I have got back today from a week at New Word Alive in Pwllheli. Here are some things that particularly struck me.
1. Going through the parables in Luke's Gospel was a treat. The evening celebrations each focused on one of Jesus' parables recorded in Luke's Gospel. It's amazing how clearly these parables speak into everyday life and psyche of the Christian. Terry Virgo reminded us from Luke 15 of how the relationship God wants with his people is based on grace, as a father to a son. Don Carson spoke of the eternal consequences that the gospel has from Luke 16. The other messages were also top drawer. Perhaps my highlight was the exposition of the parable of the Good Samaritan by Krish Kandiah, who reminded that that although salvation is by grace, life in the kingdom will always show itself in radical neighbourly love. (I also attended a seminar from Dewi Hughes of Tearfund who made a similar point). We in the evangelical church have sadly often failed to meet the very real needs around us in the name of doing evangelism alone. But the heart of Christ is a heart to meet all needs - both temporal and ultimately eternal.
2. The doctrine of justification is to be treasured. I attended Mike Reeves' morning sessions on justification. I have left with more clarity on the doctrine itself and what it means to have been united to Christ and with a heart singing of Reformation truths. There are many ways that this doctrine can be weakened or removed from centre ground - but it is the bedrock of Christian life and spirituality. I had a brilliant conversation with a student who'd understood why joy was such a feature of the Christian life - we cannot fail to be joyful when the wonderful gospel truths saturate our hearts.
3. North Wales is beautiful. We were so fortunate to have a week in the sun. And the drive back today was truly awe-inspiring.
4. Conferences are great. God has not left us to be Christian hermits. His primary design is that Christians encourage each other, worship together and engage with the world through local churches. But I was struck this week by the very unique ministry opportunities that conferences bring - a teaching quality that can be rarely reproduced, a wealth of expertise, singing that engages the heart in a way not often seen in local churches, time to spend with friends, conversations with people you'd never otherwise share and so on. It's easy to arrive with a cynical attitude at a conference, but I for one think they're great.
5. Evangelical unity is worth fighting for. The group of students I took from Lancaster University and Uclan CUs were incredibly diverse - at least seven university churches were represented. It was brilliant to see students who'd previously written off believers from other Christian backgrounds actually treating each other like brothers and sisters for the first time, centring around the core truths of the gospel. Gospel unity is an incredibly attractive thing - and vital to demonstrate the joyful truth of the gospel to the world.
New Word Alive 2010 will run from 13-18 April. Confirmed speakers include Wayne Grudem, Jerry Bridges and Rebecca Manley-Pippert.
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