A Joyless Church

Have you seen one? Have you been to one? By definition, joyless means “not giving or feeling any pleasure or satisfaction; grim or dismal.” (Dictionary of Oxford languages, Google, 2021). Grim? Dismal? Not giving any feeling? Wow. Yup. I have seen it before. To their defense, a church without joy is probably more common than not, given the current world status. But… Um. aren’t Christians carriers to the greatest message ever? Like the GOOD NEWS? Aren’t they suppose to be happy? Joyful? All the time? Well, realistically, we cannot all be happy all of the time. Life is difficult, but overall, we, that is the body of Christ, or the church, should stand out from the world with a hope. A hope that we cling to and rely on to keep us steadfast in our faith.

What causes the joyless church? Well, as mentioned, many people are under great stress and it affects everyone. A worldwide pandemic that refuses to let go of its hostage (the world) is affecting us all, believers and unbelievers alike. But, maybe it is also that we have forgotten the one who brings us hope and joy. Maybe we neglect Him and the message of hope found in the Gospel. Or maybe we have been idle.

The apostle Paul mentions the brothers (and sister, for that matter) who are idle in his letter to the church at Thessaloniki. He writes, “We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.” (2 Thess. 3:11, NIV). Ouch Paul.

I wonder what he would think of us now? Would he call us idle and busybodies. Perhaps. But, it has me thinking that maybe that is the root of the joyless churches. Not doing anything to help others, except talk. Or argue. Or gossip.

I have felt the most joy whenever I have been sharing the Gospel or offering an apologetic response, or praying with someone, than when I am just sitting in a church service. To be honest, at times, my mind just wanders during the service. I have heard from others, who say the same. Maybe I am letting my worries and stresses crowd my mind, until they drown out the message of the good news. It is up to me then, to change my thinking, to focus ( and to share) with others the joy that is found in the good news. And to serve others. We have a reason for hope and joy, its time to celebrate and rekindle that joy again. -God Bless- Nancy

Pressing Forward

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. – The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians. 3:12

My husband built a very sturdy desk for me, which is my writing desk. The desk is in front of a window which gives me the perfect view outside to the street. We live on a corner, so actually my view is not one, but two streets. It gives me the vantage point of observing the life around me as I write. Often, it becomes the inspiration for my writing and podcasting. So, this morning, like many others I was inspired by the runners outside. Every morning and afternoon I watch as several neighbors get their daily exercise in by running the streets near my home. I admire them. They are dedicated. I am not. I’m not much of a runner anymore and I was never a long distance runner, but more of the fifty- yard dasher in my high school days. I was all about the speed and not about the marathon.

The apostle Paul spends a great deal of time talking about life as a race, like a marathon. So, even though I don’t claim to be a marathoner, it is what I am doing in this life. Life isn’t a dash, but a long distance run. My neighbors who run would understand the analogy that Paul writes about I’m sure.

What struck me this morning was that these runners, whether they realized it or not, could stop at any moment and yet they would still be moving forward. This whole planet is constantly revolving, moving, spinning, so are we. But also life is constantly moving forward. We have no control over this forward movement. I heard someone recently comment that we cannot control our circumstances and what happens but we can control our perspective. So true. There are some things we can control, of course, but we cannot stop life from moving forward. We cannot stop time.

As I also heard a comment recently about the decision to move forward. But given that we are all already moving forward in life, this too seems to be not completely accurate. It might appear at times that we are stopped, stuck, in a long queue line, or in a rut. I’ve often felt like that and I’m sure you have too. Life just isn’t changing fast enough. Our circumstances seem stuck, not getting any better, maybe even getting worse. But, truthfully, life has not stopped. So the decision to move forward isn’t actually a reality, but rather deciding how we will keep moving forward despite the circumstances we are in. Sometimes we do need to make changes and change our perspective or our attitudes, but we do not control life or time. We must choose how we can be moving forward. I like Paul’s view of pressing on. It is this constant choice to keep pressing on, to keep moving forward.

One of the runners I have been watching from my window has given me a great deal of encouragement for pressing on and moving forward. I have watched as they first started their daily routine. At first they would walk by my house; not fast, but slow and steady. Next, I notice they added more movement in their arms and hand weights. Then a few weeks later, I watched as they began to jog at a slow pace. This morning as they went past, they had a definite runner’s gate and were using their arms to move along as well. They had been finding their stride to move forward. And as I have been watching and observing them, I am encouraged that I too can begin to join in moving forward, past this moment of feeling stuck in a rut, even if it is a slow pace at first; walking before running. But pressing on, making good decisions, working on my attitudes and perspectives to try to see God’s perspective. Life is moving forward, I do not choose to move forward as though I can control it, but I can choose how I will be moving forward and pressing forward to align more with what God has designed. This is what a faith walk looks like, not a dash, but a marathon, God Bless- Nancy

Location, Location, Location

Where’s your there? Have you ever thought about that? Confused? Don’t worry, let me explain first and we’ll come back to that question in a minute. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day here in the south east part of the United States where I live. So, to enjoy this nice day of warm sunshine without any clouds in the sky, my husband and I went out for a coffee date. We went to our usual place that offers regular coupons allowing us to buy one coffee and get one free (we are very cheap with our dates!). It also has tables outside where customers might sit, talk, and enjoy their coffees on beautiful sunny days.

Coffee dates like this one are great times to talk with your spouse. You are away from home for a short time and free from distractions. On this beautiful sunny day we were out sharing the highs and lows of the past week. We also shared new challenges upcoming for our lives. I share this scene because I want to encourage you to do the same. Spending time talking, away from distractions is a benefit for relationships. Second, I wanted to share with you some of our conversation so that you might understand my question; “Where’s your there?”

As I was sharing my concerns with my husband, who by the way is a great listener, when we are away from the distractions at home, a subject came up. I recently had the opportunity to share some of my personal, educational, professional and ministry information on a website. My first thought when I saw this opportunity was “Wow, this is great” and “This could be a great opportunity for getting my self out there!” Immediately though, my second thought was “Is this where I want to be?” Is this organization the right one for me, that would represent what I believe in and am trying to promote?

Have you ever been the recipient of great advice that tells you “Just get out there!”or, “Put your name out there!” Maybe a coworker was encouraging you, or your best friend, or your mom. I admit I have said this many times to my own adult children. A few years ago there was even a marketing campaign for a cruise line that said “Get out there!”

I admit, I don’t always like the marketing and platform building done in ministry. It is common now days for ministries and churches to build marketing strategies and branding themselves. So, there are many who offer the advice to “Get your name out there” But, let me ask once again, “Where’s there?” I suspect that there is inhabited by they. I’m sure you’ve heard of they. “They say drinking coffee is good for you. They say drinking coffee is bad for you. They say this is in style.  They say this is out of style.They say you should go to college. They say you do not need a college degree” Have you ever thought who are they and why do they have so much to say? And just where is there that you’re suppose to be getting out to? That’s why I suspect there is where they live.

So, why did I have hesitation about putting my name out there? Well, I have often found that opportunities that do not give me peace are best avoided. It is the Holy Spirit giving me caution about what I am about to do. My husband and I often refer to it as the yellow or caution signal. Sometimes it is obvious and we refer to this as a red flag. But sometimes it is about questioning the there asking whether this is where God wants me to be. Other times it requires asking myself about my own motivations, like “Am I calling attention to myself or pointing others to God?” These two questions, coupled with prayer are essential to test whether something is from God and beneficial.

The Bible tells us we are to test things to see if they are from God. One example is found in 1 John 4:1 “Dear friends do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (New International Version Bible).  Paul, like John, offers this from Romans; “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will” (12:2, NIV).

The Bible also tells us that are works will be tested. This is where the motivation question, my second question, that I ask myself comes into play. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about this subject as well; “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will  be revealed by fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). If my motivation is solely for myself then it is like adding straw to the fire; it’s going to get burned up, in other words, its not going to last into eternity. It’s basically worthless.

So, in this combination of questions, the where and the motivation, helps me to decide if this is the there I want to be. So, let me ask you again; “Where’s your there?”  Is it a place where you will be in God’s will? Is it a place where you are pointing others to God, or just to yourself?  Location is important. God has something good for you and listening to Him will put you in the right place at His right time. We can get ( and give) great advice to help others grow and move past difficulties and “get out there”. Let’s make sure we know where the “there” is. Is it in God’s will, or somewhere else? -God Bless- Nancy