Choose Praise

During the midst of a challenging situation this week, my husband asked me to read Psalm 103 to him. It reminded me that no matter what circumstances we face, God is worthy of our praise. As I put this into practice, I found far more life by offering Him praise.

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. (Psalm 103:1, NIV)

It is good to praise the Lord without hesitation or reservation. To release doubts and fears we are tempted to hold on to. To examine the parts of our heart and mind that are reluctant. Then we can fully and freely praise Him.

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:2-5, NIV)

Too often we take the Lord’s benefits for granted. Take a minute to ponder this awe-inspiring list; I think you will agree each item is enough to inspire praise.

He alone has the power to forgive all our sins.

One day He will eradicate all our diseases and bless us with perfect bodies and health.

He gives our lives purpose and meaning.

His love and compassion mark us as His beloved children.

He goes beyond meeting our needs to satisfying our desires.

He refreshes us daily, allowing our spiritual strength to grow as we age.

We have so many reasons to offer Him praise!

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. (Psalm 103:6, NIV)

The Lord sees all that happens and will bring perfect justice in His perfect timing. He knows who is guilty or innocent in every situation. He will end all oppression. He, our ultimate judge, is trustworthy, wise, and just. He deserves our praise as we await justice!

He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:10, NIV)

While some of our sins are against other people, all of them are against the Lord. We can never do enough good to make up for them and become righteous. Yet He has chosen to suffer the punishment we deserve and offer us forgiveness, holiness, and far more life. Understanding His mercy and grace compels us to praise Him.

He knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children — with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. (Psalm 103: 14-18, NIV)

It is easy to focus on human accomplishments and minimize reality: God made us and all the materials that we use in our creations. His creations are infinitely greater than ours because He is infinitely greater than us. Although we have done amazing things, we are made of dust. He existed long before we were born and will continue long after we die. Our legacy will fade, but His character, provision, and praiseworthiness are unwavering. When we recognize His greatness, it is a natural response to offer Him praise. Not just for what He has done, but for who He is.

The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. (Psalm 103:19, NIV)

Human kingdoms will come and go, following the cycle of growth and decay that has repeated over the centuries. But the eternal kingdom of the Lord is immune to decay. It will never fall to greed, disaster, warfare, or conquest. He will always deserve our praise and always offer far more life.

Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.
Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul. (Psalm 103:20-22, NIV)

I appreciate how the psalmist broke this down. It reminds me of His greatness and how truly deserving of praise He is…from everyone and everything.

Angels, though mighty, answer to God and owe Him obedience and praise.

Heavenly hosts may include other spiritual beings as well as celestial bodies such as the sun, moon, and stars. Heavenly armies praise Him through battling spiritual forces, unseen by the human eye, at God’s command. The sun and moon praise Him by keeping the orbits He established for them. Each praises Him by playing their assigned role in God’s master plan.

“All his works everywhere in his dominion” includes everything else God has created. It may be odd to think of mountains, trees, and oceans praising God, but they do! Animals and plants praise God, too, through their diversity, habits, and place in His order. He holds everything together yet each component offers praise in its own way.

Humans are given the choice of offering praise. What a humbling and motivating realization! Once we have a taste of far more life, we can see Him and His works more clearly and are eager to offer Him the praise He deserves. Even when we lose sight of this — like I did in the midst of this week’s hard circumstances — God is faithful to draw us back. Today I choose to praise Him for Psalm 103 and its pull to far more life!

Sisters,
What reluctance or hesitance to praising the Lord do you face? Talk to Him about it; He understands and wants you to be free to praise Him!
What “benefits” have you experienced as God’s daughter? Do you praise Him for them?
Are you creating a legacy of praise during your limited time on earth?
Choose to praise Him today — whatever you face — and find the peace and perspective of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, 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

Forgiveness is…

As we journey through life, we encounter hurt and disappointment. What do we do with this?  Some of us give it right back, wanting to get even. Others withdraw or build walls to protect themselves. Some ignore it, hoping it will go away. Others replay it over and over in their minds, seeking to understand and learn from it. Some cover it with humor or activity to minimize the pain. Some bury it deep inside and try to forget it ever happened.

These responses may enable us to feel better temporarily, but none resolve the hurt. Sooner or later unresolved hurt becomes baggage that restricts us from experiencing far more life.

How can we unpack the hurt in a healthy way and move forward unencumbered?

 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13, NIV)

Forgive. As the Lord forgave you. What does God’s forgiveness look like?

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12, NIV)

Then he adds, ‘I will no longer hold their sins and their disobedience against them.’ When sins are forgiven, there is no longer any need to sacrifice for sins.” (Hebrews 10:17-18, GW)

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:18-19, NASB)

God’s forgiveness removes our sin from us; we are no longer defined by that sin. God does not hold our sins against us; He doesn’t ask us to keep making up for them. After dealing with our sins, God gladly treats us with mercy and compassion; our relationship is restored.  This is the forgiveness He empowers us extend to others as well.

  • Forgiving is a choice to obey God. Since God instructs us to forgive others, He empowers us to do so. This is hard, but it is worthwhile. Lack of forgiveness keeps us hooked to the hurtful situation; obeying God brings peace and joy. God wants us to have far more life!
  • Forgiveness comes from the heart. Saying the words “I forgive” without engaging our heart is not effective. Forgiveness requires us to admit — to ourself and to God — what negative emotions and false beliefs the person’s action or inaction triggered in our heart. We must resolve the belief about ourself that is causing the pain by replacing it with God’s perspective. Did the hurtful incident communicate we were unloved, unimportant, not good enough, or something similar? We must reject those messages and let our heart dwell on what God, our perfect, all-knowing Father, says about us.
  • Forgiveness is between us and God, not us and another person. God is our primary source of forgiveness because only He can heal our wounded hearts. Forgiveness is releasing our hurt to God and letting Him administer justice and punishment against those who hurt us. We may reconcile with the offender, but first we must privately forgive them before God.
  • Forgiveness is letting go. It is choosing to not retaliate or seek revenge. It does not mean we automatically trust the person or let them resume their old place in our life; that may not be safe or wise. But even when strict boundaries are necessary, forgiveness allows us to let go.
  • Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequence of another person’s sin. In reality, we always live with the consequences of others’s sin. But forgiving frees us from anger and bitterness that suppress far more life.
  • Forgiveness is letting God. It is trusting God to provide all we need for far more life, even things that others’ sin has taken away.  It is also trusting God to mete out justice in His perfect timing, whether that is in this lifetime or at Jesus’ return.
  • Forgiving is not forgetting. It does not erase the incident from our memory as if it never happened. Our life may be profoundly changed, but Christ can heal our wounds so the memory is not painful.

Sometimes when people sin against us it doesn’t even hurt.  This happens when we can see their actions for what they are: reflections of their pain that have nothing to do with us. One day I was cut off in traffic and my first response was to pray for the safety of the other driver.  I was surprised because that was not my normal response! As I pondered the difference in my heart I realized I hadn’t take their actions personally.  They clearly acted on whatever pressure or stress or negative emotions they were experiencing, which had nothing to do with my driving. Since I knew their decision wasn’t about me, their wrongful actions against me didn’t prompt a painful emotional response. Forgiveness was easy.

This isn’t always the case. Often others actions feel like personal attacks. In reality, they are revealing areas where we aren’t seeing ourselves as God does. Forgiveness gives us the opportunity to trade our misperceptions for God’s perfect perspective. As forgiving becomes our lifestyle, we are hurt and offended less often. We clearly see that people sin against us because of their own hurts. We feel compassion for them rather than pain. And living with less hurt and more compassion is far more life.

Sisters,
How do you react when others hurt you?
Is the baggage of past hurts weighing you down?
Which bullet points describing forgiveness are hard to believe? Tell God.
Talk to God about your hurts, admitting how you feel and what they tempt you to believe about yourself. Drink in His truth about you.
Ask Him to heal your damaged emotions.
Thank Him for the gift of forgiveness and emotional healing.
Enjoy far less pain and far more life.

-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso