Green Leaves

I live in the desert. My yard is composed of rocks. So you can imagine how refreshing it is to travel someplace where green is the dominant color. Between Israel and Texas my spring has been filled with the reminder of the dramatic effects of water.

Rain = growth and greenery.

No rain = brown and dead.

Last summer I flew into Austin, Texas several times for speaking opportunities. Texas was in a severe drought last summer and it was so sad to watch the scenery transform from lush fields to dead wastelands over a few months.

But there was always one green spot in the last few moments before I landed: Town Lake. The trees planted near the gathering waters were green and flourishing every time.

Roll your eyes with my simple earth science lesson, but hear me out. The trees with roots connected to the water source survived the worst drought in recent history.

Jeremiah uses this same imagery to talk about where we place our confidence. Read with me:

This is what the LORD says:

Cursed is the one who trusts in man, 
   who depends on flesh for his strength 
   and whose heart turns away from the LORD. 
He will be like a bush in the wastelands; 
   he will not see prosperity when it comes. 
He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, 
   in a salt land where no one lives.

But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, 
   whose confidence is in him. 
He will be like a tree planted by the water 
   that sends out its roots by the stream. 
It does not fear when heat comes; 
   its leaves are always green. 
It has no worries in a year of drought 
   and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-8, NIV

I’m no scientist (in fact, I almost failed high school chemistry) but I do understand why water makes things green and why deep roots are key to survival.

Jeremiah is telling us that trusting in our own selves, boosting up our self-confidence, and even relying on the favor of others is like a tumbleweed in the middle of West Texas: it has no root system and no water source.

But he also says that if we take our selves, our hearts, and our confidence and place them in the Lord, that action will create a thing of beauty! If you’re like me, this will require daily reminders – if not minute by minute!

Want to stay green? Plant yourself by the water of God’s presence. Get in His WORD. Dig roots that are deep in the Lord. He is the source of a new and lasting form of confidence. How will we make it through periods of drought in this life? We must continue to know HIM more and more.

Drinking in His Word,

Joy like Christmas Morning

Yep, that’s your’s truly relishing in the first few moments of Christmas morning.  My eyes are a cross between total joy and total sleep deprivation.  Oh, Christmas morning…

I want you to think of something that you really wanted for Christmas when you were a kid.  Make sure you choose something that you actually ended up receiving!  It should be the kind of gift that made it difficult for you to sleep on Christmas Eve.  You couldn’t wait for it.  When you discovered that very gift waiting for you in the morning you began hyperventilating and being terribly overdramatic.  (Wait, was that just me?)  Ok, have you picked something yet?  Did you choose your most-desired Christmas gift?  Good.

New question: Did you wake up thinking about that Christmas item this morning?

Isn’t it amazing that something that held so much JOY all those years ago is now lost and forgotten.  Maybe the memory of it put a smile on your face.  But the truth is that stuff (no matter how cool in the moment) just doesn’t bring lasting joy.

But what about the huge trampoline that was waiting in the backyard in 4th grade?  I don’t think I even asked for it.  It was an AMAZING surprise that brought joy to my siblings and I (and let’s face it, the whole neighborhood) for years.  But like everything else, the trampoline wore out, fell apart, and eventually made it’s way to the trash.

Even if you enjoyed your favorite item for a few years, it doesn’t hold the same daily joy for you now.

So if we want joy like Christmas morning, do we simply continue to replace the old stuff with the new stuff?

I would challenge that rather than changing out our stuff, we need a change of heart and mindset.  God is always in the business of changing us from the inside out.  He desires for us to find real and lasting joy- something that’s done by spending time in His presence.  It’s totally contrary to the solution the world would give us.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  Romans 12:2. 

I tend to lose joy when I put all the focus on me.  Joyless living is all wrapped up in self-focus and selfishness.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.  Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”  Philippians 2:3-4 

We fill up on joy when we fill up on the good stuff.  Satisfaction and joy in Jesus can be a reality.  The more we’ve been satisfied by God’s love, His Word, and His presence, the more we will yearn for it.  On the other hand, we can spend so much time away from the Lord and His spiritual food and drink that we may no longer feel hungry or thirsty.

“’Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.’”  Isaiah 55:2.

Have you ever filled up on chips or bread at a restaurant to the point of not being able to eat the main course?  When we choose to fill up on appetizers, we don’t have room for the meal that will truly satisfy us.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”  Psalm 34:8

When we fill up on His Word we carry a weapon for the offensive – the sword.  David said, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”  Psalm 119:11.

The more we know God’s Word, the quicker we recognize Satan’s attempts to cover up that truth… the truth that says HE is the source of joy.  Spend time with the Lord this week.  Rather than asking him to be with you, why don’t you draw near to him?  He’s always waiting.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  James 4:8

Finding joy,

Drink Up

“What has happened to all your joy?” Galatians 4:15, NIV

I just finished my first run in over a week.  It wasn’t pretty.  I finished out of breath and a little sore.  On top of that I was parched.  I headed straight for the fridge and pulled out a Coke.

FALSE!  Not even a little bit true. 

When I finish a long run I head for a glass of water, not Coke.  Coke dehydrates.  As good as it might taste with pizza, it does absolutely nothing to restore my body or quench my thirst after a run.  I know that.

I also know that when I have a bad day and I’m feeling bummed, the temptation is to turn to eating, shopping, T.V., phone calls, and even exercise to relieve my mood and restore my joy.  Something in my brain says, “If you can just head to Sonic and get a Route 44 Diet Coke, you will FEEL better.  I’ll be happier, more content… I’ll find my joy.”  But like grabbing a Coke after my run, it just doesn’t seem to work.

But here’s what the Bible has to say… here is God’s RX for joy.

God’s Love
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:9-11, NIV

God’s Presence
“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”  Acts 2:28, NIV

God’s Word
“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, 
for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.” Jeremiah 15:16, NIV

So go fill your prescription.  Spend some time with the Lord today and let Him give you joy that is so much deeper, richer and fuller than anything money can buy!

Need somewhere to start reading?  Check out this passage.

Following and listening,