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.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Near to God

Psalm 73:28 But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.

The first time I heard this verse I was a new believer, just 19 or 20 years old.  I had come to Christ (though I was raised going to church) as a sophomore in college.  Within six months of starting to really know the Lord I had begun studying the Bible with other students, was memorizing Scripture, and was part of a lively fellowship and also a church that met near campus.  To say I was pouring myself into my religion would be understatement.  

One of the disciplines our fellowship group practiced was having a morning group prayer time once a week.  The group met in the downstairs lounge of one of the dorms far across campus from where I lived.  The leader of the group was a man who had been in the military before going into campus ministry, and so early morning meetings were no problem for him.  The rest of us undisciplined souls kind of had to adjust.   The prayer meeting ran on Tuesday mornings from 5:30 - 7 am.  I presume the reason was so that the students could then go back, have breakfast, and make it to their 8 am classes on time.  I was smarter than that.  I never scheduled 8 am classes!

This one morning I was sitting on one of the sofas inwardly grousing about why my slumber had been disturbed by something as unexciting as prayer.  That's when Chuck, the ex-military guy, quoted Psalm 73:28 before turning the group to prayer.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was doing this discipline, but had no idea why.   

You may have heard the old joke that goes, "What do you get if you cross a Jehovah's Witness with a Unitarian?"  And the answer is, "Someone who knocks at your door and doesn't know why they did."  Well, that's where I was on the subject of prayer.  

I understood the reason God had brought me to college was to find him and get to know him.  Parents take note.  Most of your sons and daughters are not on campus to get an education.  From the most heathen to the most holy; from the liberal fire-brand to the conservative reactionary, their education will largely be in something other than what is printed on the diploma at the end of four or five years.  

In my case, I was studying music.  I was being educated in how to be a Christian.  Notice, I didn't say that I was getting to know God.  I had many of the disciplines of the Christian life down pat.  So well, in fact, that when I went to seminary ten years later I breezed through.  I had acquired a lot of knowledge, maybe even some wisdom about how to build people up in these disciplines.  But little real passion for God himself.

Fast forward through my life to 2010.  This verse has come to me again and again at make-or-break points in my life.  And I thank God for it.  Psalm 73:28 is one of God's gentle reminders to me that my life doesn't consist in doing anything for him.  As if any man could do something for God!  My life consists in knowing him.  The more I give myself over to knowing him, the less valuable those disciplines become unless as a way to know him.  Even this Daily Office is just cold mechanics if I don't approach it because I want to approach him.  

Remember what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:30, "He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness, and sanctification and redemption." (RSV)  But (sigh), isn't it easier to seek wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption through discipline than it is to seek God through relationship?


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