A Pastor's Heartbeat


Welcome To Joy City

Hello, hello, hello!  And welcome to Joy City, a weekly blog and podcast, hosted by yours truly, Stuart Welch the Lead Pastor of Life Connection Church located in Modesto, CA. I want to invite you in, to join with an amazing community of friends that are quickly becoming an intimate part of my daily life. I am your host and excited to hear your stories and deliver great content that can change your life and truly transform as we celebrate the greatness of God and His presence in the every day moments of our lives. Knowing the Creator, the Grand Weaver of our lives is present with us and then leaning into that Presence can be revolutionary for many of us, so lets enter in to the City – Joy City. 

Have you ever heard the phrase, challenge is necessary for mature functioning or change is a must for change equals self-improvement? Well that is how Joy City came about, it came about due to the challenging circumstances in the lives of men and women who faced the threat of death daily at the hands of Christian persecutors. This risk, forced many people to flee and scatter all over – but guess what, they didn’t run and hide, they fled and began to teach and minister the principles of Jesus Christ wherever they found themselves. In one particular instance, one man named Philip found himself in a city called Samaria. While there, Philip preached and ministered the word of God and the people were saved, healed, delivered and we read there was great joy in that city. So in the midst of the threat of death, torture and all manner of evil directed at them, the people not only flourished but they found Joy City, a place where the people celebrated what they had to offer. 

I can relate to this and I’m sure many of you can as well. Where you are not liked, celebrated or entreated in one place, but go somewhere else and you are embraced. The old saying was, one person’s trash, another person’s treasure. So don’t be afraid to take the leap, to take the risk and push yourself to places you haven’t been before. That’s when you find yourself in Joy City – Philip met an Ethiopian there and the man went away rejoicing after their meeting, many have heard about the man at the gate called Beautiful and Peter and John prayed for him and he leaped to his feet and went shouting and rejoicing into the temple. You see, Joy City isn’t a geographical location, it’s a place where we find our joy and happiness in the kingdom of God, following hard after God and fulfilling the call of God in our lives. See, that’s ministry-it takes place when divine resources meet human needs through loving channels to the glory of God and that will leave people rejoicing. The place where we set our gaze upon the glory of the Lord and will follow Him to the end of our days – that my beloved friends is Joy City. That City where your value isn’t based on the opinion of others, it’s solely based on God’s amazing love for those he created, that friends is you and I. Shaped in the very image of God and regardless of what has occurred along the journey of our lives we are still of tremendous value to God and that is why he sent Jesus to die on a cross at Calvary – No greater love. 

In Joy City, faith is all important. For without faith it is impossible to please God. In Joy City, we understand that by faith we can receive anything and it can take us anywhere in the kingdom of God. But without it, I can’t even approach God, cannot receive forgiveness, deliverance, salvation, communion or any spiritual life at all. No, in Joy City, faith is the key that unlocks the door. In this egotistical driven, self-centered world that we occupy – MONEY is the commodity everyone seeks. In the upside-down kingdom of Joy City, money is merely a resource not the source, that is God. So here in this earth, we follow hard after the dollar-dollar bill, use slogans like he with the most toys wins, where in the City of Joy, we follow hard after God and that faith has a reward that is more valuable than anything money can buy – God Himself. Like he told Levi, after occupying Canaan land and dividing the land among his siblings. You get no land Levi, what you get is ME! I am your portion and your inheritance – that right there made Levi richer than all his brothers. That concept still stands for us today – Glory to His name.

Now I’m not saying Joy City is free of hardships or suffering. Not at all, oh we cry a lot and feel the anguish at the plight and despair of family, friends and loved ones. However, in the midst of that we experience the true nature of our life in Christ. The Apostle Paul taught us that to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and be a partaker of his sufferings is to join with others in the midst of their suffering and then we become one of solidarity with human suffering. To connect our own vulnerability with those we live with, that is true joy. The joy of belonging, of being part of, of not being different. 

Somehow God opens our eyes in Joy City so we can discover joy where others only see sorrow. Talking with that homeless man, the young girl battling addiction, the parents who child made the final decision to end their life isn’t daunting or frightening. It becomes, where are you from, who are your friends, what is happening in your life. YES, eyes connecting, hands touching, even a smile or a laugh- this friends is a true moment of joy. The sorrow is still there, but God is breaking through, something has changed. This happens when we are no longer standing in front of others, but sitting with them and sharing that moment of togetherness. This is Joy City. 

The great songwriter Andre Crouch blessed the world with the song called, Through It All. I’ve had many tears and sorrows,
I’ve had questions for tomorrow,
there’s been times I didn’t know right from wrong.
But in every situation,
God gave me blessed consolation,
that my trials come to only make me strong.

Through it all,
through it all,
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God. Through it all,
through it all,
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.

The cup of life beloved is the cup of joy as much as it is the cup of sorrow. In that cup is sorrows and joys, sadness and gladness, and mourning and dancing – they are never separated.

No one can come face to face with what God is like and ever be the same. Welcome to Joy City. Seeing His true image, touches the depths of our soul and beholding His glory will renew our minds, transform us and give us strength to live this life for Him. Come on in, where the table is spread and the feast of the Lord is going on. I want to invite you to be a part, a resident of Joy City. A place where the Body becomes stronger and our love for others only increases. 

I’ve enjoyed being your host and you can comment below, or email me at pastorstuart@lifeconnection4christ.org or call me at (209) 522-3583.