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, June 20, 2011

Foundational Stuff


I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever;
            with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever;
            in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”
Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD,
            your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!
The north and the south, you have created them;
            Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.
Blessed are the people who know the festal shout,
            who walk, O LORD, in the light of your face,
            who exult in your name all the day
            and in your righteousness are exalted.
He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father,
                        my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’
Blessed be the LORD forever!
            Amen and Amen.
(Excerpts from Psalm 89)

Psalm 89 is actually a longish psalm and much of it is a sort of complaint about how faithless Israel has been and how slow it seems God has been to react.  I chose these highlights from the psalm because they form the foundation, without which the psalmist would simply have been in despair.  Our hope is not in what hasn’t happened yet.  Our hope is in the Lord, and there’s a very great difference there. 

This is easier to see in Psalm 103:2-5.  

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.”

Oh yea?  I get (conceptually, at least) that God has forgiven all my iniquity.  Thank God for that.  Though frankly there are plenty of times I don’t feel forgiven.  But the rest of it?  Ask yourself, has God healed all your diseases?  Has he really redeemed your life from the pit – like the last time someone at work threw you under the bus to save their own skin?  Did God make that one come out on top for you?  Where’s the crown he promised you?  Do you really live a life of deep satisfaction, like the bucolic end scene of some Jane Austin novel?  Do you really walk around in the world hoping in those things?  If so, you’re on the wrong track. 

What really caught my eye this morning were all the foundational things, not the conditional things.  Conditions change all the time.  One day you’ll rise above your sin, the next you’ll find yourself mired in dark thoughts.  But Psalm 103 begins with the foundational statement: “Bless the Lord, O my soul.”  The “and…” is what to do once your soul has made a practice of blessing the Lord.  You won’t see the rest of life properly until you have got the foundation.

The foundation in Psalm 89 is highlighted in bold type, and can be strung together into a single sentence: The steadfast love of the LORD is his faithfulness; his wonders he has created joyously praising his name in the light of his face; his name, his righteousness.   ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’  Blessed be the LORD!  That’s the foundational stuff.  That’s the stuff that doesn’t change because of circumstance or condition.  That’s what I should be meditating on all the time. 

If you read the rest of Psalm 89 you will hear the complaint, the whining, the annoyance that God doesn’t seem to be “coming through” for Israel in the midst of all her troubles.  But that’s just as much sandwich filling as the stuff in Psalm 103 was.  God is asking us to focus on the bread of who he is, not the peanut butter and jelly.  It is so easy to spend your days in philosophical angst over whether the glass is half full or half empty and completely miss that God has filled the glass with the unchangeable wine of his Spirit. 

Jon

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