Beautiful Bodies

And there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies; the beauty that belongs to heavenly bodies is different from the beauty that belongs to earthly bodies. (I Corinthians 15:40, GNT)

This verse recently stood out from my Bible reading. In my research, I found some scholars interpret “heavenly bodies” as the glorified bodies God’s children will live in once we reach heaven while others interpret it as celestial objects (sun, moon, stars, etc.). Whichever definition of “heavenly body” came to mind as you read it, I assume you considered it something marvelous and beautiful. Heavenly bodies are breath-taking and attest to God’s creativity, power, and wisdom.

But do you also marvel at the beauty of earthly bodies, especially your own? We are often quick to notice our perceived imperfections but slow to recognize God’s creativity, power, and wisdom when we look in the mirror. But far more life allows you to see yourself as God does, spiritually and physically. And He approves of how He created each of His daughters!

I took a class in college titled “Sensation and Perception”. It was a fascinating study of the five human senses. Multiple times over the semester our professor stressed that our senses were perfect for our environment; we perceived all we needed without picking up “interference”. Each time she said that I thought, “What powerful evidence that we were created by a loving God!” Studying the intricacy of our senses and how precisely they are attuned to our environment left me in awe of the beauty God gave our bodies.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! (Psalm 139:13-17, NIV)

I appreciate the reminder in these verses that God was intimately involved in the creation of each person. I do not know if he specifically chose your hair color, eye color, and height or if He left that to the incredible genetic process He designed. But I do know that He chose features He wanted you specifically to have — in order to live out His purposes for you — and made sure you got them. When He looks at you, He sees beauty! He wants you to embrace that beauty so you will experience far more life.

But often I do not see my body as beautiful. I dislike many of its features, both those I was born with and those — like scars and extra fat — that have developed over time. And I complain about the parts that do not work as well as I would like them to or cause me pain. When I focus on the problems more than the beauty, I miss out on far more life! Will I define myself by the parts of my body I like? By those I dislike? Or by the opportunities I have to use all my parts to experience and glorify God?

I once heard giving God glory described as “doing what you were created to do”. The sun glorifies God by giving off light. The ocean gives God glory through the ebb and flow of the tide. Birds glorify God by building nests, migrating, singing, and other bird activities. People glorify God by loving Him, obeying His instructions, and growing to be like Him in character. Our physical bodies were designed to glorify God through our thoughts, words, and actions! I don’t think the sun gets frustrated when something blocks its light and creates a shadow. Nor do birds give up on building a nest when materials are hard to find. Although they do not share our reasoning skills, they just keep doing what God designed them to do. But we sometimes get thrown off-course when our imperfect bodies block our attempts to live for God and glorify Him. We no longer believe our bodies — or our work for God — is beautiful and pleasing to Him. But we are wrong.

Far more life does not undervalue or overvalue our bodies, rather it sees them as God does, beautiful vessels that serve a divine purpose. And when our life on this earth is over, He will give us new beautiful bodies that are designed to serve our new eternal purpose!

Sisters,
What part of creation do you find most beautiful?
How have you discovered that God designed your body to meet the purposes He has for you in this life?
How do you use your body to bring God glory?
Thank God for your beautiful body and far more life in Him!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Loving Justice

We often discuss far more life as an internal richness rooted in a right understanding of God and His interactions with us. But far more life is not limited to us; God wants our richness to overflow and touch others. This post examines the impact far more life has on our pursuit of justice.

You should set your hearts on the highest spiritual gifts, but I will show you what is the highest way of all…love (I Corinthians 12:31-13:1, PHILLIPS)

The best motive for seeking justice is love. Love for: those who were wronged; those who acted wrongly; others who have been or may later be hurt by this offender; and love for God. God’s love working through us allows us to love multiple parties involved while seeking justice.

Love protects us from acting maliciously against those who hurt others or oppressing the oppressors. Love allows us to experience and model far more life so we do not respond unjustly.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (I Corinthians 1:3, NIV)

Humans can accomplish amazing things: make life-changing speeches that motivate people; understand complex issues that make the impossible possible; and offer costly sacrifices to benefit others. But, unless our motivation is love, our efforts are worthless and accomplish nothing of lasting value.

So what does love that pursues justice look like? I Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV) offers these insights:

Love is patient. Other translations use “never gives up” or “suffers long”. Justice does not happen immediately. Sometimes it takes a lifetime. Loving justice is engaged for the long haul, step by step.

Love is kind. Injustice can tempt us to be unkind. But love prompts us to be useful and practical, meeting the needs we observe. A loving pursuit of justice demonstrates far more life by acting in ways that are constructive and helpful.

Love does not envy. We may be jealous of others’ situations that get a faster or more satisfying result. This can distract us and hinder our love. Loving justice rejoices for the justice others have received. Loving justice is motivated by a desire for right outcomes because they are right, not because others received them.

