Summary: Saving people is the very top of God’s agenda. Sometimes in the church, we get focused on what God is doing among us and miss looking at what God is doing outside of us.
What I Did On My Summer Vacation… God’s Heart For People
August 6, 2006 various texts
It is good to be back, after my vacation time last month! I’ve been back at work this past week, and of course the first question everyone asks is: “How was your vacation?”
It was good. We went to the Calgary Stampede, Calaway Park, and Capital Ex. We did a ton of work landscaping our yard – planting plants, planting a garden, building a fence around the garden, putting in an irrigation system to water the garden, installing lighting, laying sod, laying rock, laying mulch, and finishing building my deck. We found some time to just hang around and play, and of course there was also my big fishing trip that my brother takes me on each year. Except this year my brother couldn’t come at the last minute, so I went with all of his business associates! The salmon weren’t as plentiful as usual, so we watched the sea lions, saw a humpback whale, and fed the bald eagles. And, for those of you wondering, yes I did catch something! Not quite 30lbs, Chinook Salmon.
This is the third year for this trip, and it has been very restorative for me. We stay in a remote place – no cell coverage, no internet, no newspapers, no email, no television, no landscaping jobs, just nature and people. It has been a time that God has used to reconnect me to Him, to the way He sees things, and to bring me into a different perspective about how big God is, how big the world is, and how my big God is able to handle this big world.
This year the same thing happened, but in a different way. I just said that the only thing in this place is nature and people, and the stuff that people bring with them. My brother was unable to come because of the death and funeral of his mother-in-law, and so I ended up spending almost a week with 11 other guys, most non-Christians, with the alcohol flowing freely and the coarse talk abounding, and there is pastor Steve in the middle of it, hoping and praying and wanting to be like Jesus to these men.
After a miserable day of bad weather and few fish bites, I sat on the deck of the boat talking with a guy named Greg who was sorry that my brother couldn’t come because of the death in the family, and this led quite naturally into a conversation about death. I shared the security we have as Christians that death is not a final end, that there is a place where there is no more sickness or pain or tears, and in turn he talked about a difficult funeral he had just been a part of for a very close friend. As he shared the story, I heard bits that were plain evidences to me of the presence of God with them, and I pointed those out and was able to encourage this man, and in turn I too was encouraged. I don’t know what the end will be to that story, but I’m trusting God to use that conversation for His glory.
For me, the biggest impact, and the place where I really got reconnected to the heart of God actually happened when I returned home. I got in late on Saturday night, and came here to church on Sunday morning because Bill Atchinson had asked me to baptize him and that was a great honor which I did not want to miss. It was a great service – Ray and Randy led worship, Brian Wiens ran the service, Bill’s testimony was incredibly encouraging, Julian Dabbagh preached a great sermon, and as I was chatting after the service Matt Beddoes grinned and said, “I lost the bet.”
“What bet?” I asked.
“I bet that you’d take off as soon as the service was over so you could get back to your holidays!”
But I didn’t, because I didn’t want to. I experienced such a huge contrast that Sunday morning with my week on a remote fishing lodge with those 11 guys – here at church there was deep and true joy, rather than mere happiness. Here at church I felt love and acceptance, instead of cutting remarks and jesting insults. Here at church I knew so much more goodness and life than that which comes with alcohol and betting and money and juvenile humor. As I participated in worship that morning, I felt the Spirit of God taking me back out on to the ocean looking out at this majestic humpback whale, in this huge ocean, a tiny speck in this massive planet full of life and beauty, with its vastness and with God in control of it all, and then I saw the reality of how, without Jesus, the lives of these men were really desperate, empty, hopeless – underneath the bravado were stories of broken marriages, hurtful family relationships, and of a well hidden need to be loved unconditionally. I saw their lives and the lives of all the people who are far from God through God’s eyes – and I felt the sadness of God. Romans 8:22-26 came alive for me, which says: