For many of us, July brings a long-awaited renewal in the form of a summer vacation.
This year, my family made our annual pilgrimage from Georgia to New Hampshire for the Fairwood Family Convention. Our annual foray into the Northland is a welcome retreat from our yearlong routine of schooling and vocation. At Fairwood, we shared a week with other like-minded families in a rare setting of teaching, activity, recreation, and fellowship. This year, the teaching and youth meetings were particularly memorable for our children. Every year, this week is a long awaited time of physical and spiritual renewal.
During our second week in the North, we visited dear friends and enjoyed the beauty of the coast of Maine, the Catskill Mountains of New York, and then Niagara Falls. At Niagara Falls, Pari and I had occasion of speaking at length with a Muslim family who like my wife were born abroad. After being informed with great certainty that the whole world would one day be Muslim, Pari gave a clear and certain presentation of the gospel. That same night we stayed in an almost entirely Muslim community (courtesy of AirBNB).
These connections seemed to be from God and were on my mind as I stood the next morning at the base of the American falls. My attention was captivated by the powerful rapids where the waters rushed over a steep incline of talus and into the Niagara River. It seemed like a picture of “Living Waters” which flow (with the gospel) from the hearts of believers to a vast unbelieving humanity spread across the globe. This natural wonder is breathtaking in grandeur and beauty and helped renew my commitment to pray daily and seek opportunity for sharing the gospel.
These weeks in the North are a welcome annual renewal for our little family, but an annual renewal is not enough. There are also weekly and daily renewals.
The Sabbath is the jewel of the week. Many of us have busy lives and the need to stop on Friday evening is great. God invites us to enter His “holy place”, His sanctuary (Hebrews 10:19, 22) – God’s rest is just as real as the mighty Niagara Falls.
The Sabbath is a time when we put aside the pressing demands of hard work and daily activity. The many hours of the Sabbath afford us the opportunity for meditation and prayer, and the physical renewal that prepares us for the busy week ahead. Give me a well-kept Sabbath and the following week may howl with demands, but I’ll have courage to face every one of them.
We need a daily renewal as well. And there is actually something even more beautiful than the Sabbath (or Niagara Falls) – God’s heavenly realm. It is difficult to imagine a world so unlike our own where perfect peace is the norm and all is ruled by the laws of peace, love and joy, but heaven is such a place. Heaven is more real, because it exists through the endless eons of eternity. The realm of our Lord may be beyond our limited human senses, but it is just as tangible as the earth, water, skies, and all the living things that we can see outside our kitchen windows. All that is good and wholesome forms the pattern of heaven, and God projects this good into our world and our lives through Jesus Christ.
There is so much beauty that God has given us to renew our souls: the natural world, the Sabbath, and His presence. Let’s remind ourselves that there is and always will be peace in heaven and that the divine Source of peace invites us to dwell with Him; through the year, through the week, and through each moment of the day.
Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus …let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith (Hebrews 10:19, 22).