New City Fellowship’s first Sunday service was held in October 2015. Since then, God graciously used me to fill a pulpit (mostly at NCF, of course) every Sunday. That was 88 Sundays. I thank God for giving me the strength to do that. I am amazed by the examples of men who God used to preach his Gospel over longer, more intense, and more arduous stretches than mine. I am thankful for the rest I enjoyed with my family this past week.
My wife’s family holds a reunion every few years. Her dad's siblings and their families come together from all over the country for a week together at some central location. This year's reunion was in Minnesota. So Debbie and I drove there with our two little girls. We travelled there by way of Chicago. After leaving the reunion, we came home via Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, camping along the shores of Lake Superior.
My church family refreshes me. They (you) support me and my family in many ways, including letting us take some time away. In return, I hope it will be refreshing for my church family to be let in on some of my thoughts about our trip.
I’ve organized these under three headings: (1) Glory, (2) Corruption, and (3) Contentment.
Friends. Lakes. Sunsets. Rainbows. Children. Ice cream. Wife. Beauty. Glory.
God is gloriously beautiful, and you can see this in the world that he has made. The world is beautiful and enjoyable because God is beautiful and enjoyable. The glory of a sunset reflects the glory of God.
“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20a).“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).
Going to unusually beautiful places is good. These are windows through which we see the glory of God. The vastness of Lake Superior is an arrow pointing to the incomprehensible depth of the wisdom of God. Seeing a row of wild lupines growing on an island reminds us that our Father in heaven clothes the flowers of the field. Taking in the many colors of a sunset provides a taste of the exquisitely complex beauty of our Savior.
Hebrews 11 is known as “the Hall of Fame of Faith.” In that chapter, faith is defined and described. After demonstrating faith in the lives of past saints, the writer of the book of Hebrews concludes,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1–2)
By faith in God’s promises, we set out on a journey away from our old home. By faith, we pursue a new home where God resides (Hebrews 11:8–16). And it is this very journey away from the old and toward the new that makes it clear that “sin…clings so closely.”
No matter how many new and beautiful places you go, you will find that you take your old, dirty, sinful habits with you. I would argue that a 2100-mile car trip with an almost-2-year-old and a just-now-4-year-old (in adjacent car seats) is a wonderful tool for exposing impatience and selfishness in any dad! The unintelligible actions of other drivers, weariness from long days on the road, and on-the-spot decisions on where to go and how much time and money to spend—these all proved to be excellent scenarios for God to show me that my sin is the stain on his glorious world. Children are good. Marriage is good. Creation is good. Sin corrupts it all.
It is humbling and refreshing to be shown these realities. My heart has been renewed in thankfulness for the promise of cleansing and forgiveness in Christ.
“The Christian is the most contented man in the world, but he is the least contented with the world. He is like a traveler in an inn, perfectly satisfied with the inn and its accommodation, considering it as an inn, but putting quite out of all consideration the idea of making it his home.” — Charles Spurgeon
We didn’t know quite where we would go after the reunion. Our decision to head toward Lake Superior came late, and we were not entirely prepared. But God provided in small, enjoyable ways. For example…
Some family members were flying home from the reunion, so they gave us all their leftover groceries, including microwaveable rice, eggs, and spicy hummus. The next night at a hotel in Duluth, we cooked the bagged rice, and then reused the bag to cook scrambled eggs. With a little spicy hummus on top, the dish was quite appetizing! I was amused and humbled to see what God provided through ordinary means. Of course, we could’ve gone out to eat again, but honestly the rice and egg dish was better. I was (and am) in awe of my frugal wife who finds ways to conserve and enjoy God’s gifts in our lives.
In our convenience-driven, preference-pursuing, prone-to-excess world, it is a strange experience to be compelled to live with what you have. Looking into the luggage, we were consistently confronted with evidence of both under-packing and overpacking. But there was always enough. Being content (“thankful for what you have”) is as good and holy as it is empowering and elusive. Paul describes it as a power-infused “secret” in Philippians 4:11–13. The more content we are, the fewer clouds there are in the way of seeing God’s kind provision in our lives. Here, thankfulness is less crowded. It flourishes, and its flowers are good. May God bless you with godliness and contentment as you journey here.
I could go on, but I hope what I’ve written here helps you in your walk with our Savior. May God’s grace and peace be multiplied to you in Christ.