Back from Northern California: Reflections

Cindi and I got back today from a 10-day trip to Northern California.  I spoke at a 6th-8th grade camp on the Beatitudes, we saw some great college friends, we stayed with Kent and Julie Dresdow and visited their new church and heard Kent preach, hung out in San Francisco for a night and a day, and spent two nights with Ben and Abby Borders (formerly Abby Hegg) in San Jose.

The camp was very refreshing and encouraging.  Very needed after a profitable but wearying summer.  The kids were receptive to the voice of God speaking in His Word, and they were well-behaved.  Kids (or anyone, for that matter) who are not old enough to be “too cool” for the people and circumstances around them are a pure joy to be around.  And the beatitudes are amazing.  May I learn to live them, and may the world be turned upside down.

It was heavenly being at the Dresdow’s church.  To see the happiness of the people, their receptivity to the Word and their conviction in response to God-centered preaching, their exuberance in song and fellowship, their freedom and joy as they adorned the house of God with delight — I’m overjoyed that Kent and Julie are there.  Kent preached on Ephesians 6:18-20 — prayer — and it was a stirring message.  I desperately want to pray more and deeper and better…. pick your adverb.

Sunday afternoon we went to an Oakland A’s game.  Oakland is a pretty old and dirty city (quite noticeably).  Which usually means lots of inner city.  Which means the Good News looks really, really good.  I hope some Good Samaritans are down there.  I’m sure they are — God is faithful.  Gives you a burden to see one big city out of the thousands in the world and to know that it’s only *one* city.  And that’s just the cities.  God, help us.

It’s expensive to stay in San Francisco.  It’s embarrassing how much we paid just to stay one night in a Travelodge.  The Bay Area is ridiculously rich in general (despite the previous comments about Oakland).  A good area to pray for, because it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  How hard?  Harder than it is for a camel to mosey through the eye of a needle.  So faith says, “With God all things are possible.”  That’ll give you hope.

On Monday morning on the way down to San Jose to see Ben and Abby, we stopped at a beach where there was a concrete barrier a ways away from the water.  It had a ton of graffiti on it, some of it quite artistic.  We took a bunch of pictures with various ‘taggings’ (I may have just made that word up), a practice that may become a tradition for us while on trips.  Those guys are very skilled.  We can only pray that someday they will be called out of darkness and into God’s marvelous light so as to use their abilities to proclaim His glory, just like the heavens do — without even having to use words (Ps. 19).  Beauty is a powerful thing.

Two days with Ben and Abby was very refreshing, as well.  We played games, caught up on life and soon-to-be-made decisions, talked about the need for wisdom, difficult situations in life in which God is faithful, biblical responsibilities of husbands, and much more.  Some of the most amazing friendships are those where it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been away from each other — you just pick up where you left off.  Every David who has a Jonathan in this life should “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.”

We also watched a couple movies on the trip, which made me ask the movie question again — i.e., should I watch them?  My conclusions aren’t set, but I have a lot to think about.  Much of what bothered me was the fact that one of the dominant themes in my mind as I pondered the movie question was, “If I decided not to watch almost any movies (except very obviously appropriate and healthy ones), what would I do when I was in a group of people that was about to watch one?”  This wicked, conniving, deceitful, monstrous heart…. The kind of question my flesh was asking is a direct frontal assault on biblical thinking and biblical choosing.  What my flesh was trying to tell me was, “If you decide not to watch a movie that the group is watching, that’s going to be awkward.  People might feel a bit ostracized or judged.  You might look ‘holier-than-thou’.  What are you going to do, go off and read your Bible while everyone else is watching the movie?  That’ll look a little arrogant.”  But since when was consequential awkwardness the determiner of biblical choices?  And since when did the way my decisions appear to a group of people become the ultimate determiner of what God has said about being set apart from the world?  Since never, that’s when.  Whether or not I decide to watch a movie or not, I cannot allow myself to think this way.  So much of spirituality is mental.  I win or lose in my mind.

So, let the silent shouting match begin.  Flesh vs. spirit, round 105,279,704,434,549.  Or something like that.  It’s easy to lose count in this kind of war.

God, give me the strength and wisdom and grace to know Your Word, to have and hold unshakeable convictions, to know the difference between black and white and all the shades of gray and all the circumstances that determine their grayness, to never judge others, and to always do what the Spirit wants me to do.  This is hard.  My goodness — Your Son lived an awesome life.

We had a safe drive the whole way, too — there, back, and in between.  It’s the ‘little’ things that really tug on your heart, and help you to taste and see that the Lord is good.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”


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