for those who don't want to just wait it out

like the song says this is a blog for someone who wants to say something (anything) and who's happy to wait and see what time will bring...

Monday, April 13, 2009

ETC is pretty much always a highlight for both students and staff so it’s no wonder that I’ve just had a great weekend. A little tiring (mentally and physically) but so worthwhile to spend from Thursday night to Monday lunch with the students thinking through “Amazing Grace” and the Doctrine of Salvation. We had record numbers this year – with the peak being grads coming back on Saturday to see 120 in the hall singing, praying and learning from God’s word. The amazing part for me was walking in on Thursday night and realising that there were a bunch of people that I had never met who are involved in some way with Credo. It’s a catch 22 – we want to be a community that shares and grows in Christ together, but as we grow it means that there will be people that some of us don’t know! But it was great to actually start to get to know some of them better over discussion groups and meals. I think a highlight for me was seeing 18 first years ready to be involved with Credo and think about what it will mean to be a Christian at uni for the next however many years.

Here are some reflections/summaries that I typed up as the days went on to give you an over-view (DVD’s/talks etc will be available sometime soon)

Friday morning session: we looked at the ideas of salvation: how salvation is communicated in a variety of ways in Scripture and how we then need to be thinking creatively (and in ways that speak to a variety of cultures) to share the Gospel. It was particularly helpful because I find that so often we become comfortable, complacent or confined in the way that we think about talking to others about Jesus. We have ‘tracks’ that, although can be helpful to get us thinking, some people often come to rely on in a mechanistic kind of way – the gospel = a + b + c…. and so become unstruck when someone injects a ‘but what about xyz that are what’s going on in my life?’.

One example that Sam gave was imagine being in a country or culture that feared spiritual demons or attacks – it would be ludicrous to share the gospel without saying “I have good news for you – Jesus is more powerful than any Spirit – in fact he conquered the spirit that you’re most afraid of…” Similarly looking at the way that Jesus himself ‘contextualised’ the Gospel in the different ways that He talked with Niccodemas, the woman at the well, the Pharisees or the rich young man… each is different. Each points to Christ but is done in very different ways based on the lives of those who are coming to Him.

On Friday evening we were reminded of the Lords supper from 1 Cor 11. There was this great moment when 120 people were sitting in 5 groups around a pile of flatbread, hommous and large cups filled with juice. Rather than the way we normally do the Lords Supper (you know, tiny piece of white bread, crusts cut off and a thimble full of juice that looks more like a little shot glass?) it was great to be able to have a hunk of bread to chew over the things that we are thankful for with the physical sacrifice of Jesus and then to wash it down

I was in Rome a number of years ago, and like most people stopped to look through some of the great works of art throughout the city. The Sistine chapel paints an amazing scene for us – it’s the interface between God and us at the point of creation… It’s the Creator and the created and how they can interact. On Saturday morning we looked at how outside of Eden this is now done through calling, regeneration and conversion – we can come back to the Creator through the Cross. We also saw how in the bible there are many different ways that people are ‘converted’ or come to have faith in Jesus with a few of them being:

o Someone whose known about Jesus, walked away from faith and then come back (the prodigal son, Luke 15)
o Someone who has always been against Jesus and against Christians coming to see the truth of who He really is
(Saul/Paul, Acts 9, 22, 26; Gal:1)
o Someone whose grown up in a Christian home and has been taught the gospel from birth
(Timothy, 2 Tim 1:5, 3:15)

It was really encouraging to look at actually because it reminded me that there is not set way in which someone comes to understand, know and love Jesus. It’s not that there is a formula, or that one way is better than another – what matters is that you come to the Cross not the way in which you get there.

Sunday morning we hit the topics of justification and sanctification, imputed and imparted righteousness

Isaiah 6 sees God on His throne and Isaiah recognises that he is a man of unclean lips – that he as an unrighteous sinner and yet can stand before a Holy God is something that is hard for us to comprehend today in our own lives too. So often I look at myself and am fully aware of ways or things that I do that are displeasing to God – and yet I can still come before Him in prayer and I know I will in Heaven. It’s humbling to be reminded that this will never be because of any of the ‘good’ things we do, but because Jesus has justified us. Justification is God declaring us as right with Him, innocent and not guilty. This isn’t the Sunday school answer of ‘just as if I’d never sinned’. It recognises that we have sinned, we were unable to stand before God but not that sin has been dealt with and through Jesus we’ve been set free from our guilt.

On Sunday afternoon I did a session on arrogance, pride and humility and if nothing else one thing that really stood out to me was that when we come before the cross – when we remember that Jesus was there, broken, bruised and bloodied (for me) this is no room for pride or arrogance. There’s no room for arrogance in anything I can do or accomplish in the shadow of the cross. But more than this we looked a little at how God feels about pride, arrogance and humility; for those who were there (or those who weren’t and want to look up some verses) then I’d encourage you to look at again Is 66:2, James 4:6, Prov 6:16-17, Prov 8:13 and 1 Peter 5:5.

On Monday morning (today) we looked at adoption and reconciliation. I was really struck as Sam was talking about our need for adoption, both as children as God as heirs with Jesus and our adoption into a community of brothers and sisters. Grace is never an individual thing – it’s offered communally (God to His people) and is shared and experienced communally – both here on earth and in Heaven to come. As a family we share in a banquet. It’s an image that as westerners we don’t often get the imagery of because we just have our nice little 2 or 3 course dishes – and yet in most other cultures the idea of a banquet is feasting that you can never get through! There is a lavish abundance that we share in – and we get to share in it with God! Can you imagine the scene? A banquet in the company of God…. food, gifts and good things from God with an abundance more than we could ever imagine – so lavish that we could only ever touch the surface of it…

One of the things that was fun was Joel and I setting up an espresso machine to sell all things caffeine related to raise some cash for our short term teams (ok, let’s face it, Joel was doing the hard work, I was doing the talking and selling and the one time I tried to use the machine it wouldn’t work and I burnt my hand). Capitalising on peoples growing repulsion to ‘instant coffee’ (seriously? IT”S NOT COFFEE!!!!) we found that a flood of people came to make some purchases over breaky or after the morning sessions. And thankfully, it was worth it because we raised around $750!

I had some truly amazing conversations over the weekend – and I’m always touched by how students are so willing to honestly share some of the things/issues that they’re struggling and thinking through. Even more so how some will allow me to invest in them and their lives and challenge them, some times in daunting as well as exciting ways about how God could be working in their lives and how they can be bringing Him glory. It’s a blessing to be a part of their lives at a stage in life when they’re thinking the most about who they are, who God is, and how we can relate to Him.

It was great just to spend some more time with them and invest in ‘deepening Grace’. As a staff team we had the aims for the week of the talks ‘extending Grace’ and that though our conversations and seminars we wanted to ‘deepening Grace’ in the way that students esp saw and understood God’s goodness to us in all areas of our lives.

For those who haven’t already - meet Kirby! She’s one of the students who’ll be coming back to the Gulf with me and it was great to see her (and the rest of the team!) interacting and getting to know each other better and as well to officially introduce the teams to the rest of Credo for them to be praying for us and supporting us as Credo as a whole sends the teams OS.

So all in all, a little tiring (to be expected!) but yet another great ETC where we were blessed to see God working powerfully through the talks, sessions and just hanging-out-on-the-soccer-sidelines or sitting around with a cuppa conversations….

And now I’m off to do it all over again! Any minute now I’m going to be racing out of my place to head to the airport and over to New Zealand to join the TSCF students on their Northern Region Conference (Tues-Fri) and then spend some time after seeing a bit of the north island - I’ve never been to NZ before so I’m looking forward to seeing it! But more than seeing the island, I’m looking forward to spending time with the people that I’m going to se it with.

I was blessed at SPRTE in December to make some great new friends in the brothers and sisters that work with TSCF. I didn’t know at the time just how important they would come to be to me – so it’ll be wonderful to just hang out… to meet the rest of their families and kick back with a glass of wine and watch the world go by.

Back on the 25th – I’m sure stories and pics will come then
x j.