Only One Thing

Sometimes life — or death — gets our attention. Unexpected happenings and encounters challenge the status quo and reveal what we really believe, think, feel, want, and expect. Many of us have been touched by a death that felt premature, whether the person we lost was in utero, 17, 49, or 87. I find comfort in God’s perspective of our time on earth:

…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:16, NIV)

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants. (Psalm 116:15, NIV)

Contrary to our feelings, no life is cut short. We each live exactly the number of days God intended for us. No one misses the best days of their life. We treasure certain milestones in this life because they are the only reality we know. But what awaits those who have a love relationship with God through Jesus Christ is immeasurably better than anything we have, do, or experience on earth. Consider this description of what lies ahead:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth” …I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘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.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.  (Revelation 21:1-7, NIV)

When we are in Heaven, God will live with us, in visible form. We will be His people forever. He will be our God, our owner, our guardian, our blesser, our protector. We will see, hear, talk to, laugh with, and touch Him. He will gently wipe away our tears and no more will fall. We will never be separated from Him. We will have no reason to mourn, as we will not experience loss or pain. All we have known before will cease to exist. Something new, better and beyond our ability to imagine will become our reality. And nothing will threaten it…ever. Far more life — truly knowing Him and being with Him — will become the only thing we need.

In our limited lives on this earth, we can lose sight of far more life. We can instead focus on to do lists, accomplishments, appearances, and numbers. But it is not what we do in this life that is important. Only our relationship with God through Jesus is important. That is the key that gains us access to Heaven. That is the key to contentment throughout the unexpected and challenging situations we face on earth. That is the foundation of far more life.

The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15, NIV)

Think of the most affectionate name you have for your father or father-figure and the feelings it evokes. According to HELPS Word-Studies, the Greek “Abba” is used as a term of tender endearment by a beloved child. Abba is the man who makes you feel cherished, protected, valued, and safe. Children adore, trust, and enjoy their Abba. This verse describes a relationship where there is no judgement, only unconditional love. It describes two people who enjoy being together, who love one another deeply, who value each other and their time together. This is the relationship God desires with us.

We do not have a business connection with God. He is not our employer who is taking notes for our next performance review. His goal is not that we increase productivity, work overtime, or sacrifice our health. We do not move up the spiritual ladder by proving ourselves to Him.

We also do not improve our status with God by avoiding sin. We do not earn points by going to church or being baptized. We cannot identify Christians based solely on what they do or do not do.

The Bible records a time two sisters, Martha and Mary, were hosting Jesus and his followers. Imagine the work of having 12 or more guests who were unable to call ahead. Guests who had traveled to reach you and would be staying for an undetermined amount of time. They had real needs. Martha was focused on meeting those needs and making their guests comfortable. But her sister Mary chose to sit with the guests and listen to Jesus as he taught them about spiritual matters. When Martha complained about Mary’s inaction, Jesus’ response is surprising to many:

Few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42, NIV)

The only thing we truly need is a relationship with Jesus. The only thing we need to do is connect with Him so we can absorb His heart, words, and desires. All the rest will fall into place if we keep building a relationship with Him. Only one thing is needed for far more life: Jesus.

Sisters,
What unexpected life happening has challenged you?
What do you look forward to about Heaven?
How has God been Abba to you? What barriers do you face in considering Him as Abba?
Do you believe only one thing (Jesus) is needed? How do your thoughts and actions back up your belief?
Thank Jesus for giving you far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso




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