Rooted and Established

I was reminded this week of the importance of being grounded in love. Not just giving love to others, but accepting love from God. If we do not adequately grasp God’s love for His children, we will not be attracted to far more life. If we have not experienced His love in action, joining His mission will not be more appealing than pursuing our own desires. Without this grounding, we will not understand His love and our passion will be directed at something other than glorifying Him and building His kingdom.

The Apostle Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus applies to us as well:

…And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19, NIV)

Being rooted and established in love. Roots anchor a plant; they hold it in place and absorb the nutrients and moisture needed for health. Once the root system of a plant is established, it begins to grow. Similarly, Christ’s love anchors our faith; He paid for our sins with His own life to offer us holiness and a restored relationship with God. His love enables us to absorb the grace and truth needed for spiritual connection and health. Once we become secure in His love, our faith is established and begins to grow. Far more life is rooted and established in Christ’s love.

I pray that you…may have power. The word translated “power” means “to have strength enough” in the original Greek. Paul is describing a God-given spiritual power that enables His children to do what is humanly impossible. This is the result of being rooted and established in God’s love. Far more life gives us supernatural spiritual power.

Together with all the saints. We are not alone in this pursuit. We are joined by everyone who has a personal relationship with God. As we share God’s love with others and experience His love through them, our spiritual strength and joy increase. Far more life is best lived together.

To grasp. It takes mental and spiritual work to comprehend God’s love. We may have to wrestle with experiences and beliefs that seem contradictory to the promises we read in the Bible. Far more life holds on to the truth it knows while learning about and experiencing Christ in new ways.

How wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. We don’t think of love as having physical measurements, but God’s Word offers us these word pictures to help us understand the enormity of Christ’s love for us:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him. (Psalm 103:11, NIV)

As far as east is from west— that’s how far God has removed our sin from us. (Psalm 103:12, CEB)

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. (Psalm 139:8, NIV)

God’s love for His children is bigger than anything we can imagine or experience. There is no place we can travel that will take us beyond the reach of His love. He has taken our sin as far away from us as possible and filled the space with His love. Even when we feel like God is far away, His love is still with us. Far more life delights in the vastness of God’s love for His children.

To know this love that surpasses knowledge. Human wisdom cannot comprehend God’s love. We cannot prove it with scientific research. We cannot explain it with logic. God’s love must be experienced to be known and understood. His love is an unconditional acceptance of us, despite our sin against Him. It is His protection from what should injure or destroy us. It is His peace and joy during a horrific situation. Far more life does not just know about God’s love, it knows God’s love from personal experience.

That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of Christ. Paul wants God’s love to fill us up so completely that there is no room for anything else. If we could fully grasp God’s love for us — the extent of it and the nature of it — we would gladly push all else out so we could have more of Him. When I read this phrase, I always think of cooking. Especially the times I have added so many ingredients to the measuring cup that it overflowed! Imagine that your heart and mind are so full of God’s character that each situation you face during the day causes His love to spill onto others. Or His patience. Or His joy. Or His forgiveness. Far more life strives to fill itself more and more with Christ by better understanding His love. Then it can express His character — through the Holy Spirit living inside.

Whatever season of life you are in, it is the perfect time to be rooted and established in the love of Christ. Know love, know far more life!

Sisters,
Are you rooted in God’s love — is it a secure anchor in your life?
Are you established in God’s love — are you growing in your faith and Christlikeness?
How have you seen God’s power at work in our heart, mind, and soul?
How does connection with other Christ-followers help you to understand God’s love better?
What besides God’s love is filling you? If you are unsure how to know more of God’s love, ask a trusted spiritual mentor for ideas.
Look for evidence of God’s love today and thank Him for those moments of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: Jenjoe Marsh

Far More Wealth

I took an informal poll recently which asked people if they wanted to go to heaven when they died. As I expected, the majority answered yes. I am sure the responders had different ideas about what heaven is like or how you get there, but most of them agreed that they wanted to experience it. But I am certain there would have been fewer yes answers if I had asked, “Do you want to love and obey God now so you can live with Him in heaven forever after you die?”

Sometimes what we want — in this example, to live in heaven — and what we are willing to do to get it — in this example, love and obey God — are incompatible. We find the same incompatibility in many areas of life. I want to be at my ideal weight but am not willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes. Some people want to get out of debt but are unwilling to reduce their spending. Others want better relationships but are not willing to put in the required effort. Regardless of what we say, what we do reflects what we truly want.

The gospels tell the story of a man who also faced this dilemma:

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

…Jesus answered, “You know the commandments…”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:17-22, NIV)

This man is just like us! We want to have everything we want…but on our terms. We want treasure, influence, and significance in this life AND we want eternal life. It is tempting to think having the best of earth and the best of heaven is far more life. But it is not.

Jesus was not giving the man in this story a to do list that would lead to salvation. Based on other Scripture passages, we know that selling all we possess is not how we gain eternal life (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10, Ephesians 2:8). Instead, Jesus gave this answer to draw out the true desires of this man’s heart, to reveal what he truly loved. Jesus had explained the principle at work in an earlier teaching:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21, NIV)

The man was doing many good things but had given his heart to his wealth. He treasured his possessions and lifestyle. He wanted the benefits God offered but was not willing to give up the benefits his wealth provided.

Throughout human history people have wanted to do their own thing but still receive God’s blessing. God made this statement to the Israelites around 1300 years before Jesus walked the earth:

You shall not bow down to [idols] or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:5-6, NIV)

Humans want the freedom to make other things, people, or pursuits more important than God, but we also want Him to shower us with good gifts. However, this verse draws a sharp line: we either love God and receive His love or we hate Him and receive His punishment. There is no middle ground in our relationship with Him or His response to us. A similar warning is found in Revelation:

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. (Revelation 3:15-17, NIV)

Do you notice the different “riches” that are referenced in these verses? It is tempting for us to place value on material possessions, status, or physical comfort. But God’s riches are spiritual in nature. In fact, he warns us:

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:36, NIV)

Far more life desires and pursues the spiritual riches that God offers. It seeks to give and receive forgiveness, love, joy, peace, patience, unity, generosity, and hope. It is grounded in faith. It sees this life — with its struggles, temptations, and successes — in light of eternity. Far more life is centered on God rather than self. It strives to understand and obey Him more rather than cling to comfortable attitudes and actions. Far more life may look poor to the world but it leads to the greatest and best wealth possible!

Sisters,
What do you desire in life? Are your actions compatible with that desire?
How would you describe the best earth has to offer? The best heaven has to offer?
What is your reaction to the statement, “We either love God and receive His love or we hate Him and receive His punishment. There is no middle ground.” What Bible verses support or negate this strong stand?
If you love God, what spiritual riches have you already gained?
Thank God that the riches of far more life start now and last forever!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Warm Love

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12, NIV)

Sadly, this verse seems to sum up the current climate of our culture. We are a spiritually, morally, and politically divided people. We disagree on what is “wicked” and are quick to criticize those whose definition differs from our own. People engage in hateful dismissiveness rather than loving discourse. It is discouraging and leads us away from far more life.

Although it is right to be sad about the current state of affairs, we should not be surprised. It was predicted over 2000 years ago and has always been true to some extent. But we can consider this a call to be counter-culture and put the warm love of far more life into practice. As society’s standard of righteousness moves further from God’s standard, we have an opportunity to INCREASE our love for others and reveal God’s true character. Jesus tells us how in his first sermon:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? … And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48, NIV)

Love your enemies; this includes people who actively oppose us. Pray for those who persecute you; this includes people who attack us or call us names. God sets the example for us. As Creator and Judge, He would be justified in withholding all good — even sunshine and rain — from those who oppose and attack Him. But He does not. And He does not want us to withhold good, either. Looking out for the welfare of those who oppose us is an example of warm love. It sets us apart from the majority and reveals God’s Spirit living inside of us. We find far more life as we strive to be like God in our love.

…Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39, NIV)

Give the same regard to others that you give to yourself. Do kind acts for them that you do for yourself. Some people pay for the order of the person behind them in the drive thru, especially when that person has been impatient or otherwise indicated they are having a bad day. This is one way of responding with warm love. We regularly offer our neighbor warm love by clearing the snow from a significant portion of his sidewalk. It feels good to bless him in this small way. Perhaps one day it will open the door for a conversation about Christ. But in the meantime, we find far more life by showing him love.

…Urge the younger women to love their husbands and children. (Titus 2:4, NIV)

Sometimes the people we serve the most are the people for whom our love cools the most. Caring for those in our own homes day after day can become wearing. We can get bogged down in what we are doing and forget why we are doing it. When my children left home, I thought I would have a vacation from daily cooking. But soon I realized my new attitude of doing as little food planning and prep as possible was not loving toward my husband. I had to choose whether to adopt a “fend for yourself” attitude of cold love or to be a vessel of God’s warm love by continuing to regularly prepare foods we could enjoy together. When I chose to show my husband love, I discovered another level of far more life!

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30, NIV)

Our love for God is the most important of all. If we let that grow cold, we will be miserable and unable to find far more life. But as we devote ourselves to loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, our love for Him and others will grow warmer and more vibrant. This love flows through a circle: as we get to know Him better, our love for Him deepens, giving us more love to give others. Then as we pass His love to others, we discover new aspects of far more life that motivate us to keep deepening our love for God. Growing our connection to God keeps our love warm.

A deeper connection to God also enables us to see others as He does. God is not surprised when people who have rejected Him increase in wickedness. The cycle of righteousness, rejection, wickedness, and revival has been repeated over and over throughout history. God also sees beyond people’s actions to their heart, and knows they are often trying to meet legitimate needs in illegitimate ways. When we see people as God does, we offer compassion rather than judgment. Rather than cooling our love, this produces warmth.

The Bible points out that the love of most will grow cold toward their fellow humans. But a deep and genuine connection to God — far more life — gives us warm love to share with everyone around us. Friends, enemies, family, and strangers alike.

Sisters,
How has the wickedness around us impacted your love for others?
What individual or group is your enemy? What would it look like to love them?
How do or can you love your neighbor as yourself?
Is it easier or harder to love those in your household than those outside of it? Why?
Is your love for God growing warmer or cooler? How can you deepen your connection to Him?
Thank God for showing you His love — and blessing you with far more life!
-Shari

Loving Justice

We often discuss far more life as an internal richness rooted in a right understanding of God and His interactions with us. But far more life is not limited to us; God wants our richness to overflow and touch others. This post examines the impact far more life has on our pursuit of justice.

You should set your hearts on the highest spiritual gifts, but I will show you what is the highest way of all…love (I Corinthians 12:31-13:1, PHILLIPS)

The best motive for seeking justice is love. Love for: those who were wronged; those who acted wrongly; others who have been or may later be hurt by this offender; and love for God. God’s love working through us allows us to love multiple parties involved while seeking justice.

Love protects us from acting maliciously against those who hurt others or oppressing the oppressors. Love allows us to experience and model far more life so we do not respond unjustly.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (I Corinthians 1:3, NIV)

Humans can accomplish amazing things: make life-changing speeches that motivate people; understand complex issues that make the impossible possible; and offer costly sacrifices to benefit others. But, unless our motivation is love, our efforts are worthless and accomplish nothing of lasting value.

So what does love that pursues justice look like? I Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV) offers these insights:

Love is patient. Other translations use “never gives up” or “suffers long”. Justice does not happen immediately. Sometimes it takes a lifetime. Loving justice is engaged for the long haul, step by step.

Love is kind. Injustice can tempt us to be unkind. But love prompts us to be useful and practical, meeting the needs we observe. A loving pursuit of justice demonstrates far more life by acting in ways that are constructive and helpful.

Love does not envy. We may be jealous of others’ situations that get a faster or more satisfying result. This can distract us and hinder our love. Loving justice rejoices for the justice others have received. Loving justice is motivated by a desire for right outcomes because they are right, not because others received them.

Love does not boast. It is not proud. It is not self-seeking. Parents of preschoolers often hear “look at me!” Over and over. Young children are exuberant about the things they are learning and want their achievements to be recognized. But justice-seeking love does not pursue personal praise or recognition. It pursues praise for God, the creator of justice, and the fulfillment of His will on earth. God-glorifying justice motivated by love is a noble pursuit.

Love does not dishonor others. Loving justice does not tear down others to make the one who was wronged look better. The actions of the oppressor speak for themselves as dishonorable, wrong, and evil. Love prompted by far more life is not afraid to speak the truth, but is focused on a righteous outcome rather than character assassination.

Love is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Far more life helps us let a lot of things go. It is not easily offended and does not hold grudges. It knows God sees every sin and will deliver complete justice, so we are freed from keeping track. Loving justice helps us distinguish when to speak up against wrongs and when to entrust them to God. Both are rooted in love and a desire for righteousness.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. I think of the familiar saying, “Two wrongs do not make a right.” Loving justice does not seek to get even or inflict pain on the offender; it mourns all forms of evil. It does not exaggerate or spin the story. It seeks for everyone to experience righteousness, whether through blessing or just punishment from just authorities. It celebrates true remorse and genuinely changed lives. It values each person as being made in God’s image and having the opportunity to humble themselves and ask forgiveness.

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. This verse speaks to the heart of far more life. Loving justice hopes in God’s righteousness and trusts His perfect justice. It perseveres because it knows He will ultimately overcome evil and set everything right. It always protects, wanting everyone to experience the blessing of a relationship with God; but this is not a blind protection that hides evil. Rather it keeps love at the forefront in deciding what, when, and how to share. This is lived out when family members of those who have been oppressed beg others to not take the law into their own hands. They seek to protect some from doing evil and others from being hurt by evil. They trust that authorities (human and/or God) will deliver just punishment. Their hope is in God, and they persevere in seeking righteousness as they patiently await justice.

Love never fails. Far more life knows that God never fails and following His instructions will never fail us. Love is the highest way, the best and purest motive in pursuing justice.

Sisters,
What makes love the best motive for seeking justice?
Which characteristics of love have you experienced from others when you acted wrongly?
Which have you shown those who wronged you?
How are you tempted to pursue unloving “justice”?
What barriers keep you from trusting that God’s justice will ultimately prevail?
Thank God for the richness of far more life that empowers you to love justly!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Let Your Light Shine

A friend’s picture of this light fixture caught my attention. The design reminds me of our lives: we are the socket, our relationships are the encircling rings, and God’s Spirit living inside us is the light. Before the Spirit indwells us we are dark, but He causes us to shine. No matter how many rings we have around us, the light can always reach them.

Physical light serves many purposes, including illuminating our surroundings and protecting us from harm by revealing danger. In the Bible, light is used as a spiritual metaphor. Spiritual light depicts salvation from our sins (Acts 26:18). Walking in the light means doing the right thing or following God’s instructions (Ephesians 5:8-9). The Bible is referred to as a light for our path (Psalm 119:105). Jesus calls Himself the Light of the world (John 8:12). Jesus also tells His followers:

You are light for the world. A city cannot be hidden when it is located on a hill. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead, everyone who lights a lamp puts it on a lamp stand. Then its light shines on everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine in front of people. Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16, GW)

Far more life embraces the call to be light for the world. We are instructed to let our light — the aspects of our character that are like Jesus — shine for all to see. We should not hide our goodness, forgiveness, kindness, love, joy, peace, patience, and other Christ-like characteristics. He wants us to stand out and be noticed, just like a city on a hill. This brings Him glory and brings us far more life.

A Bible verse I read this week challenges us to let our light shine. I appreciate the directness of this translation:

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.  (Romans 12:9, NLT)

Shining our light is not just doing the right thing, it is having the right mindset and attitude. It is genuinely loving others, including those who are different from us or hard to love. It starts with seeing their God-given value and continues by putting concern for their well-being into action. This love can take many forms: volunteering for an agency or event that benefits others; giving money to a person or organization in need; giving hands-on help to someone; speaking up on someone’s behalf or in their defense when they are victimized, overlooked, or oppressed; listening to someone who others overlook; praying with and for someone in a hard place; and more. Far more life loves others with our attitudes and actions.

Shining our light also joins God in hating what is wrong while attaching ourselves to what is good. Satan wants us to get stuck on one side or the other and forget that God wants us to do both. We can get stuck hating the darkness and forget that doing good brings light to the situation. We may be tempted to voice our hate for sin, but not actively support the righteous alternative. We may be quick to point out the darkness in others’ lives, but fail to share God’s light so they can find a way out. We might hate people or blame a whole group for the evil of a few people rather than seeing the situation or people’s hearts as God does. We may seek revenge rather than truth, justice, and forgiveness.

We can also get stuck ignoring the darkness and selfishly basking in God’s light. We may be tempted to deny or minimize the depravity of sin and instead focus on puffing up our Bible knowledge. We may shy away from hard situations and respond with Bible verses that only address the surface. We may refuse to get involved in fighting evil, always insisting others are more equipped or prepared. Far more life seeks to hate wrong while holding tightly to the good that overcomes it.

A few verses later, Paul shares another practical — and challenging — idea that restates one of Jesus’ commands:

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. (Romans 12:14, NLT)

…Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44, NASB)

This command is the opposite of our human response, so it must be the brightest light we can shine on injustice! God is glorified when we bless, love, and pray for those who hate us or intentionally harm us. Our enemies can be anyone who opposes the light shining out of us. We bless them by praying for them to experience God’s love and be drawn to His light. There may be practical ways we can show them love, too, but prayer is our most available and powerful option for obeying God in this. Far more life trusts God to use His light for good, even when it shines on our enemies.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1:5, NLTSE)

John wrote this about Jesus coming to earth, but the same truth applies to the light shining from us. Our light — God’s presence in our hearts — is secure. No evil, sin, enemy, persecutor, storm or trial or difficulty can extinguish His light in us. Thank you, God, that Your light overcomes any darkness we face and reveals far more life to those around us.

Sisters,
How has God’s light changed your life?
In what situations are you tempted to hide His light?
Is there a person or group that you only pretend to love? What do you need to overcome to really love them?
How do you practically hate wrong while holding tightly to what is good?
Walk confidently in far more life this week as you remember that God’s light in you is secure and eternal!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: Shonda Millender

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


Far More Hope

As you think about life, are you hopeful or hopeless? Your answer will be determined, in part, by where you are placing your hope.

Sometimes we place our hope in things that change. When they are going well, we are hopeful, but when they take a downturn, so does our hope. For example, if we hope in financial investments for our security, each time the stock market dips we will doubt our future. But when our hope is placed in the unchanging, it remains steady when circumstances shift. We have hope that a new day will dawn because it always has; the darkest nights have always given way to daylight and we are confident that will continue to happen.

During this uncertain time, where can we place our hope that is secure? The Bible offers an answer:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NIV)

Far more life is built on an active relationship with the God of hope. Do you think of Him as the God of hope? When I hear that phrase, I am reminded of His character, both what I have read in the Bible and what I have experienced:

God keeps His word. The Bible is filled with promises, some already fulfilled and some yet to be fulfilled. Since God has faithfully kept His promises we can have confidence that He will continue to do so. Keeping His word confirms He is the God of hope.

God’s plan prevails. When God created the earth, He had a plan: an eternal relationship with us. He has communicated that plan to people throughout the ages, inviting them to join Him in fulfilling it. Yet His plan is not dependent on us, so we cannot ruin it by refusing to join Him or making mistakes. Far more life on this earth is part of His plan, but the best is yet to come! Revealing and enacting His plan shows He is the God of hope.

God is powerful and good. He sets the course of each celestial object in the universe. He arranges each atom just as He wants it. He controls the seasons, the tides, the span of each life. Yet his goodness is revealed in every detail as well. Our bodies are perfectly suited for life on earth. We experience happiness and satisfaction. He promises to reward righteousness and punish evil. He offers us forgiveness. Demonstrations of His power and goodness prove He is the God of hope.

God is love. We are designed to put our hope in love. That is why so many books, movies, and songs focus on love. The message is reinforced by well-known sentiments such as “love conquers all”, “love means never having to say you are sorry”, and “all we need is love”. But humans are incapable of being a stable source of love. God’s love, however, never wavers. We can be confident in it because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whose perfect love led Him to sacrifice Himself as the ransom our lives. And this gives us hope! Sacrificial, unconditional love sets Him apart as the God of hope.

Keeping our hope fixed on God, through Jesus, is an important aspect of far more life. But God asks us to take it a step further and share our hope with others:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  (I Peter 3:15, NIV)

I was recently challenged with this question: what source am I most actively promoting as the reason for my hope during this pandemic? Is it a particular doctor? An elected official? A political party? A line of research? Or am I primarily hoping in God and pointing people toward Jesus?

Far more life has hope in eternal life, with God through Christ, which is evident in our words and actions. Hope allows His Spirit in us to stand out: we can remain calm when others panic; we can act with kindness and generosity when others are rude and selfish; we can grieve what we have lost while wholeheartedly celebrating what we have. During this time, hope in God opens the door for us to share how a relationship with Jesus gives us far more life, empowering us to live above our circumstances and remain hopeful.

This is how far more life puts hope into action:

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. (I Peter 1:13, NIV)

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24, NIV)

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. (Psalm 130:5, NIV)

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. (Psalm 119:114, NIV)

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5, NIV)

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. (2 Corinthians 3:12, NIV)

Make this your motto: my hope is secure in God! Share it with those who are seeking hope. Far more life is the best gift you have ever received…and the best gift you can give to others!

Sisters,
Are you hopeful or hopeless?
In what are you placing your hope? Is that source secure or shifting?
What confirms to you that God is the God of hope? What causes you to doubt?
What source of hope are you promoting to others?
Who in your circle is seeking hope? How can you share the reason for the hope that you have?
Thank God for the hope of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Responding with Kindness

For most of us, physical distancing is getting old. We are tired of being cooped up at home. We are ready to get back to family, friends, work, school, and fun that has been put on hold. And the longer we are separated from “normal life”, the crankier some of us are becoming.

Since much of my recent interaction has been on social media, that is where I have noticed this trend the most. (But I know it is happening in our homes, too.) People are criticizing friends and strangers. They are making assumptions, defensively over-reacting, and just plain being rude to others. It is exhausting to take part in these conversations and heart-breaking to observe them. They have the potential to rob us of far more life and steal our joy. But that does not have to happen!

How do we keep our own negativity in check? How do we respond to others, especially those who are attacking us? As we look to God’s Word for guidance, we recognize that WE can be negative and attacking toward Him during our times of fear, worry, and doubt. He sets the perfect example with His response to us:

Are you, perhaps, misinterpreting God’s generosity and patient mercy towards you as weakness on his part? Don’t you realise that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4, PHILLIPS)

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us… (Titus 3:4-5, NIV)

It is tempting for us to think we need to fight back, put others in their place, or ensure that we are understood. We can even think those show our strength. But those are often fleshly emotional responses. God had every right to blast us with His righteousness, yet He offered us kindness. Because He loved us. Since God’s Spirit lives inside those who have accepted Christ, we have the power to offer kindness, too. Far more life responds to offenses in love with kindness.

The Greek word translated “kindness” in Romans 2 means “usefulness”. This word can also be translated as goodness or gentleness. Kindness is practical, it meets needs. My pastor describes kindness as the initiating part of love that blesses others by meeting practical needs. Sometimes kindness is expressed by doing things for people: taking a meal; babysitting for free; giving them a ride; or helping them with physical projects like moving, home/car repairs, or yard work. At other times, kindness is expressed through words that are helpful to them: checking on them when you have been out of contact; praying with them for a burden they are carrying; encouraging them during a hard situation they face; or speaking the truth in love with gentleness and respect when they are seeking input.

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25, NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind… (I Corinthians 13:4, NIV)

God looks beyond the surface to the heart, and we are wise to do that, too. Often negative speech is driven by emotion; fear, anxiety, or feeling threatened causes people to be defensive and territorial. Conflict resolution strategies start with listening and stating agreement with something the other person said. Reigning in our emotions and communicating that we value the other person (even if we disagree with their statement or action) is a practical way to show love and offer kindness. Sometimes that alone de-escalates the situation and opens the door for further communication and understanding. Other times that starts us down a good path, but we must invest time and more kindness to bring things back to an even keel. But there are times the kindest thing we can do is to graciously leave the conversation and pray for God’s wisdom on how to best express love and kindness moving forward.

What else does God’s word tell us about kindness?

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32, NIV)

…When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly… (I Corinthians 4:12-13, NIV)

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:6-8, NIV)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12, NIV)

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. (2 Timothy 2:24, NIV)

Kindness is a gift we have received from God. Not because we deserved it, but because He chose to give it to us. And He asks, expects, and empowers His children to bless others with this gift, too. The goal of our kindness is to reflect God’s character. This not only gives us far more life but demonstrates God’s love to others. Kindness is one of our Christian superpowers!

Far more life is a benefit of conforming ourselves to Christ’s character. It makes us happy because it brings us into fellowship with God. But His purpose in granting us far more life extends beyond our happiness. It enables us to display the light of His character to a world that is shrouded in spiritual darkness. Our expressions of far more life — our kind words and actions — are a beacon that illuminates God’s presence and power. In this season of widespread fear and uncertainty, kindness shines bright! Let kindness be a way you share far more life with those who are seeking Jesus!

Sisters,
How have you experienced God’s kindness?
When has someone shown you kindness? How did it impact you?
Think of the times you are tempted to be unkind. What negative emotion(s) drive you in those moments?
Which verse on kindness hits home and inspires you?
Seek far more life and watch for opportunities to be a beacon of kindness!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso


Filled with Love

Sometimes you read a verse and ask, “Did God put this in the Bible just for me?” He loves you and wants you to have all that you need to experience far more life every moment of every day. God’s truths apply to a wide variety of situations we encounter. His Word has met human needs for generations. And will continue to do so until Christ returns. He is so good!

I was recently reminded of a verse that contains truth I need during this challenging time:

The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. (I Timothy 1:5, NLT)

I like to break multi-faceted truth down into parts and think how each one applies to my life. The first truth I read in this verse is that all believers — including me – should be filled with love. Love toward those who are easy to love and those who are hard to love. Love toward the people who are putting others in danger through their unwise actions. Love toward those who are spreading fear. Love toward those who are selfishly hoarding supplies and food. Love toward those who are inconveniencing us. Love toward those whose perspective is unthinkable to us. Far more life has enough love to share generously with others. Always.

God knows we cannot manufacture this love on our own. He doesn’t even want us to try doing that! Rather than expecting us to resort to fake love, the rest of the verse reveals the source of true love: a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.

First, genuine faith. God is the creator of love and the source from which it flows. When we put our faith in Him, trusting His character and His instruction, we are filled with His love. It is unlike any love we have ever known: unconditional (Romans 8:38-39); complete (Ephesians 3:17-19); self-sacrificing (Romans 5:8); eternal (Psalm 136); generous without reservation (2 Timothy 1:7); unfailing (Psalm 143:8); and more. His love is a gift that enriches our lives and is intended to enrich others’ lives.

…Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34, NIV)

Far more life does not hoard love, it gives it away, in faith, knowing it will remain filled! When we have genuine faith, our source of love is eternal and we can freely love others.

Once we have a relationship with God, we can love because He has made our hearts pure.

Now may God himself, the God of peace, make you pure, belonging only to him. (I Thessalonians 5:23, NCV)

A pure heart belongs only to God. It has chosen God as Savior and Lord. It makes knowing, praising, and following God the priority. It desires to please Him and make Him happy. But we have old habits and thought patterns that sometimes overshadow our pure hearts. Rather than allowing our pure hearts to give love, we fall back into fear, worry, defensiveness, or coldness toward others. Before Christ was in our lives, we were powerless to overcome these patterns. But now we can! Far more life recognizes when we have reverted to old patterns and chooses love. It chooses to view others through the lens of truth and grace, striving to see them — and their actions — as God does.

The third aspect of being filled with love is a clear conscience. Our conscience makes us aware of our sinful actions and motives.

A man’s conscience is the Lord’s searchlight exposing his hidden motives. (Proverbs 20:27, TLB)

When we know we are wrong, our focus moves off God and onto ourselves. Love and sin cannot coexist in pure hearts. So we must choose which we are going to follow. We do not need to wallow in shame and guilt. We do not need to punish ourselves or pay penance. When God forgave us, He knew we would continue to sin; He forgave us anyway. But our genuine faith and pure hearts give us a desire to stop sinning, to keep a clear conscience. Far more life is listening to our conscience and choosing to bring our thoughts and actions in line with what God says is good and right. This is repentance: recognizing we are wrong and choosing to turn from wrong to right. Love flows through our hearts again when we repent. And that love enables us to treat others with compassion and look beyond their actions to the heart behind them. It opens our eyes to see their hurt, fear, and desire to experience love that flows from genuine faith, a pure heart, and a clear conscience.

When we obey the instruction in God’s Word, everyone wins. God is revealed through us and gets glory. Others receive His love. We experience far more life. I can think of many times where this has been proven true in my life: getting up in the night to feed a hungry baby; answering the phone when I felt unsocial but knew a friend was struggling; keeping a commitment when I was tired; spending my “just for me” money on a gift for someone else. In each case, letting a pure heart, clear conscience, and genuine faith fill me with love led to moments of far more life. Fill your day with love and far more life!

Sisters,
Is your heart filled with love right now?
Have you placed your faith in Christ? If not, what is stopping you? (If you want to talk about this, I am available at farmorelife@gmail.com.)
What old habits and thought patterns are overshadowing your pure heart? Ask God for help to recognize and replace them.
Is your conscience clear? If not, confess your sin to God, repent, and choose what you know is right. If you cannot break sin’s hold, ask for help; some false belief is keeping you in bondage, but you can break free!
Be filled with God’s love — and far more life — today!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Far More Strength

I find rest in God; only he can save me.
He is my rock and my salvation.
He is my defender; I will not be defeated. (Psalm 62:1-2, NCV)

I enjoy reading good post-apocalyptic stories, where some disaster has ended life as we know it and people are struggling to survive. One characteristic of these stories is the constant battle for safety and rest. Those who are alone are vulnerable and do not last long against savage attackers and the harsh realities of life. However, those who join forces with trustworthy and resourceful people are more likely to survive.

Sisters, you may feel like you are living a post-apocalyptic life. If not physically, then perhaps emotionally or spiritually. Trying to survive alone makes you vulnerable. You need a place of rest, a solid rock to support you, a defender who is stronger and wiser than your enemy, and someone to fight beside you when danger arises.

Far more life finds strength in God. It admits weakness, exhaustion, and vulnerability. It depends on Him to lead, strengthen, protect, and defend you.

How long will you attack someone? Will all of you kill that person? Who is like a leaning wall, like a fence ready to fall? They are planning to make that person fall. They enjoy telling lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse. Selah. (Psalm 62:3-4, NCV)

It’s not just your circumstances that makes life hard. It often feels like you are being attacked by other people. You may be misunderstood and rejected. Or slandered by someone spreading false information. People may say one thing to your face and another behind your back. It is painful, and you can feel helpless. You can feel at the end of your strength, barely holding on. Where is far more life then? What should you do?

The Psalm continues:

I find rest in God; only he gives me hope.
He is my rock and my salvation.
He is my defender; I will not be defeated.
My honor and salvation come from God.
He is my mighty rock and my protection.
People, trust God all the time.
Tell him all your problems, because God is our protection. Selah (Psalm 62:5-8, NCV)

Turn to your Heavenly Father. God is your only secure source of hope and protection. He sees what is exposed and hidden (Daniel 2:20-22). He understands your heart; no explanation is needed (I Samuel 16:7). He loves you (I John 3:1). He is always trustworthy (Psalm 145:13). Stay connected to Him and draw from His strength. Telling him your problems opens your heart to receiving his protection, provision, and perspective. You may find other sources of temporary strength, but eventually they will fail you. His strength is secure.

The least of people are only a breath, and even the greatest are just a lie. On the scales, they weigh nothing; together they are only a breath. Do not trust in force. Stealing is of no use. Even if you gain more riches, don’t put your trust in them.
God has said this, and I have heard it over and over:
God is strong.
The Lord is loving.
You reward people for what they have done. (Psalm 62:9-12, NCV)

God says you have no reason to be intimidated by people; they have no more power or control than you do. They live within the boundaries that He has established for them (Psalm 139). On the other hand, you have no reason to push for your own way, manipulate, coerce, or forcefully take what you need from others. Power, position, and wealth do not bring far more life. You can be honest with God. He sees and and knows all, yet He responds with grace and mercy. There is no reason to fear Him. There is no need to hide from Him.

Far more life trusts in God’s strength and finds safety there. It recognizes our own weakness, but not in a hopeless, helpless way. The Apostle Paul sums it up this way:

For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10b, NIV)

God can accomplish the seemingly impossible in your life. He is your personal superhero who will save the day. He is listening for your cry and is eager to ensure your needs are met. He loves you more than anyone else ever has, ever can, or ever will. His love is pure with no hidden agenda. It is secure, so nothing can separate you from His love: no secret from your past; no current weakness; no failure lurking in your future. His love is the source of all that is good, and He enjoys blessing you with good gifts — especially the strength to walk in love, joy, and peace. He enables you to do good then rewards you for it.

Far more life is built on God’s strength. It accepts His leadership. It trusts Him to fight every battle with you and for you. It is confident He will lead you to safety and eternal blessing.

Sisters,
In your struggles do you go it alone or cling to God?
What line of this Psalm describes the help you need from God?
What other sources of hope and protection are you tempted to turn to?
How has God been your personal superhero?
Thank him for leading you to far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso
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