Early this morning I received a call from someone who called simply to gripe and complain, tell me what a rotten pastor I am, how bad our church is and how bad several other churches are and that there's not a good pastor in this town, and how they (she and her husband) can't find a church anywhere in which they feel happy. I asked her several times just what she wanted in a church and she kept saying that she just wanted to feel God and have her needs met. (Man, is there another message that I could write on that topic!)
I won't go into it all, but suffice it to say I was thrilled when my other phone line rang and I had an excuse to get off the phone with this sourpuss. A while later I was thinking about her comments and I remembered a post I'd written several years ago, and thought I'd dig it back up and share it today.
08 January, 2007
Happiness or Joy?
Fred and Mary are driving home from church when Mary said, "Fred, did you notice the pastor's sermon was kind of weak today?" Fred answers, "No, not really." Mary continues, "Well, did you notice that someone in the praise team was off key?" He responds, No, I didn't." Mary went on, "Well, surely you noiced that young couple who let their kids make all the noise and commotion right in front of the church through the whole service!" "Sorry dear, I didn't notice." In absolute disgust Mary said, "I honestly don't understand why you even bother going to church if you aren't going to pay attention to what is happening!"
Ever wonder why so many who go to church walk around so sour and looking like someone just stepped on their toes?
In fact, I grew up in a church that left me thinking that it was in the job description for all Christian women to put on their best "mean face" when they accepted Christ, and to see to it that no child ever laughed or had fun, especially in the church house.
OK, I'm going a little over-board, but seriously, I thought that it was a sin to laugh or have fun in the church! My experience growing up was such that we had to sneak to the movie theater, hiding our cars well, for fear that when we came out, some of these sour-looking saints of God would be parked next to our cars just waiting to tell us that they had caught us red handed in our sin. They seemed to find pleasure in their hissing at me, "Darrell Garrett, you are going to split hell wide open!" Boy, that really made me want to go to church! I had not one clue growing up what God really wanted for us, nor of what he expected of us. All I knew was based on a religion that said, "Don't, don't, don't, you can't, SINNER!"
Thank God I found a way to divorce myself from that sort of "religion."
Paul writes in 2 Corinthinans 6:17 (NIV) "Come out from them (the world) and be seperate."
Yes, our faith should make us different than the world, but not in a negative way. We should be positively different! I have come to learn that unless you commit yourself every single day to walking in the joy of the Lord, you will find yourself finding negative ways of distinguishing yourself from non-believers. It does a world of good for us to just stop and consider who we are representing with our lives. In John the 10th chapter, Jesus is called "the good shepherd." In the Greek language, the word that is translated "good" means "winsome." Winsome is not a word we use a lot today, but here is what it means... "To be pleasant, charming, attractive, endearing or appealing." So, "the goodshepherd" is so much more than what we have made it out to be. It literlly says that Jesus was and is the shepherd who is pleasant and appealing. Does that describe those sour looking folks who think they are so holy because they never smile? Hardly! How appeealing or endearing is that?
Does that describe the image that you reflect of Christ with your life? It should!
Paul writes in Philippeans 4:4, "Rejoice in the Lord always." I can just hear someone saying, "yeah, that's easy for Paul to say, but he doesn't have the kind of problems that I have."
When he penned these words, Paul was sitting in prison with no real hope of being released.
We have got to understand that happiness is and emotion, while joy is a decision we make. It's our choice. Our decisions must over-rule our emotions, not vice-versa. Isaiah 55:12 says " For you shall go out with joy..." When we start each new day we should get up and say, "Today I choose to go out with joy!" It's our choice. Things, events, circumstances and situations can effect your happiness... but they cannot touch your joy. Only you can surrender that.
Remember... "the joy of the Lord is your strength!"
Happiness or joy? I choose joy!