Thursday, December 18, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The past couple of months, I have been searching for a new church. This weekend, I chose to visit one I hadn't ever been to called Community Christian Church. Thankfully, I have a good friend, Maria, whom has been more than happy to go with me. It's kind of hard going to church by yourself, especially if you don't know anyone. The church has different locations, so we chose to go to the Pilsen campus.
So yeah, I really enjoyed it. Of the churches I have visited lately, I defintely liked this one the best. Since it's so close to Christmas, the pastor has been doing a series called Advent. Advent is defined as either "the season including the four Sundays preceding Christmas" or "the second coming." As part of the advent season, he talked about Joy today.
Joy. The angel came to the shepherds saying, "behold I bring you good news of great joy which will be brought to all people." JOY. We have great joy because Christ came to earth.
So, this question I must ask you all. Are you living a joyful life? Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is brought on by circumstances. Joy is brought on by our emotional well-being. One person said this, the opposite of happiness is unhappiness, while the opposite of joy is fear. What does the bible say about fear? "There is no fear in love. For perfect love cast out all fear." And God is love.
When you think about a joyful person, who comes to mind? How would you describe that person's life? Would you say that they got it all together? I wouldn't. I would say, though, that no matter what happens, they have a trust and faith in God that brings them true joy.
"The joy of the Lord is our strength." In his presence is the fullness of joy. Have you ever really thought about that verse? Joy is strength? What does this mean to me, as a woman of God who is constantly seeking to grow in Christ? Where does my strength lie?
I have come to realize I wouldn't exactly describe myself as "joyful." My emotions seem to be determined by my circumstances. When things go wrong at work, do I thank God that I have a job, one that I absolutely love, or do I complain that things aren't perfect? When I'm all alone on a weekend, do I feel lonely or do I rejoice that I have a God who will never leave nor forsake me? I could go on and on about the promises of God and how so often I either choose not to trust in them or I just don't fully understand them. Either way, I believe that so often, I live in a state of "fear" which is the opposite of Joy. And so often, I am a person affected completely by my circumstances.
My challenge for myself as well as you is that you will choose to live a life of Joy. Choose to believe in his promises that his joy is our strength. To be reminded that only Christ can give us real joy. So often people feel the voids in their lives by seeking "happiness" in things, like relationships, addictions, busywork, ect...always seeking to find that ultimate source of happiness. Yet, this is not the life God calls us to live. Jesus came so that we may have an abudant life, a full life. The only way to have that life is through Him. The only way to have that ulitmate joy is through him. Even as a Christian, I sometimes seek that happiness in other things. What about you? Do you seek Christ above all or do u find yourself trying to become happy by other means?
I seek Christ. In all I do, in all that I am. I choose to believe the joy of the Lord is my strength. I choose to believe that Christ is all I need or have. And as I live each day, seeking his face instead of my own needs, I hope that I will choose to not complain but to realize that my circumstances can not determine who I am.
I hope as we go through this busy Christmas season, we will stop to remember why we really celebrate Christmas. We will remember that the angel's news was of "great joy" which was Christ Jesus our Lord being born. As we become overwhelemed by the traffic and busyness in the parking lots of stores, money spending and worrying over what gift to buy whom, or even how we will spend our holidays...stop and remind yourself of this great joy Christ came to give us. Stop and remember that the best gift we could ever have received was the price paid on the cross.
I am praying that I will. I have a full week, long work hours, over-sugared and over-excited kids, and the anticipation of going home...all of these things are "cirucmstances" that could, if I let it, determine how I will act or feel. Choose this day. How will I act today? Will I live a life of joy this Christmas season? I hope so.
And I hope you do too.