Far More Happiness

A popular quote says people can do what makes them happy OR what glorifies God. This means pleasing God requires a joyless existence serving a selfish demanding task master. While this is true for those living apart from Christ, it is not God’s intention for His born-again children! As one popular song explained, far more life is a great adventure in Christ, a journey more amazing and glorious than our wildest dreams!

Are there times when Christians sin, thinking it will make them happier than actions and attitudes that glorify God? Absolutely! Accepting Christ’s offer to forgive our sins does not guarantee we will never sin. But the Bible describes several important changes that do occur:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you… And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:26-27, NIV)

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4, NIV)

When we invite Christ into our lives, He makes us a new spiritual creation! Our looks and personalities remain the same. We retain our talents and skills as well as many of our interests. But our desires change from pleasing ourselves to pleasing God. Our motivation changes from making ourselves look good to making God look good. Many things that used to be fun or make us happy now become unpleasant, unfulfilling, or even disgusting. Without Christ, we were seeking significance, acceptance, and belonging, hoping they will fill an internal void. Once Christ fills that void and our foundational needs are met in Him, we discover new desires. We find far more life while using our time, skills, possessions, and money to bless others.

A relationship with Christ not only changes our desires, it also gives us power to change our habits:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24, NIV)

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed…You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.  (Colossians 3:5-10, NIV)

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2, NIV)

Notice we are not instructed to try harder to be good people. God tells us to put off, put on, put to death, rid ourselves, do not, and be because He has given us the power to do those things! Some changes are easy. A friend of mine lost his desire to cuss as soon as he accepted Christ; he did not have to work at cleaning up his language, the curse words were simply gone! But the majority of the time, change takes time and effort. God helps us recognize sinful or unhealthy habits and we have to choose different beliefs, thoughts, attitudes, and actions. One example of this in my own life concerns the music I enjoy. Before I started living for Christ, I loved the feelings stirred up by love songs; even when they made me feel lonely, I was hopeful that someday my “prince” would meet my emotional needs. Over time, I recognized some of those songs tempted me to look to a romantic partner instead of God for significance, acceptance, and belonging. As I explored new recording artists, I found that I preferred those who pointed me to deeper spiritual thoughts, eternal perspectives, and truth about God’s character and love. As my beliefs and thoughts changed, so did my listening habits. Far more life recognizes spiritual transformation is a life-long process that leads to increasing happiness.

This verse outlines three ways God’s followers can make Him happy:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NIV)

When we embrace far more life and join God in His plans for life, these things make us happy, too. We are happy when we act justly and work toward justice in our society. We are happy when we show mercy and compassion to others. We are happy when we let God be the boss and do what He says is good and right. Injustice, cold-heartedness, and disregard for God and His ways make us sad or unhappy.

When you are following God, you are in sync with His values and desires. Doing what makes you happy brings inner peace and a deeper connection to Him. Far more life is doing what makes you genuinely happy, knowing it is making God happy, too!

Sisters,
Have you believed that only you OR God can be happy? How has that negatively impacted your desire to live for Him?
When you accepted Christ, what void was filled in your heart? How did that change your motivations, desires, and actions?
How has the Spirit empowered you to change? In what area are you currently working to change?
Embrace the fruit of far more life — happiness — as you live for God today!
-Shari





Beautiful Bodies

And there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies; the beauty that belongs to heavenly bodies is different from the beauty that belongs to earthly bodies. (I Corinthians 15:40, GNT)

This verse recently stood out from my Bible reading. In my research, I found some scholars interpret “heavenly bodies” as the glorified bodies God’s children will live in once we reach heaven while others interpret it as celestial objects (sun, moon, stars, etc.). Whichever definition of “heavenly body” came to mind as you read it, I assume you considered it something marvelous and beautiful. Heavenly bodies are breath-taking and attest to God’s creativity, power, and wisdom.

But do you also marvel at the beauty of earthly bodies, especially your own? We are often quick to notice our perceived imperfections but slow to recognize God’s creativity, power, and wisdom when we look in the mirror. But far more life allows you to see yourself as God does, spiritually and physically. And He approves of how He created each of His daughters!

I took a class in college titled “Sensation and Perception”. It was a fascinating study of the five human senses. Multiple times over the semester our professor stressed that our senses were perfect for our environment; we perceived all we needed without picking up “interference”. Each time she said that I thought, “What powerful evidence that we were created by a loving God!” Studying the intricacy of our senses and how precisely they are attuned to our environment left me in awe of the beauty God gave our bodies.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! (Psalm 139:13-17, NIV)

I appreciate the reminder in these verses that God was intimately involved in the creation of each person. I do not know if he specifically chose your hair color, eye color, and height or if He left that to the incredible genetic process He designed. But I do know that He chose features He wanted you specifically to have — in order to live out His purposes for you — and made sure you got them. When He looks at you, He sees beauty! He wants you to embrace that beauty so you will experience far more life.

But often I do not see my body as beautiful. I dislike many of its features, both those I was born with and those — like scars and extra fat — that have developed over time. And I complain about the parts that do not work as well as I would like them to or cause me pain. When I focus on the problems more than the beauty, I miss out on far more life! Will I define myself by the parts of my body I like? By those I dislike? Or by the opportunities I have to use all my parts to experience and glorify God?

I once heard giving God glory described as “doing what you were created to do”. The sun glorifies God by giving off light. The ocean gives God glory through the ebb and flow of the tide. Birds glorify God by building nests, migrating, singing, and other bird activities. People glorify God by loving Him, obeying His instructions, and growing to be like Him in character. Our physical bodies were designed to glorify God through our thoughts, words, and actions! I don’t think the sun gets frustrated when something blocks its light and creates a shadow. Nor do birds give up on building a nest when materials are hard to find. Although they do not share our reasoning skills, they just keep doing what God designed them to do. But we sometimes get thrown off-course when our imperfect bodies block our attempts to live for God and glorify Him. We no longer believe our bodies — or our work for God — is beautiful and pleasing to Him. But we are wrong.

Far more life does not undervalue or overvalue our bodies, rather it sees them as God does, beautiful vessels that serve a divine purpose. And when our life on this earth is over, He will give us new beautiful bodies that are designed to serve our new eternal purpose!

Sisters,
What part of creation do you find most beautiful?
How have you discovered that God designed your body to meet the purposes He has for you in this life?
How do you use your body to bring God glory?
Thank God for your beautiful body and far more life in Him!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Glorify God

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

Last week’s post, Be Loved, talks about the first half of this statement: our purpose of accepting God’s unconditional and sacrificial love. This post will cover our second purpose: to glorify God.

Many people, especially those unfamiliar with God’s character, interpret our call to glorify God in a negative light. To them it seems He is an egomaniac or narcissist who demands our attention and adoration. Perhaps He needs our praise to feel good about Himself. But what if it is good for US to glorify Him? What if He knows glorifying Him will bring us far more life?

According to Vocabulary.com, “To glorify is to praise or honor something or someone to an extreme degree. If you like someone, you might compliment or praise them, but glorifying takes that a step further. When something is glorified, it is praised to the highest degree possible.

Is God worthy of praise and honor to the highest degree possible? Does He deserve more than our compliments? Yes! Far more life willingly and gratefully gives God the glory He deserves. The book of Revelation gives multiple examples of God receiving His due from various created beings:

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being. (Revelation 4:11, NIV)

God’s knowledge and power are far superior to ours. He created and sustains all that exists. He is worthy of our glory.

Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed. (Revelation 15:4, NIV)

God alone is holy and righteous. He deserves our glory for being perfect in character and action.

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13, NIV)

Every creature will see God on His throne, and Jesus beside Him, and acknowledge that He deserves all the glory we can give. What a wonderful assembly that will be!

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. (Revelation 21:23, NIV)

God’s glory will light up the Holy City in heaven. I think this will be the purest and brightest light we have ever seen that will perfectly illuminate what we need to see, both physically and spiritually.

Giving God glory does not begin in Heaven; far more life glorifies God today and every day. Biblical writers understood this truth:

Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting. (Psalm 147:1, ESV)

In this world that is filled with pain, evil, and heartache, it is good to remember God’s character and promises. Glorifying Him gives us hope and perspective. It helps keep our eyes on Him.

Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. (Psalm 63:3-5, NIV)

How many love songs and romantic movies claim, “You are the best thing that ever happened to me”? Well, God IS the best thing that ever happened to us! Glorifying God reminds us of His perfect love and provision. That is what we need, what we crave.

But HOW do we glorify God? I heard one person describe it as doing what we were created to do. It is not limited to humans; all of creation glorifies God, too:

Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud, you earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel. (Isaiah 44:23, NIV)

“I tell you,” [Jesus] replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40, NIV)

Birds glorify God by migrating, building nests, and singing. Oceans glorify God through their ebb and flow. Bees glorify God by pollinating flowers. Stars glorify God by shining their lights. People glorify God by imitating Christ in their thoughts, words, and actions. This will look different from one person to the next since God gave us different strengths, talents, and personalities.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6, NIV)

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (I Peter 2:12, NIV)

Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God… (John 21:19, NIV)

Far more life glorifies God regardless of the circumstances. Everything we do — even how we face death — is an opportunity to glorify God. I pray that, near the end of our time on earth, you and I can say the same thing that Jesus did:

I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. (John 17:4, NIV)

May we find far more life as we glorify God today and every day!

Sisters,
Do you believe that God deserves your glory?
What barriers do you face to willingly and gratefully glorifying Him?
Is it most natural for you to glorify Him through your thoughts, words, or actions? Which is the most challenging?
What truth about Him helps you glorify Him?
Thank God for the opportunity to glorify Him — and experience far more life — today.
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso