Finding Your Joy
"Christian Joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as He causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world."
John Piper, author of Desiring God
My father was an exceptional man - loving, honest, generous, and hard working. But, he was not a man of faith for most of my life. When his two-week old baby daughter died suddenly, he decided that he wanted no part of God.
In 1984, he was diagnosed with cancer, and his prognosis was not good. Well meaning co-workers began stopping by his office to pray for him. He was embarrassed and felt obligated to accept their invitation to church. Against his better judgement, he attended a Pentecostal worship service where an entire congregation laid hands on him. The result was an encounter with God that was life altering. He recommitted to Christ and came home filled with the Holy Spirit. He began studying Scripture, attending church, and praying. Over the next two years, he faced a terminal illness with grace and dignity. Towards the end, he had an inner peace and a glow that can only be described as ethereal. We were shocked to see how many people came forward at his memorial service with stories of my father witnessing to them and how they were inspired by his faith.
As Christians, we have a reason to find joy in all things, regardless of our circumstance. We have a God who loves us so much that he sent his Son to walk in human form and teach us how to live. He suffered for our redemption and promises us eternal life. All He asks for is our faith, our devotion, our prayers, our praise, and our obedience. He wants to be in relationship with each of us and our response should be to take joy in the life that we've been given. It is not about enduring the present because the future is brighter. Instead, we are to celebrate each day and look for God's presence in the world around us.
It is easy to be a spiritual giant when all is working according to our plans. It is more challenging to be joyful when life goes in an unexpected direction. We live in a broken world that can be overwhelming. If we are not careful, we can fall into a state of anxiety and despair. But this is not what God wants for us and it is not how we should respond to His indescribable Love. Joy is a conscious choice that we get to make each day.
In 2013, I reached a crossroad in my life. I was spinning out of control and could not fix myself. In desperation, I fell to my knees and cried out to God for help. This prayer came from the depths of my soul in a moment where I fully understood that I was nothing without God. He responded, and I experienced a miracle. When I am tempted to get caught up in the chaos around me, I remind myself that everything I am today is the result of an answered prayer. At such moments, I shift my focus to gratitude and praise. I trust that a God who has shown me so much grace in the past is not going to abandon me now. Do I do this perfectly all the time? Absolutely not!
We are all works in progress and all fall short. We have hope because God assures us that all things are possible with His help. Sometimes, the best we can do is to pray for stronger faith and the willingness to find joy in our present situation. Our ability to be joyful in the face of adversity is a powerful witness to others. I think that God wants us all to be more like my father - a broken person who found strength and hope in Christ. And who, despite his own challenges, was willing to share his joy with anyone who would listen.
Cindy Kyser Buck
What a time of year it is! Children getting ready for school. Parents buying clothes, shoes, and school supplies! Department stores packed with people trying to get everything done and buying all kinds of items.
We all too often get caught up in the anxiety of it all. Anxiety is like an itch. Simply deciding we are not going to think about it, does not make it go away. It is a byproduct of human freedom.
Anxiety is almost a universal art form. It is cultivated by people of all generations and cultures. It does not matter how old you are; it does not matter what gender you are; it does not matter where you live; and what country you are from. Anxiety is universal. It is not limited to just one group of people.
If you are in a group of people that don't have much to live on, you are anxious about those things that might help you live. If you are hungry, you are worried about food and maybe shelter.
In my younger years I had anxiety. It seemed that I needed to move up the corporate ladder in order to take care of my family. The more I moved up, the more anxiety I had. It wasn't until I was in my 40's that I realize that God always provided what I needed at that moment (Yes, I was a slow learner). I lost my anxiousness about that time and just accepted the way that life was going, because this thing called church really was starting to move in my life BIG TIME.
My friends, there are opportunities for a better life and there is no solution to anxiety except - Jesus. Jesus knew the answer. Jesus knew that there was a cure for anxiety and it is Faith. Faith gets tested all the time, and no one is immune from it. Not even you, me or Jesus. Jesus was tested continually, but He was not anxious.
What I have found is that Faith in Jesus Christ awakens the spiritual awareness in our lives. Faith, allows us to see our lives in a new perspective. Faith allows us the ability to see that some of the things we are concerned about are not really all that important.
The relationship you have with your family; with your loved ones; with you friends; with your God and with Jesus Christ is what life is all about. Isn't that why we, you and I, attend church every Sunday? It is to get filled with the Spirit and to be filled with God's Word. As Christians, the Holy Spirit works in strange ways in us. The Holy Spirit is going to call attention to what you NEED to hear and think about. Faith is the gift that God has given us and there is no need to be anxious, because the followers of Jesus Christ should be the freest persons in the world.
God sent his son to die for us so that our sins are forgiven, and we might live forever in eternity. What a gift! God calls us to take up the Cross and follow Him. His promise is eternal life. We need only to follow, and He will lead the way. We must remain steadfast in our Faith. To be joyful in our ministry. To be at peace in all that we do. There is no anxiety to hold on to. To be helpful, hopeful for the future and to be loving in all of those around us. There is no need for anxiety to have a place within us.
Spinning out of Control
I assume everyone knows what a fidget spinner is. If not, I will try to explain what they are. A fidget spinner is a toy that consists of a ball bearing in the center of a multi-pronged (typically two or three) flat structure made from metal or plastic designed to spin along its axis with little effort. Give a fidget spinner a spin or push and they spin for what seems like an eternity without having to help them continue spinning. They will eventually slow down but not right away. You can stop them by placing your finger between the blades or grabbing a prong. They can be controlled.
When life spins out of control wouldn't it be nice if we could control it like a fidget spinner, grab a hold of life, stop it, then start it back again? The good news is we don't have to let life's uncertainties get the best of us because God is in control. God knows what the future holds and what we need every day. God knows how to help us survive the spinning, no matter how bad things spin out of control.
Fidget spinners seem to defy the laws of science. There is something soothing about watching them spin away. They can calm us down when we are feeling stressed, but they can't completely take away the stress.
Joseph thought his life was out of control until he met the Pharaoh. Then he realized he was right where he was supposed to be. God gave Joseph the gift of interpretation and was able to interpret Pharaoh's terrible dream. Joseph was able to not only save the Pharaoh but also his family that sold him as a slave. Even though Joseph thought his life was out of control, God was directing him the entire time.
In this season of change we may feel like life is out of control. Maybe you are going through changes at work, a loved one that is sick, a child starting a new grade with new teachers, or a new school. Maybe it is the changes coming to Jacksonville FUMC, just remember that God is in control. Trouble can come out of nowhere, it can happen overnight. Just like the fidget spinner it can send you for a loop, and there's nothing we can do to stop it. God knows our frustrations and what is causing our pain and stress. He knows what we need and what will get us through. All we have to do is ask God for help. When we ask, God will answer. God may not stop the spinning as soon as we would like, but God will gives the strength and the faith we need every day to handle what comes. God will use these tough times to strengthen our faith. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding. In all your ways obey him. Then he will make your paths smooth and straight." Proverbs 3:5-6
Christian Education Coordinator
A Time of Change
There are Scripture passages which are well-worn paths. Some of those passages which many have heard and know are John 3:16 or Psalm 23. They are well worn paths because they continue to speak to people of faith from generation to generation. Each seems to capture the beauty and essence of the Christian life and vocation. For instance, we have all been in those places in which we need the comfort of knowing God is our Shepherd in the darkest valley and God can lead us beside still waters. There is reason such passages are well remembered and well worn.
One passage, which is a well-worn path many of us are familiar, is Ecclesiastes 3:1-11. It begins, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under the sun, there is a time to live and a time to die, a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted..." We all understand this passage. Each of the experiences highlighted in that passage address moments in life. To a degree one of the most unnerving, as well as haunting, phrases of the passage are those words, "For everything there is a season..." The author doesn't say, "For everything there is a reason, but rather for everything there is a season. In other words, for everything there is a moment in time. That moment in time isn't finality. Whatever is taking place will fade away. The time to die will fade into life. The time of weeping will wash away. The time to hate will disappear. It's not that these things must happen, but when they do, they will not last forever. On the one hand, it is indeed comforting. On the other, it means at times love, laughter, and life will fade as well. In other words, there is this motion to life, an ebb and flow of change whether in the field, the family, or the faith. At the heart of the passage is the certainty of change. Life changes. Organizations change. Relationships change. It is simply part of life.
Certainly this is unnerving to most people. We prefer not to change. We want stability. After all stability is predictable and appears safe. It is comforting and can keep us anchored in an ever shifting world. And yet, to follow the passage's thought, "There is a time for stability." But, stability can lead to complacency as well as stagnation. The ebb and flow of life may indeed be change, which can have both a positive and negative impact.
As many of you have heard and felt, we are in a season of change within this congregation. One change getting ready to transpire is our worship schedule and a move to multiple services. I believe the season for our blended service has done what it was supposed to do. When Clif Christopher made the change, it was intended for this Church to draw together in a time of crisis and allow the Church to heal. I think the Church has done so, and it is time for us to strike out on a mission to reach others for the sake of God's kingdom in Jesus Christ. I have prayed and prayed about it and sense this is God's desire and direction. While ground is shifting, I am confident this is the season we are to be entering at this time. While it raises anxieties and fears as well as hopes and dreams, I hope we keep our hearts laser focused on our mission. This is to be part of God's redeeming and healing work in our community. We must open every door possible to do this and be intentional about building relationships with whomever walks into our doors. We ourselves are experiencing the healing love of God. I remain eternally grateful to Jesus Christ for this work in my own life, and I want another person to experience the same. Such motivates me to do what I must for another to experience such healing love.
With this in mind, below is the change of schedule to take place this coming Fall regarding our worship services and Sunday schedule.
On September 15th, we will be moving to two worship services, a Traditional Service and a Contemporary Service. The schedule will be:
These changes give us an opportunity to reach out to people in our community who are hungry for God and need a place to connect with a Traditional service or a Contemporary service. Our LIFE Groups will continue to remain at the heart of our Church to help us grow in our knowledge of God and keep us accountable to serving Christ in this community. I hope you see this moment of change as an opportunity to invite another to be part of this wonderful community of faith. I certainly will. There indeed is a time for everything. May we seize this moment and see this change as a way to reach our neighbor for the sake of God's Kingdom.
Grace and Peace,
The "Gonna Do's" Versus the "DBD's"
Every day when I wake up I want to have my priorities in mind for that day. My first priority usually is having a cup of coffee and catching the morning news. As I shower and shave, I get fired up about the rest of the day. That means I am rebooting the old brain - just like the computers we use after they sleep.
I keep a calendar with a list of events I have on my schedule. When I have a lot of things going on, I sometimes get stuck and forgetful. I am not able to move as quickly or as fast as I feel I need to, or I am not able to complete what I had committed to do. Sometimes I get so busy that I forget to do what I should do besides the things on my list. All these things cause stress.
Sometimes I really need to get down to the basics. I love acronyms. It helps me when I use the KISS method. You know, the Keep It Simple Silly method. If you know me very well, you might hear me gladly say that a task is a "DBD" - A Done Been Did. In our lives we find ourselves working our "Gonna Do's" and hoping to mark a "DBD" off our list.
Having the privilege of preparing this article has been on my "Gonna Do" agenda for a long time but only this Tuesday did I start. And this is a 'doosy' of a week if you know what I mean. This "Gonna Do" had suddenly become a challenge and somewhat stressful. What did God want to say through me to make this a meaningful reading for you.
As I was going in one direction on my computer the email signal came up and told me that I had another email. It was my weekly email from A Sermon for Every Sunday. This week's sermon is titled The Worst Church Member Ever, by Jim Somerville. Well, it got my attention. While I was wondering who in his congregation of ours, for that matter, that he was talking about. I had to stop what I was going to write and read his sermon. It's the title of a sermon on Mary and Martha, from Luke 10:38-42. While we all know the story about the sisters putting on the dinner for Jesus and the Disciples, this story brings something to our attention that maybe we should remember about our "Gonna Do's" when confronted with real life. An excerpt from the Sermon follows.
"It would be so much easier if our choices in life were between good things and bad things, but so often they are between one good thing and another. It's good to sit at the feet of the Lord and listen. It's good to cook him a nice, big dinner. To choose between the two is hard. Mary did it. And so did Martha. And in the end all Jesus said was that Mary had chosen the better part, to love the Lord her God, with all her heart, and mind, and soul, and strength. If we could make the same choice not only would our lives be simpler, but our church membership would take on a different quality."
Just think. Everything we do-the gifts of our time, our talent, our treasure, the teaching of a class, the cutting of the grass, serving Mission 5000, etc. - can be an overflowing expression of our love for God.
I am glad that God hasn't marked his Gonna Do's on me and JFUMC as a DBD!
May all our Gonna Do's at JFUMC continue to come first as an expression of our love of God, and then of God's love for our neighbors through us!