Refreshment

My husband and I recently took a vacation. After several challenging months, we were not seeking a grand adventure — just physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional refreshment.

Merriam-Webster offers several meanings for the word refresh, including: to restore strength and animation to (revive); to freshen up (renovate); to restore or maintain by renewing supply (replenish). Revive. Renovate. Replenish.

Vacation can offer refreshment. So can a special occasion. A change of scenery may revive our enthusiasm. A change of routine may renovate our mindset. A break from daily responsibilities may replenish our motivation. Sometimes we have to work hard to prepare for refreshment; the investment is worthwhile if it allows us to be completely immersed in the refreshing experience.

But vacations and special celebrations are inadequate refreshment. They are too short and infrequent to carry us through the whole year. Just like we cannot eat only a few days of the year and be healthy, we cannot run ourselves ragged most of the time and rely on an occasional day to revive, replenish, and renovate us. Instead, God has instructed us to build refreshment into our lives.

Remember the Sabbath (seventh) day to keep it holy (set apart, dedicated to God).  (Exodus 20:8, AMP)

God not only gave a frequency for refreshment — every seventh day plus some holidays (Leviticus 23) — but also told us how to rest — setting apart the day for Him. He instructed the Israelites to refrain from work, giving their bodies a break. He also told them to refresh their mind and spirit by remembering, worshiping, and honoring Him. God knew we needed to regularly engage in these practices to find far more life.

Over time, the Jewish leaders added rules to define acceptable and unacceptable Sabbath activities. These rules became burdensome for the people and hindered their rest. When Jesus walked the earth, He declared:

…The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27, NIV)

God instituted a day of rest to bless us, not burden us. We have freedom to decide what will help us rest and connect with God. For many, one Sabbath component is time with a church family, engaging in group worship and receiving Biblical instruction. For many the Sabbath also includes time in nature, exercise, rest, interaction with family or friends, a special meal, hobbies, or entertainment.

Sometimes it is good to ask ourselves if our Sabbath practices are truly refreshing. Do they revive our body? Revive our mind? Replenish our spirit? If not, we are wise to consider what WOULD lead to true refreshment and make changes.

But we do not have to run on empty the other six days of the week. God offers to revive, renovate, and replenish our heart, soul, mind, and strength every day!

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

We need spiritual refreshment and there is no better place to turn for that than the One who created our soul. We live in a world that is spiritually darkened; the light of God’s Word, His truth, and His promises restore our strength so we can keep living righteously and purposefully. Far more life is found as we read and meditate on His Word, the Bible, every day to drink in His refreshment.

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. (Jeremiah 31:25, NIV)

The context of this is God providing hope to His people. They were living in an oppressive environment, surrounded by people who did not honor God or value His ways. It was exhausting to remain faithful to God. God reminded Jeremiah that He saw their struggle and would provide all they needed to remain faithful as long as they demonstrated a willingness to follow Him. Far more life calls out to God daily for a replenished heart, body, and mind to live righteously.

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7, NIV)

Our minds are susceptible to Satan’s lies about what is good, sensible, right, reasonable, or deserved. Our thinking is renovated and our spiritual vision is replenished when we look to God’s commands and instructions for guidance. Far more life finds refreshment in following God’s principles, believing our All-Knowing Father is wise, loving, and trustworthy.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.  (Acts 3:19, NIV)

When we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as payment for our sins, they are wiped out. That is the ultimate refreshment! But as time goes on and we realize we will continue to sin, our refreshment may diminish. Repentance — making the choice to turn away from sin and turn to God — is a lifelong refreshing process. Every time we repent we are reminded of our position in Christ. We grow in far more life as we become aware of sins and repent; the grace flowing to our Spirits is replenished and we are refreshed.

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14, NIV)

Once the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, refreshment is always available! He renovates our mind so we can see with His perspective. He revives our excitement about His plans and purposes for us. He replenishes our strength so we are ready to join His work. We do not have to wait for vacations or holidays — far more life offers refreshment every day!

Sisters,
When have you felt most refreshed?
Is your weekly Sabbath refreshing? If not, what do you need to change to make it so?
How do you connect with God for daily refreshment? What barriers do you face to deeper connection?
Engage in far more life today, seeking out God’s refreshment and enjoying His purposes for your day!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso
Photo by Ray Damaso

Glimpses of Majesty

Praise the Lord, my soul. Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. (Psalm 104:1, NIV)

Lord, this week I have been awed by the splendor and majesty of the earth You created. I know You are much greater than the wonders of this world reveal, but my limited mind has a hard time imagining the fullness of Your splendor and majesty. Will it be as colorful as a sunset sky? Will it smell as wonderful as a field of wildflowers? Will it be a booming voice or a peaceful whisper? Will it blow as a gentle breeze or a powerful wind? Will it taste better than the richest delicacy? Will it be an expansion of what is familiar to us or something completely different? Will we notice the details or be immersed in the grandeur? I look forward to the day I will see Your glory fully. For now, I am content to praise You for the glimpse of your splendor and majesty I catch around me.

He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment … But at your rebuke the waters fled … You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth. (Psalm 104:5-9, NIV)

I have glimpsed the results of the watery garment You used to cover the earth and erase the wickedness of our ancestors. The lasting impact is sobering and beautiful. The results are easy to see but the enormity of the devastation is difficult to comprehend. So much life and death are represented in the colorful layers of sediment left behind. What we see today is so different from Your original creation, yet vital components remain the same. And even the post-disaster landscape brings You glory. Almighty God, You created the waters and rule over them. They serve Your dual purposes of giving life and carving out reminders of the damage caused by our sin. I praise You for the boundaries that only You can place and enforce on nature. Thank You for protecting us from its full power.

He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate — bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts. (Psalm 104:14-15, NIV)

Although You are majestic and we are made from dust, You choose to provide all we need. You generously give more than food for our physical needs; You also supply beauty for our emotional needs. You made our bodies to be perfectly suited for the conditions on earth. Even though all of this will pass away and be remembered no more, You have made it a pleasant place for us to live temporarily. We catch a glimpse of what You will provide in heaven and praise You for the splendor and majesty of both our current and future homes!

How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all. (Psalm 104:24, NIV)

We are so proud of our inventions and accomplishments, but they do not compare to Your works, Lord! Anything we make is built with components You spoke into being from nothing. Our groundbreaking discoveries have been obvious to You for centuries. All that is beyond our scope of understanding is simple for You to understand. You are supremely wise. We praise You for giving us a glimpse of Your numerous and diverse works. May we praise You more with each new revelation of Your glory that enables us to your majesty and splendor!

May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works — he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke. (Psalm 104:31-32, NIV)

Your glory will endure forever, Lord, even after this world passes away. May Your works continue to bring You glory for all eternity. Thank You for allowing us to enjoy and experience parts of Your creation. We glimpse only a small portion of it in this life and look forward to seeing a fuller picture of Your majesty and splendor in heaven. Open our eyes to the aspects of Your character on display around us. May we always worship You rather than what You have created!

I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord. (Psalm 104:33-34, NIV)

Father God, the least I can do is give You glory with my mind and my mouth. I want to be quick to give You credit for what You have created. I want to proclaim Your glory, Your creativity, and Your power at every opportunity. But I want to look deeper and get a glimpse of Your character through my experiences. Help me see Your love in action, Your patience on display, Your joy, Your faithfulness, Your goodness, and more! I want my thoughts to be joyful praises that are pleasing to You. Make me aware of situations where I can glimpse Your majesty and splendor so I can offer You the praise You deserve. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sisters,
What aspects of God’s splendor and majesty have you glimpsed?
What boundaries has God set to protect you? How do you respond to them?
What is your favorite way to praise God?
How can you make praise part of your daily life?
Celebrate far more life by turning glimpses of His splendor and majesty into praise!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Psalm 92

It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp. (Psalm 92:1-3, NIV)

Lord, thank You for this reminder that it is good to praise You. Music is not the only way to praise You, but it is definitely a helpful tool. The melody touches our emotions. The lyrics touch our minds. Combined they help our souls to connect with You at a deeper level. As we start the day, we praise You for loving us with a new beginning and refreshment. At the end of the day we praise You for carrying us through the challenges and blessing us with the joys we experienced. Whether the music of our praise is complex or simple, audible or internal, we are thankful to find far more life as we praise You.

For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have done. How great are your works, Lord, how profound your thoughts! (Psalm 92:4-5, NIV)

Seeing You in action makes us happy, Lord. When we witness Your work, our hearts fill with praise. We are eager to give You credit because it is clear that You alone deserve it. And when we need a reminder of You, Lord, all we have to do is look at nature. Your power is obvious in the power of nature. Your glory is revealed by the splendor of the heavens and the intricacies of each cell. Your creativity is evident in the diversity of animals, plants, and ecosystems on earth. Knowing that You brought each of them into being with a word causes us to marvel at Your intellect and knowledge. Your thoughts are so far beyond ours that there is no comparison. The most complicated discovery or invention of humanity is simple to You, yet You love us. Far more life is eager to see more of Your works, absorb more of Your thoughts, and grow in awe of You!

Senseless people do not know, fools do not understand, that though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be destroyed forever. (Psalm 92:6-7, NIV)

Lord, we are so short-sighted! We see those who hate You prospering and we despair. We are tempted to believe the wisdom mankind offers instead of your timeless wisdom. Help us remember that this life, this earth, is just a blip in eternity. While others are puffed up by their own observations and interpretations about life, remind us to hold fast to Your eternal truth. Give us faith and grace to cling to Your Word, even when we do not fully understand it. Help us trust Your faithfulness more than human achievement. Open our eyes to the eternal perspective that accompanies far more life.

But you, Lord, are forever exalted. (Psalm 92:8, NIV)

All we know and experience here will pass away, Lord. We look forward to praising you forever, when Your Word and Your actions alone remain. When all eyes are open to the truth, we will joyfully praise You in gratitude and love.

For surely your enemies, Lord, surely your enemies will perish; all evildoers will be scattered. You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox; fine oils have been poured on me. My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries; my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes. (Psalm 92:9-11, NIV)

We are thankful that all Your enemies — all our enemies — will be overcome one day, Lord. You will stand victorious while they fall. We look forward to the time when Your supremacy is evident to everyone and You bring unfailing righteousness and justice to earth. Those who have doubted You — and scorned Your children — will understand their error. Temptation and sin will perish. Doubt and fear will perish. Pride will perish. Death will perish. Only You and Your followers will remain. Give us grace to wait expectantly for that glorious day!

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” (Psalm 92:12-15, NIV)

Thank you for enabling us to flourish, even on this wicked earth. Regardless of our circumstances, we can grow and thrive spiritually as we draw nourishment from You, Lord. Your Spirit fills us and empowers us to bear Your fruit for the rest of our lives. Rather than growing weaker, we can grow stronger in You. Your light can shine brighter, even as our health fades. Age does not have to stiffen us, rather it can make us more flexible, more humble, more eager to become like You. Thank you for never turning away Your children, but always welcoming us. Thank you for being our righteous Rock. We praise You now and will continue to praise You forever. In the power of Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sisters,
What is your favorite way to praise God?
How have you seen God’s love and faithfulness in the past day?
Which of God’s works remind you to praise Him?
If you have fallen into a short-sighted perspective, confess it to God and ask for help to recognize His perspective.
Which of God’s enemies do you most look forward to Him defeating?
How is God helping you flourish today?
Walk in far more life today as you praise and glorify God with your life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Worth Waiting For

Life involves a lot of waiting. We are often ready for the next thing before its time. I remember spending much of my childhood wanting to be older. Many students want to be finished with school. Many single people want to be in a relationship. Many childless people want to be parents. Many working people want to be retired. Many older or terminally ill people want to be in heaven. Regardless of our situation, we are probably waiting for something.

While change is a natural part of life, we can be tricked into believing the “next thing” will bring us far more life. If reaching the next thing becomes our central pursuit in life, we will suffer negative consequences. We will most likely ignore warning signs of problems along the path we are traveling. We may become numb or blind to the negative effects of our choices. We will miss out on gifts and blessings God wants to give us. Discontentedness with ourselves, God, and our lives can also rob us of far more life. God’s Word tells us:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV)

He has made everything beautiful and appropriate in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, AMP)

God’s timing is perfect — and worth waiting for. But when we are told “wait” without further instruction, it is often frustrating. We are wired to move forward, to keep growing, changing, experiencing and learning. Constant reminders of what we cannot do or have makes us focus on that even more. It makes waiting harder.

So what should we focus on while we wait? How do we find far more life where we are? These translations of Proverbs 4:23 give us several perspectives to consider:

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. (AMP)

More than anything you guard, protect your mind, for life flows from it. (CEB)

Above everything else, guard your heart; for it is the source of life’s consequences. (CJB)

Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. (GNT)

Above all else, watch over your heart; diligently guard it because from a sincere and pure heart come the good and noble things of life. (VOICE)

The key to waiting well is controlling what we allow to linger in our heart and mind. What we value most — what our thoughts dwell on — determines our actions. When we are focused on getting something, temptation to do whatever is needed to get it is strong. If we instead focus on loving and obeying God, we find far more life as we wait for His plan and timing.

Some people claim obeying God will get us what we want; that is a backwards, selfish perspective. A sincere and pure heart is not making deals with God and performing good deeds to earn what we want. Far more life is motivated to obey out of love for God and a desire to honor Him. While good circumstances may come out of that obedience, those are bonuses rather than the goal. Far more life trusts that God is for us, that He is working for our good, and that His gifts — whatever He has hand-selected to bless us — are worth waiting for.

I think of this commonly misinterpreted verse:

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires. (Psalm 37:4, HCSB)

Many read this as saying, “cheerfully obey God and you will get what you want”. But the verse really communicates that when we make God the center of our life, our desires will change to match His. We will be satisfied and content with what He provides because that has become what we want. I can think of many times I had to wait: for friendship; for a church family; for employment; for a husband; for children; for health; for answers to prayers. In each situation, God has refined my desires to make them holier and more satisfying than what I originally wanted. He has surprised me, blessed me, and proven that His plan was worth the wait. And when it came to pass, I was thrilled with what He provided!

This topic brings to mind a worship song that was popular several years ago. It speaks of the challenges of waiting for God and how we can wait well. Prompted by that song, I wrote a list of things we can do while we wait for Him:

We can talk to God openly and honestly while we wait (I Thessalonians 5:17).

We can study God’s Word to deepen our understanding of Him while we wait. (Psalm 119:33-37)

We can recognize areas of our heart, soul, and mind that doubt Him while we wait. (Psalm 139:23-24)

We can renew our mind to see Him — as well as ourselves and others — more clearly while we wait. (Romans 12:2)

We can serve Him with our spiritual gifts and God-given talents while we wait. (John 12:26)

We can invest our time and energy in loving other people in big and small ways while we wait. (Matthew 22:29)

We can offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, living for God in every area of life, as we wait. (Romans 12:1)

We can grow in Christlikeness as we wait. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Waiting is hard! But God has a plan for us, even in waiting. We can fight against His plan or we can join Him and find far more life as we wait. When we join Him, we discover His timing and plan was worth waiting for!

Sisters,
For what have you had to wait? What are you waiting for now?
What negative things have you experienced by not waiting well?
Which translation of Proverbs 4:23 is most meaningful to you? Post it somewhere you will see it often; even better, memorize it!
How has God changed your desires as you waited?
What will you do as you wait today?
Embrace far more life right where you are!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Truly Blessed

“Blessed” is a familiar — even overused — word in Christian circles. For most of us, hearing this word implies pleasant situations and comfort. I can recall many such blessings, times when my circumstances were good, my heart felt joyful, my mind was thankful, and my outlook was positive.

But that does not mean we are not blessed — or we are missing far more life — in the difficult times we face. In fact, I can think of many times I felt MORE blessed while encountering difficulties. When I felt alone, hopeless and helpless, scared, or overwhelmed and reached out to God, He met me right where I was and gave me exactly what I needed. I was blessed to experience Him in a new way, to understand Him better, or to realize where I had a wrong impression of Him or my situation. The memories of those “hardship blessings” are clearer than most of the sunny moments I have experienced. One psalm states it this way:

It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn your decrees. (Psalm 119:71, NIV)

I have learned much more about God — and why following His ways is where I will be truly blessed — during hard times than good ones. And while those lessons were painful, they are precious to me and have brought me far more life!

The Greek word translated “blessed” throughout the New Testament means happy. This probably means different things to different people, based on personality. I think of “happy” as an emotional optimism and steadiness that is rooted in something more solid than our circumstances. Look at some of the situations where God instructs us to be happy (blessed):

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4, NIV)

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10, NIV)

Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. (Luke 6:22, NIV)

Blessed are those who have not seen [Jesus] and yet have believed. (John 20:29, NIV)

…It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35, NIV)

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12, NIV)

Even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. (I Peter 3:14, NIV)

Mourning, Persecution. Hate. Exclusion. Insults. Rejection. Emptying yourself. Trials. Suffering. We may not enter these situations feeling happy, but each offers the opportunity for blessing. Some blessings are immediate while others come later. It is a blessing to find comfort in Christ. It is a blessing to inherit the kingdom of heaven. It is a blessing to belong to Christ. We are happy when we can meet needs for others. We will be happy when we receive the crown of life. We are happy with a clear conscience before God about our choices.

How do we find the blessing in these hard things? Reread the verses and note that each one points us back to the Lord. He comforts us. He gives us His kingdom. He offers us a relationship. He provides for us. He defines and rewards righteousness. The blessing of far more life rests on our connection to the Lord. Whatever we face in life, we are blessed to face it with the Creator of the Universe and Lover of our Soul living within us.

Recognizing blessings depends on our perspective, not our circumstances. Circumstances can change quickly; death, betrayal, financial loss, natural disaster, and so much more can take away the people, things, and situations that we count as blessings. But when we base our happiness on what has eternal value — knowing God, growing in Christlikeness, and sharing His love with others — we can look beyond our situation to the Blesser, who is constantly present and available to us. Changing our perspective brings happiness, even in the middle of difficulties. One of my favorite blessings is recorded in Romans 8:

 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39, NIV)

We are blessed through security in God’s love, no matter what we face in this life!

When we are in hard situations where comforts and pleasures are stripped away, we may find ourselves thinking, “Well, at least I can look forward to Heaven. I am happy that Jesus forgave my sins and accepted me into God’s family.” What we think of as our “last resort” blessing is actually our greatest blessing! Without a saving relationship with Christ, none of the other things that make us happy really matter! Even if this was the only blessing God offered, it would be enough. Jesus raised this question to His followers:

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:36, NIV)

He asked this while prompting them to consider how they wanted to invest their lives. He challenged them to choose between worldly success and spiritual success. One may be more tempting in the short term, but the other will reap dividends for eternity. We are truly blessed through anything we experience with Christ.

Sisters,
When you hear (or say) something is a blessing, what does that mean?
Have you ever felt like you were missing out on blessings when you encountered difficulties?
What does happiness mean to you? When have you experienced happiness in Christ?
What blessing have you discovered DURING or AFTER something hard?
If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, thank God for the biggest and best blessing possible — far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Choose Praise

During the midst of a challenging situation this week, my husband asked me to read Psalm 103 to him. It reminded me that no matter what circumstances we face, God is worthy of our praise. As I put this into practice, I found far more life by offering Him praise.

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. (Psalm 103:1, NIV)

It is good to praise the Lord without hesitation or reservation. To release doubts and fears we are tempted to hold on to. To examine the parts of our heart and mind that are reluctant. Then we can fully and freely praise Him.

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:2-5, NIV)

Too often we take the Lord’s benefits for granted. Take a minute to ponder this awe-inspiring list; I think you will agree each item is enough to inspire praise.

He alone has the power to forgive all our sins.

One day He will eradicate all our diseases and bless us with perfect bodies and health.

He gives our lives purpose and meaning.

His love and compassion mark us as His beloved children.

He goes beyond meeting our needs to satisfying our desires.

He refreshes us daily, allowing our spiritual strength to grow as we age.

We have so many reasons to offer Him praise!

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

The Lord sees all that happens and will bring perfect justice in His perfect timing. He knows who is guilty or innocent in every situation. He will end all oppression. He, our ultimate judge, is trustworthy, wise, and just. He deserves our praise as we await justice!

He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:10, NIV)

While some of our sins are against other people, all of them are against the Lord. We can never do enough good to make up for them and become righteous. Yet He has chosen to suffer the punishment we deserve and offer us forgiveness, holiness, and far more life. Understanding His mercy and grace compels us to praise Him.

He knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children — with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. (Psalm 103: 14-18, NIV)

It is easy to focus on human accomplishments and minimize reality: God made us and all the materials that we use in our creations. His creations are infinitely greater than ours because He is infinitely greater than us. Although we have done amazing things, we are made of dust. He existed long before we were born and will continue long after we die. Our legacy will fade, but His character, provision, and praiseworthiness are unwavering. When we recognize His greatness, it is a natural response to offer Him praise. Not just for what He has done, but for who He is.

The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. (Psalm 103:19, NIV)

Human kingdoms will come and go, following the cycle of growth and decay that has repeated over the centuries. But the eternal kingdom of the Lord is immune to decay. It will never fall to greed, disaster, warfare, or conquest. He will always deserve our praise and always offer far more life.

Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.
Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul. (Psalm 103:20-22, NIV)

I appreciate how the psalmist broke this down. It reminds me of His greatness and how truly deserving of praise He is…from everyone and everything.

Angels, though mighty, answer to God and owe Him obedience and praise.

Heavenly hosts may include other spiritual beings as well as celestial bodies such as the sun, moon, and stars. Heavenly armies praise Him through battling spiritual forces, unseen by the human eye, at God’s command. The sun and moon praise Him by keeping the orbits He established for them. Each praises Him by playing their assigned role in God’s master plan.

“All his works everywhere in his dominion” includes everything else God has created. It may be odd to think of mountains, trees, and oceans praising God, but they do! Animals and plants praise God, too, through their diversity, habits, and place in His order. He holds everything together yet each component offers praise in its own way.

Humans are given the choice of offering praise. What a humbling and motivating realization! Once we have a taste of far more life, we can see Him and His works more clearly and are eager to offer Him the praise He deserves. Even when we lose sight of this — like I did in the midst of this week’s hard circumstances — God is faithful to draw us back. Today I choose to praise Him for Psalm 103 and its pull to far more life!

Sisters,
What reluctance or hesitance to praising the Lord do you face? Talk to Him about it; He understands and wants you to be free to praise Him!
What “benefits” have you experienced as God’s daughter? Do you praise Him for them?
Are you creating a legacy of praise during your limited time on earth?
Choose to praise Him today — whatever you face — and find the peace and perspective of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso




Rooted and Established

I was reminded this week of the importance of being grounded in love. Not just giving love to others, but accepting love from God. If we do not adequately grasp God’s love for His children, we will not be attracted to far more life. If we have not experienced His love in action, joining His mission will not be more appealing than pursuing our own desires. Without this grounding, we will not understand His love and our passion will be directed at something other than glorifying Him and building His kingdom.

The Apostle Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus applies to us as well:

…And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19, NIV)

Being rooted and established in love. Roots anchor a plant; they hold it in place and absorb the nutrients and moisture needed for health. Once the root system of a plant is established, it begins to grow. Similarly, Christ’s love anchors our faith; He paid for our sins with His own life to offer us holiness and a restored relationship with God. His love enables us to absorb the grace and truth needed for spiritual connection and health. Once we become secure in His love, our faith is established and begins to grow. Far more life is rooted and established in Christ’s love.

I pray that you…may have power. The word translated “power” means “to have strength enough” in the original Greek. Paul is describing a God-given spiritual power that enables His children to do what is humanly impossible. This is the result of being rooted and established in God’s love. Far more life gives us supernatural spiritual power.

Together with all the saints. We are not alone in this pursuit. We are joined by everyone who has a personal relationship with God. As we share God’s love with others and experience His love through them, our spiritual strength and joy increase. Far more life is best lived together.

To grasp. It takes mental and spiritual work to comprehend God’s love. We may have to wrestle with experiences and beliefs that seem contradictory to the promises we read in the Bible. Far more life holds on to the truth it knows while learning about and experiencing Christ in new ways.

How wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. We don’t think of love as having physical measurements, but God’s Word offers us these word pictures to help us understand the enormity of Christ’s love for us:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him. (Psalm 103:11, NIV)

As far as east is from west— that’s how far God has removed our sin from us. (Psalm 103:12, CEB)

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. (Psalm 139:8, NIV)

God’s love for His children is bigger than anything we can imagine or experience. There is no place we can travel that will take us beyond the reach of His love. He has taken our sin as far away from us as possible and filled the space with His love. Even when we feel like God is far away, His love is still with us. Far more life delights in the vastness of God’s love for His children.

To know this love that surpasses knowledge. Human wisdom cannot comprehend God’s love. We cannot prove it with scientific research. We cannot explain it with logic. God’s love must be experienced to be known and understood. His love is an unconditional acceptance of us, despite our sin against Him. It is His protection from what should injure or destroy us. It is His peace and joy during a horrific situation. Far more life does not just know about God’s love, it knows God’s love from personal experience.

That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of Christ. Paul wants God’s love to fill us up so completely that there is no room for anything else. If we could fully grasp God’s love for us — the extent of it and the nature of it — we would gladly push all else out so we could have more of Him. When I read this phrase, I always think of cooking. Especially the times I have added so many ingredients to the measuring cup that it overflowed! Imagine that your heart and mind are so full of God’s character that each situation you face during the day causes His love to spill onto others. Or His patience. Or His joy. Or His forgiveness. Far more life strives to fill itself more and more with Christ by better understanding His love. Then it can express His character — through the Holy Spirit living inside.

Whatever season of life you are in, it is the perfect time to be rooted and established in the love of Christ. Know love, know far more life!

Sisters,
Are you rooted in God’s love — is it a secure anchor in your life?
Are you established in God’s love — are you growing in your faith and Christlikeness?
How have you seen God’s power at work in our heart, mind, and soul?
How does connection with other Christ-followers help you to understand God’s love better?
What besides God’s love is filling you? If you are unsure how to know more of God’s love, ask a trusted spiritual mentor for ideas.
Look for evidence of God’s love today and thank Him for those moments of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: Jenjoe Marsh

Sacred Fragrance

Say to the Israelites, ‘This is to be my sacred anointing oil for the generations to come. Do not pour it on men’s bodies and do not make any oil with the same formula. It is sacred, and you are to consider it sacred. (Exodus 30:31-32, NIV)

Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the LORD. (Exodus 30:37, NIV)

It is surprising to read “Do not make any for yourselves,” in the middle of these instructions. If we like it, why would God restrict us from using it? The scent of perfume and incense we use seems like a small matter that should be unimportant to God. We can be tempted to interpret these — and other commands from God — as controlling, mean, or selfish. But He did not restrict them to limit us, rather He did it to give them importance. He has declared those particular scents as sacred or holy. Set apart. Special. Separate to God. They have a specific purpose.

When I was a young wife, decorative towels were popular. The young husbands in our circle of friends did not understand why their wives hung up “no touch towels”. From the men’s perspective, all towels served the same purpose: a tool for drying something. But to the women, the embellished towels were set apart as special and should be admired but not used. The goal was to protect them from being soiled with use or faded with repeated washings. We did not want to prevent our husbands from drying their hands, we wanted to give some towels a different, decorative, purpose.

Many people have some items they consider “everyday” and others they consider “good”. Clothing and dishes come to mind immediately. We wear good clothes to weddings and funerals but have everyday clothes for mowing the lawn or jobs that will be hot and sweaty. We may have dishes that are only used for holidays or when serving guests. Like God, we have set some things apart as special.

Why would God set apart perfume and incense? Science tells us that scents are powerful. They evoke memories. They allow us to recall details otherwise forgotten. They can also set a mood. So it may not be surprising that God wanted the scent of one particular oil and incense to be associated exclusively with His house. Perhaps He wanted that scent to build a connection between His people and Himself. A reminder of His holiness. An invitation to offer Him praise and worship. A prompt to remember His provision, protection, and promises. A signal to lay all else aside and focus on Him.

But oil and incense are not all that God considers holy and sacred. There are several Bible verses reminding us that people fall into that category as well!

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4, NIV)

Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself…(Psalm 4:3, NIV)

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession… (I Peter 2:9, NIV)

If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, God looks at you differently from people who have not. He sees you as holy and blameless. He has set you apart. He considers you His special possession. He also has given you some specific instructions for life, including these:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2, NIV)

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness… (Matthew 6:33, NIV)

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil… (James 4:7, NIV)

Honor God with your bodies. (I Corinthians 6:20, NIV)

Fill your mind and thoughts with God’s wisdom. Seek righteousness and what will expand God’s kingdom. Submit to God and resist the temptation to sin. Use your body to honor God. God did not give these commands because He is mean or controlling. Instead he gave them so we could experience far more life! They restrict us in order to set us apart. His purpose for us goes beyond existing or surviving on this earth. He wants His children to be special. To be noticed. To be a reminder of His holiness, power, and grace.

While Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross ended the need for us to burn a particular oil or incense to honor God, the book of Revelation describes a scene in Heaven where something we do produces a scent that is special to Him:

Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. (Revelation 5:8, NIV)

This is hard to imagine, but the prayers of God’s children are a pleasant fragrance to Him! When we talk to God, share our thoughts with Him, give our adoration, seek His guidance, unload our burdens, declare His praise, or cry out for His mercy and grace, it is a sacred act. Praying to God is a sacred privilege. Those prayers are set apart for Him alone. They are valuable to Him. They connect us to Him. They are special.

You, your life, and your prayers are set apart. You can make them a sacred fragrance to God.

Sisters,
Do you have a scent or fragrance that has special meaning? Of what does it remind you?
Where in your life do you make distinctions between the “everyday” and the “good”? Do you feel differently about them?
Do you think God’s commands restrict you or set you apart? Why?
How do you feel about being sacred to God?
Fill heaven with a sacred fragrance as you thank God for far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Lifeblood

A precious woman in my circle passed away this week. She lived a long life and was ready to go home to her Creator and Savior. I remember hearing her say that we do not talk about the blood of Christ enough anymore. “It’s all about the blood,” she told me. The conversation stuck with me and ever since I have noticed Bible verses, songs, and messages that directly reference the blood of Christ. I am writing this post in remembrance of that dear woman and her desire for the sacrifice and power of Jesus’ blood to be known, respected, and celebrated.

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. (Leviticus 17:11, NIV)

God emphasized the importance of blood to the Israelites; blood contains life. It carries oxygen and nutrients to our cells. It carries waste to organs that filter and expel it from the body. Blood also fights infection and delivers regulatory hormones. It contains living cells and is essential to our well-being. Blood is powerful!

God has also chosen blood to be the vessel of atonement. Starting with the first human sin, innocent blood was shed to pay the penalty:

Then the Lord God made clothes out of animal skins for the man and his wife. (Genesis 3:21, CEV)

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they became aware of their nakedness and felt ashamed. To cover their bodies and assuage their shame, God killed animals and used their skins to make clothes. The penalty of human sin has always included the shedding of innocent blood.

Centuries later, on the night of the first Passover, God used the blood of a lamb to mark the homes of His children and save them from death:

The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.  (Exodus 12:13, NIV)

In this case, the blood of innocent lambs was used as a protection; it marked a home where the occupants were obedient to God. The firstborn sons and animals of the household were spared physical death through the sacrifice and blood of one lamb. God instructed His people to remember this through a special celebration every year.

The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22, NIV)

Sacrifices were God’s prescribed way for His people to make amends for their sin — whether intentional or unintentional — and indicate their commitment to Him. Most of these sacrifices, as outlined in Leviticus, required the blood of an animal without blemish or defect. The shedding of blood and sacrifice of the animal restored a person to good standing with God. It paid the penalty for their sin and state of being spiritual unclean before God. Of course, this foreshadowed the sacrifice Jesus would make. The New Testament repeatedly references the life-giving power of the blood of Christ:

…After the supper [Jesus] took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:20, NIV)

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood. (Romans 3:25, NIV)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  (Romans 5:8-9, NIV)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Ephesians 1:7, NIV)

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13, NIV)

The only way we can experience far more life is by acknowledging that Christ gave up His life — His blood — to pay the penalty for our sins. Being sinless, He was innocent before God and in the position to sacrifice Himself for our benefit. His blood is the perfect sacrifice, more spiritually powerful than any animal sacrifice:

The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:13-14, NIV)

Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.  (Hebrews 7:27, NIV)

With your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9, NIV)

The blood of Jesus purifies us completely from every sin we commit at any time in our life. He does not need to die over and over again. Knowing we are forgiven of every sin clears our conscience so we are free to live for God instead of being afraid of being punished by Him. And Jesus’ sacrifice applies to people of all cultures, races, and ethnicities; anyone can accept His offer of forgiveness.

Most of us do not like to focus on our sin or on blood. It is easy to minimize our wrongs or take Jesus’ sacrifice for granted. But as I remember my friend today, I also remember her challenge to pay proper respect to the blood of Jesus. To remember the high cost He paid so we could have far more life.

Sisters,
What life-giving aspect of blood is most meaningful to you? Why?
Imagine you are Eve and watch God spill an animal’s blood to clothe your nakedness. How would you feel? How would it change your obedience to God’s commands?
How has the blood of Jesus cleansed your conscience? Has that impacted your eagerness to serve Him?
Thank Jesus for sacrificing His blood and offering you far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso
Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay


Far More Wealth

I took an informal poll recently which asked people if they wanted to go to heaven when they died. As I expected, the majority answered yes. I am sure the responders had different ideas about what heaven is like or how you get there, but most of them agreed that they wanted to experience it. But I am certain there would have been fewer yes answers if I had asked, “Do you want to love and obey God now so you can live with Him in heaven forever after you die?”

Sometimes what we want — in this example, to live in heaven — and what we are willing to do to get it — in this example, love and obey God — are incompatible. We find the same incompatibility in many areas of life. I want to be at my ideal weight but am not willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes. Some people want to get out of debt but are unwilling to reduce their spending. Others want better relationships but are not willing to put in the required effort. Regardless of what we say, what we do reflects what we truly want.

The gospels tell the story of a man who also faced this dilemma:

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

…Jesus answered, “You know the commandments…”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:17-22, NIV)

This man is just like us! We want to have everything we want…but on our terms. We want treasure, influence, and significance in this life AND we want eternal life. It is tempting to think having the best of earth and the best of heaven is far more life. But it is not.

Jesus was not giving the man in this story a to do list that would lead to salvation. Based on other Scripture passages, we know that selling all we possess is not how we gain eternal life (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10, Ephesians 2:8). Instead, Jesus gave this answer to draw out the true desires of this man’s heart, to reveal what he truly loved. Jesus had explained the principle at work in an earlier teaching:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21, NIV)

The man was doing many good things but had given his heart to his wealth. He treasured his possessions and lifestyle. He wanted the benefits God offered but was not willing to give up the benefits his wealth provided.

Throughout human history people have wanted to do their own thing but still receive God’s blessing. God made this statement to the Israelites around 1300 years before Jesus walked the earth:

You shall not bow down to [idols] or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:5-6, NIV)

Humans want the freedom to make other things, people, or pursuits more important than God, but we also want Him to shower us with good gifts. However, this verse draws a sharp line: we either love God and receive His love or we hate Him and receive His punishment. There is no middle ground in our relationship with Him or His response to us. A similar warning is found in Revelation:

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. (Revelation 3:15-17, NIV)

Do you notice the different “riches” that are referenced in these verses? It is tempting for us to place value on material possessions, status, or physical comfort. But God’s riches are spiritual in nature. In fact, he warns us:

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:36, NIV)

Far more life desires and pursues the spiritual riches that God offers. It seeks to give and receive forgiveness, love, joy, peace, patience, unity, generosity, and hope. It is grounded in faith. It sees this life — with its struggles, temptations, and successes — in light of eternity. Far more life is centered on God rather than self. It strives to understand and obey Him more rather than cling to comfortable attitudes and actions. Far more life may look poor to the world but it leads to the greatest and best wealth possible!

Sisters,
What do you desire in life? Are your actions compatible with that desire?
How would you describe the best earth has to offer? The best heaven has to offer?
What is your reaction to the statement, “We either love God and receive His love or we hate Him and receive His punishment. There is no middle ground.” What Bible verses support or negate this strong stand?
If you love God, what spiritual riches have you already gained?
Thank God that the riches of far more life start now and last forever!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso