested in Jesus and communed with Him, learning so much about the One who he used to despise. This desert experience was probably a time of pain and anxiety yet also a time of joy and discovery.

I only speculate on the above, but if this happened the way I think it did, I truly feel like I am in my own “desert experience”.

After I experienced my own dramatic encounter with Jesus, I was never the same. My life drastically changed and I spent the next 3 years studying at a Bible college, working at Christian camps, and getting married. I don’t think I could have added any more change. It makes my head spin just to think of it all.

It all happened so fast, I never really got to slow down and take it all in. I never got the chance to sit and breathe. But I definitely am getting that now. Getting it more than I ever would have asked for.

I’m waiting for my green card to arrive, waiting to see if we’re going to make a big move, waiting to discover God’s will for us. It’s been almost 3 months now, and I’m not sure I like waiting.

However, no matter how much or how little I like this desert experience, I am gaining so much.

I actually almost feel like I’m starting my walk with God from scratch. I’m not sure if that sounds bad or not, but I am learning things about myself and about God faster than I know what to do with.

But, because I’ve slowed down and allowed God to minister to me as I wait, I’m processing my past in a way that I have never been able to do before.

I’m working through things I didn’t know I needed to work through.

I’m discovering who God is in a way I never have before.

And truly, I can say…in my weakness He is strong. I believe that in the darkest times you can experience a great deal of hope and joy.

He has purpose in my desert experience. He is teaching me things I should have learnt a long time ago, just didn’t have the time to learn them.

God has pressed the “pause” button on my life to slow me down and teach me who He is and who I am in Him.

I have joy in knowing that the lessons He is teaching me now will be more valuable than anything I’ve had to give up in this time. I may not feel that way right now, but I know it to be true.

So in this desert experience I have hope in the pain. I have joy in the waiting. I know there is purpose in it.

If God could do with Paul what He did after his desert experience, He most certainly can bring purpose out of my desert experience. Not like I’m comparing myself to Paul or anything.

If you’re waiting and it’s painful beyond anything you’ve ever experienced before, just try to see it as something God is allowing to teach you more about Him.

I haven’t got to the end of my desert experience yet, so I can’t tell you how it all turned out, but our God is so good and so loving that I know that even in these desert times, He holds my hand.

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Posted by: Tamara Harrison | July 11, 2011

Wonderfully Indwelt

I started yesterday’s post by saying that we are fearfully made. Our bodies are designed by God in an act of holiness and love. What a thought.

Today I want to talk about how we are the Temple of God. Our bodies are His very own dwelling place if we have placed our faith in Jesus.

Before Jesus came, the presence of God could be found in a physical, man-made Temple. God gave Moses instructions to build a tabernacle, one that could be lifted in order to be with the people as they traveled.  This tabernacle was stunning. It was built from only the finest materials and adorned with the most beautiful decor. God required that His dwelling place be the finest that man could make. Once it was created, the Bible says that “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34).

Some time later, King Solomon was given the task to build a Temple for God. Again, the Temple was made from the finest materials and adorned with the finest gold, gems, and linen. Nothing was too expensive or too valuable for God’s Temple. And again, “the glory of the Lord filled his temple” (1 Kings 8:11).

A group of people who did not follow God attempted to destroy this Temple and succeeded. Even after God’s people rebuilt it, the Romans demolished it in 70AD.

What sorrow this must have caused God’s people, as they mourned over the loss of the Temple of God. However, today we have no cause for sorrow, because God made a way for His presence to dwell within a Temple once again.

That Temple is YOU.

Think about this awesome thought: God never dwelt in anything less than amazing in the past.

Look at His requirements for His dwelling place, think about the value of the materials God demanded to be used to build His home. Think about the quality and beauty of the adornments He required to be used for His Temple. And realize that YOU are just as valuable as that extravagant Temple adorned with gold. God has never chosen to dwell in “trash”. He lives in nothing less than extraordinary. He’s chosen to make your body into His Temple.

Begin to see your body for the value it is and consider the priceless value it contains. It contains the Spirit of God, so we have to treat it as such! Stuffing it with trash or abusing it in self-destruction is not the way we’re to treat God’s dwelling place.

He chose to indwell you when you put your faith in Him. When you asked Him to be Lord of your life His Spirit began a transforming process from the inside out. God is rebuilding you, making you more and more like His Son everyday. Do you see how precious and beautiful you are to God? He is doing a stunning and extravagant work in you. One more valuable that all the gold in the world.

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Posted by: Tamara Harrison | July 10, 2011

Fearfully Made

 “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;  Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14

I’ve read this verse many, many times. I’ve probably memorized it at some point. But this morning I actually read it for the first time. 

And for the first time, I was struck with a question about the meaning of this verse. What in the world does it mean that God made me fearfully? 

Was He scared when He made me? Of course not. God doesn’t get scared. 

Was He nervous that He would make a mistake? Definitely not; God doesn’t make mistakes. 

I had to look up exactly what this means. In the Greek this word means to revere. To have reverance for something is “to feel deep respect or admiration for something”.

Wow. I don’t know about you, but the idea of God forming me in reverance blows my mind.

As He was molding you and I, He took such care and purpose in His work. In fact, in Ephesians it says He made us His masterpiece. 

Today I want you to look in the mirror and realize how amazingly God made you. How wonderfully He formed you, how purposefully He created each and every part of your body.

It’s easy to be critical of your body. The world sends us messages about our body we were never meant to hear.

But hear God’s message to you:

“My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret,  intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

God hand-picked your body frame, He intricately designed you, and formed you in love. I know you may not like your body. I know it may be really, really hard to see it as beautiful. But it is. God designed it with awe. His perfect creation is YOU.

Please rejoice in that today. See your body as God’s workmanship, enjoy the ability He has given you to move it and express yourself through it. And give the honor back to Him for making you so wonderfully amazing.

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Posted by: Tamara Harrison | July 3, 2011

From fear to faith

Today I’m going to let you in on my biggest fear, something I’ve always struggled with. This fear has left me crippled with anxiety at times, only to be relieved once it goes away. My fear? PAIN.

I’ve always been afraid of pain. You wouldn’t think it, considering the sky-diving, adventure-living, late-night partying lifestyle I used to indulge in. But yes, I have always worried excessively about pain and have always assumed the worst whenever I feel pain. I think the reason I indulged in drinking, partying, and adrenaline-rush activities was because I wanted the pleasure it brought me. I never thought about the consequences of things, but when those consequences threatened to be a reality, I was terrified.

For example, during the year I spent in Australia and Thailand, I probably applied sunscreen once or twice, if at all. Very foolish, considering that Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the whole world. Was I aware of this statistic at the time? Yup. Did I think it was worth giving up a stunning tan or a few minutes to apply some sunscreen? Apparently not.

However, while on a small island in Thailand, after spending 11 months in Australia, I noticed a small freckle on my hand that I thought I had never seen before. I have freckles all over my body that looked exactly like this one, but somehow I convinced myself that I had skin cancer. That day I walked all over that island trying to find a clinic where someone could check it out for me. I didn’t care how much it cost or how far I had to walk, I just wanted assurance that I didn’t have a disease.

Looking back on that, I laugh. I didn’t need a doctor, and I didn’t have cancer. I just needed to be safe and apply sunscreen.

And although I laugh at myself, I don’t laugh very hard, because I still struggle with this today. A slight pain in my side or a headache that seems just a little too sore, and my mind jumps to all sorts of terrifying possibilities. I know the online “symptom checker” like the back of my hand, because I visit it so often. And this never helps me, but only makes it worse, as I become more aware of all of the awful things that could be wrong with me.

I hate it, because the fact of the matter is, I’m not trusting my God. I hate it because I’m not depending on His love and care for me but instead I’m holding on to my life so tightly it hurts.

It hurts because I know how much freedom there must be in letting go of the fear of pain. Knowing that pain will come, but trusting God that I will find all the strength I need in Him.

All of us will experience some form of pain in our lives. It’s inevitable. Whether that pain comes in the form of a broken bone, a complicated pregnancy, or a fatal disease, we will all go through it at some point.

So what am I scared of? I fear that I won’t be able to handle it. I fear that I will hurt too much. I feel that it will be too hard for me to
bear.

What I need to realize though, is that all those statements focus on “me”, “myself”, and “I”. Where is God in this picture?

If you too, struggle with the fear of pain, you know how hard it can be to focus on God instead of the pain. But look at these amazing verses:

“My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees” Psalm 119:71 (NLT)

Suffering always has a purpose. It always teaches us and can point us to a more obedient relationship and trust in God.

“For as we undergo more of the pain which Christ underwent, so through Christ does our comfort become greater.” 2 Corinthians 1:5 (NASB)

This promises us that although we might go through pain, our pain will be matched by the comfort that Christ gives! He knows what pain is like. He experienced it more than any other human being ever will. Yet He wants to comfort us in our pain because He loves us.

“So that I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me: My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (The MSG)

Wow, Paul’s testimony here has such power to show us that God’s strength takes over when we’re going through pain. Pain drives us to our knees and into God’s grace. The power of almighty God moves in on our weakness and helps us to endure.

“Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.” 1 Peter 4:1-2 (The MSG)

Going through pain produces freedom in your life. Going through pain allows us to pursue God’s will for our lives instead of clinging to our lives with white-knuckled fists. Because when we’re going through pain we’re really in a position to give everything up to God. And that will bring joy and liberation that’s worth all the pain.

There are so many other verses I could go into. But for the sake of time I’ll end with this.

Maybe you are going through pain right now. I have a couple friends who live daily in severe pain. I admire them and they are a huge testimony to me. I know a couple others whose future health is not promising. Their faith and trust is a testimony to me as well.

To these people, how does God help you in the midst of pain? Leave a comment below.

Maybe you’ve gone through pain and no longer live with it. How did you cope? Please leave a comment telling me how the comfort of God helped with the pain.

And for those of us who are currently blessed with great health, let us equip ourselves with the promises of God, that He will never leave us, that He will always be there to comfort us, and that when we are at our weakest point, He is strong for us. Not only that, but the pain will drive us to a deeper relationship with God.

These promises will be our shield through the fiercest fire, our shelter in the worst kind of storm….no matter what you will face. Be bold because of those promises. Do not fear. He is with YOU.

Choose faith instead of fear. It will set you free.

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Posted by: Tamara Harrison | June 29, 2011

Freed by Truth

Some days I just feel discouraged. Nothing in particular may be wrong, I just don’t feel very happy. I don’t enjoy these kinds of days, but they are a reality. I’m having one of those days today—the kind of day where I just feel “blah”. Again, nothing is wrong, I just don’t feel my happiest.

Isn’t it tempting to think that God is the most happy with us when we are having a good day? Sometimes I just think God loves me more when I’m in a good mood. I’ve always been an emotional person, and since I’ve got saved somehow I’ve begun to believe that God doesn’t like negative emotion.

I’m sure a lot of people believe so too. But you know what? I don’t think this is the case. I believe that God is the Creator of emotion; the Bible records many incidents in which Jesus expressed a wide array of emotion.

Jesus wept and was deeply troubled when his beloved friend Lazarus died, even though He would be raising him to life moments later. Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 says “For everything there is a season…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance”. There is a beautiful balance maintained in the Scriptures, one that tells us that emotion is not wrong, one that even encourages emotion.

Jesus was even angry at the injustice that was going on around Him, and displayed His anger by overturning the tables of the merchants who were exploiting the poor and disrespecting God.

He also showed anger towards the Pharisees, men who twisted the Truth and led people astray.

These emotions may seem confusing to those who have been taught that such expression of emotion is a sign of weakness, or that God is not happy with these types of emotion.

But you know what? The only way emotion turns ugly is when we react to those emotions in ways that are wrong. Exploding at my husband because he did something that pushed my buttons is not the reaction God wants for me. Allowing discouragement to devour me is not the reaction God wants for me. He doesn’t ever want our anger and sorrow to consume us because He loves us too much. He wants to reveal to us the joy and peace that come through following Him.

The beautiful balance lies in looking face to face at your emotions and putting God’s truth above those emotions: “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

Allowing yourself to experience emotion is so important, but allowing those emotions to swallow you whole is never, ever good. And how to avoid this? Living by faith and trust in God: “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith” (1 John 5:4).

This morning I allowed myself to cry. But I also cried out to God. I cried out for His Truth and I allowed His Truth to infuse my emotions with hope and faith.

“Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.  And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32).

I don’t know where you’re at today with your emotions. I know someone reading this will be so discouraged this morning that faith and hope feel non-existent. Friend, it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel upset about what’s happening to you right now. But can I encourage you to cry out to Jesus? Look to the Truth and allow it to permeate your emotions. The Truth will not discourage you from feeling those emotions, it will set you free from being swallowed by them. It will set you free to feel joy and peace once again.

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Posted by: Tamara Harrison | June 27, 2011

Caterpillar, Cocoon, or Butterfly?

I recently watched a DVD sermon by Charles Stanley.  He used the example of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly to illustrate God’s transformation of an old creation into a new one.

This got me thinking. As humans we are always in a constant state of change. From child to teenager, single to married, businessman to retiree, etc.

Change is inevitable. It happens whether we want it to or not. Sometimes those changes hurt and confuse us. And other times those changes delight and excite us.

When we think of change we most often think of circumstances. It’s the things around us that change. But how often do we see the change that happens inside of our soul? I would argue that the condition of your soul is the most important change that can occur.

I believe that there are 3 conditions a soul can be in. All 3 depend on God’s grace and the soul’s response to that grace.

The 1st condition is the caterpillar. This is the condition before God’s grace.

Caterpillars aren’t the most gorgeous of creatures. They crawl on the ground, using their guts to pull themselves forward. Like a caterpillar, I was crawling around, trying to find meaning in life.  I didn’t know God’s grace. I thought God demanded things from me, demanded my service. And so I kept on crawling around in darkness.

Ephesians 2:1-3 says:

“You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you
how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled
disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we
felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose
his temper and do away with the whole lot of us”.

A lot of people think they are pretty good people and don’t need God’s grace to get to heaven. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, thinking “At least I don’t live like so and so…” Compare yourself to God, which is the standard He sets to allow anyone into heaven.

Can’t meet God’s standard? NO-ONE CAN. It’s impossible. Nothing you can do can make you good enough to get into heaven.

Mother Theresa didn’t do enough good to get her into heaven. Neither can the Pope. Neither can you.

Maybe you go to church once in a while. I knew someone who lived in complete rebellion to God throughout the week but said that going to church on Sunday made him feel better about everything else he did.

Can I tell you that going to church doesn’t pardon your sins? Can I tell you that good deeds don’t pardon your sins? Grace is NOT about actions. It’s about a relationship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

So how does anyone get into heaven? That’s where the Cocoon comes in.

Once God reveals Himself to us, once we become aware of who He is, I believe a wrestling match starts. Some hear and instantly believe, which is a beautiful thing. I wasn’t that way. I began a wrestling match with God that lasted far longer than it should have. It’s amazing that God was as patient with me as He was, because the Bible says He won’t keep knocking on someone’s heart forever if that person keeps saying no to Him.

In the Cocoon we have to accept that we can’t get to heaven on our own. But because Christ died for us, died for our sins, died to give us life, we can accept Him and gain eternal life.

“Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, God
embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all
this on his own, with no help from us!” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

If you call out to God, allow God to embrace you and accept you as you are, you will experience God’s grace. God’s grace picks you up where you are, no matter what you’ve done. You only have to ask Him to save you.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and
believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you
are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are
saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

If you acknowledge that Christ was and is the Son of God, paid for your sins by dying for them, and did so to give you life, you will be saved. What are your alternatives? Do you really want to keep living like a caterpillar, crawling around from one temporary satisfaction to another?

Once we surrender to God, we stop fighting Him. We let go and experience true freedom. We become a butterfly, a new Creation. The old has gone and the new has come!  THAT is grace. This grace doesn’t add a bunch of requirements and rules to your life. Instead, this grace gets inside your soul and spirit and transforms your life.

There’s so much I could say and so much I feel I need to explain. But I have to trust that the Holy Spirit will make this all clear to those who read it. Salvation is something so complex not even the smartest men on earth can figure it out, but yet it is so simple that even a 5 year old can understand it.

We are all crawling caterpillars in need of God’s grace. We all—every single one of us—at some point, enter into the Cocoon in which we say yes or no to God. And if we say yes, we all—no matter how good or how bad we’ve been—become a butterfly, a new Creation.

It’s up to you now. What stage are you at? If you’ve said “yes” to God, I’d love to hear about your “wrestling match” with God in the Cocoon. Submit your story in the “comments” and encourage us all!

If you’ve yet to say “yes” to God, what’s holding you back? I’d love to hear from you too.

Listen to these awesome words about God’s Grace:

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Posted by: Tamara Harrison | June 25, 2011

He has a plan!

Wow, God has been teaching me so much lately. Since I’ve
graduated I’ve had such a “desert experience”, one of waiting and searching,
seeking and hoping. I’m sure anyone reading this can relate. We’ve all been in
a position where the future seems so uncertain; where we’re just waiting.

What I’m waiting for is my Green Card. Being a Canadian in
America, I have to go through a long process to be able to legally work. While
the break from school has been nice, I’ve spent most days feeling bored and lazy.
I mean you can only find so much joy out of housework and grocery shopping.

The lack of purpose I was feeling quickly spiraled into
negativity and self-pity. I had to constantly battle the messages Satan was
feeding me. Those messages told me I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t worthy
enough, I wasn’t successful enough. It was very self-defeating. I have all
these dreams and passions and I felt like they weren’t getting used. I started
to feel like maybe I was useless.

But in the midst of my despair, God spoke a verse deep into
my heart:

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not
for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11).

I’ve heard this verse a lot before, and it’s an amazing
verse, but it took on a whole new meaning to me at this point in my life.

God has a PLAN. And it’s so much bigger and better than I
can imagine. It’s a GOOD plan, a plan of HOPE, a plan that has an incredible
future.

God is so BIG. He holds the very world in His hands. He
sustains everything and nothing happens without His permission. Furthermore, He
organizes and plans our very futures. And those who know Him know that His plan
is never for evil. His plan is always filtered through hands of love. And so
even when we feel like His plan isn’t working out how we want it to, He tells
us that He knows what He’s doing. And it’s going to be amazing.

Soon after I got really disheartened about my current
situation I went to volunteer at Miracle Hill, a place for women to overcome
addictions.

I sat in for one of their Bible studies and was asked to
share my story with the women. As soon as I was finished, the women had a
number of questions, specifically about how I battled an eating disorder. The
Lord gave me words for them that I can only attribute to the power of the Holy
Spirit. Those words spoke truth into their lives and met them in their
brokenness.

The woman in charge met me after the meeting, overwhelmed at
what just happened. She explained to me that they have prayed for someone to
provide support to women who struggle with eating issues.

I explained to her that I’m not adequately trained, but that
God had given me an enormous desire to help women with eating disorders. She
told me she would talk with the director and see how they could use me at the
center.

I’m waiting to hear what becomes of this, but if nothing
does, I am still amazed and in awe of what God did.

He heard my cries and He had a plan. He HAS a plan. A plan
to make beauty out of ashes. A plan to fulfill my hearts desires. A plan to
bring light out of darkness.

Once again, God proved to me what He did not have to. I didn’t
deserve an explanation for the way God does things, I just had to trust Him.

Will I perfectly trust Him with my future from now on?
Probably not. No. But He knows that. And although I think it grieves Him that His
child doesn’t trust that His plans, I know it delights Him to show me over and
over again how much He loves me.

Maybe you’re in a position in which you can’t see any
possible good outcome. Perhaps your future looks so unpromising that it’s
causing you to spiral into self-defeat and depression.

Can I encourage you again with God’s words?

For I know the plans I have for YOU,” says the Lord. “They are plans for GOOD and not
for disaster, to give you a FUTURE and a HOPE.

Meditate on that. Memorize it. Believe in it. It’s true.

You have an amazing future ahead of you. Even if you’ve
messed up so badly that your life is in shambles, God specializes in fixing
messes. He created you and gave you passions, desires, and talents. Why would
He do that and then not fulfill them? Remember that our God is good.

If you are reading this and see the mess your life is in but
haven’t put your trust in Jesus Christ, He is the missing link. God longs to
fix your mess. He loves you. But He’s not going to force you into a
relationship with Him. He sent His Son to die for your sin so you could receive
His free gift of eternal life. I promise you, that hole you’re feeling in your
life is meant to be filled by God. Please talk to me or another Christian about
giving your life to Christ.

Remember, God has a plan. Trust Him. He has so much in store
for you. We can’t even begin to imagine what it’s going to be like. He’s just
awesome that way.

I have new hope because of God’s amazing intervention and ordination
in my life. Don’t fall into despair because the future looks unpromising. Trust
and believe in His good and perfect plan for you.

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Posted by: Tamara Harrison | June 15, 2011

Deeper Beauty

“Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God” (1 Peter 3:3-4).

As a culture, we are obsessed with beauty. We spend so much time and energy trying to find ways to make ourselves look good. New clothes, diets, skin care, expensive makeup; you name it we’ll try it. Anything in the name of beauty, right? And it’s never enough. New products and the latest fashions send us on a never-ending search for outward perfection.

Well God is the Master of beauty; He created it. And as our wise and all-knowing Creator, what He has to say on the subject is valuable for us today.

When it comes to beauty, God tells us that our primary concern should not be the externals. These verses don’t say that it’s wrong to do our hair and wear nice clothes, in fact, I think doing such things can be a wonderful celebration of the extraordinary feminine beauty God has given women.

Instead, He says that there is something in a woman that is much more beautiful than what the eye can see. Something that’s deeper than the make-up, jewelry, and high heels. Something more powerful than great skin or beautiful clothes. Something more precious than a model-body.

God tells us that true beauty comes from within. We’ve heard this countless times before, but what does it really mean? And do any of us really take it seriously?

I mean, it seems much easier to make ourselves look good rather than work on our character. Working on our character can sometimes be painful because in order to do so we have to go much deeper. We have to look at our internal blemishes, the ones that can’t be fixed with cover-up.

Well God tells us exactly which characteristics produce unfading beauty. In fact, He narrows it down to only two: a gentle and quiet spirit. In lieu of the myriad of make-up brands, hair-styles, and accessories we can consume ourselves with, 2 character qualities seem doable.

So what does it mean to have a gentle and quiet spirit?

The meaning of the word “gentle” has to do with the word “moderate”. Moderate means to avoid excesses or extremes. Ouch, that hit home. A dictionary definition of “Tamara” would probably say “a woman of excesses and extremes”.

The meaning of the word “quiet” is to make or become silent, calm, or still; to be at ease and at rest. Ouch again. A look into my spirit would reveal a lot of noise. 

A noisy, stressed-out spirit is not beautiful. It shows up all over a woman’s face in the form of dark bags under the eyes and stress-lines on the face. On the other hand, a spirit that is calm and at peace produces a woman radiating with joy and light.

So how to we obtain this beautifully gentle and quiet spirit? God  would never tell us to do something if it were impossible. And I believe the answer lies in our relationship with God. As I was reading these verses, God revealed to me that gentleness and quietness come from trusting in Him.

Trust means to expect or confide. And amazingly, later on in this passage, it says “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers” (v 12). So because God hears our prayers, we can confide in Him by casting our troubles on Him. Because God watches over us we can expect that He will do great things in our lives.

This kind of trust can calm a noisy spirit and balance out extreme behaviour, producing a gentle and quiet spirit.

And gentle and quiet doesn’t mean powerless, ineffective, or boring. No, gentle and quiet has the power to change an unloving husband and win him over to the Lord (verse 1). That is powerful. That is effective. And that is beautiful.

So don’t settle for beauty that is skin-deep. Go deeper. Confide in God, expect Him to do great things, trust in Him, and allow Him to transform your noisy spirit to one that is gentle and quiet. That will produce a beauty that will never fade and will far outweigh any type of external beauty.

Posted by: Tamara Harrison | June 14, 2011

One Lost Sheep

For years I pushed God away. I remember my mother talking to me about God and me hating it. I would put my fingers in my ears and tell her I didn’t want to listen.

My biggest excuse at the time was that I wasn’t ready to live for God. I thought I would lose so much. I told myself that now isn’t the time, that I would have to “fix” myself before I could ever start living for God. I reasoned with myself that religion was only for people who were old, certainly not for the teenager who wanted to have fun and needed to fit in with the world.

The interesting thing about my mother’s attempts however, was that I would instantly start crying whenever she would tell me about my need for God. It only took a few words on the subject before I would feel this deep conflict inside my soul. I didn’t understand it, I only knew it was painful and I didn’t want to face it. I wanted to ignore it. And so I would run away crying, put a blanket over the pain, and continue on with my life.

Looking back, I now see that this pain inside of me was a battle between knowing that there was a God I was responsible to, and wanting to live apart from Him.

I now understand that as God’s creation, we are all born with an inherent knowledge that He exists. (Romans 1:19, 21, 32). Along with this knowledge, God gives us free will, the ability to choose.

And so when my mom would talk to me about God, I chose to reject it. In fact, it made me angry when I would hear about Him. The same thing would happen on the very rare occasion that I would agree to go to church with her. I was absolutely convinced that the preacher was staring right at me because he knew I was rejecting God! And every single time, I would feel that pain and start crying. I believe the tears came from the deep conviction that my Creator wanted to have a relationship with me and I was saying no. I didn’t understand it at the time, but looking back, it’s so clear.

Another time, when I was travelling, someone came up to me and asked me if I thought I was a good person. “Yes,” I said boldly. She asked me if I had ever stolen anything at all. “Well yeah…” I said, thinking, “So what, everyone has.” She asked me if I had ever lied or hated anyone, and told me that hating someone is the same as murdering them in God’s eyes. I got increasingly uncomfortable. After admitting to all 3, she told me “so by your own confession, you are a lying, stealing murderer”, and continued to tell me that if I didn’t get forgiveness through Jesus, my destination would not be heaven.

I can’t tell you how MAD I was! I remember calling my mom and screaming through my tears “How dare they speak to me like that! They have no right!! I AM SO MAD!!!”

This person may not have shared Christ the same way I would today, but the reason I was so furious was because I knew that something was missing and the Truth was so glaring that I didn’t want to face it. I think I was trying to justify my rejection of God and the fact that I couldn’t made me mad. I didn’t want to deal with it.

And so I continued with my life, consuming myself with temporary highs to satisfy me.

Jesus tells a beautiful story in the Bible:

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” (Luke 15:4-6).

Are you the lost sheep in this story?

Jesus is tenderly calling each one of us into a relationship with Him. He calls us to trust in Him, cast our cares on Him, follow Him, live for Him.

Friend, what you think you’ll lose by giving your life to Christ will be more than abundantly made up in what you gain.

Believe me when I say that the hole in your heart is God-shaped, and anything you try to stuff it with just won’t fit. It might seem to cover up most of the empty space but there will still be darkness around the edges. The only thing that will make the hole whole, is the blood of Jesus Christ. The blood He shed for YOU to forgive your sins and bring you into right standing before God.

And you don’t have to “fix” yourself or get your life into shape before you come to Him. As He said, it brings Him more joy than anything else to find you just as you are, pick you up, and make you whole.

Moreover, you don’t have to fear the change. God will take care of every little detail as you walk with Him. I’m living testimony of that. I quit my job, He gave me another one.

I gave up my entrance into university, He gave me entrance to another one.

I had to leave all my friends, He gave me countless more.

I gave up my empty desires, He filled me with new dreams.

I gave up darkness, He gave me light.

I gave Him my wounds, He gave me healing.

I gave Him my sorrow, He gave me joy.

I gave up my striving, He gave me rest.

I gave up living for myself, He gave me a bigger purpose.

I gave up eternal death, He gave me eternal life!

So where are you today? Have you run away from Him?

Maybe this short video will say more than I can. This is a powerful testimony of God’s grace and desire to restore that one lost sheep.

Posted by: Tamara Harrison | June 12, 2011

A Concept Unknown

“Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers” (Matthew 24:9)

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)

We know these verses. We study and memorize them. But do we really have any concept of them?

I don’t personally know a single person who has been killed for his faith. I don’t know anyone who’s been arrested for his faith.

We hear about them. We read about them in missionary magazines and we may even pray for them. But do we really understand what happens to so many believers all over the world?

Does it ever become real to us?

It became real to me for the first time while reading the book “Tortured for Christ” by Richard Wurmbrand. The Romanian pastor recounts his 14 year experience in Communist prisons for his crime of following Jesus Christ.

He tells of the prisoners preaching to other cell-dwellers and guards, being beaten almost to death because of it, and picking themselves back up only to continue preaching from where they left off.

He tells of the songs of worship these prisoners would continue to sing, even though they knew severe, unspeakable beating would be the result.

He tells of the pastors who were tortured in the most unimaginable ways for their ministry, who were released and told to choose preaching or death, and who chose to preach that very evening.

“What the Communists have done to Christians surpasses any possibility of human understanding. I have seen the Communists whose faces while torturing believers shone with rapturous joy. They cried out while torturing the Christians, “We are the devil!” (pg. 35).

Do we truly know of the spiritual warfare that permeates the world?

One Torturer said:

“I thank God, in whom I don’t believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart” (pg 36).

“Other things simply cannot be told. My heart would fail if I should tell them again and again. They are too terrible and obscene to put in writing. This is what your brothers in Christ went through and go through now!” (pg 37).

I was brought to tears many times while reading the accounts of the tortures that have been done to these faithful believers.

I was brought to a new awareness.

And suddenly I was brought to a realization that I was very uncomfortable with.

I was uncomfortable with the fact that I am so comfortable in North America.

The psalms are filled with accounts of believers who lived daily in fear of the enemies who wanted to kill them, and I realized that I don’t have a single physical enemy in the whole world. Sure, there may be people who really don’t like me, but I don’t have even the slightest concept of what it means to choose Jesus or choose death.

And that made me uncomfortable. Uncomfortable with the comfort of living the way I do. Uncomfortable with the luxuries I enjoy on a daily basis. Uncomfortable with the abilities and freedoms I have as a citizen in a free nation.

Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful for the people who have fought for our freedom here in North America. That freedom came at a great price and I want this type of freedom for every nation.

But I think in getting used to this freedom we have lost something on a spiritual level. We have lost the sense of the true value of Jesus Christ, the value that moves us to put our lives on the line for our faith.

And to be perfectly honest, I think we’re missing out. Missing out on the perseverance that comes when our faith is tested to the point of death. Missing out on the joy that comes when all you have in life is Christ. Missing out on the peace that comes from loving the enemies that have done terrible things to you. Missing out on what it truly means to live for Christ and die for Christ.

At this point you probably think I’m crazy or ungrateful for my freedom, so I’ll use the words of Wurmbrand who lived through the tortures and came to the West to tell people about it.

“We could not think anymore. In our darkest hours of torture, the Son of Man came to us, making the prison walls shine like diamonds and filling the cells with light…the Spirit rejoiced in the Lord. We would not have given up this joy for that of kingly palaces” (pg 78).

I suffer in the West more than I did in Communist lands. My suffering consists first of all in the longing after the unspeakable beauties of the Underground Church…whoever had known the spiritual beauty of the Underground Church cannot be satisfied anymore with the emptiness of some Western churches” (pg 84-85).

“I can never describe the beauty of this Church! Often, after a secret service, Christians were caught and sent to prison. There, Christians wear chains with the gladness with which a bride wears a precious jewel received from her beloved…I have found truly joyful Christians only in the Bible, in the Underground Church, and in prison” (pg 94).

These people who were tortured in prison didn’t discuss theology, whether pre-millennialism or post-millenialism is correct, whether sprinkling or emerging is the best form of baptism. No, “hungry, beaten, and drugged, we had forgotten theology and the Bible. We had forgotten the ‘truths about the Truth,’ therefore we lived in ‘THE Truth’ ” (pg. 78).

These people gained something we don’t have a true concept of. And I want that concept. Of course I’m not saying that I want the pain and torture but these testimonies are evidence that with the pain comes a much greater reward, a greater intimacy with Jesus Christ, a greater knowledge of what He did for us, a greater confidence in Him, a greater passion for Him.

So since I don’t live in one of these countries, and I’m not at risk of being martyred for my faith, does that mean I can’t live radically for Christ in America?

The fact is, God brought me here. I live here. As far as I know, I’m staying here. And I don’t think there’s a place in the world that can limit God’s power to stir things up through His children.

What if living in the Western world is, in a different sense, as hard as living in a Communist jail?

Hard in the sense that it is more of a challenge to be known for Who we believe in.

Hard in the sense that this country practices tolerance on such a level that we are simply accepted for what we believe.

Hard in the sense that most people we talk to about Christ say “that’s great for you, but it’s just not for me”.

Maybe after knowing just how hard it is to make Christ known we will truly step out and be proactive in making Him known.

Step out in the hundreds of decisions we make every day.

Step out in the little decisions and in the big ones.

Step out while talking to the woman in the grocery store.

Step out when you see that homeless man at the side of the road.

Sure, it may be uncomfortable at first, but aren’t you tired of the comfortable?

Step out.

Get your free copy of “Tortured for Christ” here: http://www.persecution.com/

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