Understanding

As a youngster, my son regularly proclaimed, “You don’t understand!” in frustration when I did not agree his way was best. He was convinced that if I accurately grasped his perspective, I would embrace his idea or plan.

We can feel the same way about God’s instructions and decisions. We trust our wisdom and experience because they usually serve us well. So when God’s Word tells us to do something that disagrees with our assessment, we may look for loopholes: “Surely He did not literally mean to resolve all anger before the sun set” (Ephesians 4:26) or “He cannot expect me to love someone who abused me” (Matthew 5:44). Or we may outright reject His instruction by saying it is outdated or does not apply in our circumstances.

These responses are part of our limited human understanding. And they are not new. Despite the changes in circumstances, we face the same basic temptations, challenges, thoughts, and responses as people who lived centuries ago. King Solomon noted:

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NIV)

People have always doubted and questioned God. One contributing factor is that He does not usually reveal His reasoning to us. I was surprised to find this verse describing God’s choice for the Israelites’ path when they were escaping Egypt:

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. (Exodus 13:17-18, NIV)

I’m sure some of the Israelites thought God made a bad choice. We have the benefit of knowing His reasons, even though they did not.

When questioned why He was washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus only offered this cryptic and unsatisfactory answer:

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7, NIV)

In reality, we do not understand. We know some things. We have some experience. But we overestimate ourselves and underestimate God. As a result, we are tempted to fight against God’s ways. We may argue, beg, plead for Him to embrace our ideas and preferences. We may reject, dismiss, or despise His ways and pursue our own path.

But we have another option, one that leads to far more life.

But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. (Psalm 131:2, NIV)

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5, NIV)

We can rest in God, trust Him, and yield to Him. But we must humble ourselves and acknowledge His superiority. He states this truth bluntly:

“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)

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12, NIV)

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (I Corinthians 1:25, NIV)

When we accept these truths, we can focus on understanding Him instead of proving ourselves. We can trust His intentions toward us rather than fighting to prove our worth. We can rest in His knowledge and character rather than having to protect, defend, and promote ourselves. In this way, we bring Him honor and glory.

But, to do this we must have an accurate view of Him. Many people think God is cruel, distant, harsh, judgmental, apathetic, or uninvolved in their lives. They do not want to obey a god like that — I would not, either! Fortunately, those are inaccurate descriptions of the God of Scripture.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (I Timothy 1:17, NIV)

He is the King. He is at the center of His realm and holds it together. He is aware of what is happening. He is engaged and decisive. He has a plan and is implementing it. He is not afraid of anyone or anything. He takes on responsibility for the wellbeing of His people. He provides for them, protects them, and genuinely cares for them.

He is eternal. God created the time in which we exist, but He is outside of time. Unlike us, He has always existed and will always exist. Our lives are just a moment of His existence. His reign will never end.

He is immortal. God will never die. He is indestructible. He is always alive and active.

He is invisible. Although we cannot see Him with our eyes, God made His nature and power visible through creation (Romans 1:20). He exists in a dimension we cannot access, yet makes Himself accessible.

He is the only God. There is no pantheon, family, or council of gods. There are no changes as different gods take control. There is no threat to His rule. He exists as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, but He is One.

That is just a taste of His character! God understands us better than we understand ourselves. He invites us to understand Him so we can follow Him wholeheartedly and find far more life.

Sisters,
What tempts you to think God does not understand you or your circumstances?
Looking back, can you see times when His way was better than what you thought was best?
What makes you reluctant to rest in, trust, and yield to Him?
What aspects of His character have you experienced? Which do you need to better understand to follow Him wholeheartedly?
Thank Him for offering you far more life each step of your journey!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Standing Out

All these people were still living by faith when they died…admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. (Hebrews 11:13, NIV)

Do you ever feel like a foreigner and stranger on earth? In America — and many other countries — only a minority of people today:

  • Attend church service at least once monthly.
  • Pray at least once daily.
  • Read the Bible at least once weekly.
  • Believe the Bible is God’s Word that should be taken literally.
  • Look primarily to the Bible to decide right and wrong.
  • Talk about their spiritual beliefs.

While living for God brings us far more life, it may also leave us feeling like an outsider. Bible-based perspectives are not welcome in many conversations. Asking questions that reveal a Biblical worldview can lead to rejection or ridicule. Sharing a Bible-derived moral stance can get us cancelled. As we examine the Scriptures, we find this explanation for many of those experiences:

But the person who is not a Christian does not understand these words from the Holy Spirit. He thinks they are foolish. He cannot understand them because he does not have the Holy Spirit to help him understand. (I Corinthians 2:14, NLV)

In order to understand God’s ways you must be connected to God. Most people who do not have a relationship with Him will not value His perspectives and instructions. So when we base our decisions, morals, and values on the Bible, we stand out from many around us.

Jesus stood out in His culture, too. He said, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44) to people whose country was occupied by a foreign ruler. He said wrong thoughts are as sinful as wrong actions (Mark 7:20-23) to people who had over 600 rules governing their behavior. He built relationships with people who were unpopular and scorned (Mark 2:16-17). His focus was on fulfilling God’s plan for Him, not fitting in.

For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. (John 6:38, NIV)

Jesus knew His message would resonate with some and offend others (John 6:60-69), so he was not swayed by people’s reactions to the content. He continued to share the truth with those whom God drew, but did not try to convince those who were not interested in His message (Matthew 10:14). He told His disciples to expect rejection and persecution — even from their own families.

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. (Matthew 10:16-17, NIV)

Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:21-22 and Mark 13:11-13, NIV)

Many people — including religious people — rejected Jesus during His lifetime. Today many people believe Jesus was a good teacher, a wise man, maybe even a prophet, but they do not believe He was God in the flesh. But Jesus’ own words left no question about His identity:

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (John 4:25-26, NIV)

The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me…I and the Father are one.” (John 10:24-25, 30, NIV)

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)

We are called to represent Christ to those around us. So how do we live out far more life in a culture that is hostile toward God and the authority of His Word?

Far more life allows us to demonstrate God’s character, love, and power. When we are put under pressure of criticism, rejection, or persecution, people expect us to respond with hate, anger, revenge, or condemnation. But through God’s Spirit we are able to respond with truth, love, and forgiveness. We stand out as we represent Christ with integrity.

Far more life speaks the truth in love to those who are open to hearing it. We know that many of the problems our society faces are actually spiritual problems. We also know that only God offers the peace, joy, purpose, and fulfillment people are seeking. We stand out by speaking the truth in love, whether it is accepted or rejected.

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)

Far more life remembers who the enemy is…and is not. We may feel attacked or be accused of attacking others. We stand out when we remember the spiritual forces at work around us and focus on glorifying God:

We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world. (Ephesians 6:12, CEV)

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4, NIV)

Far more life either attracts or repels people. As we live authentically for Christ, people will notice and respond. Praise God for those who find far more life!

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.  (2 Corinthians 2:15-16, NIV)

Sisters,
How do you stand out for your faith?
Where are you afraid to stand out?
Ask God for courage and wisdom to fully embrace far more life and stand out for Him.
-Shari

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