Refocus!

Last week I was feeling spiritually blah and wanted a verse to meditate on that would help me refocus. I searched on the word “hope” and found this gem:

…fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (I Peter 1:13, NASB)

Let’s break it down and meditate on it.

  • Fix means to set definitely or focus. When something is fixed it is secure rather than wavering. It is solid rather than shifting. My emotions have been fluctuating recently and that has caused my mind to vacillate as well. This is a factor in feeling spiritual blah. I want to experience the peace and calm that comes from fixing my mind on what comes next in this verse. I trust that will lead to far more life.
  • Hope is more than a wish. It is a confident expectation. It is not blind, but is based on evidence. Often my well-being is hanging on whatever I am hoping in. When I hope in temporary things, I feel good temporarily. But that is not satisfying! God has given me a desire for permanent hope. If I am to “fix my hope”, it must be placed in something that is more secure. Far more life recognizes that hope must be placed on the eternal. That is the only trustworthy source of hope.
  • Completely. If there can be only one object of hope, this verse is getting ready to define it! Whatever is ahead is worthy of all my hope. It will not disappoint. It will be firm. It will be consistently available. This word promises that far more life is within my grasp if my hope is fixed in the right place!
  • On the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Christ Jesus. This is the key to the whole verse. It is the best possible object of my hope. The revelation of Christ Jesus will definitely occur at His second coming. He will be revealed as The Messiah, Lord of Lord, King of Kings, Redeemer, and more. He will rescue God’s children — including me! — from this wicked earth and take us home to Heaven. I will be rescued from the power, presence, and penalty of sin forever. All who have denied Christ — or ridiculed me for following Him — will realize their error. I look forward to the day when He will return and the object of my hope will become visible!

When I pull this all together, far more life is placing my hope in the grace of Jesus Christ. It is knowing that eternity with Him is my ultimate goal. That allows me to take the challenges of this life in stride, knowing they are preparing me for the future that He already knows. I recognize that I am on a journey, a road trip, through this world. It is my current, temporary home, but something much better awaits me. I experience good and bad, and while both can bring personal growth, neither defines or fulfills me. Rather my connection to God is the source of my identity and fulfillment. When I remember all this, the spiritual “blah” feelings evaporate and I am able to see life through the lenses of joy and thankfulness.

Here are a few more verses on hope:

…godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. (I Timothy 4:8b-10, NASB)

Godliness leads to far more life now and for all eternity. God is trustworthy. If He says something is valuable, I can believe it is. When I fix my hope on Him, my efforts to become like Him will pay off.

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. (I Timothy 6:17, NASB)

When I consider worldwide economics, I am rich. Yet this should not be a source of pride. I should not fix my hope on money or possessions to make my life secure. Remembering that God is my ultimate provider is a key to living far more life. He is generous and wise; He knows exactly what I need and always supplies enough. I can expectantly look for and find His provision in every situation I face.

And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (I John 3:3, NASB)

Because my hope is in Jesus, I am pure. What a wonderful statement and promise! Jesus has purified my heart and enables me to rise above spiritual “blah” to far more life! When I stop to think about what He has done for me, I cannot stay in an emotional funk. God has already forgiven me for failing to remember all Jesus has done for me. But once I recall the price He paid and the benefits I received, my heart is eager to thank Him and notice all the ways He blesses me. Those moments of thankfulness are moments of far more life. May my day — and yours — be filled with them!

Sisters,
What verse or spiritual truth helps reset your vision?
Where is your hope? Is it on temporary things or eternal ones?
Do you believe that God will supply all you need? If not, what do you need that He has not supplied? What source have you turned to for those things? Did that source give you far more life?
Join me today in thanking God and focusing on far more life and the hope it brings!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso
Photo Credit: JenJoe Marsh


Far More Generations

Think about the women in your life. How does the youngest girl you have a relationship with impact you? What kind of relationship do you have with the oldest woman in your life? Think of the women in between, both consistent contributors to your life and the most influential. I hope your life contains a richness of women who offer a wide range of life experiences, a variety of personalities, and diverse interests and gifts.

We are often most comfortable with people who are like us. Sadly, the message we increasingly hear in our culture is we can only be understood by people like us. We may believe those are the only people whose input we can trust. We may feel they the only people we should turn to for perspective. We are told they alone have the right to speak into our lives. We may draw lines between “us” and “them” that rob us of different experiences and perspectives.

Relationships that cross generational lines offer far more life. Older women offer wisdom and experience. Women in the middle generations offer insights on balancing challenges as they strive to support aging parents and maturing children. Young women offer enthusiasm, optimism, and connection to our culture. Each generation faces unique challenges and possesses unique gifts.

Despite our differences, women of all ages have commonalities. We all have hopes and dreams. We all experience love and loss. We all face challenges. We all sin. We all are made in God’s image. We all want to experience far more life. Sisters in Christ share a faith, a future, and fellowship that is not impacted by the number of candles on their birthday cake. God has given us a common role in each other’s lives:

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)

Women of any age can help others become more Christ-like. We can sharpen and be sharpened by others, which leads to far more life. Although age differences can feel awkward, Christ provides a connection point. We can always pray for each other, share encouragement, and study God’s Word together.

We may feel awkward with other generations because what we give each other is not the same. A sense of inequality in what we have to offer and what we receive can be a barrier. For an example, an older and younger woman cannot trade babysitting. Or one may need help with meals or cleaning while the other has no practical needs at that time. We can become uncomfortable receiving from another generation because we are not sure what we “owe” them in return. But if we shift our perspective, we realize that removing debt is not the goal.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another. (Romans 13:8a, NIV)

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV)

If we trust the other woman is giving lovingly and cheerfully of her resources, there is no debt or inequality!  It is okay to ask once, “How can I repay you?” or “Are you sure this is okay?” Humbly accept the answer, trusting her to speak truthfully. We build connection by lovingly and gratefully giving and receiving different things from each other. This connection helps us experience far more life.

As a college student, I formed a friendship with a woman who I later found out was just a couple years younger than my mother. Our age difference was not a factor. I learned a lot from observing her life and asking questions about a variety of situations that I, as a young adult, had yet to experience firsthand. She appreciated my support and encouragement as she traversed a hard season of life. Our relationship was centered on a mutual desire to love and serve God, not on the specific situations we faced.

There are many formal opportunities for us to build relationships with women from other generations: at work, at church, at the gym, in community groups, through shared hobbies, and more. But being in the same place at the same time may not be enough to form a connection. Take initiative to get to know women from other generations. It can be as simple as asking them for advice or offering to pray for them. It can be a few minutes face-to-face when you are already together or a special time you arrange in advance. You can use social media or go “old school” and call!  Do not assume someone else is too busy for you, instead, if you want to get to know them, initiate. You may enrich your life in ways you never imagined! 

In addition to the blessing in your own life, pursuing intergenerational relationships at a time when others are turning away from people who differ from them gives you a chance to be a picture of God in action.

Everyone will know that you are my disciples because of your love for each other. (John 13:35, GW)

Enjoy the richness of all your relationships this week as you live far more life!

Sisters,
How have older and younger women helped you grow in far more life?
What hesitation or reluctance do you have about pursuing relationships with women from another generation?
What do you have to give? What do you need? How can giving and receiving enrich your life rather than just adding more to your to do list?
Pray for your plans to initiate sharing far more life with a woman from another generation this week.
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso

Being a Lamb

A recent Sunday message from Psalm 23 ended with the question, “Will you make yourself a lamb under God the Shepherd?” It sounds simple enough on the surface, but that is actually a deep question!

The roles of God the Shepherd are described throughout Psalm 23:

  • He satisfies His lambs.
  • He makes His lambs rest.
  • He leads His lambs.
  • He restores His lambs.
  • He guides His lambs.
  • He is with His lambs.
  • He disciplines His lambs.
  • He protects His lambs.
  • He comforts His lambs.
  • He feasts with His lambs.
  • He chooses His lambs and sets them apart for His noble purposes.
  • He exceeds the needs of His lambs.
  • He endures with His lambs.
  • He will spend eternity with His lambs.

Of course we want all of those benefits! But the phrase “make yourself a lamb” caught my attention. We cannot experience God’s shepherding unless we are willing to place ourselves under his care and take on the nature of a lamb. What is that nature?

  • Lambs listen for their Shepherd’s voice and obey His commands.
  • Lambs do not follow other shepherds; they only follow their own.
  • Lambs trust their Shepherd completely, they know he will not harm them.
  • Lambs flee danger.
  • Lambs depend on their Shepherd for protection, they have no natural defenses.
  • Lambs understand they are safer in the flock than alone and stick together.
  • Lambs only take in what is healthy for them; they don’t consume garbage.
  • Lambs do not complain about being in uncomfortable or painful situations.
  • Lambs are content to follow and let the Shepherd lead.

Lambs in God’s flock experience far more life. They know the Shepherd will provide all they need for a full, satisfying life. They do not worry. They do not live in regret. They are free to enjoy each day as it comes.

We find it hard to be lambs. We want to determine our own course, be in charge of our own life. This verse too often describes us, just as it described God’s flock in Old Testament times:

The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the Lord pasture them like lambs in a meadow? (Hosea 4:16, NIV)

Our stubbornness, pride, and insistence on getting our own way prevent us from experiencing far more life of a lamb under God’s care. God desires to lead us to a place of safety and abundance within His protective boundaries, but we resist. In those moments, we trust ourselves more than we trust our Shepherd. We prefer to blindly forge our own path in search of what we need rather than follow Him to the place He knows will meet our needs.

This reminds me of a friend from college who demonstrated the life of a lamb following her Shepherd. When challenges arose, she recited this Psalm:

My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore. (Psalm 131)

My friend was an intelligent, independent, capable woman. She was a leader. She did not shirk responsibility or have a low opinion of herself. But she was realistic about her position before God. She recognized He was the perfect Shepherd and found far more life as a lamb in His flock. She trusted Him as her leader and accepted the tasks and opportunities He provided, believing He was always working for her good. She was content to follow Him rather than needing to forge her own path. She understood a lot but also recognized that there was much she did not understand. And in those areas, she was willing to trust her Shepherd and believe He had a plan and purpose to bring her far more life.

Lambs were sacrificed as atonement for sin in the Old Testament. And the Bible refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God because of His sacrifice to atone for our sins. But God has also raised Jesus to the role of Shepherd. This glimpse of our future in Heaven with Him is exciting:

They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ (Revelation 7:17, NIV)

Our Shepherd is leading His lambs to the most wonderful pasture imaginable, Heaven. And we will remain there — safe and satisfied — forever. But we can also experience His presence and provision now. That is far more life: being a lamb in the flock of God the Shepherd.

Sisters,
Have you experienced God the Shepherd as described in Psalm 23?
Are you more often “stubborn as a heifer” or like a lamb in the meadow?
Do you take on responsibilities and concerns that are not meant for you? What makes you hesitant or reluctant to be a lamb in God’s flock?
Will you choose to be a lamb under God the Shepherd today and experience far more life?
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: David Padfield/FreeBibleimages.org



Far More Community

I recently conversed with a woman who considers herself a follower of Jesus but not a Christian. She has met many “Christians” whose lives do not reflect Jesus. As a result, she views Christianity as a man-made system rather than a relationship with God. Sadly, she is not alone in this experience. At least in the US, the term “Christian” has multiple meanings, many of which are not God-glorifying.

The foundation of Christianity is an individual relationship with God. But God does not intend for His children to live in isolation from each other. He wants us to be interconnected as we pursue the common goals of becoming more like Him and sharing His message with others. This Bible passage describes the community of Christians immediately after Christ walked the earth.

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. (Acts 2:44-47a, NIV)

This depicts far more life. They sacrificed their own comfort to meet each other’s physical needs. They gathered to learn from God’s Word and celebrate Jesus’ work in their lives. They enjoyed meals together and shared God’s blessings. This led to a positive reputation in their city as people observed their lifestyle. They shared life and reflected Jesus in their interactions.

The Bible is full of examples of shared lives. Eve was created after God proclaimed it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). During the flood, God only names Noah as being righteous, yet he saved his whole family (Genesis 6). The Israelites traveled as a group (Exodus 12:37) and lived in communities based on their family line (Numbers 1:52). Forty-seven New Testament verses instruct Jesus’ followers how to relate to one another, with the majority specifying how to be united and love each other. As the following verses illustrate, we are stronger together.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV)

We help each other grow. This is not always an easy process. As iron is sharpened, sparks are produced, but the result is a more useful tool. Our interactions with people may lead to sparks of conflict, but they ultimately create an opportunity for us to become more refined and Christ-like. As we navigate these moments, we challenge each other to grow and become all God created us to be.

In hard times we survive by being together. I have stood by two families as they faced crisis situations recently. The first was already connected to a community and immediately turned to them for physical and emotional support, knowing the requests would be a natural extension of existing relationships. They felt peace knowing the needs would be met and were comfortable asking because they had walked with others through hard times. The second family’s crisis led them to realize they were not connected and didn’t know where to turn for support. They felt alone and overwhelmed with all that faced them. When a community stepped up to care for them, it was uncomfortable at first. But as they experienced provision of their basic needs and emotional support, they were grateful. The experience has led them to look at life through a different lens and will probably result in them becoming more connected to a community.

Christ-followers are not the only people to live in community. People can band together around any number of shared goals or preferences. But Christian community has a uniqueness: our connection will continue for eternity! God does something special when His children share their lives on earth:

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35, NASB)

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4, NASB)

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13, NASB)

When we live a disconnected life, we miss opportunities to love and be loved. We miss opportunities to experience and reveal God’s power at work, to overcome human differences, and display a unity that is possible only through Christ. We miss opportunities to show God’s love in action as we supernaturally love others through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Far more life is a connected life. It is giving and receiving love in both the big moments and the everyday moments of life. It celebrates and mourns together. It works and plays together. It dreams and plans together. It works through differences together. The result is that we become greater than the sum of our parts; shared life is richer and more impactful than isolated life. We experience God in new ways and show a more complete picture of Him to everyone we encounter. We live far more life.

Sisters,
Are you living an isolated life or a connected life?
What hesitations do you have about connecting with other Christ-followers?
How have you been sharpened by others?
How have you experienced God’s love or provision through others?
You may have been hurt by others. Talk to God about those situations and ask Him to help you find a safe community to join.
Find far more life taking the next step in connecting with others this week.
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: Jennifer Marsh


Above the Clouds

Sometimes our life circumstances are dark clouds that overshadow us and feel like more than we can bear. Well-meaning people try to comfort us, often by saying, “God will not give you more than you can handle.” But this can lead us to doubt God’s goodness or believe we have done something wrong to deserve trouble. It robs us of far more life.

I think that sentiment is a misquote of this Bible verse:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (I Corinthians 10:13, NIV)

What God actually said is He will not give His children more temptation than they can handle. If you have a relationship with God through Jesus, He will never allow you to be in a situation where sin is your only escape; He will always provide a righteous way out of temptation.

While that is a relief, does it mean that God allows more than we can handle to come our way? Consider this Scripture passage: 

We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.  (2 Corinthians 1:8b-11a, NIV)

Paul felt like his situation was more than he could handle. In fact, he thought he was going to die. But he states a perspective on his difficulties often eludes us: “…This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God…on Him we have set our hope…” There is a higher purpose: God wants to draw us to far more life in Him above the clouds!

Let’s be honest: we are proud, independent people. We put a lot of faith in our own abilities. This makes sense, because there is a lot that we can do in our own strength. God has created us in His image with incredibly powerful minds, reasoning abilities, and creativity. But we are not all-knowing or all-powerful. We cannot do everything. We need God’s help. Far more life recognizes that God is our ultimate source of hope and help, especially when we are facing more than we can handle. And we will face more than we can handle in this life.

Consider these verses Paul wrote earlier in the chapter:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV)

When you face storms in life, do you think of it as a call to seek God’s comfort? As I write this post, my niece is having a stormy week. When she feels fear, hurt, or insecurity she toddles over to a trusted adult and lifts her arms, seeking to be picked up. She snuggles as close as she can and accepts our comfort. When she is filled, she wiggles out of our arms and toddles off to play. Like a toddler, God wants us to seek comfort from Him during our storms. He loves to fill us up and give us what we need to keep going.

This verse points out another truth: experiencing trouble enables us to relate to others. And turning to God for comfort equips us to share the power of a relationship with Christ with those suffering apart from Him. This has prompted me to pray this during some of the hardest times of my life: “Lord, I do not like this storm and wish I was not in it. But I trust You will use it to help me connect with someone else and offer them the comfort You are giving me now.” God has been faithful to make this happen and allow me to see good come from hardship.

Notice the verse says God comforts us in all our trouble so we can comfort others in any trouble. We are tempted to think only those who have experienced similar storms can comfort us. Sometimes that creates a special connection, but the comfort God gives is able to transcend a lack of specific experience.

How do we face more than we can bear with far more life?

  • Far more life is admitting we have more than we can handle and crying out to God for help.
  • Far more life is seeking His comfort.
  • Far more life is placing our hope in God, His written Word, and wise counsel to guide us through our challenges.
  • Far more life is renewing our mind by replacing worry and fear with His peace.
  • Far more life is offering God’s comfort to others.
  • Far more life is remembering that God will more than make up for our struggles in this life when we are with Him in Heaven. (2 Corinthians 4:17, John 16:33)

God will allow more than you can handle in your life. But He loves you and offers you hope, help, comfort, and more. Far more life allows Him to lift you above the clouds. What a wonderful place to be!

Sisters,
Have you believed God will not allow more than you can bear? How has that hurt your relationship with Him?
When you face hardship, what temptations come with it?
What barriers do you face in turning to Him for comfort?
Is there someone with whom God wants you to share His comfort?
Fly above the clouds this week as you find far more life in Him!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso

Imitate Their Faith

I recently attended a celebration of life service for a woman who lived far more life. Despite facing three occurrences of cancer within six years she focused on Jesus and lived far more life to the end. She loved Him with her whole heart and trusted Him with not just her life, but also her death. It was both encouraging and humbling to hear testimonies of the impact she had on others, simply because she loved and obeyed Jesus to the best of her ability every day she remained on earth. I was starting to compare myself to her — and feel guilty about how short I fell — when her pastor shared this verse:

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7, NIV)

Remember your leaders. Leaders are people of influence in your life. This is definitely referring to those with spiritual authority over us (pastors, etc.). But I think many of us have additional “leaders” in our lives who do not hold an official title or role. They lead through their example and influence.

Who spoke the word of God to you. Good spiritual leaders rely on God’s Word for their wisdom and direction. They apply it in their own life and lovingly share it with others. Their goal is to help you better understand and follow God so you have far more life.

Consider the outcome of their way of life. Do not simply trust a leader’s words or blindly follow because of their title or personality traits. Look at the results in their lives. Are they consistently modeling far more life? Does their personal life honor God? Are they respected by their leaders, peers, and followers? Do you want the same results in your own life?

Imitate their faith. We are not instructed to imitate a leader’s specific actions or choices. Rather we are instructed to imitate the faith of those who live far more life. Faith looks different in each of our lives. But we can learn from those whose faith has grown through facing challenges with God. We can recognize areas where they have far more life, ask how their faith developed in that area, and apply ourselves to growing, too.

Why is this important?

 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10, NIV)

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1, NIV)

Sisters, faith is the foundation of your relationship with God. Faith believes that God is real, powerful, and seeking you. Faith professes that Jesus paid the penalty for your sin and saves you from eternal separation from God. Faith provides peace with God, which is your first taste of far more life. This faith is not blind; it usually follows an experience that proves God exists and loves you.

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12, NIV)

Faith enables us to build a relationship with God. We can talk to Him, even ask Him for help, without fear. God has graciously made our faith an “all-access” pass to Him; He is available 24/7/365 and is eager to interact with us. As we look to Him through eyes of faith, we witness His work in and around us.

“But my righteous one will live by faith…” (Hebrews 10:38a, NIV)

As we grow our relationship with God, we live more and more by faith. We discover that following God’s instructions leads to far more life. The more we see the benefit of living by faith, the more willing we are to yield to Him.

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:17, NIV)

Faith changes our motives and actions. It prompts us to share God’s love with others because we believe His love is the best gift they could ever receive. Faith urges us to generously give our time, energy, and money to those who need it because we trust God to supply our needs. Acting by faith brings us far more life.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16, NIV)

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (I Thessalonians 5:8, NIV)

Faith equips us for spiritual battle. Believing God’s word is true, powerful, and relevant is our defense against the lies that Satan hurls at us. Since our enemies are spiritual, our weapons must be spiritual as well (Ephesians 6:12, 2 Corinthians 10:4). As a follower of Christ, entering the battle is not optional. A growing faith will encounter spiritual opposition.

At each stage of our faith journey, looking at the examples of others who are further along can be helpful. We can learn from their victories and mistakes. Far more life is often the result of a hard-fought battle, but can also come through following God’s instruction to imitate the faith of our leaders.

Sisters,
Who are the leaders in your life?
What about their faith can you imitate?
Are you starting, building, learning to obey, or acting on your faith?
As you consider the spiritual battles you are facing, whose faith can you learn from?
Thank God for your leaders who are modeling far more life and joining you on your journey.
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso

Far More Strength

I find rest in God; only he can save me.
He is my rock and my salvation.
He is my defender; I will not be defeated. (Psalm 62:1-2, NCV)

I enjoy reading good post-apocalyptic stories, where some disaster has ended life as we know it and people are struggling to survive. One characteristic of these stories is the constant battle for safety and rest. Those who are alone are vulnerable and do not last long against savage attackers and the harsh realities of life. However, those who join forces with trustworthy and resourceful people are more likely to survive.

Sisters, you may feel like you are living a post-apocalyptic life. If not physically, then perhaps emotionally or spiritually. Trying to survive alone makes you vulnerable. You need a place of rest, a solid rock to support you, a defender who is stronger and wiser than your enemy, and someone to fight beside you when danger arises.

Far more life finds strength in God. It admits weakness, exhaustion, and vulnerability. It depends on Him to lead, strengthen, protect, and defend you.

How long will you attack someone? Will all of you kill that person? Who is like a leaning wall, like a fence ready to fall? They are planning to make that person fall. They enjoy telling lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse. Selah. (Psalm 62:3-4, NCV)

It’s not just your circumstances that makes life hard. It often feels like you are being attacked by other people. You may be misunderstood and rejected. Or slandered by someone spreading false information. People may say one thing to your face and another behind your back. It is painful, and you can feel helpless. You can feel at the end of your strength, barely holding on. Where is far more life then? What should you do?

The Psalm continues:

I find rest in God; only he gives me hope.
He is my rock and my salvation.
He is my defender; I will not be defeated.
My honor and salvation come from God.
He is my mighty rock and my protection.
People, trust God all the time.
Tell him all your problems, because God is our protection. Selah (Psalm 62:5-8, NCV)

Turn to your Heavenly Father. God is your only secure source of hope and protection. He sees what is exposed and hidden (Daniel 2:20-22). He understands your heart; no explanation is needed (I Samuel 16:7). He loves you (I John 3:1). He is always trustworthy (Psalm 145:13). Stay connected to Him and draw from His strength. Telling him your problems opens your heart to receiving his protection, provision, and perspective. You may find other sources of temporary strength, but eventually they will fail you. His strength is secure.

The least of people are only a breath, and even the greatest are just a lie. On the scales, they weigh nothing; together they are only a breath. Do not trust in force. Stealing is of no use. Even if you gain more riches, don’t put your trust in them.
God has said this, and I have heard it over and over:
God is strong.
The Lord is loving.
You reward people for what they have done. (Psalm 62:9-12, NCV)

God says you have no reason to be intimidated by people; they have no more power or control than you do. They live within the boundaries that He has established for them (Psalm 139). On the other hand, you have no reason to push for your own way, manipulate, coerce, or forcefully take what you need from others. Power, position, and wealth do not bring far more life. You can be honest with God. He sees and and knows all, yet He responds with grace and mercy. There is no reason to fear Him. There is no need to hide from Him.

Far more life trusts in God’s strength and finds safety there. It recognizes our own weakness, but not in a hopeless, helpless way. The Apostle Paul sums it up this way:

For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10b, NIV)

God can accomplish the seemingly impossible in your life. He is your personal superhero who will save the day. He is listening for your cry and is eager to ensure your needs are met. He loves you more than anyone else ever has, ever can, or ever will. His love is pure with no hidden agenda. It is secure, so nothing can separate you from His love: no secret from your past; no current weakness; no failure lurking in your future. His love is the source of all that is good, and He enjoys blessing you with good gifts — especially the strength to walk in love, joy, and peace. He enables you to do good then rewards you for it.

Far more life is built on God’s strength. It accepts His leadership. It trusts Him to fight every battle with you and for you. It is confident He will lead you to safety and eternal blessing.

Sisters,
In your struggles do you go it alone or cling to God?
What line of this Psalm describes the help you need from God?
What other sources of hope and protection are you tempted to turn to?
How has God been your personal superhero?
Thank him for leading you to far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso
Photo created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com

Far More Fight

We can think of far more life as a leisurely, pleasure-focused existence we will have someday. When we are more spiritually mature. When we are not simply surviving. When we sin less. When we are out of a bad situation. When…

But far more life is not about us. And it is not a level of maturity we will achieve someday. Far more life happens each moment we choose to walk in the Spirit. Consider these examples:

  • Every time we do what is right even though our sinful nature is pulling us toward doing wrong we seize far more life.
  • Every time we express patience we are responding with far more life.
  • Every time we give our worries and fears to God rather than being swallowed by anxiety we release far more life.
  • Every time we focus on thanking Him in the midst of a hard situation we reap far more life.
  • Every time we forgive someone who hurt us rather than holding on to anger or resentment we unlock far more life.
  • Every time we seek God’s direction and adopt His mindset we discover far more life.

Far more life is a simple choice to trust and obey Him. Simple, but not easy.

I came to bring them life, and far more life than before. (John 10:10b, PHILLIPS)

A relationship with Jesus is the only source of far more life. But His promise falls in the middle of a teaching about the spiritual battle we face. Surrounding verses describe our enemy, Satan, and his agents as thieves and wolves who want to kill, steal, and destroy us. Far more life is hard to maintain because we have an enemy working against us! Did you realize you are engaged in spiritual battle every day you live on this earth? Or have you been under siege without even knowing it? God provides all we need to overcome Satan. But He does not miraculously extract us from the battlefield; He expects us to fight.

Put on the full armor of God to protect yourselves from the devil and his evil schemes. (Ephesians 6:11, VOICE)

Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:12, NLT)

Even though we have to fight, He doesn’t want us stuck in a deadlock. We can win more battles and enjoy far more life as we follow our Commander, God. As we learn to replace the beliefs that underlie our worry, fear, hopelessness, apathy, and sinful choices with His truth we are strengthened and become victorious more consistently.

Some of the spiritual war we are fighting is around us:

We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. (I John 5:19, NIV)

Satan has transformed our culture into a minefield of anti-God pursuits: Destroying sexual purity and cheapening sexual intimacy. Seeking wealth, power, and fame. Bullying, disrespecting, and harming other people for personal gain. Failing to care for His creation. Ignoring His priorities and making creation the top priority. And many, many more. Sometimes we can skirt the minefield, but other times we find ourselves surrounded by danger. We can find far more life in Christ from either position.

The spiritual war is also fought in our minds:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8, NIV)

Satan actively advances anti-God ideas to draw people away from God: Heaven and hell aren’t real. People are good at their core. Each person has the right to decide what is right and wrong for them. We deserve to be spared from pain and difficulty. And many, many more. We walk securely in far more life when we reject Satan’s lies and cling to God’s perspective on this life and eternity.

Since battle is imminent, we are wise to keep our spiritual armor and weapons in the best condition possible. This, too, is far more life. Maintaining a close connection to our commander, God, results in far more life. Making relationships with other spiritual warriors a priority can also provide far more life. Recognizing and working to overcome our weaknesses produces far more life.

While we need to be prepared for daily battle, the intensity will vary. Some moments we will fight hand-to-hand. These are times we wrestle with our sinful nature and fight hard to achieve or maintain righteous actions and thoughts. I have engaged in sin and had to fight my way out rather than being pulled deeper. (Those moments in your life may not feel like victories, but they are!) Other times we will recognize our enemy from a distance and evade his attacks. I have learned to avoid certain situations where I know I will be tempted to sin. I am learning to recognize my “emotional hot buttons” so I can step back when they are close to being hit.

Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. (Revelation 19:6b, NIV)

Far more life is not our future goal; we can experience it today. In moments of victory over sin and Satan, we find far more life. In our moments of defeat, we can also find far more life through God’s forgiveness, comfort, and direction. Each moment we walk with God, whether in training or battle, is far more life. And when the final battle is won, every moment in heaven will be far more life. Praise God!

Sisters,
Are you waiting for far more life? Or do you embrace it in daily moments?
Are you aware of our enemy? Or is the news that you are in a battle surprising?
Where do you see the battle around you? Within you?
Stick close to your Commander this week to find far more life in and between your battles!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso
Photo Credit: Blake Bottomley

Overflowing with Grace

Think of a time something happened that you were eager to tell others. I bet you could hardly keep it from bubbling out! I feel this way when my hopes or dreams become reality or when something good happens unexpectedly. But the biggest, most exciting thing we will ever experience is God’s saving grace! He wants us to freely share that good news through words and actions that show how He changed us.

God is able to make all grace overflow to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will overflow in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8, EHV)

All grace. All things. All times. All you need. Every good work. Wow, God is serious about this! But notice the verse begins “God is able…” Being filled with His grace and power — and overflowing with good works — is for our best, but God does not force it on us. Far more life is letting God’s grace fill us to overflowing. We know we are overflowing with grace by the changes in our thoughts and feelings. Others know by the changes in our actions.

One person in history was perfectly filled to overflowing with God’s grace: Jesus. His thoughts, feelings, and actions were always in line with God’s. The gospels are full of incidents where people experienced His grace in action. The Bible records how those in His hometown responded:

Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. (Luke 4:22a, NLT)

Overflowing grace makes you stand out! Jesus stood out because He was different. Our natural human reaction to challenging people and situations is defensiveness, anger, callousness, or other sinful responses. But when we live in the power of the Holy Spirit, we — like Jesus — are different. We have power to respond with gracious thoughts, feelings, and actions. Those are moments of far more life.

There are times we bite our tongues and put on a fake smile. That is better than spewing ugliness, but it is not grace. The grace that is evidence of God’s work in our lives is expressed as compassion and kindness. It is the result of a renewed mind, as described in these verses:

Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes. (Romans 12:2, TPT)

God’s grace transforms us, first changing our beliefs and thoughts, then changing our feelings and actions. The gospels illustrate this with the account of a woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Just watching this made the disciples uneasy, but Jesus explained:

“…The great love she has shown proves that her many sins have been forgiven. But whoever has been forgiven little shows only a little love.” (Luke 7:47, GNT)

This woman understood that her sin was great, but she also understood that God’s grace was greater. Experiencing the depth of God’s grace inspires us to show others grace. When we realize how many sins we have committed and how much God has forgiven us, our love for Him increases. This inspires us to show grace to those around us.

When my children were young I got tired of giving them the same instructions over and over. But one day I realized God did not become impatient or angry about giving me the same reminders over and over. Recognizing God’s grace toward me inspired me to show my children grace; I decided even if I had to give the same instructions every day for the next 18 years, I would do so with love and kindness. The result was far more life in my own heart and in my relationship with my children.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10, NIV)

God has a beautiful, satisfying and perfect plan for your life! And He offers you overflowing grace for each step of that plan. Far more life embraces God’s purpose and seeks to fulfill it. His plan for you is unique; no one else on the planet can do the specific good works He prepared for you. But these works are not hidden; there is no reason to fear you will miss them. Instead, when you focus on understanding and living through His grace, those good works will natural flow out of you. Frequently your good works will benefit the people you regularly interact with. At other times you will have a strong desire to love and serve those facing a particular struggle or a particular people group. Often your good works will be linked to a particular skill you possess, so you will be happy to do them. Some of these works are actions that reveal God’s work in our lives, but they can also be words that share God’s grace.

The grace that overflows from us can help others find far more life, too. We have a wonderful opportunity to be a fountain of His grace. And experience another aspect of far more life. Try it out this week!

Sisters,
Are you overflowing with grace? If not, what barriers are blocking the flow?
How do you feel about standing out for overflowing with grace?
Do you think God has shown you a little or a lot of love? How does this impact the love you show others?
How are you seeking to fulfill God’s purpose for your life?
Focus on letting grace overflow this week and share far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso

The Gift of Grace

God’s grace can be a hard concept to fully grasp, maybe because it is so different from our experience in everyday human interactions. I’ve heard grace explained using the acronym “Great Riches At Christ’s Expense”. I’ve also heard it is “getting blessings we do not deserve” while its companion mercy is “not getting the punishment we do deserve”. These are simplified versions of the Dictionary.com definition: “the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings”. God’s Word confirms all those explanations are consistent with His expression of grace:

Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17b, NIV)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24, NIV)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. (Ephesians 1:7-8a, NIV)

Far more life understands that grace is a gift from God. A right perspective on grace enables us to live the best life possible. But we can think too much or too little of ourselves and miss the wonder of God’s amazing grace.

Thinking too much of ourselves leads us to minimize our sin and our need for God’s grace. We miss out on far more life when we believe our sins are “not that bad”. If this were true, then Jesus did not have to die to pay for our sin and the spiritual darkness it reveals! We could have overcome separation from God on our own; we did not need his gift of grace. These strong words from Romans 3 make it clear this is not the case:

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12, NIV)

Grace is a gift. From God. Failing to recognize the Giver leads us to try and earn this precious gift, to prove our worthiness. But that is impossible. Earning it is not God’s plan; our efforts can actually pull us further away from the security of His grace.

On the other hand, thinking too little of ourselves leads us to minimize ourselves and reject God’s grace. We miss out on far more life when we continually question, “Why would God save me? I’m not worth it.” From God’s perspective we are the most important part of His creation. We are the only part made in His image (Genesis 1:27). We are the only part granted forgiveness (Colossians 1:13-14). And we are the only part that God lives inside (Romans 5:5, I Corinthians 3:16). We are worth it because God, our Creator, decided we are worth it.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV)

If we don’t understand God’s grace we will be tempted to think that doing good works will prove our worth and love for Him; we believe that will make Him happy with us. So when we fail to obey — which we will! — we feel guilty and condemned because we believe we have let God down. We fear that he will pull away from us. We may even feel separated from Him and assume that He has pulled away. But far more life frees us from feeling condemned when we sin. Instead it understands that God’s children live under grace. It enables us to acknowledge our sin without letting it define or conquer us. It believes this Biblical truth:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1, NIV)

Rather than being under the condemnation of sin, far more life is living in the power of the Holy Spirit. Grace-filled living is characterized by inner joy, peace, gentleness, patience, love, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness that radiates from us. God’s light shines through us and reveals the brilliance of His character. Grace also provides the power to choose righteousness rather than sin. We do not take Christ’s sacrifice for granted; our freedom was purchased at a high price. But that sacrifice was not the end; it was a new beginning. Jesus is alive. He overcame sin and death and sent His Holy Spirit to give us far more life. What a precious gift!

Sisters,
How do you define grace?
How do you minimize your sin?
How do you minimize your worth?
If you have not accepted God’s grace, what is stopping you?
If you have accepted God’s grace, how do you see His power changing you?
Praise God for the gift of grace and the power to live far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso