When I was at Sovereign Grace Community Church in Sarnia I used to do something called "Northern Reflections" each summer when I returned from vacation. It gave me a chance to talk about our time away and some of the things that Lord had been speaking to me about while I was enjoying the beauty of the world he has made. For one reason or another I never carried on with the practice in recent years but this year I think I will take it up again here on my blog.
Because of all the changes in my own life and ministry and the the configuration of our family with the university students working at summer jobs, we had a shorter time away than usual. However, we enjoyed great weather and managed to pack as much as we could into each day. As a family we are very privileged to have some place to go to every year and it gives us time to talk together about the year that has gone by and the one that lies ahead. With all the changes that are an inevitable part of our lives, my wife and I think it is important to have somewhere that remains the same that we can come back to year after year.
Since this past year has been so hectic I think I enjoyed the beauty of the creation more than usual. I have always been taken by the rocks and trees and the open water. Whether I was hiking in the woods or canoeing or riding in the boat, I could not help but marvel at the skill and wisdom of the Creator. I think my appreciation was also enhanced by what I had chosen to read this summer at the cottage. "Great Doctrines of the Bible" by Martyn Lloyd-Jones begins with what the Bible teaches us about God. Reading that in the evening and then spending the day in a place where God's fingerprints are everywhere makes it easy to stand in awe of God's awesome power and bountiful grace which sustains the world around us. As the psalmist says: "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands" (Psalm 19:1).
But there is another sense in which the whole scene made me sad. Here we are surrounded by evidence of the true and living God and yet how many live as though he does not exist. While we were away we would listen to reports on the radio of war in the Middle East. We could observe firsthand those who have made a god out of "cottage life," people who live for the weekend and the chance to escape into a make-believe world populated by those who live at a level of affluence that most of the world can only imagine. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of one's labors surely there is a difference between that and "amusing ourselves to death." For all the beauty of Central Ontario it is a spiritual wasteland and I was reminded of the need to pray in the words of Isaiah the prophet that God "would rend the heavens and come down" (64:1). Vacations are good and very necessary, but there is a work to be done and a Gospel to be proclaimed, and a Savior to be loved and adored. This coming year I am praying that God will give me the strength and zeal to do all that I can to glorify his name by bringing people to know him. As beautiful as the world is from the perspective of creation it also bears the marks of humankind's fall and rebellion. There is only one answer: Jesus the Christ.
On the way home we were just cars away from a three car pile-up on the highway. Fortunately I do not think anyone was seriously hurt. But it did remind me again for the brevity of life and how we never know what a day will bring. The people involved did not know when they got up that morning that before the sun set they would stare death, and from a Christian perspective, eternity in the face. So-called "accidents" happen every day and we have no guarantee that we will see tomorrow even on the way home from cottage country. Many years ago the writer of Ecclesiastes said: "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of every human being. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil" (12:13-14).