Happy Friday, Friends!
For the twelvth summer since 2004, my family spent a week at Maranatha – a modest yet delightful Bible camp that sits directly on Lake Michigan. You can see from the two pictures above that this is an incredibly beautiful spot. The weather is so perfect that half the time you can relax on the beach without breaking a sweat, other days a quick dip in the cold lake is required. But even more restorative than lounging on this peaceful beach, is sitting under godly teaching all week. There are no televisions in the rooms and cell coverage is spotty. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
There were two main themes that emerged from our week. The first was the Lordship and diety of Christ, maybe I’ll flesh that out next week, because the teaching was spectacular and it’s a been a long-time favorite topic of mine anyway. But the second theme was about influence. Bill Crowder, one of the two speakers, devoted a morning to it, but it was also prominent from the very first night.
Each week kicks off on a Saturday night with a concert. Our week was Andrew Peterson. If I knew that when I made our reservation in August of 2016, I had forgotten. Will walked over for the start of the concert, but I had stayed a little while longer with my mom so I was still driving across the state. When I was maybe thirty minutes away, Will texted me from the concert, “This guy wrote your What the Promise is For song.” I couldn’t get there fast enough.
The song from 2010 which Will was referencing is called Dancing in the Minefields and commemorates Peterson’s fifteen years of marriage. The refrain “that’s what the promise is for” is talking about when marriage is hard: that’s what the promise is for. I love that song. I played it for Will on our 20th anniversary even though I thought he’d probably say something like, “Yeah, it’s ok.” And that’s exactly what he did. Of course, hearing it live gave him a fuller appreciation. He’s now a fan of the Peterson and the song.
When I finally made it to the concert, it was already half over. But by God’s abundant grace, I was there for the most important part. Andrew Peterson’s Doxology closes each night of services at Maranatha, and has for probably the last eight or so years. The words are from Romans 11, but the music was written by Peterson and only recorded as a bootleg version. Years ago I tried to find a copy. I loved singing it at Maranatha, but I wasn’t satisfied with only singing it one or two weeks a yeaer. It wasn’t on iTunes, Peterson’s website or anywhere else. Of course, I hadn’t tried tracking the song down in a few years so I couldn’t have predicted the story Peterson was about to tell.
Before singing the song, Peterson explained that when he had given a concert at Maranatha in 2012, he had one of the most moving experiences he’s ever had as a performer. He said he’d written Doxology ten years before and had almost forgotten about it. It never made it onto an album, so very few people had ever heard it. One person who had heard it was the worship leader at Maranatha, a talented muscian named Charlie. Charlie was the one who had started the tradition of closing each night of services with the beautiful, little-known modern hymn.
When Peterson performed Doxology at Maranatha in 2012, having nearly forgotten the song existed, he was joined by 600 voices that knew the song like the back of their hands. Is that the coolest thing? You can imagine how emotionally gripping that must have been for Peterson! It also prompted him to officially record the song, so you can now find it on iTunes as Romans 11 (Doxology)!
But here’s the point: only God knows the impact your words and actions are having. Every single person has a sphere of influence, big or small, and we should take seriously that we are bringing people closer to Christ or pushing them away every minute of every day. Sometimes you will see the fruit of your endeavors a la Peterson, but most of the time you won’t. Still, this world needs the love of Christ and disciples who consistently point others to Him.
Bill Crowder told a tear-jerker of a story about when he fell off a thirty-foot high bridge as a young, man. He inexplicably survived and while he was in traction, a woman he did not know told him, “God has a plan for your life.” Kind, encouraging words from a total stranger can change the course of history, and for Crowder they did just that.
Proverbs says, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (16:24 ESV). Praying this morning that my sphere of influence will be like a honeycomb, full or gracious words that both provide sweetness and faithfully point to Christ.