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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Friday, October 29, 2010

Delight in God's Will


Psalm 40:4-8
Blessed is the man who makes 
the Lord his trust,

who does not turn to the proud,

to those who go astray after a lie!

You have multiplied, O Lord my God,

your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;

none can compare with you!

I will proclaim and tell of them,

yet they are more than can be told.
In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,

but you have given me an open ear. 
Burnt offering and sin offering 
you have not required.

Then I said, “Behold, I have come;

in the scroll of the book it is written of me:

I delight to do your will, O my God;

your law is within my heart.”

Yesterday afternoon as I was driving home from an appointment I heard a local public official defending himself on the radio.  He had been accused of taking a bribe of $1000.  He said, "I didn't do anything wrong.  Of course I took the money.  But there wasn't anything wrong with it.  90% of the money went to someone else." Today as I was driving home from the grocery store I heard that the jury had convicted him and that he was facing 30 years in jail. When asked if he would resign from the city council he said, "If they want to vote me out they'll have to do it.  I didn't do anything wrong."

How much pressure does it take for us to admit that we've sinned? Today's lectionary texts included Psalm 51, the great penitential psalm that David wrote after Nathan the Prophet confronted him about his sin against Bathsheba and his murder of her husband.  It also included the parable of the rich fool from Luke 12.  He made huge barns to store his riches in where they'd be safe.  And that very night God told him it was time to hand over his soul.  What would become of his riches?    It also included Revelation 13, where the Beast "was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven." 

"Blessed is the man who makes
the Lord his trust,

who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!"

Oh, how I want to be that kind of a man!  And yet I know that, far too often I am impressed by proud people and vanities.  Proverbs 31:30 tells us that charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting.  Why do movie stars, models, and politicians impress me so?

You have multiplied, O Lord my God,

your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,

yet they are more than can be told.

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) is quoted as saying that science is, "thinking God's thoughts after him."  But in reality, there is no thought; no idea; no invention; no consideration that any of us can have that God didn't think of first.  If I'm going to be impressed by anyone or anything, shouldn't I be impressed by God first of all?

In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear. 
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.

But wait!  Doesn't the Law of God tell us to sacrifice?  What's the deal?  Is the Bible contradicting itself?  No.  The Bible is making it clear. Sacrifice, offering, burnt offering, sin offering: go ahead and do them all, but if your heart is not in them, they are meaningless.

Then I said, “Behold, I have come;

in the scroll of the book it is written of me:

I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”

Can you imagine having an epitaph that reads, "This person delighted to do God's will because God's will was in his heart." That's exactly what the Psalmist is saying.  He's not bragging either.  He's just stating a fact.  God has written this about him in the "scroll of the book".  

No matter how deeply most of us believe "what the Bible teaches", the fact remains that what most of are actually doing is trying to earn a place in heaven by our good works in the hope that the pile of our good works will be larger than the pile of our sins in the end.   It doesn't matter that we believe that we are "saved by grace."  We would really much prefer to be able to go on sinning in whatever way we like and take the chance that in the end our balance sheet will put us on the positive side of the line.  Most of us are "hoping" well get to heaven in the end, though we're not particularly sure we've done enough to warrant it.  So we spend our life desperately trying to grease God's palm with a measly $1000, boasting how we've done nothing wrong, while the much greater payoffs are going to our three great supporters: the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.  

A sacrifice given in delight is no sacrifice at all.   It is what the Bible calls a sacrifice of praise: to be so taken with God that you gladly give all the old vanities; all the old delights over to him!  

There's only one thing that could possible transform me -- so deeply am I invested in the beauties of my sin -- into the kind of man who would delight in doing God's will.  The Cross. If I would only understand the depth of the riches of God's kindness toward me when Christ endured the shame of the Cross so that I could endlessly proclaim my own pride in what I ought to be ashamed of until one day I recognize that the shame was always mine and that all glory and honor belong to Christ for what he chose to do for me.

When I survey the Wondrous Cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

Forbid it, Lord that I should boast
save in the death of Christ my God
All the vain things that charm me most
I sacrifice them to his blood.
-- Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

Delight!  If I can just focus for more than the five minutes my ADD (read: sin) warped brain allows me, I will truly delight in the amazement of what Christ has given in order to own me.

Jon

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