Renewed

Some of us begin our spiritual journey searching for relief from pain or difficult circumstances. Others are looking for direction or meaning in life. These can be powerful motivators to explore new options and initiate change, to find a different and better path. They may lead us to a personal relationship with Christ, even if that was not where we expected our journey to lead. For a while, that new relationship brings new awareness, positive change, and motivation to begin or continue doing what is good and right. We experience far more life than we have experienced before!

But we cannot sustain Christian growth for an extended time with personal fulfillment as our motivation. If we want far more life to last a lifetime, our motivation must become our love for God. As our relationship with Him matures, our perspective on Him naturally changes. We grow to see Him less as Santa Claus or a cosmic vending machine — someone who gives us what we desire if we perform correctly. Instead we recognize His character and the reverence He deserves. Here are a few examples of His name and titles that reveal His character:

  • Yahweh (Usually translated “LORD”, this means “self-existent one” or “He who brings into being”. Yahweh is God’s name, just like my name Shari.)

By Wisdom Yahweh laid the foundation of the earth. By understanding he established the heavens. (Proverbs 3:19, NOG)

  • Elohim (title meaning almighty or all-powerful):

In the beginning Elohim created heaven and earth. (Genesis 1:1, NOG)

  • Elyon (title meaning supreme or most high):

…Your name is Yahweh. You alone are Elyon of the whole earth. (Psalm 83:18, NOG)

  • El Olam (title meaning everlasting):

Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? El OlamYahweh, the Creator of the ends of the earth, doesn’t grow tired or become weary. His understanding is beyond reach. (Isaiah 40:28, NOG)

  • Adonai/Adonay (title meaning master):

The priests who carry the ark of Yahweh, the Adonay of the whole earth, will stand in the water of the Jordan. Then the water flowing from upstream will stop and stand up like a dam. (Joshua 3:13, NOG)

  • El Shaddai /Shadday (title meaning all-sufficient sustainer):

…The breath of Shadday gives me life. (Job 33:4, NOG)

  • Roeh (title meaning shepherd, friend):

Yahweh is my Roeh. I am never in need. (Psalm 23:1, NOG)

He who brings into being. All powerful. Supreme. Everlasting. Master. All-sufficient sustainer. Friend. Those terms describe Someone worth getting to know! Not just because of what He can do for us, but because of His own merits. They describe Someone who deserves our respect. Someone we can learn from. Someone we would do well to emulate. And God does want us to emulate Him! The Old Testament and Jesus’ first recorded sermon both include this instruction:

…I am the Lord your God. I am holy, and you must be holy too! (Leviticus 19:2, CEV)

But you must always act like your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:48, CEV)

Of course, humans are incapable of living a completely sinless life. We are born with a sinful nature that desires to do our own thing and be our own boss instead of giving God His rightful place in our hearts and lives. (Romans 3:23, James 4:17) Fortunately, when we accept Jesus as our Savior we receive a built-in “righteousness guide”, the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, I Corinthians 6:19). From that day forward, God the Spirit lives inside of us, giving us the power to overcome sinful thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and actions (2 Peter 1:3). But the change is not automatic; we must reclaim control from our sinful nature.

“…Live your life as your spiritual nature directs you. Then you will never follow through on what your corrupt nature wants.” (Galatians 5:16, GW)

Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect. (Romans 12:2, NCV)

We know that we are being directed by our spiritual nature when we display His characteristics: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Any time we do not feel or display those traits, we are being directed by the corrupt nature. We can try harder to push it aside, but sometimes our effort is not enough to create permanent change. Instead we must be changed from within through a new way of thinking.

We change our thinking by changing our core beliefs. Sinful thoughts, feelings, and actions reveal core beliefs that are still spiritually “corrupted”. But we can “follow the feelings” to bring them to the light. First, we recognize what negative emotion we are feeling. Then we ask ourselves why we feel that (i.e., what do we believe). Which may lead us to another negative emotion; asking “why” again reveals another belief. When that back-and-forth reaches a belief about our identity or God’s character that disagrees with the Bible, we have exposed our corrupt thinking! Bringing to mind God’s truth — His perspective, words, and actions — at that moment allows us to renew that part of our mind for God. When presented with a similar situation in the future, we will be able to respond as God would! It can be a slow, painful process to find and replace corrupt beliefs. But it is worthwhile because each step of that process yields far more life: becoming more like God!

Sisters,
What initially prompted you to seek out God? What prompts you now?
How would you describe your friendship with God? Is it one-way or two-way?
Which name or title of God is most meaningful to you? Why?
How do you feel about being more like God? Any hesitation or reluctance?
Do you experience negative feelings regularly? Are you willing to try “following them” to renew your thinking?
Praise God for allowing you to keep growing far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Great Adventure

The thief comes with the sole intention of stealing and killing and destroying, but I came to bring them life, and far more life than before. (John 10:10, PHILLIPS)

Jesus came to earth to bring humans far more life than they had without Him. So we could experience all that He intended for us and become who He designed us to be.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. (John 6:51, NIV)

…The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28, NIV)

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10, NIV)

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:4, NIV)

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17, NIV)

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28, NIV)

Jesus is the light that leads us to eternal life. He offers us salvation from the punishment we deserve for our sin. He paid the ransom that set us free. Jesus was not focused on His own comfort during His time on earth. He did not pursue wealth, power, or influence. He was not trudging through His weeks, living for the weekend when He could immerse Himself in what He wanted to do. His life was centered on His God-given mission: to restore our relationship with God.

But His life was not drudgery. It was overflowing with love, joy, peace, and more because those are the character traits of God. Jesus experienced far more life! Pursuing His God-given mission did not detract from Jesus’ life, it helped Him model far more life for us.

We find far more life as we pursue our God-given mission, too. And rather than pulling us away from the good things in life, focusing on our mission will enhance our lives. So what mission has He given His children?

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. (Romans 8:29, NIV)

…Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV)

…Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16, NIV)

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (I Peter 2:12, NIV)

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31, NIV)

Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (I Corinthians 15:58, NIV)

…Do good … be rich in good deeds … be generous and willing to share. (I Timothy 6:18, NIV)

Our mission is to draw attention to God. We sometimes call this bringing Him glory. But it just means giving Him the honor He deserves and making His magnificence and beauty known to others. He wants us to become like Him so that others can see His character in action. He wants us to tell others about Jesus and the way to a relationship with God. He wants us to teach them how to become like Him, too. He wants us to do good things to show His goodness. He wants us to model Him in every area of life, not just on certain days or at certain locations. In doing this, we experience far more life!

The best this world can offer pales in comparison to God’s glory. The most beautiful scenery is more beautiful when we acknowledge God as its Designer and Creator. The most rewarding experiences are more rewarding when they are investing in relationships that will last for eternity. Wealth is more satisfying when it is seen as a gift from God and used to meet the physical and spiritual needs of others. Love and laughter are deeper and richer in relationships that are unconditional, pure, and unified. Songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman described far more life as “The Great Adventure.”

God knows we are incapable of living for Him perfectly. But Jesus has already paid for those moments. We can recognize them, apologize, and get back on mission. In fact, sometimes failures give us a chance to draw attention to other aspects of His character. I see Jesus clearly in others when I sin against them and they show me grace. I model God when others sin against me and I quickly and compassionately forgive them. These, too, are far more life moments! Our sins and failures do not define us. Part of our adventure is turning from our sin to glorifying God to the best of our ability. May we, like Jesus, be able to pray this at the end of our lives:

I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. (John 17:4, NIV)

If you have been on mission, keep up the good work of far more life! If you have not, start today…the adventure of far more life is waiting!

Sisters,
How does it feel to know that Jesus’ mission was to bring your far more life?
Do you think Jesus’ life was drudgery or an adventure? What about your life?
How can you draw attention to God — bring Him glory — with the personality, blessings, and opportunities available to you today?
Embrace the great adventure of far more life with Jesus!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Numbered Days

I have heard many people express eagerness to say, “Good riddance!” to 2020. Although there are no guarantees that changing the calendar will improve our lives, they hope the coming year brings fewer challenges. Hope is a powerful force in our lives, but it is not like a free-floating balloon. It must be tethered to an object or person; we hope in something or someone. The days on the calendar are powerless to bring good or prevent bad. Far more life hopes in the character of God and His promises recorded in the Bible every day.

Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should. (Psalm 90:12, TLB)

Most years, including 2021, offer us 365 days, 8760 hours, 525,600 minutes, or 13,536,000 seconds. Each of those moments is like a gift, waiting to be unwrapped. Some of those gifts will be wonderful, exciting, or lovely. Others will be unpleasant, difficult, or sad. As we open each gift, we have to decide what value it offers and what to do with it. We can: keep it (in our memories or the forefront of our mind); give it to someone else (by sharing the experience in the moment or later telling them about it); or throw it in the garbage (move on or choose to not think about it). We are wise to look below the surface before deciding what to do with each gift. Sometimes the best gifts appear undesirable at first glance. I have experienced this with difficult conversations that, when resolved, led to personal growth and deeper relationships. I have also experienced this with potential friendships that I did not pursue and later regretted. Far more life unwraps and examines each gift, each day, in order to spend it as we should.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV)

Every sunrise serves as a reminder of God’s love and faithfulness. Whether we judge a day to be good or bad, His compassion goes with His children into every situation we face. Far more life greets each new day expectantly, looking for God’s work in and around us. We are never alone (Deuteronomy 31:8). We are never forgotten (Isaiah 49:15-16). He will not allow us to be spiritually destroyed (John 10:10, 2 Corinthians 4:8-9). He will give us all we need for that day. (Philippians 4:19). If you doubt these promises, consider starting a journal to record how you experience God’s compassion and faithfulness each day. Some days you will record one or more good things that happened. Other days You will see His provision through things that could have been worse. We are tempted to focus on our circumstances, but also look for His spiritual provision — times where you experience or share love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and forgiveness. Living in the fruit of His Spirit always makes it a good day!

For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. (Zechariah 4:10, ESV)

The tallest trees on earth, Sequoia sempervirens aka California redwoods, begin as a tiny seed. The largest animals on earth, blue whales, grow from the union of a single egg and tiny sperm. We tend to marvel on the full-grown majesty but forget to be amazed at the beginnings. Similarly, the day a venture begins — and each day of growth along the way — is also a cause for rejoicing. There will come a time when the progress will become obvious and even those who started with a critical attitude will rejoice; as the verse above states, those who were discouraged at the slow work of laying the temple foundation rejoiced when a plumb line was required to ensure the rising walls were built straight. We are wise to value the days of small things, too. There is reason to rejoice in the beginning of a friendship, the first step away from addictive behavior, or a righteous choice on a small matter. Far more life recognizes that each day offers opportunities for rejoicing over small things. Because much of life is small things.

A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. (Job 14:5, NIV)

…all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:16, NIV)

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)

Our days on earth are numbered and God has plans for each one! You will find far more life as you search for and embrace His purpose for you each day.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants. (Psalm 116:15, NIV)

When our time on earth is over, those who have accepted Christ will be taken Home. What a wonderful day it will be when we are united with our Creator and Savior! Each day we spend on earth is a day with Him in Spirit that brings us closer to the day we will be with Him physically. Since each day offers far more life, we can count them all as good days!

Sisters,
In what or who do you place your hope?
How do you decide which “gifts” from your day to keep, which to share, and which to throw out?
Do you regularly take stock of your daily blessings? If not, consider writing them down this year to have a record of God’s faithfulness.
What do you need to remember or do to make the most of each day God gives you on earth?
Thank God that far more life starts with numbered days on earth but continues for an infinite number of days in Heaven!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Perfect Plan

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8, AMP)

This verse is proven true by the Christmas story, the events of Jesus’ birth as recorded in the Bible. If humans were planning this historical event, we would have done it much differently!

…Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will name Him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14, NASB)

We would not have asked Mary to carry the burden of misunderstanding and public rejection that accompanied the virgin birth. We would have wanted her to remain respected and accepted. Yet God knew the virgin birth was the best for His plan.

The angel said to her, “…You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God.”  (Luke 1:30-32, NASB)

…An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”  (Matthew 1:20, NASB)

We would have told the angel to talk with Mary and Joseph together. Then they could have been united from the beginning, both having heard the same proclamation, both having the opportunity to ask questions. Yet God chose to tell them separately for His own reasons.

So Joseph and his fiancé, Mary, left Nazareth…When they arrived in Bethlehem, Mary went into labor, and there she gave birth to her firstborn son. After wrapping the newborn baby in strips of cloth, they laid him in a feeding trough since there was no available space in any upper room in the village. (Luke 2:4-7, TPT)

We would not have sent our son to be born in the feed trough of a barn in a distant city. We would have wanted him to be in a more comfortable environment, perhaps the best hospital or at home with the best midwife. Yet God’s perfect plan for His Son’s arrival on earth prevailed.

When the angels went away from them back into heaven, the shepherds…hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and saw the baby lying in the manger. (Luke 2:15-16, GNT)

We would not have let our son’s first visitors be shepherds from nearby fields. We would have chosen close family and friends to share our joy and welcome our son. But God knew shepherds were the best visitors to welcome His Son to earth.

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him.” (Matthew 2:13, NASB)

We would not have forced our son to flee to a foreign country to spare his life from a jealous king. We would not have wanted to uproot his life in this way. But God had a reason for His direction, even if He did not share the details with Joseph.

Throughout the rest of His life on earth, Jesus encountered many more situations where God’s ways are not the ways we would have chosen. And we experience this in our lives, too. Far more life does not expect God to think and act as we want. It is secure in telling God, “I do not understand why you did it like this.” But it also submits to His authority and wholeheartedly believes that He alone knows best because He alone knows everything. Far more life is more than yielding to God’s ways; it is embracing them as the best ways.

The book of Job records a man and his friends doing their best to decipher why God has allowed Job to encounter so many troubles. And they fail miserably! For 37 chapters they present their proposals and arguments. Then, starting in chapter 38, God challenges their knowledge and wisdom with His truth. Humbled by God’s reminders of the vast differences between Himself and humans, Job meekly answers:

I know that You can do all things, and that no plan is impossible for You…Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I do not know…I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You. (Job 42:2-5, NASB)

Job found far more life by discovering a new depth of understanding of the difference between God’s thoughts and his own, and between God’s ways and his own. He admitted that God’s understanding is too wonderful for him to comprehend. His spiritual eyes were open to the vast difference between himself and God.

Human nature has not changed since Job’s time. We still are tempted to create God in our image rather than resting in far more life by allowing ourselves to be molded to His image. When we find ourselves resisting God, we are wise to stop and ask ourselves why. How do we feel about God at that moment? What false belief about Him is controlling us and robbing us of far more life? What is preventing us from trusting Him completely? What aspect of His character are we doubting or disbelieving? Why are we resisting Him?

Clinging to our limited understanding makes us miserable. Letting go of our thoughts on how things should be and adopting God’s thoughts brings peace and joy. In moments of doubt, remember the Christmas story: God’s perfect plan to bring us far more life!

Sisters,
Where do you struggle to accept God’s ways?
In what areas of life have you expected God to do what you want?
Are you willing to look for the false beliefs that are robbing you of far more life?
How can the Christmas story remind you that God’s ways are best?
Thank God for His perfect plan for you — and the gift of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

I Know

I was reading Revelation recently and noticed this verse:

I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. (Revelation 2:13, NIV)

Although we often think of the phrase “I know where you live…” as a threat, it was comforting that Jesus used it to express understanding and compassion. He knew the challenges facing the church in Pergamum and understood the effort and dedication it took for them to remain true to His name. I was reminded that He knows the challenges all His children face and understands the sacrifices we make to faithfully follow Him.

I was curious about other places in Scripture where God or Jesus say “I know”. There are more than I expected…too many to include here! As you read the verses listed below, think about what God knows about you and the impact that truth has on your relationship with Him — how it opens the door to far more life.

Then God said to [Abimelek] in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me.” (Genesis 20:6, NIV)

I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine. (Psalm 50:11, NIV)

But I know where you are and when you come and go and how you rage against me. (Isaiah 37:28, NIV)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)

This is what the Lord says: “That is what you are saying, you leaders in Israel, but I know what is going through your mind.” (Ezekiel 11:5, NIV)

But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” (Luke 8:46, NIV)

The Father has sent me here, and I know all about him, for I [Jesus] have come from his presence. (John 7:29, TPT)

…I know [God] and I [Jesus] obey his word. (John 8:55, WE)

I [Jesus] am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. (John 10:14, NIV)

I know that [the Father’s] command leads to eternal life. (John 12:50, NIV)

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. (Revelation 2:2, NIV)

I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. (Revelation 2:19, NIV)

I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. (Revelation 3:1, NIV)

…I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. (Revelation 3:8, NIV)

God wants us to know Him, too. Below are some verses recording what Biblical authors state they know about God. Consider how you have experienced these aspects of His character and how that has given you far more life.

… I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed. (Numbers 22:6, NIV)

I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. (Joshua 2:9, NIV)

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. (Job 19:25, NIV)

I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2, NIV)

I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. (Psalm 135:5, NIV)

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14, NIV)

I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy. (Psalm 140:12, NIV)

I know everything God does endures for all time. Nothing can be added to it; nothing can be taken away from it. We humans can only stand in awe of all God has done. (Ecclesiastes 3:14, VOICE)

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” (John 4:25, NIV)

…One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I see.” (John 9:25, NCV)

I know who I have believed in. I am sure he is able to take care of what I have given him. I can trust him with it until the day he returns as judge. (2 Timothy 1:12, NIRV)

You are known intimately by God. You can know God through His Word and your life experiences as His child. What a wonderful privilege you and I have to pursue far more life in Him!

Sisters,
Do you desire to be known and understood?

How do you feel about God knowing and understanding you? Are there things you think He does not know or understand? Things you do not want Him to know?
What verse from the first list was most meaningful to you and why?
Do you desire to know God better? How are you pursuing this desire?
What verse from the second list was most meaningful to you and why?
Thank God for one thing you know about Him or yourself that allows you to have far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

A Prosperous Soul

Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 2, NASB)

I have read 3 John numerous times but never noticed this verse before. What a great perspective! What a memorable description of far more life: a prosperous soul!

We work hard to prosper in many areas of life and to have good physical and mental health. But how much attention do we pay to the prosperity of our soul? We may attend church, pray, read our Bibles, attend Bible study, serve in the church, and do other good works. But these activities may or may not lead to a prosperous soul. They can be soul-feeding connections with God that fulfill and energize us. Or they can simply be habits, obligations, or items to check off our to do list.

What is a prosperous soul? Other Bible versions translate 3 John 2 as: strong in spirit; doing well spiritually; progressing spiritually; it is well with your soul. A prosperous soul is consistently experiencing (and sharing) love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. A prosperous soul is growing in understanding God and becoming more like Him. A prosperous soul is far more life.

When someone asks how we are, imagine if we answered based on the condition of our soul:
“I am having wonderful fellowship with God today!”
“I am praising Christ for all He has done for me!”
“I am expectantly waiting for God’s best in some areas to become evident!”
“I am having a hard day but trust Him to keep all His promises!”
“I feel disconnected from God.”

“God’s promises feel empty and meaningless.”
“I am struggling to walk in the fruit of the Spirit.
“I am angry with God.”

In many situations, those would be awkward responses. But it is refreshing and life-changing to be self-aware and open with trusted brothers or sisters in Christ. I have a good friend who regularly asks, “How are you doing spiritually?” I confess that sometimes it is tempting to answer “Fine,” and change the subject. But I know she is offering me a precious gift! Sharing the condition of our souls helps us prosper by living out Paul’s instruction to the Philippians:

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. (Philippians 2:1-2, NIV)

This Scripture passage was read at my wedding and has challenged me many times to get my heart right toward God and my husband! Being open about the prosperity — or lack of prosperity — in my soul has benefitted me and our relationship. It has helped me maintain far more life. And enabled us to have a loving, Christ-centered marriage.

A prosperous soul is the foundation of a healthy life. When our soul is healthy, we keep everything else in the perspective of eternity. It reminds me of the promise in Matthew:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33, NIV)

“All these things” are covered in the preceding verses: life (what you will eat and drink) and clothes (what you will wear). At a minimum, when we are investing our lives in God’s kingdom, He will supply our basic physical needs. But this promise is attached to a command found a few verses earlier:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? (Matthew 6:25, NIV)

The command that produces a prosperous soul and healthy life is, “Do not worry.” When we replace worry — mental distress resulting from concern for something anticipated — with trust that God already knows our needs and is prepared, willing, able, and planning to meet them, our soul prospers. And we gain far more life.

Worry is based on a faulty belief about God and our position before Him. It robs us of far more life. Perhaps we can recite multiple Bible verses about God’s faithfulness, love, provision, and our righteous standing before Him. But some part of our mind does not believe it. Some experience from the past planted a seed of doubt that Satan has watered and fertilized to keep our soul from optimal prosperity. Thankfully we are not stuck with that lie. We can expose it by exploring our negative emotions and the reasons behind them until we discover the false belief and replace it with God’s truth. (To learn a systematic method for this, read the post “New Master”, published October 29, 2020.)

What keeps your soul healthy? Your spiritual diet and exercise choices!

He refreshes my soul. (Psalm 23:3, NIV)

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25, NIV)

Choose what goes into your mind and heart: connect daily with God and His word; engage meaningfully with other believers; pursue pure entertainment and recreational options. Also engage in the disciplines that promote spiritual growth: regular praise and prayer; capturing false or harmful beliefs in obedience to Christ; blessing others by using your spiritual gifts. When you recognize your soul is unhealthy — not experiencing the fruit of the Spirit — confess it and do the heart work needed to get back on track.

Every day can be a prosperous and healthy day for your soul. A day of far more life!

Sisters,
Do you focus more on your prosperity in life, your health, or the state of your soul?

How would you describe a prosperous soul?
What is the condition of your soul right now?
What spiritual diet or exercise practice would improve the health of your soul?
Thank God for enabling you to improve the prosperity of your soul today and embrace far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

On Mission

What role are Christians to play in society? This question has been asked for centuries. Groups have united and divided over this topic. Christians and non-Christians alike voice their opinions on this. There is no single answer about the specifics, but the Bible does answer this question by giving us a mission to complete. Jesus shared these instructions with His closest followers before He departed for Heaven:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20a, NASB)

The same instructions apply to His followers today. Go. Make disciples. Baptize them. Teach them. Fulfilling Christ’s mission is where we find far more life.

First, Jesus told us to go. He wants us to be part of society. He wants us to develop relationships so others can see Him in us. We can offer His compassion and grace. We can speak His truth in love. We can feed and clothe and meet other practical needs.

Where should we go? To people. We should go to neighbors, co-workers, family, and friends. We can also go to those who are hurting or ignored by others. Some of us are called by God to go far away. But most are called to go to people in our own neighborhood or community.

You yourself are a guide to people who are blind, a light to those in darkness. (Romans 2:19, NASB)

Jesus said we are the light of the world. We must go into society for others to see our light. My son experienced this at his middle school. His lab partner, PJ, was not well-liked. He was socially awkward and lacked interpersonal skills. The other students either ignored or teased PJ; he did not have friends. My son was kind and patient with PJ, even when he was difficult. One day PJ asked my son, “Why are you different?” He had only seen darkness in other students, but he saw light in my son. If my son had not been his lab partner, PJ would have continued to see only darkness. If we do not go into society, people will only see darkness. 

Next Jesus told us to make disciples. When we go into society, our mission is to share Jesus. Knowing God’s love and forgiveness is everyone’s most important need. And God has equipped and instructed us to meet that need!

Often we start sharing through our actions, by showing love and kindness. This includes listening, giving of ourselves, and offering help. Those God is drawing will want to learn more about the differences they see in us. Just like PJ wanted to learn more about the difference in my son.

Imitate me, brothers and sisters, and look around to those already following the example we have set.  (Philippians 3:17, VOICE)

Once others have seen the difference, we can share the good news of Jesus. We can tell them about His love and His offer of forgiveness and far more life. We do not need to do this alone; we can join with other Christians to make disciples. My son was involved in a Christian ministry that met after school and PJ started attending it, too. There he met more Christians, heard about Jesus, and eventually became His disciple! Disciples experience far more life.

Then Jesus said to baptize new disciples. This is an important step in following Jesus. Baptism does not change our standing with God, but it does have spiritual impact:

For you are all sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27, NASB)

The parable of the sower in Matthew 13 tells us some who hear the message will not want to become disciples. Others will appear to become disciples, but will not continue in Christ. But some will become genuine disciples who are committed to Jesus. Baptism is one way we communicate our decision to start a new life of growth and obedience to God. For disciples in countries with religious freedom, baptism may seem unimportant. But our Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world face punishment or death for expressing their faith so boldly. Baptism is an important component of far more life.

Finally, Jesus said to teach new disciples to obey His commands. Notice he is talking to every Christian, not only pastors and ministry leaders! Each of us can teach what we have learned about Jesus.

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2, NASB)

We do not teach young children complicated math. We first teach them to count. Then they learn to add. They learn more and more until they can solve difficult problems. The same is true spiritually. Just as a child can teach a younger one to count, a new believer can tell people about God’s forgiveness. They can teach others each spiritual lesson they learn. God wants us to share what we learn with other disciples. We experience far more life as we learn and grow together in Christ!

What is the role of a Christian in society? Go. Make disciples. Baptize them. Teach them. Shine the light of far more life as you fulfill your God-given mission.

Sisters,
How does your mission in life impact your interaction with society?
Which instruction is easiest for you: go, make disciples, baptize them, or teach them? Which is most difficult?
How have you been positively influenced by Christians you know?
How have you been a light to others?
Thank God for giving you a mission — and far more life!

-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Psalm of Thanks

Thank the Lord because he is good.  His love continues forever. (Psalm 118:1, NCV)

We thank You for Your goodness, Lord. We admit we do not understand it because we are not good on our own. We try to be good, but we fail. Thank You for never failing in Your goodness. Thank You for never responding sinfully to us. We are so thankful that Your love continues forever without pause or disruption. We can rest in peace and approach You with confidence and security because of Your goodness and love. Thank You for giving us far more life.

I was in trouble, so I called to the Lord.  The Lord answered me and set me free. I will not be afraid, because the Lord is with me. People can’t do anything to me. The Lord is with me to help me, so I will see my enemies defeated. It is better to trust the Lord than to trust people. It is better to trust the Lord than to trust princes. (Psalm 118:5-9, NCV)

Thank You, Lord, for answering our prayers for help. We are thankful that Your presence protects us from fear, because nothing is unknown to You. Knowing that Your infallible power is at work allows us to be brave. Thank You that what is most important — our souls — are always safe with You. Whatever happens to our bodies, no person or force can harm our souls. Thank You that even if our enemies appear to win in this lifetime, ultimately You will defeat our true enemy. Thank You for repeatedly proving Yourself trustworthy and showing us far more life.

All the nations surrounded me, but I defeated them in the name of the Lord. They surrounded me on every side, but with the Lord’s power I defeated them. The Lord gives me strength and a song. He has saved me. (Psalm 118:10-11, 14, NCV)

We may not have enemy nations surrounding us, Lord, but we thank You for Your protection. Whatever enemy we face — whether physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental — it cannot overcome our souls. Thank You for giving us strength. Thank You for giving us peace and joy that leads to a song-filled heart. Thank You for saving us from danger and destruction and giving us far more life.

Shouts of joy and victory come from the tents of those who do right: “The Lord has done powerful things.” The power of the Lord has won the victory; with his power the Lord has done mighty things. (Psalm 118:15-16, NCV)

Thank You for giving us opportunities to praise You. Thank You for giving us voices to proclaim the powerful things You have done. Thank You for giving us poems, songs, stories, and voices to share Your work and make Your name famous. It is You who has won the victory over sin, despair, evil, and more. Thank You for doing mighty things in us, through us, and for us so we can experience far more life.

I will not die, but live, and I will tell what the Lord has done. The Lord has taught me a hard lesson, but he did not let me die. (Psalm 118:17-18, NCV)

Thank You for the times You have rescued us from physical death, even if we were unaware. When we face difficulties, thank You for faithfully and patiently teaching us about Yourself and Your work in our lives. Thank You for rescuing us from spiritual death and blessing us with far more life. We will thank You for all eternity, as You deserve!

Open for me the Temple gates. Then I will come in and thank the Lord. This is the Lord’s gate; only those who are good may enter through it. Lord, I thank you for answering me. You have saved me. (Psalm 119:19-21, NCV)

Thank You that we can talk directly to You, Lord. We are privileged to thank You personally. Thank You, Jesus, for opening the gate and inviting us into a relationship. Thank You for filling us with Your goodness, so we can come before Your throne. Thank You for listening to our prayers and answering them. Thank You for drawing us to salvation from the consequences of our sin so we can walk in far more life.

The stone that the builders rejected became the cornerstone. The Lord did this, and it is wonderful to us. This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad today! (Psalm 118: 22-24, NCV)

Thank You for allowing us to benefit from Your suffering, Lord Jesus. We can rejoice every day because of Your sacrifice for us. We can be glad every day because of Your wonderful gift. Thank You for giving us life — and far more life, too.

You are my God, and I will thank you; you are my God, and I will praise your greatness. Thank the Lord because he is good. His love continues forever. (Psalm 118:28-29, NCV)

Thank You for being our God, Creator, and King. Thank You for demonstrating Your love and goodness so clearly to us. Thank You for today and every day that we can spend in fellowship with You. Thank You for every moment of far more life on earth and in heaven.

Sisters,
What aspect of God’s character are you thankful for? Give him your praise for that!
Thank God for something He has rescued you from. Or helped you through.
Thank God for a lesson He has allowed you to learn.
If you have a personal relationship with Jesus, thank Him for that. If you do not, please send me a message or ask a friend how you can accept His gift of salvation.
Tell God what far more life means to you — and thank Him for offering it to you.
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Pursuits

Coming off an election that cost nearly $14 billion, I was thinking of the general message underlying the ads and platforms. Many candidates promised variations on the rights promised in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And while these are good things, are they the most important things for us to pursue? Do they truly bring us far more life?

It is easy to focus on our own life, our own liberty, and our own happiness. Our natural human tendency is to pursue things that increase our individual freedoms and personal benefit. But compare that focus to the overarching message of the life we are called to pursue in Christ:

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13, NIV)

Freely you have received; freely give. (Matthew 10:8, NIV)

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. (Acts 4:32, NIV)

 So when you give to the needy… (Matthew 6:2, NIV)

Our Creator and Savior wants us to be happy, but that happiness is not found in self-serving pursuits. Pursuing and fulfilling God’s purpose for us is what truly makes us happy. The verses above remind us that His desire, His purpose for us, is to love Him and love others through our choices and actions. By doing this, we bring God glory and make Him visible to people who do not have a personal relationship with Him, attend church, or read the Bible. We do this, in part, by pursuing personal growth so that we become more like Him. As we are filled with His character qualities (love, joy, peace, and more), those we interact with can see Him reflected in our words and actions. But we see even greater results and are even happier when we intentionally reveal God through our giving, sharing, living, and words.

God blesses us, so that all the ends of the earth may fear Him. (Psalm 67:7, NASB)

generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25, NIV)

God has blessed us richly! Many of us put extra effort into reflecting on and acknowledging those blessings at this time of year. But God does not intend for us to hoard our blessings. Sharing our blessings with others honors God and brings far more life! The parable of the talents (money) in Matthew 25 illustrates this. The master gave some of his servants money to hold for him while he went away. When the master returned, the servants who pursued opportunities to increase their holdings were praised by their master:

His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21 & 33, NIV)

Whatever “talents” God has entrusted to us, He wants us to invest in building His kingdom. Our “talents” could be money, leadership or organizational skills, influence, compassion, health, time, education, wisdom, or simply a willingness to do good wherever we see a need. We may pursue investments that benefit those for whom we feel special concern, whether that be those who are poor, abandoned, ill, mistreated, abused, neglected, or overlooked. We also have freedom to use our talents to pursue personal gain. But we will find far more life by using what God has given us to bless others, especially when we are sharing His love, grace, and truth with them.

The Apostle Paul writes it this way:

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. (I Corinthians 3:11-15, NIV)

Accepting Jesus’ death and resurrection as payment for our sins and entering into an eternal relationship with God is the foundation of far more life. That foundation is secure, no matter what we do with the rest of our lives. But we choose what we add to that foundation: will we pursue personal life, liberty and happiness? Or will we pursue God’s purposes and plans?

Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well. (Matthew 6:33, NCV)

Pursuing God is the guaranteed path to irrevocable life, inalienable liberty, and eternal happiness — far more life!

Sisters,
What do you desire most in this life?
Think of times when you have hoarded your blessings and times you have shared them: which made you happier?
What “talents” has God entrusted to you? How are you investing them in His kingdom?
How have you found far more life pursuing God’s purposes?
Thank Him for richly blessing you and offering you far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Gold!

 …Now for a short time different kinds of troubles may make you sad. These troubles come to prove that your faith is pure. This purity of faith is worth more than gold. Gold can be proved to be pure by fire, but gold can be destroyed. But the purity of your faith will bring you praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ comes again. (I Peter 1:6-7, ICB)

Throughout history, gold has been viewed as valuable. It contains an array of unique and beautiful colors. It absorbs light, which makes it appear to shine. It is rare enough to be special, but still possible to find. It is hard to locate and extract from the earth in large quantities. It does not corrode. It is malleable and can be formed into different shapes. When melted, it can be poured into forms and stamped for practical uses, like money, or admired in jewelry and decor. It does not react with other elements, allowing it to retain its beauty over time. The purer a piece of gold is, the more valuable it is.

God compares our faith to gold. Faith is beautiful. It shines. It is relatively rare. It is hard to find on the earth in large quantities. It does not corrode. It is malleable. Faith is practical but also admirable. It retains its beauty over time. The purer faith is, the more valuable it is.

Gold can be proved to be pure by fire. Raw gold has other elements mixed in with it. It is purified by being heated by fire or electricity, then introducing a chemical that pulls out the impurities (non-gold components).

These troubles come to prove that your faith is pure. God compares the process of refining our faith to refining gold. Trials are the heat that is applied to our faith. They bring ungodly beliefs, thoughts, and actions to the surface so they can be removed from our lives. The result in God’s children is far more life — a purer faith that is a better reflection of God.

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart. (Proverbs 17:3, NIV)

This purity of faith is worth more than gold. This seems like a strange comparison, comparing seemingly-intangible faith with tangible gold. But our faith results in actions. It shapes our decisions. It permeates every aspect of our lives. That makes it tangible. Our faith is real to God, too. It is valuable to Him. He will use one of earth’s most valuable elements — gold — to make the streets in Heaven (Revelation 21:21). Those streets will be beautiful, but our faith is infinitely more beautiful and valuable in God’s economy!

Gold can be destroyed. Humans do not know how to destroy gold. We can dilute its purity, but it still exists. We can dissolve it with chemicals, but that only causes it to disperse further. Perhaps God can destroy gold by some power or force that is not available to us. The Greek word that was translated “destroyed”, apollymenou, can mean “to no longer serve the use for which they were designed”, so perhaps that is a better interpretation. Using either meaning — destroy or make unusable — these verses contrast gold’s destructibility with our faith. There is no trial that can destroy genuine faith. Nothing can cause it to stop serving its purpose in our lives. In fact, our faith leads to eternal life:

For you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1:9, NIV)

Here are other Bible verses that use gold to illustrate a spiritual lesson:

The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. (Psalm 119:72, NIV)

Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. (Proverbs 8:10-11, NIV)

God’s guidelines for life are more precious than gold! They offer value for both this life and the next one.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. (Acts 3:6-7, NIV)

The lame man did not recognize Peter possessed something more valuable than gold. Peter looked beyond the man’s obvious need and met his deepest need. God’s work in our lives is also precious and priceless!

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. (I Corinthians 3:11-13, NIV)

The writer uses physical building materials as an analogy for the components of our lives. Some, like gold, are valuable investments of our time and energy that God will reward when we reach Heaven. Others are not deemed valuable by God and will not gain us anything in Heaven. Far more life builds with gold!

Sisters,
What aspect of gold is most appealing to you? How do you see that aspect in your faith?
How have trials refined your faith? What impurities have they exposed and removed?
What is your reaction to the claim that faith is valuable? Do you value it more than gold?
Are there areas of your life where your faith seems unusable? Ask God to help you see how faith can add value in those areas.
Where are you using gold to build your life? What is not gold that could be?
Thank God for the richness of faith and far more life that accompanies it!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso