Far More Jesus

Songs of the Christmas season say we should feel wonderful, jolly, merry and bright. But instead we often feel stressed, stretched, buried, and exhausted. It is easy to get caught up in the rush and forget that we cannot give from an empty reservoir of time, energy, and warmth.

Stop for a second and remember why we celebrate Christmas. It is not about gifts, parties, concerts, decorations, lights, trees, or cards and letters. It is not even about family traditions and gatherings. Christmas is about Jesus, the celebration of His birth and the hope, peace, and joy that He brought to earth. Consider His words on this:

“…I came to bring them life, and far more life than before. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd will give his life for the sake of his sheep.” (John 10:10, PHILLILPS)

Jesus brought us far more life. Not far busier life or far more exhausted life. He brought us far richer life and far deeper life. He gave up His life so we could have far more life.

Here are some of the gifts Jesus has given us:

  • Forgiveness. “But it was because of our rebellious deeds that he was pierced and because of our sins that he was crushed. He endured the punishment that made us completely whole, and in his wounding we found our healing.” (Isaiah 53:5, NLT)
  • Love. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (I John 4:10, NIV)
  • Joy. “You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” (Acts 2:28, NIV)
  • Peace. “Since we have been made right with God by our faith, we have peace with God. This happened through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1, NCV)
  • Patience. “…We are together in Jesus, and we share these things: suffering, the kingdom, and patient endurance…” (Revelation 1:9, ERV)
  • Kindness. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32, NIV)
  • Goodness. “…We ask our God to help you live the good way he wanted when he chose you. The goodness you have makes you want to do good.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11, ERV)
  • Faithfulness. “The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes.” (2 Corinthians 5:7, VOICE)
  • Gentleness. “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5, NIV)
  • Self-Control. “We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life.” (Titus 2:12, MSG)
  • Hope. “I pray that God will open your minds to see his truth. Then you will know the hope that he has chosen us to have. You will know that the blessings God has promised his holy people are rich and glorious.” (Ephesians 1:18, ERV)

The gifts Jesus offers us are not wrapped and waiting under the tree. Through the Holy Spirit, these gifts are alive and active inside the hearts of God’s daughters. These gifts will not break or get lost or stolen. They are guaranteed to be yours forever! And they will never wear out; in fact, the more consistently you use them, the stronger they grow. Forgive quickly and respond with kindness when others offend you this week. Prayerfully choose gifts that express love rather than obligation. Let the music fill you with joy and hope as you reflect on the meaning of Christ the Messiah coming to earth. Rest in peace as you enjoy the beauty and calmness of the season’s lights.

Focusing on God’s gifts — and sharing them with those around us — enables us to feel wonderful, jolly, merry, and bright, even during the busy season of Christmas. Unwrap them today and begin savoring those that are most meaningful. Let these gifts fulfill you and add far more life to your day…and every day ahead!

Sisters,
What song lyric or phrase describes you during the Christmas season?
What aspect of Christmas is most important to you? Does this add to or detract from your celebration of Jesus?
Which of the gifts listed is most meaningful to you today? What will help you remember to savor it during this busy month?
Enjoy far more life as you celebrate Jesus’ work inside your heart this week!
-Shari

Copyright 2019, Shari Damaso

Imitate Their Faith

I recently attended a celebration of life service for a woman who lived far more life. Despite facing three occurrences of cancer within six years she focused on Jesus and lived far more life to the end. She loved Him with her whole heart and trusted Him with not just her life, but also her death. It was both encouraging and humbling to hear testimonies of the impact she had on others, simply because she loved and obeyed Jesus to the best of her ability every day she remained on earth. I was starting to compare myself to her — and feel guilty about how short I fell — when her pastor shared this verse:

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7, NIV)

Remember your leaders. Leaders are people of influence in your life. This is definitely referring to those with spiritual authority over us (pastors, etc.). But I think many of us have additional “leaders” in our lives who do not hold an official title or role. They lead through their example and influence.

Who spoke the word of God to you. Good spiritual leaders rely on God’s Word for their wisdom and direction. They apply it in their own life and lovingly share it with others. Their goal is to help you better understand and follow God so you have far more life.

Consider the outcome of their way of life. Do not simply trust a leader’s words or blindly follow because of their title or personality traits. Look at the results in their lives. Are they consistently modeling far more life? Does their personal life honor God? Are they respected by their leaders, peers, and followers? Do you want the same results in your own life?

Imitate their faith. We are not instructed to imitate a leader’s specific actions or choices. Rather we are instructed to imitate the faith of those who live far more life. Faith looks different in each of our lives. But we can learn from those whose faith has grown through facing challenges with God. We can recognize areas where they have far more life, ask how their faith developed in that area, and apply ourselves to growing, too.

Why is this important?

 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10, NIV)

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1, NIV)

Sisters, faith is the foundation of your relationship with God. Faith believes that God is real, powerful, and seeking you. Faith professes that Jesus paid the penalty for your sin and saves you from eternal separation from God. Faith provides peace with God, which is your first taste of far more life. This faith is not blind; it usually follows an experience that proves God exists and loves you.

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12, NIV)

Faith enables us to build a relationship with God. We can talk to Him, even ask Him for help, without fear. God has graciously made our faith an “all-access” pass to Him; He is available 24/7/365 and is eager to interact with us. As we look to Him through eyes of faith, we witness His work in and around us.

“But my righteous one will live by faith…” (Hebrews 10:38a, NIV)

As we grow our relationship with God, we live more and more by faith. We discover that following God’s instructions leads to far more life. The more we see the benefit of living by faith, the more willing we are to yield to Him.

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:17, NIV)

Faith changes our motives and actions. It prompts us to share God’s love with others because we believe His love is the best gift they could ever receive. Faith urges us to generously give our time, energy, and money to those who need it because we trust God to supply our needs. Acting by faith brings us far more life.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16, NIV)

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (I Thessalonians 5:8, NIV)

Faith equips us for spiritual battle. Believing God’s word is true, powerful, and relevant is our defense against the lies that Satan hurls at us. Since our enemies are spiritual, our weapons must be spiritual as well (Ephesians 6:12, 2 Corinthians 10:4). As a follower of Christ, entering the battle is not optional. A growing faith will encounter spiritual opposition.

At each stage of our faith journey, looking at the examples of others who are further along can be helpful. We can learn from their victories and mistakes. Far more life is often the result of a hard-fought battle, but can also come through following God’s instruction to imitate the faith of our leaders.

Sisters,
Who are the leaders in your life?
What about their faith can you imitate?
Are you starting, building, learning to obey, or acting on your faith?
As you consider the spiritual battles you are facing, whose faith can you learn from?
Thank God for your leaders who are modeling far more life and joining you on your journey.
-Shari

Copyright 2019, Shari Damaso