Only One Thing

Sometimes life — or death — gets our attention. Unexpected happenings and encounters challenge the status quo and reveal what we really believe, think, feel, want, and expect. Many of us have been touched by a death that felt premature, whether the person we lost was in utero, 17, 49, or 87. I find comfort in God’s perspective of our time on earth:

…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:16, NIV)

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants. (Psalm 116:15, NIV)

Contrary to our feelings, no life is cut short. We each live exactly the number of days God intended for us. No one misses the best days of their life. We treasure certain milestones in this life because they are the only reality we know. But what awaits those who have a love relationship with God through Jesus Christ is immeasurably better than anything we have, do, or experience on earth. Consider this description of what lies ahead:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth” …I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.  (Revelation 21:1-7, NIV)

When we are in Heaven, God will live with us, in visible form. We will be His people forever. He will be our God, our owner, our guardian, our blesser, our protector. We will see, hear, talk to, laugh with, and touch Him. He will gently wipe away our tears and no more will fall. We will never be separated from Him. We will have no reason to mourn, as we will not experience loss or pain. All we have known before will cease to exist. Something new, better and beyond our ability to imagine will become our reality. And nothing will threaten it…ever. Far more life — truly knowing Him and being with Him — will become the only thing we need.

In our limited lives on this earth, we can lose sight of far more life. We can instead focus on to do lists, accomplishments, appearances, and numbers. But it is not what we do in this life that is important. Only our relationship with God through Jesus is important. That is the key that gains us access to Heaven. That is the key to contentment throughout the unexpected and challenging situations we face on earth. That is the foundation of far more life.

The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15, NIV)

Think of the most affectionate name you have for your father or father-figure and the feelings it evokes. According to HELPS Word-Studies, the Greek “Abba” is used as a term of tender endearment by a beloved child. Abba is the man who makes you feel cherished, protected, valued, and safe. Children adore, trust, and enjoy their Abba. This verse describes a relationship where there is no judgement, only unconditional love. It describes two people who enjoy being together, who love one another deeply, who value each other and their time together. This is the relationship God desires with us.

We do not have a business connection with God. He is not our employer who is taking notes for our next performance review. His goal is not that we increase productivity, work overtime, or sacrifice our health. We do not move up the spiritual ladder by proving ourselves to Him.

We also do not improve our status with God by avoiding sin. We do not earn points by going to church or being baptized. We cannot identify Christians based solely on what they do or do not do.

The Bible records a time two sisters, Martha and Mary, were hosting Jesus and his followers. Imagine the work of having 12 or more guests who were unable to call ahead. Guests who had traveled to reach you and would be staying for an undetermined amount of time. They had real needs. Martha was focused on meeting those needs and making their guests comfortable. But her sister Mary chose to sit with the guests and listen to Jesus as he taught them about spiritual matters. When Martha complained about Mary’s inaction, Jesus’ response is surprising to many:

Few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42, NIV)

The only thing we truly need is a relationship with Jesus. The only thing we need to do is connect with Him so we can absorb His heart, words, and desires. All the rest will fall into place if we keep building a relationship with Him. Only one thing is needed for far more life: Jesus.

Sisters,
What unexpected life happening has challenged you?
What do you look forward to about Heaven?
How has God been Abba to you? What barriers do you face in considering Him as Abba?
Do you believe only one thing (Jesus) is needed? How do your thoughts and actions back up your belief?
Thank Jesus for giving you far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso




Reborn This Way

“I was born this way” is a common phrase heard in defense of a trait or behavior others find undesirable in us. Is it a valid explanation for our quirks or an excuse for our sin? Of course, it can be either, depending on the context. God’s Word offers insight on who we were at birth and who we are now that may challenge our perspective.

Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb… (Ecclesiastes 5:15, NIV)

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. (Revelation 3:18, NIV)

We came into this world exposed and vulnerable. We had nothing as we entered an unfamiliar environment, the physical world. We had much that we needed to survive, but also much that we relied on others to provide for us. Throughout life, we continue to walk the balance of independence and dependence. Far more life depends ultimately on God, remaining exposed and vulnerable to Him. It trusts His selection of “gold” that will hold its value eternally: character (Proverbs 31:30) and loving God and others (Matthew 22:36-39). He reveals the righteous thinking and actions that become our garments (Ephesians 4:23-24, Ephesians 6:11, Colossians 3:12-14). By remaining vulnerable to Him, we may be misunderstood, rejected, mistreated, and persecuted by some people (John 15:18). But we will also find people who accept, love, support and encourage us (John 13:34-35, Romans 12:10-21). We were born exposed and vulnerable. But far more life offers security through a relationship with Christ.

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5, NIV)

All of us also lived…gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts…we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:3-5, NIV)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)

We entered the world as sinners. We were selfish and inconsiderate. We became angry when we experienced discomfort. We wanted our own way and did not consider the cost to anyone else. We can justify this behavior in babies as being necessary for their survival. They cry until their needs for food, a clean diaper, comfort, or pain relief is met. But as we grow, we continue to think of ourselves first. Many successful marketing campaigns boldly state what we already think: we are most important, we deserve whatever we want, our needs come first, it is good to obey our bodily desires. These mottos appeal to how we were born: physically alive but spiritually dead. Far more life has accepted Christ’s offer of spiritual life. It recognizes that, without His help, we cannot overcome our sin and selfishness. Far more life means we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) that is righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:23-24), Romans 3:22, Colossians 1:22). We were born sinful. But far more life makes us righteous before God and gives us the power to say no to sin.

Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. (John 3:3, NIV)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God (I John 5:1, NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (I Peter 1:3, NIV)

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. (John 3:5, NIV)

Born again. New birth. Born of water and the Spirit. In Christ, we have a second — spiritual — birth. This birth comes from believing Jesus Christ is the Messiah, God’s Son who, though himself sinless, took our sin on the cross and died in our place then rose back to life on the third day. He overcame physical death to offer us far more life, an eternal relationship and a renewed heart. While claiming “I was born this way” often highlights our sin nature, claiming “I was reborn this way” gives God glory for our redeemed nature!

…Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  (I John 4:7, NIV)

For everyone born of God overcomes the world. (I John 5:4, NIV)

We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.  (I John 5:18, NIV)

When we are born again, we are different. We can love unconditionally and unselfishly. We have power over sin. Jesus keeps us safe from damage. Satan cannot cause us spiritual harm. We do not have to strive to live this way in order to please God. Far more life chooses love, righteousness and more out of gratitude for the second birth God has given us. If you have not been reborn, make today your rebirth day!

Sisters,
Do you often say, “I was born this way?” Is it usually an excuse for sin?
What are (or were) you like without Christ? How does (or did) sin define you?
What helped you see your need to be born again, to accept Christ’s offer to pay for your sin?
How is your reborn self different from your old self?
Experience far more life today by focusing on your forgiveness and righteousness. Praise God for being reborn this way!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

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

Far More Generations

Think about the women in your life. How does the youngest girl you have a relationship with impact you? What kind of relationship do you have with the oldest woman in your life? Think of the women in between, both consistent contributors to your life and the most influential. I hope your life contains a richness of women who offer a wide range of life experiences, a variety of personalities, and diverse interests and gifts.

We are often most comfortable with people who are like us. Sadly, the message we increasingly hear in our culture is we can only be understood by people like us. We may believe those are the only people whose input we can trust. We may feel they the only people we should turn to for perspective. We are told they alone have the right to speak into our lives. We may draw lines between “us” and “them” that rob us of different experiences and perspectives.

Relationships that cross generational lines offer far more life. Older women offer wisdom and experience. Women in the middle generations offer insights on balancing challenges as they strive to support aging parents and maturing children. Young women offer enthusiasm, optimism, and connection to our culture. Each generation faces unique challenges and possesses unique gifts.

Despite our differences, women of all ages have commonalities. We all have hopes and dreams. We all experience love and loss. We all face challenges. We all sin. We all are made in God’s image. We all want to experience far more life. Sisters in Christ share a faith, a future, and fellowship that is not impacted by the number of candles on their birthday cake. God has given us a common role in each other’s lives:

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)

Women of any age can help others become more Christ-like. We can sharpen and be sharpened by others, which leads to far more life. Although age differences can feel awkward, Christ provides a connection point. We can always pray for each other, share encouragement, and study God’s Word together.

We may feel awkward with other generations because what we give each other is not the same. A sense of inequality in what we have to offer and what we receive can be a barrier. For an example, an older and younger woman cannot trade babysitting. Or one may need help with meals or cleaning while the other has no practical needs at that time. We can become uncomfortable receiving from another generation because we are not sure what we “owe” them in return. But if we shift our perspective, we realize that removing debt is not the goal.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another. (Romans 13:8a, NIV)

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV)

If we trust the other woman is giving lovingly and cheerfully of her resources, there is no debt or inequality!  It is okay to ask once, “How can I repay you?” or “Are you sure this is okay?” Humbly accept the answer, trusting her to speak truthfully. We build connection by lovingly and gratefully giving and receiving different things from each other. This connection helps us experience far more life.

As a college student, I formed a friendship with a woman who I later found out was just a couple years younger than my mother. Our age difference was not a factor. I learned a lot from observing her life and asking questions about a variety of situations that I, as a young adult, had yet to experience firsthand. She appreciated my support and encouragement as she traversed a hard season of life. Our relationship was centered on a mutual desire to love and serve God, not on the specific situations we faced.

There are many formal opportunities for us to build relationships with women from other generations: at work, at church, at the gym, in community groups, through shared hobbies, and more. But being in the same place at the same time may not be enough to form a connection. Take initiative to get to know women from other generations. It can be as simple as asking them for advice or offering to pray for them. It can be a few minutes face-to-face when you are already together or a special time you arrange in advance. You can use social media or go “old school” and call!  Do not assume someone else is too busy for you, instead, if you want to get to know them, initiate. You may enrich your life in ways you never imagined! 

In addition to the blessing in your own life, pursuing intergenerational relationships at a time when others are turning away from people who differ from them gives you a chance to be a picture of God in action.

Everyone will know that you are my disciples because of your love for each other. (John 13:35, GW)

Enjoy the richness of all your relationships this week as you live far more life!

Sisters,
How have older and younger women helped you grow in far more life?
What hesitation or reluctance do you have about pursuing relationships with women from another generation?
What do you have to give? What do you need? How can giving and receiving enrich your life rather than just adding more to your to do list?
Pray for your plans to initiate sharing far more life with a woman from another generation this week.
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso