Do you believe there is joy in the journey? A recent Monday morning at Tim’s Gift I stared at my desk calendar, given to me by a friend who sows seeds of joy wherever she goes. While saying a prayer for Brenda, I ripped off pages from the weekend and held them close to my heart. The words reminded me of my journey to Cedar Point Disciples of Christ Church in Newton Grove that Saturday. Eleanor Bradshaw asked me to attend and speak for 10 minutes about blessings in my life. That Friday night, I studied Psalm 145, feeling that still, small voice whisper, ‘prepare.’
Monday’s message on my desk calendar delivered prophetic words, “My journey of joy begins today!” Reflecting on my journey, joy began rising inside like a shaken up soda. I thanked God for precious people on joyful journeys at Cedar Point. Their enthusiasm and efforts to serve God with gladness brought Psalm 16:11 to mind, “Being with you is to be full of joy.”
When the women’s conference ended, my little Kia was headed down the highway home with me singing and praising God out loud. Feeling led to share my joy, I called Cameron. He said, ‘Mama, I told you it would be good.” My son and I share the joy of a journey God mapped out for us to give help and hope to people through Tim’s Gift Inc. We step in faith as we seek His will and way on this journey to do mission work at home. God’s amazing grace that saves His children and miraculous map questing that keeps us on track give reason to honor and serve Him with joy wherever He leads. Each of us can serve as missionaries. Whether we do God’s work through home or foreign missions, there is joy in the journey when we follow His calling. Our Father does not require degrees or seek dignitaries for mission work. Those who trust and obey with a passion to serve Christ get His attention. Throw in tender hearts and working hands, willingness to go and do, and a deep love for the Lord and the job is yours. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if all His children would share the good news of knowing and loving Jesus? Even in a world where sin is rampant, joy rules in the hearts of those who honor God and give Him the glory.
Beginning this story with scripture reflecting on ‘rising up’ with ‘joy in the journey’ seems fitting. Isaiah 55:12 tells us, “…go out with joy, and be led out in peace. The mountains and the hills will break out into sounds of joy before you.” The Word encourages us to embrace joy and peace on our journeys.
Psalm 126:5-6 reminds me of family and friends who are facing battles of sickness and sorrow. “Those who plant with tears will gather fruit with songs of joy. He who goes out crying as he carries his bag of seed will return with songs of joy as he brings much grain with him.” Do you know people who are planting with tears? It could be you. The harvest will come when we toil in obedience and trust in the Lord. Do not lose your joy. Jesus dries tears, mends broken hearts, and multiplies our joy in ways we never imagined possible. For those on journeys of sickness, grief, anger, loneliness, addiction, attitudes, apathy, or anything that distances you from God and steals the joy of the journey, meditate on Nehemiah 8:10 and believe. “Do not be sad for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Entering the beautifully decorated fellowship hall at Cedar Point Disciples Church, I felt the brush of springtime and His sweet spirit fill my soul. Strength and sunshine blossomed in my bosom. Hugs and words of encouragement sent my self-esteem soaring. People I knew and didn’t know welcomed me warmly and treated me like I was queen for the day. Being in the house of the Lord, where worship flowed freely and the Holy Spirit saturated sweetly, made me want to sing and shout.
While waiting for my turn to speak, I watched men of the church working behind the scenes, several choosing to stay for the service. This beautiful structure showcased the hard work of a congregation dedicated to building His house magnificently. Yet, it wasn’t just a pretty church in structure and style. There was a sweet, sweet spirit in that place and you knew it was the spirit of the Lord.
Does the spirit of the Lord flow freely in your church? Do you feel it when you walk in the door, when people shake your hand, hug you, when worship begins and ends? Often, we enter churches of splendor with steeples that touch the sky and leave worship wondering, ‘why’? Why did no one notice or come to me with open arms, why did people frown and not speak to me, why did I feel unwelcome and unworthy, why was there no sweet spirit and joyful worship to share?
No one wants people to leave church wondering why and feeling unwelcome. Most churches are steeped in hard work and perseverance as were the seven churches Paul addressed in Revelation. None of us relish the thought of receiving a letter of reprimand when we boast of programs, activities, committees, and causes that spiral us to the top of the most active churches in the land.
Paul pointed out the good things the churches were doing, but addressed their negligence in doing what was most important to God. In Revelation 2, Paul said to the church at Ephesus, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Repent and do the things you did at first.” God wants to be first, for us to recount our love for Him, and to do things to show our love. Isn’t that what each of us desire from those we love? Sure, it is. And our Lord looks forward to talking and walking with us, starting the day with us, going to Him instead of man when we have troubles or fears, and being connected closely to Him. He wants first place in our hearts, homes, and headlines.
The church at Sardis received words that could be delivered to churches today. Paul reminded them, “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God…If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come.” God recognized a few people who had not soiled their clothes. He said, “They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes, will, like them, be dressed in white.” God knows our hearts and motives. Are we alive in spirit, overcoming, joyful in worship and work for the Lord? It truly is time to rise up and come alive for Jesus.
The church at Laodicea received troublesome words too,, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot…because you are lukewarm…I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hearts my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and him with me.”
The words to Smyrna cause us to look closely at how we live and serve our Lord. “These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty-yet you are rich…Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
What letter would your church receive from God? Are we turning a deaf ear or truly listening to what the Bible teaches? Let us rise up and recount our love for Jesus. He longs to hear our praise and see our faith in action
There is joy in my journey of speaking and worshipping in churches of different denominations. I am eager to share a message of love and good news wherever He leads. Yet, there are those special times when my blessing is greater than any I could give, and the joy in my heart moves like a Mexican jumping bean. Next week, I will share my joyful experience at Cedar Point.