Deceptively Peaceful

We have to make many decisions every day. But not all decisions are equal. Some are quick and easy because we know they have little long-term impact. Others we recognize as significant and consider the options carefully. But sometimes we do not see them clearly and overlook opportunities for far more life.

The book of Genesis gives the account of Abram and his nephew Lot. They lived a nomadic life, moving their herds from one location to another. As their wealth grew, the land could not support all the people and animals of both households. So Abram suggested they set up separate camps. He graciously let Lot choose his preferred location. The Bible records:

Lot looked and saw the whole Jordan Valley. He saw that there was much water there…At that time the Jordan Valley all the way to Zoar was like the Lord’s Garden. This was good land, like the land of Egypt. (Genesis 13:10, ERV)

Lot chose the land that looked more fertile and promising. That seems wise since his was goal to provide food and water for his herds, family, and workers. But the scene before Lot was deceptively peaceful. He actually pitched his tents near a corrupt city that, in time, corrupted him and his family.

How often do we look only at the surface when making a decision? We, too, can be fooled by a deceptively peaceful exterior and fail to see the situation accurately. I participate in a White Elephant gift exchange each December that makes a game of giving away useless and almost-useless items. Over the years we have found the worst gifts are often hidden beneath the most elaborate wrapping. They are deceptively appealing because the outward appearance leads you to believe a treasure is waiting inside. One participant enjoys warning newcomers, “Beware of the pretty wrapping paper.”

Satan also loves to hide behind a beautiful or peaceful exterior. He tricks us into thinking sin is not “that bad”. Or he makes it seem like an experience or circumstance will fulfill us. But Satan is a liar whose goal is to keep us from experiencing God’s best. He makes sin and pain appear deceptively peaceful. He wants to distract us from finding what truly brings far more life.

God wants to satisfy our hearts and minds. He offers true peace — and far more life. Consider this powerful promise God gave His people through the prophet Isaiah:

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:7-11, NIV)

Giving, investing, sharing, caring for others because they are valuable to God and therefore valuable to you…these lead to far more life! But Satan whispers — or yells — lies to dissuade us from experiencing this: Do not sacrifice for others; they will not appreciate it! Do not give too much; you may not have enough left for yourself! Do not get involved; everyone needs to learn from their own mistakes! Do not take risks; someone else is in a better position to help! People are too messy! Protect yourself!

Repeatedly God’s Word instructs us to focus on His work and trust Him with the details. He wants us to look deeper into His ways when making decisions so we can invest in far more life.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33, NIV)

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29, NIV)

…For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. (I Corinthians 10:33, NIV)

[Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (I Corinthians 13:5, NIV)

“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. (I Peter 3:10-11, NIV)

Following and trusting God are not passive pursuits. Far more life requires us to actively engage with God and others. Disengaging offers deceptive peace while investing in others brings far more life. Building our own kingdom offers deceptive peace but building God’s kingdom results in true peace. Striving to fulfill God’s plan fulfills us in a way that pursuing our own plans cannot match.

Be on the lookout for deceptive peace. It is all around us, tempting us to turn away from God and join the majority. The road to God may not look as lush and fertile as the one most people choose to follow through this life, but it actually offers all we need for far more life that lasts throughout eternity.

Sisters,
When have you pursued something that looked good but ended up being bad?
When making a decision, what helps you look below the surface?
How has God blessed or satisfied you when you did what He instructed, even if it seemed like a bad idea?
How are you actively engaging with God and people?
Thank God that His road leads to far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Enough

Some friends and I are reading through the Old Testament, one chapter a day. We are digesting it slowly to discover the treasure in each chapter. This slow pace allowed me to consider Noah from a new perspective.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (Genesis 6:5-8, ESV)

Imagine your immediate family is the only one on earth following God. Everyone else is saying, thinking, and doing what God considers evil. No one cares what God thinks or has any desire to honor Him. The Bible does not record Noah’s thoughts and feelings, but I imagine he felt alone. No one else shared his values and interests. Noah found far more life in following God, even though he followed alone.

Then God comes to Noah and tells him to build a boat. A very big boat: 150 yards (135 meters) long, 25 yards (22.5 meters) wide, and 15 yards (13.5 meters) high. God gave very specific instructions for the design and construction of this boat, as well as who and what would go inside. The Bible does not record Noah’s thoughts or feelings. How would you feel if God told you He was going to “end all flesh” except you and your family (Genesis 6:13, 18; 7:1)? What would you think if God told you He was going to send a male and female of every kind of bird, animal, and “crawling thing of the ground” and it was your job to keep them alive (Genesis 6:20)? What if he told you to take some of “every food that is edible” for your family and the animals into the ark (Genesis 6:21)? I would have asked a LOT of questions! I would have found the task daunting and doubted my ability to complete it. But the Bible simply records:

Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. (Genesis 6:22 ESV)

Noah found far more life in obeying God.

The Bible records that once Noah was in the ark, the “fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened” at the beginning of the 40 days and nights of rain (Genesis 7:11). I am certain the ground beneath the ark shook as it never had before. It probably groaned and roared, creating new and unique sounds. There may have been people banging on the door or trying to claw or climb their way into the ark. Try to imagine yourself inside the ark as all this happens. Perhaps they were on the third deck looking out the window. Perhaps they were huddled in the center, like we would take cover during a tornado or hurricane. The Bible does not record Noah’s actions during that time, but I believe he clung to God and far more life as he faced the unknown.

After the 40 days and nights of rain, the Bible tells us the water prevailed on the earth for 150 days (Genesis 7:17, 24, 8:3). Scripture does not record if Noah knew they would spend over a year in the ark (Genesis 7:11, 8:13-14). Would you have been antsy on day 41, ready to get off the boat? How would you have felt if all you could see out the window for 150 days was water (Genesis 7:18-20)? Would you have worried whether you loaded enough food? I would have!

Eventually the water receded and the ark came to rest on some mountains (Genesis 8:4). But it was still several months before God told them to leave the ark. Would you have feared that God forgot you? How would you have spent that time? Would it have fostered far more life? The Bible does not record Noah’s thoughts or feelings, so we do not know if his faith wavered or remained strong every moment of that year.

Finally God called Noah and his family out of the ark (Genesis 8:15). What is the first thing you would have done when your feet returned to dry ground?

So Noah went out…then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took some of every kind of clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. (Genesis 8:18, 20, NASB)

Noah built an altar and worshiped God. There is no record of God commanding this; I believe it reflected Noah’s heart. This was not a small sacrifice, something Noah did quickly before heading out to explore Earth 2.0. First Noah gathered materials and built an altar. Then he invested time and energy preparing and offering every acceptable animal sacrifice. I believe Noah was expressing his love, gratitude, and reverence for God. As he walked out of the ark into a world that was entirely unfamiliar to him, Noah walked in far more life. He knew he would walk with God each step of the way to repopulate and rebuild the earth.

No human — except possibly Adam and Eve — have witnessed as dramatic a change to the world as Noah and his family did. Everything they had known before was gone. Everything but God. Yet God was enough for Noah and his family. Far more life was enough through the preparation, flood, and aftermath. Far more life is also enough for us through all of life’s changes.

Sisters,
What is the biggest change you have faced in life? How did you react to it?
What would you have thought and felt if you had been with Noah?
Will you trust God through the changes ahead in your life? Is He enough for you?
Thank God for seeing us through it all; thank Him for far more life.
Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Words of Life

Words. Most of us find them necessary in daily life. We use them to understand what is happening around us. We also use them to express what is happening within us. They enable us to communicate ideas, feelings, dreams, facts, desires, and needs. They can cause connection or division among people. They can hurt or help. They can be powerful or empty.

God’s spoken words brought much of what we know into being. According to Genesis 1, each day “God said…” and something new was formed. Light. Space. Sea and land. Sun, moon, and stars. Birds and sea creatures. Land animals. God’s words are powerful!

The Bible is God’s Word. Although we cannot talk with him face-to-face or audibly hear His voice, His words are recorded there for us to study, understand, and heed. Psalm 119 is filled with references to the value of His Word and its impact on our lives. I remember being inspired by this verse as a child:

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11, NIV)

The Bible offers us a precious gift: the opportunity to know God’s heart, purpose, and ways. It offers words of life that enable us to join His family and His work. We are wise to pay attention to it. Jesus affirms the value of His words as well:

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because its foundation had been laid on rock. (Matthew 7:24-25, NET)

God gives us freedom to choose what we will do with His words. Taking them seriously and acting on them leads to far more life. It brings us safety and security when problems enter our lives. Following His words provides us with a spiritual foundation that will not collapse when the storms of life come against us. As our Creator, He knows what is best for us and what will devastate us. He knows our deepest needs as well as our strengths. Although some view them as restrictive, His words are intended to provide a boundary within which we can thrive, finding far more life as we pursue a relationship with Him.

It should not be surprising that the LORD’s words have power and authority since He is all-powerful and the ultimate authority. He does not make empty promises or idle threats. His words are backed by His character and provide trustworthy instruction. He even communicates how we should use our words:

Do not let unwholesome [foul, profane, worthless, vulgar] words ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good for building up others, according to the need and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing to those who hear [you speak].(Ephesians 4:29, AMP)

You must mean “Yes” when you say “Yes”. You must mean “No” when you say “No”. (Matthew 5:37, WE)

With our tongues we praise our Lord and Father. Yet, with the same tongues we curse people, who were created in God’s likeness. Praise and curses come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, this should not happen! (James 3:9-10, GW)

Our words are powerful, too. They have the power to build others up or tear them down. They have the power to praise God or curse Him. They can bring hurt or healing. They reveal our character and the hidden contents of our heart. Our words can be life-giving or life-destroying. Far more life speaks words of life.

