Thursday, 26 April 2012

Easter Character

As part of my Easter tradition I head up to Katoomba for the Easter Convention with some friends and family. This year KEC was celebrating its 50th Easter Convention, which is really quite an effort. The speakers this year were an American author and seminary principal (Dr. Bryan Chapell), an Irish Cambridge PhD candidate (Jonny Gibson) and an inner Sydney minister (Justin Moffatt).

Bryan's talks were on the topic of holiness and grace. In Isaiah 6 we see an image of how holy God is, but we also see His greater glory, not in His transcendence but his transfer to Isaiah. The infinite became intimate with sinful man. From Romans 5:1-11 Bryan stressed that we have peace with God a because of that we can have joy, even in the face of suffering. In Romans 6 Paul deals with the issue of people taking God's grace for granted and going on sinning because God is going to forgive anyway. This idea fails to realise that the Christian identity is wrapped up in Jesus. Like Jesus, Christians were also crucified, dead, buried and raised to life. Dead people are no long under law, (they do not get fines or arrested). Christians are now free from the law and are now a new creation made to be an instrument of God. In Romans 15:1-4 Paul points out that all the scriptures were written to encourages us. God is faithful to his promises, despite time and trial. These promises do not mean that our life will be easy, but there is some hope in knowing that God will give mercy to those who can't endure their trials.

Jonny was the second speaker, and like in 2009, he ripped it up. He talked on confession of sin (Psalm 51), speaking the truth (Ephesians 4:17-32), forgiving others (Matthew 18:21-34) and being humble (Philippians 2:1-11). He challenged us to live moral, upright, holy lives, not to rely on our own efforts, for real change doesn't come from within, but from God, as only He can create something out of nothing. Instead, like what Bryan was saying, our character is shaped by God. Jonny appealed for us to confess our sins and the only way to do this is through divine revelation. We are to look sin square on and it's cost but we should also focus on Christ and remember that confession is always met by God's grace. He challenged us to consider that what we says reveals our hearts. God has given us a new heart, so we should be speaking the truth in love, and be kind and compassionate to others. This is because words matter and truthful speak builds relationships. When talking of forgiveness Jonny used Gordon Wilson as an example how he can forgive the murders of his daughter, because he had been forgiven much. Forgiveness isn't shrugging something off, it is putting the cost on the table and calling it what it is and then releasing or absorbing the cost, giving no condemnation afterwards for the wrong. If we can not forgive, we don't grasp how much we have been forgiven. Like forgiveness, Christians are also to be humble as Jesus was humble. Humility isn't saying how bad you are at something or telling someone they are better than you, as that is still talking about yourself. A humble person is other person focused. All in all we are to conform our character to Christ's.

Justin gave three talks on Esther that all ended somewhere in or around Colossians 3. Justin's overriding metaphor for the book of Esther is that it is a jigsaw with lots of pieces and without the rest of the Bible we do not know what should be on the box cover. Justin said from 1 Peter 2:9 that Christians have been included into the royal household of God and like Esther, who found herself in a royal setting, we need to think when and how we are going to act and rise above what everyone is telling us. After I figured out that Justin was using themes from Esther as a launching pad to talk about Christian conduct, the direction of his talks were easier to follow. He looked at issues of beauty, power, human bitterness, fear of others and justice and injustice. Throughout the book of Esther no one is held up as a model to follow or who not to follow, that is why Esther needs the Bible, so we can follow Jesus. Justin said we see in Jesus that he offers a series of better ways. Jesus shows us a better power where He gives and not takes, a better beauty on the cross that was ugly. Jesus took hate and bitterness and left it in the tomb. He loved His enemies and prayed for those who persecuted Him. Jesus was the better Esther who didn't just risk His life, but gave it.

This time round they ran an SMS Q&A where we could SMS a question whenever and in the night session the speakers would be able to answer them. This format brought the Q&A during the sessions and not afterwards, it allowed the organisers to censor useless questions and it gave the speakers sometime to think about their answers. All in all, I thought this was a good move.

This also was the first time I was there as a parent, and the parents tent was set up quite well. For the night sessions we were the only people there and there was still a guy looking after us if we needed the heaters turned on.

The organisers also gave out a CD with 20 talks from the past on them, which was a nice gift to celebrate their 50th. (Of those 20 we had already bought 9 of them, but that is fine as it means more people will hear good talks.) On the CD there were talks by John Lennox, Dale Ralph Davis, Sir Marcus Loane, Frank Retief, Don Carson, Helen Roseveare, Kirk Patson and Al Stewart.

Already we have bought Jonny's talks form the online store and we are already looking for accommodation for next Easter.

Past Easter Conventions I have been to:
KEC 2011 on Commitment - speakers: Don Carson, Dale Ralph Davis and Simon Flinders
KEC 2010 on Christians in a Sceptical World - speakers: John Lennox, Stephen Um and Ray Galea
KEC 2009 on Time - speakers: Frank Retief, Kirk Patston and Jonny Gibson
(I also attended KEC 2008 but I didn't write a review of that one)


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