Love does not boast. It is not proud. It is not self-seeking. Parents of preschoolers often hear “look at me!” Over and over. Young children are exuberant about the things they are learning and want their achievements to be recognized. But justice-seeking love does not pursue personal praise or recognition. It pursues praise for God, the creator of justice, and the fulfillment of His will on earth. God-glorifying justice motivated by love is a noble pursuit.

Love does not dishonor others. Loving justice does not tear down others to make the one who was wronged look better. The actions of the oppressor speak for themselves as dishonorable, wrong, and evil. Love prompted by far more life is not afraid to speak the truth, but is focused on a righteous outcome rather than character assassination.

Love is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Far more life helps us let a lot of things go. It is not easily offended and does not hold grudges. It knows God sees every sin and will deliver complete justice, so we are freed from keeping track. Loving justice helps us distinguish when to speak up against wrongs and when to entrust them to God. Both are rooted in love and a desire for righteousness.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. I think of the familiar saying, “Two wrongs do not make a right.” Loving justice does not seek to get even or inflict pain on the offender; it mourns all forms of evil. It does not exaggerate or spin the story. It seeks for everyone to experience righteousness, whether through blessing or just punishment from just authorities. It celebrates true remorse and genuinely changed lives. It values each person as being made in God’s image and having the opportunity to humble themselves and ask forgiveness.

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. This verse speaks to the heart of far more life. Loving justice hopes in God’s righteousness and trusts His perfect justice. It perseveres because it knows He will ultimately overcome evil and set everything right. It always protects, wanting everyone to experience the blessing of a relationship with God; but this is not a blind protection that hides evil. Rather it keeps love at the forefront in deciding what, when, and how to share. This is lived out when family members of those who have been oppressed beg others to not take the law into their own hands. They seek to protect some from doing evil and others from being hurt by evil. They trust that authorities (human and/or God) will deliver just punishment. Their hope is in God, and they persevere in seeking righteousness as they patiently await justice.

Love never fails. Far more life knows that God never fails and following His instructions will never fail us. Love is the highest way, the best and purest motive in pursuing justice.

Sisters,
What makes love the best motive for seeking justice?
Which characteristics of love have you experienced from others when you acted wrongly?
Which have you shown those who wronged you?
How are you tempted to pursue unloving “justice”?
What barriers keep you from trusting that God’s justice will ultimately prevail?
Thank God for the richness of far more life that empowers you to love justly!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Far More Justice

I have been reading through I Corinthians lately which, along with recent events, has me thinking a lot about justice. I find it a challenging topic, in part because justice is multi-faceted. There is: justice God offers people through Jesus; justice between people and their government or laws; and justice between individual people or groups.

We desire justice on all three fronts, but two depend on imperfect people, which creates great opportunity for injustice to prevail. For example, we often hear of court cases where the guilty are declared innocent. Or people who are taken advantage of by others. I often feel helpless and hopeless to make a difference in situations like these. So I turn to God’s word for perspective and instruction. I am still growing in understanding my role in helping others find justice, but here are some of my recent discoveries from God’s Word and how they are spurring me toward far more life.

And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for he is a God of justice. (Psalm 50:6, NIV)

I will sing of your love and justice; to you, Lord, I will sing praise. (Psalm 101:1, NIV)

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. (Psalm 103:6, NIV)

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. (Psalm 89:14, NIV)

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. (Revelation 19:11, NIV)

Justice is rooted in the nature and character of God. He is just and His thoughts and actions define justice. The more we understand Him, the more we understand justice.

What exactly is justice? Part of the Merriam-Webster definition is, “acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good”. This agrees with the previous Bible verses. But another part of the definition, “assignment of merited rewards or punishments,” paints a different picture. These verses expound on that idea:

When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. (Proverbs 21:15, NIV)

So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours? (I Kings 3:9, NIV)

I appreciate King Solomon’s heart in the verse above. He recognized that just laws and just court rulings reflect God’s moral standards rather than human reasoning. God alone can see the full picture, including hearts and motives, and make a flawless judgment. The starting point of understanding all forms of justice is understanding God’s perspective and standards.

Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is from the Lord that one gets justice. (Proverbs 29:26, NIV)

When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice. (I Kings 3:28, NIV)

God’s justice is not immediate; He allows injustice on earth, often for much longer than we would like. Similarly, justice between people often takes much longer than we would prefer.

…I shout for help, but there is no justice. (Job 19:7, NASB)

Furthermore, I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness. (Ecclesiastes 3:16, NASB)

They cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer… (Revelation 6:10-11, NASB)

We will not see perfect justice on earth until Jesus returns to rule over it. God has promised that one day He will exact justice for sins committed against Him and against other people. On that day, all will be made right.

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (I Corinthians 4:5, NIV)

But we are not helpless and hopeless as we wait for Christ’s return. God’s Word gives us instruction on how we can pursue justice now:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1, NASB)

The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. (Proverbs 29:7, NIV)

He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:18, NASB)

Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. (Leviticus 19:15, NIV)

Evil men do not understand justice, But those who seek the Lord understand all things. (Proverbs 28:5, NASB)

The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, And his tongue speaks justice. (Psalm 37:30, NASB)

God wants us to live justly. We are all invited to find peace with God through Jesus. Then we can imitate His righteous response to everyone we encounter. We can grow in understanding God and sharing His perspectives with others. We can meet the needs of those around us without regard for their station in life, simply seeing them as a person that God created in His own image. Some of us, like King Solomon, are in places of broad influence while most of us hold less influence. But every person plays a part in revealing and promoting God’s justice to the world. Far more life is found not in having more influence, but in our obedience to His calling to live justly.

Sisters,
Which aspect of justice is most important to you?

Think about your definition of justice. Does it line up with God’s character as described in the Bible?
How are you tempted to pursue justice that is defined by human reasoning?
When are you impatient for justice? What helps you wait on God’s delivery of justice?
What actions can you take to live justly in your current life position?
Thank God that one day we will see His perfect justice set everything right!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Jars of Clay

We want to avoid physical and emotional pain, suffering, and death. But we cannot. As long as we are on this earth, in these bodies, we will face these unpleasant experiences. But the Apostle Paul shares a unique perspective:

We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us. We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again…Our bodies show what his death was like, so that his life can also be seen in us…And just as God raised Jesus, he will also raise us to life. (2 Corinthians 4:7-14, CEV)

We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. Clay jars are fragile, common items. They are not valuable, but do serve an important purpose: to hold something valuable. The same is true of our bodies; they are fragile and made of common components. (Selling the chemical elements of a body would only earn a few hundred dollars!) But they hold a treasure:

…Our message is that Jesus Christ is Lord…Now God is shining in our hearts to let you know that his glory is seen in Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:5-6, CEV)

The time will come when I, the Lord, will write my laws on their minds and hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Hebrews 8:10, CEV)

The treasure inside our bodies is a heart that knows Jesus and has been changed by Him! That heart connects to God, grows in love for Him, prompts us to be like Him, and reveals His glory to others. It is a privilege to have the treasure of far more life inside of us!

The real power comes from God and not from us. We do not have power to overcome sin and difficulty — to walk in far more life — on our own. Jesus promised His disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8). And we do! The Holy Spirit gives us the power to: understand spiritual truths, apply wisdom to the challenges we face, and obey God (Isaiah 11); speak the truth powerfully (Micah 3:8); share the gospel of Jesus with others (Acts 1:8); have hope, love, and self-control (Romans 15:13 & 30, 2 Timothy 1:7); and pray to God (Ephesians 6:18, Romans 8:26). I love how this verse describes what we have in Christ:

Children, you belong to God, and you have defeated these enemies. God’s Spirit is in you and is more powerful than the one that is in the world. (I John 4:4, CEV)

God empowers us to remain connected to Him, experiencing His love, joy, peace, hope, and more in every challenge we face. When we are disconnected from Him, we have the ability to find the breach and repair it by applying His truth. Our jars-of-clay bodies are not powerful, but the treasure they hold is!

We are never crushed…we never give up…we get up again. God’s power does not make us immune to pain, but it does empower us to spiritually thrive through it. Our connection to Him enables us to see earthly challenges from an eternal perspective. We know we are not fighting alone through this life; God is with us. He will give us direction, insight, and wisdom. He goes ahead of us and behind us, clearing a path for us to travel through life and ensuring our treasure gets through safely (Psalm 139).

Our bodies show what His death was like so His life can also be seen in us. The fact that we struggle yet exhibit far more life is a testimony to Jesus’ presence in our lives! Without Him, the trouble we face would bring despair. But we have joy, peace, patience, hope, and more from the treasure we carry. God’s power is not limited to our private struggles, it empowers us to love others, even when it is hard. Jesus said the love we show other treasure-bearers reveals to the world what is inside of us:

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV)

The apostle Paul writes a practical illustration of this:

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good…If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.  (I Corinthians 12:7, 26)

His power is clearly shown through our interactions with others in our jars-of-clay family. We demonstrate His presence when we suffer together, rejoice together, and use our spiritual gifts to bless each other. He has entrusted us with the power to extend His love and grace to others and grow their treasure!

Just as God raised Jesus, he will also raise us to life. The treasure we hold is not ruined or lost when our jar of clay cracks or shatters. These jars are only temporary homes. I look forward to the day our treasure is freed from this fragile vessel and transferred to the glorified body God has waiting for us. (I Corinthians 15:42-44) Then we will experience far more life forever! But while we remain here, we embody His power and are called to carry His message of hope to other jars of clay.

Sisters,
How have you experienced your body being fragile but the Spirit within you strong?
How would you describe the “treasure” in your own words? What Bible verses can you think of that describe it?
What challenges has the Holy Spirit given you power to rise above? Where are you disconnected from Him?
How are you living out His instruction to strengthen and support other believers?
Bask in the treasure of far more life today as you share His message of hope with others!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: Grace Kusta Nasralla from Pexels

Praise from the Darkness

Hallelujah! Praise the Lord, my soul! I want to praise the Lord throughout my life. I want to make music to praise my God as long as I live. (Psalm 146:1-2, GW)

The darker my surroundings, Lord, the greater my need to praise You. As the voices around me rise in anger and despair, I will raise my voice in praise to You. I am not unaware of the trouble around me or hiding from challenges. Rather my need for perspective and wisdom drives me to you, the One who sees and knows all.

Do not trust influential people, mortals who cannot help you. When they breathe their last breath, they return to the ground. On that day their plans come to an end. (Psalm 146:3-4, GW)

Father, it is tempting to trust humans to right the wrongs around me. Their claims and solutions sound right and reasonable. But they, like me, are mortals with limited power and resources. They cannot see the hearts of people to know what solution is truly best. They do not know the future and know only fragments of the past. You alone, Father, transcend all generations and fully understand human hearts and actions. You alone have provided the ultimate solution and will one day overcome all evil. It is better that I trust You, my only certain source of help and hope. Open my eyes to see what You see, discerning the real problem and revealing my role in overcoming evil.

Blessed are those who receive help from the God of Jacob. Their hope rests on the Lord their God, who made heaven, earth, the sea, and everything in them. The Lord remains faithful forever. (Psalm 146:5-6, GW)

I am blessed…happy…joyful…when I place my hope in You, Lord, and accept Your help. Even if my circumstances do not change, You give me joy. You keep all Your promises; You never lie, make mistakes, or change your mind. You never misjudge the situation or underestimate the consequences; You know exactly what to do and when to do it. I can trust Your timing and rest in Your arms until You provide a way out. Grow my desire to help others find joy and blessing in You, too!

He brings about justice for those who are oppressed. He gives food to those who are hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free. (Psalm 146:7, GW)

I confess, Father, that I sometimes grow impatient waiting for Your justice, provision, and freedom. My vision is limited to temporary timeframes and solutions because those are all I know. But when I look at eternity, You clearly rescue the oppressed and bring justice in Your perfect timing and way. You feed “soul” hunger, not just the physical hunger that is so often my focus. You offer freedom from more than physical prison; you set my heart and soul free to experience far more life as You intended! My attempts to bring justice, provision, and freedom are insignificant compared to yours. I desire these because I am made in Your image, but help me, Lord, to not see myself as more capable than I truly am. Help me recognize my responsibility and limits so I can join You in battling evil rather than fight against Your plan. Help me see the role You have assigned me; empower me to carry it out while giving me wisdom and strength to walk away from the roles You have not assigned me.

The Lord gives sight to blind people. The Lord straightens the backs of those who are bent over. The Lord loves righteous people. (Psalm 146:8, GW)

Thank you, God, that you can and will overcome the chaos of this world. Although I am governed by forces that tend toward disorder and destruction, You are not. Help me rest securely in Your love so I know, whatever my circumstances, that You are with me and for me. Remind me that whether or not I experience relief in this life, I will be fully restored — for all eternity — when Christ returns. All my suffering and struggles will become insignificant as I bask in Your glory. Help me walk in righteousness every moment, whether You call me to wait or to act.

The Lord protects foreigners. The Lord gives relief to orphans and widows. But he keeps wicked people from reaching their goal. (Psalm 146:9, GW)

In Your kingdom, I am a foreigner, but You welcome and protect me. I come to You alone, but You embrace me and meet my needs. Help me to treat others as you have treated me. I am thankful for Your guarantee that the wicked — who seem to prosper now — will one day be defeated. I am thankful that only Your goals have the power to last for eternity. I want to join you in pursuing Your goals!

The Lord rules as king forever. Zion, your God rules throughout every generation. Hallelujah! (Psalm 146:10, GW)

Earthly rulers will come and go, but You remain on Your throne through them all. You ruled at the creation of the world. You have ruled throughout all of human history. And You will continue to rule forever. I look to You for wisdom; help me recognize and support human wisdom that matches Yours. I look to You for guidance; help me follow Your path regardless of its popularity. I praise You for what You have done! I praise You for what You are doing! I praise You for what You will do! I follow You by faith and submit to Your leadership all the days of my life. In Jesus name, Amen.

Sisters,
Are current pressures and circumstances making it hard for you to praise God?
How are you tempted to trust people to solve the problems around you?
How has God helped you? How can you help others find His joy?
Are you pursuing God’s goals or someone else’s? How can you join God?
Praise God today for being who He is and giving you far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: JenjoeMarsh


Let Your Light Shine

A friend’s picture of this light fixture caught my attention. The design reminds me of our lives: we are the socket, our relationships are the encircling rings, and God’s Spirit living inside us is the light. Before the Spirit indwells us we are dark, but He causes us to shine. No matter how many rings we have around us, the light can always reach them.

Physical light serves many purposes, including illuminating our surroundings and protecting us from harm by revealing danger. In the Bible, light is used as a spiritual metaphor. Spiritual light depicts salvation from our sins (Acts 26:18). Walking in the light means doing the right thing or following God’s instructions (Ephesians 5:8-9). The Bible is referred to as a light for our path (Psalm 119:105). Jesus calls Himself the Light of the world (John 8:12). Jesus also tells His followers:

You are light for the world. A city cannot be hidden when it is located on a hill. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead, everyone who lights a lamp puts it on a lamp stand. Then its light shines on everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine in front of people. Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16, GW)

Far more life embraces the call to be light for the world. We are instructed to let our light — the aspects of our character that are like Jesus — shine for all to see. We should not hide our goodness, forgiveness, kindness, love, joy, peace, patience, and other Christ-like characteristics. He wants us to stand out and be noticed, just like a city on a hill. This brings Him glory and brings us far more life.

A Bible verse I read this week challenges us to let our light shine. I appreciate the directness of this translation:

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.  (Romans 12:9, NLT)

Shining our light is not just doing the right thing, it is having the right mindset and attitude. It is genuinely loving others, including those who are different from us or hard to love. It starts with seeing their God-given value and continues by putting concern for their well-being into action. This love can take many forms: volunteering for an agency or event that benefits others; giving money to a person or organization in need; giving hands-on help to someone; speaking up on someone’s behalf or in their defense when they are victimized, overlooked, or oppressed; listening to someone who others overlook; praying with and for someone in a hard place; and more. Far more life loves others with our attitudes and actions.

Shining our light also joins God in hating what is wrong while attaching ourselves to what is good. Satan wants us to get stuck on one side or the other and forget that God wants us to do both. We can get stuck hating the darkness and forget that doing good brings light to the situation. We may be tempted to voice our hate for sin, but not actively support the righteous alternative. We may be quick to point out the darkness in others’ lives, but fail to share God’s light so they can find a way out. We might hate people or blame a whole group for the evil of a few people rather than seeing the situation or people’s hearts as God does. We may seek revenge rather than truth, justice, and forgiveness.

We can also get stuck ignoring the darkness and selfishly basking in God’s light. We may be tempted to deny or minimize the depravity of sin and instead focus on puffing up our Bible knowledge. We may shy away from hard situations and respond with Bible verses that only address the surface. We may refuse to get involved in fighting evil, always insisting others are more equipped or prepared. Far more life seeks to hate wrong while holding tightly to the good that overcomes it.

A few verses later, Paul shares another practical — and challenging — idea that restates one of Jesus’ commands:

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. (Romans 12:14, NLT)

…Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44, NASB)

This command is the opposite of our human response, so it must be the brightest light we can shine on injustice! God is glorified when we bless, love, and pray for those who hate us or intentionally harm us. Our enemies can be anyone who opposes the light shining out of us. We bless them by praying for them to experience God’s love and be drawn to His light. There may be practical ways we can show them love, too, but prayer is our most available and powerful option for obeying God in this. Far more life trusts God to use His light for good, even when it shines on our enemies.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1:5, NLTSE)

John wrote this about Jesus coming to earth, but the same truth applies to the light shining from us. Our light — God’s presence in our hearts — is secure. No evil, sin, enemy, persecutor, storm or trial or difficulty can extinguish His light in us. Thank you, God, that Your light overcomes any darkness we face and reveals far more life to those around us.

Sisters,
How has God’s light changed your life?
In what situations are you tempted to hide His light?
Is there a person or group that you only pretend to love? What do you need to overcome to really love them?
How do you practically hate wrong while holding tightly to what is good?
Walk confidently in far more life this week as you remember that God’s light in you is secure and eternal!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: Shonda Millender

Perspective

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” (John 17:1, NIV)

Father God, thank you that we can follow Jesus’ example and come to you in prayer. Thank you for promising to give us all we need (Philippians 4:19). Thank you for choosing to make us like Jesus so we can be a picture of Him in this sinful world (Romans 8:29). We want to bring You glory by living out Your character (Colossians 3:17). We want people to know You are good (Mark 10:18), loving (I John 4:8), compassionate (Psalm 51:1), righteous (Psalm 48:10), and just (Isaiah 30:18). Please give us wisdom in each conversation and situation so we know how to respond as You would.

…Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. (John 17:11, NIV)

Thank you, Father, for making us one with you. Thank you for adopting us as your daughters (Ephesians 1:5) and sending your Holy Spirit to live inside of us (Ephesians 3:16). Thank you that our eternal future is guaranteed (Ephesians 1:13-14). We are thankful that Your name has power (Jeremiah 10:6). People who are blind to reality may take your name in vain or ridicule us for trusting in you, but those in the spiritual realms see clearly and know that power (Ephesians 1:18-21). You have promised that nothing can separate us from Your love, Your power, or Your name (Romans 8:35-39). Help us to gratefully accept the protection You know we need, even when it is not the protection we want or expect.

…I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them…Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:13, 17, NIV)

We desperately need the full measure of Your joy. What a light that is to this dark and hurting world! But your joy brings us hope, peace, perspective, and love (Psalm 30:11). It protects us (Psalm 5:11) from falling into darkness, sinful anger, and unforgiveness. Help us cling to Your truth, let that ring louder in our hearts than any lies or half-truths we hear from Satan or the world (John 8:32). We want Your truth to make us different so we can respond to hate with love, to evil with righteousness, to pain with comfort, and to injustice with wisdom (2 Corinthians 6:4-10). And we want to offer all this with joy that brings you glory (Psalm 33:1).

…I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you… (John 17:20-21, NIV)

Empower us to pursue and maintain unity, Father (Psalm 133:1). Help all your children, regardless of their differences, to demonstrate the power of Your love that brings us together (Ephesians 4:3). Use our private prayers, personal conversations, and public actions to bind us together, fighting as one to shine your light in the spiritual darkness that covers this world (John 13:34-35).

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (John 17:24, NIV)

We look forward to going home to live with you forever (I Thessalonians 4:17)! We long for the time when we are rescued from sin and suffering of all kinds (Revelation 21:4). We are eager to see Your face, offer praise in Your presence, and be held in Your arms (Revelation 22:3-5). But as we hope for that day, Father, give us strength and grace to bring You glory right where we are. You deserve just as much glory today from earth as you will on that future day in heaven (Psalm 96:3). Help us faithfully finish our work here: the work of finding our lost brothers and sisters and welcoming them into Your family (Matthew 28:19); the work of growing in righteousness so we offer a picture of Christ to all we touch (2 Peter 2:12); and the work of bringing You glory with every part of our bodies (Romans 6:13). Help us to see ourselves and our place in this world as You do (2 Corinthians 5:20). Help us to see others as you do (2 Peter 3:9).

We echo this familiar prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time; 
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; 
trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; 
that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. 
Amen.

(Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892-1971)

Sisters,
Which part of John 17 meets your need today?
What perspective do you hold about God, yourself, this life, or eternity that does not line up with God’s Word? Where did you learn that false message? What truth did you need to know or understand in that situation?
How will you bring God glory today?
What is one thing you cannot change and need to accept? One thing you need to change? Commit to those today, asking God to help you take those steps.
Thank Him for giving you far more life that will continue for eternity!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Seeing the Unseen

Our outlook makes a big difference in how we interpret things happening to and around us. You may have heard the joke about the two children who received horse manure for Christmas: one was depressed and angry while the other eagerly exclaimed, “You got me a pony!”

If we are honest, we encounter some form of “manure” every day of our lives. This can include our physical health, finances, relationships, jobs, or any other negative circumstance. Some of us tend to be more optimistic, others more pessimistic; but those are not the only viewpoints to consider. We must also choose whether to view our lives with temporary or eternal vision. The Apostle Paul states it this way:

And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble. For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, GNT)

While we are enduring them, our troubles often feel large rather than small and long-term rather than temporary. But that indicates we are relying on our temporal vision. Using eternal vision, we can see that our 78 or so years on this earth are merely a blip of eternity. And the worst difficulty we face in this life is insignificant compared to the splendor of being with God and removed from all evil forever. Far more life does not protect us from trouble, but it does allow us to see the unseen.

It makes sense that our vision gets stuck on the temporary. After all, that is all we have ever known! The matters of physical life loom large for us because our senses are attuned to them. But what if our goals were bigger than comfort, physical health, and security on Earth? What if we stopped to consider what our thoughts and actions truly indicated about our understanding of God and His perspective? That is where we find far more life by seeing the unseen!

Ask yourself these questions:

  • When I face troubles does my response show that I believe God is working for my good, as promised in Romans 8:28?
  • When I encounter difficulties, do I focus on them or Jesus? Like Peter in Matthew 14, do the winds and waves distract me from Jesus’ presence and power?
  • Do I, like Joseph in Genesis 50:20, proclaim that God’s goodness is more powerful than the evil intentions of Satan and people? Do I live this out during the challenge?
  • Do my reactions indicate that I treasure current relationships, possessions, and status more than I treasure God’s purpose and plans (Matthew 6:19-21)?

Our answers help us understand areas where we have opportunities to see the unseen and grow in far more life. But how do we do that? I think there are 3 components to a far more life relationship with God that has eternal vision: listening to God, talking to God, and looking for God.

Far more life listens to God. When you are getting to know someone, you want to learn about them and that often involves listening to them. We listen to what they think and feel, what they have experienced, and what is important to them, and their future plans. By listening to what they say and how they say it we learn about their character, too. If what we hear is appealing to us, we keep listening! The same is true with God. Although we cannot meet Him for coffee, we can listen to Him speak through His Word. As we study it, we can learn about His character and hear His thoughts, feelings, experiences, priorities, past experiences, and future plans. Even though we cannot see His body or audibly hear His voice, we can understand and adopt His eternal vision — seeing the unseen — as we listen to Him. He promises:

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

Far more life talks to God. We all know that growing relationships require on-going communication. This is true of our relationship with God as well. We can talk to Him about ANYTHING! Nothing we share will shock Him or damage our relationship; He will never think less of us, no matter what we confess to Him. He will never betray us by revealing our concerns or sins to others. He is never put off by our doubts, questions, or fears. He can absorb our anger without lashing back. He wants us to share our hopes and dreams with Him. Sometimes He waits to give us good gifts until we ask for them. Eternal vision requires that we talk to God about everything.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer… (I Peter 3:12, NIV)

Far more life looks for God. Since God is working all the time (John 5:17), His work is visible to us if we look for it. People who do not know God refer to His work as luck, coincidence, fate, Mother Nature, and more, but God’s friends recognize His work! To stay focused on the eternal and see the unseen, we must look for and acknowledge His work, both in and around us.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8, NIV)

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)

I hope you look at your troubles and successes, challenges and triumphs with eternal vision. Because that is where you see the unseen and find far more life!

Sisters,
Prayerfully consider and answer the questions presented in the text.
Is your eternal vision weakest in listening to God, talking to Him, or looking for Him? What is your next step in seeing the unseen?
Invest in your eternal vision this week by pursuing far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Open Doors

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:17-18, NIV)

These verses can be so hard to live out! When we are wronged, our fleshly response is to retaliate in some way. If not with our actions, then with our words, thoughts, or attitudes. We do not like to think of those responses as evil, but if our motive is not love, God says they are. When we give in to evil desires, we miss out on far more life. I made that mistake this week; I got caught up in defending a perceived wrong by pointing out the offender’s sin in front of others. But instead of feeling better afterwards, I felt worse! That made me realize I had chosen evil over far more life.

Fortunately God tells us how to find far more life in situations where we have been wronged or offended: do what we know is right. We know it is right to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We know it is right to treat others as we want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). We know it is right to forgive (Colossians 3:13). In my situation this week, when I finally decided to do what was right, I first chose to forgive the person who offended me, which changed my heart toward them. Rather than trying to convince them of their wrong, I chose to accept that we had different perspectives and values. This changed my anger to sadness. Then I was able to admit my wrong thoughts and actions, first to myself, then to them. I could feel my heart getting lighter with each step of this process, each choice to pursue far more life.

God takes it a step further: the verse continues, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” I appreciate His clear instruction that we are only responsible for our part, and sometimes peace is not possible. I think of it like adjoining hotel rooms; both doors must be open for you to pass freely back and forth. If only one person opens their door, you remain separated. We can open our door to peace by doing what is right, blessing the offender with our words and actions, praying for them, and showing them love. Whether or not they choose to open their door and live in peace with us, we can have a clear conscience about our actions and thoughts. It is sad and uncomfortable to be separated from others, but our open door serves as an ongoing invitation for them to join us in pursuing peace whenever they are ready. God says that is enough. In my situation, I have accepted that the other person and I are not on the same page in life, so the door to many deep conversations is closed right now. I plan to pray all I wish I could say to them in love and trust God with it. I will speak carefully in future conversations unless they directly ask for my input. That is the best way for me to show them love and experience far more life. For now, that is the level of peace we can share.

Why is it important to God that we live in peace with others, especially others who are following Christ?

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3)

Peace brings unity, which is important to God. Merriam-Webster defines unity as oneness or a condition of harmony. God is perfectly united with Jesus and the Holy Spirit; they are one, they live in harmony. And He says this to us, who are created in His image and filled with His Spirit:

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1, NIV)

By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ I appeal to all of you, my friends, to agree in what you say, so that there will be no divisions among you. Be completely united, with only one thought and one purpose.  (I Corinthians 1:10, GNT)

God wants His children to live in harmony with one another because that is the only way His purpose can be accomplished. If our purpose is to love God and bring Him glory, can we do that if we are divided and arguing? No. In fact, God makes it clear that our love — which grows as we grow in unity — reveals our purpose to everyone:

If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples. (John 13:35, GNT)

This verse always amazes me. It is not our Bible knowledge that shows we are disciples of Jesus. Or the number of Bible studies or church meetings we attend. It is not the good works we do or the causes we support. What communicates our devotion to Jesus is the love we show others, especially other followers of Jesus. Sometimes that love is most evident when we return evil or sin with a blessing. When we do what is right rather than retaliating. When we pursue peace with someone who has offended or sinned against us. When we share our lives and pursue a common purpose. When we choose far more life!

Sisters,
Do you tend to repay evil with evil or with a blessing?
When have you found far more life by choosing to do what is right?
Do you have a relationship that is not at peace? Is your door open and inviting the other person to peace?
How are you living in unity with other followers of Jesus?
Pray and look for opportunities to show love — and choose far more life — today!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso


Far More Hope

As you think about life, are you hopeful or hopeless? Your answer will be determined, in part, by where you are placing your hope.

Sometimes we place our hope in things that change. When they are going well, we are hopeful, but when they take a downturn, so does our hope. For example, if we hope in financial investments for our security, each time the stock market dips we will doubt our future. But when our hope is placed in the unchanging, it remains steady when circumstances shift. We have hope that a new day will dawn because it always has; the darkest nights have always given way to daylight and we are confident that will continue to happen.

During this uncertain time, where can we place our hope that is secure? The Bible offers an answer:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NIV)

Far more life is built on an active relationship with the God of hope. Do you think of Him as the God of hope? When I hear that phrase, I am reminded of His character, both what I have read in the Bible and what I have experienced:

God keeps His word. The Bible is filled with promises, some already fulfilled and some yet to be fulfilled. Since God has faithfully kept His promises we can have confidence that He will continue to do so. Keeping His word confirms He is the God of hope.

God’s plan prevails. When God created the earth, He had a plan: an eternal relationship with us. He has communicated that plan to people throughout the ages, inviting them to join Him in fulfilling it. Yet His plan is not dependent on us, so we cannot ruin it by refusing to join Him or making mistakes. Far more life on this earth is part of His plan, but the best is yet to come! Revealing and enacting His plan shows He is the God of hope.

God is powerful and good. He sets the course of each celestial object in the universe. He arranges each atom just as He wants it. He controls the seasons, the tides, the span of each life. Yet his goodness is revealed in every detail as well. Our bodies are perfectly suited for life on earth. We experience happiness and satisfaction. He promises to reward righteousness and punish evil. He offers us forgiveness. Demonstrations of His power and goodness prove He is the God of hope.

God is love. We are designed to put our hope in love. That is why so many books, movies, and songs focus on love. The message is reinforced by well-known sentiments such as “love conquers all”, “love means never having to say you are sorry”, and “all we need is love”. But humans are incapable of being a stable source of love. God’s love, however, never wavers. We can be confident in it because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whose perfect love led Him to sacrifice Himself as the ransom our lives. And this gives us hope! Sacrificial, unconditional love sets Him apart as the God of hope.

Keeping our hope fixed on God, through Jesus, is an important aspect of far more life. But God asks us to take it a step further and share our hope with others:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  (I Peter 3:15, NIV)

I was recently challenged with this question: what source am I most actively promoting as the reason for my hope during this pandemic? Is it a particular doctor? An elected official? A political party? A line of research? Or am I primarily hoping in God and pointing people toward Jesus?

Far more life has hope in eternal life, with God through Christ, which is evident in our words and actions. Hope allows His Spirit in us to stand out: we can remain calm when others panic; we can act with kindness and generosity when others are rude and selfish; we can grieve what we have lost while wholeheartedly celebrating what we have. During this time, hope in God opens the door for us to share how a relationship with Jesus gives us far more life, empowering us to live above our circumstances and remain hopeful.

This is how far more life puts hope into action:

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. (I Peter 1:13, NIV)

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24, NIV)

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. (Psalm 130:5, NIV)

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. (Psalm 119:114, NIV)

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5, NIV)

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. (2 Corinthians 3:12, NIV)

Make this your motto: my hope is secure in God! Share it with those who are seeking hope. Far more life is the best gift you have ever received…and the best gift you can give to others!

Sisters,
Are you hopeful or hopeless?
In what are you placing your hope? Is that source secure or shifting?
What confirms to you that God is the God of hope? What causes you to doubt?
What source of hope are you promoting to others?
Who in your circle is seeking hope? How can you share the reason for the hope that you have?
Thank God for the hope of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso