Turn On the Light

Do all you have to do without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be God’s children, blameless, sincere and wholesome, living in a warped and diseased world, and shining there like lights in a dark place. (Philippians 2:14-15, PHILLIPS)

When I think of the culture we live in, grumbling and arguing are two traits that are readily apparent. We grumble about things we cannot control. We grumble about circumstances we face. We grumble about other people. We grumble about ourselves. We argue with those who think differently from us. We argue with those who hold varying political or spiritual beliefs. We argue with family, friends, and even complete strangers. We argue about things that are not even important, just for the sake of arguing.

If we are honest, we can admit that sometimes we ENJOY grumbling and arguing. We gain a certain satisfaction from dwelling on the things that are going wrong. We often want to camp in our anger or hurt or disappointment, looking for more reasons to justify those feelings. Winning an argument or cutting others down can bring a feeling of self-importance. We enjoy proving that we are right.

But God offers something more. He calls His children to a higher, holy standard. I appreciate that He makes the reason — His purpose — clear. Let’s look closer at this verse to better understand it.

Do all you have to do without grumbling or arguing Other versions use the terms: murmuring; disputing; questioning; hesitations; complaining; bickering; second-guessing; division; making trouble; doubting; and reasonings. That is quite a list! The thought of the original language goes beyond actions to consider thoughts and motives toward others. So God is instructing us to be agreeable, helpful, and respectful. When we live out far more life, we join others to get the job done rather than fighting against them to do it our way — or not at all.

so that you may be God’s children, blameless, sincere and wholesome The Bible clearly states that we do not become God’s children through good works (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:23-24). Some translations state the meaning of this phrase more clearly: we show or prove that we are God’s children when we act like Him. Have you ever been told that you “take after” a parent, grandparent, or other older relative who had influence over you? We “take after” God — and experience far more life — when our thoughts, words, and actions are pure and completely good. In part, by doing all we have to do without grumbling or arguing.

...living in a warped and diseased world Because this is all we have ever known, it can be hard for us to recognize how spiritually warped and diseased our world is. But when we compare the values and practices of humans to those of God, we start to understand the reality of this verse. God created us in His image and intended for us to be like Him (Genesis 1:26). But we have traded His love and kindness for selfishness. We have traded His joy and peace for greed and competition. We have traded His faithfulness and goodness for moral relativity and a cancel culture. Thankfully God gives us His Spirit and empowers us to be like Him (I Corinthians 3:16, Acts 1:8). Far more life recognizes where we have adopted the world’s warp and disease and replaces it with God’s truth and spiritual health.

and shining there like lights in a dark place. When physical light shines in a dark place, we can clearly see what is there. We can avoid danger. We can make sense of our surroundings. We can discern what is true from what our minds and senses have misinterpreted. These same principles apply to the spiritual light of God’s truth. When God’s light is shining, we can clearly see what is wrong or evil (Psalm 90:8). We can avoid spiritual danger (Isaiah 42:16). We can tell what around us is warped and diseased (Proverbs 20:27). We can respond in a God-like manner because we can clearly see what is true (Psalm 119:105). God uses the words and actions of one person to “turn on the light” for others. People recognize their own sin when they see others who are not sinning. People recognize their own bad attitudes when others respond with a good attitude. In this way, we become lights who shine righteousness in dark, sinful places. We enjoy far more life and show others what it is like to live in fellowship with God.

Breaking down and studying this verse helps me overcome the temptation to grumble and argue. I remember it is not enjoyable to live in darkness. I realize it is more satisfying to focus on what is pure and good. I no longer want to embrace the mindset of this warped and diseased world. I want to live in God’s light and reflect it so others can see Him, too. I want far more life!

I appreciate the straightforward way The Message writes these verses.

Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night. (Philippians 2:14-15)

These words motivate me to be obey God…for my own benefit, others’ benefit, and God’s glory. I hope they motivate you to turn on the light and pursue far more life, too!

Sisters,
If you are honest with yourself, what aspect of grumbling and arguing is attractive to you?
In what areas have you already grown in “taking after” God? What needs to change in your beliefs or thinking to take after Him in this area?
Where have you recognized that what seemed normal was actually warped and diseased?
How do you shine like a light in the darkness? How can you shine brighter?
Thank God for far more life. Ask Him to grow your desire for more of it!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Foundational Truth

“You are still his mom.”

These words were a balm to my aching heart as I struggled to understand exactly what I was grieving about my son’s upcoming out-of-state move. I expected to be sad; change is often hard for me and I have spent every day of the past 20 years investing in him. And I understood the bittersweet happiness of watching his face light up as he counted down the days until his new solo adventure began; he is leaving home to pursue the dreams and goals he has been working toward since he was quite young. But my grief was surprisingly bigger and deeper than I had expected.

I told my husband the strength of my grief must mean this life change was revealing a false belief I held about my identity. Although raising my children was an important job, intellectually I knew it did not define me. While mothering has been a focused, sacrificial, time-intensive effort, it was not the foundation on which my life was built. But somewhere along the line, I unknowingly adopted the belief that being a mom was who I was. My sense of value was threatened when I realized I would no longer be investing in my son face-to-face each day. My husband’s response – you are still his mom – reminded me of an important truth: my role as a mom has changed many times over the years, but my identity has remained the same.

I am thankful that my significance, security, and acceptance – and my experience of far more life — do not come from being a mom. In fact, they are not based on any human relationship or earthly role. Instead they come from Christ and my relationship with Him. One day my roles as wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, ministry leader, employee, and more will come to an end. But I will remain who I am in Christ forever. And while my earthly roles are rewarding for a short time, they are not the foundation of far more life that brings contentment and joy for eternity.

Dr. Neil T. Anderson pulled together a list of Biblical descriptions of our identity in Christ. They provide a wonderful reminder of what is unchanging and valuable about each of God’s children. These are our defining characteristics, what truly give us significance, security and acceptance. Even if everything else is stripped away from our lives, these foundational truths remain intact. Read through the list slowly, letting the importance of each statement about your identity sink in.

  • I am God’s child. (John 1:12)
  • I am Christ’s friend. (John 15:15)
  • I have been justified. (Romans 5:1)
  • I am united with the Lord and one with Him in spirit. (I Corinthians 6:17)
  • I have been bought with a price; I belong to God. (I Corinthians 6:20)
  • I am a member of Christ’s body. (I Corinthians 12:27)
  • I am a saint. (Ephesians 1:1)
  • I have been adopted as God’s child. (Ephesians 1:5)
  • I have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18)
  • I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins. (Colossians 1:14)
  • I am complete in Christ. (Colossians 2:10)
  • I am free forever from condemnation. (Romans 8:1-2)
  • I am assured that all things work together for good. (Romans 8:28)
  • I am free from any condemning charges against me. (Romans 8:33-34)
  • I cannot be separated from the love of God. (Romans 8:35)
  • I have been established, anointed and sealed by God. (2 Corinthians 1:21)
  • I am hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)
  • I am confident that the good work God has begun in me will be perfected. (Philippians 1:6)
  • I am a citizen of heaven. (Philippians 3:20)
  • I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • I can find grace and mercy in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
  • I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me. (I John 5:18)
  • I am the salt and light of the earth. (Matthew 5:13-14)
  • I am a branch of the true vine, a channel of His life. (John 15:1, 5)
  • I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit. (John 15:16)
  • I am a personal witness of Christ’s. (Acts 1:8)
  • I am God’s temple. (I Corinthians 3:16)
  • I am a minister of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
  • I am God’s coworker. (2 Corinthians 6:1)
  • I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realm. (Ephesians 2:6)
  • I am God’s masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)
  • I may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12)
  • I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

I am thankful for these reminders of the identity God has given me in Christ. I will probably need to revisit them again next week when my daughter moves out of the house. I do not know what false beliefs that change will reveal, but I am thankful God’s truth is reliable and unchanging! He is the only foundation on which we can build far more life.

Sisters,
What has challenged your sense of identity?
Where, besides Christ, have you looked for significance, security, and acceptance?
As you read the list of truths, which were most meaningful? For any that were hard to believe or accept, what do you believe instead? Consider talking to God about the differences and working to discover the barriers that keep you from readily accepting His truth.
Thank God for being the stable foundation on which you build far more life!
-Shari

Jars of Clay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The apostle Paul writes a practical illustration of this:

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

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

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

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

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

Far More Power

Evil forces are attacking. Are you powerful enough to stop them? Yes, God’s daughter, you are!

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

When we accept Christ, we enlist as soldiers in a war we will fight every day of our lives on earth. But we fight to a certain victory; God’s Word reveals that He wins this war and grants His soldiers everlasting peace in Heaven. In the meantime, He gives us the power to overcome any attack. Tapping into His power enables us to experience far more life, even in the midst of the battle.

For His divine power has bestowed on us [absolutely] everything necessary for [a dynamic spiritual] life and godliness, through true and personal knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. (2 Peter 1:3, AMP)

The most powerful evil forces we face are those that attack our mind, tempting us to disbelieve, distrust, and disobey God. We are tempted to sin through unforgiveness, selfishness, hatred, worry, shame, fear, and more. These temptations are attractive, even irresistible, in areas where we hold erroneous core beliefs about ourselves and God. Those core beliefs were usually developed when we were young and our immature minds could not recognize them as lies. Over time Satan tempts us to interpret circumstances in ways that reinforce those erroneous beliefs; when he succeeds, the lie gains credibility and we experience pain rather than far more life. Here are some of the most common lies Satan tells us about ourselves:

  • I am alone.
  • I am unloved.
  • I am unlovable.
  • I am worthless.
  • I am not good enough.
  • I am helpless.
  • I am hopeless.

How do we fight these attacks? With God’s truth!

The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, AMP)

There are many Bible verses we can use as weapons against Satan’s lies. Here are a few:

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (I Corinthians 3:16, NKJV)

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

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. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV)

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13, NIV)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. (Acts 1:8a, NIV)

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

You are not alone. You are loved. You are lovable. You are valuable. You are good. You have help. You have hope. The verses above are just a sample of the weapons available for fighting Satan’s attacks. Memorize the verses that most powerfully communicate these truths to you so they are always available when you need them. That will allow you to more consistently experience far more life.

Sometimes we get ambushed and do not even realize we are engaged in battle until we have lost. We recognize we are not experiencing far more life but do not know how we got so far from it. This happens when Satan’s lies resonate with messages in our subconscious and we react without stopping to think about the underlying beliefs. How can we be more aware those ambushes? By monitoring our negative emotions. Whenever we feel angry, hurt, alone, ashamed, disheartened, worried, or other strong negative emotions it may mean our enemy is attacking us. Stop and ask, “Why am I feeling this way?” Digging into what you feel and why will reveal the underlying belief and enable you to compare it to God’s truth, win the battle, and continue walking in far more life.

Some battles are harder than others. You may have to fight through layers of negative feelings and painful beliefs to reveal the erroneous core belief. You may have to wrestle with doubts about God before embracing the truth from His Word. You may need help from fellow soldiers to penetrate the enemy’s lair and destroy his weapons. But take hope in this truth:

The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies. (Psalm 118:7, NIV)

God has secured the ultimate victory over Satan! In this lifetime, you will battle, but each battle takes you one step closer to final victory. Fight in His power — using His truth — today and celebrate far more life!

Sisters,
In your daily experience, is God’s Spirit in you more powerful than the forces attacking you?
How do you find far more life in the midst of battle?
What erroneous core belief is most tempting to you? What truth helps you overcome that false belief?
Pray that God will help you recognize today’s attacks and counter with the power and truth of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso