February 11, 2024

The Lord’s patience with me is the greatest and most intimate example I have for the forbearance I need to demonstrate toward other people. Just as God has been long suffering with me in my desire to follow Jesus, so I need to be with everyone when I’m not treated the way I want them to treat me.

My ego has unrealistic expectations and sets me up for innumerable disappointments regarding the behavior of other people. There is nothing I should expect from anyone other than God when it comes to the fulfillment of His promises because He alone is capable of performing and executing their completion.

Neither should I expect Him to do it on my schedule because only He knows the perfect timing.

I pray that the Lord will help me be content in every situation as I simply and humbly abide in His peace and joy.

February 10, 2024

I used to follow the advice that if I didn’t know what to do, I needed to do something because anything was better than nothing. The thought behind that was the idea that I  couldn’t guide a ship that was standing still.

Now I realize how unwise that is. Abiding in Christ and waiting on the Lord often involves simply being restful, silent and still. While no activity may seem to be unproductive, that is okay because God hasn’t called me to be productive.

His desire is for me to trust Him as I abide in Christ so that, as a branch, I can bear His fruit. My ego hates the thought of that because it isn’t in control when I am resting in the Lord.

I pray that God will help me remain content, grateful and filled with His joy in all of my circumstances, even when they appear to be negative.

February 9, 2024

I was clearing brush recently, and an irritant got lodged inside my right boot.  I continued with my work, not wanting to waste time looking and dealing with the thorn, debris, or whatever was distracting me from my task.  Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I removed my boot and discovered some prickly leaves from a plant that should not exist on planet Earth.  Having freed myself from the discomfort, I strapped on my boot and returned to work.

Life is filled with irritants—unforeseen financial expenditures, broken relationships, workplace drama, familial and marital challenges, and more.  Is it possible to have JOY during these times?  Or, maybe a more challenging question is, “Do others believe you are a person of joy?” How about your spouse, children, and grandchildren?

JOY killers exist.  Unsatisfied expectations lead to discontentment.  Unresolved conflict can paralyze us.  Unconfessed sin troubles the soul.

So, as you journey, here are some essentials for JOY to consider (see Philippians 1:12-26).

Live with an eternal perspective (verse 12).  Live with the right priorities (verse 18).  Allow the Holy Spirit to be your power (verse 19).  Live with an eternal purpose (verses 21).

A final thought: Here’s how to spell JOY.  Love Jesus first, serve Others, and You will find joy in life’s journey.

February 8, 2024

Insults. False Accusations. Evil words. What a trifecta of evil! When these things come your way, how do you react? I’ve built teams to defend me, hurled accusations, chose anger, rationalized, analyzed the enemy, and more. But Jesus says we are “blessed” when these things come our way. What? Seriously?

So, we are challenged to move from reaction to response. There’s a big difference between these two!

A brief timeout. In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus was asleep in the boat with his disciples. A great storm brewed, and the disciples feared for their lives. Eventually, they asked, “Don’t you care if we drown?” They were afraid they would die. Jesus calmed the storm, and the disciples were in awe. For a refresher, read the story. Storms will come. Adversity will happen.

Adversity can be our greatest motivation for spiritual growth or our deadliest means of discouragement. God does not permit adversity for the purpose of defeating us but for the purpose of benefitting us. Adversity is God’s primary tool for shaping and preparing you for service to Him. Response to suffering is the key distinction between a disciple of Christ and the unbelieving world. Adversity can be one of two things in your life: your enemy or your opportunity.

Rest assured that God knows the storms that are ahead, and He will see us through. Yes, it’s easy for us to lose hope when we lose our focus. “Don’t you even care?” God does care and has authority over all. Rejoice and be glad? You bet!

February 7, 2024

I was filled with JOY when I found a way out. Here’s the story.

Before Cypress Creek Church’s Christmas Eve-Eve services, I decided to take a long hike at the Purgatory Creek Natural Area in San Marcos. I parked my truck, took a quick glance at the map posted at the Upper Trailhead, picked a desirable route, and headed out. My hike was to be about 4.5 miles—perfect for a cool day. Long story short, the trail that I picked didn’t return me to the Upper Trailhead parking lot, but the Lower Trailhead parking lot. I was not a happy camper (hiker, actually). Did I mention I didn’t bring any water with me? Minor detail. So, I returned to the trail only to discover that I’d need to make my own way out to save a lot of backtracking. I did just that. Crawling through the barbed wire fence (illegal, I’m sure), I walked at least one mile back to my starting point on the motorist-filled road. My much-desired 4.5-mile hike was extended by at least two additional miles. JOY!

Life can be described as a long hike filled with slippery spots, steep inclines, breathtaking vistas, adventure, accomplishments, miscalculations, wrong turns, and a need for hydration. As we journey, we really can choose JOY, and here’s why (based on Romans 8).

A believer of Christ is no longer under condemnation. Eternity is a reality because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. God is working in our lives. God is with us (“Immanuel”).  

God has provided a way out. Choose JOY!

February 6, 2024

Take a moment and reflect upon this past Christmas. Specifically, think about that ONE GIFT that you gave to someone you love. You anxiously awaited the big day you could give the gift, and the moment finally came. I bet you experienced JOY and a happy and full heart when that gift was unwrapped. You will not soon forget the tears, laughter, words of thanks, or hugs that followed. You experienced the truth—”it’s more blessed to give than receive.”

Helen Keller described JOY as “the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow.” 

Henri Nouwen was a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer, and theologian. He wrote, “Whereas patience is the mother of expectation, it is expectation itself that brings new JOY to our lives. Jesus not only made us look at our pains but also beyond them. ‘You are sad now, but I shall see you again and your hearts will be full of JOY.’ A man or woman without hope in the future cannot live creatively in the present. The paradox of expectation indeed is that those who believe in tomorrow can better live today, that those who expect JOY to come out of sadness can discover the beginnings of a new life in the center of the old, that those who look forward to the returning Lord can discover him already in their midst.”

Upon first reading, Nouwen’s quote took me a little time to digest. Please consider reading his quote a second or third time.

I love the line, “…those who expect JOY to come out of sadness can discover the beginnings of a new life in the center of the old.”

Take a few minutes to meditate on Philippians 4:4. Allow God’s love manifested in JOY to rest upon you today.

February 5, 2024

I remember encountering my first wicked and deceitful curve ball while batting in Little League baseball. I bailed out of the batter’s box, believing the pitch would hit me square in my nose. Immediately, the umpire yelled, “Strike 1.” I looked at him, befuddled. Let me tell you, that pitcher had some jazz, spice, and sauce for his age. My coach worked with me the following week on hitting curve balls at every practice. I improved, I think. Too many years ago to fully remember!

At times, curve balls come our back, don’t they? I recently had one thrown my way. I’ve learned that self-pity, wallowing, blaming others, plotting revenge, and taking our pain out on others are not God’s plan when tough times come our way. About the time this curve ball was lobbed my way, Susan was decorating the house for Christmas. She placed a beautiful, simple piece of art on our bedroom mantle, adorned with one word, “JOY.” I think she was suggesting something to me, eh? Now, Pastor Jose and the teaching team at Cypress Creek Church are speaking on JOY, and I’m recruited to write some devotionals on JOY. Mmm? God has a great sense of humor, doesn’t He?

We most likely don’t stay in the batter’s box resting in JOY when life is not so swell. Please reread Galatians 5:22, which appears at the beginning of this devotional. Notice the singular verb— “is.” The Apostle Paul teaches us that the fruit of the Spirit is LOVE (“agape”) manifested in JOY, peace, patience, kindness, etc. Therefore, we can embrace and experience JOY because of God’s agape love. In other words, we can’t manufacture JOY with our positive mental vibes or manmade formulas because it is rooted in God’s love for us. In this scripture, JOY (“chara” in the original language) is a noun and can also mean “delight.”

So, today—stand firm in the batter’s box of life. Take it one pitch at a time. Homeruns don’t win ballgames; base hits do. Receive God’s love and walk in JOY.

February 4, 2024

One thing I have learned over and over again; it is impossible for me to live an obedient life to God without absolute surrender to Him.

My natural inclination to resist the Lord is always lurking, ready to pounce on any opportunity it can find to retain what it thinks is its right to reject any form of adversity. The combative attitudes that surface immediately rob me of the peace and joy I experience when I am yielding myself to Him.

The only option I have to recover is to immediately abandon my desire to escape the suffering and embrace the cross. In that moment, His peace and joy return in abundance.

God’s  ways are so much higher than my ways but they become mine when I surrender my will to Him.

February 3, 2024

When I started following Jesus, I read and studied many books, attended many conferences, participated in a lot of Bible studies and memorized a lot of Scripture in an attempt to learn as much as I could about God and His Kingdom. All of those projects, in and of themselves, were positive and helpful, but they were my primary objective.

I was using them as a means to an end that was always in the future. What I didn’t realize was that, in the process of all my efforts, the Lord was there all along simply waiting for me to savor every moment and enjoy my fellowship with Him as my most important objective.

By living and abiding in His presence, I can still have goals, but the difference is amazing when I am aware of Him and letting Him lead and guide me in the process. Now I desire to live every moment in communion with the Lord and knowing Him more intimately is my major purpose in life.

February 2, 2024

I did not know that my body was the temple of the Holy Spirit. I believed in God, but I didn’t realize that God wanted to live in me. I reasoned that I had to figure things out for myself.

When I came to faith in Christ and began studying the Bible, I learned many things that started changing my worldview. I had been living in darkness and discovered that I was a slave to sin. When I learned that Jesus’ death on the cross was the ransom that bought my freedom, I was progressively more appreciative as I walked more and more in the freedom He purchased for me.

Now, I want to honor God with my life and surrender everything to Him because He makes my paths straight. Even if I make a mistake, He knows how to guide me back to living His way.