Choose Joy 


I remember so clearly the day I said to myself, “Christmas just isn’t like it used to be.” I was thinking back to earlier years when it seemed Christmas was such a happy and joyful time. During those earlier years, I remembered being excited about decorating, cooking, and playing Christmas music. On that day, I was sad about what I felt was lost and thought, “it’s just not like that anymore.” However, almost immediately, I felt the Lord challenge my thoughts and say, “that’s your choice. You are the one who determines how much or little you enjoy it.” I thought about it and couldn’t say anything but “AMEN.”  


Our emotions are a choice, and we control the level of our joy or the lack thereof. Of course, there are times when we deal with loss or sickness, and those times are difficult and deserving of prayer and support. However, most often, we can decide what direction our emotions will take us. That year, when I just was not feeling the same “Christmas joy” I had once felt, I learned that I was in control of my emotions and could choose joy. I took a pivot and started decorating, playing music, inviting friends and family over, and I had a wonderful Christmas season. My decision changed my actions, and my actions impacted my emotions. I was so glad that I listened to the Lord. 


I learned a lesson that Christmas and I can honestly say that it caused me to evaluate my emotions about other aspects of life. In life, it’s easy to get down and focus on the negative. This makes me think about a show that I watched growing up called “Good Times.” I honestly don’t know why it was called “good times” because the show was about a family that lived in the projects, and they dealt with one tough challenge after another. Their good times seemed to always turn bad. In many ways, the tenor of the show set you up for the letdown and it often negatively reinforced an expectation for things to go wrong. In life, just like in the show, if you are not careful, you can stay in a perpetual state of waiting for things to fall apart. Once you get to that point, it’s easy to become the type of person who just expects bad news, and that can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. “If you search for good, you will find favor, but if you search for evil, it will find you.” (Pr.11:27 NLT). I find it interesting that things that aren’t good seem to easily find us. Think about it, you don’t really have to work hard to “feel bad”. Many times feeling bad happens easily and quickly. So, the question becomes: How do you fight against the temptation to be negative, or to expect the bad? Or how do you keep from going to a dark place when things seem so tough? 


One of the ways I’ve learned to avoid going to a dark emotional place is to trust God to redeem the negative circumstances of life. There are some things that may have been meant for your demise, but God has a way of turning negative circumstances to your advantage. When you truly learn to trust God, you can keep a positive attitude even when things are rough. There is a story in the Bible of a man named Jephthah. The town elders and his half-brothers wanted nothing to do with him because his father, Gilead, had him outside of marriage with a prostitute. As a matter of fact, his brothers not only wanted to expel him from the town, but also from their family so they wouldn’t have to share their inheritance with him. Wow! What a hurtful request. He didn’t ask to be born, and it wasn’t his fault that his father connected with a prostitute. Nevertheless, Jephthah complied with the request to leave. He went on his way and grew up on the rough side. By all accounts, he was a rough dude. He became a notorious fighter who even led a gang.  Who knew that one day, the very ones who asked him to leave would need him for a favor? I’m sure when he left, he didn’t think that he would ever have any dealings with his “family” or the town that didn’t want anything to do with him.  


Well, as things would go, the very place that didn’t want anything to do with him, had a great need for his services. An enemy state, that they were confident that they could not defeat, come up against the town. The following, from Judges 11:6-11, is a dialogue between Jephthah and those who once asked him to leave their town.  


“The elders said, “Come and be our commander! Help us fight the Ammonites!” But Jephthah said to them, “Aren’t you the ones who hated me and drove me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now when you’re in trouble?” “Because we need you,” the elders replied. “If you lead us in battle against the Ammonites, we will make you ruler over all the people of Gilead.” Jephthah said to the elders, “Let me get this straight. If I come with you and if the Lord gives me victory over the Ammonites, will you really make me ruler over all the people?” “The Lord is our witness,” the elders replied. “We promise to do whatever you say.” So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him their ruler and commander of the army. At Mizpah, in the presence of the Lord, Jephthah repeated what he had said to the elders. “ 


What a turn of events! Can you imagine the pain and rejection that Jephthah felt when he left his home and had to fend for himself? I’m sure at times he wondered why his brothers got to grow up with two parents and enjoy the blessing of a stable home. But, here’s a notable life lesson, even if your circumstances aren’t so ideal, God has a way of redeeming and vindicating your most hurtful life experiences. Jephthah could have chosen to stay stuck in the emotions of the unfair, undeserved circumstances of his life. Yet, look at the beautiful way the Lord redeemed his misfortune. The ones who kicked him out, were forced to call him back and pay handsomely for his services. Chances are, he got way more than what was coming in his inheritance. 


So, here’s a consideration, don’t focus on the unfortunate circumstances of your life. Choose to be joyful now no matter the situation, and trust God to show Himself mighty on your behalf. Our emotional state is most often a personal choice. There are so many who could have chosen to be down and bitter but instead chose to hear God on the matter. When you choose to think like God thinks and see things through His eyes, hope can spring anew, and you can find yourself in a place of joy as opposed to sadness and despair. Joseph learned that lesson when his brother betrayed him, and he ended up in jail for no fault of his own. God redeemed his pain so beautifully that we are still talking about his life hundreds of years later. 


People may dismiss or discount you, but it really doesn’t matter. Those people who mistreat you may find themselves needing you. Don’t spend your energy thinking about what was or what happened, choose to be joyful and trust God for the last word. Even when things are hard or tough, we can still choose joy. I pray that whenever you are faced with a negative emotional choice that something rises up in you that refuses to “go there.” Choose joy, trust God, and allow His wisdom to always have the last word.  


God bless you! 

Pastor Jones




May God Have Mercy on Hypocrites 


“Then Jesus went over to their synagogue, where he noticed a man with a deformed hand. The Pharisees asked Jesus, ‘Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?’ (They were hoping he would say yes, so they could bring charges against him.) And he answered, ‘If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course, you would. And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.’ Then he said to the man, ‘Hold out your hand.’ So, the man held out his hand, and it was restored, just like the other one! Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus.” Matthew 12:9-14 NLT


As a young Christian, I always felt like the word hypocrite was overused. I felt like some church people used the word to throw shade on other Christians they felt weren’t living right. Others outside of faith sometimes used it as a blanket statement about church people in general. These outsiders felt that some Christians were judgmental yet not living any differently than those they judged. Ultimately, hypocrite is a word that I, personally, just have not used much. However, in referencing the text above, I find it to be a good example of the word hypocrite. Merriam-Webster defines a hypocrite as: “a person who puts on a false appearance of moral excellence or religion; a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.” 


While there are obviously people who put on a false appearance of morality, it’s the second definition that most Christians should be concerned with. Many people like to throw the hypocrite word around as it pertains to others, but hypocrisy is very personal. We must all make sure that we are living up to our stated beliefs and to the beliefs written for us in The Holy Bible. In the Bible, we are told that our greatest command is to love God and others. That being the case, we need to be sure to follow Jesus’ example of what real love looks like and not just have a pretense of love.


Jesus noticed the man with the deformed hand. In other words, Jesus noticed the person that others failed to see. People with true needs are sometimes overlooked because of selfish agendas. Instead of the Pharisees caring about the man and his condition, they were focused on how they could trap Jesus into breaking a religious law. Putting on a persona of spirituality while being more concerned about religious laws than people in need is classic hypocrisy. Jesus so graciously ministered to the man in need as well as took time to teach those who didn’t realize they had a need. Our God is so amazing!! Truth be told, I believe that the Pharisees had a greater need than the man with the deformed hand.


There are so many other things that can be pulled out of these verses. Here are a few:

- Jesus went to church (synagogue)

- A man with a deformity also went to church.

- The Pharisees who were running the church were more concerned about the laws about the sabbath than they were of the man in need of healing.

- The spirit of jealousy operating in the Pharisees was so determined to find something to accuse Jesus of that it kept them from focusing on those with true ministry needs.

- Even though Jesus saw their wrong spirit, He still used it as a teaching moment. He tried to get them to see that they would be attentive and help an animal in distress, and a person is much more valuable than an animal.

- After Jesus tried to help them see the error of their ways, he then healed the man with the deformed hand. 


This text clearly shows Jesus’ sensitivity to a person who had been suffering from a physical deformity. A church is a place where people with needs should be able to get help, encouragement, and a whole lot of love. We sometimes, like the Pharisees, miss the point of God’s great love and care for people. 


 We cannot be like the Pharisees. The Pharisees should have celebrated and rejoiced with the one who received healing. Instead, they insensitively dismissed the healing and were unconcerned with the fact this man no longer had to deal with the limitations of his deformity. What kind of spiritual state were they in that they didn’t rejoice with one who received such a great miracle?


So many people fight with all kinds of struggles every day. As Christ followers, we must reject negative and judgmental thoughts and look for opportunities to encourage others. Consider the following:

- A young mother may worry that she may not know how to properly care for her children, she just needs a bit of encouragement, not criticism.  

- A new employee who is concerned about learning things properly really needs a coworker’s encouragement not negative comments. 

- Some older people may feel like their best days are behind them and that they are no longer useful. It would mean a lot to take time to let them know that they are important, valuable, and loved. 

These are just a few examples, but there are so many ways to encourage others.


There’s a lot going on in the world and all of us could focus on something negative if we wanted. If we say that we are Christ followers, then we should truly follow His example. He ministered healing to someone in need all while graciously educating religious hypocrites. Let God use you to encourage and bless others. Don’t worry so much that someone else may be a hypocrite, just make sure that word doesn’t describe you.


God bless you!

Pastor Jones