Good and Perfect Gift

I have an app that prompts me to praise God as part of my morning prayers. My praise acknowledges His character qualities — who He is — rather than what He has done for me. Praise prompts me to remember He is a person in whose image all other people were created. Praise helps me understand why He acts in certain ways or gives us certain instructions. Praise lets me think about God from new perspectives.

As I read the Scriptures, I often look for more qualities and traits to praise. Thinking about the person behind the action leads me to new discoveries about Him. I recently noticed these verses in my Old Testament reading:

…Do not say to yourself, “The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you. (Deuteronomy 9:4, NIV)

This thought is repeated two more times in this passage so it must be important. At first reading it seems odd — maybe even harsh or critical — that God would keep emphasizing that the people are not righteous enough for Him to bless them with the Promised Land. These are God’s chosen people whom he promised to rescue and establish in their own land (Exodus 6:6-8). So why the strong words and what can we learn about God through them?

I believe God’s righteousness caused Him to speak this truth clearly and boldly. God is without sin and cannot tolerate sin. The people groups living in this strategic area He created have rejected Him completely. Their unrighteousness has made them God’s enemies. So He is taking away this land and granting it to the people who acknowledge, follow, and obey Him: the Israelites.

But the Israelites did not acknowledge, follow, and obey Him perfectly. The journey from Egypt to the Promised Land could have been completed in a few weeks, but it took them 40 years because of their sin (Numbers 14:34). Perhaps God’s justice requires Him to remind the Israelites of their own sin. It may prompt Him to remind them that they have not earned this land and do not deserve it. Justice may cause Him to make it clear this land is His gift.

There are many other surprising statements or actions of God recorded in the Bible. Here are a few verses that help us understand why we cannot always anticipate what He will do or say:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV)

Although we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), His thoughts and plans are vastly different from ours. His reasoning is perfect; ours is not. His plans are perfect; ours are not. Unlike us, His motives are perfect. Far more life accepts and embraces God’s thoughts and ways as perfect and ours as imperfect.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:1-3, NIV)

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand…Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, “This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt”? (Job 38:4, 8-11, NIV)

God spoke the heavens and the earth — and all that is in them — into existence. He did not follow a manual or consult others. His wisdom, creativity, and power were sufficient to create both the smallest and largest components of our universe…and everything in between. Far more life understands that our limited minds cannot grasp God’s wisdom and power.

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. (Numbers 23:19, NIV)

Can you even imagine never telling a lie or changing your mind? What would it be like to have all the information and confidence needed to get everything right the first time and never need to protect or defend yourself with lies? Far more life accepts that God is vastly superior to us and cannot be fully understood in this lifetime.

When I read ancient Greek and Roman mythology, I feel sad for the people who followed it. The gods are depicted with many of the same weaknesses we have. They lie, scheme, cheat, and steal; they suffer from jealousy, anger, lust, and greed. I wonder why anyone would be attracted to gods that are no better than themselves? Why would they worship gods who are so unpredictable and self-centered? The One true God, the God of the Bible, is not like those man-made gods. He deserves our praise, worship, and adoration. We may not understand Him fully, but we can trust Him fully. The better we know Him, the more this is affirmed.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17, NIV)

The Promised Land was a good and perfect gift that God gave the Israelites. Growing our relationship with God and one day seeing Him face-to-face is a good and perfect gift He gives us (I Corinthians 13:12). Praise helps us recognize the source and value of these gifts.

Sisters,
What confuses you about God? Who can you ask for help to understand Him better?
Which of His character qualities are most meaningful to you?
Praise God for who He is. Thank Him for the gift of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2022, Shari Damaso

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

Be Loved

Our purpose on earth is to be loved and to glorify God.

When a friend shared this statement from her pastor with me, I expected to hear, “Our purpose is to love.” I was surprised to hear “…to be loved.” I usually think my purpose is giving to God rather than receiving from Him. But as I contemplated this statement, I realized far more life is only possible if we accept God’s love, if we allow ourselves to be loved by Him.

What Bible verses support this idea that God’s purpose for us is to be loved by Him? Several!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (I John 4:9, NIV)

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (I John 4:10, NIV)

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

Jesus came to earth to become the ultimate expression of God’s love for us. That is how serious God is about us receiving His love — He sent His Son to die in our place and make a relationship possible! We are the only beings created in His image (Genesis 1:26), which leads me to believe He has a special purpose for us. He wants us to experience His love in all of its richness and wonder.

We can get caught up in trying to earn His love, trying to do enough or be enough to win His favor. But that is not God’s plan for us. In fact, it is impossible. No matter how “good” we are, we will always fall short of his standard: perfection. Yet He wants to shower us with His love, offers to fill us to overflowing, and give His daughters the gift of far more life.

… God is love. (I John 4:8, NIV)

God is the source of love — it is who He is! So, of course, He wants to share His love with us.

But it may be hard for us to accept His love for several reasons. First, we know that we do not deserve it. While we are flawed, He is perfect. In reality, that perfection enables Him to love us unconditionally despite our flaws. It is reassuring to remember He loves us because of His character, not because of ours. In fact,

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. (Lamentations 3:22, NIV)

It is also hard to accept His love because we feel obligated to give something back. But what can we possibly give God? I had a friend who would not accept God’s love because she said it was too big; she realized she could never repay Him, so she preferred to say “no, thank you” to His offer of love. Fortunately, God does not expect us to pay for His love, He offers it as a gift:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ …and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8, NIV)

Finally, it is hard to be loved by God because we fear giving up control to Him. Part of us longs to be under His authority and protection, but another part questions His trustworthiness. It feels safer to think we are in charge of our own lives, making the decisions that will lead to the best life possible. But who always knows what is best? Who is wise and never makes a mistake? Who can see the future? God, in His perfect love, wants to free us from fear, worry, and doubt. The better we know Him, the more secure we become in His love and the more we understand and embrace this truth:

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)

We find far more life when we embrace our purpose of being loved by God. Early in my Christian life I was so afraid of displeasing God that I was often paralyzed from living for Him. Every night I pored over my day, seeking to remember every sin I had committed; I was desperate to make sure God understood that I did not take His forgiveness for granted. I believed my purpose was to confess my sin and how I was undeserving of God’s love. It was only after I learned the security of God’s love that I could relax and really accept His love. I still did not take His forgiveness for granted, but now I was free not only be loved, but also love Him back. I experienced gratitude rather than fear. I wanted to honor Him with my life, because I recognized it was a precious gift. I discovered that far more life runs toward God and His transforming love.

Your purpose is to be loved by God and glorify Him. Far more life is waiting for you, wrapped up in God’s love. Let yourself be loved today!

Sisters,
Can you accept your purpose of being loved by God?
What makes it hard for you to accept His love: Thinking you need to earn it? Believing you owe Him? Fear of giving control over to Him?
What Biblical truth helps you accept His love?
Commit today to let Him love you…and show you far more life.
-Shari