Is there joy in your journey? God’s amazing grace gives reason to live joyfully, even when situations, sadness, and suffering hang on to our coat tails, causing us to wonder ‘why’? Why do some people’s journeys overflow with blessings while others are bombarded with burdens. Joy comes for those who rise above the heartaches, hang-ups, and hurt — choosing to move forward in faith. Living closely connected to Christ brings joy on the journey. Psalm 16:11 says it well, “You will show me the way of life. Being with you is to be full of joy.”
Being with the women at Cedar Point Disciples of Christ Church filled me up to the brim with joy. Sharing worship services with any church brings me joy. Writing about churches is a tender, tough topic. People are easily offended and joy flees when religious lines are crossed. For the record, I was raised in a Baptist church, baptized when I was 12, and am a member of First Baptist Church in Clinton. A new slogan showing one’s support for something seems fitting here, “I love me some Baptist.” However, my journey is teaching me much about how God must feel when we are tied to tradition and mindsets through Paul to the seven churches to stay true to their first love, to be passionate not lukewarm, and to be obedient to the Bible and closely connected to the Vine.
Those same words apply personally, for we are the church. Wherever we go, whatever we do, our lives are displays for our Lord. When we die and enter one place or the other for eternity, no forms will be filled out with church preference or affiliation. The entry process is pretty simple. We have accepted Jesus and know Him or we have not accepted Him. His words will be well done my good and faithful servant or depart from me for I never knew you. There will not be different entry lanes or preferred treatment according to rank or religion. His sheep will be called to enter if they know the Great Shepherd’s voice. Those not headed to heaven will have no chance of changing their eternity.
How marvelous that we can follow Jesus, heed His calling, and feel His help in our hearts every day. Jesus paid the price so that we can enjoy a relationship with the Father. Therefore, God is surely pleased when we worship Him, whatever denomination or church preference.
Yet, God offers much more to His children that is not accepted and treasured. The greatest blessing is having a personal relationship with the Father. When our hearts are right with Him, a desire grows to be closer to Christ and doors for blessings open wide. He speaks to our hearts and blesses in ways we never imagined possible. Joy increases for the journey is shared with the Master leading the way. Whether you attend a church where praising and worshipping is subdued and serene or powerful and passionate, you can receive a blessing. Whatever name is on the marquee or order of worship in the bulletin, if you love you some Jesus, then you can be close to Him in worship and Word wherever you are.
I said all that to say this, it is time we stop segregating worship. I chose to be called a Christian crazy in love with the Lord, no elaboration needed. God sees how we worship from our hearts. We hide nothing. He sent His Son to show that all children are precious in His sight. He modeled servant leadership and showed respect and honor for people of all walks of life, even those shunned and shut out for one reason or another. Being left out and misunderstood followed Jesus throughout his journey. Yet, He remained faithful to His calling and called those who would be faithful to Him. Is Jesus calling you to rise up and reach out to others? Do man made boundaries stop you? A great gift I have received is freedom to worship my Lord wherever I am. Now, I look for blessings in places and from people that God puts in my path, reaching outside the comfort zone that keeps people stuck in the boat. Having faith to walk on water ( to step out in faith to go where He leads) with our eyes on Jesus, gives great joy on the journey.
My joy at Cedar Point Church came when my 10 minutes to talk about how God has blessed me increased to 45. Imagine my joy! One of the speakers had to cancel at the last minute due to sickness. God opened the door for me to share about my Jesus. His words the night before had prepared me for this opportunity. His stirring said, ‘prepare.’ Those words relate to many areas of our lives, especially the end times that inch closer with each passing season.
The praise that prepared our hearts for the worship service brought joy unspeakable from: Mrs. Carolyn’s song, Eleanor’s witness, Dr. Rue’s sounds of the xylophone, and Mother Luretha’s shining example and love for the Lord. Strong Christian women joined in spirit and truth to worship the Lord.
Mrs. Lashmit shared heartwarming stories from her trip and work in the Congo. The main thread that tied her teaching to our hearts was reminding us there is joy in the journey. Her pictures showed children taking care of children in this nation plagued by poverty, but rich in love for Jesus. She told of their gracious hospitality and desire for her to get the word out of how blessed we are in our nation. They emphasized not wanting a hand out as they are seeking a hand up. By the end of the hour, my tears flowed as did my gratitude to a God who loves us all unconditionally. He sees the hearts of all His children, worshipping in magnificent cathedrals or remote areas of the Congo. He hears our cries, understands our problems, predicaments, and calls for us to follow Him. Though our styles and places of worship and witness may differ, when we are in tune to the Shepherd, we will hear His voice and wherever He leads we will follow. We will go with Him and be happy along the way.
He will show us the way of life. Being with Him will keep us filled with joy. Trusting, obeying, and being happy in Jesus gives joy to the journey in this life and opens the door to heaven. There, we will live joyfully forever and ever.