Today is the first day back in the office, though I did preach on Easter Sunday, after a week away at New Word Alive 2012. It was a fascinating week. I've only ever done one Christian Conference and that was Keswick when I was a student as part of a UCCF NW House Party. There are certain challenges to doing a conference like this with 4 young children.
The children's work that NWA put on was brilliant there were separate groups for all 4 of the boys, and the leaders of the 2 youngest groups were great at caring for a 7 month old and a 2 1/2 year old. One young lady in particularly was a real blessing to us as she looked after and settled our 2 year old when he was upset at being left and then looked out for him the next morning and did the same again. Needless to say not long after mum and dad were gone he was fine.
The bible teaching was a real encouragement for both the older boys (7 and 9), as was simply seeing so many children their own age learning about Jesus. They both loved the week and are desperate to go again next year.
The highlight of the week for me was hearing Paul David Tripp teach on marriage, I have recommended his book 'What did you expect?' for its clarity about sin and the real battle in our marriages being in our hearts not with one another. His 4 sessions revisited and went over some of this same material but it was refreshing to hear it taught. Interestingly he didn't just teach it but seemed to animate it. He is well worth hearing teach and apply the bible to marriage.
I also went to the main bible readings with Jonathan Lamb taking us through the book of Ruth in the second session. Jonathan was clear and faithful in his exposition and some of the things he said were really helpful. For example reminding us that Ruth in the Hebrew Bible follows on from Proverbs and helping us seeing how the noble wife if Proverbs 31 is exemplified in Ruth, and reminding us of God's providence and the big salvation plan history context of the kinsman redeemer.
However, if I had one reservation it would be in terms of application, there were times I was ready for Jonathan Lamb to really apply this to my heart and I felt he moved on rather than pressed home. For example talking about Ruth's gleaning in Boaz field and his righteous godly concern for the poor Jonathan drew our attention to modern gleaning that takes place say among the rubbish at the back of the McDonald's, but he didn't bring this home in terms of what it would mean to have Boaz's and God's heart for the poor in terms of our reactions. (Surely it would mean inviting that person into McDonald's and buying them a coffee and something to eat!). There were other times when I wished he had pursued application rather than moving on. Perhaps it was the constraints of time, after all introducing, teaching, illustrating and applying a passage in 30 mins is a big ask, but I can't help thinking it would have made a very useful series into an excellent one.
I didn't go to the afternoon seminars as I wanted to spend some time with the boys. The main evening and final morning events were focused on the cross, Hugh Palmer was excellent, though I was a bit disappointed with the other two I heard, again application didn't seem to be brought home so that it reached my heart.
In all NWA 2012 was a good week, it was great to meet up with friends we haven't seen for ages and to have some time away being taught the bible rather than teaching it to others.