The Refreshing Center of Summer
by Paul Gilbert
I am a child of the 70’s, which means I can remember the commercial just like it was yesterday: “We love baseball, hotdogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.” And, if you were alive then, I bet you can remember it too! (If you want to taste this 1975 goodness for yourself, Google beckons you to explore Americana in all of its nostaglic glory).
For me, this commercial conjures up all of the awesome things I associate with summer: food, travel, sports, and chillin'. Maybe your own memories of yore are activated as this season approaches, with visions of vacations, beaches, snow cones, and softball beckoning you forward. As you can probably tell, summer is a favorite time of the year, and I am totally jazzed about the R and R that awaits.
Yet, when I look back on my previous 46 summers, I have to admit that they haven’t always been the most spiritually productive times. The opportunities to sleep a bit longer, stay up a tad later, and slow down just a notch have often given way to full-borne spiritual laziness. The relaxation of the schedule has unfortunately been accompanied by a relaxation of the spiritual disciplines and urgency that should always characterize our lives.
John Piper wrote a short article a number of years ago about the dangers and opportunities of summer. The vision for summer that Dr. Piper lays out is so compelling that I wanted to reproduce it for you here. Read it over, and let’s touch base at the end of this letter for some parting words….
Originally published in A Godward Life (Multnomah, 1997)
If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1-2)
Every season is God’s season. But summer has its special power.
Jesus Christ is refreshing, but flight from him into Christless leisure makes the soul parched. At first it may feel like freedom and fun to skimp on prayer, and neglect the Word. But then we pay: shallowness, powerlessness, vulnerability to sin, preoccupation with trifles, superficial relationships, and a frightening loss of interest in worship and the things of the Spirit.
Don’t let summer make your soul shrivel. God made summer as a foretaste of heaven, not a substitute. If the mailman brings you a love letter from your fiancé, don’t fall in love with the mailman. That’s what summer is: God’s messenger with a sun-soaked, tree-green, flower-blooming, lake-glistening letter of love to show us what he is planning for us in the age to come—“things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Don’t fall in love with the video preview, and find yourself unable to love the coming reality.
Jesus Christ is the refreshing center of summer. He is preeminent in all things (Colossians 1:18), including vacations and picnics and softball and long walks and cookouts. He invites us in the summer: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). This is serious summer refreshment.
Do we want it? That is the question. Christ gives himself to us in proportion to how much we want his refreshment. “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 11:12). One of the reasons to give the Lord special attention in the summer is to say to him “We want all your refreshment. We really want it.”
Peter’s word to us about this is: “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). Repentance is not just turning away from sin, but also turning toward the Lord with hearts open and expectant and submissive.
What sort of summer mindset is this? It is the mindset of Colossians 3:1-2, "If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth."
In the summer the earth is very much with us. And it is God’s earth! But it is all prelude to the real drama of heaven. It is a foretaste of the real banquet. It is a video preview of the reality of what the eternal summer will be like when “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, andits lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23). So, you see, the summer sun is a mere pointer to the sun that will be: the glory of God. Summer is for seeing and showing that. Will we have eyes to see? Do you want to have eyes to see? Lord, let us see the Light beyond the campfire.
One of the ways I want to invite you into savoring Christ anew this summer is by joining us on Sunday nights as we soak our souls in the life-giving words of the book of Revelation. We will be using Scotty Smith’s book, “Unveiled Hope” (attached), as the basis for our study. These times are not going to be anything fancy, just some coffee, dessert, fellowship, worship, and interactive teaching by me and a few other pastors. Starting Sunday, June 5 and continuing on through Labor Day, we will crank up at 7 PM, finish by 9 PM, and ask God along the way to encourage our hearts, to feed our minds, and to help us reclaim this hope-filled book for our own souls. You can sign up here.
Praying Christ’s sweetness for you this summer,