Advent Week 4 – “Thursday” by Wende Swick

Last Sunday, my pastor gave the most beautiful definition of JOY.

He said that PEACE is “joy resting” and that JOY is “peace dancing”!  

Peace dancing – I love it!!! This definition resonates with my experience.

Joy is one of my favorite fruits of the Holy Spirit among the nine named in Scripture- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary provides these definitions for JOY:

Noun- the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : DELIGHT; the expression or exhibition of such emotion : GAIETY; a state of happiness or felicity : BLISS; a source or cause of delight

Verb- Rejoice; Gladden; Enjoy

Did you know that JOY can be a verb? It’s true! I joy, enjoy, take joy, or rejoice, in Jesus, my Savior, and in my personal relationship with God, Maker of the universe, who knows me intimately and loves me unconditionally. I also joy in, or enjoy, many of life’s daily experiences, including special activities which are Christmastime traditions.

I have a few friends, and even my own mother, who have lost a child and find it hard to completely enjoy the Christmas season. The grief a mother experiences with such a loss is monumental. It’s understandable that during holiday seasons which are purportedly times of special joy, experiences may be tainted with sorrow and grief for many who’ve lost loved ones – not exclusively mothers and children. I understand this and my heart hurts with them, for them. 

I would like to share with you an aid I’ve incorporated in my life for many years now – one which has helped me choose joy and experience it so much that people sometimes comment on my joy, saying that it’s what they notice most about me. I love that!

At one point, while living in Hawaii if you can believe it, I went through a struggle with depression. At some point in the midst of it, I realized that I should thank God for three things before I got out of bed in the morning. I started doing that and quickly reached ten items daily. Before I knew it, I was bounding out of bed in the morning, brewing my coffee and sitting down with my prayer journal, recording things for which I was thankful. I went from ten to twenty things, and twenty is now my minimum each morning. It is amazing, actually, how MUCH we can be thankful for… how much GOOD (from God) occurs in our lives each day! 

Prayer journals are one of my favorite gifts to give others, because using one has transformed my outlook. After giving thanks, I pray for my needs, those of others, and ask questions, waiting for God to speak to me. (Prayer IS two-way communication, but I find it hard to wait long enough to hear sometimes. True confession.)

Using a journal to record my prayers and what God says to me helps me stay focused on prayer much more effectively. If you don’t already use one, I recommend you try using a prayer journal. It’s fun to go back and fill in how God has answered prayers. It also helps me remember whom to pray for, over time. 

Focusing on God (my source of JOY) and His goodness to me is a huge factor in my experiencing (most of the time), PEACE (joy resting) and JOY (peace dancing). When I’m out of peace or joy, it’s usually because my focus has been taken from Him and placed on other things.

Shalom & Simchah,

(Peace & Joy in Hebrew),

Wende

P.S. for JOY

This morning, as I visually took in the newly falling snow, my lit tree, etcetera, I was reminded of something related to JOY. Have you ever said or thought, “This is really good for my soul”?

I marvel that God, in His brilliance and great love, chose to design our eyes with rods & cones, to perceive the beauty of lines/shape/design and colors galore! He chose to place hammers, anvils and stirrups (bone set), ear drums, etc., in our ears, so we perceive beautiful music and other desirable sounds. Tastebuds… we don’t need them for survival, but who doesn’t enjoy a delicious meal or sweet treat? Aromas, perceived via our olfactory system, enhance dining and other experiences. Don’t get me started on the sense of touch! With our nervous system’s nerve endings in all the right places, those hugs, massages, or tickles we receive bring sensations of comfort, love and fun to our minds and emotions. 

I hope we each take time to savor or JOY in some of the things which bring pleasure to our souls this could-be-very-busy season.

Advent Week 4 – “Tuesday” by Dave Good

Hello friends, it’s Dave Good here again and this week we are delving into a topic we all seek and desire more of. I think we can all agree that joy is one of the most impactful emotions. The dictionary defines joy as the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.

Who doesn’t want some great delight or happiness. I know I would love more joy in my life. Joy can be derived in so many ways.

Joy can come from a newfound relationship. Who doesn’t love the feelings associated with the prospect of a new love.

Joy can come from a new job or a promotion at work. The excitement of new career opportunities gives us such hope.

Sometimes we find our joy through the victories of our favorite sports team. Who doesn’t love the feeling of walking into work the next day after a Bills win.

Joy can come from the birth of a new child or grandchild. I don’t know about you but getting to hold my daughters for the first time was an unbelievable feeling.

How bout the purchase of a new car. Who doesn’t love the smell of a new car and the exhilaration of its acceleration.

Or how about the smell or first bite of your favorite food? The joy of tasting mom’s spaghetti or a perfectly done steak always puts a smile on my face.

These are just a few examples of what we find joy in. For the most part that list is all positive and harmless right? But what happens when our pursuit of joy causes us damage or harm? For instance, a new car is nice but can you afford that new car payment? How bout that perfectly grilled steak? Can you push away from the table when you are full or will your gluttonous side persuade you to eat the last bite? What bout that victory from you favorite team? Can you keep your celebration to a limit and not rub it in a friends face? As you can see there can be an ill effect to our pursuit of joy.

Another limitation of the pursuit of joy is that it never seems to last long enough. That new promotion is turning into a lot of work and longer hours. That new born baby brings with it sleepless nights and diaper changing. That new car turns into a repair bill after a few months. That sweet victory turns into the agony of defeat in just a week. All this pursuit of worldly joy can be draining and all in vain.

The pursuit of joy as we have seen,  can be good for us, bad for us, and often short lived here on earth. It is no wonder why people have a hard time truly finding joy. Joy can be very unstable and short lived. So what’s the solution to our pursuit of joy?  It is actually pretty simple and straightforward. The Bible tells us “but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”

Did you catch that? I bring you good news that will bring great Joy to all people. Yes the Messiah has been born.  True everlasting joy is found in Jesus Christ. Jesus was born that first Christmas morning to save us from our sins.  Jesus died on the cross and later rose again so that we may have eternal life with the Father.  Jesus was born to redeem us from the punishment we rightfully deserve. We can now live with hope and a future. I don’t know about you but the hope of eternal life is the greatest sense of joy I’ve ever experienced. The Bible takes the joy of eternal life one step further in the following verse: “and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

Everlasting joy will crown our head. Gladness and joy will overtake us!!! When I read encouragement like that I find it hard not to let my emotions swell. We serve a great God who loves us and wants nothing but the best for us. Just to know God and worship Him is a source of joy that this world can not duplicate. There is nothing on this earth that gives more joy than taking refuge in the Lord and soaking in His love. That is where the ultimate joy comes from.

As we enter into this final week of Advent and get closer and closer to the birth of Jesus let’s hold on to that joy. I pray that the familiar words of the song “Joy to the World” that Pastor Randy shared yesterday would resonates even louder to you this Christmas. And I pray that the Joy of knowing Christ and His love becomes the source of your happiness. I promise you if you make room for Him and adore Him this Christmas will be the most joyous ever.

Advent Week 4 – “Monday” by Pastor Randy

Good morning! This is the final week of Advent and our theme is joy.

“Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice! Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy! Let the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for he is coming! He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with justice, and the nations with his truth.”
‭‭[Psalms‬ ‭96:11-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬]

When I think of joy the first thing that comes to mind is Isaac Watt’s classic Christmas Hymn “Joy to the World”. Let’s start the week off my meditating on the lyrics and then listening to a remixed version from Pentatonix.

Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.