I’ve just returned from the annual BJU Seminary retreat at The WILDS in North Carolina. The event made several impressions on me, all of them positive:
- I drove one of the vans up, carrying 7 students, both graduate and undergrad. As it happened, mine was the “late van,” leaving well after the main vehicle surge, to enable students with late commitments to attend. The van was filled with chatter and laughter as the students interacted as friends and colleagues in this adventure called school. They know they’re having a good time, but they probably don’t realize to what extent these experiences, and especially the relationships and interactions, are formative, changing them in ways that will endure for decades. We have serious conversations as well, about doctrine and ministry and the questions that most young people in this stage of life wrestle with. If Jesus tarries, I’m confident that this generation will carry well the load that their times place on them. I’m especially sure of that when I recall that my generation grew up in the 60s, when our parents had every reason to despair of the future—the times, they were indeed a-changin’—and by God’s grace we carried our load as well.
- The WILDS is a remarkable resource. It’s designed for its purpose—to enable fellowship with one another and with God—and it’s run by people who are committed to that purpose, who are competent, and who are as selfless as any I’ve ever met. Every time I go there I see some other activity or facility set up, ready to increase the overall strength of the program and reinforce the mission. I have lots of memories there—the record for terminal velocity hitting the post at the bottom of the land trolley is one that I’m particularly proud of—and all of them tied directly to experiences with God and with his people in ways that have influenced my thinking and direction in life. They have been an unmitigated blessing to me.
- The Seminary is a grace-filled institution, with faculty who combine solid biblical scholarship with whole-hearted devotion. It’s good to see that balance maintained in the fifth decade after I studied there.
- General revelation is indeed revelation. Every camp ministry knows that when you get people out into nature, their thoughts tend to turn Godward. All our senses are bombarded with evidence of the Creator’s greatness and goodness—the sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes, the textures all draw us back to our roots in him, to his ample and rich provision for us as inhabitants of this planet, and to the wonder of what he has done in creating a world at once complex, beautiful, and calming. In the artful words of Odell Shepard,
All the wisdom, all the beauty, I have lived for unaware
Came upon me by the rote of highland rills;
I have seen God walking there
In the solemn soundless air,
When the morning wakened wonder in the hills.
- But these beauties are not gods. They are rather gifts from the One True God, to be delighted in, but not to satisfy apart from him. As we were reminded in the sessions by our former colleague Dr. Robert Vincent, Christ is all, and he is more than enough. To delight in his gifts, but to have no meaningful relationship with him, is to miss the whole point. To delight in him is to be fulfilled in the only ways that matter. By a kind providence, my personal Bible study during August and September is in Colossians, where Bob’s point this past weekend is precisely Paul’s point. We are offered many substitutes for Christ—the Colossians were offered angels—but he is before all, above all, over all, and he is Enough.
What a gift of 26 hours filled with reminders of God’s goodness and greatness. The surroundings, the people, the shared experiences, the worship, the time with God, all serve together to draw us to him, to extract our thanks, to strengthen us for the tasks that lie ahead.
God is great, and God is good.
Let us thank him.