Running After God and Choosing Him at Every Turn

I have a friend that says, “the difference between a hero and a coward is the direction she runs when she is afraid.” When I run towards God, even when I am afraid, joy is the gift I am given. Usually it comes when I stop thinking about myself and start asking what God wants from me. How can I best serve Him or others? Joy is confirmation of a choice well chosen. It’s a feeling of communion with God knowing that He loves me, He made me, His plans are better for me than those I have made for myself. Joy comes at moments of humility. Moments when I realized that I am not God and I do not know what is best for me and the people I love. Joy always has something to do with Jesus. For me, joy has come at moments that don’t make sense. When there is no earthly reason I should have joy. It comes in the midst of pain. It comes when I have chosen Jesus. 

When I look at the Bible, JOY comes: 

as a result of sincere worship (1 Kings 1: 40, 1 Chron. 15:16, Ezra 6:22, New 12:43, Zephaniah 3:14, Luke 24:52), 

as a byproduct of service (Matthew 25:21, Luke 6:23, Luke 10:17, 2 Corinthians 1:24, Hebrews 12:2), 

a result of an offering (Nehemiah 12:43), 

in doing God’s will (Deut. 16:15, Ezra 3 & 6, Luke 15:7, Luke 15:10, John 15:11, 3 John 1:4, Habakkuk 3:18), 

as a result of gratitude (1 Kings 8:66), 

is a promise of God (Isaiah 60:15, Isaiah 61:7, Jeremiah 31:13, Luke 1:14, John 16:20-22), 

or a response to a gift from God (Matthew 2:10, Matthew 13:20, Matthew 13:44, Luke 2:10, John 16:21, Acts 15:3, Romans 15:13). 

I think about times I’ve experienced joy in my life. I remember moments like being bone tired serving at a work crew weekend having been on my feet for 36 hours with a short four hour nap in between—serving meals, cleaning, taking out trash… and at the end of that long day washing the feet of my high school girls who were serving alongside me. Service leads to joy. The moment of joy when I felt deep in my heart that God loves me despite an incredibly painful trauma that had just happened I knew deep in my soul he loves me even though I couldn’t see the big picture. Worship leads to joy. I think about the first time we worshiped at Apostles Houston. And the joy I felt that God was calling us to this place, to these people, at this time. Saying “yes” to God leads to joy. I think about a night I knew deep in my soul that God was calling me to a life with Him. And I physically turned away from a choice that I had been making over and over again. Repentance leads to joy. 

May our hearts seek God in a whole new way this year. May we run after God and choose HIM at every turn. May we worship Him in joy. May we serve Him. May we be women of gratitude. May we do His will always. 

Langley Cumbie lives in Houston with her husband and three children. They attend Apostles Houston, where her husband is the Pastor. She is passionate about sharing the love of Jesus with people who don’t believe. 

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Misunderstanding Joy

“Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of our experience.”  C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

There are few words as misunderstood as the word joy. It is many things, but joy is not a three-letter synonym for happy. Joy is a contradiction.  It perfectly encapsulates the tension of the Christ-follower who both loves this world and longs for eternity. All joy in this life is but a shadow of what we will experience in the throne room of God, and all suffering points us to the Kingdom we were created for that has no place for tears or pain.

Scripture has much to say about joy. In a quick search of verses on joy, the following provides a bit of an overview of what I learned. Joy is commonly associated with artistic outpouring in song and in the satisfaction felt after a rich feast. So powerful is joy, that it can animate creation which lacks the breath of God! Joy is found in both obedience and in presence. It originates from God. It is paired with strength, majesty, and glory. Joy can be both spontaneous and desperately searched for. Joy is found in God’s words and in the good news of Christ. A joyful heart cannot be silent; it is message must be shared. A joyful servant cannot walk – she is compelled to run with the good news announced to her. Joy can be experienced in brokenness, alongside sorrow, and in spite of fear. Just as Christ endured the horror of the cross because of the joy that was to come, so can we share in the eternal perspective to see through, and far beyond, our current sufferings.

One thing is clear – joy comes through a life lived in the “woods of our experience”. It can’t be permanently held on to but it is discovered through walking in paths of righteousness.  Whether your current wood is blooming in  spiritual springtime or more of a barren wilderness, find comfort in the words of Ecclesiastes 5:20 – “For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.” Joy is waiting for you. In it is the power of the Spirit to disarm the snares set by Satan to keep us trapped in complacency and in fear. Look up! Set your eyes on the things that are above, and you will see the sun break through! Over the next few weeks leading up to the women’s retreat, women from around the Diocese will continue to share their testimonies and revelations on joy. I encourage you to dig down into your own experiences with joy and engage with the online community. Joy is not meant to be kept but shared. Joy is cause for celebration! Your story may be the words of encouragement another woman in the body of Christ needs to hear to be able to meet God in her wilderness. 

Have you registered for the retreat? Register today at: http://www.dwgc.org/2020-diocesan-womens-retreat

Mikah Alge attends Grace Anglican in Katy with her husband Joey and her four children.

Can We Choose Joy?

JOY is embedded in Advent and *Epiphany, folded into the Christmas story.

*Epiphany is just around the corner and falls on the liturgical calendar twelve days after Christmas. Yes, those twelve days of Christmas are not actually the last twelve days of shopping before Christmas as popular culture might have lead us to believe. The actual day that begins this special season is January 6th, when we remember the wise men who visited Jesus. This day marks the start of a new season for our churches that will last until Lent. During this season we consider Christ’s revelation of Epiphany, and that word means manifestation, we consider Christ’s revelation to all nations. Lent, which marks the end of Epiphany, will begin with Ash Wednesday on February 26th. This weekend some churches will have a special Epiphany celebration to mark this special time. Some will serve “King Cake” that will continue to be served right up until Mardis Gras on February 25th.

  • Gabriel tells Zechariah that John will be a joy and delight, with many rejoicing at his birth (Luke 1:14).
  • John leaps for Joy in his mother’s womb, when Mary comes to visit (Luke 1:44)
  • Neighbors and relatives share Elizabeth’s joy at the birth of John a display of God’s great mercy toward her—fulfilling the Gabriel’s words in verse 14 (Luke 1:58)
  • The angel describes his words to the shepherds as “good news of great joy “(Luke 2:10)
  • The wise men rejoice with “exceedingly great joy” at the sight of the star (Matthew 2:10)

In one sense, the presence of joy in the Christmas story is not surprising. After all, we have the advantage of hindsight; we know the end of the story. Not only that, the commercialism surrounding Christmas in the West shoves “joy” to the forefront. However, consider the circumstances of our first century cast of characters who experienced joy, responding to unfolding events with rejoicing. It is a story set in poverty and oppression. A story wrought with danger.

What does the presence of joy in the midst of less-than-ideal circumstances of the Christmas story show us?

A change of circumstances is not required for joy to enter in.

Joy cannot be pushed out by darkness or run off by oppression.

Joy anticipates the hope of the future, regardless of the present, and changes the atmosphere.

Despite the outward Western trappings of Christmas joy, in this season, for many of us, our emotional poverty and oppression, the parts of our story threatening to destroy us, prick all the more painfully. But, like the cast of characters in the Christmas story, “good news of great joy” has been announced to us, it’s signs—like the wise men’s star—are all around us. Rejoicing is an option.

I believe with every fiber of my being that joy is our choice, our gift, even in difficulty, and if we choose joy, it will change the atmosphere. Admittedly, I do not always know how this works or what it looks like, and right now, I’m asking Jesus to show me.

Monica Warren writes, studies and attends an Anglican church in Mobile, Alabama. She is a gifted Bible teacher, conference speaker, an amazing athlete and Grandmother in training. Go to learn more about her and her ministry: https://www.hijackedjesus.com/

(Photo by Canva Elements Team)

Joy on the Journey

Joy is a companion, who joins us on life’s journey. Unlike some of life’s companions, she is always a welcome sight, a pleasure to have around, an asset to the journey.

Joy shows up unsolicited as a reaction to something good, invariably present at all of life’s parties. She squeals in delight anytime lost things are found. She cheers loudly when dreams become realities. She applauds accomplishments. Her unrestrained laughter is contagious, drawing others in. Frankly, it simply would not be a party without Joy’s presence.

Sometimes, Joy enters the journey as a gift. She offers grace in the face of failure. In disappointment, she brings hope. She walks us to the other side of the room, illuminating another perspective. Her touch is gentle, affirming, and reassuring. Joy is, after all, a gift of the Holy Spirit, a fruit of His residence in us.   

Other times, however, we must summons Joy. It is in these life events that Joy’s presence seems most awkward, even unexpected and out-of-place. And yet, her presence, if we can muster the courage to invite her, will change the atmosphere. In these circumstances, Joy comes in battle array. There is a defiant peace about her. Make no mistake, she never acts inappropriately, putting on party behavior—no squeals, no cheers, no applause. She does not deny difficulty or attempt to make light of troubles with trite platitudes. She acknowledges the presence of Pain, notes Fear hiding under the table, spies Hate lurking in the shadow. (These—Pain, Fear, and Hate—an unwelcome trinity that inevitably crashes life’s journey.) Joy boldly stares each one down, undaunted by bullying. She may not be able to evict the unwelcome, but she will not allow them to take control. In life’s storms, we choose Joy, and she becomes our battle cry.

Joy one of our companions on life’s journey—a reaction, a gift, a choice.

Monica Napoli Warren lives in Mobile, Alabama with her husband Claude. A longtime Anglican, Monica wrote “A Search for the Real Jesus” Bible study. To learn more about that study and other books Monica has written go to www.hijackedjesus.com.

Joy Invincible

JOY INVINCIBLE

I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. – John 17:13

“Joy to the World!” The holidays are upon us so this elicits joy, right?  Oh, you are not feeling it right now?  Perhaps you are in a dry season roaming the wilderness while seeking clarity. Some are presently in the valley of confusion or despair. There are many navigating the rough waters of grief. A few of you might be in a raging spiritual war that has afforded little time to come up for air and even realize the season. And there are still others who might say, “Oh, that is not my plight; I don’t have it that bad, so I am not quite sure why I am not feeling joyful.”  Maybe it is because you are busy, overcommitted, overwhelmed or just plain worn out. Maybe there is no clear reason.  Regardless of having an obvious reason, if you are not feeling the “joy, joy, joy down in your heart” perhaps what may be needed is a change in perspective.

“Everything fell to pieces when my eyes met yours in that hospital gown…”

– Switchfoot, Joy Invincible

            Joy is not without trials. In our referenced scripture (John 17:13) Jesus is praying for His disciples to have the full measure of His joy because He knew all too well that trials were coming. So instead of asking for mere brief feelings of elation what Jesus purposed for those whom He loved was something deeper and lasting.

Please indulge me a short trip to the lexicon.  In this scripture the Greek work used for joy is chairo.  It is defined – to be glad; to rejoice; to be well; to thrive. To build on this concept, to thrive is defined as growing or developing in a healthy way. So considering that joy is growing or developing in a healthy way it is easier to apprehend why joy is not without trials because growth is most often the fruit of struggles. Jesus yearned for his disciples to grow and develop in a healthy way in order to attain the full measure of joy. That is His desire for us. In life there will be situations that stir up elation that cause us to rejoice and be glad; this is good and His desire for us as well.  However, the happiness that is dependent upon situations is fleeting and but a small portion of the full measure of joy. The full measure of joy Jesus wants for us is a spiritual reality that is independent of circumstances.

 Joy means looking beyond the temporary trials and challenges and seeing with the eyes of faith. This faith will build upon itself with each encounter we have in union with Christ. As we grow in Christ the spiritual reality of joy manifests as a glimpse of the eternal perspective. For those in Christ, the eternal perspective is one of great HOPE. Thus JOY is rooted in Christ Jesus.

You may be thinking ‘that sounds great in theory and rhetoric, but what does that look like in my life?’

 When we have joy to the full measure in Christ it means that even in the deep waters of grief; the uncertainty of wilderness seasons where our future is unknown; the lingering sting of rejection, abandonment, or betrayal by a loved one; the overwhelming anxiety of barely keeping one’s head above water; the paralyzing reality of a diagnosis; the relentless small challenges that add up to an overall feeling of drowning; or whatever your plight may be there is hope. It means you can take a deep breath, cry out to the God in heaven who delights in your prayers and cares for you. You can ask Him to meet you right where you are and expect that He will. It means singing songs in the night even when you are not feeling it. It means that even when the bottom falls out, He is faithful. It means we are truly not forsaken or forgotten. It means He meant it when He said, “cast your cares upon Me.”  It is the assurance that what the enemy means for evil, He is working for good. He will make sure that through the mountains and the valleys that each step of this journey will help us grow and develop well until the day he returns. Joy is eternal and invincible when it is rooted in Christ Jesus.  He is faithful! Joy to you my friends!

“Hallelujah, nevertheless was the song that pain couldn’t destroy,

Hallelujah, nevertheless. You’re my joy invincible joy!”

-Switchfoot, Joy Invincible

Shelly Huckaby

Shelly and her family attend St. Timothy’s Anglican Church in Spring, Texas.

Navigating Joy

How do you find joy? In my case, I put on my shoes, slide in my earbuds, and start walking.

Some days this means getting up really early. I’ve headed out as early as 5 am to avoid the Texas heat. Notice I did not say summer because that would indicate that there was a seasonal weather expectation. The area of the country I live in just remains warm most of the year and becomes almost unbearable for a good long spell between April and October. However, I refuse to succumb to that and walking just before dawn has some unbelievable bonuses. Have you ever watched a sunrise from before the sun even began to rise? The sky is inky black and then slowly the orange reds seep in low down in the sky. Then incrementally but so surely the yellow light trickles in until it is like water dripping, flowing and then flooding in to the scene and filling it completely with fresh light. The world is a dewy fresh glittering landscape.  Morning has indeed broken.

The other vital part of my walk in the morning is listening the “Daily Audio Bible” (DAB). This podcast features someone reading an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, a Psalm and a verse or two from the book of Proverbs. The reader, an Anglican priest then gives a 3-4 minute devotional based on the reading. If you listen every day, you will read through the whole Bible in one year. The entire podcast runs for about 30 to 40 minutes. After the devotional, the priest prays for all of us to take God’s word into us and allow it to transform us. After that people from the DAB community share prayer requests and some of them pray. Sometimes I listen to that section and sometimes I don’t.

For me movement out in nature and listening to God’s word before my day really takes me out into the world has been transformational. Sometimes I find myself thinking about some of the passages of scripture I have heard all the rest of my day. Other times I am genuinely surprised to hear certain passages. This is not my first time to read through the Bible in an orderly way, but there are still parts that surprise me. God uses His word to convict me in so many unexpected ways. Then there are those days when God has all ready made a particular point two other times recently through a Bible study, a sermon, and now here we go again. The same topic, verse, point or Holy Spirit conviction bubbles up and I almost gasp.

Recently during an international trip, I was able to trot down a path on the Isle of Mull in Scotland as I listened to my daily portion of scripture. I was thousands of miles from home, but still walking and listening to the word. This daily discipline has truly given me so much joy. Ask the Lord to direct your path to a joyful practice. He’s such a good and generous Father who longs to give his beloved daughters all that they need. Joy is an essential companion for each of us on this journey.

Check out: www.player.dailyaudiobible.com or search for in your podcast app on your phone.

Anthea Kotlan

Anthea attends St. Timothy’s Anglican church where she coordinates women’s ministry and spends her free time enjoying both her grandchild and her grand dog.

This is the second entry in a series on joy to help us prepare for 2020 DWGC Ladies Retreat: Joy on March 6th and 7th in Spring, Texas at St. Timothy’s Anglican Church. Registration is open now at www.DWGC.org