if a fantastic christmas wasn’t awesome enough, a few days later i got to head to indy for indycc, cru’s christmas conference. because God wanted it to start off the best way possible, i spent the drive up with this beautiful man:
vince. sweet guy, sweet conversation. we got to catch up on the work God’s been doing in each other’s lives, and generally just talk about how awesome God is. best way to start, ever.
usually there’s one speaker at indycc, but this year there were three. i prefer one for the continuity, but i really appreciated the different styles of speaking and the different messages each one brought.
bryan lorritts spoke from matthew 21 on friday night, from the passage where Jesus curses the fig tree for not bearing fruit. that’s always been a slightly confusing passage for me (perhaps an overreaction, Jesus? hmm?), but bryan offered some insight. in the passage right before this, Jesus gets angry at those in the temple, flipping tables and all that, because the religious people weren’t actually honoring God at all. when a fruit tree grows leaves, it is proclaiming that it bears fruit. ultimately, Jesus didn’t cause the fig tree to wither because there was no fruit as much as because it claimed to have fruit that didn’t actually exist. like the religious people in the temple, it wasn’t doing what it claimed to be doing (producing fruit).
another parallel he drew was that trees don’t have to try really hard to produce fruit… it comes naturally. in the same way, those who are in Christ and have the Spirit sometimes try really, really hard to be good at being Christians (this is the part where i started shaking my head, because he was describing my life). but if we pursue Christ, that fruit comes naturally. pretty cool how God designed it like that.
the following morning he spoke on matthew 25, emphasizing that if we claim to be in Jesus, there is no room for us to not focus on those in need, because it was such a huge part of Jesus’ ministry. there’s also biblical precedent to create margin in your budget specifically to give stuff away (beyond a tithe or something like that). comes down to two questions: how much is actually, literally, enough? and how much do i trust that God will provide? made me think a lot about how much i cherish money in a purely selfish sense.
paul tripp (and his magnificent moustache) addressed the men basically right after bryan got done that morning. he spoke from hebrews 3:12-13, about what it means to have a hardened heart and how important community with other believers is.
turns out, rocks and hardened hearts share lots of characteristics: stubborn and typically un-moldable, unable to grow and change (and without a desire to do so anyway), and neither is impressed with God’s grace (and in my experience that’s true… no rock i’ve ever shared the Gospel with has been impressed). he asked us an important question: do we see God’s grace as the gift it is, desiring to squeeze every drop possible out of it? or are we benefitting from, as my wise roommate dan puts it, a very cheap form of grace, only asking for forgiveness after sin? it’s so, so much deeper and better than that.
a hardened heart also has stopped believing in God’s commands and promises, both in their importance and truth. and since sin is incapable of recognizing itself, seeing sin in my life is always and only the result of God’s grace. it’s also the reason that we need to be in community: so others can be pointing out sin in our lives. there’s a fear that comes with that level of being known, but also such great freedom. it’s the same freedom we find in being completely known by our God.
i will never not need grace. and i will never not have it.
mike erre was the speaker last year, and the stuff he brought just blew my mind. so i was pumped that he was back, and i was excited to hear what he had to say. i was not disappointed. he spoke from ephesians 1 on monday morning, redefining the concept of adoption.
adoption is a common analogy used in the new testament when describing God’s relationship with His people; paul likes to talk about it. i’ve always thought it was nice, but didn’t read too much into it. the key, mike pointed out, was to realize when and to whom paul was writing. obviously, he’s talking to the people of ephesus, but it’s in the wake of alexander the great’s hellenistic project, which involved pasting greek values into the cultures of all his conquered territories.
one of these values was the perfection of mind and body. imperfect infants would be left outside, exposed to the elements, where they would die. often there was a chosen place away from the village, perhaps up on a hill where the child would easily succumb to the elements. they were rejected, shamed, and worthless in a perfect society. paul’s language of adoption, of being chosen and now found “blameless” in verses 5-6 paints a picture of a father running madly up that hill, scooping the child up in his arms, and bringing him back home to live as an honored, adopted member of the family. to the ephesians, this was a foreign concept.
to imagine a God who would madly and recklessly pursue us in the midst of our shame and imperfection without asking anything from us in return is a concept that doesn’t make sense, because our brains aren’t quite wired for that kind of love. but we were created for it. that’s the Gospel.
anyway. there was a lot more that those guys talked about, but those were the main, awesome points. i was encouraged, convicted, and excited after leaving.
we also got to have some really sweet worship with matt mccoy and the harvest worship band every day.
and one night phil wickham came and gave us an acoustic concert! i’d never really listened to a ton of his music before, but it was one of the most worship-filled evenings ever. he gives such an authentic, God-centered performance, and I walked out totally praising the Lord. it was awesome. and now i’m a huge fan, so that’s great.
there was also a beard contest. each university sent up the guy with the best beard.
i had the honor of representing ball state! i’m sixth in from the right:
i lost to two extremely impressive beards and one girl who had wrapped her hair around her chin. but you know, that’s okay.
other things that were awesome:
time with friends.
lots of friends.
singing hymns with off script[ure] on stage for session one morning.
praying in the new year with close friends. definitely one of the coolest things ever.
God is good, He does cool things, and He works in the hearts of His people.