Open Doors

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:17-18, NIV)

These verses can be so hard to live out! When we are wronged, our fleshly response is to retaliate in some way. If not with our actions, then with our words, thoughts, or attitudes. We do not like to think of those responses as evil, but if our motive is not love, God says they are. When we give in to evil desires, we miss out on far more life. I made that mistake this week; I got caught up in defending a perceived wrong by pointing out the offender’s sin in front of others. But instead of feeling better afterwards, I felt worse! That made me realize I had chosen evil over far more life.

Fortunately God tells us how to find far more life in situations where we have been wronged or offended: do what we know is right. We know it is right to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We know it is right to treat others as we want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). We know it is right to forgive (Colossians 3:13). In my situation this week, when I finally decided to do what was right, I first chose to forgive the person who offended me, which changed my heart toward them. Rather than trying to convince them of their wrong, I chose to accept that we had different perspectives and values. This changed my anger to sadness. Then I was able to admit my wrong thoughts and actions, first to myself, then to them. I could feel my heart getting lighter with each step of this process, each choice to pursue far more life.

God takes it a step further: the verse continues, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” I appreciate His clear instruction that we are only responsible for our part, and sometimes peace is not possible. I think of it like adjoining hotel rooms; both doors must be open for you to pass freely back and forth. If only one person opens their door, you remain separated. We can open our door to peace by doing what is right, blessing the offender with our words and actions, praying for them, and showing them love. Whether or not they choose to open their door and live in peace with us, we can have a clear conscience about our actions and thoughts. It is sad and uncomfortable to be separated from others, but our open door serves as an ongoing invitation for them to join us in pursuing peace whenever they are ready. God says that is enough. In my situation, I have accepted that the other person and I are not on the same page in life, so the door to many deep conversations is closed right now. I plan to pray all I wish I could say to them in love and trust God with it. I will speak carefully in future conversations unless they directly ask for my input. That is the best way for me to show them love and experience far more life. For now, that is the level of peace we can share.

Why is it important to God that we live in peace with others, especially others who are following Christ?

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3)

Peace brings unity, which is important to God. Merriam-Webster defines unity as oneness or a condition of harmony. God is perfectly united with Jesus and the Holy Spirit; they are one, they live in harmony. And He says this to us, who are created in His image and filled with His Spirit:

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1, NIV)

By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ I appeal to all of you, my friends, to agree in what you say, so that there will be no divisions among you. Be completely united, with only one thought and one purpose.  (I Corinthians 1:10, GNT)

God wants His children to live in harmony with one another because that is the only way His purpose can be accomplished. If our purpose is to love God and bring Him glory, can we do that if we are divided and arguing? No. In fact, God makes it clear that our love — which grows as we grow in unity — reveals our purpose to everyone:

If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples. (John 13:35, GNT)

This verse always amazes me. It is not our Bible knowledge that shows we are disciples of Jesus. Or the number of Bible studies or church meetings we attend. It is not the good works we do or the causes we support. What communicates our devotion to Jesus is the love we show others, especially other followers of Jesus. Sometimes that love is most evident when we return evil or sin with a blessing. When we do what is right rather than retaliating. When we pursue peace with someone who has offended or sinned against us. When we share our lives and pursue a common purpose. When we choose far more life!

Sisters,
Do you tend to repay evil with evil or with a blessing?
When have you found far more life by choosing to do what is right?
Do you have a relationship that is not at peace? Is your door open and inviting the other person to peace?
How are you living in unity with other followers of Jesus?
Pray and look for opportunities to show love — and choose far more life — today!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso


Every Spiritual Blessing

May blessing (praise, laudation, and eulogy) be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) Who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual (given by the Holy Spirit) blessing in the heavenly realm! (Ephesians 1:3, AMPC)

In Christ, we have every spiritual BLESSING. What exactly is a blessing? Some dictionaries define it as God’s favor and protection. You have God’s approval and support. You are under God’s protection. This is far more life.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32, NIV)

No one is stronger, smarter, or richer than God. He alone can change the course of nature, history, or the cells in our body with a word (Psalm 33:6; Psalm 103:20; Psalm 107:20). His love for us prompts Him to freely give us all we need. But sometimes it seems that we are not blessed. We do not feel protected and favored. Far more life feels distant and unattainable.

At those times, we need the next key word: spiritual. In Christ, you have every SPIRITUAL blessing. It is easy to focus on our physical blessings, like health, possessions, and good circumstances. These definitely make life on earth more enjoyable and comfortable. But they are temporary. Spiritual blessings are eternal and far superior. They are described in these verses:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, (Romans 8:28-29a, NIV)

The biggest spiritual blessings we can receive are to know Jesus and be like Him. Know Jesus as Savior and Lord. Be like Him in character, beliefs, thoughts, words, and actions. Imagine what life would be like if we always had God’s perspective, God’s responses, and God’s character…that would be amazing! Our worry, fear, and frustration would be gone. Instead we would be filled with peace and hope as we clearly recognized God’s plan, presence, and power. Thankfully this is possible as the Holy Spirit works in us! We find spiritual blessing — far more life — by recognizing where we are not like Jesus, exposing our underlying beliefs, and exchanging them for His perspective. Good news: God promises to faithfully continue this process in us until we become like Christ at His return (Philippians 1:6-11; I John 3:2-3).

In Christ, you have EVERY spiritual blessing. Nothing is withheld from us. God gives His children every good thing:

The Lord God is our protector and glorious king. He blesses us with kindness and honor. The Lord freely gives every good thing to those who do what is right. (Psalm 84:11, ERV)

He freely gives every good thing. We can get stuck on the “do what is right” phrase and think our sin disqualifies us from receiving God’s blessing. But this verse was written under God’s old covenant that was dependent on following His law to earn His favor. People of that time did not have the Holy Spirit inside of them; they were separated from God by their sin. We now live under grace and have been declared right with God through Christ (Romans 5:1); even our sin does not separate us from Him (Romans 8:38-39). We have access to every spiritual blessing, including unlimited love, joy, peace, kindness, self-control, and more. In other words, we have access to far more life.

IN CHRIST, you have every spiritual blessing. In order to receive His blessing, we have to stay connected to Him. If we put our trust in other things — our own abilities, other people, food, pleasure, power, money, or anything else — we miss out on God’s best for us. At those times, we do not recognize or value the blessings He offers. In fact:

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. (Jonah 2:8, NIV)

We get to choose the extent of blessing in our life by choosing the object of our faith and devotion. When people are our primary source of wisdom and comfort, we forfeit far more life. When we turn to food for comfort, we forfeit far more life. When pleasure, power, or money are our primary motivators, we forfeit far more life. When we make Jesus our best friend, primary comforter, and mentor, we choose far more life and every spiritual blessing. He is always available and willing to be chosen. Fortunately, any time we recognize we have chosen idols we can immediately repent and turn to Him instead. The blessings begin to flow into our hearts and minds as soon as we put Him back at the center of our heart and mind.

As I grow in understanding the privilege of every spiritual blessing available to me in Christ, I want to join the songwriter in proclaiming: Praise God from whom all blessings flow! And I want to add: Praise Him for far more life!

Sisters,
What blessings have you received from God? Where is His favor and protection evident?
Do you value physical or spiritual blessings more? What will help you grow in your desire for His spiritual blessings?
What barriers keep you from believing He offers you EVERY spiritual blessing?
What worthless idols compete with Christ for your devotion?
Look for God’s spiritual blessings this week and praise Him for giving you far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso