Reflections

Some Bible verses bring us comfort. Others offer perspective. They can even motivate us to do better. Here are some of my favorites; reflecting on them helps me consistently experience far more life.

…The God we serve is able to deliver us…But even if he does not…we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. (Daniel 3:17-18, NIV)

I love the boldness, confidence, and faith of these young men! They did not know whether they would live or die, but they knew God. He is ABLE to deliver. He is WORTHY of complete allegiance. Far more life is knowing God.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, NIV)

This verse reminds me that God is in control. Even when my circumstances are rotten, God is at work, bringing beauty from ashes. Although I prefer better circumstances, His “good” is often character development. But in the long run, that is better because it leads to far more life!

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (James 4:17, NIV)

This is my go-to-verse when I need a kick in the pants! When I am tempted to be lazy or selfish, this verse keeps me from justifying my sin. Rather than condemning me, its bluntness encourages me to be honest with myself and God. Far more life is found in doing good rather than sin. I am thankful for this motivating truth!

And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14, NIV)

Mordecai posed this question to his niece, Esther, during a life-or-death situation. She had to choose whether to risk her life to try and save the Jewish nation from genocide. This verse reminds me that even when it appears evil is “winning”, God is still working. Sometimes He positions us to play an unexpected role in His plan. Far more life looks for opportunities to join God’s work.

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”  (Genesis 50:19-20, NIV)

Joseph was mistreated by his brothers and sold into slavery as a teenager. Instead of letting anger turn to bitterness, he entrusted himself to God. He focused on the blessings he received rather than the hardships he endured. Then the tables were turned and he got to to determine their fate. Far more life forgives others and trusts God to bring good despite their sin against us.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. (Hebrews 11:13, NIV)

I love the “Hall of Faith” chapter. It is encouraging to read of the hardships people suffered in a different light — one that illuminates their faith. Although I have not built an ark, sacrificed my son, left my home, escaped the sword, shut the mouths of lions, or been tortured, this chapter encourages me to face my struggles with faith. And to remember that Heaven, my real home, is ahead. Far more life looks to the future with faith that it will be all God has promised!

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV)

I am so thankful for a fresh start every day. (Actually, God’s children get a fresh start with Him each time they sin, but that is not as poetic!) These verses reveal so much about God’s character: He is greatly loving; He is unfailingly compassionate; He is flawlessly faithful. We do not deserve a fresh start, but He generously offers it. Far more life radiates God’s character qualities.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13, NIV)

It was a great relief when I learned that God wanted me to be confident of my eternal destiny. He knows we need certainty in order to prosper, so He gives it! Once we accept Jesus, we can have confidence that our “sin debt” has been settled. We no longer need to fear Judgement Day. Far more life is free to live for God, knowing we will never be separated from Him.

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. We love because he first loved us. (I John 4:18-19, NIV)

Whether it is my personality or being a first-born, I want to stay in good standing with the authorities and avoid punishment! I am thankful I no longer need to fear God, the ultimate authority! His Word assures me that I will never suffer His punishment now that I have accepted Jesus’ offer to take it on my behalf. His love has given me a perfect standing before God, even though I do not deserve it. I can focus on loving Him and others. Far more life offers love because it has received God’s perfect love.

Sisters,
What Bible verses do you like to reflect on? How do they communicate far more life to you?
What aspects of God’s character bring you peace, comfort, and hope?
What makes you confident in God’s forgiveness and love for you?
Do you have a “life verse” that serves as your mission statement for life (or this season of life)? If not, prayerfully consider adopting one.

Praise God for far more life!
-Shari


Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

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


Perfect Peace

You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3, GNT)

Perfect peace. A quiet mind. A content heart. No worry or anxiety. No fear or dread. A firm purpose. A solid trust in God that allows you to rest. This is far more life.

While perfect peace sometimes feels elusive, once we enter a relationship with Jesus it is always available to us. It is a gift from God, a product of the Holy Spirit coming to live inside of us. Like all gifts, we must choose whether to set it aside or use it.

But perfect peace — as appealing as it sounds — can feel unfamiliar and strange to us, especially in difficult circumstances. We may feel more comfortable with familiar emotions: stress, anxiety, fear, defensiveness, withdrawal. Perfect peace requires us to know when to “let go and let God”.  It is rooted in trusting God.  It requires us to believe He is aware and involved, He knows what is best, and He is working for our good.

Let’s be honest: there are times we trust ourselves more than God. We trust our actions will make a bigger difference than praying and waiting for Him to act.  We trust our own wisdom rather than seeking out His wisdom.  We trust it is better to protect ourselves from hurt than expose our pain and pursue healing.  God doesn’t judge His daughters for this; He knows our wounds and blind spots better than anyone else — and still loves us. But He longs for us to have what is best: perfect peace and far more life.

I appreciate this Scripture passage’s vivid depiction of our trust struggle:

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”  (Matthew 14:25-31, NIV)

Look at Peter’s response again: “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”  It seems that Peter did not trust it was really Jesus out there, he wanted confirmation. But he knew if it was Jesus calling, he would be safe. Peter believed that Jesus could do the impossible. That Jesus cared about his well-being. That Jesus would not allow him to drown. Whatever fears or doubts Peter had, he trusted Jesus had power over the wind and water.

That trust gave Peter courage to get out of the boat; he walked on water!!  Imagine yourself in his place: would you even consider getting out of the boat? Would you feel excited or nervous — or maybe both — as you locked eyes with Jesus and walked toward Him…across a lake?  I’d like to think that when Peter looked at Jesus, he experienced perfect peace and all those negative thoughts and emotions faded away.

But Peter is human. Along the way he took his eyes off Jesus. He remembered his circumstances; he was no longer in the relative safety of the boat. He was exposed, standing on water that was being blown into waves by the wind. He no longer felt safe. His peace evaporated. He was overcome by doubt and fear. He may have asked himself, “What am I doing? What was I thinking?” He started to sink. Perhaps he was flailing and trying to keep himself upright. Fortunately, he still believed that Jesus could rescue him and called out for help.  And of course Jesus caught him.

Like Peter, when we are in difficult situations we can look at either our circumstances or our God. When we focus on our circumstances, we see how big the problem is, feel overwhelmed, and fixate on the obstacles. We believe we are in danger of drowning, especially if the problem intensifies and the pressure mounts.  But we have another option! We can focus on God, truths about his character, truths about his love for us, and truths about his limitless power and knowledge.  Focusing on our circumstances robs us of peace and leaves us battling negative emotions. Focusing on God offers us perfect peace, even when we’re standing on the lake in the middle of a storm. Despite the wind, waves, and rain that surrounds us, we can feel peaceful, calm, and secure.

Jesus knows how tempted we are to look away from Him.  He told His disciples some of the challenges they would face then shared this perspective:

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33, NASB)

Suffering is unavoidable. Circumstances that tempt us to strive in our own power are unavoidable. His words remind us to courageously put our trust in Him, keep our eyes firmly on our God-given purpose, and be blessed by His gift of perfect peace. That is far more life.

Sisters,
In what situation are you tempted to look at your circumstances rather than your Savior?
Are you willing to obey Jesus’ instruction: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid”? 
If not, ask God to help you identify what is preventing you from trusting Him.
Then ask for courage to take the next step in trusting Him.
Remember to thank God for conquering the world, offering you perfect peace, and meeting you where you are on your trust journey.

-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso