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

Marathon Mindset

Please tell me I am not the only one who gets tired of doing the things that need to be done. Household chores. Unpleasant tasks at work. Taking care of people. Paying bills. Attending activities. Serving at church. There are many more things we could add. We all have moments when we simply do not want to do what is right. We want to do what we want. But, as God’s daughters, we are conflicted because we know our attitudes and actions are wrong. At those times, these verses help me reset my focus:

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.  (Colossians 3:23-24, NASB)

They came alive for me the year I decided to clean my husband’s car as a Father’s Day gift. I started out cheerfully, wanting to show my husband that I loved and appreciated him. But I grew tired of the task long before it was finished. I had to decide: did I say “good enough” — even though the car was not yet clean — or push on? In my heart, a half-done job communicated half-hearted love and commitment to my husband, which was certainly not the message I wanted to send! The above verses came to mind, and I asked myself, “If this were Jesus’ car, would I be proud to present it to him as is?” The answer was definitely no. So I shifted my focus; cleaning the car was now a gift I was giving my Savior: the gift of loving my husband well, even when it was uncomfortable and inconvenient. That gave me the stamina I needed to finish the job, praying for my husband as I continued. I discovered a secret of far more life that day: I am always serving Jesus!

“It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” That statement is true of every situation we face. Whoever makes a request of us, it is the Lord that we serve with our answer. And not just at church. Serving your family by cooking and cleaning is serving the Lord. Serving your friends by listening and helping is serving the Lord. As is serving a stranger. And serving those in your life who are hard to love. Far more life serves Christ by serving people.

That does not mean we are obligated to say yes to every request made of us: sometimes we must say no to one in order to serve the Lord in a different way. We have limited resources: time, physical energy, money, and emotional energy. When we need to choose between options, we often find far more life in opportunities where we can invest rather than spend our resources.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:9-10, NIV)

When a resource is limited, we tend to value it more. Those living on a tight budget carefully consider each expenditure to stretch their money the furthest. Those with busy schedules carefully consider each new commitment to determine whether it will add to their lives. When we value our resources, we want to invest them so we get a return. We want to gain something in the transaction. The verse above promises that our investment of doing good will reap a harvest, at the proper time. We must invest in faith, trusting that God will faithfully reward us when it is time. I think it is easy to see this in parenting. We invest countless hours caring for, training, loving, correcting, encouraging, teaching, and investing in children before they genuinely notice or appreciate our efforts. Some of our investments will not be acknowledged until we stand before God in Heaven. But we can wait patiently when we know we are ultimately serving Him, not people. Far more life views doing good as an eternal investment.

When my children were young and required a lot of my energy, an older, experienced friend wisely advised: View your day as a marathon rather than a sprint. This was especially true for me the one day each week my husband was gone before the children woke up in the morning and returned long after they were in bed that night. The children and I had an abundance of time together those days, but I had limited physical and emotional energy, and a long day. So I kept those days simple — saying no to some requests — to make the most of our time together. I was serving God — not just my husband and children — and investing in my most important relationships.

Many of us are facing a life circumstance that feels like a marathon. Perhaps we can see the finish line, perhaps not. You may be getting tired and want to say “good enough” and stop. You may have lost sight of why you are even running the race. Look to the Lord Christ through prayer and His Word for strength to keep going. Fill your mind with reminders that He is the one you are truly serving. When the course forks, and always choose the path that leads to righteousness. Find far more life in each good work you do for Him.

Sisters,
What task or situation are you tired of doing?
In what way are you serving the Lord Christ through it?
Where are you investing your resources? Where are you merely spending them?
Are you facing a marathon circumstance? How can you keep your eyes on Jesus?
Thank Him for offering far more life as you serve Him!
-Shari


Responding with Kindness

For most of us, physical distancing is getting old. We are tired of being cooped up at home. We are ready to get back to family, friends, work, school, and fun that has been put on hold. And the longer we are separated from “normal life”, the crankier some of us are becoming.

Since much of my recent interaction has been on social media, that is where I have noticed this trend the most. (But I know it is happening in our homes, too.) People are criticizing friends and strangers. They are making assumptions, defensively over-reacting, and just plain being rude to others. It is exhausting to take part in these conversations and heart-breaking to observe them. They have the potential to rob us of far more life and steal our joy. But that does not have to happen!

How do we keep our own negativity in check? How do we respond to others, especially those who are attacking us? As we look to God’s Word for guidance, we recognize that WE can be negative and attacking toward Him during our times of fear, worry, and doubt. He sets the perfect example with His response to us:

Are you, perhaps, misinterpreting God’s generosity and patient mercy towards you as weakness on his part? Don’t you realise that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4, PHILLIPS)

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us… (Titus 3:4-5, NIV)

It is tempting for us to think we need to fight back, put others in their place, or ensure that we are understood. We can even think those show our strength. But those are often fleshly emotional responses. God had every right to blast us with His righteousness, yet He offered us kindness. Because He loved us. Since God’s Spirit lives inside those who have accepted Christ, we have the power to offer kindness, too. Far more life responds to offenses in love with kindness.

The Greek word translated “kindness” in Romans 2 means “usefulness”. This word can also be translated as goodness or gentleness. Kindness is practical, it meets needs. My pastor describes kindness as the initiating part of love that blesses others by meeting practical needs. Sometimes kindness is expressed by doing things for people: taking a meal; babysitting for free; giving them a ride; or helping them with physical projects like moving, home/car repairs, or yard work. At other times, kindness is expressed through words that are helpful to them: checking on them when you have been out of contact; praying with them for a burden they are carrying; encouraging them during a hard situation they face; or speaking the truth in love with gentleness and respect when they are seeking input.

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25, NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind… (I Corinthians 13:4, NIV)

God looks beyond the surface to the heart, and we are wise to do that, too. Often negative speech is driven by emotion; fear, anxiety, or feeling threatened causes people to be defensive and territorial. Conflict resolution strategies start with listening and stating agreement with something the other person said. Reigning in our emotions and communicating that we value the other person (even if we disagree with their statement or action) is a practical way to show love and offer kindness. Sometimes that alone de-escalates the situation and opens the door for further communication and understanding. Other times that starts us down a good path, but we must invest time and more kindness to bring things back to an even keel. But there are times the kindest thing we can do is to graciously leave the conversation and pray for God’s wisdom on how to best express love and kindness moving forward.

What else does God’s word tell us about kindness?

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32, NIV)

…When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly… (I Corinthians 4:12-13, NIV)

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:6-8, NIV)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12, NIV)

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. (2 Timothy 2:24, NIV)

Kindness is a gift we have received from God. Not because we deserved it, but because He chose to give it to us. And He asks, expects, and empowers His children to bless others with this gift, too. The goal of our kindness is to reflect God’s character. This not only gives us far more life but demonstrates God’s love to others. Kindness is one of our Christian superpowers!

Far more life is a benefit of conforming ourselves to Christ’s character. It makes us happy because it brings us into fellowship with God. But His purpose in granting us far more life extends beyond our happiness. It enables us to display the light of His character to a world that is shrouded in spiritual darkness. Our expressions of far more life — our kind words and actions — are a beacon that illuminates God’s presence and power. In this season of widespread fear and uncertainty, kindness shines bright! Let kindness be a way you share far more life with those who are seeking Jesus!

Sisters,
How have you experienced God’s kindness?
When has someone shown you kindness? How did it impact you?
Think of the times you are tempted to be unkind. What negative emotion(s) drive you in those moments?
Which verse on kindness hits home and inspires you?
Seek far more life and watch for opportunities to be a beacon of kindness!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso


Even Though

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me… (Psalm 23:4, NIV)

The dark valleys of life are unavoidable: heartbreak, illness, loss, sin, disease, injustice, and death, to name a few. They are simply part of the human experience on planet earth, a consequence of the sinful choices that separated us from God and the perfect environment He intended for us. We cannot anticipate exactly which valleys we will walk through or when, but they are inevitable.

The good news is we do not have to live each day in fear or dread of what could happen, or even what is happening. Far more life is available to us every day, whether we are on the highest mountaintop or the lowest valley. Our circumstances are not the key to far more life, rather it is determined by the condition of our heart and mind. Jesus’ words to His first disciples inspire me:

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] (John 16:33, AMPC)

I appreciate how the Amplified spells it out for us: you will have tribulation AND trials AND distress AND frustration but be of good cheer, take courage, be confident, be certain, be undaunted. Why? Because Jesus has won the war against the evil of this earth for us. Yes, we still have to go fight the battles, but knowing we are on the winning side changes our perspective. That enables us to fight with hope, confidence, and renewed strength.

Psalm 23:4 starts with two important words: even though. They do not deny or minimize the bad situation. But neither do they let it define them. Even though offers hope: this is not the end of the story. Even though offers perspective: there is something to remember we may not see at the moment. Even though helps us find far more life — even in the darkest valley — by pointing us toward the solution: God is with His children.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Joshua 31:8, NIV)

What a promise! Wherever we go, whatever we face, God is with us. Our relationship with Him is not hidden by dark valleys. Our connection to Him is never dropped or cut off. This is the source of our courage, confidence, certainty, and undaunted heart and mind! God’s presence gives us far more life!

As a result of God’s constant companionship and presence, we have no reason to fear. We fear what we do not understand, but God understands everything (Job 12:13). We fear what we cannot control or change, but God has control over everything (Psalm 97). We fear danger, but God is a safe refuge (Psalm 36:7). God’s perfect love for us drives out our fear (I John 4:18).

My teenage daughter has a collage of hand-lettered Bible verses and inspirational quotes on her bedroom wall. She mailed this one to a family friend who had to move into a care center because of a degenerative disease attacking her body:

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me… (Psalm 23:4, NIV)

Our friend entered the facility on the day coronavirus-prevention restrictions were put into place. Her adjustment to life at the center has been a dark valley. But this verse has encouraged her and reminded her that, despite physical distancing, she is not alone. Earlier this week, she asked us to pray for her roommate who had a headache and cough. A few hours ago, our friend shared that her roommate has a fever, she is feeling unwell herself, and they are both in isolation. But she can still see this verse on her wall, and it helps her trust God despite her fear. We personalized it to describe the evil she faces: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no virus, for You are with me.”

We can be in a variety of dark valleys. Perhaps your personalization would name one of these evils:
I will fear no persecution, for You are with me.
I will fear no discrimination, for You are with me.
I will fear no injustice, for You are with me
I will fear no abuse, for You are with me.
I will fear no sin committed against me, for You are with me.
I will fear no loss, for You are with me.

Even though we must walk through the dark valleys, they cannot rob us of far more life! Identify your fears. Give them to God, who is with you on the journey. Then walk forward in the peace and confidence of His presence, love, protection, strength, understanding, and promises. You will find far more life, even though…

Sisters,
What dark valley are you in? Or have you been in?
How does knowing Jesus has won the war for you change your mindset during the battles you face?
What do you fear? What characteristic of God can drive out that fear?
How would you fill in the blank: “I will fear no ______, for You are with me”?
Thank God for the security of far more life, even though…
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso


All We Need

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life …For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (2 Peter 1:3, 5-8, NIV)

God has promised to give His children all they need for life on earth. During challenging times, it is comforting to recall these promises and know that God has our back, that He will come through for us. But these verses make it clear His goal is not simply to make us more comfortable. If that is our expectation, we will be sorely disappointed and may even conclude that God is NOT keeping His promise to meet our needs. Far more life understands our comfort in this life is not God’s primary concern. He desires something better for us!

In the Bible passage above, God shared our biggest need: a godly life fueled by His divine power. This is His greatest calling for us. What does He tell us to focus on in order to attain it? Mostly character qualities. Rather than being concerned about our homes, possessions, or bank account, God puts the emphasis on growing our goodness and knowledge of Him, increasing our self-control and perseverance, adding to our godliness and affection for others, and expanding our love. Consistently choosing to let God’s power make us more like Jesus is far more life.

What is God’s purpose in developing our character so we can be empowered to live a godly life?

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8, NIV)

God has good works for us to do, to bring Him glory and accomplish His goals. We cannot see the big picture of His master plan. But we can trust that we each have a unique role to play in accomplishing it because He has told us so. He has given us particular talents, gifts, and interests that are necessary for the tasks He has assigned to us. We find far more life as we are engaged in His good works.

I encountered a wonderful God-loving manager in my first job out of college. He assigned work to his staff based on their skills and experience. Then he asked each person, “What do you need from me to be successful in your job?” He was not a cruel or demanding task-master. Instead he came alongside his employees to make sure they had everything they needed to do their jobs well. I appreciated his example of how God treats His children.

Sometimes God intends for our good works to benefit other people. Rather than looking only at our own lives, our own needs, and our own tasks, God instructs us to be involved with others. There are over 100 “one another” statements in the Bible and almost 60 of them tell us how to relate to others. Far more life gives to others, trusting God to provide for us. Although finances or material items are the first things that come to mind when we hear about “giving,” God’s economy is much more diverse! Sometimes we are asked to give our time. At other times it is our physical, mental, or emotional energy. On yet other occasions we need to give spiritual encouragement. Even praying for people is a form of giving! All are important to God and He equips us for all. Consider this exhortation from Paul to the Philippians:

Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles….and my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:14, 19, NIV)

The Philippians invested in Paul and Timothy’s ministry by meeting their physical and emotional needs. Not just when they were together, but as Paul and Timothy traveled to multiple cities sharing the gospel, the Philippians continued to pray for, encourage, and financially support them. Here Paul is reminding them that God is dependable and trustworthy and WILL give them all that they need. It is not hard for Him. He is not inconvenienced or put out by having to supply it. He is rich and generous and wants to repay their blessing others with a blessing. Far more life invests in others, knowing God is the ultimate supplier.

The Bible includes illustrations of people making wise and foolish investments (Matthew 25, Luke 9:1-9). God expects us to be discerning and use our knowledge, experience, and common sense to judge what and when we should give. But we can be confident that investing in God’s work will not spiritually bankrupt us. God can and will provide all we need.

Do you want to consistently experience far more life? Accept all God offers to develop your character, do the good works He has designed for you, and invest in others. You will see firsthand how He keeps His promise to provide all you need for godliness and far more life!

Sisters,
What is your response to the idea that God’s definition of “all you need” is not what makes your life comfortable?
Do you believe that living a godly life is your biggest need and greatest calling?
How have you seen God supply what you needed to do His good works?
Have you experienced far more life from giving to or investing in others? When?
Thank Him for providing all you need for godliness and far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso


Yield

“The best part is being right on the edge of losing control.”

Hearing this statement from a friend clarified why I do not enjoy downhill skiing. Some personality types thrive at the brink of losing control, not just on the slopes but in other aspects of life. Others prefer the safety of the predictable. Many of us — including me — are somewhere in the middle. But we all desire a measure of control in our lives: control of our circumstances, our comfort, and our destiny. When it is threatened, we go into fight or flight mode to regain control.

But sometimes we must yield control. How we respond depends, in part, on our perception of the new controlling force. Do we perceive it as good? Trustworthy? Knowledgeable? Capable? This is not just true of yielding control to humans, it also impacts our willingness to surrender to God. We grow concerned when we read verses like this:

Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. (Psalm 115:3, NIV)

While God is not accountable to humans or any other entity, He is not a tyrant. Understanding His heart, intentions, and character are all essential factors in our willingness to yield control. Does adding these verses to the discussion increase your willingness to yield control to God?

The Lord remembers us and will bless us… (Psalm 115:12, NIV)

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11, NIV)

But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. (Jeremiah 10:12, NIV)

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. (Psalm 145:13, NIV)

I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. (Isaiah 46:10, NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son… (John 3:16, NIV)

It is easier to yield to God when we believe He is good, generous, all-seeing, powerful, wise, eternal, trustworthy, faithful, loving, self-sacrificing, and completely righteous. Despite our doubts, there is no risk in giving Him control. He is already in control of our existence, whether or not we acknowledge it. We can only experience far more life in areas where we yield control to God. I appreciate this reminder from Solomon:

I am confident it will go better for those who worship the one True God and stand in awe before Him. (Ecclesiastes 8:12, VOICE)

Yielding does not make us powerless puppets who cannot think or act on their own. It does not make us weak and helpless. Rather it frees us to focus on what is truly within our power to control: our own responses. Far more life recognizes what to take on and what to yield to God.

The Lord has told you, human, what is good; he has told you what he wants from you: to do what is right to other people, love being kind to others, and live humbly, obeying your God. (Micah 6:8, NCV)

It is within our power to treat others right, to love showing kindness, to obey God humbly. We find far more life living out these three tasks! It produces peace rather than anxiety, instills hope rather than fear, and raises joy rather than weighing us down with heavy burdens. What does this look like in daily life?

  • Treating others right means treating them as we would like to be treated, in both big and small matters. Like taking only the supplies we need rather than hoarding them. Or standing up for those being treated wrong.
  • Being kind to others means forgiving them because we choose to, not because they ask for it or deserve it. And sacrificing our “rights” to protect those who are vulnerable.
  • Humbly obeying God means using our conscience and discernment to determine what is best but letting Him serve as judge over others’ hearts. And being genuinely thankful for what we have rather than complaining about what we do not.

This verse caught my attention:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? (Luke 12:25-26, NIV)

God considers adding one hour to our lives a very little thing. But for us, that is impossible! What are we trying to do that is impossible? Where are we wasting our efforts? How are we missing far more life by trying to do God’s job instead of our own? A friend who thought she was dying says this about her experience:

I realized when it is our time, whether it is soon or yet distant, we will see the Face of God that we have longed for since we began our journey with Him on this earth. But if it is not our time we will live another day with the privilege of glorifying Jesus who gave everything for us. It is in His hands and His control. Either way it is a win-win, so we have absolutely nothing to fear, no matter what happens around us.

Yield control to God and experience the blessing of far more life. This is an on-going process throughout our days on earth. But as you yield, I guarantee you will find exactly what you need, whether that is excitement and thrill, safety and comfort, or a bit of both. And you will definitely find far more life!

Sisters,
In what areas is it hard for you to yield control to God?
What concerns do you have about giving God control?
How would you grade yourself on controlling your thoughts and actions?
Treat others right. Lovingly show kindness. Humbly obey God. Which is easiest? Hardest?
Choose an area today where you have been resisting and yield it to God. Experience the joy and freedom of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Filled with Love

Sometimes you read a verse and ask, “Did God put this in the Bible just for me?” He loves you and wants you to have all that you need to experience far more life every moment of every day. God’s truths apply to a wide variety of situations we encounter. His Word has met human needs for generations. And will continue to do so until Christ returns. He is so good!

I was recently reminded of a verse that contains truth I need during this challenging time:

The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. (I Timothy 1:5, NLT)

I like to break multi-faceted truth down into parts and think how each one applies to my life. The first truth I read in this verse is that all believers — including me – should be filled with love. Love toward those who are easy to love and those who are hard to love. Love toward the people who are putting others in danger through their unwise actions. Love toward those who are spreading fear. Love toward those who are selfishly hoarding supplies and food. Love toward those who are inconveniencing us. Love toward those whose perspective is unthinkable to us. Far more life has enough love to share generously with others. Always.

God knows we cannot manufacture this love on our own. He doesn’t even want us to try doing that! Rather than expecting us to resort to fake love, the rest of the verse reveals the source of true love: a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.

First, genuine faith. God is the creator of love and the source from which it flows. When we put our faith in Him, trusting His character and His instruction, we are filled with His love. It is unlike any love we have ever known: unconditional (Romans 8:38-39); complete (Ephesians 3:17-19); self-sacrificing (Romans 5:8); eternal (Psalm 136); generous without reservation (2 Timothy 1:7); unfailing (Psalm 143:8); and more. His love is a gift that enriches our lives and is intended to enrich others’ lives.

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

Far more life does not hoard love, it gives it away, in faith, knowing it will remain filled! When we have genuine faith, our source of love is eternal and we can freely love others.

Once we have a relationship with God, we can love because He has made our hearts pure.

Now may God himself, the God of peace, make you pure, belonging only to him. (I Thessalonians 5:23, NCV)

A pure heart belongs only to God. It has chosen God as Savior and Lord. It makes knowing, praising, and following God the priority. It desires to please Him and make Him happy. But we have old habits and thought patterns that sometimes overshadow our pure hearts. Rather than allowing our pure hearts to give love, we fall back into fear, worry, defensiveness, or coldness toward others. Before Christ was in our lives, we were powerless to overcome these patterns. But now we can! Far more life recognizes when we have reverted to old patterns and chooses love. It chooses to view others through the lens of truth and grace, striving to see them — and their actions — as God does.

The third aspect of being filled with love is a clear conscience. Our conscience makes us aware of our sinful actions and motives.

A man’s conscience is the Lord’s searchlight exposing his hidden motives. (Proverbs 20:27, TLB)

When we know we are wrong, our focus moves off God and onto ourselves. Love and sin cannot coexist in pure hearts. So we must choose which we are going to follow. We do not need to wallow in shame and guilt. We do not need to punish ourselves or pay penance. When God forgave us, He knew we would continue to sin; He forgave us anyway. But our genuine faith and pure hearts give us a desire to stop sinning, to keep a clear conscience. Far more life is listening to our conscience and choosing to bring our thoughts and actions in line with what God says is good and right. This is repentance: recognizing we are wrong and choosing to turn from wrong to right. Love flows through our hearts again when we repent. And that love enables us to treat others with compassion and look beyond their actions to the heart behind them. It opens our eyes to see their hurt, fear, and desire to experience love that flows from genuine faith, a pure heart, and a clear conscience.

When we obey the instruction in God’s Word, everyone wins. God is revealed through us and gets glory. Others receive His love. We experience far more life. I can think of many times where this has been proven true in my life: getting up in the night to feed a hungry baby; answering the phone when I felt unsocial but knew a friend was struggling; keeping a commitment when I was tired; spending my “just for me” money on a gift for someone else. In each case, letting a pure heart, clear conscience, and genuine faith fill me with love led to moments of far more life. Fill your day with love and far more life!

Sisters,
Is your heart filled with love right now?
Have you placed your faith in Christ? If not, what is stopping you? (If you want to talk about this, I am available at farmorelife@gmail.com.)
What old habits and thought patterns are overshadowing your pure heart? Ask God for help to recognize and replace them.
Is your conscience clear? If not, confess your sin to God, repent, and choose what you know is right. If you cannot break sin’s hold, ask for help; some false belief is keeping you in bondage, but you can break free!
Be filled with God’s love — and far more life — today!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso