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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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Signposts

There are certain passages of scripture that keep coming back to me like stop signs and yield signs and "turn here!" signs.  When I tell you that Romans 10:5-13 is one of those sign posts for me, you'll surely think it is because I am called to evangelism.  But that isn't what it means to me.  This one passage has been integral to my Call and ministry ever since the beginning.  I memorized it while I was in college, and it has stuck with me personally ever since.   It is balm to my soul every time I read it.  It brings me up short when my desires get the better of me and I want to forget the Lord and run off into sin.  It reminds me who I am and who the Lord is.  Most important, it always seems to lead me to other scriptures, and then to others, and from there a whole panorama of what the Lord is doing with me or with his people opens up.


"For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

First and foremost, this tells me that all good theology begins with God, his eternal nature and diety, his power, his love, his plan, his foreknowledge.  The first two verse remind me that there is nothing at all that I can do to affect salvation.  I can't go up to heaven and bring Christ down.  And if I had been there after the Crucifixion I couldn't go into Hell and bring Christ up.  As Jesus said to Pilate, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above."  This is a follow-up to his statement earlier in the Gospel, "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”  

Christ alone is the agent of our salvation.  Christ alone accomplished all things so that at the last he might say, "It is finished."  

Some will go on to say that faith then depends on the believer's action in coming to Christ.  But the unregenerate heart stands opposed to God.  How can it come to the Lord?  You can say that if you put enough monkeys in front of enough typewriters eventually one of them will type out a Shakespeare sonnet quite by chance.  And if that is the way that people come to Christ, I want nothing of it.  Though it may be possible for someone to be saved that way, I have never seen a blind man groping about in a room with many doors find the one door that leads out into freedom on the first try.  Even given many tries, without a reference point he is doomed to fail.  Just so with salvation.

The word is near you.  What does Matthew mean when he calls Jesus, "God with us" other than this?  The word is in your mouth and in your heart.   Even the preaching of the Gospel cannot do this work.  And Paul is aware of it.  Yes, it is the word of faith we proclaim.  But Paul doesn't put that first in the sentence.  He isn't saying, A then B then C then D -- proclamation, implanting, faith, confession.   No, he is really saying B then A then D then C.  The first mover is always God.  He implants the Word in our hearts, and yes he uses human agents to do it.  But the human agent who is there when someone comes to Christ is rarely the first person who brought the Word.  God has been bringing it and bringing it and bringing it.  Then one day a proclaimer is there and the accumulation of what the heart has seen and heard is brought alive by the Holy Spirit, and a soul is reborn!  

Finally comes the verse we built our youth ministry on for twenty-five years.  We had these tee shirts and sweat shirts that said, "Glory to God" on them.  If you looked really carefully at the shirts, down under the tail of the script "D" in "God" it said, "Rom. 10:9"  Amazingly, from the perspective of the believer himself, the sequence works completely in reverse!  The confession of Christ leads to faith.  Faith put into action causes the Word to be implanted in our hearts.  The overflow of the implanted Word causes proclamation!

And so as I sit here trying to figure out what I will do with the rest of my life there is a great comfort in the thought that life with God isn't about a one-time event.  It is a long process that I am in the middle of. My life is not over.  God has a plan.  Just as my sin never prevented my salvation in the first place, so the resistance of my heart and my stubbornness in trying to control the outcome prevent in the slightest God accomplishing his will for me.  

Jon

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Asleep in the Light


Luke 9:28-36
Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure,  which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One;  listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

Will no-one stay awake with me?   

Peter? John? James?  

Will none of you wait with me?  

Peter? John? James?  

I only want to say  

If there is a way   

Take this cup away from me   

For I don't want to taste its poison  

Feel it burn me,   

I have changed I'm not as sure   

As when we started   


Then I was inspired   

Now I'm sad and tired   

Listen surely I've exceeded   

Expectations  

Tried for three years   

Seems like thirty   

Could you ask as much
From any other man?  
n         Tim Rice, 1970

It seems like the guys Jesus selected as his “inner circle” had a real problem with sleep.  They kept dozing off at the most important moments.  But isn’t that what we do?  Just when God could make the greatest impression on us we kind of nod off.

I don’t know about you, but I find it to be a truth that, just when Jesus has great truth to show me or a great lesson for life available to me, I am the least available.  And the worst of it is that I know it.  And in those moments I choose to be unavailable.  It isn’t that I lack the discipline to “stay awake and watch with him,” but I simply lack the desire.

Jama and I are taking care of Tim and Alice’s chubby-needy sausage dog this summer while they are in San Francisco.  Choochie is a very affectionate 40 pounds or so of fluff and love.  But she has a motivation problem.  She’ll come along side of you while you’re sitting in a chair and demand that you stroke her head, but if you invite her up on the chair or couch with you she suddenly doesn’t have the energy to accomplish the task.

That’s me.  I spend a lot of time nuzzling Jesus’ hand in hope that I’ll get strokes from the Master.  But expend energy to go out and really be there for a great moment with him?  Not so much.  Stay awake when he is in pain and watch and weep with him over Jerusalem?  I need my beauty sleep, after all.

The sadness of The Transfiguration is that the same power was released on that hillside as was present when Moses encountered God face to face.   From that day onward, Moses had to wear a veil over his face so the shining of the glory of God wouldn’t be too much for all who encountered him.  But Peter, John, and James wore no veil after The Transfiguration.  The reason is plain: they were “there” for the event, but they were not fully present.  If they had been, Peter would never have suggested such a preposterous, half-sleep measure like making booths for Jesus and the other two prophets.  He would have instead reveled in the depth of the moment, turned his face toward the incomprehensible light of the scene before him, and come home with a far greater understanding, and a far greater glow on his face than he did. 

In the end, the text tells us that Peter, John, and James told no one anything about what had happened.  Had they been fully awake for the event, their faces alone would have told the tale. 

The sadness of Jesus’ last moments with his disciples in Gethsemane is that again, the disciples dozed off at the critical moment.  Would Peter have denied ever knowing Jesus if he had seen the blood dripping from his brow as he wept over his people?  Would John and James have remained silent during the trial that followed?  Instead of sharing in his sufferings, the disciples settled for the much smaller blessing of standing at a distance while the whole drama played out. 

In the end, Peter went off somewhere alone and wept bitterly, rather than be there to witness the horrible glory of the Crucifixion.  John stood at a distance from the cross, to be sure.  And Jesus was perhaps comforted in knowing that his mother would be taken care of by John.  But had he stayed awake in The Garden, wouldn’t John have offered his own body up, and perhaps carried Jesus’ cross?  As it was they had to compel a man from Cyrene to do that.  Had he been alert at the moment of Jesus’ greatest compassion, he might have been more present for the moment of Jesus’ greatest need.  And James?  We don’t even know where he went.  The Shepherd was struck and the sheep were scattered.

God, forgive me for lounging about when you are manifesting your glory.  Forgive me for being half-asleep when you want to teach me great things.  Forgive me for taking my rest when there is work to be done.  Forgive me for not weeping with you over the people.  Forgive me for not standing with you in trial.  Forgive me for not dying with you when the time comes. 

Should I not also be able to say, “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Jon

   

Monday, June 21, 2010

An Untimely Catch

Luke 5:1-11
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Non sequitur.  According to the Princeton Online Dictionary, “a reply that has no relevance to what preceded it.”

The first non sequitur in Luke 5:1-11 happens when Jesus finishes preaching.  He turns to Simon and says, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”   What do you suppose Jesus had been teaching about when he was in the boat?  How many fish stories are there in the Old Testament?  Or was Jesus teaching some major new object lesson that doesn’t derive from OT Scripture?  We will never know.  What we do know is that Jesus’ request of Simon must have been the punch-line to one of the great sermons of all time. 

The non sequitur isn’t Jesus asking Simon to put out the nets.   The non sequitur is Simon saying in reply, “We toiled all night and took nothing!”  The fact is that this objection has nothing to do with the request.  Why?  Because if Peter had recognized who Jesus really is, his reply would have been and eager, “Lower the nets, boys!”  Can it be that Peter wasn’t present for the Wedding at Cana?  Even if he wasn’t, we can be sure he had heard about how the water was turned into wine.  And the story of the feeding of 5000 with just two loaves and five fish doesn’t show up in Luke’s gospel until chapter 9, but the gospel doesn’t seem to be quite in chronological order, so there may be some connection to be had there.  But really… think about it… if the God of the Universe told you to put out your nets for a catch, wouldn’t you do it?

Well, Peter does put his nets out.  But he does it so reluctantly as to make us believe that he really expected nothing.  He knows fishing.  He also knows that Jesus is a rabbi, not a fisherman.  And yet, given Peter’s experience with Jesus to this point, you would have to say that he really missed the boat (pardon the pun) on this one.

The second non sequitur comes when the catch is so big that the boats start to sink.  What possible connection is there between a catch of fish that will probably raise Peter out of poverty and give him money to burn, and Peter talking about his sin?  The answer lies in the first non sequitur.  Had there simply been a few fish caught that day, Peter might have responded with, “Heh… the rabbi knows fishing.”  But the catch is so overwhelming that it drives Peter back to his earlier statement, back to his moment of un-faith. 

How many times has the Lord told me to believe expectantly that he is going to dump the truck of blessing, and I have settled for a few fish?  And then, when God does provide in a miraculous way, I try to take the credit for it.  

His provision may not come when I think it will.  Remember, Peter and his partners had been out all night fishing.  They were tired and they needed a bath and a good meal.  How many times that night had they prayed that God would not send them home with their boats empty?  God’s provision rather comes at an unexpected moment.  As far as Peter knew, they were being obedient and giving the Master a better place to preach from.  There was no further thought of fishing. 

I might expect that God will supply men for me to fish and catch in a church or in some pre-planned evangelistic event.  But I’m pretty sure that the real harvest of souls will come when I open my home, not trying to produce anything at all.  When He tells me to put out my nets for a catch in that situation, will I listen?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Here's what's bugging me

Jeremiah 1:4-10
The word of the LORD came to me saying,
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy." But the LORD said to me,
"Do not say, 'I am only a boy';
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you,
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
says the LORD."
Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me,
"Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant."

Several years ago Gary Larson published a cartoon in his Far Side series.  It was a picture of a bum propped up against the side of a city building.  Seated next to him is a human-sized bug, antennae and all.  There are beer cans all around on the ground.  The bug says to the bum, "I used to be a big-shot... had a corner office and everything... then one day this guy comes into my office and says, 'hey, he's nothing but a big cockroach!'"

I don't know which is worse, Jeremiah saying, "I am only a boy," which he probably wasn't at that point,  or God saying to Jeremiah, "I have appointed you as a prophet to the nations."  Either way, Jeremiah know's he's in trouble.  

Anyone who tells God, "I am only a boy" is really saying, "I'm just not up to the job you've got in mind for me."  John Eldridge, in his challenging book, Wild at Heart talks quite directly to men who feel this way.  A man, he says, needs to know that he's up to the task -- and it takes a Dad to say it.  For some reason, mom just can't instill that in a young man.  If your dad called you a failure as your were growing up or refused to approve positive directions you wanted to go in, you're likely going to have a hard time as an adult feeling like you're really up to the challenge.  Or worse, you'll always be trying to prove yourself and overcompensating.  I'll be honest.  I suffer from this myself.  I've never felt like I was quite fully grown up.  And I have had both responses.  I have shrunk back from trying something because I didn't believe I could do it, and I have forged ahead just to prove I could when others told me it was impossible.

What would be so hard about having a right assessment of myself and just being able to relax and do what I hear God telling me?

On the other end we have God telling Jeremiah that he's a prophet to the nations.  Wow, shades of Elmer Gantry, George Carlin, and a little Steve Martin thrown in.  Or, if you like, you can consider people who actually believe or believed themselves to be prophets.  Many of them have started religions along the way, and often with kind of disasterous results.    

If we get off our high horse for a moment and realize that anyone who presumes to be a preaching pastor (and there are other kinds of pastors) is really called to prophetic ministry, then every preaching pastor should take God's words to Jeremiah very seriously and soberly: you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.  In accepting the call to preach, every pastor needs God to "touch his mouth."  Interestingly, one of God's angels touched another prophet's mouth.  Isaiah had confessed to being a man of unclean lips, and God cleansed his sin before sending him out.  Not so here.  Jeremiah is no more holy than Isaiah, but a foul mouth is not Jeremiah's particular sin.  

The final statement in the passage is almost poetic, and it begins with the left hand:

See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant."

Sometimes things must be pulled down before they can be built up.  And so God says Jeremiah is over nations (people groups) and over kingdoms (political entities).  What follows is all negative.  He is to pluck up and pull down, destroy and overthrow.   That has to happen before he can build and plant.  A pastor often has to tear down the very thing he has been set over -- the people groups and political entities of his church -- and not just when he first arrives.  Churches become complacent when they can identify 'our people'.  They become downright dangerous when they can identify streams of power 'my position'.   A wise pastor knows when things are getting too comfy and does something about it.  An unwise, or simply green pastor blows it all up too early in the process and may never get the chance to build and to plant.

Jon


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What Makes a Church a Church?


1 Corinthians 12:12-27
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?  But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

So, what exactly makes a church more than just a group of people who have something in common?  Anyone who has seen the Tom Hanks production of Band of Brothers could well say that there's nothing supernatural about the kind of relationships that going to war together develops.   The men who lived through the siege of Bastogne together didn't survive because they had all somehow been thrown into the same hell together on December 20, 1944.  They didn't even learn to survive together over the course of the seven days frigid days they were there.  Those men survived together because they had been trained to it, some of them through more than two years of engagements together living day in and day out in all kinds of conditions.  
To listen to the banter between the men in Hanks' dramatic retelling of the community that was the 101st Airborne it is clear that these men didn't always like each other.  They sometimes fought quite fiercely among themselves.  But they never abandoned one another. If they did, they paid for it; often with their lives.
There are a lot of groups of people inhabiting church buildings, rental halls, and even home fellowships together today.  The important distinction between the inhabiters who are just a group of people who meet every Sunday and a true church is that the true churches are ones where the people fight with each other for each other and refuse to let go of one another because they have lived "life together," as Bonhoeffer put it.   Churches, just like platoons, often fall apart in that critical stage where they have not yet learned to trust one another through the testing of life together.  You can put a veneer on if you only see a person on Sunday each week and for the occasional meeting or church fair.  But that veneer won't last beyond the first time that your fellow member crosses you or wants something you don't want.  
The drill sergeants who trained the 101st Airborne by making them run up a mountain over and over again in the sun, in the rain, after a large meal, when they didn't feel like it, in the early morning and late at night knew what it takes to turn a bunch of guys into a Body: repeated experience, work, and perseverance.   Community begins with a group meeting and eating.  Worship and Sacrament are a great start.  But it takes going out on the road together to share Christ or committing to working a mission or soup kitchen together over a long period of time before you have a real Body.   That's part of why Jesus sent the disciples out on a preaching and healing mission mid-ministry.   People who have committed to one another, not just by reading a covenant or creed that they all believe in, but by living a covenant with one another and by being a creed to one another really have something.  They have become members of one another.  
The men of the 101st Airborne wore that name proudly then and long after the war.   Do we who wear the name of Christ own one another like arms or legs?  And do we own the weaker members; the ones with troubles and incapacities that make them difficult to endure?  If we do, we're really got a great start on building a fighting unit.  Rather than going to war with each other, will we be willing to go to war with each other?  Only when our faces are set toward the same goal and the same purpose will we fight alongside one another and not just fight one another.

Jon

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Song for the Best Man

For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, 
and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet,
until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, 

and her salvation as a burning torch.
The nations shall see your righteousness, 

and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name 

that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the 
Lord, 

and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken, 

and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, 
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,

and your land Married; 
for the 
Lord delights in you, 

and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman, 

so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, 
so shall your God rejoice over you.


-- Isaiah 62:1-9


This weekend Jama and I had the privilege of attending the wedding of Jama's goddaughter, Abbie and her now husband Alex.  It was a gala affair, as all weddings are, and we rejoiced at seeing this young woman so thoroughly happy.  


I have been on a sort of odyssey these past six months, and in an effort to make sense out of what has been happening, I've decided to spend the next few weeks reviewing the texts God gave me along the way.  Most of this material comes from the Book of Common Prayer, as I began to follow the Lectionary quite closely back in late January for fear that I would be preaching my own agenda to the congregation rather than what the Lord wanted to say.  


I will tell you all at the outset that there is no way I could have coordinated these texts as you are about to see them.   I only want to say that I take it as a profound grace that the Lord had them arranged this way.   You won't hear me talking about the events of the past six months as I write.  As with all intense times in our lives, we always get to a point where we feel like we've talked the intensity to death.  I'm doing this to review these Scriptures and remind myself of the things the Lord has shown me and let him speak to me even more deeply through them.


Isaiah 62:1-9  is a song that God wants to put in the mouth of one of the attendants at a weddding.  Israel is the bride and God is her groom.  Nothing could be more clearly laid out than this.  At weddings today the Best Man stands next to the Groom and waits with him as the Bride walks down the aisle.  But in the wedding scene here in Isaiah, the Best Man needs to take a different position.  He needs to stand next to the Bride and speak truth into her ear so as to remind her of what is going on.  


In the rather sweet Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore movie 50 First Dates, Barrymore has had an injury that makes it so that every morning when she wakes up it is like she never lived the day before.  No accumulation of memories is possible.  Israel is this kind of Bride.  She so easily forgets God's intentions for her that someone has to keep whispering in her ear the plans God has for her; otherwise she will not remain long enough to be married.  


But there is opposition.  I envision that as the Best Man moves from the place everyone expects him to occupy to a place next to the Bride that the guests and attendants at the wedding are all grumbling, "That's not where you belong!"  "Stop!  You're disrupting the ceremony!" "Hush!  You keep quiet now!  The ritual is going on!"  


"For Zion's sake I will not keep silent," the Best Man rebukingly says to the crowd.  "For Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet,"  This man is under the unction of the Holy Spirit.  I can see tears welling up in his eyes as he defends, not his right to say these things, but her right to experience them.  "Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch."  


This Bride is a bit clueless, as I said.  The crowd though doesn't think they are.  Their entire focus is on the ritual itself.  The Bride in this picture is merely eye-candy.  The only purpose she serves, as far as they are concerned, is to get married.  This, and this alone, will satisfy their reason for attending the wedding.  They have made the wedding all about them.


The Best Man now turns and begins to speak directly to the Bride.  


"The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give."


"Look," he says, "every shameful thing you've ever done... all the things that have made you sorry to be called by your name?  They're all going to be washed away.  Your Beloved is going to give you a fresh start.  He's going to call you by HIS name."


More than that, he reminds her that the Groom is of royal blood.  This is the real genesis of the Cinderella story: to realize only as you are standing at the altar that the Groom is actually the son of the King and that you, a commoner, are about to become his princess.


What names did this Cinderella go by in her former life?  Desolate... Forsaken.  What a sad background to have.  And yet, everyone at the wedding knows that she did it to herself.  Way, way back, she had known she was of Royal blood as well, but she has forgotten it.  In her whoring and in her unfaithfulness she has completely lost any knowledge of her birthright.  And now the Best Man reminds her that she is The Beloved of The Groom.  


Oh what a joyful ministry it is to be given the commission to remind Israel, the Bride, the Elect of God's own choosing, that they are standing at an altar ready to clasp the hand of the one who will take away their shame and give them the honor of sharing his name!   You who call yourself Christian, is that not what Christ your Redeemer wants to do with you?  


Oh stay for a moment longer!  Stay and Christ will marry you!  Stay!  This is the moment before the consummation.  Don't despair!  Stay.  It is about to happen.


Jon  


  



Saturday, June 5, 2010

Stuff Christians Like


I have been following a blog by a man named Jon Acuff.  It is called "Stuff Christians Like", and I think he really hits the right tone most of the time.  His writing reminds me of the old Whittenburg Door from back in the 1970s.  Anyway, he had a bet going with a friend of his who I guess is the editor of Relevant Magazine.  If the Celtics won against Orlando in the play-offs, the Relevant editor would give away 20 subscriptions to his magazine.  All you had to do was write an email explaining what the last magazine you bought was.  Here was my reply.

By the way, today is the first day I am not the pastor of a small bricks-and-mortar church in rural New Hampshire.  I won't go into the whole story of why I chose to leave after just shy of two years, but I am sure in the Lord that my reasons were sound.  Please pray that God will grant me gainful employment doing something honorable, and that he will guide some of us in whether to ultimately plant a new church here in the town I live in.  

Yours in Christ,

Jon

"Dear Jonathan, 

I think "bought" is the important word here. I can't remember the last time I actually bought and paid for a magazine. It was probably one of the last times I flew. Christians are, by creed, frugal. 

Use it up 
Wear it out 
Make it do 
Or do without 

That's our mantra, and I'm sure it is in the Bible somewhere in non-poetic form, sort of like how Isaac Watts took perfectly good hebrew poetry and turned it into pretty awkward english metered verse. 

My point though is that I feel a bit guilty about last magazine I "acquired." I was in the post office collecting the mail for our church. I put the pile down on the counter and started throwing away all the circulars from Group Magazine, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Relevant, and several VBS ads. That's when I noticed a brand new copy of the latest National Geographic Magazine -- still in its plastic wrap -- that had been left on the counter before me. 

I looked around furtively to be sure there were no other customers to whom it might belong or who might judge a pastor for what I was about to do. After all, the lead article was about how Greenland has become the poster child for something Christians don't believe in: Global Warming. We can't believe in Global Warming because it isn't Republican. I don't know how Christians in other countries sort out these distinctions, but I know what Christians believe, and National Geographic is right on the edge of being a subversive magazine. When I was converted in the 1970s we were challenged to burn all our pornography and smash all our Grateful Dead records (pre-cassette, pre-CD), and since NGM carried full-frontals of unreached people groups, my entire collection of graphic National Geographics went on the ash heap of history. 

I am older now and probably a bit less sanctified and more jaded by all that life has thrown at me than in those days. As I stared at the once greatly loved contraband on the counter, I thought, "Surely no one will notice if the pastor walks out with a pinko-commie publication tucked between the brick of "Our Daily Bread" and the pile of denominational monthly newsletters I was just itching to read. 

So I confess. I did it. And I've been alternately enjoying and repenting while seated on my pastor's throne -- what worldly people would call "bathroom reading." I will wrestle at some other time with whether the acquisition of this magazine should be brought before the Session or maybe even go to Presbytery. For now, I just really want to thank you for being used of the Lord to hold me accountable. Where would any of us be without someone in our life to ask the really hard questions?"

"If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh."  Colossians 2:20-23