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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Monday, February 2, 2009

January 30, 2009 The Persecution

READ: Matthew 10:16-33
16
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant [1] above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign [2] those of his household.

26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. [3] 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? [4] And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

I can't tell you how often I'll be sitting, minding my own business, and I'll start "hearing" all kinds of condemnation in my head. Here's a partial list:

You're not good enough
You're no believer
You're a failure
You're a sinner beyond help
You're a loser
You've blown it

Well... you get the idea. Some of that condemnation comes from the strangest places. When I was a child I saw a Porky Pig cartoon that scared me to my core. I know. Silly, isn't it? But in the cartoon there were these two men dressed in black who came from the Internal Revenue Service and kept showing up at Porky's door. Everywhere he went, there they were about to audit him. As a 5 year old I had no knowledge of what an audit was or even what the IRS is. I do remember the punchline of the cartoon though: Porky finally blows himself up and goes to hell. There, in the burning ruins (now wearing a devil's costume), Porky thinks he's finally gotten away from them. But there they are! Though I'm scrupulous about doing my taxes correctly, I still expect those two men from the IRS to show up at my door one day.

The fear is fear of judgment in each case. But Jesus tells us to have no fear of "them," whoever "they" are. I also have learned to fear my own tongue. I used to blurt out all kinds of things that form the background of most of the other condemnations that run around my head. And so it is particularly comforting to me to hear Jesus words of support, "do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you."

I know... I've never experienced what it really means to be brought up before men on account of Jesus. But I do know what it feels like to feel condemned by my own thoughts. And so I want to tell the powers, wherever they are in the heavenly places: "you have no authority here. Jesus is Lord of my life. Whatever sins I have committed, whatever deficiencies I may think I have, whatever is lacking in me, his name and on his authority have already saved me from. I know you are lying. Be gone, in Jesus' name!"

There now. That's better.

Jon

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