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

The Way

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)

This is a familiar verse to many of us. It is simple enough that a child can easily memorize it. Yet it is deep enough that we can come back to it time and again and take away more meaning.

I was recently reminded how this verse both unites and divides people of faith. It unites us by focusing on the central message of Jesus and stripping away all other interpretations and traditions. It divides us by focusing on the central message of Jesus and stripping away all other interpretations and traditions.

No one comes to the Father except through me. This is the exact opposite of conventional philosophy, which tells us that many paths lead to God. It is true that there are many spiritual paths we can follow. But they do not all lead to the same place. Far more life seeks the path which leads to the God of the Bible, who is also known as Yahweh, Jehovah, or the LORD. This path is laid out in the Bible, in this verse: through Jesus. There are many paths to Jesus, but He is the gatekeeper of the path that leads to Father God.

I am the way. Jesus does not claim to be one of many ways to the God of the Bible. He clearly states He is the only way. People pursuing paths apart from Jesus are pursuing a different god. Far more life embraces Jesus as the way to Father God.

I am the truth. Jesus does not offer His message as one possible truth. He boldly proclaims He is the human expression of God’s truth. He is the fulfillment of the Biblical prophecies concerning the Messiah. All His words and actions are living demonstrations of the truth of the God of the Bible. People living according to any truth apart from Jesus are living for a different god. Far more life embraces Jesus as the truth of God manifested on earth.

I am the life. Life is translated from the Greek word zoe. It speaks of a present physical and future spiritual existence. It includes eternal vitality, animation, breath, and vigor. Jesus is the only source of eternal life the Bible offers to finite humans. People who define life as something separate from Jesus are describing something different than the life offered in the Bible. Far more life begins on earth and continues for all eternity in Heaven with the God of the Bible.

We have free will. We can choose the path we take. We can choose what we believe as truth and which sources we trust in determining what is true. We can define life in our own terms. But if we claim to be a Christian, then we need to follow Christ, on His path, accepting His truth, and embracing His perspective on life. If we are not willing to do that, we should be honest with ourselves and others about the path we are following and the destination toward which we are heading.

The Bible records other statements that help us determine whether we want to pursue its path.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105)

People joke that they wish they had an instruction book for life; they do! The Bible — God’s Word — reveals the principles, instructions, and perspectives that will allow us to find and follow God’s path.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, NIV)

Light allows us to see both dangers and beauty. Jesus is our spiritual light. Following Him allows us to tell moral light from moral darkness, right from wrong. This light provides us with life: the vitality, animation, breath, and vigor to experience a satisfying connection to God and His best forever.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14, NIV)

The prevailing belief is that most people are in good standing with God and will go to heaven. But God’s Word says otherwise. Jesus is the narrow gate that provides entrance to the road leading to life. Far more life adopts His way, embraces His truth, and revels in His life.

…I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psam 23:6, NIV)

A wise friend of mine once pointed out that if we do not want to follow God and His ways now, it would be miserable to be stuck in Heaven with Him for eternity. If our desire is to be with God, we will happily go through Jesus to get to Him.

Sisters,
Do you believe Jesus is the only way to the God of the Bible? If not, what is the basis for your belief in a different path?
Do you believe all Jesus does and says is a demonstration of God’s truth? If not, how do you know which of His statements are trustworthy?
Do you believe Jesus alone offers us physical and spiritual life? If not, what life are you pursuing and what is its source?
You can step onto the way, accept the truth, and find far more life today. Just confess to Jesus that you have been following a different path but want to join Him instead. Share you decision with a friend who is also on Jesus’ path!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

The Land Is Good

When surveying life, there can be a variety of perspectives — or lenses — through which we view it. Some of us are optimistic while others are pessimistic. Some see the glass as half-full while others see it as half-empty. Some claim things will look better tomorrow while others believe every day brings trouble.

These lenses have been in use since the Garden of Eden. The Bible does not record that Eve felt discontent in paradise until Satan shared a pessimistic viewpoint: your life is lacking unless you eat from the one tree God placed off limits. I believe Eve had not paid much attention to that tree before — she was content with the rest of the land — but after Satan’s assertion, it became her focus:

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. (Genesis 3:6, NIV)

Eve chose to view her surroundings through the lens that portrayed them as not good. Or at least not good enough. She turned away from far more life to pursue a land that looked better. But it was an empty promise from Satan.

About 2500 years later, the Israelites were standing outside the Promised Land. This was the place God chose for them and described as “a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:7). Although they had faced slavery in Egypt, God intended to bless them with far more life in this land.

But when the Israelite scouts entered the land, they brought a mixed report to Moses and Aaron:

…We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey…Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large…We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us…The land…devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size…and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:27-28, 31-33, NASB)

The land is good, but…

How often do we, like the scouts, discount the good and dwell on the problems? God had already promised to make the land theirs, but, rather than trusting in God’s character and promises, the Israelites assessed the situation based on their own strength. They saw their weaknesses and declared the land not good.

However, two of the scouts viewed the land through a different lens:

Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh…spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us—a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:6-9, NASB)

The land is exceedingly good. The Lord is with us. Obey Him and have confidence in His protection and provision. Joshua and Caleb were not blind to the challenges ahead, but they saw the land as God intended. They urged the people to pursue far more life, to put their hope and trust in God and follow His commands. They recognized this would allow them to experience the best of the land.

Today we do not need to get to a certain location on planet earth to find exceedingly good land. Every born-again believer in Jesus Christ is indwelled with the Holy Spirit. The exceedingly good land is your heart, which was renewed when you accepted Christ as your Savior. The Lord is pleased with you and always with you. You have nothing to fear. You have power to live within His will. Far more life is available every moment of every day.

We are tempted to think of our circumstances as the land. We may see it as not good. Perhaps we view our family and friends as messy and inconvenient. Perhaps we believe our own weaknesses are insurmountable. We may dwell on our sin and feelings of worthlessness. We may expect to find peace and joy from external sources. Far more life recognizes this is not God’s viewpoint.

He purified their hearts by faith (Acts 15:9, NIV)

A heart purified by faith in Christ is good land.

 God…set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22, NIV)

A heart where the Holy Spirit lives is good land.

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6, NIV)

A heart that is growing in Christlikeness is good land.

When we view our heart as good land, we experience far more life. We understand the land is good because of what God has done and is doing in us, not because of what is happening around us. The land is good because it is God’s home, not because of our life circumstances. Look with eyes of faith beyond the challenges, beyond sin, beyond human frailty and embrace the good land of far more life!

Sisters,
Does your perspective tend to be more positive or more negative?
When have you turned away from far more life to pursue something that looked better?
What are the “buts” in your life that keep you from viewing it as exceedingly good?
How does thinking of your heart as God’s land help you see the good?
Embrace the good land of far more life today!
-Shari

At The Lord’s Command

Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the LORD’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped…Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the LORD’s command they encamped, and at the LORD’s command they set out. (Numbers 9:17-23, NIV)

When I read this passage recently, I tried to put myself in the shoes of the Israelites. When they prayed to God for rescue from slavery, did they expect to leave the only homes they had ever known for a nomadic life in the desert? How would I respond to having no idea how long we would be in each place and no notice before being told to pack up and move? How would I feel about having no information about where we were going or how long it was going to take to get there? And then there is the change in food; the familiar foods were gone and replaced with an unfamiliar wafer called manna. I concluded that I would not have done well as an Israelite living this way! In fact, I would have joined them in complaining and criticizing Moses and God.

Like many of you, I like to think I am in control of my life — at least SOME aspects. But my attempts to be in control do not lead to the peace and satisfaction I desire. In fact, they often lead to worry, fear, doubt, or regret. Instead of seeking control, acknowledging God’s ultimate control and embracing His purpose and plan are where we find far more life.

What makes us hesitant to give God control? Because we trust ourselves more than we trust Him.

Why do we trust ourselves more? Because we do not have an accurate understanding of God or ourselves. We underestimate God and overestimate ourselves. But recognizing where our vision is skewed and adjusting it to His perspective brings far more life.

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7, NIV)

God created humans. He designed each of our parts and put them together. Doctors and scientists have some understanding and ideas of how our bodies work, but God knows everything about us. Yet we trust our knowledge and understanding of what is best for us more than we trust His. Why? Maybe because we are used to people taking credit for His design. Maybe because we cannot have coffee with Him and hear His knowledge face-to-face. Maybe because others have let us down, reinforcing the belief that no one else is trustworthy. Far more life trusts God’s knowledge and understanding more than your own.

To the eternal King, immortal and invisible, the only God—to him be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen (I Timothy 1:17, GNT)

Humans have a birth date and a death date; even the lifespan of the longest-living human is just a dot in the scope of eternity. We are mortal and will succumb to physical death unless Christ returns in the next few decades. Yet we trust our own experiences and wisdom more than His. Why? Maybe because we cannot grasp what it means to have no birth or beginning. Maybe because we expect God to be bound by the same limits as everyone we have ever known. Maybe because we are so focused on the details that we miss the overarching principles that God has provided in His Word. Far more life trusts God’s experiences and wisdom more than your own.

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. (Mark 10:17-18, NIV)

The Trinity alone — God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit — are morally good and pure. Humans are not. We are susceptible to sin and evil, to being deceived and having a distorted view. We do not always make the right choices or believe what is true. Yet we trust our own judgments and perceptions more than God’s. Why? Maybe we do not believe He has our best interests at heart. Maybe it is hard for us to believe He is truly pure because we have never met anyone like that. Maybe our understanding of goodness and purity have been polluted and we do not even recognize it. Far more life trusts God’s judgements and perceptions more than your own.

I find it interesting that the passage above says twice that the camp moved and settled “at the Lord’s command…” But His command was not a booming voice or a trumpet call. It was the position of a cloud! Sometimes it would be nice if we, too, had a cloud that led us through life. We may think that would make it easier to trust God, but I believe we would still be tempted to trust ourselves more, just like the Israelites did. In those moments of distrust, may we be ready to examine our hearts to reveal why we trust ourselves more than God.

Sisters,
How do you feel about letting others — even God — be in control?
In what areas do your thoughts and actions show you trust yourself more than God?
Embrace far more life by opening your heart to Him when you realize you are resisting His commands.
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

With You

Many of us are striving to be more, to be better. We believe we do not measure up in many — perhaps any — areas of life. We believe we must be independent, competent, and pulled together. There is little, if any, room in our lives for error, lack of knowledge, or inability to get the job done well. We may be familiar with the adage, “No man is an island,” but do not think it applies to us.

God does not expect us to be independent, competent, and pulled together. He allows errors, lack of knowledge, and inability to get the job done. He never intended for us to take on life’s tasks and challenges alone. He has been involved with His children from the beginning and will remain involved with them until the end. Far more life is being connected to and involved with God in all areas of life.

I will be with you.

I count at least 29 times in the Bible when God or Jesus tells an individual or group that He will be with them. I count at least 5 more where a Biblical writer reminds others that God has promised to be with them. The situations these people faced are similar to those we face. We can rest assured that God is still with His children, offering them far more life.

God promised to be with His children when they were facing a new challenge.

  • This includes Moses, who was called to lead the Israelites out of the control of a powerful man he was hiding from (Exodus 3:12).
  • God reassured Joshua with the promise as he prepared to take leadership from Moses and move the Israelites into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 31:23).
  • God restated His promise twice in one pep talk to Joshua after Moses’ death (Joshua 1:5 & 1:8).
  • When Jesus was preparing the disciples to advance His kingdom, He promised the Holy Spirit would be with them forever (John 14:16-17).

God promised to be with His children who were in a difficult situation.

  • He made this promise to Isaac when He told him to remain in an area plagued with famine (Genesis 26:3).
  • Isaac heard this promise again when his neighbors became jealous of his success (Genesis 26:24).
  • At least 3 times when God instructed Jeremiah to speak His truth to the rebellious Israelites, He promised to be with him (Jeremiah 1:8, 1:19, 46:28).

God promised to be with His children as they faced the consequences of their sin.

  • When Jacob was on the run after deceiving his father to steal his brother’s blessing, God appeared to him in a dream and promised to be with him (Genesis 28:15).
  • After God allowed the rebellious Israelites to be oppressed by the Midianites, He ordered Gideon to cut down the enemy army and promised to be with him (Judges 6:12 & 6:16).
  • Centuries later the Israelites rebelled again and God proclaimed He was with them through more oppression (Isaiah 41:10, 43:2, 43:5)

God reminded David of His presence when reining in his plans. The story is told twice of David’s desire to build a temple to provide God an earthly dwelling. God told David “no” then reminded him that He had always been with him, wherever he was (2 Samuel 7:9 & I Chronicles 17:8).

God promised to be with His chosen people as they obeyed and followed Him.

  • When telling Jeroboam of His plans to make him king, God promised to be with him on the condition that he obeyed His commands and decrees (I Kings 11:38).
  • Later God spoke through multiple prophets to remind the Israelites that He would be with them when they turned back to obedience (Isaiah 58:9; Jeremiah 15:20, Amos 5:14).
  • When the people were restored to their land, God said He would be with them as they rebuilt His temple (Haggai 1:13).
  • When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He promised to be with His followers always (Matthew 28:20).
  • In the gospel of John, Jesus promised He and God will be with those who love Him (John 14:23).

God promised to be with His chosen people when they chose His plans over their own logic.

  • After a group of Israelite men went on a killing spree, others who feared for their lives wanted to move away; but God said He would be with them if they stayed put (Jeremiah 42:11).
  • When Paul encountered controversy in Corinth, the Lord appeared to Him in a dream, instructing him to remain there and promising to be with him and protect him (Acts 18:10).

One benefit of living after Christ is that the Holy Spirit lives inside every believer who has accepted Him as Savior. We have no reason to question God’s presence in our lives, but we are tempted to take it for granted. We forget to tap into His power, knowledge, and wisdom. We forsake far more life by trying to do life on our own.

Far more life is dependent on God. Period. We are dependent on Him for our existence, for salvation from our sin, for everything in this life and the life to come. We have nothing to prove and nothing to gain from trying to be independent from Him. We are not competent. We are not pulled together. We make errors. We lack knowledge. We are unable to complete His jobs on our own. We will never outgrow our need for Him. Fortunately, we can trust the words spoken by King David’s advisor, Nathan:

The Lord is with you. (2 Samuel 7:3, NIV)

Sisters,
How are you tempted to live independently?
Which category of God’s promise to be with us is most meaningful to you? Why?
Do you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you? If not, what is stopping you from accepting Christ? If so, are you willing to depend on Him — not yourself — for everything?
Thank God that far more life depends on Him — and He offers it to us freely!
-Shari

Moving Through

A couple of my friends are going through challenging health situations. Both suffer from chronic pain and are not finding relief. They have prayed many times that their suffering would be eased or stop, but it seems God keeps answering, “No.” Now they are battling discouragement on top of the pain and other physical difficulties they face daily. In talking with one of them this week, we dug a bit deeper into this verse:

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (I Peter 5:10, ESV)

On first reading, it seems this verse promises that God will rescue us from ongoing suffering. But could the verse be saying something different? Could it be telling us what to expect as we continue to suffer? Let’s look at what God promises to do: restore, confirm, strengthen and establish.

After you have suffered a little while, God will restore you. We want this to mean He will restore us to our pre-suffering state. We want anything we have lost to be returned to us. We want it to be as if our suffering had never happened. But let’s consider another interpretation. Pretend the suffering is a hurricane-strength wind. When it first hit, you may have stumbled, staggered, been knocked around, or even fallen. You were caught off-guard and became overwhelmed by the force pushing against you. But after a while, you adjust to the pressure. Rather than being pushed further away, you are able to maintain your position. Perhaps that is the restoration God describes here. Situations that bring suffering may catch us by surprise and cause our faith to stumble. At first, we may forget about God, question Him, or doubt Him. But after a little while, we remember Him, we stop asking “why”, and we believe He is present and aware. We are restored to a place where we can connect with Him, where our faith is engaged and active. This is where we experience far more life.

Early in Jesus’ ministry His disciples were caught off-guard when many followers left Jesus after hearing a hard teaching. I believe an example of restoration is recorded in Simon Peter’s response when Jesus asked the Twelve if they would leave, too:

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68, NIV)

After you have suffered a little while, God will confirm you. The Greek word translated “confirm” means to make firm, to render constant. After you are restored — able to maintain your position — you realize how much force you must exert against the wind — or the struggle you face — to maintain your balance and footing. In a spiritual sense, standing firm comes from remembering God’s truth about yourself, Him and your relationship. Truth gives us power to go through our struggles hand-in-hand with Jesus. Far more life is not the absence of struggle, but standing firm with Jesus in our struggles.

The rest of Simon Peter’s response to Jesus in the encounter described above shows he is confirmed, grounded in truth:

We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God. (John 6:69, NIV)

After you have suffered a little while, God will strengthen you. This is the only place the Greek word translated “strengthen” appears in the New Testament. It means that something is made strong but mobile, able to move to achieve something in the most effective way. Hanging onto something strong allows us to stay upright against the gale-force winds of suffering. But Jesus offers us more than an immobile pillar; He offers a strength that allows us to move through our suffering effectively to achieve His purpose. Far more life is not stagnant, it is continuing with Christ through our struggles.

This plea and encouragement Paul wrote to the saints in Corinth describes the result of being strengthened during adversity:

…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)

After you have suffered a little while, God will establish you. The word establish means to make the soul stable, to lay a solid foundation. Suffering serves an important role in our spiritual growth and prepares us for future service and growth. This is one aspect of good that God works through our suffering; our faith becomes more solid and stable, resting more firmly on Christ. We believe God’s promises more fully because we have experienced them in action. Far more life is unshakeable because it is stable and solid.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. (Matthew 7:24-25, NIV)

Our foundation of faith allows us to move with Christ through our suffering. And that experience prepares us for the next challenge we will face. Throughout our lives, we have the opportunity to keep establishing our connection to Christ with every hardship. If we turn to God in our suffering, he will continue to restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us. We will keep finding far more life in our suffering.

Sisters,
Are you currently suffering? If so, how has not being rescued impacted your faith?
How has God restored you during this or previous suffering?
How have you experienced God confirming you?
How has He strengthened you to continue doing His will?
How have you been established through suffering?
Thank God for giving you far more life in the midst of suffering. (And thank Him that one day all suffering will end for His children — what a glorious day that will be!)
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

What Do You Love?

Love is complicated, they say. I agree, but maybe not for the reasons most people who use this phrase would expect.

One reason love seems complicated is because we overuse the word. Love — or the red heart that commonly represents it — is used to promote tourist attractions, products, brands, breeds of pets, and much more. Social media encourages us to love what others share. And numerous emojis include hearts to relay a variety of love messages via texting. But do we really love all these things? Are you as committed to your favorite vacation destination as you are to your family? Is the love you express to your pet the same love you express to a brand of vehicle? Does loving someone’s picture on social media mean the same thing as loving the person who posted it? Are any of these the same love we have for God or He has for us?

God is the originator of love, the prime example of love, and has a lot to say about it. The Bible provides many historical accounts, poetic expressions, letters, and prophecies describing His love. He put His love for us into action by sending His Son to take the punishment we deserve for sinning against Him. So it is no surprise that He speaks authoritatively in His instruction for how we, His children, should and should not love. Here is a warning He gives us:

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. (I John 2:15-17, NLT)

Do not love the world. The Greek word translated love is agapao. It means to long for or esteem. It is a love of choice, selection, and reason that leads to taking pleasure in the thing or person you love. So God is telling us that far more life does not long for this world. It does not prioritize the values of this world above the values of God. It does not choose to take pleasure in pursuits or activities that are contrary to what God has instructed. The same word is used in other passages to tells us who and how to love:

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  (Luke 6:35, NIV)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34, NIV)

Do not love what the world offers you: craving for physical pleasure. There are many things in this world that we can love for the physical pleasure they produce. Food. Nicotine. Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Experiences and activities that raise our endorphins. We forfeit far more life when we place more value in obtaining these pleasures than in living for God. We miss out on true love when we choose them over righteousness. Instead of craving physical pleasure from the world, God gives these instructions:

Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:1-2, NIV)

…Live then as children of the light. The light produces in men…everything that is wholesome and good and true. Let your lives be living proofs of the things which please God.  (Ephesians 5:8-10, PHILLIPS)

Do not love what the world offers: craving for everything we see. Living in the information era, we see more of the world than any previous generation. This can cause us to develop a sinful longing for the best lifestyles, experiences, power, and influence the world has to offer. But Paul’s prayer for the saints in Ephesus describes the cravings of far more life:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18-19, NIV)

Do not love what the world offers: pride in our achievements. Most people I have talked to about heaven believe they will spend eternity there because of the good things they have done. They value achievements and believe theirs have earned God’s favor. But God offers far more life to those who achieve one thing:

The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. (John 6:29, NIV)

Do not love what the world offers: pride in our possessions. We miss far more life when we love our possessions more than we love God and people. When our life goal is acquiring that car, house, “toy”, or material item, then that possession is what we love and value most. Far more life takes pride in heavenly treasures instead:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21, NIV)

Love does not have to be complicated. When we long for God, when we choose to put Him first, when we adopt His values, we can share His love and enjoy far more life.

Sisters,
How do you overuse or minimize the word love?
In what ways are you tempted to love — value, long for, or choose — the world over God?
How do you love craving pleasure or what you see more than God?
How do you love taking pride in your achievements or possessions more than God?
Ask God to help you love Him most and experience the blessing of far more life.
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

If One Part Suffers…

If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also…They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.  (John 15:20-21, NIV)

Christians around the world are suffering. They are being mistreated, persecuted, and martyred at the hands of governments, political groups, and individuals — simply because they are followers of Jesus Christ. Only a few of their stories are being shared by news outlets; as of this writing Voice of the Martyrs has identified 60 “restricted areas” and “hostile nations” around the world.

Those of us physically removed from the suffering can feel helpless. We do not have the power to stop the violence or change the mindset of the persecutors. But God has given us the means to strengthen and support our brothers and sisters who are suffering for Him: prayer.

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Hebrews 13:3, NIV)

…There should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it… (I Corinthians 12:25-26, NIV)

…The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16, NIV)

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. (I Peter 3:12, Psalm 34:15-16, NIV)

We can remember those who are suffering in our prayers. We can show our concern for the persecuted through prayer. We can strengthen and support those being mistreated through prayer. The Bible promises that God hears and acts on the prayers of His children. It also reveals that our prayers — which are sometimes ridiculed as useless and childish by non-Christians — are powerful and effective in God’s hands. In fact, our prayers often accomplish more than our actions.

What can we pray for those who are being persecuted? How can we, who have not faced severe hardship, know what they really need? Fortunately, God’s Word offers guidance.

My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. (Matthew 26:39, NIV)

First, we can follow Jesus’ example and pray that the persecution, mistreatment, and abuse stops. Our loving Father always wants to hear what is on our hearts, and we do not want others to suffer! It is perfectly acceptable to ask Him to intervene and rescue people from suffering. But, as Jesus models, we must ask in submission to God’s will. He has a purpose and plan that we cannot fully see or comprehend, and what we are asking may not fit with His will. Some may think this makes our prayers useless or worthless, but that is a lie Satan uses to discourage us from connecting with God through openness, prayer, and surrender. Far more life is confident that God hears our prayers and will answer them in the best possible way.

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. (Psalm 29:11, NIV)

But as for me, afflicted and in pain — may your salvation, God, protect me. (Psalm 69:29, NIV)

 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, (Ephesians 3:16, NIV)

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, (Ephesians 1:18, NIV)

We can also pray for spiritual strength for those enduring persecution. We can pray that they will see God’s hand at work and that His provision, faithfulness, and love will be evident. We can pray that He keeps their hearts at peace regardless of their circumstances. We can pray that their hope is secure in Him and allows them to see their role in the spiritual battle raging around them. We can pray that they experience far more life as the Spirit empowers them with all they need to remain spiritually strong.

And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:38, NIV)

…What has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. (Philippians 1:12, NIV)

…With the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. (I Thessalonians 2:2, NIV)

The way in which Jesus suffered and died caused at least one witness to recognize His true identity. We can pray for the gospel message — that forgiveness for sin and eternal life in heaven are found in Jesus Christ alone — to be heard and accepted because of persecution. We can pray for the light of salvation to shine brightly through the darkness of suffering and draw people to Christ. We can pray that our mistreated and martyred brothers and sisters reveal the power and glory of God in their lives and in their deaths. We can pray the places with greatest opposition are the places where God’s kingdom advances the most.

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer…Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. (Revelation 2:10, NIV)

Praise God that this life is not the end. Those who suffer and die for Him on earth will reap far more life eternally!

Sisters,
If you were surprised to read so many places are spiritually “restricted” or “hostile”, visit persecution.com to learn more.
Will you join me — and followers of Christ worldwide — in praying for our brothers and sisters who are suffering?
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Far More Protection

If you have attended even a few weddings, you are probably familiar with “the love chapter” — First Corinthians 13. While we can all agree that “Love is patient, love is kind…” (I Corinthians 13:4) is helpful marriage advice, the chapter has a much broader application. The word translated “love” is “agape” in the original Greek; that is not romantic or friendship love, instead it is the unconditional love first demonstrated by Jesus. So the love chapter applies to all of us and provides instruction for experiencing far more life. It helps us understand how God puts His love toward us into action. And it provides a guide for our interactions with the people we want to love well.

There are many comforting and challenging thoughts in I Corinthians 13, but these phrases always stand out to me:

It always protects…Love never fails. (I Corinthians 13:7-8, NIV)

Every time I read or hear that I feel like Jesus is giving me a hug! I feel such warmth and peace, knowing I can count on these promises. Here are some of the thoughts these phrases bring to mind that offer me far more life.

God is completely trustworthy and all-powerful. No one else can make those claims. He is offering me all I need. I am wise to humbly and gratefully accept His love and protection! (Psalm 36:7)

When God says always, He means always! I never have to wonder if “this situation” is included in God’s promise. Every situation I will ever face falls under His umbrella of protection. (Psalm 73:23)

Protecting me does not mean He stops all bad things from happening. But it does mean He will not allow evil to overwhelm me — or any of His children. Everything in my life must pass through His filter; only those things that fit His good purpose for my life are allowed to occur. (2 Thessalonians 3:3, Romans 8:28-29)

Every commandment, instruction, and principle in the Bible was given in love to protect me. He knows they will minimize my pain and bring me far more life. His boundaries protect me from spiritual death, hardship, evil, and undue struggle. Following them is where I will find far more life. (Psalm 119:97-104)

He is a personal God who lives inside His children. The Holy Spirit offers me protection me from my own sin and foolishness. He has opened my spiritual eyes to discern right from wrong. And He has empowered me to overcome sinful choices, habits, and temptations. (Romans 5:8, Proverbs 12:15, I Corinthians 3:19)

I am called to lovingly protect others, too. I can protect them in my own heart and mind by believing the best rather than making negative assumptions about their motives or actions. I can protect them by not telling others about their mistakes, failures, and sins. I can protect them by speaking the truth in love in areas where they are unaware of the negative impact they are having on others. I can protect them from self-deprecation by helping them recognize how God views them. God wants me to share His love by actively protecting others. (John 13:35, Romans 12:10, Ephesians 4:2)

His love protects me from sinning against others. While I am not sinless, His unconditional love inside of me is stronger than defensiveness, anger, gossip, slander, unforgiveness, unfaithfulness, and other ungodly responses that sometimes rise up. I am not a slave to my impulses or selfishness. His love enables me to be like Him and genuinely care for others. Far more life asks, “How can I best love this person?” or “How would Jesus love them?” and puts that love into action. (John 15:12, Romans 6:13, I John 4:11)

God’s love for His children never fails. He is the perfect parent! I am so thankful I can count on God’s love for me. I can never do anything so terrible that He will withdraw from me. I will not get to the end of my life and learn I was not good enough to spend eternity with Him. Evil will never overcome His love. He is never too busy for me. He never misunderstands me. His love is always exactly what I need. And when it is also exactly what I want, I bask in far more life. (Isaiah 43:1-3, Romans 8:38-39, Lamentations 3:22)

Sisters,
How have you personally been protected by love?
When you read “Love always protects” what does that communicate to you about God? About how He wants you to love others?
Is it easy or hard for you to believe that God’s love never fails? If you feel He has failed you, talk to Him about it. Ask Him to help you see how He protected you or what His good purpose was for you. This can be very hard! You may want to ask a pastor or trusted Christian friend for help.
Thank God that His protection offers you far more life — then accept it!
-Shari


Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso