Contagious Joy! (1 Peter 1: 8-9)

I’ve just returned from my third mission trip to Cuba in eighteen months, visiting small Churches, mostly in rural areas, to encourage pastors and their families, leaders and congregations. Those who know me have heard me say many times that a Mission trip must always be about offering something of God’s love to those you visit, but it must also involve an open-ness to learn from other Christian’s who live and worship in a culture which is different from your own.

On a warm February evening in the newly built Methodist Church in the small town of Isabel Rubio in the Pinar del Rio area of eastern Cuba I learned something very special about the expression of joy in worship.

The noise was intense and the rhythm of the music was intoxicating. These people were celebrating the presence of God in a pure, honest and very Latin American way. They were expressing sheer joy at being together, celebrating the love of God, in His presence.

Pastor Norberto, the amazing young man who leads this growing community, said to me, ‘Life for these people can be hard. They don’t have many possessions. But they have the presence of God . And that gives them real joy. That joys is expressed in their music, their dancing and their love for each other. It is this joy which makes people curious, and attracts people to Jesus.’

Max Lucado recently wrote, ‘Simply put: God wants his children to be joy-filled. Just like a father wants his baby to laugh with glee, God longs for us to experience a deep-seated, deeply rooted joy.’

I’m the first to admit that your heart can be full of that inexpressable joy without needing to sing and dance in Latino style. But these wonderful people express the love of God in their own way. And it’s contagious.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (I Peter 1:8-9 ).

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