Bless Me

In Jewish culture, names are significant. Some names reflect the mother’s pregnancy or birthing experience. Others give praise to God. Names are also a way for parents to express their hopes and dreams for the child’s future. Jewish parents want the name to capture the child’s personality and set the path of their life.

The first nine chapters of I Chronicles contain lists of names. Starting with Adam, they record generations of names covering about 2900 years. Very little explanation about the lives of the people is given. We read about some — good and bad, choices and traits — in other parts of the Old Testament, but here the focus is on their place in the genealogy of God’s people.

But in the middle of these lists, two verses stand out:

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; but his mother named him Jabez, saying, “Because I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that You would indeed bless me and enlarge my border [property], and that Your hand would be with me, and You would keep me from evil so that it does not hurt me!” And God granted his request. (I Chronicles 4:9-10, AMP)

God did not tell us what made Jabez more honorable, so we must not need to know. We can be assured that Jabez’s character and life were pleasing to God. It was so pleasing that his prayer is recorded among hundreds of names representing 2900 years’ worth of lives.

The name Jabez appears to be an unpleasant burden. Although God viewed Jabez as honorable, his mother associated him with pain. We are not told why she made this connection; the Hebrew word for pain (otseb) can also mean sorrowful, wicked, or even idol. Perhaps it was a difficult labor and delivery. Perhaps there were negative circumstances in her life that she blamed on him. Whatever the reason, his name served as a constant reminder of that pain.

At some point, honorable Jabez had enough. He called out to God from his distress and made some bold requests:

Oh that You would indeed bless me… Jabez’s prayer begins with an appeal. He is desperate for God’s blessing. He acknowledges God as his provider, protector, and authority. He looks to God alone for His needs and wants. He knows nothing is impossible for God. Jabez knows God can reach beyond his name and pain to bless him.

and enlarge my border (property)… We do not know how much land Jabez owned, but he asked God to give him more. As an honorable man, it seems safe to assume he was wanted more than personal riches. More land would also bring more influence, responsibility, and productivity. Jabez wanted to do more, to become more, for God. Jabez was born into the tribe of Judah, which had received the greatest blessing from the Israelite patriarch, Jacob. Jabez boldly asked for the opportunity to be entrusted with more of God’s treasure and blessing.

and that Your hand would be with me… God’s hand represents power, guidance, help, and direction (Psalm 18:35; Psalm 21:8; Psalm 119:173; Psalm 139:10; Proverbs 21:1; Daniel 4:35). Jabez asked for more than just material blessing. He wanted to be blessed with God’s approval and help as well. He wanted a closer connection to God and to witness God’s work in his life. He wanted to experience God in action.

and You would keep me from evil so it does not hurt me. Jabez also wanted to rise above his name and the expectations it carried. Rather than being known as a man of pain, Jabez wanted to be known as a man blessed by God. He wanted to be as far from evil — and as near to God — as possible. He trusted God to protect him rather than his own strength, wealth, wisdom, or tribe. He wanted his life to be characterized by righteousness rather than sin. He wanted to rejoice in God’s work rather than be overcome by pain.

This prayer indicates that Jabez wanted far more life. He asked for a deeper connection to God that would impact every aspect of his life. Jabez knew his request would glorify God. And God shows His agreement by granting the request. This implies that Jabez’s life became a picture of God’s goodness, grace, power, and provision. God’s invisible qualities became visible to others; I believe Jabez gave God all the credit. God Almighty blessed the man of pain. God generously expanded the man of pain’s territory. God’s hand helped and guided the man of pain. God’s righteous instruction and provision protected the man of pain from evil.

By answering the prayer of Jabez, God showed His compassion. Although his life was hidden in the midst of generations spanning 2900 years, God noticed Jabez. God heard. God responded. God blessed. And He notices each of us, too. Especially when we, like Jabez, are asking for far more life.

Far more life is a blessed life. Sometimes it is blessed by pleasant circumstances. But it is also blessed by a connection to God. Blessed with stewardship of the gifts He gives. Blessed under the protection and guidance of God’s hand. Blessed with righteousness. Blessed to see God at work. Blessed with joy.

“Oh that You would indeed bless me and enlarge my border [property], and that Your hand would be with me, and You would keep me from evil so that it does not hurt me!” (I Chronicles 4:10, AMP)

Sisters,
What does your name communicate about you?
What do you think it means for God to call someone honorable?
Have you asked God to bless you? Was your motive honorable? How did God respond?
Would you want God to enlarge your border?
How have you seen God’s hand with you?
Have you asked God to keep you from evil so it could not hurt you? What happened?
Follow the example of Jabez this week as you ask God to bless you with far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

For His Name’s Sake

There are a lot of deep and challenging questions about God that I cannot answer. It is not fair that God allows some people to suffer more than others. It is not fair that evil and sickness and disasters wreak havoc in the lives of “good” people. It is not fair that God created Satan and has given him reign over the earth. Ultimately, it is not fair that God has predestined some people to spend eternity in heaven and others to receive punishment in hell. But it is also not fair that Jesus willingly submitted to being tortured and killed on the cross to pay for our sins. It is not fair that He will bear those marks forever while we — who deserve to be separated from God forever — are welcomed into His perfect eternal home.

As I pondered this, I was reminded of the phrase, “for His name’s sake”. Doing a word search, I found it in 3 Bible passages:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:1-3, NIV)

When our ancestors were in Egypt, they gave no thought to [the Lord’s] miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known. (Psalm 106:7-8, NIV)

Through [Jesus Christ] we have received grace and apostleship to bring about believing obedience among all the nations for the sake of his name. (Romans 1:5, NTE)

The simple truth of these verses is this: in whatever they face, God works in and among His children for His name’s sake. He provides all they need for His name’s sake, to reveal His character. He protects them for His name’s sake, to display His power. He draws them to love, obey, and follow Him for His name’s sake, to demonstrate His grace.

Those who live in relationship with God are not protected from everything bad, but He limits the evil that is inflicted on them. Here are two examples from Job’s life:

 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” (Job 1:12, NIV)

 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” (Job 2:6, NIV)

God was working for His name’s sake. He let Satan do anything he wanted to Job except kill him. What kind of Father would allow His child to suffer like that? One who is all-knowing and all-powerful. God knew Job’s heart and character would withstand. He knew Job’s response would be a lesson and encouragement for people for thousands of years in the future. God let Job suffer for His name’s sake.

God even brought good from Job’s situation. In fact, He brought more good than the pain and loss Job suffered.

The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. (Job 42:12, NIV)

When we suffer for His name’s sake, it is never wasted. I have experienced some hard times in my life that I would not want to repeat. But I can also say I am glad I went through each one because they grew my faith. They exposed my weaknesses and revealed God’s strength. I experienced His love and provision. My prayer life was deepened. My understanding of the Bible was expanded. God became more real and personal to me. His name was glorified as He provided all I needed through my suffering. Looking back, I can see how He was working for His name’s sake.

Sometimes when we face intense difficulties, we experience a crisis of faith. Our misperceptions and doubts are exposed. We may question our beliefs or even God’s existence and goodness. There is nothing wrong with this; God is not threatened by our doubts. Working through a crisis of faith actually strengthens our faith. Wrestling with hard questions solidifies our beliefs. We bring God glory by working out our faith during these times. His name is honored.

Millions of people have suffered terrible persecution because of their faith in God. This is not just in the past, it also happens today. God gives them supernatural strength to endure, even to the point of death, for His name’s sake. The gospel message spreads where people witness this faith that is proven to be real, deep, and powerful. The suffering of those faithful believers is not in vain; it is for His name’s sake. If you asked them, they would agree.

Right now, there are many who reject Jesus, curse His name, and ridicule those who follow Him. But the Bible describes the day His name will be revered by all. Those who have suffered for His name’s sake will overflow with joy on that day!

Therefore God exalted [Christ Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11, NIV)

Sometimes we are spared from hardship for His name’s sake. Other times we endure hardship for His name’s sake. He invites us to experience far more life in every situation when we embrace it for His name’s sake. Will you accept His invitation?

Sisters,
Are you more aware of God’s hand on your life when things are good or bad?
When has He shown His character, protected you, or drawn you to follow Him more closely through your circumstances?
Do you trust God to bring good from your challenges? If not, why do you believe He has allowed them in your life? Is that belief confirmed by Scripture?
If your knee will bow in adoration, thank God for far more life that will last for eternity!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Understanding

As a youngster, my son regularly proclaimed, “You don’t understand!” in frustration when I did not agree his way was best. He was convinced that if I accurately grasped his perspective, I would embrace his idea or plan.

We can feel the same way about God’s instructions and decisions. We trust our wisdom and experience because they usually serve us well. So when God’s Word tells us to do something that disagrees with our assessment, we may look for loopholes: “Surely He did not literally mean to resolve all anger before the sun set” (Ephesians 4:26) or “He cannot expect me to love someone who abused me” (Matthew 5:44). Or we may outright reject His instruction by saying it is outdated or does not apply in our circumstances.

These responses are part of our limited human understanding. And they are not new. Despite the changes in circumstances, we face the same basic temptations, challenges, thoughts, and responses as people who lived centuries ago. King Solomon noted:

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NIV)

People have always doubted and questioned God. One contributing factor is that He does not usually reveal His reasoning to us. I was surprised to find this verse describing God’s choice for the Israelites’ path when they were escaping Egypt:

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. (Exodus 13:17-18, NIV)

I’m sure some of the Israelites thought God made a bad choice. We have the benefit of knowing His reasons, even though they did not.

When questioned why He was washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus only offered this cryptic and unsatisfactory answer:

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7, NIV)

In reality, we do not understand. We know some things. We have some experience. But we overestimate ourselves and underestimate God. As a result, we are tempted to fight against God’s ways. We may argue, beg, plead for Him to embrace our ideas and preferences. We may reject, dismiss, or despise His ways and pursue our own path.

But we have another option, one that leads to far more life.

But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. (Psalm 131:2, NIV)

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5, NIV)

We can rest in God, trust Him, and yield to Him. But we must humble ourselves and acknowledge His superiority. He states this truth bluntly:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV)

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12, NIV)

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (I Corinthians 1:25, NIV)

When we accept these truths, we can focus on understanding Him instead of proving ourselves. We can trust His intentions toward us rather than fighting to prove our worth. We can rest in His knowledge and character rather than having to protect, defend, and promote ourselves. In this way, we bring Him honor and glory.

But, to do this we must have an accurate view of Him. Many people think God is cruel, distant, harsh, judgmental, apathetic, or uninvolved in their lives. They do not want to obey a god like that — I would not, either! Fortunately, those are inaccurate descriptions of the God of Scripture.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (I Timothy 1:17, NIV)

He is the King. He is at the center of His realm and holds it together. He is aware of what is happening. He is engaged and decisive. He has a plan and is implementing it. He is not afraid of anyone or anything. He takes on responsibility for the wellbeing of His people. He provides for them, protects them, and genuinely cares for them.

He is eternal. God created the time in which we exist, but He is outside of time. Unlike us, He has always existed and will always exist. Our lives are just a moment of His existence. His reign will never end.

He is immortal. God will never die. He is indestructible. He is always alive and active.

He is invisible. Although we cannot see Him with our eyes, God made His nature and power visible through creation (Romans 1:20). He exists in a dimension we cannot access, yet makes Himself accessible.

He is the only God. There is no pantheon, family, or council of gods. There are no changes as different gods take control. There is no threat to His rule. He exists as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, but He is One.

That is just a taste of His character! God understands us better than we understand ourselves. He invites us to understand Him so we can follow Him wholeheartedly and find far more life.

Sisters,
What tempts you to think God does not understand you or your circumstances?
Looking back, can you see times when His way was better than what you thought was best?
What makes you reluctant to rest in, trust, and yield to Him?
What aspects of His character have you experienced? Which do you need to better understand to follow Him wholeheartedly?
Thank Him for offering you far more life each step of your journey!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

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