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. (Ephesians 4:15, NLT)

Words of life speak the truth in love. God wants our words to speak life to the listener. He wants us to speak truth rather than flattery, boasting, or outright lies. God also wants us to speak in love, with the motive of building up the listener and revealing His character. Sometimes speaking in love is firm and direct, but it is never hateful, defensive, or vengeful. Love for God compels us to speak words of life to the people around us, whether or not they acknowledge His lordship.

The life-giving words are not just for others; far more life speaks the truth in love to ourselves as well. Our internal dialogue can build us up or tear us down. God wants to lovingly mold us into His character through words of life. He offers His children grace, help, and hope rather than condemnation, criticism, and defeat. God sees beyond our actions to understand the motives of our hearts (I Samuel 16:7). We are clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27) and justified before God (Romans 5:9). God — who is perfect and aware of every secret sin we commit — does not condemn us (Romans 8:1), so surely we have no reason to condemn ourselves! God wants us to confess our sins (James 5:16) and pursue righteousness (Romans 6:13), but out of gratitude and love, not guilt and shame (Romans 10:11). Embracing these life-giving words brings far more life!

But the words that come out of your mouth come from your heart. (Matthew 15:18, CEV)

If you want to think and speak life-giving words, you must first have them in your heart. Study God’s words of life. Wrestle with them until you understand them so you can wholeheartedly believe them. (It is okay to ask for help; we will spend the rest of our lives growing in our understanding of His Word.) Then share far more life with others by sharing words of life with them!

Sisters,
In general, do think of words as good, bad, or neutral?
What about God’s Word makes it valuable to you?
Are more of your words to others life-giving or life-destroying? To yourself?
What helps you speak the truth in love?
Thank God for giving us His Word to help us find far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Renewed

Some of us begin our spiritual journey searching for relief from pain or difficult circumstances. Others are looking for direction or meaning in life. These can be powerful motivators to explore new options and initiate change, to find a different and better path. They may lead us to a personal relationship with Christ, even if that was not where we expected our journey to lead. For a while, that new relationship brings new awareness, positive change, and motivation to begin or continue doing what is good and right. We experience far more life than we have experienced before!

But we cannot sustain Christian growth for an extended time with personal fulfillment as our motivation. If we want far more life to last a lifetime, our motivation must become our love for God. As our relationship with Him matures, our perspective on Him naturally changes. We grow to see Him less as Santa Claus or a cosmic vending machine — someone who gives us what we desire if we perform correctly. Instead we recognize His character and the reverence He deserves. Here are a few examples of His name and titles that reveal His character:

  • Yahweh (Usually translated “LORD”, this means “self-existent one” or “He who brings into being”. Yahweh is God’s name, just like my name Shari.)

By Wisdom Yahweh laid the foundation of the earth. By understanding he established the heavens. (Proverbs 3:19, NOG)

  • Elohim (title meaning almighty or all-powerful):

In the beginning Elohim created heaven and earth. (Genesis 1:1, NOG)

  • Elyon (title meaning supreme or most high):

…Your name is Yahweh. You alone are Elyon of the whole earth. (Psalm 83:18, NOG)

  • El Olam (title meaning everlasting):

Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? El OlamYahweh, the Creator of the ends of the earth, doesn’t grow tired or become weary. His understanding is beyond reach. (Isaiah 40:28, NOG)

  • Adonai/Adonay (title meaning master):

The priests who carry the ark of Yahweh, the Adonay of the whole earth, will stand in the water of the Jordan. Then the water flowing from upstream will stop and stand up like a dam. (Joshua 3:13, NOG)

  • El Shaddai /Shadday (title meaning all-sufficient sustainer):

…The breath of Shadday gives me life. (Job 33:4, NOG)

  • Roeh (title meaning shepherd, friend):

Yahweh is my Roeh. I am never in need. (Psalm 23:1, NOG)

He who brings into being. All powerful. Supreme. Everlasting. Master. All-sufficient sustainer. Friend. Those terms describe Someone worth getting to know! Not just because of what He can do for us, but because of His own merits. They describe Someone who deserves our respect. Someone we can learn from. Someone we would do well to emulate. And God does want us to emulate Him! The Old Testament and Jesus’ first recorded sermon both include this instruction:

…I am the Lord your God. I am holy, and you must be holy too! (Leviticus 19:2, CEV)

But you must always act like your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:48, CEV)

Of course, humans are incapable of living a completely sinless life. We are born with a sinful nature that desires to do our own thing and be our own boss instead of giving God His rightful place in our hearts and lives. (Romans 3:23, James 4:17) Fortunately, when we accept Jesus as our Savior we receive a built-in “righteousness guide”, the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, I Corinthians 6:19). From that day forward, God the Spirit lives inside of us, giving us the power to overcome sinful thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and actions (2 Peter 1:3). But the change is not automatic; we must reclaim control from our sinful nature.

“…Live your life as your spiritual nature directs you. Then you will never follow through on what your corrupt nature wants.” (Galatians 5:16, GW)

Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect. (Romans 12:2, NCV)

We know that we are being directed by our spiritual nature when we display His characteristics: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Any time we do not feel or display those traits, we are being directed by the corrupt nature. We can try harder to push it aside, but sometimes our effort is not enough to create permanent change. Instead we must be changed from within through a new way of thinking.

We change our thinking by changing our core beliefs. Sinful thoughts, feelings, and actions reveal core beliefs that are still spiritually “corrupted”. But we can “follow the feelings” to bring them to the light. First, we recognize what negative emotion we are feeling. Then we ask ourselves why we feel that (i.e., what do we believe). Which may lead us to another negative emotion; asking “why” again reveals another belief. When that back-and-forth reaches a belief about our identity or God’s character that disagrees with the Bible, we have exposed our corrupt thinking! Bringing to mind God’s truth — His perspective, words, and actions — at that moment allows us to renew that part of our mind for God. When presented with a similar situation in the future, we will be able to respond as God would! It can be a slow, painful process to find and replace corrupt beliefs. But it is worthwhile because each step of that process yields far more life: becoming more like God!

Sisters,
What initially prompted you to seek out God? What prompts you now?
How would you describe your friendship with God? Is it one-way or two-way?
Which name or title of God is most meaningful to you? Why?
How do you feel about being more like God? Any hesitation or reluctance?
Do you experience negative feelings regularly? Are you willing to try “following them” to renew your thinking?
Praise God for allowing you to keep growing far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Great Adventure

The thief comes with the sole intention of stealing and killing and destroying, but I came to bring them life, and far more life than before. (John 10:10, PHILLIPS)

Jesus came to earth to bring humans far more life than they had without Him. So we could experience all that He intended for us and become who He designed us to be.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. (John 6:51, NIV)

…The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28, NIV)

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10, NIV)

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:4, NIV)

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17, NIV)

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28, NIV)

Jesus is the light that leads us to eternal life. He offers us salvation from the punishment we deserve for our sin. He paid the ransom that set us free. Jesus was not focused on His own comfort during His time on earth. He did not pursue wealth, power, or influence. He was not trudging through His weeks, living for the weekend when He could immerse Himself in what He wanted to do. His life was centered on His God-given mission: to restore our relationship with God.

But His life was not drudgery. It was overflowing with love, joy, peace, and more because those are the character traits of God. Jesus experienced far more life! Pursuing His God-given mission did not detract from Jesus’ life, it helped Him model far more life for us.

We find far more life as we pursue our God-given mission, too. And rather than pulling us away from the good things in life, focusing on our mission will enhance our lives. So what mission has He given His children?

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. (Romans 8:29, NIV)

…Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV)

…Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16, NIV)

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (I Peter 2:12, NIV)

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31, NIV)

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)

…Do good … be rich in good deeds … be generous and willing to share. (I Timothy 6:18, NIV)

Our mission is to draw attention to God. We sometimes call this bringing Him glory. But it just means giving Him the honor He deserves and making His magnificence and beauty known to others. He wants us to become like Him so that others can see His character in action. He wants us to tell others about Jesus and the way to a relationship with God. He wants us to teach them how to become like Him, too. He wants us to do good things to show His goodness. He wants us to model Him in every area of life, not just on certain days or at certain locations. In doing this, we experience far more life!

The best this world can offer pales in comparison to God’s glory. The most beautiful scenery is more beautiful when we acknowledge God as its Designer and Creator. The most rewarding experiences are more rewarding when they are investing in relationships that will last for eternity. Wealth is more satisfying when it is seen as a gift from God and used to meet the physical and spiritual needs of others. Love and laughter are deeper and richer in relationships that are unconditional, pure, and unified. Songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman described far more life as “The Great Adventure.”

God knows we are incapable of living for Him perfectly. But Jesus has already paid for those moments. We can recognize them, apologize, and get back on mission. In fact, sometimes failures give us a chance to draw attention to other aspects of His character. I see Jesus clearly in others when I sin against them and they show me grace. I model God when others sin against me and I quickly and compassionately forgive them. These, too, are far more life moments! Our sins and failures do not define us. Part of our adventure is turning from our sin to glorifying God to the best of our ability. May we, like Jesus, be able to pray this at the end of our lives:

I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. (John 17:4, NIV)

If you have been on mission, keep up the good work of far more life! If you have not, start today…the adventure of far more life is waiting!

Sisters,
How does it feel to know that Jesus’ mission was to bring your far more life?
Do you think Jesus’ life was drudgery or an adventure? What about your life?
How can you draw attention to God — bring Him glory — with the personality, blessings, and opportunities available to you today?
Embrace the great adventure of far more life with Jesus!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Numbered Days

I have heard many people express eagerness to say, “Good riddance!” to 2020. Although there are no guarantees that changing the calendar will improve our lives, they hope the coming year brings fewer challenges. Hope is a powerful force in our lives, but it is not like a free-floating balloon. It must be tethered to an object or person; we hope in something or someone. The days on the calendar are powerless to bring good or prevent bad. Far more life hopes in the character of God and His promises recorded in the Bible every day.

Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should. (Psalm 90:12, TLB)

Most years, including 2021, offer us 365 days, 8760 hours, 525,600 minutes, or 13,536,000 seconds. Each of those moments is like a gift, waiting to be unwrapped. Some of those gifts will be wonderful, exciting, or lovely. Others will be unpleasant, difficult, or sad. As we open each gift, we have to decide what value it offers and what to do with it. We can: keep it (in our memories or the forefront of our mind); give it to someone else (by sharing the experience in the moment or later telling them about it); or throw it in the garbage (move on or choose to not think about it). We are wise to look below the surface before deciding what to do with each gift. Sometimes the best gifts appear undesirable at first glance. I have experienced this with difficult conversations that, when resolved, led to personal growth and deeper relationships. I have also experienced this with potential friendships that I did not pursue and later regretted. Far more life unwraps and examines each gift, each day, in order to spend it as we should.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV)

Every sunrise serves as a reminder of God’s love and faithfulness. Whether we judge a day to be good or bad, His compassion goes with His children into every situation we face. Far more life greets each new day expectantly, looking for God’s work in and around us. We are never alone (Deuteronomy 31:8). We are never forgotten (Isaiah 49:15-16). He will not allow us to be spiritually destroyed (John 10:10, 2 Corinthians 4:8-9). He will give us all we need for that day. (Philippians 4:19). If you doubt these promises, consider starting a journal to record how you experience God’s compassion and faithfulness each day. Some days you will record one or more good things that happened. Other days You will see His provision through things that could have been worse. We are tempted to focus on our circumstances, but also look for His spiritual provision — times where you experience or share love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and forgiveness. Living in the fruit of His Spirit always makes it a good day!

For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. (Zechariah 4:10, ESV)

The tallest trees on earth, Sequoia sempervirens aka California redwoods, begin as a tiny seed. The largest animals on earth, blue whales, grow from the union of a single egg and tiny sperm. We tend to marvel on the full-grown majesty but forget to be amazed at the beginnings. Similarly, the day a venture begins — and each day of growth along the way — is also a cause for rejoicing. There will come a time when the progress will become obvious and even those who started with a critical attitude will rejoice; as the verse above states, those who were discouraged at the slow work of laying the temple foundation rejoiced when a plumb line was required to ensure the rising walls were built straight. We are wise to value the days of small things, too. There is reason to rejoice in the beginning of a friendship, the first step away from addictive behavior, or a righteous choice on a small matter. Far more life recognizes that each day offers opportunities for rejoicing over small things. Because much of life is small things.

A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. (Job 14:5, NIV)

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

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)

Our days on earth are numbered and God has plans for each one! You will find far more life as you search for and embrace His purpose for you each day.

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

When our time on earth is over, those who have accepted Christ will be taken Home. What a wonderful day it will be when we are united with our Creator and Savior! Each day we spend on earth is a day with Him in Spirit that brings us closer to the day we will be with Him physically. Since each day offers far more life, we can count them all as good days!

Sisters,
In what or who do you place your hope?
How do you decide which “gifts” from your day to keep, which to share, and which to throw out?
Do you regularly take stock of your daily blessings? If not, consider writing them down this year to have a record of God’s faithfulness.
What do you need to remember or do to make the most of each day God gives you on earth?
Thank God that far more life starts with numbered days on earth but continues for an infinite number of days in Heaven!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Perfect Plan

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8, AMP)

This verse is proven true by the Christmas story, the events of Jesus’ birth as recorded in the Bible. If humans were planning this historical event, we would have done it much differently!

…Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will name Him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14, NASB)

We would not have asked Mary to carry the burden of misunderstanding and public rejection that accompanied the virgin birth. We would have wanted her to remain respected and accepted. Yet God knew the virgin birth was the best for His plan.

The angel said to her, “…You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God.”  (Luke 1:30-32, NASB)

…An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”  (Matthew 1:20, NASB)

We would have told the angel to talk with Mary and Joseph together. Then they could have been united from the beginning, both having heard the same proclamation, both having the opportunity to ask questions. Yet God chose to tell them separately for His own reasons.

So Joseph and his fiancé, Mary, left Nazareth…When they arrived in Bethlehem, Mary went into labor, and there she gave birth to her firstborn son. After wrapping the newborn baby in strips of cloth, they laid him in a feeding trough since there was no available space in any upper room in the village. (Luke 2:4-7, TPT)

We would not have sent our son to be born in the feed trough of a barn in a distant city. We would have wanted him to be in a more comfortable environment, perhaps the best hospital or at home with the best midwife. Yet God’s perfect plan for His Son’s arrival on earth prevailed.

When the angels went away from them back into heaven, the shepherds…hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and saw the baby lying in the manger. (Luke 2:15-16, GNT)

We would not have let our son’s first visitors be shepherds from nearby fields. We would have chosen close family and friends to share our joy and welcome our son. But God knew shepherds were the best visitors to welcome His Son to earth.

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him.” (Matthew 2:13, NASB)

We would not have forced our son to flee to a foreign country to spare his life from a jealous king. We would not have wanted to uproot his life in this way. But God had a reason for His direction, even if He did not share the details with Joseph.

Throughout the rest of His life on earth, Jesus encountered many more situations where God’s ways are not the ways we would have chosen. And we experience this in our lives, too. Far more life does not expect God to think and act as we want. It is secure in telling God, “I do not understand why you did it like this.” But it also submits to His authority and wholeheartedly believes that He alone knows best because He alone knows everything. Far more life is more than yielding to God’s ways; it is embracing them as the best ways.

The book of Job records a man and his friends doing their best to decipher why God has allowed Job to encounter so many troubles. And they fail miserably! For 37 chapters they present their proposals and arguments. Then, starting in chapter 38, God challenges their knowledge and wisdom with His truth. Humbled by God’s reminders of the vast differences between Himself and humans, Job meekly answers:

I know that You can do all things, and that no plan is impossible for You…Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I do not know…I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You. (Job 42:2-5, NASB)

Job found far more life by discovering a new depth of understanding of the difference between God’s thoughts and his own, and between God’s ways and his own. He admitted that God’s understanding is too wonderful for him to comprehend. His spiritual eyes were open to the vast difference between himself and God.

Human nature has not changed since Job’s time. We still are tempted to create God in our image rather than resting in far more life by allowing ourselves to be molded to His image. When we find ourselves resisting God, we are wise to stop and ask ourselves why. How do we feel about God at that moment? What false belief about Him is controlling us and robbing us of far more life? What is preventing us from trusting Him completely? What aspect of His character are we doubting or disbelieving? Why are we resisting Him?

Clinging to our limited understanding makes us miserable. Letting go of our thoughts on how things should be and adopting God’s thoughts brings peace and joy. In moments of doubt, remember the Christmas story: God’s perfect plan to bring us far more life!

Sisters,
Where do you struggle to accept God’s ways?
In what areas of life have you expected God to do what you want?
Are you willing to look for the false beliefs that are robbing you of far more life?
How can the Christmas story remind you that God’s ways are best?
Thank God for His perfect plan for you — and the gift of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

I Know

I was reading Revelation recently and noticed this verse:

I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. (Revelation 2:13, NIV)

Although we often think of the phrase “I know where you live…” as a threat, it was comforting that Jesus used it to express understanding and compassion. He knew the challenges facing the church in Pergamum and understood the effort and dedication it took for them to remain true to His name. I was reminded that He knows the challenges all His children face and understands the sacrifices we make to faithfully follow Him.

I was curious about other places in Scripture where God or Jesus say “I know”. There are more than I expected…too many to include here! As you read the verses listed below, think about what God knows about you and the impact that truth has on your relationship with Him — how it opens the door to far more life.

Then God said to [Abimelek] in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me.” (Genesis 20:6, NIV)

I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine. (Psalm 50:11, NIV)

But I know where you are and when you come and go and how you rage against me. (Isaiah 37:28, NIV)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)

This is what the Lord says: “That is what you are saying, you leaders in Israel, but I know what is going through your mind.” (Ezekiel 11:5, NIV)

But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” (Luke 8:46, NIV)

The Father has sent me here, and I know all about him, for I [Jesus] have come from his presence. (John 7:29, TPT)

…I know [God] and I [Jesus] obey his word. (John 8:55, WE)

I [Jesus] am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. (John 10:14, NIV)

I know that [the Father’s] command leads to eternal life. (John 12:50, NIV)

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. (Revelation 2:2, NIV)

I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. (Revelation 2:19, NIV)

I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. (Revelation 3:1, NIV)

…I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. (Revelation 3:8, NIV)

God wants us to know Him, too. Below are some verses recording what Biblical authors state they know about God. Consider how you have experienced these aspects of His character and how that has given you far more life.

… I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed. (Numbers 22:6, NIV)

I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. (Joshua 2:9, NIV)

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. (Job 19:25, NIV)

I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2, NIV)

I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. (Psalm 135:5, NIV)

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14, NIV)

I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy. (Psalm 140:12, NIV)

I know everything God does endures for all time. Nothing can be added to it; nothing can be taken away from it. We humans can only stand in awe of all God has done. (Ecclesiastes 3:14, VOICE)

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” (John 4:25, NIV)

…One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I see.” (John 9:25, NCV)

I know who I have believed in. I am sure he is able to take care of what I have given him. I can trust him with it until the day he returns as judge. (2 Timothy 1:12, NIRV)

You are known intimately by God. You can know God through His Word and your life experiences as His child. What a wonderful privilege you and I have to pursue far more life in Him!

Sisters,
Do you desire to be known and understood?

How do you feel about God knowing and understanding you? Are there things you think He does not know or understand? Things you do not want Him to know?
What verse from the first list was most meaningful to you and why?
Do you desire to know God better? How are you pursuing this desire?
What verse from the second list was most meaningful to you and why?
Thank God for one thing you know about Him or yourself that allows you to have far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

A Prosperous Soul

Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 2, NASB)

I have read 3 John numerous times but never noticed this verse before. What a great perspective! What a memorable description of far more life: a prosperous soul!

We work hard to prosper in many areas of life and to have good physical and mental health. But how much attention do we pay to the prosperity of our soul? We may attend church, pray, read our Bibles, attend Bible study, serve in the church, and do other good works. But these activities may or may not lead to a prosperous soul. They can be soul-feeding connections with God that fulfill and energize us. Or they can simply be habits, obligations, or items to check off our to do list.

What is a prosperous soul? Other Bible versions translate 3 John 2 as: strong in spirit; doing well spiritually; progressing spiritually; it is well with your soul. A prosperous soul is consistently experiencing (and sharing) love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. A prosperous soul is growing in understanding God and becoming more like Him. A prosperous soul is far more life.

When someone asks how we are, imagine if we answered based on the condition of our soul:
“I am having wonderful fellowship with God today!”
“I am praising Christ for all He has done for me!”
“I am expectantly waiting for God’s best in some areas to become evident!”
“I am having a hard day but trust Him to keep all His promises!”
“I feel disconnected from God.”

“God’s promises feel empty and meaningless.”
“I am struggling to walk in the fruit of the Spirit.
“I am angry with God.”

In many situations, those would be awkward responses. But it is refreshing and life-changing to be self-aware and open with trusted brothers or sisters in Christ. I have a good friend who regularly asks, “How are you doing spiritually?” I confess that sometimes it is tempting to answer “Fine,” and change the subject. But I know she is offering me a precious gift! Sharing the condition of our souls helps us prosper by living out Paul’s instruction to the Philippians:

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. (Philippians 2:1-2, NIV)

This Scripture passage was read at my wedding and has challenged me many times to get my heart right toward God and my husband! Being open about the prosperity — or lack of prosperity — in my soul has benefitted me and our relationship. It has helped me maintain far more life. And enabled us to have a loving, Christ-centered marriage.

A prosperous soul is the foundation of a healthy life. When our soul is healthy, we keep everything else in the perspective of eternity. It reminds me of the promise in Matthew:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33, NIV)

“All these things” are covered in the preceding verses: life (what you will eat and drink) and clothes (what you will wear). At a minimum, when we are investing our lives in God’s kingdom, He will supply our basic physical needs. But this promise is attached to a command found a few verses earlier:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? (Matthew 6:25, NIV)

The command that produces a prosperous soul and healthy life is, “Do not worry.” When we replace worry — mental distress resulting from concern for something anticipated — with trust that God already knows our needs and is prepared, willing, able, and planning to meet them, our soul prospers. And we gain far more life.

Worry is based on a faulty belief about God and our position before Him. It robs us of far more life. Perhaps we can recite multiple Bible verses about God’s faithfulness, love, provision, and our righteous standing before Him. But some part of our mind does not believe it. Some experience from the past planted a seed of doubt that Satan has watered and fertilized to keep our soul from optimal prosperity. Thankfully we are not stuck with that lie. We can expose it by exploring our negative emotions and the reasons behind them until we discover the false belief and replace it with God’s truth. (To learn a systematic method for this, read the post “New Master”, published October 29, 2020.)

What keeps your soul healthy? Your spiritual diet and exercise choices!

He refreshes my soul. (Psalm 23:3, NIV)

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25, NIV)

Choose what goes into your mind and heart: connect daily with God and His word; engage meaningfully with other believers; pursue pure entertainment and recreational options. Also engage in the disciplines that promote spiritual growth: regular praise and prayer; capturing false or harmful beliefs in obedience to Christ; blessing others by using your spiritual gifts. When you recognize your soul is unhealthy — not experiencing the fruit of the Spirit — confess it and do the heart work needed to get back on track.

Every day can be a prosperous and healthy day for your soul. A day of far more life!

Sisters,
Do you focus more on your prosperity in life, your health, or the state of your soul?

How would you describe a prosperous soul?
What is the condition of your soul right now?
What spiritual diet or exercise practice would improve the health of your soul?
Thank God for enabling you to improve the prosperity of your soul today and embrace far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

On Mission

What role are Christians to play in society? This question has been asked for centuries. Groups have united and divided over this topic. Christians and non-Christians alike voice their opinions on this. There is no single answer about the specifics, but the Bible does answer this question by giving us a mission to complete. Jesus shared these instructions with His closest followers before He departed for Heaven:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20a, NASB)

The same instructions apply to His followers today. Go. Make disciples. Baptize them. Teach them. Fulfilling Christ’s mission is where we find far more life.

First, Jesus told us to go. He wants us to be part of society. He wants us to develop relationships so others can see Him in us. We can offer His compassion and grace. We can speak His truth in love. We can feed and clothe and meet other practical needs.

Where should we go? To people. We should go to neighbors, co-workers, family, and friends. We can also go to those who are hurting or ignored by others. Some of us are called by God to go far away. But most are called to go to people in our own neighborhood or community.

You yourself are a guide to people who are blind, a light to those in darkness. (Romans 2:19, NASB)

Jesus said we are the light of the world. We must go into society for others to see our light. My son experienced this at his middle school. His lab partner, PJ, was not well-liked. He was socially awkward and lacked interpersonal skills. The other students either ignored or teased PJ; he did not have friends. My son was kind and patient with PJ, even when he was difficult. One day PJ asked my son, “Why are you different?” He had only seen darkness in other students, but he saw light in my son. If my son had not been his lab partner, PJ would have continued to see only darkness. If we do not go into society, people will only see darkness. 

Next Jesus told us to make disciples. When we go into society, our mission is to share Jesus. Knowing God’s love and forgiveness is everyone’s most important need. And God has equipped and instructed us to meet that need!

Often we start sharing through our actions, by showing love and kindness. This includes listening, giving of ourselves, and offering help. Those God is drawing will want to learn more about the differences they see in us. Just like PJ wanted to learn more about the difference in my son.

Imitate me, brothers and sisters, and look around to those already following the example we have set.  (Philippians 3:17, VOICE)

Once others have seen the difference, we can share the good news of Jesus. We can tell them about His love and His offer of forgiveness and far more life. We do not need to do this alone; we can join with other Christians to make disciples. My son was involved in a Christian ministry that met after school and PJ started attending it, too. There he met more Christians, heard about Jesus, and eventually became His disciple! Disciples experience far more life.

Then Jesus said to baptize new disciples. This is an important step in following Jesus. Baptism does not change our standing with God, but it does have spiritual impact:

For you are all sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27, NASB)

The parable of the sower in Matthew 13 tells us some who hear the message will not want to become disciples. Others will appear to become disciples, but will not continue in Christ. But some will become genuine disciples who are committed to Jesus. Baptism is one way we communicate our decision to start a new life of growth and obedience to God. For disciples in countries with religious freedom, baptism may seem unimportant. But our Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world face punishment or death for expressing their faith so boldly. Baptism is an important component of far more life.

Finally, Jesus said to teach new disciples to obey His commands. Notice he is talking to every Christian, not only pastors and ministry leaders! Each of us can teach what we have learned about Jesus.

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2, NASB)

We do not teach young children complicated math. We first teach them to count. Then they learn to add. They learn more and more until they can solve difficult problems. The same is true spiritually. Just as a child can teach a younger one to count, a new believer can tell people about God’s forgiveness. They can teach others each spiritual lesson they learn. God wants us to share what we learn with other disciples. We experience far more life as we learn and grow together in Christ!

What is the role of a Christian in society? Go. Make disciples. Baptize them. Teach them. Shine the light of far more life as you fulfill your God-given mission.

Sisters,
How does your mission in life impact your interaction with society?
Which instruction is easiest for you: go, make disciples, baptize them, or teach them? Which is most difficult?
How have you been positively influenced by Christians you know?
How have you been a light to others?
Thank God for giving you a mission — and far more life!

-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso