Consequences

“Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink. ”So Moses took the rod from before the Lord, just as He had commanded him; and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank.  (Numbers 20:8-11, NIV)

The Israelites were in a bad situation: they had no water. They angrily turned to their leaders, Moses and Aaron, demanding they provide. The leaders, unable to produce water from thin air, turned to God for help. He told them exactly what to do and they…did something different.

The Bible does not tell us why Moses disobeyed God. But, as fellow humans, we can think of several possibilities:

  • God had previously instructed Moses to strike a rock to produce water (Exodus 17:6). Since that worked before, maybe Moses thought it would work again.
  • Moses had already told God he wasn’t a good speaker (Exodus 4:10). Perhaps he did not think his voice and words would have any effect on the rock.
  • Maybe Moses thought it hitting the rock was a better demonstration of God’s power. He may have thought the spectacle would stick with the people longer and help them remember God’s provision the next time things got tough.

Whether it was one of these reasons or a different one, Moses disobeyed God. When we strip away everything else, the real reason for disobedience is pride. We trust our own judgment more than God’s. Or we think our way of doing things is better than His way. Maybe we doubt God’s character, wisdom, and instruction, but have confidence in our own. Pride is seeing God as less than He truly is and seeing ourselves as more than we truly are.

You may read this story and think, “But what Moses did worked. The people got the water they needed. So, is it really a big deal?” God did provide water. Why? I think it was because His reputation was at stake. The people needed water and were looking to God (through Moses) to provide it. So, God answered the people’s request despite Moses’ disobedience. But the disobedience was a big deal. The guilty — Moses and Aaron — were disciplined:

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”  (Numbers 20:12, NIV)

The instruction Moses and Aaron were given was private; the rest of the people did not know how God had told them to get the water. Accordingly, the consequences of their sin were communicated privately; they would not enter the Promised Land. Since their sin was not publicly exposed, it may seem they got away with disobeying God. But they did not. Neither do we.

For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. (Colossians 3:25, NIV)

Sometimes we think we got away with disobeying God because the consequences are not visible immediately. But nothing slips past God. He sees all and knows all, including our thoughts and motives. When people who have not accepted Christ disobey, they are adding to the tally of sins for which God will punish them. When those of us who have accepted Christ disobey, we forfeit some aspect of far more life. We will not be punished; Christ already took that punishment on our behalf. But we will experience consequences of our sin. Here are some examples:

  • When we disobey Him by worrying, we forfeit peace (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • When we pursue sin rather than righteousness, we forfeit satisfaction (Matthew 5:5).
  • When we engage in impurity, we forfeit seeing God’s presence and provision in our lives (Matthew 5:8).
  • When we are proud, we forfeit the grace of God and are vulnerable to Satan’s attacks (James 4:6-7).
  • When our focus is on gaining earthly treasure (wealth, power, recognition), we forfeit eternal treasure (Matthew 6:19-20).

If we want to have God’s best — far more life — we must obey God, even in areas no one else sees. When we cannot obey, it is good to ask why we trust ourself — our knowledge, our wisdom, our understanding of right and wrong, our perception of what is best — more than we trust God. We can also approach it from the other direction and ask what we are afraid will happen if we obey God when His ways disagree with what we want to do. Being honest with ourself and God, admitting we have been wrong, and changing our mindset and choices leads to a positive consequence — far more life.

Sisters,
When have you thought your way of doing something was better than what God has instructed?
What form does your pride most often take? Do you think too highly of yourself, too lowly of God, or both?
What have you forfeited as a result of your sin?
Choose far more life today by admitting your pride to God and finding the root so you can eagerly obey Him!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

At The Lord’s Command

Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the LORD’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped…Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the LORD’s command they encamped, and at the LORD’s command they set out. (Numbers 9:17-23, NIV)

When I read this passage recently, I tried to put myself in the shoes of the Israelites. When they prayed to God for rescue from slavery, did they expect to leave the only homes they had ever known for a nomadic life in the desert? How would I respond to having no idea how long we would be in each place and no notice before being told to pack up and move? How would I feel about having no information about where we were going or how long it was going to take to get there? And then there is the change in food; the familiar foods were gone and replaced with an unfamiliar wafer called manna. I concluded that I would not have done well as an Israelite living this way! In fact, I would have joined them in complaining and criticizing Moses and God.

Like many of you, I like to think I am in control of my life — at least SOME aspects. But my attempts to be in control do not lead to the peace and satisfaction I desire. In fact, they often lead to worry, fear, doubt, or regret. Instead of seeking control, acknowledging God’s ultimate control and embracing His purpose and plan are where we find far more life.

What makes us hesitant to give God control? Because we trust ourselves more than we trust Him.

Why do we trust ourselves more? Because we do not have an accurate understanding of God or ourselves. We underestimate God and overestimate ourselves. But recognizing where our vision is skewed and adjusting it to His perspective brings far more life.

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7, NIV)

God created humans. He designed each of our parts and put them together. Doctors and scientists have some understanding and ideas of how our bodies work, but God knows everything about us. Yet we trust our knowledge and understanding of what is best for us more than we trust His. Why? Maybe because we are used to people taking credit for His design. Maybe because we cannot have coffee with Him and hear His knowledge face-to-face. Maybe because others have let us down, reinforcing the belief that no one else is trustworthy. Far more life trusts God’s knowledge and understanding more than your own.

To the eternal King, immortal and invisible, the only God—to him be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen (I Timothy 1:17, GNT)

Humans have a birth date and a death date; even the lifespan of the longest-living human is just a dot in the scope of eternity. We are mortal and will succumb to physical death unless Christ returns in the next few decades. Yet we trust our own experiences and wisdom more than His. Why? Maybe because we cannot grasp what it means to have no birth or beginning. Maybe because we expect God to be bound by the same limits as everyone we have ever known. Maybe because we are so focused on the details that we miss the overarching principles that God has provided in His Word. Far more life trusts God’s experiences and wisdom more than your own.

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?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. (Mark 10:17-18, NIV)

The Trinity alone — God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit — are morally good and pure. Humans are not. We are susceptible to sin and evil, to being deceived and having a distorted view. We do not always make the right choices or believe what is true. Yet we trust our own judgments and perceptions more than God’s. Why? Maybe we do not believe He has our best interests at heart. Maybe it is hard for us to believe He is truly pure because we have never met anyone like that. Maybe our understanding of goodness and purity have been polluted and we do not even recognize it. Far more life trusts God’s judgements and perceptions more than your own.

I find it interesting that the passage above says twice that the camp moved and settled “at the Lord’s command…” But His command was not a booming voice or a trumpet call. It was the position of a cloud! Sometimes it would be nice if we, too, had a cloud that led us through life. We may think that would make it easier to trust God, but I believe we would still be tempted to trust ourselves more, just like the Israelites did. In those moments of distrust, may we be ready to examine our hearts to reveal why we trust ourselves more than God.

Sisters,
How do you feel about letting others — even God — be in control?
In what areas do your thoughts and actions show you trust yourself more than God?
Embrace far more life by opening your heart to Him when you realize you are resisting His commands.
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Understanding

As a youngster, my son regularly proclaimed, “You don’t understand!” in frustration when I did not agree his way was best. He was convinced that if I accurately grasped his perspective, I would embrace his idea or plan.

We can feel the same way about God’s instructions and decisions. We trust our wisdom and experience because they usually serve us well. So when God’s Word tells us to do something that disagrees with our assessment, we may look for loopholes: “Surely He did not literally mean to resolve all anger before the sun set” (Ephesians 4:26) or “He cannot expect me to love someone who abused me” (Matthew 5:44). Or we may outright reject His instruction by saying it is outdated or does not apply in our circumstances.

These responses are part of our limited human understanding. And they are not new. Despite the changes in circumstances, we face the same basic temptations, challenges, thoughts, and responses as people who lived centuries ago. King Solomon noted:

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NIV)

People have always doubted and questioned God. One contributing factor is that He does not usually reveal His reasoning to us. I was surprised to find this verse describing God’s choice for the Israelites’ path when they were escaping Egypt:

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. (Exodus 13:17-18, NIV)

I’m sure some of the Israelites thought God made a bad choice. We have the benefit of knowing His reasons, even though they did not.

When questioned why He was washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus only offered this cryptic and unsatisfactory answer:

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7, NIV)

In reality, we do not understand. We know some things. We have some experience. But we overestimate ourselves and underestimate God. As a result, we are tempted to fight against God’s ways. We may argue, beg, plead for Him to embrace our ideas and preferences. We may reject, dismiss, or despise His ways and pursue our own path.

But we have another option, one that leads to far more life.

But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. (Psalm 131:2, NIV)

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5, NIV)

We can rest in God, trust Him, and yield to Him. But we must humble ourselves and acknowledge His superiority. He states this truth bluntly:

“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)

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12, NIV)

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (I Corinthians 1:25, NIV)

When we accept these truths, we can focus on understanding Him instead of proving ourselves. We can trust His intentions toward us rather than fighting to prove our worth. We can rest in His knowledge and character rather than having to protect, defend, and promote ourselves. In this way, we bring Him honor and glory.

But, to do this we must have an accurate view of Him. Many people think God is cruel, distant, harsh, judgmental, apathetic, or uninvolved in their lives. They do not want to obey a god like that — I would not, either! Fortunately, those are inaccurate descriptions of the God of Scripture.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (I Timothy 1:17, NIV)

He is the King. He is at the center of His realm and holds it together. He is aware of what is happening. He is engaged and decisive. He has a plan and is implementing it. He is not afraid of anyone or anything. He takes on responsibility for the wellbeing of His people. He provides for them, protects them, and genuinely cares for them.

He is eternal. God created the time in which we exist, but He is outside of time. Unlike us, He has always existed and will always exist. Our lives are just a moment of His existence. His reign will never end.

He is immortal. God will never die. He is indestructible. He is always alive and active.

He is invisible. Although we cannot see Him with our eyes, God made His nature and power visible through creation (Romans 1:20). He exists in a dimension we cannot access, yet makes Himself accessible.

He is the only God. There is no pantheon, family, or council of gods. There are no changes as different gods take control. There is no threat to His rule. He exists as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, but He is One.

That is just a taste of His character! God understands us better than we understand ourselves. He invites us to understand Him so we can follow Him wholeheartedly and find far more life.

Sisters,
What tempts you to think God does not understand you or your circumstances?
Looking back, can you see times when His way was better than what you thought was best?
What makes you reluctant to rest in, trust, and yield to Him?
What aspects of His character have you experienced? Which do you need to better understand to follow Him wholeheartedly?
Thank Him for offering you far more life each step of your journey!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Small Matters

Do you desire bigger things in life? Is your mindset, “Bring on the challenge and I will grow into it?” Do you feel a lot of opportunities are too small to be worth your while?

It is good to grow and be stretched. It is good to set and pursue goals, even lofty goals. There are times we need to say no. There are times to make changes so your potential is being fully utilized and appreciated. But often we need to wait: wait for more experience; wait for an opening; wait for the right time; wait until our current commitment is fulfilled. And while we are waiting, we have a choice: will we wallow in dissatisfaction or embrace far more life?

I remember facing this choice when my student group was appointing new small group leaders. I desperately wanted the position; I knew it would be a challenge, but I was confident I could be faithful with the responsibilities if given the chance. I wanted to be stretched. I thought I would find far more life once I was a leader.

When I was not selected, I was tempted to become less committed to the group, thinking they were not willing to invest in me. But soon I realized my motivation was pride and the desire for recognition; the woman who was chosen to lead invested her life in loving God by loving others. She didn’t care if the need was large or small, she didn’t consider some tasks “beneath her”. And yet she was experiencing far more life, even in small, ignoble tasks. She was already acting as a leader by caring for others the group, so it was only natural that she be recognized and supported in that role. Her actions and mindset demonstrated this Biblical principle:

“Someone who is faithful in a small matter”, Jesus continued, “will also be faithful in a large one. Someone who is dishonest in a small matter will also be dishonest in a large one.” (Luke 16:10, NTE)

We are tempted to misread this verse to say, “Someone who is faithful in a small matter is paying their dues; after proving themselves they will be awarded larger matters and find far more life.” But that is not what it says!

Faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit; as God’s daughters we always have access to it. Whether we are taking on a small or large matter, far more life is available — and God’s desire — for us. The situations we encounter give us opportunity to grow in consistently choosing to be faithful. That is far more life!

Far more life is faithfully persevering, despite the barriers and challenges we face:

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial… (James 1:12, NASB)

Far more life is making wise decisions about which matters we take on so we can faithfully complete them:

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise. (Ephesians 5:15, NIV)

Far more life is giving of ourselves willingly:

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)

Far more life is doing what pleases God and trusting Him with the results:

His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21, NIV)

God does not measure our faithfulness by the size of the task. Larger matters are often more complex and require more skills, but we can find far more life doing a small matter with a faithful heart.

Sometimes a seemingly small matter is really a large matter. When I was learning to play the flute, I was disappointed to start with just the mouthpiece. Then I was frustrated because I could not make it produce a sound. While I spent hours learning how to shape my lips and precisely where to position them on the mouthpiece, my friends were playing a variety of actual notes on their reed and brass instruments. It was discouraging to see them progress when I was stuck on what seemed like a simple task: blowing into the flute to generate a sound. But faithful practice allowed me to master that skill. I “graduated” to learning actual notes on the full instrument. Then I was able to take on the seemingly larger matter of learning notes and rhythms. Years of practice allowed me to play increasingly difficult pieces of music. But looking back, I realize that learning how to shape my lips and position them on the mouthpiece was actually the LARGEST matter; it laid the foundation for all that came later. If I had not been faithful to learn that, I would have not have been able to play even the simplest song.

Faithfulness often has practical rewards as well, as we read in Proverbs:

Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men. (Proverbs 22:29, NASB)

This verse shares a principle, not a promise; not every skilled person will literally stand before a king in their lifetime. But faithfulness yields opportunities and blessings we would otherwise miss. One of those blessings is far more life in Him every step of the journey!

Sisters,
Is it easy or challenging for you to be faithful with the matters in your life? Does the size impact your faithfulness?
Which is easiest for you: persevering, making wise decisions, giving willingly, or trusting God? Which is hardest?
When have you discovered a “small matter” that was actually large?
What opportunities and blessings has been generated by your faithfulness?
Thank Him that far more life is always available through every matter you face!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo from wwe.songflute.com

Waiting Well

Wait. This is a word most of us dislike hearing. We want what we want when we want it. We may be tempted to think that having our wants met will make us satisfied with life. But in reality, waiting well for God’s perfect plan and timing is far more life.

These verses remind us of the benefits of waiting for God, why it is good to wait for Him.

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. (Psalm 33:20, NIV)

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:1-3a, NIV)

For this reason the Lord is ready to show you mercy; he sits on his throne, ready to have compassion on you. Indeed, the Lord is a just God; all who wait for him in faith will be blessed. (Isaiah 30:18, NET)

God blesses us when we wait for Him. He helps us. He protects us. He meets our needs. He brings us happiness and fulfillment. He treats us compassionately. He delivers justice. But sometimes we think He is slow to bless. It seems like He doesn’t hear our requests. We become impatient waiting for His answer or action. Biblical writers had the same struggle.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5:3, NIV)

Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God. (Psalm 38:15, NIV)

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. (Micah 7:7, NIV)

We can rest assured that God always hears His children. He will always answer in His perfect timing. But His timing is not always our timing. We cannot choose whether or not we wait. We can only choose how we wait. A friend has explained patience to her young children as “waiting well.” I like the honest simplicity of that phrase. Choosing to wait well is choosing far more life.

Waiting well focuses on God rather than ourselves. It starts in the heart. Consider these Biblical descriptions of waiting well:

My eyes are ever looking to the Lord for help, for he alone can rescue me. (Proverbs 25:15, TLB)

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14, NIV)

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. (Psalm 130:5, NIV)

Lord, we are living the way your laws command us to live. We are waiting for you to act. We want your honor and fame to be known. (Isaiah 26:8, NIRV)

Sometimes we are waiting for answers. Sometimes we are waiting for things to happen or for things to end. We get frustrated at not knowing when our waiting will end. (Have you ever begged God, “I’ll wait patiently to find out WHAT you will do if I just know WHEN you will answer.” I have. But He — wisely — didn’t believe me.) Waiting well remembers that God knows everything: what is best for us; what we need; when we need it. Do we believe this? Do we trust Him enough to wait well?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)

He has a plan for us, a plan that brings good at the right time. When we don’t trust Him, we impatiently fight for control of the steering wheel. Waiting well is trusting God to be the driver in our lives. Didn’t He create us? Didn’t He already meet our biggest need through Jesus’ death and resurrection? Remembering God has already secured our eternal destination helps us trust Him with the details of our earthly journey. We can embrace far more life — waiting well beside Him — in each hill and valley we encounter. He is trustworthy.

Our expectations also keep us from waiting well. We can be like children impatient for Christmas morning to arrive; the closer it gets, the harder it is to wait well. Children anticipate the joy and excitement of discovering what is beneath the wrapping paper. They are certain what is coming is better than what they have now. We, too, convince ourselves what we have now is not as good as what is coming. We can miss far more life today by anticipating far more life will be better in the future. Waiting well looks to the future — especially our future in heaven — eagerly and expectantly while fully embracing today. Whether today brings answers or more waiting, whether it is filled with sorrow or joy, it is always an opportunity to live far more life. God has planned each day for us and as the perfect next step on our journey with Him. He is with us, giving us all we need for today. In fact, His Word instructs us:

…Make the most of every moment and every encounter. (Colossians 4:5b, VOICE)

Waiting well requires us to be engaged in today as we anticipate the future He has for us. He is working around us. He is working inside of us. Enjoying today while waiting well for tomorrow is far more life.

Sisters,
Are you generally patient or impatient?
What are you tempted to trust in besides God? Yourself? Others?
In what areas are you fighting for control of the steering wheel, not trusting God’s plans for you?
How does impatience for the future rob you of far more life today?
Praise God for this day and commit to walking in far more life with Him!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso

Trust Barriers

If trusting God is far more life, why is it so hard? That is a big, important question. And the answer goes way back…

When God created the earth, it was a paradise. Everything was perfect.

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31, NIV)

It’s hard for us to comprehend “very good” because the earth we walk today is not like that. “Very good” meant: no illness or disease; no natural disasters or severe weather; no thorns or thistles; no emotional hurts; no lying, stealing, or cheating; and there was no death of animals or people. “Very good” meant Adam and Eve trusted God. He provided all they needed: food; physical safety; companionship; and everything else. The pinnacle of “very good” was their friendship with God; He walked and talked with them, face to face.

But Satan introduced distrust. He suggested to Adam and Eve that God was not trustworthy, that He was withholding good from them. Sadly they listened and believed Satan’s lie. Their response led to physical changes on earth and a barrier between people and God. In addition, Satan has tempted every human since to mistrust God.

Why does Satan do this?

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him…He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short. (Revelation 12:7-9, 12b, NIV)

There is a spiritual war between Satan’s family and God’s family. Before we enter a relationship with Jesus, we are part of Satan’s spiritual family. But once we accept Christ’s offer to forgive our sins, we join God’s spiritual family and become Satan’s enemy. Satan hates God. He hates us, too.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8, NIV)

The thief comes with the sole intention of stealing and killing and destroying, but I came to bring them life, and far more life than before. (John 10:10, PHILLIPS)

Our enemy, Satan, wants to destroy our trust in God. God always deserves our trust. He will never sin against us. Never be selfish, impatient, or angry. He will love us perfectly. But to our limited minds this seems impossible. We cannot understand God and His ways because He is unlike us and anyone we have ever met! So we sometimes misunderstand His words and actions or falsely accuse Him of wrong. Then Satan lies to us, saying God is not trustworthy, and it rings true. We pull away from God, doubting His character and intentions. Satan knows distrust will block us from far more life. But the truth is:

There is no one holy like the Lordthere is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. (I Samuel 2:2, NIV)

Satan’s lies sometimes feel true because our experiences with people back them up. No person is perfect, so it is hard to understand God’s perfection. Even the most loving person we know has been selfish or impatient, took out their anger on us, or somehow sinned against us. Satan whispers to us that if we can’t trust these people — who we can see — how can we trust God — who we cannot see.  Trusting God — far more life — requires that we recognize Satan’s lies and choose to believe God, even when our own thoughts and experiences tempt us to distrust Him.

Direct attacks on our relationship with God are not Satan’s only tactic. Satan also works to isolate us from people who can help us trust God and find far more life in Him. He uses our friends, family, pastors, other Christians, authority figures, even complete strangers to hurt us. Sometimes these people sin against us and he capitalizes on that, telling us lies about ourselves that sound true to our hurting hearts and cause us to withdraw. Other times he whispers negative interpretations of their words and actions in our ear, interpretations that reinforce the beliefs that we are alone, unloved, not good enough, damaged beyond repair, worthless, and more. It feels like we need to pull away from people to be safe. But this is not true! We need to forgive and remember Satan’s scheme:

Our fight is not with people. It is against the leaders and the powers and the spirits of darkness in this world. It is against the demon world that works in the heavens. (Ephesians 6:12, NLV)

It also helps to know God’s strategy and realize that He ultimately is victorious:

We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (I John 5:20, NIV)

It takes work to trust God, but it’s worth it! Keep looking for and fighting against Satan’s attack. Seek understanding. Forgive quickly. Remember examples of God’s trustworthiness. Take His promises to heart. Live far more life in Him.

Sisters,
In what ways have you believed Satan’s lies that God is not trustworthy?
How have you seen evidence of the spiritual battle?
If you are in God’s family, pray that He will open your eyes to see the battle and give you courage to choose to believe His truth.
If you are not in God’s family, examine the barriers keeping you from trusting Him. Are they real or is Satan lying to you?
Praise God that He will win the spiritual war and everyone in His family will be free from the battle forever and ever!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso

Growing Trust

In order to rest, to find peace, to experience far more life we need to trust God.  But to trust God we need to know Him. How do we get to know God? Just like we get to know people: spending time together; learning about His character; seeing Him in action; talking to Him; and listening to His words.

The Israelites of the Old Testament faced a similar challenge. While they lived in Egypt, many had adopted the local culture and religion; they worshipped multiple gods who had many of the same faults as humans. During their rescue the Israelites saw God’s powerful miracles. He caused plagues to fall on the Egyptians but not them. He parted the Red Sea and allowed them to pass through on dry ground. He provided water in the wilderness and rained manna from heaven to feed them. He even provided meat when they complained. Despite seeing God in action, they did not know His character well enough to fully trust Him. So when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments He also revealed and described Himself:

Then the Lord passed by in front of [Moses] and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” (Exodus 34:5-7, NASB)

What a list! Compassionate. Gracious. Slow to anger. Abounding in lovingkindness. Abounding in truth. Forgiving premeditated sin, willful disobedience, and simple failure to do the right thing. Punishing the guilty but allowing consequences of sin to impact future generations. We have the benefit of being able to read the Bible, which is filled with accounts of God demonstrating these qualities as humans follow, ignore, and outright rebel against Him. Our trust for God grows as we get to know Him by reading the consistency of His actions throughout history.

The New Testament reveals another aspect of God’s character: His sacrificial love for humankind.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 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 4:9-10, NIV)

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

I don’t know about you, but there are few people I love enough to die for. There are fewer for whom I would ask my children to die. Yet this is the love God has for us: He sent His son to die for us when we didn’t even care about Him.  This is mind-blowing!

And His love doesn’t stop there. He also gives us far more life.

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32, NIV)

I think one of the problems we face in knowing and trusting God is not recognizing what He has given us.  What if every sunrise spelled out, “I, God, gave you this day and all that you need to thrive in it” across the sky? What if “Provided by God” was stamped on every food we ate?  What if every good thing that happened came with a note explaining, “I did this for you. Love, God”? What if every tear we cried proclaimed, “I, God, love you and promise to bring good from this hurt”? What if every sunset announced, “You are one day closer to joining Me in Heaven, permanently removed from the hurts and evil of this world”?  What if He responded to our prayers by saying, “Here is My answer for you”?

His reminders aren’t as blatant as my examples, but they exist. God is not invisible or hiding from us. He wants us to know him.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20, NIV)

Evidence of God is everywhere! He created the largest galaxy and the smallest atom. The simplest bacteria and the complex human brain. He created the strong nuclear force and the gentlest love. Every beautiful thing. Every natural phenomenon. Every kind of plant and animal. He put into motion every system and process human scientists have discovered — as well as those they have not yet discovered. He did all this and more so we could know Him! He has given us ample evidence that He alone is worthy of our trust.

A friend coined the term “love gifts” to describe the times she sees evidence of God’s love for her. Maybe it’s an especially beautiful sunset she gets to witness at the end of a hard day. Or an unexpected note from a friend sharing just the verse she needed to hear. Or an answer to prayer about a situation that was weighing her down. These “love gifts” remind her that God is present and active in her life. That He is good. That He loves her. They help her know and trust Him more.  They show her far more life.  We, too, see far more life as we look for God’s love gifts and grow in knowing and trusting Him.

Sisters,
Do you trust God enough to experience far more life?
Do you regularly spend time with God to grow your trust?
What aspects of God’s character have you witnessed firsthand? 
How have you seen His invisible qualities in creation?
Be on the lookout for His “love gifts” this week and thank Him for each one you find.
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso

Perfect Peace

You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3, GNT)

Perfect peace. A quiet mind. A content heart. No worry or anxiety. No fear or dread. A firm purpose. A solid trust in God that allows you to rest. This is far more life.

While perfect peace sometimes feels elusive, once we enter a relationship with Jesus it is always available to us. It is a gift from God, a product of the Holy Spirit coming to live inside of us. Like all gifts, we must choose whether to set it aside or use it.

But perfect peace — as appealing as it sounds — can feel unfamiliar and strange to us, especially in difficult circumstances. We may feel more comfortable with familiar emotions: stress, anxiety, fear, defensiveness, withdrawal. Perfect peace requires us to know when to “let go and let God”.  It is rooted in trusting God.  It requires us to believe He is aware and involved, He knows what is best, and He is working for our good.

Let’s be honest: there are times we trust ourselves more than God. We trust our actions will make a bigger difference than praying and waiting for Him to act.  We trust our own wisdom rather than seeking out His wisdom.  We trust it is better to protect ourselves from hurt than expose our pain and pursue healing.  God doesn’t judge His daughters for this; He knows our wounds and blind spots better than anyone else — and still loves us. But He longs for us to have what is best: perfect peace and far more life.

I appreciate this Scripture passage’s vivid depiction of our trust struggle:

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”  (Matthew 14:25-31, NIV)

Look at Peter’s response again: “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”  It seems that Peter did not trust it was really Jesus out there, he wanted confirmation. But he knew if it was Jesus calling, he would be safe. Peter believed that Jesus could do the impossible. That Jesus cared about his well-being. That Jesus would not allow him to drown. Whatever fears or doubts Peter had, he trusted Jesus had power over the wind and water.

That trust gave Peter courage to get out of the boat; he walked on water!!  Imagine yourself in his place: would you even consider getting out of the boat? Would you feel excited or nervous — or maybe both — as you locked eyes with Jesus and walked toward Him…across a lake?  I’d like to think that when Peter looked at Jesus, he experienced perfect peace and all those negative thoughts and emotions faded away.

But Peter is human. Along the way he took his eyes off Jesus. He remembered his circumstances; he was no longer in the relative safety of the boat. He was exposed, standing on water that was being blown into waves by the wind. He no longer felt safe. His peace evaporated. He was overcome by doubt and fear. He may have asked himself, “What am I doing? What was I thinking?” He started to sink. Perhaps he was flailing and trying to keep himself upright. Fortunately, he still believed that Jesus could rescue him and called out for help.  And of course Jesus caught him.

Like Peter, when we are in difficult situations we can look at either our circumstances or our God. When we focus on our circumstances, we see how big the problem is, feel overwhelmed, and fixate on the obstacles. We believe we are in danger of drowning, especially if the problem intensifies and the pressure mounts.  But we have another option! We can focus on God, truths about his character, truths about his love for us, and truths about his limitless power and knowledge.  Focusing on our circumstances robs us of peace and leaves us battling negative emotions. Focusing on God offers us perfect peace, even when we’re standing on the lake in the middle of a storm. Despite the wind, waves, and rain that surrounds us, we can feel peaceful, calm, and secure.

Jesus knows how tempted we are to look away from Him.  He told His disciples some of the challenges they would face then shared this perspective:

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33, NASB)

Suffering is unavoidable. Circumstances that tempt us to strive in our own power are unavoidable. His words remind us to courageously put our trust in Him, keep our eyes firmly on our God-given purpose, and be blessed by His gift of perfect peace. That is far more life.

Sisters,
In what situation are you tempted to look at your circumstances rather than your Savior?
Are you willing to obey Jesus’ instruction: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid”? 
If not, ask God to help you identify what is preventing you from trusting Him.
Then ask for courage to take the next step in trusting Him.
Remember to thank God for conquering the world, offering you perfect peace, and meeting you where you are on your trust journey.

-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso