Joyful Thankfulness

In the United States, today is set aside for thankfulness. It was first celebrated at the conclusion of the first harvest the Pilgrims gathered. The feasting lasted three days and settlers and Native Americans both contributed and enjoyed the festivities.

But the idea of celebrating the harvest was not new. God commanded the Israelites to set aside seven days for this purpose:

Celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress. Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. For seven days celebrate the festival to the Lord your God at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete. (Deuteronomy 16:13-15, NIV)

When we collect the harvest at the end of the growing season, we are reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness. What a perfect time to stop and thank Him for His provision! We recognize far more life when we remember to stop and thank God. It changes our outlook on our situation and gives us hope for the future. The verse below offers a recipe for giving thanks:

Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Psalm 106:1, NIV)

Praise the Lord. Tell God which of His attributes are honorable, excellent, and worthy of praise. It is good to acknowledge God’s character and His noble purposes. We can do this anytime of the day or night. There is no special language required, just tell God what you notice and appreciate about Him, out loud or in your mind, whenever you think of it.

Give thanks to the Lord. Thank God for what He has done. This can be in the moment or later; He is always ready and willing to listen. Tell how you have experienced His blessing and provision. When my children were young, they would regularly thank God for air, trees, the sun, people, possessions, and other things they could see around them. Those simple prayers reminded me that each aspect of creation plays a role in making earth the perfect habitat for us. Whether large or small, common or rare, we can thank God for anything and everything. Far more life adopts an attitude of thankfulness for things we would otherwise take for granted.

For He is good. One reason we praise and thank God is because everything about Him is good. He deserves more thanks and praise than anyone else. Only He is perfect in motive, character, and behavior. Tell Him how you have witnessed His goodness. Recall what it looks like in action and how it positively impacted you. Focus on what that reveals about Him. Far more life embraces and proclaims God’s goodness.

His love endures forever. Although our day of thanksgiving will end, God’s love for us will not. Far more life offers thanks and praise every day because God demonstrates His love to His children every day. In fact, God is the essence of love every day. We can be confident that His love will carry us to our eternal home and provide for us there, too. Thankfully, we will never be separated from His love.

Try out joyful thankfulness today. You may decide to give thanks — and enjoy far more life — every day!

Sisters,
Why is the end of harvest a good time to stop and give thanks?
For what qualities will you praise God today?
For what blessings and experiences will you thank God today?
How have you witnessed and received God’s goodness?
How has His enduring love impacted you?
Walk in joyful thanksgiving today — walk in far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Best Friend Ever – Part 1

Those were the best days of my life. That’s when God’s friendship blessed my house. (Job 29:4, NIRV)

Have you ever met someone and thought, “That person seems great! I want to get to know them better”? Maybe you have that opportunity, maybe you do not. But you notice them and are drawn to them.

Do you remember feeling that interest and attraction toward God? Maybe as a young girl you could not wait to learn more Bible stories. Or perhaps during a challenging time, you were eager to gain His wisdom and perspective. Maybe your attraction to Him is brand new! Whenever it started, something about God caught your attention and drew you. You want to know more about Him. You want to know HIM.

As we get to know people, we find a mixture of good and bad. Traits we love, and habits or attitudes we do not. As the early infatuation fades, we either build a relationship or we drift apart. We go through a similar process as we get to know God. While He does not have any bad habits or attitudes, we do not always understand what He does or why. That can cause us to stop pursuing Him. But when we see God clearly, we make Him our best friend; this is the ultimate experience of far more life!

If God is not your best friend, do not feel ashamed. Shame is Satan’s tool to keep us away from God by tempting us to focus on our weaknesses and sin. When you see God clearly, you will naturally grow your friendship with Him. You will find far more life, just as Abraham did:

Abraham put his trust in God and he became right with God.” He was called the friend of God. (James 2:23, NLV)

Today I want to share four categories of friendships: those that have not started yet; those that are growing; those that are stagnant; and those that are dying.

The initial interest described above is typical for a friendship that has not started yet. You have learned about each other or been introduced, but you have not started building a relationship. This happens with God, too. We can learn about God, even attend church and pray, but we do not have a friendship with Him until we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.” (John 14:6-7, NIV)

Our friendship with God starts when we put our trust in Jesus and believe what He says. This is the first step toward making God your best friend.

The second category, a growing friendship, has mutual interests and shared experiences. You enjoy spending time together and are learning about each other. You both look forward to deepening the existing connections and making memories. Growing relationships are usually positive, although some are unhealthy.

We can have a growing friendship with God, too, as we learn about His character, His view of us, and His plan for our lives.

[Jesus said] I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15, NASB)

A stagnant friendship can be comfortable; you know what to expect and it is easy to be together. Or it can feel like a rut: rather than making new connections or sharing meaningful experiences, you are bored. Whether comfortable or in a rut, you probably are not putting much effort into this relationship…and you are okay with that. It could grow or die in the future.

Your friendship with God can be stagnant, too. Maybe you attend church and small group because it is the “right thing” to do. Maybe you pray before meals or when a serious need arises. But you do not share your heart with God on a regular basis. You do not read His word to hear from Him or learn more about Him. You do not feel His peace and joy in your heart as you go about your day. You are His friend, but You are not sharing your life with Him. The Bible admonishes us:

But this is what I have against you: you do not love me now as you did at first…Turn from your sins and do what you did at first. (Revelation 2:4-5, GNT)

A dying friendship is disconnected. You are each pursuing other people or interests. Maybe there is negativity or an unresolved hurt between you. Or maybe one or both of you are simply focused on growing other friendships. Although your friendships with people can die, if you have accepted Christ as your Savior, you can rest assured that your relationship with God will never die!

Nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39, NIV)

What a relief! Even if you are in a stagnant place with God – no matter how long you have been there or how disconnected you feel – He still loves you! He is committed to His children and is waiting patiently for you to turn back to Him. He will never leave you or turn away from You. He will gladly resume a growing friendship anytime.

In a future post we will look at distorted views of God that cloud our vision and diminish our desire for a friendship with Him. Far more life — the best friend ever — is waiting!

Sisters,
What drew you to God?
Is God your best friend? If not, what about Him or you keeps you apart?
Which category best describes your friendship with God: not started yet, growing, or stagnant?
Thank God for the times you have experienced far more life. And ask Him to grow your desire for more of them!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Hopeful Waiting

I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait,
And in His word do I hope. (Psalm 130:5, NASB1995)

The past few months have been a roller coaster for my family. We have experienced some wonderful highs and some sobering lows. Celebration and difficulty have alternated throughout the year, and each episode has brought change. But through it all, we have turned to the Word of the Lord, the Bible, for hope. He and His Word have not disappointed us! We have rested in Him, waited for Him, trusted Him, and placed our hope in Him. He has filled us with far more life, providing the peace, joy, perspective, and support that we needed.

My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchmen for the morning;
Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning. (Psalm 130:6, NASB1995)

Can you think of a time when you have been eager for something to happen? Watchmen stood on guard duty through the night, protecting the city and its inhabitants as they slept. The darkness made it challenging to see potential threats, whether they were wild animals or attacking enemy troops. The morning brought not only safety, but clarity. The arrival of morning indicated they had successfully survived another night. But it also gave them time to assess danger, strengthen defenses, and rest. The darker the night, the more eager watchmen awaited the morning. During our time on earth we are surrounded by spiritual darkness. As we connect with God, our souls long for the “morning”, the time when His Son will return when His spiritual light will shine bright. The Psalmist urges us to long for the return of Jesus Christ with great anticipation, more than the night watchmen felt. Far more life does not revel in the darkness but eagerly awaits the time when God’s glory and purpose will be revealed.

O Israel, hope in the LORD;
For with the LORD there is lovingkindness,
And with Him is abundant redemption. (Psalm 130: 7, NASB1995)

We hope in the Lord because He is powerful. We hope in the Lord because He is all-knowing. We hope in the Lord because He is never-changing. We hope in the Lord because He is loving and kind. We hope in the Lord because He offers redemption, even abundant redemption. His grace covers all of our sin. He does not hold the cost — the life of His Son — over our heads. Instead, He showers us with far more life. He offers more than we deserve. He provides more than we expect. He is trustworthy and faithful and we praise Him for all these traits!

And He will redeem Israel
From all his iniquities. (Psalm 130:8, NASB1995)

Redemption involves paying a price to gain or regain something. God created us to have a relationship with Him. We chose to sin against Him, but He paid the price to regain that relationship. He redeemed not only the nation of Israel, but people from every tribe, language, people, and nation. The blood of Christ covered all of our sins so He could present us to God as His holy and blameless children. What a privilege! What a joyous moment it will be when we stand before Him! And we will never be separated from Him again! We have a taste of far more life now, but it will get better in Heaven and last for eternity.

We will wait for You, Lord. Our hope is in You. Thank You for redeeming us. Thank You for blessing us with Your goodness. Thank You for far more life!

Sisters,
Are you good or bad at waiting?
Where do you place your hope as you wait?
What makes you eager for Christ to return?
Which of God’s character qualities inspires you to hope in Him?
Thank God for redemption and the gift of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Praying the Word

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4, NASB);

Father God, it often seems like complaining comes more naturally to us than rejoicing. Thank You for saying it twice to make sure we know the importance of our attitude. Today we will rejoice in who You are. Today we will rejoice in what You do. Today we will rejoice because our hope is in You. Today we choose rejoicing over complaining.

Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. (Philippians 4:5a, NASB)

Gracious Lord, in this age of political division and social media, it is easy for “all men” to know our preferences, opinions, and thoughts. But do they know our gentle spirit? We are easily provoked to become argumentative or defensive. It is hard to be gentle or a peacemaker. It is hard to refrain from sharing our opinions that will offend and divide us from our brothers and sisters in You. As Your kindness led us to repentance (Romans 2:4), may our gentle spirit open doors for Your truth and grace — the objects of our hope — to be shared with gentleness and respect at the right time (I Peter 3:15).

The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:5b, NASB)

Almighty God, thank You for remaining near Your children. We need You. Help us remember to turn to You. Help us to see You clearly so we value Your nearness. Thank You that nothing can separate us from You and Your love (Romans 8:38-39). We are glad that You will remain near us for all eternity (Revelation 21:3).

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Revelation 4:6-7, NASB)

Loving Lord, what a privilege it is to be invited — instructed, actually — to share our troubles, concerns, and requests with You! There is no one in the universe better equipped to receive them. When we lay them at Your throne, we can be confident that You hear and act on them (Proverbs 15:29). Thank You for blessing us with peace as we await Your answer. Your peace is like a hug that enfolds us, warms us, steadies us, and strengthens us. Our hearts and minds can stand strong against anxiety and worry after we give You everything. You truly love us in wonderful and practical ways!

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8, NASB)

Holy God, thank You for telling us what to think about once our minds have been emptied of concerns and worries. Following Your instruction keeps us at peace. Thinking about these things helps us “rejoice always”. Focusing on these enables us to remain in the gentleness of Your Spirit. As our minds dwell on what is holy, our thoughts and actions remain holy. Thank you for graciously and lovingly guiding us in the way of righteousness!

…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. (Philippians 4:11-12, NASB)

Generous Provider, thank You for giving us contentment that supersedes our circumstances. Whether we have little or much, we will always have You. And that is what we need most. Help us focus on You, not what we have or do not have. Open our eyes to Your purpose for us, Your provision in every circumstance, and Your constant presence. Reveal Your secrets to us, so our hearts are filled even if other aspects of life are empty. Fill us up as only You can with what we truly need.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13, NASB)

All-powerful God, thank you for equipping us to do all You call us to do. Thank you for being strong when we are weak. Thank You for empowering us to be Your representatives. Thank You that no righteous thought, action, or attitude is too difficult for us when we rely on You. Give us strength to be bold. Give us strength to be silent. Give us strength to act. Give us strength to wait on You. Give us strength to love You completely and share that love with others.

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19, NASB)

Creator and Owner of all, thank You for generously sharing Your riches with us. We are grateful that You fill us with Your Spirit so we can have the peace, patience, joy, love, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control necessary for every moment of every day. You could have hoarded those or reserved them until heaven. But we are thankful that You have chosen to shower them on us so we can righteously follow and serve You.

Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Philippians 4:20, NASB)

Amen.

Sisters,
Which verse(s) resonate with you? Pray those words back to God, then share your thoughts about them. He loves to hear from you!
Thank Him for far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso