Playing With Joy

The fruit of the Spirit is . . . joy – Galatians 5:22
Today’s Scripture & Insight: Galatians 5:22-26
 
One of our sons, Brian, is a high school basketball coach. One year, as his team was dribbling its way through the Washington State Basketball Tournament, well-meaning folks around town asked, “Are you going to win it all this year?” Both players and coaches felt the pressure, so Brian adopted a motto: “Play with joy!”
 
I thought of the apostle Paul’s last words to the elders of Ephesus: “That I may finish my race with joy” (Acts 20:24 nkjv). His aim was to complete the tasks Jesus had given him. I have made these words my motto and my prayer: “May I run and finish my race with joy.” Or as Brian says, “May I play with joy!” And by the way, Brian’s team did win the state championship that year.
 
We all have good reasons to get grouchy: discouraging news, everyday stresses, health problems. Nevertheless, God can give us a joy that transcends these conditions if we ask Him. We can have what Jesus called, “my joy” (John 15:11).
 
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit of Jesus (Galatians 5:22). So we must remember each morning to ask Him to help us: “May I play with joy!” Author Richard Foster said, “To pray is to change. This is a great grace. How good of God to provide a path whereby our lives can be taken over by . . . joy.”
 
Reflect & Pray
What causes you to be discouraged? Where do you find your joy?
I turn my eyes to You, God. I’m grateful I can count on Your faithfulness to me. Please bring me into Your joy.

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Stick-Figure Lesson

What we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present – 2 Corinthians 10:11
Today’s Scripture & Insight: 2 Corinthians 10:1-11
 
A friend of mine—okay, it was my counselor—drew a stick figure on a sheet of paper. She labeled this the “private” self. Then she drew an outline around the figure, about a half-inch larger, and named it the “public” self. The difference between the two figures, between the private and public selves, represents the degree to which we have integrity.
 
I paused at her lesson and wondered, Am I the same person in public that I am in private? Do I have integrity?
 
Paul wrote letters to the church in Corinth, weaving love and discipline into his teachings to be like Jesus. As he neared the end of this letter (2 Corinthians), he addressed accusers who challenged his integrity by saying he was bold in his letters but weak in person (10:10). These critics used professional oratory to take money from their listeners. While Paul possessed academic prowess, he spoke simply and plainly. “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words,” he had written in an earlier letter, “but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4). His later letter revealed his integrity: “Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present” (2 Corinthians 10:11).
 
Paul presented himself as the same person in public that he was in private. How about us?
 
Reflect & Pray
In what ways are you integrating your private and public life? How might you honor God even more fully with complete integrity?
Dear God, help me to be myself first to You in private, that I might present myself with integrity as the same person in public.

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Sharing Slices

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed – Proverbs 11:25
Today’s Scripture & Insight: Proverbs 11:23-31
 
Steve, a sixty-two-year-old homeless military veteran, made his way to a warm climate where sleeping outdoors was tolerable year-round. One evening, as he displayed his hand-drawn art—his attempt to earn some money—a young woman approached and offered him several slices of pizza. Steve gratefully accepted. Moments later, Steve shared his bounty with another hungry, homeless person. Almost immediately, the same young woman resurfaced with another plate of food, acknowledging that he had been generous with what he’d been given.
 
Steve’s story illustrates the principle found in Proverbs 11:25 that when we’re generous with others, we’re likely to experience generosity as well. But we shouldn’t give with expecting something in return; rarely does our generosity return to us as quickly and obviously as it did for him. Rather, we give to help others in loving response to God’s instruction to do so (Philippians 2:3–4; 1 John 3:17). And when we do, God is pleased. While He’s under no obligation to refill our wallets or bellies, He often finds a way to refresh us—sometimes materially, other times spiritually.
 
Steve shared his second plate of pizza too with a smile and open hands. Despite his lack of resources, he is an example of what it means to live generously, willing to cheerfully share what we have with others instead of hoarding it for ourselves. As God leads and empowers us, may the same be said of us.
 
Reflect & Pray
With whom can you share today? How have you been blessed through another’s generosity?
We can be generous with what God’s given us.

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