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Where did my "Joy" go?

Living from the inside of the glass house!

Why does ministry have to be so hard?

It's Friday and the day that I've tried to set aside to write my blog and help put my thoughts out there on paper (or at least virtual paper). Why do I want to put my thoughts on paper you might ask? Well it's simple - to remain at least a little normal. I guess I like to express my thoughts and what I'm feeling through writing and I really enjoy working on sermons and trying to let my heart shine through - this is the spot that gets me in trouble. Maybe your heart gets you into trouble at times as well.

I sat down today just coming back from working a "death call" at a person's house that I have never met. I had prayer with them, I tried to comfort them, I explained to them it's going to be OK (knowing that being OK is not up to me nor is it even a true statement - it's not going to be OK - it's going to be totally different.) So I opened up my Mac to begin writing and before I could start I fielded questions about the recent difficult leadership decision that was made at my church. I tried to forget the images that were still in my head from this morning while trying to explain the reasons for decisions that were made without breaking confidence or causing more pain. Oh did I explain that they also accused me of destroying their confidence in "church".

Before you stop reading this article because you think I'm just venting (well I am a little - because ministry is really difficult to talk about at times)... but before you stop reading let me suggest that every job has its moments of asking these types of questions and every person has I think asked at some point in some way... "where did my joy go?".

How do you find your joy again?

Kenny Conley said in an article by Church Leaders: "The calling to serve Jesus comes at a price. Jesus’ followers changed the world, but it cost them everything. Those who served the church throughout history have known many challenges. Poverty, persecution and loss seem to be the most common experiences. When Jesus questioned his disciples’ willingness to “drink from his cup,” the challenges of the road ahead is what he was referencing."

After reading this I realized that even when people are pointing their fingers at you and think that you are the most terrible leader they've known, as people accuse you and speak about you in public without any context, when they question the decisions you make without being in the chair you sit, when you can't shake the image of a strangers body wrapped up with a sobbing widow... when you don't know where you joy has gone... you turn to the only person that loves you more than anything - JESUS!

In that moment of turning your eyes on Jesus, you realize that your joy never left - you were the one that changed direction. Your joy has always been there in Christ, but your eyes wondered because of the things around you.

No one ever said that this life of following Jesus would be easy and never did anyone suggest that leading people and having a leadership position of any kind was going to be rainbows and skittles all day! The fact is that loving people and walking with people (especially hurting people) is not always fun - matter of fact it's down right exhausting.

Brennan Manning suggests: "Our controlled frenzy creates the illustion of a well-ordered existence. We move from crisis to crisis, responding to the urgent and neglecting the essential. We still walk around. We still perform all the actions identified as human, but we resemble people carried along on a mechanical sidewalk."

We are missing the "inner music" created by our Father. We are missing the actual joy that is found in Christ - because we are not really living out our freedom in Christ. We are all searching for something and we all want to answer the question - "Who are we?"

The answer to that question and the answer to the question of "Where is my joy" are found in the same answer.

Hebrews 12:1-3 New Living Translation (NLT) 12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

Where did my joy go? I guess it didn't go anywhere... I did!

When I sat down at my desk to write this blog... I was thinking about all the people that have had a conversation about me this week not in my presence... I was thinking about the pressure my kids feel at school to be the preacher's kid (everyone watching them and taking out on them their feelings because their dad made a leadership decision)... I was thinking about how terrible people can be (including myself at times)... I was thinking about how we feel alone and disconnected even in our own hometown... I was thinking about not writing this today... I was thinking about being overwhelmed, abandoned, spent, drained... I was thinking about a young man that was no in the hands of God... I was thinking about ministry and my family and my church (that I dearly love and would give up everything to see thrive again)... then I STOPPED!

Hebrews 12:1-3 New Living Translation (NLT) 12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

All that I go through and all that you go through on a daily basis - is nothing compared to what Jesus went through for a broken and lost sinner - ME - YOU! Where did my joy go? It's always been right where it should be... with Jesus! My joy is found in Christ and my life is made right by Christ... so my joy never left - I did! I stopped focusing on the "joy of Christ". I failed to keep my eyes on Christ and started looking at "poor me"... it says that because "of the joy awaiting him (Jesus) endured the cross"...

Don't miss out on the joy that is found in Jesus... He loves you more than anyone else. Jesus cares for you more than anyone else. Jesus is what keeps you moving forward every day. My joy is found in Christ. So when this world comes crashing down around me - I choose today - to start over - to love people - to love God - to always do what I believe is best for the Kingdom - to not focus on my circumstance - not focus on those who will never seek to understand - I choose today to "keep my eyes on Jesus"! I focus on the "joy" that comes from Jesus - not what's around me! He who is in me is stronger than he who is around me!

My joy comes from Him whom I follow...

Hebrews 13 New Living Translation (NLT)

13 Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. 2 Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! 3 Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies. 4 Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.

5 Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,

“I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” 6 So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?

7 Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9 So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules about food, which don’t help those who follow them.

10 We have an altar from which the priests in the Tabernacle have no right to eat.11 Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. 12 So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. 13 So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. 14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God. 17 Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.

18 Pray for us, for our conscience is clear and we want to live honorably in everything we do. 19 And especially pray that I will be able to come back to you soon. 20 Now may the God of peace—who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—21 may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.

May the peace of God fill your hearts today. May God's grace cover every sin today. May God's Son - Jesus - be your joy today. May the heart of God fill your own heart and my you never grow weary of doing good - this is what we do as followers of Jesus - we put others before ourselves and we always look to bring honor and glory to God through the living example we are in Christ Jesus.

Your joy is right where it's always been - Jesus Christ! I hope you can lean on him today - I know I sure am... thank you Father for your love, grace and peace... help me to keep my eyes on Jesus - not on the things and people around me! Let me continue to shine and reflect who you are in every way to those in this world. Thanks for reading and sticking around to the end... I hope you can truly "be joyful" through the strength of Jesus today!

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