Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

James 1:12

"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him."


If it really is true that the fear of the Lord really is the beginning of wisdom (Job 28:28, Psalm 111:10, Prov. 1:7, Prov. 9:10), then it is also the beginning of character. The blessing, it seems to me, comes to the person who has already remained steadfast under trial. It isn't good enough to be willing to if the trial ever comes along.

Think of Abraham when God told him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. The request went totally against everything Abraham knew about God. The request went against Abraham's desires for his own life and certainly against what he wanted for Isaac's life. It was neither comfortable nor fun and it meant the loss of the most important relationship in Abraham's life, probably even more important to Abraham than his relationship with his own wife Sarah. Not to spout conventional interpretation here, but it really IS true that it wasn't enough for Abraham to be willing to go up the mountain, not enough for him to be willing to build the altar and set the wood, not enough even for him to tie his own son with cords. Abraham had to suffer the assumption of loss; had to literally offer his son on the altar before God would provide the ram. It was not until he owned the trial that Abraham could own the blessing.

I think most of us also miss what the "payoff" is for this obedience. Was Abraham's blessing that he got his son back? Or was it that he lived to know that his descendants would be as numerous as the sand on the seashore? No. The blessing is always just this: the presence of God. What did he get for his obedience? The voice that came with the ram in the thicket. We MAY experience the presence of God in some way if we are disobedient. But the only way we will surely experience it is when we decide that we are going to endure the trial, walk through the fire, wait for the Lord.

Jon

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