Good and Perfect Gift

I have an app that prompts me to praise God as part of my morning prayers. My praise acknowledges His character qualities — who He is — rather than what He has done for me. Praise prompts me to remember He is a person in whose image all other people were created. Praise helps me understand why He acts in certain ways or gives us certain instructions. Praise lets me think about God from new perspectives.

As I read the Scriptures, I often look for more qualities and traits to praise. Thinking about the person behind the action leads me to new discoveries about Him. I recently noticed these verses in my Old Testament reading:

…Do not say to yourself, “The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you. (Deuteronomy 9:4, NIV)

This thought is repeated two more times in this passage so it must be important. At first reading it seems odd — maybe even harsh or critical — that God would keep emphasizing that the people are not righteous enough for Him to bless them with the Promised Land. These are God’s chosen people whom he promised to rescue and establish in their own land (Exodus 6:6-8). So why the strong words and what can we learn about God through them?

I believe God’s righteousness caused Him to speak this truth clearly and boldly. God is without sin and cannot tolerate sin. The people groups living in this strategic area He created have rejected Him completely. Their unrighteousness has made them God’s enemies. So He is taking away this land and granting it to the people who acknowledge, follow, and obey Him: the Israelites.

But the Israelites did not acknowledge, follow, and obey Him perfectly. The journey from Egypt to the Promised Land could have been completed in a few weeks, but it took them 40 years because of their sin (Numbers 14:34). Perhaps God’s justice requires Him to remind the Israelites of their own sin. It may prompt Him to remind them that they have not earned this land and do not deserve it. Justice may cause Him to make it clear this land is His gift.

There are many other surprising statements or actions of God recorded in the Bible. Here are a few verses that help us understand why we cannot always anticipate what He will do or say:

“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)

Although we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), His thoughts and plans are vastly different from ours. His reasoning is perfect; ours is not. His plans are perfect; ours are not. Unlike us, His motives are perfect. Far more life accepts and embraces God’s thoughts and ways as perfect and ours as imperfect.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:1-3, NIV)

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand…Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, “This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt”? (Job 38:4, 8-11, NIV)

God spoke the heavens and the earth — and all that is in them — into existence. He did not follow a manual or consult others. His wisdom, creativity, and power were sufficient to create both the smallest and largest components of our universe…and everything in between. Far more life understands that our limited minds cannot grasp God’s wisdom and power.

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. (Numbers 23:19, NIV)

Can you even imagine never telling a lie or changing your mind? What would it be like to have all the information and confidence needed to get everything right the first time and never need to protect or defend yourself with lies? Far more life accepts that God is vastly superior to us and cannot be fully understood in this lifetime.

When I read ancient Greek and Roman mythology, I feel sad for the people who followed it. The gods are depicted with many of the same weaknesses we have. They lie, scheme, cheat, and steal; they suffer from jealousy, anger, lust, and greed. I wonder why anyone would be attracted to gods that are no better than themselves? Why would they worship gods who are so unpredictable and self-centered? The One true God, the God of the Bible, is not like those man-made gods. He deserves our praise, worship, and adoration. We may not understand Him fully, but we can trust Him fully. The better we know Him, the more this is affirmed.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17, NIV)

The Promised Land was a good and perfect gift that God gave the Israelites. Growing our relationship with God and one day seeing Him face-to-face is a good and perfect gift He gives us (I Corinthians 13:12). Praise helps us recognize the source and value of these gifts.

Sisters,
What confuses you about God? Who can you ask for help to understand Him better?
Which of His character qualities are most meaningful to you?
Praise God for who He is. Thank Him for the gift of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2022, Shari Damaso

New Master

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22, NIV)

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. (Romans 7:21, NIV)

When we accept forgiveness through Jesus Christ and God becomes our new master, we want to do what is good and right. But sometimes our desire to obey is not enough to overcome sinful beliefs, habits, and actions we learned under our old master, Satan. Instead of instantly removing all those, God has chosen for us to work together to change them.

Too often, we think the sin is the problem. “I need to stop overeating when I am upset. I need to control my compulsion go shopping after a bad day. I need to stop turning to erotic media or masturbation when I am lonely.” So we tell ourselves (and others) we are going to stop sinning…and we fail.

Sinful thoughts and actions are symptoms of an underlying belief about ourselves or God that is untrue. They reveal an area of our mind that is still being influenced by our old master. Far more life is not overcoming a specific sin, rather it is consistently being who our new master made us. Our new nature cannot sin. Conversely, our old nature cannot live righteously. Whenever we sin we are operating under a part of our mind that is listening to our old master. 

But returning to the new nature is more than simply saying, “I am not going to do that anymore” or “I am going to listen to God instead of Satan.” The Apostle Paul instructs us to overcome sin in this way:

“…Be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you can work out what God’s will is, what is good, acceptable and complete.” (Romans 12:2, NTE)

Uncovering what we are feeling and thinking when we sin is the key to overcoming it. We can do this in the moment we catch ourselves sinning or later. The process is the same in either situation.

First, we must recognize what negative emotion we are feeling when or just before we sin. For example, “I am stressed.”

Next, we ask why we feel that, what we believe in that moment. “I have so many things I need to do and not enough time.”

This may be true or not true. Either way, we dig deeper by asking how that belief makes us feel. “Overwhelmed.”

Ask ourselves why we feel that way, what we believe about this. “I cannot do them all.”

Again we ask how that makes us feel? “I feel like I am worthless.”

We may have to go back and forth between what we feel and why several times. When we uncover a belief about our core identity or value that disagrees with God’s perspective, we have found the trigger Satan used to master us!

Holding up that belief, “I am worthless”, to God’s Word proves it false. The Bible reveals truth. “God does not see me as worthless. I am created in His image. He bought me with the blood of His Son. He is preparing a place for me in Heaven so I can live with Him forever. He loves me. I am valuable to Him.”

When we renew our minds with truth, we find far more life in our new master. Our old master’s influence is removed from that area. It is possible we will never be tempted to engage in that sin again. But it can take time to make new habits based on our renewed mindset. When we catch ourselves in that sin, we can thank God for helping us recognize we were listening to our old master. Then recalling God’s truth empowers us to say “no” to the enslavement of old beliefs, thoughts, and actions and “yes” to being a slave to righteousness.

Each area of our mind that is renewed deepens our understanding of our new master. But far more life is more than a logical understanding. Far more life desires a close relationship with Him. Far more life wants to experience His love, joy, peace, goodness, faithfulness, and more. Far more life grows in love, not just knowledge. Far more life recognizes that serving God and yielding to Him is a delight, not a decision.

Being enslaved to God is a blessing. It offers freedom we never dreamed possible. We find pleasure in righteousness rather than in sin. We find pain relief in God rather than in sin. He transforms our beliefs, thoughts, and habits so we are free to live reverently and righteously, enjoying rich fellowship and bringing God glory. 

We live as slaves, either to sin or righteousness. Far more life recognizes that being a slave to righteousness is the best life possible. It embraces our new master and reaps holiness.

Sisters,
What emotions, thoughts, or feelings are warning signs that you are listening to your old master, Satan?

Take a minute to try the mind renewal exercise. Use a recent sin as your starting point.
Which list of words describes your relationship with Christ: “ideas, truth, choice, logic, decision” or “experience, treasure, relationship, love, delight”? What barriers keep you from embracing the second list?
Think of how you have been blessed as a slave to righteousness. Thank God for those blessings of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo Credit: Jennifer Marsh