Only One Thing

Sometimes life — or death — gets our attention. Unexpected happenings and encounters challenge the status quo and reveal what we really believe, think, feel, want, and expect. Many of us have been touched by a death that felt premature, whether the person we lost was in utero, 17, 49, or 87. I find comfort in God’s perspective of our time on earth:

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

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

Contrary to our feelings, no life is cut short. We each live exactly the number of days God intended for us. No one misses the best days of their life. We treasure certain milestones in this life because they are the only reality we know. But what awaits those who have a love relationship with God through Jesus Christ is immeasurably better than anything we have, do, or experience on earth. Consider this description of what lies ahead:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth” …I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.  (Revelation 21:1-7, NIV)

When we are in Heaven, God will live with us, in visible form. We will be His people forever. He will be our God, our owner, our guardian, our blesser, our protector. We will see, hear, talk to, laugh with, and touch Him. He will gently wipe away our tears and no more will fall. We will never be separated from Him. We will have no reason to mourn, as we will not experience loss or pain. All we have known before will cease to exist. Something new, better and beyond our ability to imagine will become our reality. And nothing will threaten it…ever. Far more life — truly knowing Him and being with Him — will become the only thing we need.

In our limited lives on this earth, we can lose sight of far more life. We can instead focus on to do lists, accomplishments, appearances, and numbers. But it is not what we do in this life that is important. Only our relationship with God through Jesus is important. That is the key that gains us access to Heaven. That is the key to contentment throughout the unexpected and challenging situations we face on earth. That is the foundation of far more life.

The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15, NIV)

Think of the most affectionate name you have for your father or father-figure and the feelings it evokes. According to HELPS Word-Studies, the Greek “Abba” is used as a term of tender endearment by a beloved child. Abba is the man who makes you feel cherished, protected, valued, and safe. Children adore, trust, and enjoy their Abba. This verse describes a relationship where there is no judgement, only unconditional love. It describes two people who enjoy being together, who love one another deeply, who value each other and their time together. This is the relationship God desires with us.

We do not have a business connection with God. He is not our employer who is taking notes for our next performance review. His goal is not that we increase productivity, work overtime, or sacrifice our health. We do not move up the spiritual ladder by proving ourselves to Him.

We also do not improve our status with God by avoiding sin. We do not earn points by going to church or being baptized. We cannot identify Christians based solely on what they do or do not do.

The Bible records a time two sisters, Martha and Mary, were hosting Jesus and his followers. Imagine the work of having 12 or more guests who were unable to call ahead. Guests who had traveled to reach you and would be staying for an undetermined amount of time. They had real needs. Martha was focused on meeting those needs and making their guests comfortable. But her sister Mary chose to sit with the guests and listen to Jesus as he taught them about spiritual matters. When Martha complained about Mary’s inaction, Jesus’ response is surprising to many:

Few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42, NIV)

The only thing we truly need is a relationship with Jesus. The only thing we need to do is connect with Him so we can absorb His heart, words, and desires. All the rest will fall into place if we keep building a relationship with Him. Only one thing is needed for far more life: Jesus.

Sisters,
What unexpected life happening has challenged you?
What do you look forward to about Heaven?
How has God been Abba to you? What barriers do you face in considering Him as Abba?
Do you believe only one thing (Jesus) is needed? How do your thoughts and actions back up your belief?
Thank Jesus for giving you far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso




Reborn This Way

“I was born this way” is a common phrase heard in defense of a trait or behavior others find undesirable in us. Is it a valid explanation for our quirks or an excuse for our sin? Of course, it can be either, depending on the context. God’s Word offers insight on who we were at birth and who we are now that may challenge our perspective.

Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb… (Ecclesiastes 5:15, NIV)

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. (Revelation 3:18, NIV)

We came into this world exposed and vulnerable. We had nothing as we entered an unfamiliar environment, the physical world. We had much that we needed to survive, but also much that we relied on others to provide for us. Throughout life, we continue to walk the balance of independence and dependence. Far more life depends ultimately on God, remaining exposed and vulnerable to Him. It trusts His selection of “gold” that will hold its value eternally: character (Proverbs 31:30) and loving God and others (Matthew 22:36-39). He reveals the righteous thinking and actions that become our garments (Ephesians 4:23-24, Ephesians 6:11, Colossians 3:12-14). By remaining vulnerable to Him, we may be misunderstood, rejected, mistreated, and persecuted by some people (John 15:18). But we will also find people who accept, love, support and encourage us (John 13:34-35, Romans 12:10-21). We were born exposed and vulnerable. But far more life offers security through a relationship with Christ.

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5, NIV)

All of us also lived…gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts…we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:3-5, NIV)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)

We entered the world as sinners. We were selfish and inconsiderate. We became angry when we experienced discomfort. We wanted our own way and did not consider the cost to anyone else. We can justify this behavior in babies as being necessary for their survival. They cry until their needs for food, a clean diaper, comfort, or pain relief is met. But as we grow, we continue to think of ourselves first. Many successful marketing campaigns boldly state what we already think: we are most important, we deserve whatever we want, our needs come first, it is good to obey our bodily desires. These mottos appeal to how we were born: physically alive but spiritually dead. Far more life has accepted Christ’s offer of spiritual life. It recognizes that, without His help, we cannot overcome our sin and selfishness. Far more life means we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) that is righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:23-24), Romans 3:22, Colossians 1:22). We were born sinful. But far more life makes us righteous before God and gives us the power to say no to sin.

Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. (John 3:3, NIV)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God (I John 5:1, NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (I Peter 1:3, NIV)

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. (John 3:5, NIV)

Born again. New birth. Born of water and the Spirit. In Christ, we have a second — spiritual — birth. This birth comes from believing Jesus Christ is the Messiah, God’s Son who, though himself sinless, took our sin on the cross and died in our place then rose back to life on the third day. He overcame physical death to offer us far more life, an eternal relationship and a renewed heart. While claiming “I was born this way” often highlights our sin nature, claiming “I was reborn this way” gives God glory for our redeemed nature!

…Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  (I John 4:7, NIV)

For everyone born of God overcomes the world. (I John 5:4, NIV)

We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.  (I John 5:18, NIV)

When we are born again, we are different. We can love unconditionally and unselfishly. We have power over sin. Jesus keeps us safe from damage. Satan cannot cause us spiritual harm. We do not have to strive to live this way in order to please God. Far more life chooses love, righteousness and more out of gratitude for the second birth God has given us. If you have not been reborn, make today your rebirth day!

Sisters,
Do you often say, “I was born this way?” Is it usually an excuse for sin?
What are (or were) you like without Christ? How does (or did) sin define you?
What helped you see your need to be born again, to accept Christ’s offer to pay for your sin?
How is your reborn self different from your old self?
Experience far more life today by focusing on your forgiveness and righteousness. Praise God for being reborn this way!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Consequences

“Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink. ”So Moses took the rod from before the Lord, just as He had commanded him; and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank.  (Numbers 20:8-11, NIV)

The Israelites were in a bad situation: they had no water. They angrily turned to their leaders, Moses and Aaron, demanding they provide. The leaders, unable to produce water from thin air, turned to God for help. He told them exactly what to do and they…did something different.

The Bible does not tell us why Moses disobeyed God. But, as fellow humans, we can think of several possibilities:

  • God had previously instructed Moses to strike a rock to produce water (Exodus 17:6). Since that worked before, maybe Moses thought it would work again.
  • Moses had already told God he wasn’t a good speaker (Exodus 4:10). Perhaps he did not think his voice and words would have any effect on the rock.
  • Maybe Moses thought it hitting the rock was a better demonstration of God’s power. He may have thought the spectacle would stick with the people longer and help them remember God’s provision the next time things got tough.

Whether it was one of these reasons or a different one, Moses disobeyed God. When we strip away everything else, the real reason for disobedience is pride. We trust our own judgment more than God’s. Or we think our way of doing things is better than His way. Maybe we doubt God’s character, wisdom, and instruction, but have confidence in our own. Pride is seeing God as less than He truly is and seeing ourselves as more than we truly are.

You may read this story and think, “But what Moses did worked. The people got the water they needed. So, is it really a big deal?” God did provide water. Why? I think it was because His reputation was at stake. The people needed water and were looking to God (through Moses) to provide it. So, God answered the people’s request despite Moses’ disobedience. But the disobedience was a big deal. The guilty — Moses and Aaron — were disciplined:

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”  (Numbers 20:12, NIV)

The instruction Moses and Aaron were given was private; the rest of the people did not know how God had told them to get the water. Accordingly, the consequences of their sin were communicated privately; they would not enter the Promised Land. Since their sin was not publicly exposed, it may seem they got away with disobeying God. But they did not. Neither do we.

For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. (Colossians 3:25, NIV)

Sometimes we think we got away with disobeying God because the consequences are not visible immediately. But nothing slips past God. He sees all and knows all, including our thoughts and motives. When people who have not accepted Christ disobey, they are adding to the tally of sins for which God will punish them. When those of us who have accepted Christ disobey, we forfeit some aspect of far more life. We will not be punished; Christ already took that punishment on our behalf. But we will experience consequences of our sin. Here are some examples:

  • When we disobey Him by worrying, we forfeit peace (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • When we pursue sin rather than righteousness, we forfeit satisfaction (Matthew 5:5).
  • When we engage in impurity, we forfeit seeing God’s presence and provision in our lives (Matthew 5:8).
  • When we are proud, we forfeit the grace of God and are vulnerable to Satan’s attacks (James 4:6-7).
  • When our focus is on gaining earthly treasure (wealth, power, recognition), we forfeit eternal treasure (Matthew 6:19-20).

If we want to have God’s best — far more life — we must obey God, even in areas no one else sees. When we cannot obey, it is good to ask why we trust ourself — our knowledge, our wisdom, our understanding of right and wrong, our perception of what is best — more than we trust God. We can also approach it from the other direction and ask what we are afraid will happen if we obey God when His ways disagree with what we want to do. Being honest with ourself and God, admitting we have been wrong, and changing our mindset and choices leads to a positive consequence — far more life.

Sisters,
When have you thought your way of doing something was better than what God has instructed?
What form does your pride most often take? Do you think too highly of yourself, too lowly of God, or both?
What have you forfeited as a result of your sin?
Choose far more life today by admitting your pride to God and finding the root so you can eagerly obey Him!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso