Spiritual Fervor

How would you respond if God asked, “What would you like to do for Me on earth?”

Provide food and clean water? Eradicate an illness or disease? Ensure justice for the oppressed? Develop life-changing technology? Share Christ with an unreached people group? Love hurting children? Share truth and grace through the arts?

There are so many options, so many needs in the world! The question can feel overwhelming and leave us paralyzed, unable to choose where or how to help. But each of us is drawn toward someone or something. Some options stir more excitement in us than others. I am a firm believer that lives would be permanently changed if each of us acted on our God-given passion.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. (I Peter 4:10, NIV)

God wants His children to make a difference. And He has equipped us to do so. That is where we find far more life. Some of us are called to do big things that impact many people. Others are called to administer God’s grace to only a few people, or even just one. But in order for God’s plan to be accomplished, each of His children has a job to do. One is not better or more important than another.

Finding and following our passion helps us obey this instruction:

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. (Romans 12:11, NIV)

I think if we are using our gifts and following our passion, we will be zealous and fervent because we are fanning the flame that God lit within us. But when we struggle to serve Him, when our hearts are not in it, we may be trying to do something He has not gifted or equipped us to do. Lack of zeal and fervor is a warning to check the condition of our hearts.

There are certainly important tasks we do not find exciting. For one it can be washing dishes or teaching children’s church, while for another it may be budgeting or listening to someone’s problems. We can perform them out of love for God (and those around us), even when they are not enjoyable. In fact, God instructs us:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24, NIV)

But we can get bogged down with the mundane tasks of life and forget that God has called us to more. We find far more life when we balance life’s necessary tasks with those that fuel our passion.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:21 & 33, NIV)

For some, God has one mission that they pursue their whole life. Paul is an example of this (Acts 9:15). He spent his life sharing the good news of Jesus. Sometimes this was in person through individual conversations, public preaching, and planting churches. Other times it was through letters sent all over the world — and saved in the Bible for us to read, too!

For others, the mission changes as the needs around them change. Joseph is an example of this (Genesis chapters 37-50). Throughout his life He impacted individuals (his father, his master, the baker, the cupbearer, Pharaoh, his brothers) as well as the whole nation of Egypt and those who became the nation of Israel.

If you are not sure what your passion is, consider these questions: What do you value? What do you enjoy? How can you use those interests to reveal God to others? It may be something you can do right away — like I did when I started this blog! Or it may require a time of planning and preparation. But identifying what you want to do for God is the first step; you cannot pursue a dream you have not dreamed or reach a goal you have not set! Once you identify something you want to do for God, you can start fulfilling it day by day.

Near the end of His life, Jesus offered this prayer. It was confirmation that He lived far more life. He could only say this because He kept his spiritual fervor until God’s plan for Him was fulfilled. May we find our fervor and say this to God at the end of each day, too!

“I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.” (John 17:4, NASB)

Sisters,
Is the idea of making a difference in the world appealing to you? Why or why not?
What energizes you? What do you value? What do you enjoy?
In what mundane area would it help you to remember you are working for God, not for people?
What would you like to do for God?
Find fervor and far more life by taking a step toward fulfilling that passion today.
-Shari

Copyright 2022, Shari Damaso

Good and Perfect Gift

I have an app that prompts me to praise God as part of my morning prayers. My praise acknowledges His character qualities — who He is — rather than what He has done for me. Praise prompts me to remember He is a person in whose image all other people were created. Praise helps me understand why He acts in certain ways or gives us certain instructions. Praise lets me think about God from new perspectives.

As I read the Scriptures, I often look for more qualities and traits to praise. Thinking about the person behind the action leads me to new discoveries about Him. I recently noticed these verses in my Old Testament reading:

…Do not say to yourself, “The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you. (Deuteronomy 9:4, NIV)

This thought is repeated two more times in this passage so it must be important. At first reading it seems odd — maybe even harsh or critical — that God would keep emphasizing that the people are not righteous enough for Him to bless them with the Promised Land. These are God’s chosen people whom he promised to rescue and establish in their own land (Exodus 6:6-8). So why the strong words and what can we learn about God through them?

I believe God’s righteousness caused Him to speak this truth clearly and boldly. God is without sin and cannot tolerate sin. The people groups living in this strategic area He created have rejected Him completely. Their unrighteousness has made them God’s enemies. So He is taking away this land and granting it to the people who acknowledge, follow, and obey Him: the Israelites.

But the Israelites did not acknowledge, follow, and obey Him perfectly. The journey from Egypt to the Promised Land could have been completed in a few weeks, but it took them 40 years because of their sin (Numbers 14:34). Perhaps God’s justice requires Him to remind the Israelites of their own sin. It may prompt Him to remind them that they have not earned this land and do not deserve it. Justice may cause Him to make it clear this land is His gift.

There are many other surprising statements or actions of God recorded in the Bible. Here are a few verses that help us understand why we cannot always anticipate what He will do or say:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV)

Although we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), His thoughts and plans are vastly different from ours. His reasoning is perfect; ours is not. His plans are perfect; ours are not. Unlike us, His motives are perfect. Far more life accepts and embraces God’s thoughts and ways as perfect and ours as imperfect.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:1-3, NIV)

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand…Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, “This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt”? (Job 38:4, 8-11, NIV)

God spoke the heavens and the earth — and all that is in them — into existence. He did not follow a manual or consult others. His wisdom, creativity, and power were sufficient to create both the smallest and largest components of our universe…and everything in between. Far more life understands that our limited minds cannot grasp God’s wisdom and power.

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. (Numbers 23:19, NIV)

Can you even imagine never telling a lie or changing your mind? What would it be like to have all the information and confidence needed to get everything right the first time and never need to protect or defend yourself with lies? Far more life accepts that God is vastly superior to us and cannot be fully understood in this lifetime.

When I read ancient Greek and Roman mythology, I feel sad for the people who followed it. The gods are depicted with many of the same weaknesses we have. They lie, scheme, cheat, and steal; they suffer from jealousy, anger, lust, and greed. I wonder why anyone would be attracted to gods that are no better than themselves? Why would they worship gods who are so unpredictable and self-centered? The One true God, the God of the Bible, is not like those man-made gods. He deserves our praise, worship, and adoration. We may not understand Him fully, but we can trust Him fully. The better we know Him, the more this is affirmed.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17, NIV)

The Promised Land was a good and perfect gift that God gave the Israelites. Growing our relationship with God and one day seeing Him face-to-face is a good and perfect gift He gives us (I Corinthians 13:12). Praise helps us recognize the source and value of these gifts.

Sisters,
What confuses you about God? Who can you ask for help to understand Him better?
Which of His character qualities are most meaningful to you?
Praise God for who He is. Thank Him for the gift of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2022, Shari Damaso

Something New

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV)

A new year is upon us. Many use this as a time to set goals, make resolutions, and embrace new habits. Opening a new calendar carries a sense of starting fresh, trying again, changing for the better.

But sometimes we feel stuck, hopeless, or lacking options. We can believe past experiences and choices have consequences that are insurmountable. Because we cannot see a way forward or better circumstances, it is hard to believe they exist. If change is outside of our immediate control, it feels like an impossibility.

Rest assured, sisters; God is not bound by the same limitations as us! He knows and sees what we cannot (Daniel 2:22). His Word promises that He is doing new things. His will is always accomplished (Job 42:1-2). His way is perfect (Psalm 18:30). But the place where His is working may not be where we are looking:

I  will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:25-27, NIV)

God is more concerned about your heart than your circumstances. He knows a new and improved heart is our biggest need. Far more life does not come from our circumstances, rather from our heart connection to Him. The new thing He wants to do this year is within you. He wants to give you peace where you have worry, fear, or anxiety. He wants to give you joy where you have depression, apathy, or pain. He wants to give you love where you have doubts, hurts, or loneliness. He wants to give you hope where you have despair or hopelessness. But these heart changes do not guarantee the challenges you face will evaporate. These are found in accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior and receiving the Holy Spirit. With Him at the center of your heart, you may find Him doing something new even if you remain in the difficult situation.

Once He has renewed our hearts, sometimes we fail to perceive the new thing He is doing because we are looking in the wrong place. If we will only accept one solution from Him, or are only willing to look in one direction for His work, we will miss it. He has made it clear that we are incapable of anticipating exactly what He will do:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8, NIV)

Yet, He has also promised not to hide Himself or His work from us:

 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  (Jeremiah 29:13, NIV)

Far more life trusts that God is working and allows Him to work in the timing and way that He deems best. It scans the horizon expectantly, eager to see where He will appear and what gift He has in store. It anticipates His goodness, provision, and wisdom. And it is rewarded with more than expected, even though it may also be different than expected.

Sisters,
As you anticipate this year how do you feel about it?
What new thing are you planning to do this year?
What new thing has God done for you (or within you) in the past?
How do you feel about the possibility that God will change your heart rather than your circumstances?
Ask God to help you look for His work everywhere and not limit your search to the places you want it to be.
Embrace a renewed heart — and far more life — as you recognize and celebrate His work!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

The Name

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21, NIV)

The angel spoke such a simple sentence, but it had profound meaning. This is the message of Christmas and Easter — and all of Christianity — summed up in one sentence.

She will give birth to a son. This will not be a normal son. This boy will be conceived by the Holy Spirit. How? We don’t know exactly because the Bible does not elaborate. We do know it was a miracle, meaning it cannot be explained through scientific or natural laws.

You are to give him the name Jesus. When we look at Mary and Joseph’s genealogies (Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38), we see this is not a family name. It was hand-picked by God because of its meaning: the Lord saves. What a big name — and mission — for a baby to grow into! But Jesus can and did accomplish His mission and live up to His name.

He will save his people from their sins. This is the whole reason Jesus came to earth. His purpose was not to be born in a manger. It was not to live a sinless life. It was not to overthrow the Roman government. It was not to establish a new religion. Jesus came to sacrifice Himself to pay the spiritual penalty for our sins.6

This is the message of Christmas. When we understand that, we can join with the angels in proclaiming:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14, NIV)

God deserves all the glory and praise we can give Him. He sent peace to earth by enabling us to reconcile with Him and experience a loving relationship. Surely His favor rests upon “his people”, those who accept His offer and find peace in Him.

As you celebrate Christmas, look beyond the beloved traditions and sparkling lights. Remember whose birth we are celebrating and the reason He came to earth. This makes it easy to join the angels in offering glory to God.

Sisters,
What is most meaningful to you about Christmas?
Has the Lord saved you through Jesus? From what were you saved?
If you have not accepted Jesus’ offer to pay for your sins, this is a great time to do so. There are no special words, just talk to God and acknowledge that you have sinned against Him and cannot earn His favor. Thank Him for sending Jesus to take the punishment you deserve. Thank Him for giving you peace and far more life that starts now and lasts for eternity.
If you have already accepted Jesus, give Him the glory He deserves.
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

To Him We Go

I am referring to my family’s experiences in 2021 as a roller coaster ride. We had some wonderful “high” experiences and some deep lows, and they just kept coming one after another all year long! As the year winds down, it seems we are finally rolling into the platform and can take a few minutes to collect ourselves and reflect on the ride.

One thing I realized is that we remained confident God was with us through every dip, rise, and turn. At the moments it felt like all we could do was close our eyes and hold on tight, our trust in Him never wavered. And in the most joyous moments we thanked Him for blessing us far beyond what we deserve. We experienced far more life in and through our circumstances, not despite them. He was with us — holding us, guiding us, protecting us — the whole time. It was quite a ride!

The other day I was reminded of this heartfelt exchange between Jesus and the apostle Peter:

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69, NIV)

What a wonderful verse! And filled with so much truth! My heart sings praise to God when I read it, resonating with Peter’s sentiments and conviction.

To whom shall we go? When things get tough, to whom do we turn? When we have a friendship with God through Jesus Christ, we are connected to the best possible option. No one nor nothing else we can turn to for help and hope can even come close to what He offers! Far more life puts this verse into practice:

Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:8, NIV)

You have the words of eternal life. Who else can offer us eternal life? No one.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)

Perhaps one reason this verse is so well-known is because it is stated so simply and clearly. God was motivated by love for us, by a desire to have a relationship with us. He sacrificed the One He loved most to make that possible. We reap the benefit of spiritual life that starts now and lasts for eternity, getting better and better as time goes on. Far more life grows in love from God and love for God as it holds tight to the words He recorded in the Scriptures.

We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. This sentence is the key. The reason we stick with God is because of who He is. We know who He is because we have experienced His grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, and more firsthand. Jesus is more than a historical figure to us, He is our Lord, Savior, and friend. We have witnessed the fulfillment of His promises. We have followed His instructions for life and found them favorable. We know He is God’s Son by faith and by experience.

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29, NIV)

Far more life believes in God and is willing to believe in Him when facing challenges. It seeks to see how He keeps His promises and offers praise when it sees Him in action.

Maybe you have had a roller coaster year — or life — as well. I hope you are going to Jesus and finding far more life in Him! (If you are not, invite Him to join you. He welcomes anyone who chooses to go to Him!)

Sisters,
Where do you go for help during the hard times?
Where do you go for celebration during good times?
Do you believe that Jesus has the words of eternal life? If not, what role does Jesus play in your life?
Are you confident that Jesus is the Holy One of God? If not, are you willing to ask God to help you see who He says Jesus is?
If you have found far more life, thank God for it.
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Best Friend Ever – Part 3

A common story line in romantic comedies involves two people who dislike each other on their first meeting — and reinforce that opinion in subsequent interactions — but eventually realize their understanding was inaccurate or incomplete and fall in love. This can happen in friendships as well. First impressions can provide an incomplete picture. Sometimes we must be willing to put our initial reactions aside and look deeper to see the value in pursuing a friendship.

The same can be true in our friendship with God. A distorted view of Him can keep us from pursuing a relationship at all or keep us from deepening that relationship. Here are four ways our view of God can be distorted:

We may think God cannot be a real friend. We may doubt His existence or the possibility of being friends with a spirit. We trust our emotions, which cannot feel Him. We put more faith in people because they seem more present. We may test Him by praying, “If I am not alone, You need to show Yourself to me,” rather than seeking Him by asking, “Lord, I feel alone, help me believe You are with me”. But He is real and Scripture boldly states God is visible to everyone who is willing to look for Him.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20, NIV)

Far more life seeks out a friendship with God.

We may believe God is distant or disinterested. Our closest friends are usually people we have regular interaction with, those who share both the big moments of life and the dailyness. Because we cannot see God’s body with our eyes, hear His voice with our ears, or touch Him with our hands, it is easy for us to think of Him being far away and detached. It is tempting to test Him, asking Him to prove His presence, interest, and connection. Misinterpreted Bible verses can reinforce our belief that God is distant or disinterested. Consider this verse:

But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:3, NASB)

While it is easy to interpret this as describing God as distant and disinterested, reading other parts of the psalm offers a different perspective:

Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth…
You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield.
The Lord has been mindful of us; He will bless us. (Psalm 115:1, 11-12a, NASB)

Far more life follows the admonition to handle the Word carefully (2 Timothy 2:15) to develop sharp spiritual vision and grow a friendship with God.

We may think God is like Santa Claus. Many religions place high value on works and teach that doing good earns God’s approval. That is how Santa Claus operates, not God. Santa watches to see if kids are good or bad then weighs their actions to determine if they get coal or gifts in their stockings. If you were nervous on Christmas Eve as a child, wondering how Santa would judge you, you can rest assured: you never have to wonder about where you stand with God. He knows we are incapable of being good without His help (Romans 3:12, 6:11-12). He paid the penalty for our sin and invited us into a relationship that can never be jeopardized, no matter what we do (Romans 8:38-39). Far more life knows God is not weighing our good works (like Santa Claus) and confidently pursues a friendship with Him.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13, NIV)

We may think of God as a cosmic vending machine. This distortion depicts an impersonal God who spits out blessings in proportion to the amount of good we do. It believes logging enough prayer time and believing hard enough leads to answered prayers. It thinks going to church often enough or making a big enough donation, guarantees a life free from trouble. It embraces the idea that if we make God look good, He will give us wealth and success. But this is not how God works!

Paul – also known as Saul – was an influential Jewish man while persecuting and executing God’s people (Acts 9:1-2, 13-14). After encountering Christ and dedicating his life to sharing the truth of Christ with others, Paul was rejected, beaten, and imprisoned (2 Corinthians 11:24-28). His good works did not lead to material blessing. But Paul realized the spiritual blessing of knowing God was better:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ…I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:7-8).

Far more life desires to love and serve God because of who He is, not because of how it might benefit us.

How do we overcome distortions in our view of God? By doing the work necessary to see God clearly and understand who He truly is. This happens when we:

  • Invest time learning about His character and His attitude toward us.
  • Welcome Him into every aspect of our life so we can experience Him in action.
  • Strive to become like Him in what we think, do, and say.
  • Study areas of His Word that are hard until we understand them.
  • Obey His instructions.
  • Fight through the obstacles that hinder us from making Him our best friend.

Sisters,
Was your first impression of God good or bad?
How has your understanding of Him been distorted?
Which action item will help you gain clear vision and grow your friendship with Him?
Thank God for being available as a best friend and for offering you far more life!
-Shari


Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Best Friend Ever – Part 2

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 29:12-13, NIV)

I am thankful that God does not hide from us! He can and will be our friend, even our best friend. He is not holding back until we are perfect. He does not expect us to overcome all of our doubts first. If we genuinely pursue a friendship with Him, it will happen. He has promised!

Seeking God requires trust and humility. We may not understand everything in His Word, but we can trust it is true and desire to understand more. We may not have experienced everything He promises – in fact, it may seem we have experienced the opposite — but we can humbly accept His Word is true and His love for us is perfect. Seeking God means we want to see God clearly so we can make Him our best friend. Far more life seeks God in trust and humility.

In our sinful, human woundedness, sometimes we approach God from the wrong perspective. Instead of seeking Him, we test Him. Testing God starts from a place of doubt. We do not believe what His Word says because it has not felt true in our lives. We challenge God to give us experiences that disprove what we believe and prove the truth of His Word. Since we do not trust God, we put up barriers that prevent Him from being our best friend.

Some people we read about in the Bible were seeking God, but others were testing Him. It would be nice if the Bible clearly stated who fell into each camp, but it does not. However, as we study the Scriptures we can tell the difference.

The story of Gideon is recorded in Judges chapter 6 and 7. An angel — and later God — spoke to Gideon and told him amazing things God wanted to do through Him. Gideon did not accept the assignment until his doubts were addressed.

Then Gideon said to God, “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.” (Judges 6:36-37, NLT)

God patiently and lovingly met Gideon where He was and fulfilled his request. He was not threatened by Gideon’s doubts and questions. Rather than recognizing God’s protection and provision, Gideon was angry or bitter about his circumstances. He was not seeing God clearly and, as a result, He tested God rather than pursuing Him as his best friend. God included Gideon in His plan and accomplished great things through him, but Gideon appears to have missed out on far more life.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, did the opposite. In Luke chapter 1, the angel brought incredible news: she was going to birth the Messiah. After asking how this would happen, Mary accepted the angels’ response.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38, NLT)

Later in this chapter and throughout the gospels, we catch glimpses of how Mary continued to trust God and better understand Him. Her life demonstrates that when we see God clearly, we make Him our best friend. She trusted Him — even when she did not understand His ways — and experienced far more life.

We have the opportunity to be best friends with the most powerful being in the universe! And we get to choose whether we will trust Him or test Him. Far more life is a desire to seek Him and a willingness to unearth the beliefs that tempt us to test Him. The next post in this series will look at some common distortions that keep us from making God our best friend ever. And keep us from enjoying far more life.

Sisters,
Think of a time you have wholeheartedly sought God. Did you find Him?
Think of a time when you have tested God. How did that turn out different from times you sought Him?
How have you experienced God’s protection, provision, and love?
When have you been frustrated because God did not do what you wanted or expected?
Talk to God about the times you have tested Him. Thank Him for the times you have seen Him clearly and sought Him. Embrace far more life in those moments!
-Shari

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

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