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, September 25, 2008

The Classic Call

Read: Isaiah 6

We talk about "call" in Christian circles like it was the most ordinary thing.  Everyone who is a believer these days is told whether literally or figuratively that they should sense a call to ministry.  So it isn't any big deal when God calls you... right?  Actually it is a VERY big deal when God calls you.  Take a look with me at Isaiah's situation:

When God called Isaiah the first thing that happened was that Isaiah "saw the Lord".  We live in a time when people want to see almost anything before they'll want to see the Lord.  There's a lot of hot air out there from people (I provide a good deal of this pollution myself) talking about God and offering seminars and sermons on how to know him.  But what would happen if you or I actually came in contact with the God Isaiah saw?  He is "high and lifted up, and the train of his robe filled the temple."  Now THAT is one cathedral-length train, for those of you who have ever gone wedding dress shopping.  

There were angels (seraphim) flying above God in Isaiah's vision.  It doesn't say exactly how many.  Most times I think about this scene I want it to be down-sized so my brain can take it in.  Maybe there are 2 angels, right?  I don't think so.  In Matthew, when Christ's birth is announced to a group of lowly shepherds on a hillside it says a "multitude of the heavenly host" showed up.  Seems to me that if that's what people see on a warm June night off in one corner of the Middle East, if you were taken into the very throne-room of God you'd see a whole lot more!  

So here is Isaiah standing... well... prostrate before God and a host of six-winged creatures who never sinned but who, in the presence of a holy God keep their faces covered out of respect and awe, and the effect on Isaiah is total: "I am undone.  I am a man of unclean lips from a people of unclean lips."  The number one thing Isaiah is thinking is that this is going to be the last moment of his life.  But that's not what happens.  Instead, in the midst of Isaiah's agony before God, the Lord sends one of the angels to minister to him, to cauterize his lips (the offending organ in Isaiah's confession), and to take away his sin.  

Do I really allow myself to come in contact with a holy God?  Or am I merely trying to live according to the rules (well... trying to bend the rules to my own pleasure while trying to make it look like I'm holy to everyone else)?  A call from God is a call to holiness.  It is a call to BE in the presence of God.  I don't make myself "better" in order to engage in ministry.  In fact, I shouldn't be praying that God would "convict me of sin and make me better."  I should be praying, "God, take me into your presence.  Let me experience YOUR holiness," and the rest will follow naturally.  

Are you called to ministry?  Great.  I hope you hear his voice.  But "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years."  I can play fast and loose with God's law in my heart while preaching righteousness and become nothing more than a moralizing fool, or I can simply allow myself to enter into The Presence and engage with him and do what Isaiah did: simply share what he saw.

Jon

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Where's the Power?

READ: John 15:5

I'm standing in The Apple Store in West Hartford, CT.  It is nearly noon and I'm just getting to filing my "morning" watch.  The purpose of this devotional, for those of you who may be joining us for the first time, is to keep me on track spiritually.  Why publish it to everyone?  One friend of mine has said that he thinks God called him to preach because if he wasn't constantly reminding himself of the essential truths of the faith sin would run so rampant in his life he would be useless to the church.  Being in the word on a regular basis gives me power for the day.

That brings me back to why I'm loitering about in The Apple Store.  When I left Nottingham, NH yesterday to spend my "weekend" back in Connecticut, I thought, I really thought I had everything I needed.  Living in two places really messes you up sometimes.  I have my home in CT and your "life" in NH -- all except Jama.   So, as you can imagine, I was really motivated to get back to where she was last night.   Somewhere around Worcester I had a funny feeling like there was something important I had left at the church.  When I stopped for gas I realized what it was: the power supply for my Mac.   I checked the battery life this morning and it was clear that I either needed to purchase another power supply ($79) or do what I'm doing... standing here surfing the web while my Mac charges up on one of the power supplies here in the store.  

Running off into your day without spending time with Christ is a lot like what I did last night.  At first you don't think anything of it.  You're in a hurry to get to the next place.  I call this the tyranny of the urgent.  Getting to work on-time this morning is more important than spending time with the Lord.   A little later you get the nagging feeling like something isn't quite right.  Your power levels don't seem to be just where they should be.  But, you reason, everything's okay.  You must be imagining it.  It isn't until much later when you pull off the freeway of life for lunch or a break that you are able to remember what it is you forgot.  "I should have spent time with Christ this morning."  Now you'd like to, but you're still too busy.  Only if you had taken the extra time and planned ahead at the beginning would you have had the amount of time to do this without everything else getting in the way.   

It turns out that for most of us the worst thing we can do for our devotional life is what many of us do: we leave the power source at home day after day.  Then, when the battery is completely drained we go to a conference or a mid-week service or a small group expecting we can recharge the battery there and save ourselves the extra "expense" of doing it on our own.   How would the church change if every believer came to church "all charged up?"  What would our small groups look like if we were each daily in the Word and in prayer and in fellowship with Christ?   I can tell you it wouldn't be a bunch of posers sitting around trying to look spiritual.  It would be a group of people who know that apart from Christ they can do nothing leaning on him and learning to let him minister through their brothers and sisters in a profound way.

Still charging...it takes a while when the battery is down.

Jon