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What’s Missing?

I did a Google search of the best quotes from Eeyore, the miserable, melancholic donkey from Winnie the Pooh, and the number one quote was, “The sky has finally fallen.  Always knew it would.”

Sometimes I find myself keeping step with Eeyore’s gloomy pessimism.  And I wonder what happened to joy.

We live in a culture obsessed with finding happiness.  But in our quest for happiness, we have formed a hollow chocolate bunny within our American dream.  Leonard Sweet writes, “Overpromising and underdelivering the individual pursuit of happiness has catapulted the US to number one status as the most depressed and medicated nation in the world” (I Am a Follower, 113).

The stats don’t lie.  According to one study, “Adult use of antidepressants almost tripled between 1988-1994 and 1999-2000. Ten percent of women 18 and older and 4 percent of men now take antidepressants” (Robert Longley, “Almost Half of Americans Take at Least One Prescription Drug”).

Now, let me be clear.  There are times and circumstances for the proper use of medications, and some of us are “lifers” when it comes to our dependence on God-given medical research resulting in those little pills—like my daily dose of meds for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and blood thinners.  And my heart (and wife) are very grateful.  Whether the issue is a bad heart, bad genes, or bad blood, every good and perfect gift comes from above (James 1:17), and that includes advances in science and medicine.

With that said, however, the tripling of antidepressants among adults should cause all of us to stop and reflect.  What are we looking for in this life?  What are we missing?  Are we following the pattern of this world in seeking happiness through materialism, consumerism, and individualism (“my way or no way”)? 

If so, we will always be found wanting.  Happiness is rooted in happenstance, and as goes the events of our days, so goes our fleeting emotion of happiness.  Like watching the stock market, when events are good, emotions are good, and when events turn south, we fall back into an Eeyore-like existence.

Jesus, on the other hand, promises us a joy that may be full (John 15:11).  Peter tells us we have a “joy that is inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).  “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). 

Happiness ebbs and flows, but joy is far different.  It doesn’t rise and fall according to surface surroundings.  In fact, joy can actually flourish amidst pain and suffering.  But, as Barbara Holland points out, “Joy requires tending” (Endangered Pleasures, xii).

Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann contends, “Of all accusations against Christians, the most terrible one was uttered by Nietzsche when he said that Christians had no joy” (Sacraments and Orthodoxy, 26-27).  Christians, of all people, should walk in joy.  We enter into the joy of the Lord, and we do so as we share this joy with others.  Happiness can be solitary, but joy is shared and viral (Sweet, 113). 

I hope you discover joy from the wellspring of life, Jesus Christ.  Wake up to that joy.  Live in that joy.  Rest in that joy.  And share that joy with others.

“Joy as a moral quality is a Christian invention” (Dean W. R. Inge, Outspoken Essays, 226).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

After the Candy

Last Saturday, we invited our community to join us for the annual outreach event we call ‘Trunk or Treat.’  More than 200,000 pieces of candy, stickers, glow sticks and fake spiders were passed out to 3,100+ costume-donned families. It was one of those occasions where you couldn't help but look around and think…this is incredible!

Incredible in the sense that so many people came out on an otherwise miserable day weather-wise. Incredible in the sense that the spirit of both the visitors and our church family was one of fun, friendliness, togetherness, and goodwill. Incredible in the sense that almost half of those attending indicated they had no church affiliation. In my mind, any time you can bring together 3,500 people (including church volunteers), representing multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and a variety of religious faith, or no faith backgrounds…it’s simply an incredible win for the Kingdom.

Why? Because it’s the way God intended us to live—in community. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25).

It’s easy to spend time with people we know, or with people that are like us. But it’s a discipline, something intentional, to build relationships with people who are different or don’t have the same beliefs. One of the great deceptions of the Christian faith is that it is content with the appearance of Christianity. It reassures itself that my faith is fine. I go to church, I give, I study, pray and am a good person. None of these things are bad, but if Christian subculture is all you are developing, you will miss opportunities to reach others for Christ.

“Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).

There will always be those who strongly believe the church should not recognize anything associated with Halloween. I’ve had a few express strong disapproval over how, as a Pastor, I can condone the celebration of evil. And, as a result of these concerns, every now and again, I’ll research the origin(s), evolution, and Americanization of Halloween.  I really can’t find anything, (aside from Hollywood adaptations) that indicates a root of evil.

While there are many opinions about Halloween, something that the five major world religions, along with even those not associated with any faith, have in common is a sense of community.  Community provides group cohesion and identity.

The Apostle Paul never compromised the gospel, but he did try to put himself in the shoes of those who were different from him so that he could open the door and communicate the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means, I might save some” 1 Corinthians 9:22).

As you greet neighbors and strangers at the door tonight for Halloween, may you be intentional in your words and spirit to reflect the love of Christ for all to see and hear.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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