Praise from the Darkness

Hallelujah! Praise the Lord, my soul! I want to praise the Lord throughout my life. I want to make music to praise my God as long as I live. (Psalm 146:1-2, GW)

The darker my surroundings, Lord, the greater my need to praise You. As the voices around me rise in anger and despair, I will raise my voice in praise to You. I am not unaware of the trouble around me or hiding from challenges. Rather my need for perspective and wisdom drives me to you, the One who sees and knows all.

Do not trust influential people, mortals who cannot help you. When they breathe their last breath, they return to the ground. On that day their plans come to an end. (Psalm 146:3-4, GW)

Father, it is tempting to trust humans to right the wrongs around me. Their claims and solutions sound right and reasonable. But they, like me, are mortals with limited power and resources. They cannot see the hearts of people to know what solution is truly best. They do not know the future and know only fragments of the past. You alone, Father, transcend all generations and fully understand human hearts and actions. You alone have provided the ultimate solution and will one day overcome all evil. It is better that I trust You, my only certain source of help and hope. Open my eyes to see what You see, discerning the real problem and revealing my role in overcoming evil.

Blessed are those who receive help from the God of Jacob. Their hope rests on the Lord their God, who made heaven, earth, the sea, and everything in them. The Lord remains faithful forever. (Psalm 146:5-6, GW)

I am blessed…happy…joyful…when I place my hope in You, Lord, and accept Your help. Even if my circumstances do not change, You give me joy. You keep all Your promises; You never lie, make mistakes, or change your mind. You never misjudge the situation or underestimate the consequences; You know exactly what to do and when to do it. I can trust Your timing and rest in Your arms until You provide a way out. Grow my desire to help others find joy and blessing in You, too!

He brings about justice for those who are oppressed. He gives food to those who are hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free. (Psalm 146:7, GW)

I confess, Father, that I sometimes grow impatient waiting for Your justice, provision, and freedom. My vision is limited to temporary timeframes and solutions because those are all I know. But when I look at eternity, You clearly rescue the oppressed and bring justice in Your perfect timing and way. You feed “soul” hunger, not just the physical hunger that is so often my focus. You offer freedom from more than physical prison; you set my heart and soul free to experience far more life as You intended! My attempts to bring justice, provision, and freedom are insignificant compared to yours. I desire these because I am made in Your image, but help me, Lord, to not see myself as more capable than I truly am. Help me recognize my responsibility and limits so I can join You in battling evil rather than fight against Your plan. Help me see the role You have assigned me; empower me to carry it out while giving me wisdom and strength to walk away from the roles You have not assigned me.

The Lord gives sight to blind people. The Lord straightens the backs of those who are bent over. The Lord loves righteous people. (Psalm 146:8, GW)

Thank you, God, that you can and will overcome the chaos of this world. Although I am governed by forces that tend toward disorder and destruction, You are not. Help me rest securely in Your love so I know, whatever my circumstances, that You are with me and for me. Remind me that whether or not I experience relief in this life, I will be fully restored — for all eternity — when Christ returns. All my suffering and struggles will become insignificant as I bask in Your glory. Help me walk in righteousness every moment, whether You call me to wait or to act.

The Lord protects foreigners. The Lord gives relief to orphans and widows. But he keeps wicked people from reaching their goal. (Psalm 146:9, GW)

In Your kingdom, I am a foreigner, but You welcome and protect me. I come to You alone, but You embrace me and meet my needs. Help me to treat others as you have treated me. I am thankful for Your guarantee that the wicked — who seem to prosper now — will one day be defeated. I am thankful that only Your goals have the power to last for eternity. I want to join you in pursuing Your goals!

The Lord rules as king forever. Zion, your God rules throughout every generation. Hallelujah! (Psalm 146:10, GW)

Earthly rulers will come and go, but You remain on Your throne through them all. You ruled at the creation of the world. You have ruled throughout all of human history. And You will continue to rule forever. I look to You for wisdom; help me recognize and support human wisdom that matches Yours. I look to You for guidance; help me follow Your path regardless of its popularity. I praise You for what You have done! I praise You for what You are doing! I praise You for what You will do! I follow You by faith and submit to Your leadership all the days of my life. In Jesus name, Amen.

Sisters,
Are current pressures and circumstances making it hard for you to praise God?
How are you tempted to trust people to solve the problems around you?
How has God helped you? How can you help others find His joy?
Are you pursuing God’s goals or someone else’s? How can you join God?
Praise God today for being who He is and giving you far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: JenjoeMarsh


Far More Building

Luke chapter 4 describes the encounter Jesus had in the wilderness where Satan tempted Him to sin. Twice Satan starts his offer with the phrase, “If you are the Son of God…” Although Satan probably knew Jesus’ identity and was taunting Him, he voiced a common human concern.

All of us, at some point, have asked the questions, “Is God real?” and “Is Jesus truly God?” Many examples of this are recorded in the Bible, and people of all generations have wrestled with this question. We want proof! Throughout history, once proof is offered, some people believe and become followers of Jesus while others do not. We lay the foundation of far more life when we believe that God IS real and Jesus IS God.

Once we know God, through Jesus, we do not need to keep revisiting those questions; our foundation is secure and we are ready to build a relationship. My friends who are adopted illustrate this. Those who have sought their birth parents needed proof before accepting them. But once that proof was offered and validated, the question “Are you my parent?” was put behind them. There was no need to revisit it time and again. They were free to move forward in building a relationship.

But I know some Christians who miss far more life because they continue to question whether God is real and if Jesus is truly God. Why? Because they have an enemy! Satan knows that if they doubt God — and the reality of their relationship with Him through Jesus — they cannot experience far more life. They cannot share Christ with others. They cannot fulfill the purposes for which God created them. So he strives to cripple them by making them doubt the foundation of their faith.

Others never doubt God’s existence or Jesus’ deity, but they miss far more life because they don’t recognize God’s work. Their experiences leave them with unmet expectations about God’s character and actions. So the words of the Bible do not feel true and they are unsure how to reconcile them with the circumstances of their lives. Their foundation lies empty and their lives lack joy and spiritual fruit. But if we believe God is truthful, then we should also believe the Bible is His written Word. He said it is Truth (John 17:17), so we can take hope from this declaration:

For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment. (Luke 1:37, AMPC)

Far more life rests in the fact that God’s Word is flawless while our interpretation can be flawed. It is a willingness to believe that seemingly irreconcilable circumstances indicate we are missing something, that our perspective is skewed due to incomplete information or sin. I like how The Message explains it:

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. (Matthew 5:8, MSG)

God is unchanging (Hebrews 13:8), so we find far more life when we adopt His perspective and work to understand it. Then we are able to experience all He has promised. And what wonderful experiences those are! Even when our circumstances are challenging, we traverse them with joy and peace because we are confident God is working in and through them for our good and His eternal purposes (Romans 8:28).

Although we are surrounded by change, God knows our need for stability and provides it. His reassurance of what is unchanging gives us something to hold onto during the times we are shaken or struggling. Right after He destroyed the earth by flood due to man’s wickedness, He made this promise:

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:22, NIV)

What a comforting knowledge! Each day the sun rises and each night the moon rises is a reminder of God’s faithfulness and truthfulness. Each change of the season, we are reminded His promises are reliable. Each year crops are planted and harvested, we can have confidence in Him. We can build our life on Him, on His instructions, and find far more life! He stands the test of time. This reminds me of lyrics from a wonderful hymn:

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ love and righteousness…
When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace…
His oath, his covenant, His blood support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

(“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” by Edward Mote)

Jesus is the best foundation we can choose! Far more life starts with Him, builds on His truth, and changes us to be like Him. The life we build on Him is secure and will last forever. Why would we want to build on anything else?

Sisters,
What proof convinced you that God is real? That Jesus is God?
What tempts you to trust your perspective and experience over what God’s Word says is true?
What reminds you of God’s faithfulness and truthfulness?
What have you built that will last forever?
Praise Him for making our foundation secure and offering far more life for all of our days!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Heart Desires

What do you desire?

A lot of things may come to your mind: enough money to pay bills and have fun; more or better relationships; better health; a break; more sleep; more fun; less stress. Some answers vary based on our life circumstances while others are universal. But if we dig beneath the surface to analyze our desires, I think most of our desires fit into these categories: safety; security; belonging; and purpose.

We all desire that our physical, mental, and emotional needs are met; that is a basic human trait. We desire safe places to live, work, learn, and play. We desire enough money to cover all our needs and some of our wants. We desire to connect with other people in a meaningful way. We desire to know why we exist and to do something that matters.

But sometimes we believe these desires are unattainable. We believe God is letting us down because our desires — even our basic needs — are going unmet. We struggle to understand why, then read a verse like this:

Make God the utmost delight and pleasure of your life, and he will provide for you what you desire the most. (Psalm 37:4, TPT)

If we are doing our best to follow God, yet our desires are unfulfilled, this is a hard verse to swallow. We might believe there is something wrong with us. We might believe we aren’t good enough. We might believe we aren’t doing enough to make God happy. After all, God is perfect, so there can’t be anything wrong with Him; the problem must be with us, right? We believe far more life is outside our grasp. We feel helpless and hopeless, that we will never reach it. I’ve been there. Have you?

Too often we think God is like Santa Claus; if we are good, He will give us the things on our wish list. But that’s not how God works! He wants to be our biggest desire. One Psalmist states it this way:

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. (Psalm 73:25, NIV)

Can you say this? I confess that too often I cannot. I desire God a lot more than many things, but there are still relationships and desires that compete for the #1 most desired slot in my heart. Far more life recognizes that desiring God is far superior to everything else. This is where we find fulfillment.

But God knows we are distracted by other desires. He doesn’t condemn us for those, but He may not fulfill those desires. Because He knows they are not the best for us in the long run. And He wants what is best for us.

When our desire for God is our top priority, that is far more life. We begin to see life from His eternal perspective. We are fulfilled. We are satisfied. We have passion and enthusiasm for life. Our desires change to line up with His. We want for everyone to acknowledge God as Lord. One prophet declared:

Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. (Isaiah 26:8b, NIV)

Satan tries to convince us that making God our utmost delight and pleasure means that we will miss out or be dissatisfied. But God’s Word offers this truth:

What the righteous desire leads only to good, but what the wicked hope for leads to wrath. (Proverbs 11:23, NET)

Our righteous desires lead ONLY to good! We are guaranteed a good outcome when we follow those desires. Sometimes the good results are not quickly evident. When I was a new graduate, my desire was to stay in that city and help reach people there for Christ. But it took several months to find a job that met my financial need. I still do not know what “good” came out of paying for necessities on a credit card and going into debt. Maybe my character grew. Maybe I had an eternal impact on someone without knowing it. But I trust that my righteous desire led to good. Why? Because it doesn’t depend on me.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. (Philippians 2:13, NLT)

God is the source of our righteous desires. And He is working in us to not only desire what is good but to do it. Isn’t it awesome that He does it all? He makes us righteous. He gives us righteous desires. He empowers us to fulfill those righteous desires. He causes good to come from them. Far more life embraces God-given righteous desires and uses His power to live them out.

God will meet our basic desires perfectly, even when they look different than we expect. He offers us perfect safety (Psalm 4:8 and Proverbs 18:10, NASB). He offers us perfect security (Proverbs 3, NASB). He offers us perfect belonging (Romans 14:8, NIV). He offers us perfect purpose (Exodus 9:16 and Romans 8:28, NIV). He alone offers far more life!

Sisters,
When you read Psalm 37:4, does you feel good or bad? If bad, what do you believe about God or yourself that is distorting this verse?
When have you thought of God as Santa Claus? Commit to pursuing a relationship with Him instead of just giving Him your wish list.
What competes with God for your desire?
How have you seen God give you righteous desires and power?
Find far more life this week as you make Him your biggest desire!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso


Far More Praise

Our mindset is an important factor in whether or not we experience far more life. When our minds are filled with negative thoughts and emotions, we cannot embrace all that God has for us. In previous posts we have talked about the important of thankfulness (if you missed them, the search bar can help you find them). This post will focus on praise.

Sometimes it seems like thankfulness and praise are interchangeable, especially in regard to God. But there is an important distinction. At Dictionary.com, “thankful” is defined as “feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative” while “praise” is “to express approval or admiration of; commend; extol.” Our thankfulness is often focused on what God does that benefits us; praise also acknowledges who He is, His character.

There is so much about God that we can admire! The Bible, especially the book of Psalms, is full of instructions to praise God and examples of how to do it. God knows we are forgetful and need regular reminders of His character and involvement; praise provides that!

Praise the Eternal. I will thank Him with all my heart in the presence of the right-standing and with the assembly. The works of the Eternal are many and wondrous! They are examined by all who delight in them. His work is marked with beauty and majesty; His justice has no end. His wonders are reminders that the Eternal is gracious and compassionate to all. (Psalm 111:1-4, VOICE)

Eternal Father, You are worthy of all my praise. There is no one like You in all of creation. I thank You with all of my heart, holding nothing back. I praise you because Your works are many and wondrous! I delight in the beauty of the stars, the power of the ocean, the majesty of the mountains — and You created them all with a word! I praise Your knowledge and power, which are beyond my comprehension. I praise You for allowing all people, even those who deny Your existence, to enjoy Your works because of Your graciousness and compassion. I praise you for providing these clear testimonies of Your power and creativity.

He provides food to those who revere Him. He will always remember His covenant. He has shown the mighty strength of His works to His people by giving the land of foreign nations to them. (Psalm 111:5-6, VOICE)

I praise You for knowing my needs and willingly meeting them. I praise You for always keeping Your promises; You alone are completely honest and trustworthy. I praise Your strength. No people are too strong for You, no matter how large their population or how strong their military. I praise You for showing Your character to the whole world by caring for Your people.

All His accomplishments are truth and justice; all His instructions are certain. His precepts will continue year in and year out, performed by His people with honesty and truth. (Psalm 111:7-8, VOICE)

I praise You for your truth and justice. Unlike me, You are perfect in these because You know all and have control over all. Nothing surprises or threatens You. You make no mistakes; all you do is right and just. I praise You for giving clear instructions in your Word; You do not make me guess what is pleasing to You and what You expect of me. I praise You for being constant rather than wavering in Your opinion (like me!) and for enabling me to reflect your honesty and truth.

He has redeemed His people, guaranteeing His covenant forever. His name is holy and awe-inspiring. (Psalm 111:9, VOICE)

I praise You for buying me back from the sin that separated us. I praise You for sending Jesus to pay the price for my sin so I could become Your daughter. I praise You for promising that our relationship will continue forever and nothing can take it away. You are far more holy and awe-inspiring than my feeble mind can comprehend.

Reverence for the Eternal is the first step toward wisdom.
All those who worship Him have a good understanding.
His praise will echo through eternity! (Psalm 111:10, VOICE)

I praise You for showing me the path to Your wisdom and allowing me to walk it. I praise You for offering me far more life. I look forward to praising you for all eternity, especially when I see you face-to-face and realize how blind I have been to Your character and praiseworthiness! Until then, I praise you the best I can through Jesus’ name. Amen.

Expressing praise brings far more life because it sets our focus on our Dad. When the clouds of sin and struggle cause us to lose sight of Him, praise lets the sun shine through. Praise brings light and truth to areas of our heart and mind that were struggling in darkness, doubt, and false beliefs about God and our position before Him. Praise resets our view to an eternal perspective. It reminds us of how we have encountered God in the past and how He has promised we will encounter Him in the future. Praise keeps us connected to God, which is where we find far more life!

Sisters,
How do you see thankfulness and praise as being similar? Different?
What do you admire about God? (If you need ideas, read a few Psalms.)
How have you seen Him at work in your life?
Do you praise God daily? If not, embrace far more life by making that a habit. See how it changes your perspective to recognize and admire Him each day.
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso