Given Much

When I started this blog, my goal was to help women find their passion by recognizing how God had uniquely designed and equipped them for the good deeds He prepared for them. My belief was that in doing this, they would also find far more life — satisfaction, fulfillment, joy, and more — in their relationship with Him. My desire is that each reader would see herself as God does and be inspired to connect deeply with Him, draw what she needs from His unlimited supply, and expend her energy loving those He has placed in her life.

The need for godly influence in our society is great; the news and social media overflow with reports of spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. It is easy to get caught up in the debate about how the needs should be met and never do anything to help meet them. It is also easy to be paralyzed by guilt for not recognizing the needs or acting sooner.

Today I asked myself, “If Jesus was on the earth today, how would He respond to these needs? How should I respond to them as His representative?”

How we answer those questions depends on our understanding of Jesus’ perspective. Do we view Him as a humanitarian reformer? An uninvolved deity watching from afar? A wise teacher or philosopher? Lord and Savior? Jesus took on multiple roles during His time on earth, but He had one overarching life goal:

For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me…my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:38-40, NIV)

Jesus’ primary goal was to meet our biggest need: reconciliation with God that results in forgiveness of our sin and eternal life with God. He was unwavering and unapologetic about that goal. But Jesus met physical and emotional needs — which people perceived to be bigger — to gain the opportunity to talk about those spiritual needs. He confirmed that He was the fulfillment of this prophecy:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19, NIV)

Proclaim good news. Offer freedom to prisoners. Restore sight to the blind. Free the oppressed. Usher in the time of the Lord’s favor. Each one of these meets a combination of physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Some of these could only be accomplished by Jesus, the Messiah. But we can follow His example in others.

As I pondered how to accomplish this, I remembered:

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:48, NIV)

Would you be surprised to learn that this verse applies to you? It is not just for those who are richer, wiser, more influential, or better educated. If you are God’s child, YOU have been given much in at least one area. Using your “much” to honor and glorify God by loving people is far more life!

  • Maybe you have been given much compassion. Jesus expects you to show much compassion to those around you.
  • Maybe you have been given great problem-solving skills. Jesus expects you to devise and share (and maybe implement!) solutions for others’ needs.
  • Maybe you have been given vast communication skills, influence, or followers. Jesus expects you to share His message with others and offer them His truth and grace in love.
  • Maybe you have been given much energy. Jesus expects you to joyfully invest yourself in helping others. There are so many ways to help, choose one that you are excited about.
  • Maybe you have been given much time. Jesus expects you to use it in pursuits that will reveal Him to others. There are many people and organizations you can help with your time and skills.
  • Maybe you have much wealth. Give much to people and organizations who are meeting needs for Christ!

I believe every child of God has been given “much” of something. We do not all have the same resources, skills, talents, and interests because God’s plan requires diverse contributions. As each person does their part, the bigger need is met. This is stated clearly in Scriptures:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  (I Corinthians 12:4-7, NIV)

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. (Romans 12:4-6, NIV)

You have a unique and important role to play in God’s plan. He has given you specific gifts and allowed specific circumstances so you can serve as His representative. He wants you to partner with Him in meeting the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those around you. As you give much, you will grow far more life.

Sisters,
What is an area of our society or world where you see a great need?
How do you view Jesus (reformer, teacher, deity, Lord, or something else)? How does that influence what you do for Him to meet others’ needs?
What “much” have you been given? How can you use that to glorify God by meeting others’ physical, emotional, and spiritual needs?
Thank God for your “much” — and far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: Jenjoe Marsh

Walking through Fire

My family went through a health emergency last week that came on suddenly and took priority over almost everything else in life. Experiences like this always provide an opportunity to see where we are placing our faith and hope. Faith in God’s presence and provision today is based on our past experiences. Hope for our future is based on His character and promises. Both are essential components of far more life.

My husband and I clung to one of my favorite verses during those challenging days:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, NIV)

I reference this verse in many posts because it is such a great one! We have confidence — that God is working for our good. First, because we love Him. Also because we answered the call to join Him in fulfilling His purpose on earth. We live for His goals, to build His kingdom and show others His love every day. We meet the conditions required for God to fulfill it, and He has! He has not always made our circumstances easy, but He always gives us grace to trust and obey Him. We find far more life, even in challenges like the one we faced this week.

Let us explore a beautiful promise of far more life given to the prophet Isaiah:

…Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… (Isaiah 43:1-3, NIV)

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. As we celebrated on Easter Sunday, Jesus paid the price for our sin so that we have the opportunity for a relationship with God. Jesus bridged the gap between our sin and God’s perfection (I Peter 2:24). If you have been redeemed by Jesus, you have no reason to fear God, life, death, or anything else! Far more life faces difficulties with faith and hope in Christ’s redemption instead of fear.

I have summoned you by name. Before the creation of the world, God chose those He would draw to Himself (Ephesians 1:4-5, John 6:44). It brings us peace to know that not only did God uniquely create each of us (Psalm 139:13-15), but He also wrote the names of His children in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:12). He knows each one personally and is intimately involved in their life (Luke 12:7, I Corinthians 10:13). If you have answered His summons, you have access to far more life.

You are mine. We were created with a desire to belong. Although we experience some of this from our loved ones, God fulfills that desire more completely than any human ever can. When we belong to Him, no one and nothing can snatch us away (John 10:28-29, Romans 8:38-39). Far more life has confidence and peace in belonging to Him during hard times.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. Sometimes we feel like we are drowning in the situations we face. But God has promised that they will not destroy His children; in fact, He has promised far more life through them (John 10:10). We still must pass through raging rivers, but He will be with us and provide all we need (Hebrews 13:5, Philippians 4:19). Far more life focuses on Him and rises above the threatening waters.

When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. I think of the fire as the times when our doubt, fear, or pain feels all-consuming. That is when we are in the thick of the battle for control of our heart and mind. We may not be able to see our way forward to get through the difficulty. But just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego experienced, God will meet us in the fire of testing (Daniel 3). He will not let our troubles consume us (Lamentations 3:22-23). Praise God for the safety of far more life in the heat of our tests and trials!

For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. We have confidence in all of these statements because of who God is. He is Yahweh, a personal God who keeps His promises (Psalm 33:4). He is the righteous and perfect one who protects and guides His people (Psalm 65). He saves us from our own sin, rebellion, foolishness, and ignorance (Romans 5:8). We can trust Him because He has proven Himself trustworthy over and over since the beginning of the world. He alone offers far more life.

For my family, we think the worst has passed, but the situation is not fully resolved. We are still walking through the difficulty day by day. But we are not alone; God continues to stand with us in the fire. Friends and family are lifting us up in prayer and offering practical support. The promises and examples from His Word continue to give us faith and hope. And we praise God for far more life while walking through the fire.

Sisters,
Where do you turn when you find yourself “walking through fire”?
What experiences have strengthened your faith in God? Or cause you to doubt Him? (Talk to your pastor, mentor, or a trusted friend about your doubts. Satan uses difficulties to plant lies in our minds about God and ourselves. But God offers truth and freedom!)
What strengthens your hope in God? What makes it hard for you to hope in Him?
Which phrase in Isaiah 43:1-3 is most meaningful to you? Why?
Walk in far more life through the next fire you face!
-Shari

Taste of Heaven

We want to be comfortable. To have our needs met. We long for a life that is free from the struggles that weigh us down. We desire relief from emotional and physical pain, broken bodies and minds. We want people to value and respect each other. We yearn for justice and equality. We long for peace, safety, and security.

God desires these things for us, too. And He will provide them in heaven. But they are not guaranteed on earth. A pop song in the late 1980s claimed that heaven is a place on earth. It has a catchy tune and appealing lyrics, but they do disagree with Scripture.

The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne. He observes everyone on earth; his eyes examine them. (Psalm 11:4, NIV)

God is in heaven and you are on earth (Ecclesiastes 5:2, NIV)

We want to experience all the goodness of heaven now. But we cannot. We are still residents of this sinful world under Satan’s control (I John 5:19). During this life, we should expect evil and difficulties because people are incapable of upholding God’s perfect standard.

…No one is good—except God alone. (Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19, NIV)

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12, NIV)

But God has not left His children alone without help or hope to face these struggles. Here are some of His instructions and promises that point us toward far more life this side of heaven.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33, NIV)

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:19, NIV)

Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25, NIV)

This life — both good and bad elements — is temporary. Our bodies, wealth, riches, success, and struggles will end. God’s Word reminds that far more life looks beyond the present circumstances to our eternal future:

Our bodies are like tents that we live in here on earth. But when these tents are destroyed, we know that God will give each of us a place to live. These homes will not be buildings that someone has made, but they are in heaven and will last forever. (2 Corinthians 5:1, CEV)

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (I Timothy 6:17, NIV)

Don’t store up treasures on earth! Moths and rust can destroy them, and thieves can break in and steal them. Instead, store up your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and thieves cannot break in and steal them. (Matthew 6:19-20, CEV)

The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever (I John 2:17, NIV)

Far more life is not found in earthly pursuits. It does not depend on our wealth, power, influence, accomplishments, or success. Instead it is found in dedicating our lives to God. In striving to love Him and represent Him in all we do. In letting the power of His Spirit overflow in us: unconditional love; lasting joy; profound peace; genuine gentleness; and more. We get a taste of Heaven on earth — and experience far more life — when we yield to God and adopt the mindset Jesus modeled in the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10, CSB)

We get a taste of heaven when we honor God’s name. We do this by respecting His character and changing our beliefs, thoughts, words, and actions to match His. We also honor His name by giving Him the credit He deserves. We honor Him by telling others about His love, righteousness, and offer to pay the penalty of their sins. We honor His name through a living, growing relationship with Him.

We get a taste of heaven when we are building His kingdom. Although this world will never reach the perfection of heaven, God is working here. He invites us to join Him in that work by sharing our faith with others. They face the same questions, doubts, and challenges as us; they, too, can find hope and help through a relationship with Him. Jesus is the best solution to every problem humans face on earth!

We get a taste of heaven when we do His will. In heaven, we will be fulfilled by carrying out God’s will quickly, completely, and cheerfully. The most satisfaction we can find on earth is through obeying God in this way. He has a master plan, and we each have a unique part to play in it. Having made us, He knows the best way for us to fulfill His plan and discover far more life.

While we wait to fully experience heaven, remember this encouragement about our time on earth:

And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble. (2 Corinthians 4:17, GNT)

Sisters,
In what area(s) of life do you most long for heaven?
What is your attitude toward the difficulties that you experience in life?
What do you think about God’s declaration that no one is good apart from Him?
Have you yielded to God in honoring His name? In building His kingdom? In doing His will?
Praise Him for the fulfillment of far more life as you look forward to eternity in heaven!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Awakening

I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Psalm 36:1, NIV)

Lord, help me remember there are two types of people: those who are in awe of You and those who are not. There are so many things happening around us that are shockingly evil. We wonder, “How could anyone do that?” You provide the answer here: they do not respect You or Your standard of right and wrong. They are lost, moving through life in spiritual darkness.

In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin. (Psalm 36:2, NIV)

It is true, Father, that when You are not on the throne of a person’s heart they put themselves there. Many people reject or ignore You, insisting they do not have a Creator and do not need a moral guide or a Savior. They set their own moral code and declare themselves righteous. They justify their actions and have no outside accountability. They are deceived by Satan, who wants to keep all people from finding far more life in You.

The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful; they fail to act wisely or do good. (Psalm 36:3, NIV)

Without Your insight and guidance, God, they adopt beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and actions that are self-serving. They follow what is wise in their own eyes, disregarding Your wisdom. They cannot do or be good because they lack Your goodness. their perspective and understanding are limited. They are blind to present and future realities that are clearly visible to You.

Even on their beds they plot evil; they commit themselves to a sinful course and do not reject what is wrong. (Psalm 36:4, NIV)

You know every person’s thoughts and plans, LORD. You also know our nature; we are prone to listen to Satan’s whispers that justify wrong. Sadly, people believe the lie that they have gone too far to turn back. Not seeing the hope and help You offer, they are drawn further into wickedness.

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. (Psalm 36:5, NIV)

Thank you, Father, for being more loving and more faithful than we can understand. You offer forgiveness for every wrong we commit; there is nothing too sinful for Jesus’ blood to cover. We cannot fully comprehend such lavish love. And the faithfulness you show Your children overwhelms us with far more life. We know we do not deserve it. We are in awe of You.

Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. (Psalm 36:6, NIV)

Just as high mountains tower over us, LORD, your righteousness is immense. Your holiness is solid and cannot be moved or shifted. Like the oceans, Your justice is too vast for us to fathom. You see through actions and motives and never make a wrong judgment. You will not allow wickedness to go unpunished, and we trust You to exact justice at the perfect time. Thank you for preserving us from being overrun by evil. Thank you for offering us far more life even as we live imperfectly in this unrighteous temporary home called earth.

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 36:7, NIV)

We praise You, Heavenly Father, for offering us a place of refuge. Your love and protection are priceless gifts. We are safe with You, even as danger surrounds us.

They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. (Psalm 36:8, NIV)

You fill our hearts with the fruit of Your Holy Spirit. There is never a shortage of moral goodness available to Your children. We can turn to you as often as needed to refill our hearts and minds with Your perspective so we can reflect Your holiness. When we are filled with You, we overflow with far more life that benefits everyone around us.

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. (Psalm 36:9, NIV)

God, You are our source of life and light. You awaken our spirit and pull our hearts toward the righteous path in every situation we face. In every spiritual battle we encounter You provide all we need for life and godliness. May we always look to You!

Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart. (Psalm 36:10, NIV)

We are thankful that nothing can separate us from Your love, Holy Father. We rest in the knowledge that nothing can remove Your Spirit from us. Once You accept and forgive us, we belong to You forever.

May the foot of the proud not come against me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away. (Psalm 36:11, NIV)

We know that Your enemies are now our enemies. We live in a battle zone where there are constant attempts to drive us from You. Thank you for thwarting the attacks we cannot withstand. Thank you for giving us strength for the battle and Your power to overcome. With You, we are victorious! You empower us to reveal Your glory!

See how the evildoers lie fallen—thrown down, not able to rise! (Psalm 36:12, NIV)

You have promised that one day You will put an end to evil. We long for that day! We pray for the return of Jesus so that righteousness will again rule the earth. We are eager to experience the paradise that You are preparing to share with us. Free from the pull of sin. Free from the presence of evil. Full of purity and far more life. Come quickly, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Sisters,
What situation has recently reminded you that there is no fear of God in some people?
How do you view and respond to those who are blind to righteousness?
How have you experienced God’s love? Faithfulness? Righteousness? Justice?
How has God been your provider of life and light?
Praise God for the awakening far more life in you!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Restful Rest

Is there a song that draws out your feelings every time you hear it? For me, it is this one:

“I’m tired. I’m worn.
My heart is heavy from the work it takes to keep on breathing.
I’ve made mistakes. I’ve let my hope fail.

My soul feels crushed by the weight of this world.
I know I need to lift my eyes up, but I’m too weak.

Life just won’t let up.
And my prayers are wearing thin.

I’m worn even before the day begins.
I’m worn, I’ve lost my will to fight.”
(excerpted from “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North)

Sometimes this song reminds me of hard times from my past. Other times it describes the burdens I am carrying at that moment. Burdens many people carry. Worry. Depression. Guilt. Anxiety. Shame. Regret. Loneliness. Doubt. Fear. Confusion. Worthlessness.

Where do we find rest? The escape of sleep? The numbness of alcohol or substances? The distraction of hobbies or shopping? The indulgence of comfort food or media binges? The comfort of sex, self-harm, or careful planning? The thrill of risk-taking? Those may bring temporary relief, but it never lasts. We must resume the struggle before our strength is fully restored. This cycle breaks us down more and more over time. We grow tired and worn.

Friend, have you tried resting in Jesus? He has extended an open invitation:

Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. (Mathew 11:28-29, CEB)

Come to me. How do you go to Jesus? With a humble heart through prayer. A humble heart is willing to confess your weakness, emptiness, exhaustion, and hopelessness. It admits what you are doing is not working and you need help. Prayer is simply talking to God. There are no rules about what or how to pray. It can be out loud or in your mind. Your eyes can be opened or closed. You can pray anywhere at any time while doing anything. There are no special words and no forbidden words. Since Jesus already knows everything you are thinking, feeling, and experiencing, it is safe to be open and honest with Him.

All who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads. Who can go to Jesus? Anyone who is tired. You do not have to figure anything out first. You do not have to “clean house”. You do not have to get your act together. Go to Jesus just as you are. He will welcome you with open arms.

I will give you rest. Jesus is not offering a temporary escape or distraction or numbness. He offers rest that will refresh and replenish your heart, mind, soul, and body. He wants to permanently relieve you of heavy burdens.

Put on my yoke. A yoke joins two oxen together so they can share the workload. Wise and caring trainers start young oxen with a very light yoke and increase the weight and bulk as the oxen grow strong enough to handle it. When correctly fitted, the yoke does not feel heavy, even when the oxen are pulling a heavy load. Jesus wants to share our yoke and help carry our burdens. He offers a perfectly-fitted yoke so we are no longer exhausted and crushed under their weight. When we yield to Him, trying things His way, we find the lightness and joy He has promised His followers, even in hard situations. Jesus calls this far more life:

I came to bring them life, and far more life than before. (John 10:10, PHILLIPS)

Learn from me. Yoked oxen learn to follow their trainers’ commands. The trainer prepares them to navigate the field successfully, avoiding dangers and obstacles. Jesus can teach us to navigate life successfully. He can empower us to overcome worry, depression, guilt, anxiety, shame, regret, loneliness, doubt, fear, confusion, and worthlessness. The more we learn from Him, the more consistently we experience far more life.

King David describes resting in God this way:

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure…
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:8-11, NIV)

If you have never tried resting in Jesus, try an experiment. Go to Jesus. Give Him your burdens. Agree to learn from Him. I suggest you read the Gospel of John in the New Testament, one chapter a day (21 days). Each day ask yourself, “What can I learn from Jesus?” and write down a thought or verse you find meaningful. When you are done, evaluate whether resting in Jesus brought you far more life.

If you have a relationship with Jesus but have not been resting in Him, start again today. He will not criticize you for pulling away. He is always ready to take your burdens and share the yoke of far more life.

The song quoted above continues with these lyrics that fill my heart with hope:

I know that You can give me rest.
So I cry out with all that I have left.
Let me see redemption win. Let me know the struggle ends.
That You can mend a heart that’s frail and torn.
I want to know a song can rise from the ashes of a broken life and all that’s dead inside can be reborn.

Jesus offers restful rest. Test Him out. You may find far more life.

Sisters,
What burdens are you carrying?
Where do you turn for rest? Is it restful?
Are you willing to try resting in Jesus? Why or why not?
Thank Him for giving you His light yoke and teaching you the ways of far more life!

(You are welcome to let me know how your trial period goes — or ask any question — at farmorelife@gmail.com. I am praying for you!)
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Standing Out

All these people were still living by faith when they died…admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. (Hebrews 11:13, NIV)

Do you ever feel like a foreigner and stranger on earth? In America — and many other countries — only a minority of people today:

  • Attend church service at least once monthly.
  • Pray at least once daily.
  • Read the Bible at least once weekly.
  • Believe the Bible is God’s Word that should be taken literally.
  • Look primarily to the Bible to decide right and wrong.
  • Talk about their spiritual beliefs.

While living for God brings us far more life, it may also leave us feeling like an outsider. Bible-based perspectives are not welcome in many conversations. Asking questions that reveal a Biblical worldview can lead to rejection or ridicule. Sharing a Bible-derived moral stance can get us cancelled. As we examine the Scriptures, we find this explanation for many of those experiences:

But the person who is not a Christian does not understand these words from the Holy Spirit. He thinks they are foolish. He cannot understand them because he does not have the Holy Spirit to help him understand. (I Corinthians 2:14, NLV)

In order to understand God’s ways you must be connected to God. Most people who do not have a relationship with Him will not value His perspectives and instructions. So when we base our decisions, morals, and values on the Bible, we stand out from many around us.

Jesus stood out in His culture, too. He said, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44) to people whose country was occupied by a foreign ruler. He said wrong thoughts are as sinful as wrong actions (Mark 7:20-23) to people who had over 600 rules governing their behavior. He built relationships with people who were unpopular and scorned (Mark 2:16-17). His focus was on fulfilling God’s plan for Him, not fitting in.

For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. (John 6:38, NIV)

Jesus knew His message would resonate with some and offend others (John 6:60-69), so he was not swayed by people’s reactions to the content. He continued to share the truth with those whom God drew, but did not try to convince those who were not interested in His message (Matthew 10:14). He told His disciples to expect rejection and persecution — even from their own families.

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. (Matthew 10:16-17, NIV)

Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:21-22 and Mark 13:11-13, NIV)

Many people — including religious people — rejected Jesus during His lifetime. Today many people believe Jesus was a good teacher, a wise man, maybe even a prophet, but they do not believe He was God in the flesh. But Jesus’ own words left no question about His identity:

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (John 4:25-26, NIV)

The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me…I and the Father are one.” (John 10:24-25, 30, NIV)

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)

We are called to represent Christ to those around us. So how do we live out far more life in a culture that is hostile toward God and the authority of His Word?

Far more life allows us to demonstrate God’s character, love, and power. When we are put under pressure of criticism, rejection, or persecution, people expect us to respond with hate, anger, revenge, or condemnation. But through God’s Spirit we are able to respond with truth, love, and forgiveness. We stand out as we represent Christ with integrity.

Far more life speaks the truth in love to those who are open to hearing it. We know that many of the problems our society faces are actually spiritual problems. We also know that only God offers the peace, joy, purpose, and fulfillment people are seeking. We stand out by speaking the truth in love, whether it is accepted or rejected.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (I Peter 3:15, NIV)

Far more life remembers who the enemy is…and is not. We may feel attacked or be accused of attacking others. We stand out when we remember the spiritual forces at work around us and focus on glorifying God:

We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world. (Ephesians 6:12, CEV)

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4, NIV)

Far more life either attracts or repels people. As we live authentically for Christ, people will notice and respond. Praise God for those who find far more life!

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.  (2 Corinthians 2:15-16, NIV)

Sisters,
How do you stand out for your faith?
Where are you afraid to stand out?
Ask God for courage and wisdom to fully embrace far more life and stand out for Him.
-Shari

Not To Us

Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. (Psalm 115:1, NIV)

God, who deserves to receive praise and honor? Not us, but You. You alone are loving and faithful. The only reason we can love is because You have shown us what love is. You alone keep Your promises. Always. You alone carry out what You have said will happen. Perfectly. We may have good intentions, but we fail. Our plans get pushed aside by circumstances beyond our control. Only You can always follow through on what You have agreed to do. People may see bits of Your image in us, but we do not deserve their praise. We glorify You, the One who deserves all praise.

Why do the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. (Psalm 115:2, NIV)

Father in Heaven, people question what they cannot see and understand. Although we cannot see You, we know where You are. Although we do not understand Your ways, we know You are trustworthy and good. We know You are not under our control; You will do what You decide is best. And You know that better than we do! In their ignorance of You, people may try to hold us responsible for Your action or inaction. But You are not at our beck and call; You show yourself when You are ready. We eagerly anticipate You. We rest in You. We wait for You.

But their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them. (Psalm 115:4-8, NIV)

God, You are so different from the man-made gods throughout history. You are alive and powerful. We are thankful to be made in Your image. We are grateful to have access to Your power through The Holy Spirit. You have given us life! You have given us so much more! You deserve our trust, our allegiance, our reverence.

You who fear him, trust in the Lord—he is their help and shield. The Lord remembers us and will bless us…he will bless those who fear the Lord—small and great alike. (Psalm 115:11-13, NIV)

We stand in awe of you, Lord, our helper and protector. We are thankful to receive Your blessing and to be remembered by You. You do not favor the great and disregard the small. Rather You care for and bless all who are Yours. Not because we deserve it, but because You are the Lord! We trust You; You have proven Yourself faithful over and over. You are good to us. We have no reason to doubt or fear because of You.

May the Lord cause you to flourish, both you and your children. May you be blessed by the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 115:14-15, NIV)

All good things come from You, Lord. Everything we have is a gift from you. Because of You, we are prosperous. Regardless of our circumstances, You fill us with joy, peace, love, purpose, and satisfaction. And You let our children experience it, too. When we are blessed by our Creator, we are blessed indeed! Having made us, You know exactly what we need. We cannot turn anywhere else and expect to receive what You offer. How wonderful it is to be under the care and protection of the all-knowing, all-powerful, eternal God!

The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to mankind. (Psalm 115:16, NIV)

You have created a home for Yourself and given us a home, too. The heavens are full of Your glory and we marvel at them. The earth is also full of Your glory and we marvel at it, too. Although we are imperfect, You have made us stewards of this amazing earth. You have instructed us to care for it, subdue it, and fill it with people made in Your image. What an honor it is to care for Your creation! We can see so much of Your character on the earth: creativity, humor, nobility, power, beauty, complexity, order, whimsy, gentleness, and more. We can discover You anew as we gain understanding of each aspect of earth. Thank you for proclaiming Yourself to us through our temporary home. Thank you that one day You will invite us to live in Your home for eternity.

It is not the dead who praise the Lord, those who go down to the place of silence; it is we who extol the Lord, both now and forevermore. Praise the Lord. (Psalm 115:17-18, NIV)

We are among the few who will praise you, Father. We know You and recognize Your worthiness. We believe You and see Your hand clearly through all of creation. We recognize You in our souls. While we have breath and life on this earth, Father, we will praise You. We know others will not, but we will! You have given us life. You have given us a voice. We will use them to honor and praise you. We will not be silenced, now or at any time throughout eternity. Today and forever we will praise You! So be it. Amen.

Sisters,
What aspect of God’s character do others see in you? Do you give Him credit?
Are you comforted or concerned that God does as He pleases? Do you trust Him to always know and do what is best? Why or why not?
How have you experienced God’s help and protection?
Are you flourishing? Do you focus more on your spiritual or material blessings?
If you are alive in Christ, praise the Lord! He has given you far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: Jenjoe Marsh

Distorted Vision

When we are focused on the wrong things, we make bad choices. One way we focus on the wrong thing is by comparing ourselves to others. Another is to reject what we have and obsess over getting what they have. A distorted focus can lead us to manipulate situations to gain what we think we are lacking. But in the process, we forfeit far more life.

The story of Jacob, Leah, Rachel illustrates this well. In Genesis 29, we see a budding romance between Jacob and the beautiful Rachel. But the morning after their wedding, Jacob learns he was tricked and is married to Rachel’s less-desirable older sister, Leah. After a confrontation with his father-in-law, Jacob agrees to keep Leah if he can marry his beloved Rachel, too.

Leah’s focus became gaining her husband’s love. She thought giving him something valuable — many sons — would achieve her goal. She sacrificed peace, happiness, and more in this pursuit. Leah birthed 6 sons and a daughter, but there is no evidence that she won her husband’s love or realized her motives and actions were wrong.

Rachel also had distorted vision. She had her husband’s love but was focused on becoming a mother. She, too, sacrificed peace and happiness in pursuit of her own agenda. Jealousy blinded her to God’s blessings and caused her to idolize what she did not have. After years of despair and manipulation she finally birthed a son. But that was not enough; she wanted another one. God did allow that, but she died in childbirth. The very thing she thought would make her life complete caused her death.

We, too, are tempted to think that we will find far more life when we get what we want. If only… When this happens… After this… We focus on the elusive goal, blind to the cost. Even if reaching our goal brings temporary peace and joy, it does not last. Eventually we grow dissatisfied and convince ourselves fulfillment is just ahead. But, like Leah and Rachel discovered, this only leads to bad choices and heartache.

Genesis 37 tells that Jacob favored Rachel’s sons over Leah’s, and Leah’s sons went to great lengths to remove the competition. Not only did these women miss out on far more life, but their example distorted their children’s vision as well.

This family failed to see that far more life is found only in God. He promises:

Who is the man fearing Yahweh? [Yahweh] will instruct him in the way he should choose. His soul will lodge in prosperity, and his offspring will possess the land. Intimate fellowship with Yahweh is for those who fear him, and [Yahweh] makes known his covenant to them. (Psalm 25:12-14, LEB)

A prosperous soul — far more life — is given to those who pursue intimate fellowship with God. Those who lay aside their own purposes to focus on achieving His purpose. This allows us to recognize God’s work in our lives and help those we raise and mentor to see it, too. Jesus explained it this way:

Then Jesus called the crowd and his followers to him. He said, “Any of you who want to be my follower must stop thinking about yourself and what you want. You must be willing to carry the cross that is given to you for following me. Any of you who try to save the life you have will lose it. But you who give up your life for me and for the Good News will save it. It is worth nothing for you to have the whole world if you yourself are lost.” (Mark 8:34-36, ERV)

Imagine there are two life plans you could follow. The first option is the plan you develop. To make this plan you look at your available resources and consider how to make the most of them. You take your desires, skills, and preferences into account. You research the possibilities and choose the one that looks best. When obstacles arise, you assess how to keep moving toward the goal. Or you modify your plan, sometimes shifting focus. The second option is the plan God developed for you that fits within His master plan. He holds every possible resource and can give you whatever you need whenever you need it. He created you with desires, skills, and preferences that allow you to not only complete His plan but to be fulfilled by it. He foresees the obstacles and ensures a path forward is always available. God’s plan is the only one that leads to far more life. Would you give up your plan to focus on His?

We are wise to answer “Yes!” But a distorted view of God or ourselves can prevent us from seeing what is best. It seems better to focus on our own plan if we think God is distant, indifferent, harsh, selfish, critical, angry, or not trustworthy. We cannot believe a God with these characteristics would offer a plan that gives us far more life. Similarly, if we think too much or too little of ourselves, we will seek fulfillment through an inward focus. Believing we are responsible for finding far more life on our own, we disconnect from God to seek the path forward. How do we correct a distorted view of God or ourselves?

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…fixing our eyes on Jesus…For the joy set before him he endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV)

We study God’s Word to discover His perspective. We replace lies with His truth. We reject sin. As we choose to focus on Him, the path to far more life becomes clear.

Sisters,
How has focusing on the wrong thing caused you to make bad choices?
When have you trusted in your circumstances for satisfaction and happiness? Did it last?
Does intimate fellowship with God sound appealing to you? Why or why not?
Is a distorted view of God or yourself pulling you away from His plan? How will you correct it?
Praise God that His perfect plan for you includes far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Abundance

Do you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist?

Is the glass as half-empty or half-full?

Do you focus on the darkness of the forest or the light that shines through?

Does God feel close to you or far away?

Your answers to these questions indicate whether you have an abundance or scarcity mindset. One mindset embraces far more life while the other stifles it.

Without Christ, hardships, heartache, and difficulties emphasize our emptiness. We cling to what makes us feel good for the moment, knowing it will not last. Good circumstances seem rare. Real joy and inner peace elude us. We may feel hopeless and helpless to find relief from our physical and emotional burdens. Far more life sounds like an impossible dream. We experience a negative mindset and spiritual scarcity.

When we enter a relationship with Jesus Christ, we move from spiritual scarcity to spiritual abundance. We trade death and condemnation for life and forgiveness (Colossians 2:13-14). Our life circumstances may not change, but our perspective does (Acts 26:17-18). We now have a source of hope and help (Psalm 33:20). We have access to inner joy and peace through the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13). We can trust in the promises that God is for us (Romans 8:31) and always with us (Ephesians 1:13-14). Besides our salvation, spiritual abundance — far more life — is the most precious gift God gives us. The Apostle Peter highlights the importance of this:

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4, NIV)

Whatever we do, whatever situation we face, God sees His children as holy and blameless. Our life, present and future, is abundant because our standing before God is secure. We have His love, blessing, and support no matter what. That is far more life. Rich, internal, and unshakable abundance.

There are many religious people who claim that following God will bring you good things in this life: promotions at work; bigger incomes; nicer houses; more toys; happy marriages; good children; and more. When something bad happens, they claim God is displeased and punishing your sin or lack of faith. But that is not what God’s Word says.

If you belong to Christ Jesus, you won’t be punished. The Holy Spirit will give you life that comes from Christ Jesus and will set you free from sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2, CEV)

God will never punish His children, because Jesus already took that punishment on our behalf. Born-again believers in Christ are never out-of-favor with God. He never withholds blessings from us. He never scolds us. We are always holy and blameless in His sight. When we sin, the punishment has already been served, allowing us to remain connected to God through far more life. Our feelings do not separate us from God, even though our enemy, Satan, wants us to believe the guilt and shame we feel means God has turned away from us. Our sinful choices may yield natural painful consequences, but those are never God’s punishment. Instead, His Spirit continues to live inside of us and we continue to experience His abundant love, joy, peace, goodness, faith, and more. We continue to have far more life.

These [Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, David, Samson, and many others], though commended by God for their great faith, did not receive what was promised. (Hebrews 11:39, VOICE)

Even people who are commended in the Bible for their faith did not see their circumstances improve. But God gave them something better than earthly riches: His faithfulness in the present and His promise of a Messiah who would rescue their descendants from the oppression of sin. Instead of removing their struggles, God gave them hope, joy, and peace as they endured. They experienced spiritual abundance and far more life as they awaited the fulfillment of His promise.

To embrace far more life, we must embrace God’s definition of abundance. It is spiritual abundance. Soul abundance. Heart abundance. It means we find our blessings by looking up to Him, not at the circumstances of our life on earth. Abundance means that regardless of our external circumstances, our spirit thrives.

The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 1:4, NIV)

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8, NIV)

For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:5, NIV)

For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17, NLT)

Grace. Faith. Love. Good works. Comfort. Righteousness. These are the riches that God offers us through Christ. This is the abundance of far more life!

Sisters,
Before reading this, how did you define abundance?
What did you learn about abundance?
Are you tempted to interpret difficult situations as God’s punishment or displeasure? What Bible verse reminds you of God’s true mindset toward you?
What tempts you to pursue material abundance over spiritual abundance?
Thank God for eternal abundance — far more life — through Jesus Christ!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso


Warm Love

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12, NIV)

Sadly, this verse seems to sum up the current climate of our culture. We are a spiritually, morally, and politically divided people. We disagree on what is “wicked” and are quick to criticize those whose definition differs from our own. People engage in hateful dismissiveness rather than loving discourse. It is discouraging and leads us away from far more life.

Although it is right to be sad about the current state of affairs, we should not be surprised. It was predicted over 2000 years ago and has always been true to some extent. But we can consider this a call to be counter-culture and put the warm love of far more life into practice. As society’s standard of righteousness moves further from God’s standard, we have an opportunity to INCREASE our love for others and reveal God’s true character. Jesus tells us how in his first sermon:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? … And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48, NIV)

Love your enemies; this includes people who actively oppose us. Pray for those who persecute you; this includes people who attack us or call us names. God sets the example for us. As Creator and Judge, He would be justified in withholding all good — even sunshine and rain — from those who oppose and attack Him. But He does not. And He does not want us to withhold good, either. Looking out for the welfare of those who oppose us is an example of warm love. It sets us apart from the majority and reveals God’s Spirit living inside of us. We find far more life as we strive to be like God in our love.

…Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39, NIV)

Give the same regard to others that you give to yourself. Do kind acts for them that you do for yourself. Some people pay for the order of the person behind them in the drive thru, especially when that person has been impatient or otherwise indicated they are having a bad day. This is one way of responding with warm love. We regularly offer our neighbor warm love by clearing the snow from a significant portion of his sidewalk. It feels good to bless him in this small way. Perhaps one day it will open the door for a conversation about Christ. But in the meantime, we find far more life by showing him love.

…Urge the younger women to love their husbands and children. (Titus 2:4, NIV)

Sometimes the people we serve the most are the people for whom our love cools the most. Caring for those in our own homes day after day can become wearing. We can get bogged down in what we are doing and forget why we are doing it. When my children left home, I thought I would have a vacation from daily cooking. But soon I realized my new attitude of doing as little food planning and prep as possible was not loving toward my husband. I had to choose whether to adopt a “fend for yourself” attitude of cold love or to be a vessel of God’s warm love by continuing to regularly prepare foods we could enjoy together. When I chose to show my husband love, I discovered another level of far more life!

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30, NIV)

Our love for God is the most important of all. If we let that grow cold, we will be miserable and unable to find far more life. But as we devote ourselves to loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, our love for Him and others will grow warmer and more vibrant. This love flows through a circle: as we get to know Him better, our love for Him deepens, giving us more love to give others. Then as we pass His love to others, we discover new aspects of far more life that motivate us to keep deepening our love for God. Growing our connection to God keeps our love warm.

A deeper connection to God also enables us to see others as He does. God is not surprised when people who have rejected Him increase in wickedness. The cycle of righteousness, rejection, wickedness, and revival has been repeated over and over throughout history. God also sees beyond people’s actions to their heart, and knows they are often trying to meet legitimate needs in illegitimate ways. When we see people as God does, we offer compassion rather than judgment. Rather than cooling our love, this produces warmth.

The Bible points out that the love of most will grow cold toward their fellow humans. But a deep and genuine connection to God — far more life — gives us warm love to share with everyone around us. Friends, enemies, family, and strangers alike.

Sisters,
How has the wickedness around us impacted your love for others?
What individual or group is your enemy? What would it look like to love them?
How do or can you love your neighbor as yourself?
Is it easier or harder to love those in your household than those outside of it? Why?
Is your love for God growing warmer or cooler? How can you deepen your connection to Him?
Thank God for showing you His love — and blessing you with far more life!
-Shari