A long time ago,…in a city not too far away,…I grew up without a church; without a sense of spiritual direction in a dysfunctional family wrought with selfish attitudes. That all began to change, however, when I started riding the Joy Bus.
It all started with the influence of a neighbor. You see, my mother had a number of health issues which led to a number of stays in the hospital back in the 1970’s, and our neighbor had her minister visit my mom. After a while, the minister and my mother conspired to have the youth minister invite (bribe) me to ride the JOY bus. I say “bribe” because he enticed me…a 7th grader…with trips to
, Cincinnati Reds games, and summer camp. Thankfully, it worked. (I heard “Reds games” and I wanted to sign up on the spot.) Kings Island
The church that sponsored that bus ministry was the Fairlawn Church of Christ in
. And, one of the key things that they focused on was defined by the acronym J-O-Y. Muncie, Indiana
That’s why they were called Joy Buses. It was a simple way to teach children (mostly from non-member homes) the most important and most basic set of priorities that they would need to lead a life in step with God.
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37-38
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:25-28
As a pudgy, insecure, self-conscious, and socially awkward middle-school kid, it was just the message I needed to hear. I needed someone to define my spiritual priorities in a way that would lead me to maturity as a man and a child of God, and this simple acronym gave me that necessary direction.
Now, compare that message with the one communicated in a new acronym I came across on someone’s Facebook page this past week: F-L-Y.
I’m sure the motivation behind this phrase is sincere. So many people are burdened with a poor self-image and a sense of self-loathing, and this message is likely designed to help them pull themselves out of the depths of that valley. However, I believe it is a misplaced idea. The answer to a poor self-image is not to try to love yourself more, but instead to allow God to love you more. To gain more confidence, you need to embrace how God loves you; how God has given to you out of that love; even more so how He gave everything for you. On top of all that, God has a purpose for your life and a mission for you to accomplish. The Creator of the universe desires a relationship with you, and that makes you incredibly worthwhile and important.
Today, I’m a successful industrial salesperson. I am comfortable speaking or preaching in front of sizeable audiences. I am confident in accepting leadership roles and responsibility. I can tell you that the pudgy, self-conscious, socially awkward kid of 1974 didn’t grow out of that by being more FLY. He did it by adopting the priorities of JOY.
Jesus first. Others second. Yourself last.
I’d say we need more of that….wouldn’t you?