Life-Changing Words

Our world is desperately seeking answers to the problems we face. Many words are spoken — in our government centers, through media and social media, and in private conversations — that offer ideas and plans for addressing them. The words take on many tones and remind me of a common hymn that describes the content of God’s Word, the Bible: Beautiful words. Wonderful words. Life-giving words. Faith-building words. Loving words. Inviting words. Hope-giving life. Words of good news. Saving words.

Sadly, most individuals and governments have rejected God’s words and are looking for “better” answers. But the Bible is the best place look for answers because most of the problems we face in life and society are spiritual problems. Selfishness, greed, lust, envy, and pride are more than character flaws; they are evidence of spiritual death, separation from God.

When we are engaged in a relationship with God, listening to His words, we have the power to love and value people as He does. Our interactions offer genuine concern, generosity, graciousness, and self-sacrifice. We serve as His representative and bring Him glory by demonstrating how He intended for people to interact with Him, each other, and our planet. Living out His words solves spiritual problems and leads to far more life.

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word. (Psalm 119:9, NIV)

There is great benefit to remaining faithful to the path God has marked as pure. We see God more clearly when our hearts and minds are not tainted by sin and evil (Matthew 5:8). I think of innocent children who see right and wrong in areas where adults struggle. As we live according to His Word, we experience life as He intended it to be. We avoid many spiritual problems and enjoy far more life.

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:10-11, NIV)

Anyone who watches spy movies knows that written instructions or codes can be damaged, lost, or stolen by the enemy. But what you memorize can be held securely and accessed easily. Similarly, memorizing God’s Word enables us to easily access it and have greater confidence that our decisions are consistent with His desires. We can access far more life easily and often when His words are stored in our mind.

Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. (Psalm 119:12, NIV)

We can take in God’s words with two attitudes: a desire to change them or a desire to be changed by them. When we find ideas in the Bible we dislike, we may want to reinterpret them to fit what makes us comfortable. Or dismiss them as antiquated or irrelevant. But far more life is willing to be changed by God’s Word. It is willing to research and understand what God is saying and the heart behind it. When we do this, we naturally praise Him for His wisdom, insight, and perfect love. We desire to learn more of His words because they become priceless treasures that lead us to far more life.

With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. (Psalm 119:13, NIV)

God’s words are too good to keep to ourselves! As family and friends wrestle with hard life circumstances, God’s words can strengthen and bless them. When we feel stuck, His words to offer a path forward. His words offer hope, peace, enlightenment, correction, and far more life — all the things we need! We should not be surprised when our experiences prove His words are true. Or when we become eager to share what we learn from His with others.

I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. (Psalm 119:14, NIV)

The words of instruction God gives us are priceless treasures. They are the secrets we need to live the best life possible. They enable us to become the best version of ourselves, the most like Him. It is easy to complain about the restrictions He communicates. It is popular to dismiss His standards as outdated or narrow-minded. But deep-seated joy — one evidence of far more life — is found when we live out God’s words.

I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. (Psalm 119:15, NIV)

God’s words can be hard to accept. We may have to think about them a while before we can appreciate them or put them into practice. Sometimes they are surprising and we have to wrestle through questions and doubts. Sometimes they are the opposite of what we want to be true. Sometimes we want proof that they lead to far more life. But I have found that seeking to understand God’s ways eventually leads to accepting them as the best. That should not be a surprise since He is our all-knowing Creator!

I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (Psalm 119:16, NIV)

The psalmist does not feel obligated to study God’s words; he delights in them. When we delight in something we are eager to experience more of it. The more we value God’s words, the more we will turn to them for encouragement, wisdom, and perspective. And as we put His words into practice and see the positive effects, we will value them more. As God’s powerful words change our lives, we want to share far more life with others.

Sisters,
What problems are heavy on your heart? Where do you turn for solutions?
Can you recognize the spiritual root of the problems around you?
What value do you place on God’s Word? Does that agree with the value Psalm 119 describes?
Do you more often desire to change or be changed by God’s Word? What barriers do you face to being changed? What increases your willingness to be changed?
Choose a Bible verse to meditate on and memorize so you far more life is hidden in your heart!
-Shari



Far More Wealth

I took an informal poll recently which asked people if they wanted to go to heaven when they died. As I expected, the majority answered yes. I am sure the responders had different ideas about what heaven is like or how you get there, but most of them agreed that they wanted to experience it. But I am certain there would have been fewer yes answers if I had asked, “Do you want to love and obey God now so you can live with Him in heaven forever after you die?”

Sometimes what we want — in this example, to live in heaven — and what we are willing to do to get it — in this example, love and obey God — are incompatible. We find the same incompatibility in many areas of life. I want to be at my ideal weight but am not willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes. Some people want to get out of debt but are unwilling to reduce their spending. Others want better relationships but are not willing to put in the required effort. Regardless of what we say, what we do reflects what we truly want.

The gospels tell the story of a man who also faced this dilemma:

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

…Jesus answered, “You know the commandments…”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:17-22, NIV)

This man is just like us! We want to have everything we want…but on our terms. We want treasure, influence, and significance in this life AND we want eternal life. It is tempting to think having the best of earth and the best of heaven is far more life. But it is not.

Jesus was not giving the man in this story a to do list that would lead to salvation. Based on other Scripture passages, we know that selling all we possess is not how we gain eternal life (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10, Ephesians 2:8). Instead, Jesus gave this answer to draw out the true desires of this man’s heart, to reveal what he truly loved. Jesus had explained the principle at work in an earlier teaching:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21, NIV)

The man was doing many good things but had given his heart to his wealth. He treasured his possessions and lifestyle. He wanted the benefits God offered but was not willing to give up the benefits his wealth provided.

Throughout human history people have wanted to do their own thing but still receive God’s blessing. God made this statement to the Israelites around 1300 years before Jesus walked the earth:

You shall not bow down to [idols] or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:5-6, NIV)

Humans want the freedom to make other things, people, or pursuits more important than God, but we also want Him to shower us with good gifts. However, this verse draws a sharp line: we either love God and receive His love or we hate Him and receive His punishment. There is no middle ground in our relationship with Him or His response to us. A similar warning is found in Revelation:

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. (Revelation 3:15-17, NIV)

Do you notice the different “riches” that are referenced in these verses? It is tempting for us to place value on material possessions, status, or physical comfort. But God’s riches are spiritual in nature. In fact, he warns us:

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:36, NIV)

Far more life desires and pursues the spiritual riches that God offers. It seeks to give and receive forgiveness, love, joy, peace, patience, unity, generosity, and hope. It is grounded in faith. It sees this life — with its struggles, temptations, and successes — in light of eternity. Far more life is centered on God rather than self. It strives to understand and obey Him more rather than cling to comfortable attitudes and actions. Far more life may look poor to the world but it leads to the greatest and best wealth possible!

Sisters,
What do you desire in life? Are your actions compatible with that desire?
How would you describe the best earth has to offer? The best heaven has to offer?
What is your reaction to the statement, “We either love God and receive His love or we hate Him and receive His punishment. There is no middle ground.” What Bible verses support or negate this strong stand?
If you love God, what spiritual riches have you already gained?
Thank God that the riches of far more life start now and last forever!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Jars of Clay

We want to avoid physical and emotional pain, suffering, and death. But we cannot. As long as we are on this earth, in these bodies, we will face these unpleasant experiences. But the Apostle Paul shares a unique perspective:

We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us. We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again…Our bodies show what his death was like, so that his life can also be seen in us…And just as God raised Jesus, he will also raise us to life. (2 Corinthians 4:7-14, CEV)

We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. Clay jars are fragile, common items. They are not valuable, but do serve an important purpose: to hold something valuable. The same is true of our bodies; they are fragile and made of common components. (Selling the chemical elements of a body would only earn a few hundred dollars!) But they hold a treasure:

…Our message is that Jesus Christ is Lord…Now God is shining in our hearts to let you know that his glory is seen in Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:5-6, CEV)

The time will come when I, the Lord, will write my laws on their minds and hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Hebrews 8:10, CEV)

The treasure inside our bodies is a heart that knows Jesus and has been changed by Him! That heart connects to God, grows in love for Him, prompts us to be like Him, and reveals His glory to others. It is a privilege to have the treasure of far more life inside of us!

The real power comes from God and not from us. We do not have power to overcome sin and difficulty — to walk in far more life — on our own. Jesus promised His disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8). And we do! The Holy Spirit gives us the power to: understand spiritual truths, apply wisdom to the challenges we face, and obey God (Isaiah 11); speak the truth powerfully (Micah 3:8); share the gospel of Jesus with others (Acts 1:8); have hope, love, and self-control (Romans 15:13 & 30, 2 Timothy 1:7); and pray to God (Ephesians 6:18, Romans 8:26). I love how this verse describes what we have in Christ:

Children, you belong to God, and you have defeated these enemies. God’s Spirit is in you and is more powerful than the one that is in the world. (I John 4:4, CEV)

God empowers us to remain connected to Him, experiencing His love, joy, peace, hope, and more in every challenge we face. When we are disconnected from Him, we have the ability to find the breach and repair it by applying His truth. Our jars-of-clay bodies are not powerful, but the treasure they hold is!

We are never crushed…we never give up…we get up again. God’s power does not make us immune to pain, but it does empower us to spiritually thrive through it. Our connection to Him enables us to see earthly challenges from an eternal perspective. We know we are not fighting alone through this life; God is with us. He will give us direction, insight, and wisdom. He goes ahead of us and behind us, clearing a path for us to travel through life and ensuring our treasure gets through safely (Psalm 139).

Our bodies show what His death was like so His life can also be seen in us. The fact that we struggle yet exhibit far more life is a testimony to Jesus’ presence in our lives! Without Him, the trouble we face would bring despair. But we have joy, peace, patience, hope, and more from the treasure we carry. God’s power is not limited to our private struggles, it empowers us to love others, even when it is hard. Jesus said the love we show other treasure-bearers reveals to the world what is inside of us:

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV)

The apostle Paul writes a practical illustration of this:

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good…If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.  (I Corinthians 12:7, 26)

His power is clearly shown through our interactions with others in our jars-of-clay family. We demonstrate His presence when we suffer together, rejoice together, and use our spiritual gifts to bless each other. He has entrusted us with the power to extend His love and grace to others and grow their treasure!

Just as God raised Jesus, he will also raise us to life. The treasure we hold is not ruined or lost when our jar of clay cracks or shatters. These jars are only temporary homes. I look forward to the day our treasure is freed from this fragile vessel and transferred to the glorified body God has waiting for us. (I Corinthians 15:42-44) Then we will experience far more life forever! But while we remain here, we embody His power and are called to carry His message of hope to other jars of clay.

Sisters,
How have you experienced your body being fragile but the Spirit within you strong?
How would you describe the “treasure” in your own words? What Bible verses can you think of that describe it?
What challenges has the Holy Spirit given you power to rise above? Where are you disconnected from Him?
How are you living out His instruction to strengthen and support other believers?
Bask in the treasure of far more life today as you share His message of hope with others!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: Grace Kusta Nasralla from Pexels

Time to Invest

We all have 60 minutes each hour. 24 hours each day. 7 days each week. 52 weeks each year. We can invest our time wisely and reap huge dividends, both now and in heaven. Or we can spend it on pursuits that yield a temporary thrill at most. One choice lets us survive while the other helps us sustain far more life.

So be very careful how you live, not being like those with no understanding, but live honorably with true wisdom, for we are living in evil times. Take full advantage of every day as you spend your life for his purposes. (Ephesians 5:15-16, TPT)

People who spend their lives for God’s purposes do more than accumulate possessions and experiences during their time on earth. They understand their God-given purpose and mission is to love Him and share His love with others. Investing in God’s work may not generate instant results, but it does produce eternal rewards. The far more life we find as we take full advantage of each day reminds us that our hope rests in Heaven, not immediate gratification on earth.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. (Colossians 3:23-24, NASB)

Whatever you do. Life is not a collection of spiritual and non-spiritual activities. When the Holy Spirit lives inside us, everything we do is a spiritual activity. We can work for God, regardless of our job. We can recreate or rest for God. We can learn and grow for God. We can give and serve for God. We can also do each of these activities without God. The choice is ours; will we choose life or far more life?

It takes more than just showing up to maximize our eternal yield and walk in far more life each day. The heart behind our investment is a key factor in the yield. Mundane tasks — like laundry and changing diapers — can be more profitable than leading a Bible study; it depends whether we are simply doing the “right” thing with an empty heart or “taking full advantage” of opportunities to love God and others. We take full advantage by remembering His instructions:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21, ESV).

Acquiring earthly treasures — belongings, experiences, even relationships — can bring us temporary pleasure. But investing our heart and time in God’s purposes leads to far more life and treasure that will last for eternity! We do not always understand the impact of our investment, but God is orchestrating the efforts of many individuals to accomplish His will.

The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. (I Corinthians 3:8, NLT)

Investing in God’s work of planting and watering spiritual seeds can take more than our time; it can be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. We know there will be an eventual payoff, but we can still grow weary from our labor. How do we maintain far more life in those conditions?

A wise friend once shared an “energy equation” that has been helpful to me. She explained that we all experience three types of interactions/activities: those that energize us (+3); those that are neutral, neither adding nor taking energy (0); and those that draw more energy than they give back (-3). If we are regularly in the hole, we are guaranteed to burn out and miss far more life. To be healthy, the sum of these interactions must consistently be zero or above. To experience far more life and have all we need to invest in God’s kingdom, we need a positive balance.

When my energy equation is below zero I often read or play mindless computer games to “rest”. But while my brain is distracted by those pursuits, I remain tired and reluctant to re-engage. Since they are not refreshing, those activities are probably a 0 rather than the +3 that I need. But if I invest the same amount of time exercising, meditating on God’s Word, writing, or napping, I find myself energized and ready to re-engage. Rather than “unplugging” by retreating into a virtual world, I am learning to ask myself, “What do I need right now to truly energize my body and spirit?”

As you look at your calendar and commitments, be intentional about your time investments. Prayerfully consider what you have to give each day and the refreshment you need to live far more life with a God-pleasing heart. Allowing time for connecting with God, eating healthy food, exercising, laughing, and sleeping is important for sustaining far more life. Remembering to include those in your daily energy equation will enable you to consistently join God in investing in His kingdom…people. Those are the only investments that will continue paying dividends for eternity!

Sisters,
Is most of your time spent or invested? Are you consistently experiencing far more life?
Are your treasures primarily on earth or in heaven?
What is your energy equation right now? What will truly energize your body and spirit?
Pursue far more life today as you invest in God’s kingdom!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso