Far More Moments

But godliness actually is a source of great gain when accompanied by contentment [that contentment which comes from a sense of inner confidence based on the sufficiency of God]. (I Timothy 6:6, AMP)

This verse has always intrigued me. The premise is simple but the implications are profound: godliness and contentment are far more life! In context, this verse follows instructions for slaves to honor their masters — whether their actions are honorable or not — and is part of a warning against the lure of false teachers. If anyone is tempted to feel far more life is unavailable, I think it would be a slave bound to a wicked master! But far more life springs from what happens inside our hearts. So godliness and contentment are within the grasp of every child of God, no matter what their circumstances!

Godliness is responding as God would if He was in our place. Anyone who has accepted Jesus — and as a result has the Holy Spirit living inside — is capable of godliness. We have moments of godliness, but no human has mastered it. We all have areas where Satan’s lies and our own experiences in this fallen world trick us into choosing sin. As we recognize our moments of ungodliness, we have opportunity to obey this Biblical instruction:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2, NIV)

The key to growing in godliness is examining and changing our beliefs. As we compare what we hear and experience in this world to the principles in God’s word, we will find differences. Some beliefs are deeply buried — created by our interpretations of life at a very young age — and define our view of ourselves and God. As we renew our mind by adopting God’s truth, our relationship with and understanding of Him deepens. This naturally leads to more moments where we respond in godliness. More moments of far more life.

As the Amplified Bible explains, contentment is inner confidence based on the sufficiency of God. Contentment is: knowing God is in control (Psalm 93:1); understanding His love for us (I John 3:1); and believing He is working all things for our good (Romans 8:28). Contentment frees us from fear and worry because we know God is for us (Romans 8:31) and will provide all we need (Philippians 4:19). Contentment is a direct reflection of our beliefs about God. The Apostle Paul writes:

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13, NIV).

If we are not content, we are wise to examine our beliefs about God. He will give us strength to do this.

Every day is a collection of moments where we respond with godliness and contentment or sinfulness and discontentment. The moments of godliness and contentment are moments of far more life. A segment of King David’s life gives us a clear example of this.

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war…David remained in Jerusalem…From the roof he saw a woman bathing…and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (2 Samuel 11:1-4, NIV)

In this passage, David is not content. He shirks his duty to command his troops and choses an ungodly pursuit of Bathsheba. Knowing she is pregnant, David continues to sin, ultimately killing her husband. When confronted, David repents of his sin (2 Samuel 12:13), but there are consequences; God declares the child will become sick and die. During the illness, David begs God to spare this son, but once the child dies David returns to normal life. His servants are confused by the sudden change, but David explains:

He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:22-23, NIV)

In that moment, David chose far more life. He could have chosen bitterness toward God but he chose contentment, even in his grief. This enabled him to choose God-honoring actions; he comforted his wife (2 Samuel 12:24) and lead his army in battle (2 Samuel 12:29).

The Bible shares more moments — some far more life, some sinful — that weave the story of David’s life. Even though David was not perfect, Acts 13:22 describes him as a man after God’s own heart. A man of godliness and contentment. Our lives are also a collection of moments where we choose godliness and contentment and moments where we do not.

I used to be afraid my moments of ungodliness and discontent would cause God to pull away from me. It was such a relief to understand my relationship with Him is secure (Romans 8:1; I John 5:13). Now I can pursue godliness and contentment out of gratitude and love. The foundation of far more life will continue for eternity.

By doing this they store up a treasure for themselves which is a good foundation for the future. In this way they take hold of what life really is. (I Timothy 6:19, GW)

What we experience on this earth is just a small part of life. The bigger part extends into eternity with God in heaven. Each time we choose godliness and contentment we choose far more life. It is a source of great gain on this earth and for eternity.

Sisters,
Are you living in godliness? Contentment?
What beliefs hinder you from exercising godliness? Contentment?
How does the weaving of your life look?

Enjoy far more life in the moments of your day!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso

Waiting Well

Wait. This is a word most of us dislike hearing. We want what we want when we want it. We may be tempted to think that having our wants met will make us satisfied with life. But in reality, waiting well for God’s perfect plan and timing is far more life.

These verses remind us of the benefits of waiting for God, why it is good to wait for Him.

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. (Psalm 33:20, NIV)

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:1-3a, NIV)

For this reason the Lord is ready to show you mercy; he sits on his throne, ready to have compassion on you. Indeed, the Lord is a just God; all who wait for him in faith will be blessed. (Isaiah 30:18, NET)

God blesses us when we wait for Him. He helps us. He protects us. He meets our needs. He brings us happiness and fulfillment. He treats us compassionately. He delivers justice. But sometimes we think He is slow to bless. It seems like He doesn’t hear our requests. We become impatient waiting for His answer or action. Biblical writers had the same struggle.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5:3, NIV)

Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God. (Psalm 38:15, NIV)

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. (Micah 7:7, NIV)

We can rest assured that God always hears His children. He will always answer in His perfect timing. But His timing is not always our timing. We cannot choose whether or not we wait. We can only choose how we wait. A friend has explained patience to her young children as “waiting well.” I like the honest simplicity of that phrase. Choosing to wait well is choosing far more life.

Waiting well focuses on God rather than ourselves. It starts in the heart. Consider these Biblical descriptions of waiting well:

My eyes are ever looking to the Lord for help, for he alone can rescue me. (Proverbs 25:15, TLB)

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14, NIV)

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

Lord, we are living the way your laws command us to live. We are waiting for you to act. We want your honor and fame to be known. (Isaiah 26:8, NIRV)

Sometimes we are waiting for answers. Sometimes we are waiting for things to happen or for things to end. We get frustrated at not knowing when our waiting will end. (Have you ever begged God, “I’ll wait patiently to find out WHAT you will do if I just know WHEN you will answer.” I have. But He — wisely — didn’t believe me.) Waiting well remembers that God knows everything: what is best for us; what we need; when we need it. Do we believe this? Do we trust Him enough to wait well?

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

He has a plan for us, a plan that brings good at the right time. When we don’t trust Him, we impatiently fight for control of the steering wheel. Waiting well is trusting God to be the driver in our lives. Didn’t He create us? Didn’t He already meet our biggest need through Jesus’ death and resurrection? Remembering God has already secured our eternal destination helps us trust Him with the details of our earthly journey. We can embrace far more life — waiting well beside Him — in each hill and valley we encounter. He is trustworthy.

Our expectations also keep us from waiting well. We can be like children impatient for Christmas morning to arrive; the closer it gets, the harder it is to wait well. Children anticipate the joy and excitement of discovering what is beneath the wrapping paper. They are certain what is coming is better than what they have now. We, too, convince ourselves what we have now is not as good as what is coming. We can miss far more life today by anticipating far more life will be better in the future. Waiting well looks to the future — especially our future in heaven — eagerly and expectantly while fully embracing today. Whether today brings answers or more waiting, whether it is filled with sorrow or joy, it is always an opportunity to live far more life. God has planned each day for us and as the perfect next step on our journey with Him. He is with us, giving us all we need for today. In fact, His Word instructs us:

…Make the most of every moment and every encounter. (Colossians 4:5b, VOICE)

Waiting well requires us to be engaged in today as we anticipate the future He has for us. He is working around us. He is working inside of us. Enjoying today while waiting well for tomorrow is far more life.

Sisters,
Are you generally patient or impatient?
What are you tempted to trust in besides God? Yourself? Others?
In what areas are you fighting for control of the steering wheel, not trusting God’s plans for you?
How does impatience for the future rob you of far more life today?
Praise God for this day and commit to walking in far more life with Him!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso

Safe or Good?

“Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion” …

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver … “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The more I meditate on this exchange, the richer it grows. In this story, Aslan represents Jesus Christ and Susan is a child preparing to meet him. She wonders what all of us would wonder when meeting an unrestrained lion: is he going to use his strength and power to hurt me? What a vivid comparison to our concerns about God’s role in our lives!

We want God to be safe, meaning we want Him to be tame, predictable, and under our control. But this is not who God is. God reminded Job of this after listening to Job’s lament about the difficult circumstances he faced:

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?… Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb?…Have you ever given orders to the morning or shown the dawn its place?…Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail?…Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?…Do you give the horse its strength or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?…Does the eagle soar at your command and build its nest on high?…Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his? (Job 38:4a, 8, 12, 22, 35; 39:19, 27; 40:9)

If you want to read more of this exchange, look up Job chapters 38 through 42. God’s power and knowledge is very humbling! But even this excerpt makes it clear: God is not subject to our desires and preferences. He is the Creator. He is in control. Embracing His role as King and our role as His subject is far more life.

Although God determines His own actions, Scripture assures us repeatedly that He is good.

Good and upright is the Lord. (Psalm 25:8a, NIV)

Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8a, NIV)

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. (Psalm 86:5, NIV)

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever. (Psalm 100:5, 106:1, 107:1, 118:1, 118:29, 136:1, NIV)

You are good, and what you do is good (Psalm 119:68, NIV)

The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. (Psalm 145:9, NIV)

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. (Nahum 1:7a, NIV)

No one is good—except God alone. (Mark 10:18b, NIV

But the fruit of the Spirit is…goodness. (Galatians 5:22, NIV)

…you have tasted that the Lord is good. (I Peter 2:3, NIV)

Because of God’s goodness, we can trust Him to treat His children lovingly. The Bible is full of accounts that prove this over and over. One of my favorites is the account of Gideon in Judges 6 and 7. God had a special job for Gideon and told him about it. Gideon was slow to believe it was really God speaking — he asked for several reassurances — and God patiently provided each one. God told him step-by-step what would happen, and it all came true. God led Gideon and his army to a great military victory, even though they were greatly outnumbered. But God, in His goodness, looked at their hearts and provided just what they needed to trust and follow His instruction.

In my own life I have seen God’s goodness through His protection. Once he protected me from physical injury when my car was struck by lightning. Another time he protected me from a financial hardship by selling our house shortly before a major mechanical failure took place. He didn’t speak to me in the way He spoke to Gideon, but I believe His goodness was at work in those situations and many others I have faced.

So why, despite evidence, do we continue to doubt God? I think one reason is because we cannot see the whole picture. From our limited human perspective, we cannot see what might have happened without God acting in goodness on our behalf. We can only see what does happen, and sometimes it does not appear good to us. And we have an enemy, Satan, who doesn’t want us to see God clearly. He tempts us to focus on the hard and bad things God allows us to suffer. When we fall for that focus we forget to thank God for protecting us from worse situations (John 17:15). And for being with us through the hard times (Hebrews 13:5) and providing all that we need (Philippians 4:19).

We live far more life in the moments we release our idea of God conforming to our definition of safe and instead embrace the truth that He, in His goodness, provides all the safety we need. As we let Him be God, we are free to notice and enjoy His provision along our journey. We will encounter valleys along the way, but His goodness — and the opportunity for far more life — is always with us.

Sisters,
How are you tempted to make God be “safe”?
What evidence have you seen of His goodness in your life?
Pray for His perspective in the difficulties you face so you can see His provision this week.
Thank Him for being with you and providing all you need.
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso

Far More Joy and Thankfulness

This article title jumped off the page at me: “How Complaining Physically Rewires Your Brain to be Anxious and Depressed”. Immediately this Bible verse came to mind:

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life. (Philippians 2:14-16a, NIV)

I had always thought this verse said when my mouth does not complain, others see God shining out of me. But God wants to change more than my speech:

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV)

Joyfulness, prayer, and thankfulness involve our hearts, not just our actions. And notice God wants them to be constant. Why is this His will for us? Hearts that are joyful, thankful, and connected to God are living far more life. They are transformed by the Holy Spirit and change our thoughts and actions. Not only does that allow us to be a better image of Christ to those around us, it also — according to the premise of that article — protects our brain wiring from serious consequences.

Why do we complain instead of being joyful and thankful? If I am honest, I want to be in control. I want smooth sailing — as I define smooth. When that doesn’t happen, I view the situation as troubling and am tempted to complain. But smooth sailing is an unreasonable expectation. Jesus clearly stated:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33b, NIV)

As long as we walk this earth we should expect trouble, not be surprised by it! Far more life trusts God’s ultimate control and follows Him through the troubles and good circumstances. The Bible makes it clear God has a bigger plan for us and challenges us to have this perspective:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. (James 1:2, NIV)

The verses that follow tell how trials mature our character until we “lack nothing”. Far more life understands trouble is a God-approved spiritual growth plan. My pastor says, “I love trials!” because he understands their purpose. We, too, can walk through troubles with joy when we believe God has a purpose for them.

Jesus faced a more difficult trial than we will ever encounter: the cross. How did He overcome temptation to resist God’s plan?

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…who for the joy set before him endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:2, NIV)

Jesus remembered the purpose for His suffering. He looked to the future rather than His current circumstances. And He did it with a focus on joy. The Bible does not record this, but I think Jesus was grateful for the opportunity to reconcile us to God. And that perspective allowed him to do the hardest thing ever without complaints even entering His mind. We, too, can do hard things without complaining when we remember that God is using them to mature us so we lack nothing.

God never commands us to be thankful FOR everything, simply to be thankful IN everything. He doesn’t expect us to be thankful for divorce or cancer, for example. But He does want us to remain thankful as we navigate those challenges, whether we are thankful for support from others, hope for a better future, lessons we learn along the way, or anything good we know about Him or receive from Him. We also know that our character and understanding of God can grow most during our most difficult experiences; we choose whether to grow better or bitter through our troubles. Like me, you may have life experiences that you wouldn’t want to repeat but are thankful for the closeness to God that developed through them.

I was recently challenged to not complain for 3 days. And to go beyond swallowing my complaints to replacing those thoughts with gratitude. I gave my family permission to lovingly point out my complaining, which one of my teens eagerly embraced. I was surprised by the lightness in my heart as I chose to embrace a new perspective. “I am so tired,” led to thankfulness for a comfortable bed and hope for better sleep that night. “There are so many dirty dishes,” was replaced with thankfulness for my family and ample food. When chronic pain flared I was able to be thankful for the things I could do — even if I had to move slowly and carefully. During those 3 days I realized complaining makes my mind feel gray and overcast but gratefulness makes it sunny and bright. I have committed to choosing gratitude so I can continue to enjoy far more life. (And my family continues to point out my complaints!)

Will you take that 3-day challenge grow in far more life? It will be a battle! You will need to examine your thoughts and determine whether they come from a grateful or complaining heart. When you aren’t sure, ask if they fit this criteria:

“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8, NIV)

These are the thoughts that help us constantly be joyful, thankful, and prayerful. They remind us that troubles lead to growth. They protect us from spiritual anxiety and spiritual depression. They are the far more life we crave.

Sisters,
Are you more likely to argue and complain or be joyful and thankful?
How do you respond to trouble and not getting what you want? What helps you respond with joy?
What promise can you look forward to that brings you hope and joy?
Will you take the 3-day challenge to practice thankfulness rather than complaining?
Enjoy far more joyful and thankful life this week!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso

Choosing Far More Life

Can I be honest? This is one of those weeks where I don’t feel like I am living far more life. I feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually tired. So I’m going to choose far more life by reviewing some of my favorite Bible verses — those that remind me of truths richer and steadier than my shifting emotions — and invite you along for the journey.

* * * * *
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:5-8, NIV)

Thank you, God, for offering rest and hope. And for being a safe place in the struggles and storms of life. I love that you are: a rock I can cling to when strong winds blow; a fortress that keeps me safe inside strong, tall walls; and a refuge I can run to when my enemy attacks.

Far more life is trusting, resting, and hoping in God and pouring out my heart to Him. Although I am weak, I choose far more life.

* * * * *
And my God will fully supply your every need, according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19, EHV)

Thank you, God, for having all that I need — physically, spiritually, and emotionally — and willingly supplying it. You supply the perseverance I need when I want to quit. You supply the perspective I need when my focus is selfish. You supply the peace I need when I am overwhelmed. I am not hesitant to ask for help because Your glorious riches are abundant — blessing me doesn’t take away from You or others.

Far more life is looking to God to meet my needs, even my need to know what I truly need. In my moment of need, I choose far more life.

* * * * *
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. (Galatians 6:9, NLT)

Thank you, God, for reminding me to keep doing what is good. I confess that I want to pull into my shell today and only do what I want, which may feel good right now but is not truly good. I am so glad You know exactly when to send the harvest of blessing. I know I won’t see some of those blessings until heaven, but thank You for giving me a preview just when I need it.

Far more life is remembering that God sees the good I do and will bless me for it at the perfect time. Although I may not see the fruit until heaven, today I choose to do good. I choose far more life.

* * * * *
When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession. (Ephesians 1:13b-14a, NIV)

Thank you, God, for guaranteeing my inheritance and giving me a piece of it now. Your choice to deposit something precious in me — Your Holy Spirit — gives me confidence that You will redeem me one day. It is humbling to recognize the value You have placed on me. You are with me — inside me — every moment of my life until we can be together in heaven. This inspires me to be better for Your glory.

Far more life is realizing God chose to become a permanent part of my life. Because God has chosen me, I choose far more life in Him.

* * * * *
Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise Him! He heals the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. (Psalm 147:1, 3-5)

Thank you, God, for being both high and nigh. You are big and powerful enough to name every star and have limitless understanding. Yet you are near enough to know when my heart is breaking and tend to my hurts. You truly are great and deserve my praise! It is pleasant and fitting to give praise You.

Far more life is giving God the praise He deserves. With a humble heart, I choose praise-filled far more life.

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

Thank you, Jesus, for coming to earth and bringing us far more life. You left perfection and subjected Yourself to the pain and struggles of this world. I will never experience as much pain as You did. And yet, despite taking the punishment I deserved, you offer me far more life. What amazing love!

Far more life is embracing Jesus’ gift.  With thankfulness, I choose far more life.

Sisters,
What Bible verses remind you to choose far more life?
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso

Far More #momlife

This post was written by guest blogger Jenna Huether. Jenna pursued a friendship with me and it has been a wonderful blessing! I’m thankful she carved time out of her busy #momlife to share these thoughts with us. They are a great reminder of far more life for women in all seasons of life.
-Shari

Shari’s weekly reminders that Christ came to bring us far more life have been both refreshing and challenging for me. I know very well that the Christian life isn’t meant to be glamorous or comfortable, yet somehow my heart won’t stop yearning for my life to feel like far more. My circumstances right now aren’t defined by abundance, but endurance. My husband is in the thick of grad school on top of working full time, and I am a stay-at-home mom to our three kids, three and under. I constantly find myself asking God for more: More energy. More patience. More resources. More time. More help. More life.

As I read the Bible this week, I came to a favorite verse:

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:2, NIV) 

That command is very grounding (ironically) when I get upset about the perceived “lack” in my circumstances. Why am I setting my mind on those things anyway? The things above are greater, significant, eternal. Those are the kind of things that will fulfill me in a lasting way. In fact, it was pretty much the main point of Shari’s previous post: “focusing on our future brings joy.”

A few years ago, I hopped on the bandwagon of picking a word to define the new year, rather than setting resolutions. This year, my husband and I both chose the word “invest.” It has proven to be an apt word. When I’m exhausted at the end of a long day alone with the kids, Matt reminds me, “Jenna, you invested today.” When he collapses into bed after hours of studying and an intense night at work I remind him, “Matt, you invested today.” Between parenting, grad school, moving, eliminating student debt, etc., there are so many things that we are pouring ourselves into this year with the hope that we will eventually see a return on our investment.

But the truth is, there really is no guarantee that we will. We think that we will. We hope that we will. We pray that we will. But we know that investments can be risky at times and the results can be outside of our control. Focusing solely on all the returns we long to see in the coming years will never feel like far more life. Even if they all come to fruition. That is why I found such encouragement this week in Colossians 3:2. Setting my mind on things above will bless my life, because the things God has promised to those who follow Him are absolutely guaranteed.

If I want to feel the far more life that Jesus promises, I need to focus on investing in something eternal. So that leads me to an item that I would like to add to Shari’s list from last week: Focusing on our future brings joy because God will reward those who follow Him.

If I diligently serve and love the Lord, there will be a return on that investment:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19-20, NIV)

It doesn’t matter how trivial the task seems:

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward. (Matthew 10:42, NIV)

It actually doesn’t even matter whether anyone notices:

…and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:18b, NIV)

These promises are what can take #momlife and make the mundane tasks meaningful. My son won’t remember me nursing him in the wee hours of the morning. My husband will never notice half of the things I do to make his life easier and his home nice. My friends can’t know how often I pray for them when their struggles or joys come to mind. God is the one who attends to such things, and He will remember them forever. His promised rewards are what make even a season of scarcity feel like far more life.

Jenna

Sisters,
Do your circumstances reflect abundance or endurance?
What earthly things are you tempted to set your mind on or invest your hope in?

How are you investing in the eternal?
Which of God’s guarantees about your future life above will you focus on this week?
Thank God for making far more life possible now on earth and in heaven for all eternity!
-Shari

Copyright 2019, Shari Damaso

Future Focus

We face numerous problems in life. Many situations cause pain and suffering. Difficulties pound us like the surf pounds the shore; sometimes there is barely time to recover from one wave of trouble before the next one hits. We are tempted to focus on surviving today — it feels like all we can do. But these truths give us perspective and far more life:

But I am always with you. You hold me by my right hand. You give me wise advice to guide me. And when I die, you will take me away into the glory of heaven. (Psalm 73:23-24, NIRV)

Your kindness and love will always be with me each day of my life, and I will live forever in your house, Lord. (Psalm 23:6, CEV)

We don’t have to wait until heaven to be with God; He is already with His children! Eternal life doesn’t start when we get to heaven. It starts as soon as we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord. We face the challenges of this life with God’s Spirit living inside us. He showers us with kindness and love every day — including our hardest days. His presence gives us far more life in every situation we face. If we are willing to ask, He will guide us through every difficulty; recognizing His response deepens our understanding and love for Him. And one wonderful day we will leave this earth and move into His house forever!

Choosing to be future-focused allows us to rise above our circumstances and embrace far more life. We suffer because our world is filled with sin, illness, heartbreak, and injustice. It is easy to think we will always face those challenges. But God wants us to see the big picture: our relationship with Him will continue for eternity, and after a short time on earth we will live with Him in His perfect home forever. A future focus enables us to view our present, temporary difficulties from His perspective.

These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessing upon us forever and ever! So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, TLB)

What joys in heaven can we look forward to?

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4, NIV)

Can you imagine living without death, mourning, crying, or any kind of pain? We have to endure them for a few years on this earth but not in heaven. Focusing on our future brings joy because our pain will end.

Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27, NIV)

In heaven, there will be no sin. We will never have to say we are sorry or ask forgiveness. We will be free from evil thoughts, words, and actions. And no one will ever sin against us or hurt us. Focusing on our future brings joy because heaven will be safe, pure, and holy.

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. (Revelation 22:3-4, NIV)

The curse that separated us from God will be lifted. God and Jesus will be among us in all their glory. We will look Them in the eye without shame or fear; They will know us fully and we will know Them. We will live with Them forever as daughters of the King! Focusing on our future brings joy as we anticipate being reunited with our true Father.

And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:5b, NIV)

We will be secure under God’s loving leadership forever. Perfect love and justice will guide all of God’s decisions. Focusing on our future brings joy because the perfect King will lead us forever.

You should greatly rejoice in what is waiting for you, even if now for a little while you have to suffer various trials. (I Peter 1:6, VOICE)

Our future in heaven is so wonderful, so satisfying, so glorious that it far outweighs the suffering and hurt of this life. Jesus has already paid the price to rescue us from this broken earth. And one day He will return and take us home to heaven. Until then, focusing on our future allows us to praise God for all He has done and will do. We are not alone in this life as we wait for deliverance. God’s Spirit already lives inside of us, giving us all we need to overcome the challenges each day presents. While we focus on the future amidst our struggles, we can praise Him for meeting our needs in the past and present. The best is yet to come, but thankfully we can embrace far more life with Him today.

Sisters,
When facing struggles, is your focus on surviving or far more life?

If you have accepted Christ, how does it help you to know your eternal relationship with God has already started?
What aspect of heaven is most exciting and appealing to you?

Thank God for specific needs He has already met in your life.
This week, memorize a future-focused truth from His Word you want to remember and offer as praise when difficulties arises.
-Shari 

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso



Perfectly Imperfect

We face so much pressure — within ourselves and from others — to be perfect. To never make a mistake. To know all the answers. To always make the right decision. Even in areas where there is not a right or wrong choice. Or areas where we have no experience. This pressure can be immobilizing. And we struggle with guilt and shame over our wrong choices. Does God expect us to be perfect — is that far more life? The Bible says:

For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14, NIV)

According to this verse, when we seek perfection we are working for something Christ has already attained for us! Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and return from the dead paid the penalty for our sin. Those who accept Christ become perfect in God’s eyes; He sees us wrapped in Christ’s righteousness. Being perfect means we are forgiven. We don’t have to work to be perfect, it is a gift that God offers us!

But this does not automatically make us sinless. In addition to being made perfect, God wants us to be made holy. Once we are in Christ, our position with God is secure despite the many wrongs we commit. But these wrongs do have negative impact on us; they keep us from reflecting His flawless moral virtue. God wants us to keep growing in understanding and living out His holiness so we become more like Him. Not because that earns us His favor, but because it reflects the new creation we become in Him. And because being holy is living far more life.

God knows we will spend the rest of our lives on earth growing in holiness. In the process of becoming holy, God allows us to be perfectly imperfect. He knows we are sometimes fooled by Satan, our past experiences, and the hurts we bear; they lie to us about what is best and convince us that holiness is not possible or not a worthwhile pursuit. God is not surprised by our sins and mistakes. He is patient with us and does not judge or criticize us when we are slow to recognize our sin. He sees each person’s heart and knows who is loving and following Him to the best of their ability. (He also knows when His children have rebellious hearts and still loves and forgives them.) He clearly sees who we were before we joined His family, who we are today, and who we become in the future. He knows being perfectly imperfect is simply part of our individualized holiness journey.

As God’s obedient children, never again shape your lives by the desires that you followed when you didn’t know better. Instead, shape your lives to become like the Holy One who called you. (I Peter 1:14-15, TPT)

Before we come to Christ, we pursue counterfeit perfection. We believe that doing the right thing — performing perfectly — leads to the acceptance, security, and significance we desire. We think perfection protects us from pain and leads to a satisfying life. But no matter how hard we try, we can’t be perfect. So we work harder. And fall short again. By depending on ourselves and our own efforts, this vicious cycle actually leads us away from the perfection God offers us through Christ. Away from far more life.

When God comes to live inside of us, He gives us a new desire: holiness. We understand that acceptance, security and significance come from Him, not our performance. We want to BE the right person, not just DO the right thing. We want to be like God in our actions, thoughts, beliefs, and values. We desire to know God and His perspective. Pursuing holiness gives us courage to examine our motives and admit when we are wrong; we don’t have to hide behind a perfect image to feel acceptable. We act from love rather than fear or obligation. But we don’t always get it right; we resort to old patterns of thinking and acting more often than we would like. But this does not bring condemnation; instead we are free to be perfectly imperfect. Not because we are happy about our sin, but because sin does not define us. We know God loves us unconditionally. And we know He gives us the desire and power to overcome our sin and live far more life.

How do we grow in holiness? I think it boils down to 5 steps:

  1. We discover who God is by studying His word.
  2. We are alert to areas where our thoughts and actions do not reflect His character.
  3. We prayerfully search our heart to uncover the beliefs which motivate our unholy thoughts and actions.
  4. We seek truth from His word to replace our false beliefs with His beliefs.
  5. We enjoy the benefit of this new step of holiness as we rest in God’s unconditional love!

As we make pursuing holiness a lifestyle, we are free to be perfectly imperfect without being stuck in sinful habits. And we live far more life with each step of the journey! 

Sisters,
How have you been pursuing counterfeit perfection?
How do you feel about being perfectly imperfect?
If you have accepted Christ, how have your desires changed? What were your desires before? What are they now?
Do the steps to growing holiness look helpful or intimidating?
(If you have questions about them or want support on your journey, please reach out to me at farmorelife@gmail.com.)
-Shari
 

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso

Lavish Love

Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us — He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. (I John 3:1a, VOICE)

Want to know the formula for far more life?

Accepting God’s lavish love
+ Being transformed by it
= Far more life

Love is the key to far more life, but not just any love: only God’s lavish love. When I hear the word lavish, I imagine a warm bagel topped with a thick layer of cream cheese — so thick that taking a bite leaves teeth marks. This is an extravagant amount of cream cheese, more than anyone needs. But it makes eating the bagel an unforgettable experience. No skimpily-covered bagel can compare with the lusciousness of that lavish bagel.

God lavished His love on us. Calling us His children demonstrated an extravagance that reshaped our definition of love. But He didn’t stop there; He continues to lavish us in love. He doesn’t give us the minimum we need to get by. He wraps us in so much love that all other love looks skimpy by comparison.

The more we understand and embrace God’s lavish love, the fuller and richer our lives become. Lavish love has the power to change us from the inside out. It can transform our beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors. But most of us do not reap the maximum benefit of His lavish love. Rather than throwing open our hearts and saying, “Go anywhere!” we put up “Do Not Enter” signs at the places we need Him most: our most vulnerable and painful places.

We limit God’s lavish love because we misunderstand it. We may think God’s love is defined by what He does for us. Or we might assume it comes with strings, that He expects certain responses from us. Too often we believe we have to earn it and fear He will find us unworthy. These misperceptions are not surprising since His love is so different from the imperfect human love familiar to us. Sometimes we pull back from God’s lavish love in fear. But fear is actually the opposite of what He offers:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (I John 4:18, NIV)

God’s children have no need to fear Him because He will never punish us. We can be confident that God will always love us perfectly and lavishly! He will not withdraw His love when we disagree with Him. He will never manipulate us or take advantage of our vulnerabilities. He does not lay guilt trips on us. He does not berate us for failing to make Him look good. He knows our weaknesses and is not surprised by them. He knows all of our sins (in advance, even!) and has willingly paid the price for them. When we accept His love, we also gain His unconditional acceptance and unshakable security — now that is truly lavish love! I remember the peace I felt when I finally grasped this truth: I was set free to love God without reservation. I was released from fear that my imperfect love for Him was not enough. I found far more life and felt free to enjoy it. If you have accepted Christ as your Savior and Lord, you have this freedom, too!

God’s love is vastly different than human love. Not only is His love unconditional, it also comes from a different source:

God is love. (I John 4:16, NIV)

We love because he first loved us. (I John 4:19, NIV)

God’s love is not a response to us. It is not what He does or feels for us. Love is who God is; lavish love is part of His character and identity. He doesn’t have to generate love; it simply flows from Him and infuses His interactions with His children. God does not show us love because we deserve it; He simply offers Himself to us. His love blesses us in the deepest way possible because He knows us — and our needs — intimately. Grasping this truth changes how we look at God. It brings far more life.

I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. Yes, may you come to know his love — although it can never be fully known — and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. (Ephesians 3:17b-19, GNT)

As we grow in understanding the limitlessness of God’s lavish love, we are transformed. We stop seeing Him as a harsh judge and start realizing He is a wise and loving Father. We recognize the emptiness of many pleasures this world offers and instead focus on making an eternal impact. We grow in trusting Him and His motives even when life doesn’t match our expectations. It becomes easier to trust the parts of His Word that seem to contradict our human experience. We are permanently and profoundly changed by God’s lavish love. We grow in confidence and security. This allows us to eagerly embrace the mindset and practices of far more life.

Sisters,
How have you experienced God’s lavish love?
Where have you put up “Do Not Enter” signs? What do you need in order to let God into those areas of your heart and life?
Are you afraid of fully embracing God’s love for you? If so, confess that to Him. (If not, thank Him for that freedom!)
Thank God for the ways His lavish love has transformed you.
Enjoy far more life this week!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso

Letting Go

In the last post we talked about forgiving others. But there are two more people everyone needs to forgive. These people have probably disappointed and hurt you more often than anyone else. And we hold on to their hurts tightest and longest. Who are they? Ourselves and God.

We are our own worst critics. Despite our outward bravado, we hope others won’t see our sins and failures. We are ashamed. We kick ourselves for not doing better, for not being better. Everyone feels this way. Some people hide the extent of their negative self-talk. Others are clearly drowning in a sea of self-loathing and worthlessness. But this doesn’t have to be! God wants awareness of our sin to lead to spiritual change. For those who don’t have a personal relationship with Him, He offers hope:

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)

You are not alone! ALL have sinned. EVERYONE has felt the shame that you feel. But God, in His love, doesn’t want you to be stuck there. He offers forgiveness through the sacrifice of His Son’s life to make restitution for your sin. It’s the largest, most important gift you could ever receive! If you’ve never accepted it but want to, take a moment right now and tell Him.

Once we accept God’s gift and enter a relationship with Him, we have a clean slate before Him. Nothing — not even our own sin — can separate us from God. Since He can see our whole lives and knows every thought, word, and action — past, present and future — nothing will ever surprise Him or change His view of us.

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us…For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:34, 38-39, NIV)

If God never condemns His children for their sins or draws back from them, why do we condemn ourselves and draw back from Him? Why do we forfeit the far more life He offers?  Because we see ourselves from a different perspective than God does. We still see ourselves as we were before Christ changed us while He sees who we are after Christ’s work in us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

Forgiving ourselves requires letting go and letting God.  It means we entrust the situation — and any negative consequences — to Him. We trust Him to restore what was lost or taken away that is needed. We trust Him to heal the damaged emotions of everyone who got hurt in the situation. While it is good for us to confess our sin to God and thank Him for His forgiveness, we don’t need to punish ourselves; Jesus has already taken that punishment for us. Forgiving ourselves separates us from our sin and brings far more life.

Are you hesitant to let go and let God? If so, maybe you need to forgive Him. God doesn’t ever sin; He is perfect. So he doesn’t technically need to be forgiven. But there are times we feel hurt, abandoned, disappointed, or misunderstood by Him because we are unable to see His actions and intentions correctly. Our negative emotions cause us to pull away from Him. To question His character, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and His intentions toward us. We are hesitant to believe His promises and obey His commands because Satan’s lies about God resonate louder inside us. We are afraid to get hurt again.

It is important to work through these hurts. Don’t be afraid to reveal your ugliest thoughts and feelings to God — He already knows them!

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.  (Psalm 139:2-4, NIV)

It is hard work to uncover Satan’s lies and embrace the truth about God. But He is big enough to handle our questions and doubts. He compassionately meets us where we are. He patiently walks us through each step of faith. This wonderful promise He made the Israelites when they were far from Him is still true for us:

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

The same promise is true for us!  God isn’t offended when we confess our hurt, anger, and distrust to Him. He doesn’t get angry when we admit He isn’t who we want Him to be and doesn’t do what we want Him to do. When we forgive Him, we let go of the false expectations that caused us pain. That releases us to see and experience Him — and life — the way He intended it. As a result, we see His true character and our desire to mold ourselves to His likeness grows. We discover that letting go brings far more life, life we had not even imagined was possible.

Sisters, 
For what to you need to forgive yourself?
For what do you need to forgive God?
Are you willing to let go of these hurts?

Thank God for character His qualities and promises that are most meaningful to you.
Commit to seeking Him this week; as you find Him enjoy far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso