How to know GREAT Joy

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Missionaries were the super-Christians of my childhood church culture!  When a couple came to that little church in the one-street town of Truesdale, Iowa from some exotic place in the big world, it was a great Sunday for me. Most of them brought things from the land in which they served – pottery, musical instruments, hand-made tools, and little carved ‘gods’ that captivated my 8 year old imagination. Then, there were slides! Pictures projected on a screen transported me to some African nation or Pacific island, where intrepid Christians crossed raging rivers on log rafts, drove their Land Rovers across dusty plains, and preached in rustic building.

To me, they were the great Christians: God’s Special Forces, with a higher calling than the rest of us.  A time of prayer always ended the meetings, and I invariably told the Lord, with great sincerity, and a bit of dread to be honest, that if He wanted me to be a missionary when I grew up, I would go. A half-century later, I still admire missionaries who follow God’s call to the ends of the earth.

Maturity brought the realization that each one of us serves in God’s calling. We do not have to be preaching in Uzbekistan to be part of His work! People in desperate need live in our town. Familiarity often blinds us to the spiritual need of our next-door neighbor. I wonder if the Lord, by His Spirit, is telling us the same thing that Jesus told His disciples as they walked through Samaria- “As you look around right now, wouldn’t you say that in about four months it will be time to harvest? Well, I’m telling you to open your eyes and take a good look at what’s right in front of you. These Samaritan fields are ripe. It’s harvest time! ” (John 4:35, The Message)

Although there are churches in every town, preachers on the Internet, and crosses dotting the landscape, there are millions in these United States that live without knowing just how much God cares for them. Many are serving idols, though not the little carved grotesque gods. They are captivated by pleasure, by money, by godless philosophy. Some of our churches are lifeless, religion is everywhere, but God is absent.

Those of us who know Him are sent ones – missionaries in our time and place. The great commission – “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, NLT) – is not just applicable beyond our borders.

We are entrusted with the words of life. When we introduce a friend to Christ, when we see them become hopeful, secure in God’s love, it is an experience like no other. For all the ‘church work’ that I do, what really keeps me going as a pastor are those moments when some believes, is baptized, and changed by the life of the Spirit. You can be a disciple-maker.

Forget the stereotypes of street preachers yelling about God’s impending judgment or the Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on your door to hand out literature.  Be a friend! Live the Gospel. Pray every day for Jesus’ love and light to be evident in your words and actions. Live the Gospel before you speak the Gospel. And, you will become one of the happiest Christians on earth.

On this Monday morning, reflect on these words of Jesus, words that tell us our purpose. If we live that purpose, we will find JOY.

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16, The Message)
_______

Abba, I pray to be a bright light in a dark world.|
Let Your love and hope live in me, shine out of me,
In a way that compels others to consider Your offer of life to the full.
Thank you for giving me that high and holy privilege of making You known.
I love You, Lord.  Let me always be ready to share that love with others
who have yet to know that You have opened the way to the Father for them.

Amen.

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