Wrapped in Prayer

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2, NIV)

Heavenly Father,
I am so glad that I know where my help comes from — You! You made everything I know, so none of it is confusing to you. You understand what I cannot; you always have the right answer. You are the perfect helper in every situation. Knowing you is far more life.

Loving Father,
I am thankful that You are always willing to help me. Because You love me. Because You have made me part of your family. Because of Your character and who You are. I can look to You with confidence, knowing You are capable. I can look to You expectantly, knowing you are available and willing. And You will not let me down or leave me to suffer or struggle alone. Trusting you is far more life.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:3-4, NIV)

Faithful Father,
I am so thankful that I can never fall from Your grace. You have promised to never leave me or forsake me. You have promised that nothing can separate me from Your love. You have promised that nothing can destroy me. I am secure in You, regardless of what happens in my life. Neither circumstances or sin can break the covenant You made with me. Being held by You is far more life.

Watchful Father,
As I write this I am so tired. I long to lay down, close my eyes, and drift off to sleep. I face exhaustion every day — physical exhaustion, mental exhaustion, emotional exhaustion, spiritual exhaustion. But You do not. You never get tired. You never need a break. You always think clearly and act rightly. I can sleep in peace because You are awake and alert. I can rest in the knowledge that no evil will overcome me while You are distracted or unavailable. I am safe in Your care, even in my most vulnerable condition. Resting in You is far more life.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night. (Psalm 121:5-6, NIV)

Protective Father,
I am so glad that You shelter me. There are so many things in life that could burn me. I do not always recognize the dangers that surround me, but You do. I am often unable to see clearly, but You see everything perfectly. You do not miss anything. With You as my guard, no threat is cause for concern. Day or night, light or dark, sunny or stormy; You are there through it all. I am wise to stay under Your shelter, to accept your protection. Sometimes I ignore Your protection or reject it, thinking I am capable of keeping myself safe. I am so thankful that You never scold or criticize me when I call out to You from a dangerous or sinful place. You gently pick me up and tenderly care for me. And I realize You were protecting me the whole time — even when I tried to push You away. I find far more life wrapped in You.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121:7-8, NIV)

Eternal Father,
It is comforting to know that You know everything about my life. My past. My present. My future. My sin as well as my righteousness. My best moments and my worst. Wherever I am, You are there. You will always be there with me and for me. Not just for this lifetime, but for eternity. Right now we have a long distance relationship. I see You with my heart. I see Your work; what You promised in Your love letter to me is coming true. I see evidence of Your provision and care. But I look forward to the day I will see You with my eyes. I look foward to being wrapped in Your arms. I look forward to hearing You say out loud, “Well done, my daughter, whom I love. Come share my happiness”. Living with You — on Earth today and all the days of eternity in Heaven — is far more life.

I offer this prayer in the name of Jesus, Your Son, My Savior,
Amen.

Sisters,
Offer up your own prayer. Use this psalm or another Scripture passage as a conversation starter. Bring God’s Word to life by telling how you have seen His truth in action. Remind yourself of His promises and character. Anticipate your future together. Wrapping yourself in Him is wrapping yourself in far more life.
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Facing Forward

Do you identify as a “sinner saved by grace” or a “saint who sins”? It may sound like semantics, but there is a big difference between these mindsets. The one we choose impacts our self-perception, which is critical in our pursuit of far more life.

Biblically speaking, sinners are people who are separated from God and have no relationship with Him. The Bible clearly contrasts them with those who are in good standing with God.

Trouble pursues the sinner, but the righteous are rewarded with good things. (Proverbs 13:21, NIV)

All the sinners among my people will die by the sword… (Amos 9:10, NIV)

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32, NIV)

We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. (John 9:31, NIV)

Separation from God was not His plan for us; He created Adam and Eve to be in fellowship with Him. But when they chose sin, they became sinners and experienced spiritual death. All future humans, including us, were born spiritually dead and separated from God by a sinful nature. So God sent Jesus Christ to redeem sinners and restore the relationship between Himself and people.

…While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)

Those who accept Christ — acknowledging they are incapable of meeting God’s standard of perfection and accepting Christ’s death as payment for their sins — are no longer separated from God. The relationship is reconciled. They become a member of His family, and He makes them into a new and different spiritual person, transforming them from sinner to saint. This is our first taste of far more life!

He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. (Colossians 1:13, HCSB)

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household. (Ephesians 2:19, NASB)

But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come. (Daniel 7:18, NASB)

Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17, GNT)

…Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:6-7, NASB)

Although God has changed us, we are still tempted to look at ourselves in the old way and forfeit far more life. This is tempting because we still sin. We still make wrong choices and have wrong thoughts, every day. We can still be deceived by Satan. And our understanding of God and the systems of this world remains imperfect. The changes God makes are not always obvious; our outward appearance and life circumstances stay the same. So we consider ourselves, our identity, to be the same as it was before accepting Christ.

But our identity was irrevocably changed; we are a new spiritual being that is alive and longing for far more life. We have a new desire: a yearning to grow in righteousness. We also have the ability to say “no” to sins that we felt powerless against in the past. But we also have a new enemy who wants us to continue living in sin and miss far more life. The battle between good and evil can trick us into forgetting that we are a new creation, a saint.

Psychologists tell us that how we view ourselves influences our choices. So if we view ourselves as sinners, we expect ourselves to sin. We also expect to feel empty, defeated, discouraged, fearful and more. But understanding that we have become saints enables us to expect ourselves to live righteously. We also have the power to feel and share love, joy, peace, patience, and other aspects of God’s character. We realize we will not be perfect in our actions, thoughts, or feelings, but we are willing to keep growing in understanding and righteousness. Each step that we take toward righteousness brings the experience of far more life, which increases our desire to keep growing.

Consider this analogy. We can only face one direction at a time, either backwards or forward. When we cling to our old “sinner” identity, we are facing backwards to our life before Christ. We are focused on the bad things we have done and continue to define ourselves by those thoughts and actions. But when we turn toward our new “saint” identity, we are facing our future with Christ. We can focus on the good things we want to do and can define ourselves by His qualities that are growing in our lives. Rather than striving to be less sinful than we used to be, we can strive to be the most righteous we have ever been. Would you rather be facing your future with anticipation or facing your past with regret? I choose the future and hope you do, too!

…This is what I do: I don’t look back, I lengthen my stride, and I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14, GW)

Will you join me in facing forward, saint? Far more life is waiting for us each step of the way!

Sisters,
Are you a sinner, a sinner saved by grace, or a saint who sins?
If you have never acknowledged your separation from God, would you like to do so now? If you aren’t sure how to do this, ask for help at farmorelife@gmail.com. I’m happy to talk with you about it.
Have you missed far more life by facing backward? How?
How have you grown in righteousness by facing forward?
Thank God for the prize — eternal life — waiting for saints in Heaven. And for far more life as we journey toward Him.
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Small Matters

Do you desire bigger things in life? Is your mindset, “Bring on the challenge and I will grow into it?” Do you feel a lot of opportunities are too small to be worth your while?

It is good to grow and be stretched. It is good to set and pursue goals, even lofty goals. There are times we need to say no. There are times to make changes so your potential is being fully utilized and appreciated. But often we need to wait: wait for more experience; wait for an opening; wait for the right time; wait until our current commitment is fulfilled. And while we are waiting, we have a choice: will we wallow in dissatisfaction or embrace far more life?

I remember facing this choice when my student group was appointing new small group leaders. I desperately wanted the position; I knew it would be a challenge, but I was confident I could be faithful with the responsibilities if given the chance. I wanted to be stretched. I thought I would find far more life once I was a leader.

When I was not selected, I was tempted to become less committed to the group, thinking they were not willing to invest in me. But soon I realized my motivation was pride and the desire for recognition; the woman who was chosen to lead invested her life in loving God by loving others. She didn’t care if the need was large or small, she didn’t consider some tasks “beneath her”. And yet she was experiencing far more life, even in small, ignoble tasks. She was already acting as a leader by caring for others the group, so it was only natural that she be recognized and supported in that role. Her actions and mindset demonstrated this Biblical principle:

“Someone who is faithful in a small matter”, Jesus continued, “will also be faithful in a large one. Someone who is dishonest in a small matter will also be dishonest in a large one.” (Luke 16:10, NTE)

We are tempted to misread this verse to say, “Someone who is faithful in a small matter is paying their dues; after proving themselves they will be awarded larger matters and find far more life.” But that is not what it says!

Faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit; as God’s daughters we always have access to it. Whether we are taking on a small or large matter, far more life is available — and God’s desire — for us. The situations we encounter give us opportunity to grow in consistently choosing to be faithful. That is far more life!

Far more life is faithfully persevering, despite the barriers and challenges we face:

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial… (James 1:12, NASB)

Far more life is making wise decisions about which matters we take on so we can faithfully complete them:

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise. (Ephesians 5:15, NIV)

Far more life is giving of ourselves willingly:

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV)

Far more life is doing what pleases God and trusting Him with the results:

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, NIV)

God does not measure our faithfulness by the size of the task. Larger matters are often more complex and require more skills, but we can find far more life doing a small matter with a faithful heart.

Sometimes a seemingly small matter is really a large matter. When I was learning to play the flute, I was disappointed to start with just the mouthpiece. Then I was frustrated because I could not make it produce a sound. While I spent hours learning how to shape my lips and precisely where to position them on the mouthpiece, my friends were playing a variety of actual notes on their reed and brass instruments. It was discouraging to see them progress when I was stuck on what seemed like a simple task: blowing into the flute to generate a sound. But faithful practice allowed me to master that skill. I “graduated” to learning actual notes on the full instrument. Then I was able to take on the seemingly larger matter of learning notes and rhythms. Years of practice allowed me to play increasingly difficult pieces of music. But looking back, I realize that learning how to shape my lips and position them on the mouthpiece was actually the LARGEST matter; it laid the foundation for all that came later. If I had not been faithful to learn that, I would have not have been able to play even the simplest song.

Faithfulness often has practical rewards as well, as we read in Proverbs:

Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men. (Proverbs 22:29, NASB)

This verse shares a principle, not a promise; not every skilled person will literally stand before a king in their lifetime. But faithfulness yields opportunities and blessings we would otherwise miss. One of those blessings is far more life in Him every step of the journey!

Sisters,
Is it easy or challenging for you to be faithful with the matters in your life? Does the size impact your faithfulness?
Which is easiest for you: persevering, making wise decisions, giving willingly, or trusting God? Which is hardest?
When have you discovered a “small matter” that was actually large?
What opportunities and blessings has been generated by your faithfulness?
Thank Him that far more life is always available through every matter you face!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo from wwe.songflute.com

Every Morning

At the start of a new year most people evaluate where they are in life and where they want to be. Many set new goals, make new plans, and use the new year to make a new start. But we never have to wait: God offers His daughters a new start every morning!

It is because of the Lord’s lovingkindnesses that we are not consumed, Because His [tender] compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; Great and beyond measure is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23, AMP)

These verses proclaim that a new, unlimited supply of His compassion is available to us each day. This is a gift as well as a demonstration of His character. Understanding and embracing this is a key to far more life, so let’s explore it.

Compassion literally means “to suffer together”. It involves noticing another’s suffering, desiring relief for them, and acting to alleviate it. Compassion is both emotionally connecting with others and actively caring for them. God is emotionally connected to you and actively cares about your struggles every day.

This point is so important that the writer of Lamentations states it multiple ways to make sure we catch it:

  • God’s lovingkindness keeps us alive.
  • His tender compassions toward us never fail.
  • His compassions are new every morning.
  • God’s faithfulness (guarantee He will do what He promises) is great and beyond measure.

This sparks peace and joy in my heart. God loves me. His love keeps me alive. He is with me. He is for me. He sees my struggles, my hurts, my burdens. They hurt Him as much as they hurt me. Every day He acts to help alleviate them. He never gets tired of helping me. He never gives up on me. He reaches out day after day to connect with me and ease my burdens. He is my God, my Daddy, my Best Friend, my Today, my Tomorrow, my Eternity! Accepting His connection and care is where I find far more life.

I can understand why the writer continues:

“The Lord is my portion and my inheritance,” says my soul;
“Therefore I have hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him.”
(Lamentations 3:24, AMP)

We grow impatient in our struggles. We want them to be resolved now. And we are tempted to think that God is not acting if we do not find immediate relief. We want Him to rescue us, but He has a better plan: to join us in our struggle, to strengthen us, and to rescue our hearts from despair and discouragement even when our situation remains unchanged. We find far more life by expectantly looking for His compassion in action.

This reminds me of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath in I Kings 17. There was a severe drought that lasted 3 years, yet every morning she had enough oil and flour to make that day’s bread for her household. God literally showed His compassion every morning. He did not dole it out a week at a time and ask her to ration it carefully. He provided exactly what she needed for each day. He proved Himself faithful — and reminded her of His connection and care — day after day after day. Although the drought was long, her confidence in God must have grown each day. She had opportunity to stop worrying about running out of food and instead enjoy peace of mind. She had reason to place her hope in God and waited expectantly for Him to meet her need each morning. What a wonderful picture of far more life in action!

The Lord is good to those who wait [confidently] for Him,
To those who seek Him [on the authority of God’s word]. (Lamentations 3:25, AMP)

Goodness is one of God’s character qualities, so He is always good. But I think this verse is saying that we notice His goodness when we seek Him and expectantly wait for Him. I wonder how often I have missed an opportunity to thank and praise God because I failed to realize it was HIM who met my need. In the midst of a struggle when I am praying for His help, I am on the lookout for it and quickly acknowledge His actions. But too often, I am focused on getting myself through the day and forget about His connection and care. Or I fail to realize the depth of His actions on my behalf.

A friend was driving down the interstate when a tire and axle broke off a semi heading the other direction, rolled across the median, bounced onto the hood of her car, hit her windshield, and flew to the shoulder. She pulled off the road and stopped the car, thankful that God protected her being hurt or crashing. But her understanding of God’s goodness and active care was heightened when a police officer who witnessed the whole thing (and told her what had actually happened) said he had never seen anyone walk away from that kind of accident alive, let alone uninjured!

We have all faced situations where we were blind to God’s compassion. Sometimes we are even angry with Him and question why He allowed something bad to happen. While we cannot see what would have happened — how much worse it would have been — without God’s compassion, we can be confident that He is emotionally connected and actively caring for us every single day. This confidence in His love and involvement brings far more life.

Whatever comes your way today, God’s compassion is active and sufficient to give you far more life.

Sisters,
Are there any barriers that make it hard for you to believe that God’s compassion is new every morning? If so, share those with Him and seek out His truth so you are free to embrace His compassion.
What challenges you in waiting expectantly for Him?
How have you experienced His emotional connection and active caring? Has He ever used people as His messengers?
Pray that you will see God’s goodness today and find far more life.
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo Credit: Jennifer Davis