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From the Pastor's Desk


Lee.jpg Have Joy All Year Long

A Scott county woman bought a lottery scratch-off ticket this Christmas - and won a million dollars.  She said it comes at a good time because she is pregnant with her fifth child.  I wonder which circumstance brings her the most joy?

Too many people have become slaves to the happiness of the world and have gotten away from the JOY of CHRIST.  The world is a fickle friend.  In the end it takes away more than it gives.  "How can I be happy with what I'm going through?"  "How can I can be happy when my marriage is falling apart?"  "People have wronged me and I'm not going to be happy until I get even."  "If I had more money, I'd be happy."

We live in a world filled with problems, doubts, worries, and fears.  We don't always feel much joy.  Our joy-in-faith can wobble in the face of adversity.  The Apostle Paul was constantly telling his faith-family to stand firm in the face of anything that came their way.  Let the enemy attack as he will, but stand firm!

There is a similar term "Stay in the traces."  It comes from the days when roads were dirt and people traveled by horse-drawn wagons.  The wagon wheels dug deep ruts that hardened, and they were called "traces."  Once a driver had his wagon wheels firmly in the traces, it was almost like a self-driving car.  The horses just pulled the wagon to the destination.  That reminds me of a Christian's spiritual life.  Most days nothing exciting happens.  You begin to wonder, what does God want me to do?  Is it to get up each day and do what I have to do?  Yes it is.  If you like it, that's great.  If you don't like it, do it anyway.  All of us are tempted to "jump the traces" from time to time.  We don't like being caught in a rut.  But sometimes we end up trading one rut for another rut - a less joy-filled one.

Paul wrote in Philippians 4:4 "Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!"  This can be difficult.  W. C. Fields said, "I start off each day with a smile, and get it over with."

"Rejoice always," isn't about a positive mental attitude or "put on a happy face" or "look for the silver lining."  This rejoicing is not based on outward circumstances.  Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote this.  He was on trial for his life with no certain hope of release.  I doubt Paul enjoyed being in prison but he found reasons to rejoice even in that difficult circumstance.

How about a little New Year's homework?  Take a sheet of paper and write "I Have Reasons to Rejoice Today."  Spend about five minutes and list as many reasons as you can think of to rejoice in the Lord.  Here are some "I haves" you may come up with:  My sins forgiven - A Savior - Many Christian friends - A good church - The Word of God to guide me - The Holy Spirit to lead me - Someone who loves me - Pretty good health - Enough money to pay my bills - Many answered prayers - People who pray for me - Worthwhile projects for the future - A new year to get a new start - Hope that when I die, things get better not worse.

Happy New Year!
Brother Lee


It Is Not Easy Being "The Grinch"

How many of you are willing to admit that you are "The Grinch" (TG)?  That is a tough question to answer honestly and then live up to - isn't it?  Nobody wants to be seen as TG.

You know the story of TG.  The Whos in Whoville likes Christmas a lot.  They spend so much time and energy getting ready for Christmas that it gets on TG's nerves.  TG lives just north of Whoville, in a cave, up on Mount Crumpit!  He can see Whoville and hear the Whos as they get ready for Christmas.  So TG makes a plan to steal Christmas.  He takes all of the decorations, presents, food, and everything else he can find in the village back up the mountain - just to be mean.  Then he waits to hear all the Whos crying because Christmas had been stolen from them.  To TG's surprise he finds that the Whos aren't crying - they're singing and holding hands and rejoicing exactly the same as if it had been a normal Christmas morning.  TG didn't stop Christmas from coming at all.  Even without packages, boxes, or bags, Whoville celebrated just the same.  Then TG understands that the real Christmas doesn't come from a store.  It is in the hearts of all Who celebrate it.  At that moment, his heart grows three sizes and he goes down the mountain and returns all the goodies to the Whos of Whoville.  The Whos don't seem any happier when all of their stuff has been returned than when it was gone.  They even invite TG to join them in their Christmas Feast.  (I think the only one unhappy was the Beast.)

This is a Great Advent Story.  It is about sin controlling a life (TG) to the point that it tries to destroy other lives.  Sin didn't make TG happy after all.  But when TG realized that sin was not the answer to happiness, he changed (repented) and made amends to those he had intentionally hurt.  He was forgiven by his victims and he found true happiness.

It is not easy understanding you are wrong - then admitting you are wrong - then changing yourself from being wrong.  TG didn't turn out so bad in the end.

Merry Christmas and Happy Advent,
Brother Lee