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The Challenge of Finding Joy…on Mondays, During Covid.

The Patriots Play football,
I do this…
I got the better gig!

Devotional Thought for this Day:
9  Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the LORD your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10  And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” 11  And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.” 12  So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them. Nehemiah 8:9-12 (NLT2)

“Unless those who are in the office of preacher find joy in him who sent them, they will have much trouble. Our Lord God had to ask Moses as many as six times.24 He also led me into the office in the same way. Had I known had to take more pains to get me in. Be that as it may, now that I have begun, I intend to perform the duties of the office with his help. On account of the exceedingly great and heavy cares and worries connected with it, I would not take the whole world to enter upon this work now. On the other hand, when I regard him who called me, I would not take the whole world not to have begun it.

Reflect that God is our sovereign benefactor, who has bestowed upon us innumerable benefits, both general and particular. He has drawn us out of nothing, and formed us to his own image and likeness, without having any need at all of us: we are continually dependent upon him for our preservation.

Yesterday, preachers around the world preached on the topic of Joy.

It is not easy an easy task when over one-half of your church regulars are not there, needing to stay safe at home.

It is not easy when your people are in the midst of the holidays, many of them celebrating for the first time, alone.

It is not easy when others are caught up in sin, some whose hearts are crushed because someone sinned against them, others crushed by the weight of their own sin.

Preach on Joy! That was our call…

Every pastor knows the heartache that Luther addresses. OUr tasks are hard, they can suck the life right out of you. If only we knew what God called us to, we would willingly join Jonah in the belly of the big fish, or the boys sent into the furnace, or Elijah in his cave. NO one could talk us into this…ministry.

That isn’t just true for pastors. Parents know it s well, as do small business owner, teachers, nurses and doctors. Anyone who has to minister to care for someone else. Physically, mentally, spiritually. Those who care for others wear down, burn out, and experience despair.

The only answer I have found over the years is worship, to find yourself contemplating the love and mercy of God so intimately that your heart just wants to sing, it just wants to praise Him. Worship that isn’t forced or planned, worship that isn’t done out of a sense of duty.

Worship that comes from thinking about what God is doing in our lives. Experiencng the love, witnessing the removal of the burdens that plague us, and the millions of blessings that grace our daily lives, His presence in our lives, not just the pastors, but in the lives of the people entrusted into the pastor’s care.

THat is the moment that you understand what Luther said as well – that once in the ministry, there is nothing that the world could give you that would cause you to willingly give it up…

My prayer for you, as you are burdened, as you are distressed, is the same as Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus, for this will lead you (and me) into that joy,

16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20  Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21  Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen! Ephesians 3:16-21 (NLT2)

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 12–13.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 64.

What if the Lord didn’t ask for you to be the martyr, but..

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1 The LORD spoke to Moses and said: 2 Consecrate to me every firstborn; whatever opens the womb among the Israelites,a whether of human being or beast, belongs to me.  Ex 13:1–2 NAB-RE

209         You made me smile, because I know what you meant when you said: I am enthusiastic about the possibility of going to new lands and opening a breach there, perhaps very far away… I would like to find out if there are men on the moon…Ask the Lord to increase that apostolic zeal of yours.  (1)

On facebook this morning, I saw a man saying that he definitely would speak for Christ if he was put in the place of a potential martyr, where the decision was to either say he believed in another god or Jesus.  And then he challenged everyone else to claim they would as well.

It made me think of the passage in red that I came across a few days ago, about the command of God to dedicate to His service every firstborn.  We can think of those who did in scripture. Hannah comes to mind, as does Elizabeth.  Abraham had the question put to him, and his faith in God was proven true.  And less we forget Mary’s first son, who she watched God the Father dedicate to the purpose of saving all of mankind.

Dedicating a child to God’s work isn’t something new, but it is something forgotten.  During the middle ages, and even until recent history, the second male was encouraged to enter the ministry.  Not the first, because that would be the heir of the family name, but the second.  (Who gets the better inheritance IMHO)

These days, we aren’t so ready to do so.  Not with the first or the second. We aren’t ready or willing to give them up to a life of service, or for that matter, a life of martyrdom, as they sacrifice and even are sacrificed to accomplish the work of God.

Fewer men are entering the ministry, fewer women dedicating their lives to working in the church and church schools as well.  Fewer willing to go on the mission field, whether far abroad or here in the inner cities.

We claim to be people who trust God in everything, will we trust Him with our children?  Will we trust Him with those who are precious to us?

Even if their vocation is to be a pastor or priest, missionary or even if they are called to martyrdom?

Do we trust Him with life?

Again, go back to Mary’s son, her first born.  The only-begotten Son of our Heavenly Father.  Who was the pastor, priest, missionary, and yeah – martyr as He died on the cross.  As He saved us from our sin.  As He came to us.

The firstborn of the firstborn.

May our trust in God grow, as we consider what God the Father committed and consecrated His firstborn to do, and may we seriously encourage more and more people to consider a vocation that sees them ministering to others.

Amen.

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1082-1085). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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