About "For Our Mutual Joy"
For Our Mutual Joy is based in 1 John 1:4, "We write this to make our (your) mutual joy complete. I had been praying for an appropriate title for this devotional ministry and as the Holy Spirit often answer's prayer out of God's word, my eyes fell upon this verse one morning during my devotional time. I knew it was his answer as soon as I read it.
Why joy? Even though I understood the Bible's teaching on ˜joy' as a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and one of several character traits of those who believe and follow Jesus, I have to admit that as a priest I often struggled with the question, "if I am serving Christ and following him why do I feel the absence of joy in ministry? I know, sounds a bit out of place doesn't it? But it was true. There were periods or seasons of ministry where discouragement seemed to be the norm and joy the exception to the rule. I found myself running out of gas. The inner tank was running more and more on empty. I asked other clergy about it and they also affirmed this same experience happening to them. As a result, my heart began a quest to find out what I must do to find how to have joy return in ministry. I even taught a Lenten series on Joy which certainly helped, but more was to come.
One discouraging day as I poured my heart out to the Lord, I began to realize deep in my heart and in a renewed way, that I truly was God's adopted son and that Jesus loved me just because that's what He does. It wasn't because I was a priest or what I did, but just because I was his child. It was if the Lord was saying to me something like, "Bill I know you and where you are. I know what you do, and I know where you're going. Focus on me and me alone as my joy is your joy and you will have it as you obey and serve me. I am with you. By God's grace, I began to learn that the joy I was seeking to have in my life and ministry is first rooted in my relationship with Jesus, from which obedience to his commands, and if you will, doing ministry and following His call flows. I don't know if joy is always outwardly seen by others in my life, but I can tell you Christ's joy has returned to me in ministry. Truly, the Lord is faithful, and he stands behind his promise that "¦ No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:4) Is there more to learn about the Lord's joy? Absolutely, and I hope to share those things and more from God's word with you in this writing ministry.
My hope and prayer is that this devotional will encourage you in this awesome joy that Christ has for each one of his sons and daughters. That we together will thirst and hunger to be filled with Holy Spirit joy that runs over and into each other's lives. That we continue to become living witnesses in celebrating his first coming, his continuing life among us and his promised return to take us to be with him forever. It is with this desire that I write For Our Mutual Joy and I pray that through this ministry, our mutual joy may be made complete together in Christ. Make it so Lord Jesus, make it so.
The following is the latest devotional. If you would like to request other devotionals written previously, please contact the church office via email or phone.
For Our Mutual Joy 2015 #3 “ The Lord's Compassion Working In Us
March 6, 2015
(By Fr. Bill Midgett, Rector, Christ the King Anglican Church, Decherd/Franklin County, TN)
The LORD passed before him (Moses) and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, (Ex. 34:6, ESV)
When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matt. 9:36, ESV)
Our One God and Father, and Lord Jesus Christ is full of compassion. The LORD declares himself to be so in front of Moses on Mt. Sinai, and Jesus continually displayed compassion over and over again throughout his ministry. When folks are at their worse, when confusion reigns supreme, when the needs of weary lives and souls are at their end, there the Lord stands before us full of His compassion.
Compassion defined, is the deep agitation and stirring within us (literally understood as deep in our bowels) that demands a response, an action, to what our senses gather about a person, family, group or nation of people and the dire circumstances they find themselves in at the moment. Like those Jesus saw when his boat landed on the shore and came toward him described as "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. It would be accurate to picture Jesus as though something erupts within him like a sucker punch to the stomach followed by his response in taking care of the needs at hand. That is God's compassion at work, incarnated in flesh, from a heart stirred to action that says, "this situation can no longer remain as is.
Compassion however isn't easy. It sounds great in theory but is demanding in practice.
Sometimes I hold a picture in my mind of following Jesus that is way too clean and tame. One moment I am plodding along singing or humming The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases, with the sun shining and cool breezes blowing and then in a flash it all seems to change. You, like the Lord as Matthew describes above, suddenly come upon someone's chaos, or pain, or loss and they too seem, ˜harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.' Unexpectedly, you are faced with the opportunity and the urgency to do something, to act because you can't let this situation remain any longer, and before you even realize it, there you are responding to their need, showing compassion. So much for that sunshine and cool breeze part, but don't let go of the song. For it is all truth and you will be encouraged by it (see Lamentations 3:22-23).
This dear follower of Jesus, is the Lord's compassion at work in you. What is happening in you, is what happened in Jesus. Like Father, like son, or daughter. God's kind of compassion. God's kind of response. The kind He looks for from you and me as we respond to the mess, brokenness and needs of others that He brings across our path as we walk with Him on His way. It not only involves seeing the chaos and saying, "Lord have mercy, but in showing the Lord's mercy, His compassion working in you toward others in whatever way you can.
Holy Father, thank you that you are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Please fill me with your heart of compassion. The compassion that Jesus held and gave to others. Make me mindful of my dependency on you to be like Jesus and use me as your instrument to bring your compassion, your kingdom to others who do not know you. Amen.