Bible Conference 2006

Another Bible Conference has come and gone. Today is Monday, which is noteable for several reasons:

1) It's the first day back to classes after Bible Conference.
2) It's the first day I'm experimenting with this blog format.
3) It's the first post I've written this year! =/

We're thankful for the week off, and for the many good messages and God's working in other ways as well…

One highlight from the past two weeks is that I got to preach at the AWANA we help with on Wednesday nights. I preached from Col. 3, "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above…" We have lots of kids who have professed salvation in the past, but judging by their fruits, nobody would ever guess that they're Christians. We also have a lot of kids who are from very rough backgrounds, who know very little of what the Bible teaches.

So, my objective was two-fold:

1) I wanted to take them to the law (the schoolmaster) and show them that their sin made them guilty before a holy God.

2) I wanted them to consider that "being raised with Christ" (i.e., being saved, being alive to God, having a relationship with Him, etc) should prompt their "seek[ing] those things which are above." That is, salvation precipitates a changed life!

Two wednesdays ago I took them through the first half, showing all the things they are not supposed to do as Christians. This past week we reviewed that and then moved onto the positives – things that should characterize the Christian's life.

I was startled to see how much they had been blinded by the ruler of this world. Humility was a foreign concept to them; pride was a positive thing ("then how come my momma says to be proud even when I lose?"). Lying is a fact of life ("but what about when the bill collector calls?"); honesty is only virtuous when it's convenient or advantageous. Patience is only for inferiors ("then why does my teacher say she's losing her patience with us when she wants us to behave?"); impatience, anger, and assertiveness is the only way to get ahead for this generation.

By the end, though, by the grace of God, I think some of them did indeed see the law as a schoolmaster — I think some of them saw their sin in an entirely new way. Suddenly they weren't victims, they were sinners.

Others saw that they'd been living a lie, and that the reason they couldn't stop sinning is that they've never been "raised with Christ."

Dillon, a christian-school kid, had for weeks been raising his hand that he didn't know Christ, but never responded. Last night, he did, and I understand that he could hardly wait for the personal worker to be quiet so he could pray and get saved!

Several kids indicated that they were saved but that they needed help to do what God wants them to do in terms of living the Christian life, and 3 responded to that invitation.

It was great to see God working in these kids hearts.

Back on campus, Bible Conference was going on, and there were some great messages preached. Sunday night Dr. Bauder preached on John 1:1 – The Word. The message was really an exposition of the greatness of God the Son and a call to worship ("adore") Jesus Christ, the "Word [that] was made flesh and dwelt among us."

Dr. Bernard (originally from Haiti) preached a great message on praying for our government. A perfect illustration surfaced during the opening part of the service. Perhaps 15 minutes before he got up to preach several very loud noises eminated from an area high above the platform. Later, in his sermon, he noted "none of you were worried when you hear those noises. Nobody thought it was a bomb. That's because you live a quiet and peaceable life. Most areas of the world are not safe like you are." Of course, his connection is 1Tim 2:2, where are are commanded to pray for our authorities so that we may live that kind of life. It was very good, and made more poignent by his nationality and background, I think.

Dr. Sweatt preached a great message on Worship from the book of Job. He argued that worship is not "an emotional connection with God" as some would define it. Rather, he connected worship with "surrender." He summed up his entire message with Job's 3 part statement in 1:21 — "The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."

"The Lord gave." A statement of fact, recognizing that all Job had came from God.
"The Lord hath taken away." Another statement of fact, recognizing that God as the giver also has the right to take it away.

But, Dr. Sweatt said, Job had not yet worshipped. He worshipped with the third statement, "Blessed by the name of the Lord." With this third statement, Job surrendered. He acknowledged the facts, and essentially said, "ok Lord – you're in charge."

Another point from the message that really made sense: We worship when we respond to the preached Word of God. We can listen and say "good sermon," but we haven't worshiped until we have bowed, until we have said, "This is true, I must obey it."

I've not done justice to this or any of the sermons on which I commented, but I guess you can always read the full summaries if you want more details.

One other note that may be worth sharing:

One thing I noticed throughout this week — God uses more than one kind of servant, with more than one kind of style. We had great diversity this week (somebody should tell the media! 😉 ) – a pastor from england, a preacher/ influential politician from Ireland, a translator from Haiti, a seminary president from MI, a teacher from here in Greenville, and several pastors and an evangelist.

Not all preached the way I would. In fact, few did. But God used every one. God was clearly working. And as I would sit there being critical, thinking that this message didn't have anything worth listening to, I would see people responding to an invitation.

This came into sharpest relief on Friday night, when Dr. Paisley preached. He's an "old-school" preacher, 80 years old, with a style very different from what we're used to today. And, near the end, he went off on a series of "Praise God for… [fill in the blank]" All wound up of course. "Praise God for His Holy Word! … Praise God for this school! [etc., etc]" After each, there were scattered amens. Then he said, "Praise God we're fundamentalists!" And there was a loud chorus of amens. And I thought to myself, "This is ridiculous! All these people are more excited about a movement than they were about the Word of God!"

But then in Greek today we were talking about that, and Dr. (Brian) Hand made an observation: That message resonated with the "old guard." Why? Because they'd spent their lives fighting for the faith, building the walls of fundamentalism. For them, to say "Praise God I'm a fundamentalist" is to say "Praise God for the Infallible Written Word of God, for the virgin birth, for the Gospel, etc, etc," and also to say that these "fundamentals" are worth fighting for, are worth separating over in obedience to the Word of God. We (we=my generation) don't appreciate that, b/c we take fundamentalism for granted. We've known it all our lives. We see its imperfections, its shortcomings, and also its strengths, and are fairly apathetic about the issue. So to us, it was all wrong that these men were "Amen-ing" fundamentalism so loudly even more than other things that seemed to us to be more important.

Anyway, Dr. Hand's comment helped put a new perspective on it for me, and it fell into place along with other observations I'd made earlier that God used a wide variety of people and styles to accomplish His work, and as long as they are obedient to the Word of God, who am I to sit in judgement? That was a good lesson to learn.

And now, it's back to studying, with many more lessons to be learned…. =/

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