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Joy in Him Who Sent
It's the key.
In Table Talk, Martin Luther is recorded as saying:
Unless those who are in the office of preaching find joy in him who sent them, they will have much trouble. Our Lord God had to ask Moses as many as six times. He also led me into the office in the same way. Had I known about it beforehand, he would have 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.
Luther says that if the cost of ministerial work was made known to him before he began, no prize could compel him to enter it. Yet, having begun, and considering “him who called,” he wouldn’t trade it, not for the world.
What is true for Luther has certainly been true for me. When I began following Jesus, I did not know what it would mean. When I answered a call to ministry, I did not know what the future would hold.
Service in God’s kingdom has brought me into contact with great joy and cause for celebration, certainly, but it has also brought me into contact with grief, sorrow, and hardship. God’s ways have appeared hidden, at times. God’s hand has only been evident in retrospect, in some circumstances. What’s been proven, however, again and again, is that God is good, that faith in him is well placed, and that the divine will is worthy of trust.
The key to enduring hard circumstances is beholding the One who has called, to see the beauty of the Caller, to look upon and contemplate Jesus Christ, who beckons, “Follow me.” There is no greater joy than to be found in service to the one who gave everything to bring us in, who served us with all he had in order to secure us in his love. There is no greater servant than Christ, and no greater salvation than the one that is extended to us in his name.
As Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Entering God’s joy is available to the pastor and preacher just as much as it is to the congregational minister. All those joined to Christ, by faith, receive fullness of life. The invitation is open to all who are called as disciples, all who receive God’s love.
Joy has been extended. Live in it.
I’m reading Robert McKenzie’s We the Fallen People: The Founders and the Future of American Democracy and Tom Nelson’s The Flourishing Pastor: Recovering the Lost Art of Shepherd Leadership. I like both books.
McKenzie argues that the framers of the United States constitution understood human nature in a way that accords with the Judeo-Christian tradition, classically understood, and outlined the national project accordingly. This can be true even if they did not write the constitution as Christians.
Our trouble today, according to McKenzie, is that the collective outlook of the American population, and those who govern, is far too optimistic. Rather than seeing our system of government as providing a check on the worst of human impulses, we believe it will generate good outcomes because our people, at heart, are good. McKenzie analyzes the founding documents (including The Federalist Papers), the presidency of Andrew Jackson, and the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville in ways that are helpful and insightful. From time to time, McKenzie addresses modern concerns in ways that I think distract from his main argument, but overall, this is an interesting work of history, taken up by a Christian historian.
I like Tom Nelson’s book even more. Molly helped me piece together that I’ve met Tom Nelson, though briefly. We shared a table in December of 2005 or early 2006 (I can’t precisely recall), when Dallas Willard visited Kansas City and I had the opportunity to be part of a group of around one hundred leaders and pastors who enjoyed a presentation and question and answer period with Dr. Willard. He probably wouldn’t remember. But I remember speaking briefly to the nice pastor of a nearby congregation, older than I, who shared my appreciation for Dallas Willard. I think Nelson has important things to say about the pastoral calling, offering us a healthier, more sound paradigm for Christian ministry.
Sights and Sounds
I finished season six of The Expanse on Amazon Prime. I loved the entire series.
Before I go, standard copy.
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Be well this week. Bless others.
P.S. - That’s Pat Neff Hall in the distance. Photo taken during my post-lunch stroll.