And so my third year of next gen has finally arrived. After this year, I will have completed all 3 strands from the Katoomba Christian Conference; which will probably mean I’ll have to go to National Training Event to do the final two strands. I’ll try to be blogging this on a daily basis while everything is still clear in my mind, although I can’t make any promises on doing so.
Anyway might as well start with transport. I slept really late on Sunday night which was clearly a bad idea, though I never really expected to have been able to Skype for 4 hours non-stop. Anyway Jacky was driving a few of us to Katoomba this year. He rocked up to my house just before 7am; I had woken up at 6am, but hadn’t really finished packing up due to the turn of events from the previous night. We picked up two more groups of people and we set off for the McDonalds.
We went the “Wong”-way several times (yes it was a deliberate pun). We missed James Ruse Dr the first time round, and then we the wrong way on James Ruse Dr the second time. We got to McDonald’s around 8am, which was a bit late due to the delays but we came across a bunch of next gen people also having breakfast. We quickly grabbed breakfast, well not really, and then we were on our way.
We got to the campsite slightly late but we had already anticipated that they would start late, as with every other year. So technically we made it on time. We regoed and went inside for the morning session.
Our speaker for this year is Mark O’Donoghue, from England. I’ve never heard of him before, but then again usually the only international speakers we come across in Australia are from America; so I guess it’s kind of a new experience to listen to someone with a British accent. To be fair, it’s not strong and I guess the only real thing that makes him stand out from other speakers is that he uses British slang, just the slang.
Mark will be dealing with Matthew 11-13, the three chapters, over the next 4 days. Today’s passage dealt with how we have misconceptions about what we expect of Jesus. It was true of the people of the time and I suppose it can still be true of us today. The people at the time thought Jesus, the promised Messiah was meant to be some supreme ruler who would be all powerful (in a political or physical sense), and that he would destroy all the enemies of God’s people (the Romans at the time). Clearly Jesus didn’t really show himself to be powerful in that sense, and he definitely didn’t get rid of the Israelites’ (Jews’) enemies.
Today we perhaps have the wrong idea of Jesus as well. And this is probably a key reason for why it’s been hard for people to become Christians; they simply have the wrong idea of Jesus and don’t really understand what the Bible says about Him. I forgot to mention this, but the theme of the conference this year is: “The Fight of Your Life”. And I guess for us Christians, today’s talk taught us that part of our fight involves us correcting people’s misconceptions of Jesus.
Jesus is a person who has saved the world from death, death to sin. Jesus promises to bring judgement to the unrighteous and bring about His perfect kingdom. But many of His promises to get rid of suffering and sin and suffering in the world have yet to be fulfilled, and that’s where lies the problem with the integrity of Jesus’ Word. The gist of Mark’s talk was that Jesus already had performed many miracles which act as evidence to show he was indeed the “Promised One”. As such because He has fulfilled much of the Scriptures, we can therefore be assured that He will fulfil the rest. As such our future salvation is secured and all our expectations of Jesus will also be fulfilled in the future.
So although today we may see much suffering in the world, it would be wrong to think that Jesus is powerless just because he hasn’t taken away all these bad things. But rather, we should look ahead and put our hope into the future time where Jesus will actually once and for all take away all the sin of the world.
This being the third strand group I’m attending over my history of attending next gen, I’m finally actually seeing a lot of familiar faces; people I remember from the previous two years of course. As such, it was easier to fit into my strand group this year since I know pretty much everyone now, not that I remember them (or their names) well, but at least I know I’ve chatted with them at least once over the last 2 years, that’s good enough. My strand leader this year was Andrew Hong, the pastor for NDCCC. I’m glad of that because I’m confident of his teaching, and having listened to several of his sermons, it was easy to understand the message he was to convey to us for strand groups.
For today’s session, we went over a brief overview of “Systematic Theology” which is basically looking at what the whole Bible has to say about a topic or theme, and also how it fits into the overall unfolding story of the Bible. I like the way how Andrew didn’t really use the set study given to us in our booklets, but rather gave us the gist of what each question was trying to get at, and making us understand the points through a different method he thought was more superior. Today, there was a lot of spoon-feeding, which was good. It allowed us to spend more time focussing on the harder questions that require more thinking.
Nevertheless we still ran over time. Today our strand group was scheduled to help with setting up lunch; so that’s half my meal orderlies done for the week. And to make things even easier, we were late and so we were pretty much unneeded by the time we got there. Score! Lunch was just some random roll stuff with different types of meat in it: chicken schnitzel, ham, etc.
In the afternoon we had a workshop on “Upside-down Leadership”. The main point of the workshop was that as Christian leaders, we must learn to lead through service: service to the people we’re leading, service to the church, etc. Our motivation for serving is because Jesus came not to be served but to serve and He demonstrates the way we should be living our lives as we point other people to Jesus. A way to further apply this is to learn to put other people before us; to meet their needs first and foremost before we meet ours. And of course being other-person-centered rather than being self-centered.
Afterwards we moved off into our cabins. This year our church stayed in CMS, a lodge site fairly close to the main auditorium that has its own stand-off facilities. The cabins were smaller than the ones at Mountain Camp (the place we’ve stayed at for the last two years). The lodges at CMS were significantly better than the previous two years we’ve come and so I was really pleased about that. For one, the showers were actually hot, although setting the optimal water temperature was a bit difficult. The toilets were on a whole cleaner. The food was also better. For dinner we had steamed fish! Lots of it! Now that totally outweighs anything we’ve ever had at Mountain Camp. Dessert tonight was ice cream with a ton load of strawberry and chocolate mousse.
The bad thing about the lodges were that they were all pretty close together, the guys and girls dorms. To be precise, our cabin’s window faces the doorway of several lodges (which are on a low-sloped ground) belonging to girls. Clearly the temptation of being shown the contents of the room customarily were clearly a stumbling block to us guys. Of course we could’ve easily covered the curtains of our rooms, but at the expense of not having any natural light in the room. We didn’t want to open the door because that would allow the damn creepy crawlies to get into our room. Katoomba is swarmed heavily with these critters.
After settling in our afternoon free time was just playing card games with everyone. A nice way to relax and save up on the energy that we didn’t have since the morning. We played till dinner.
Our evening speaker was Raj, the coordinator for next gen. He was going to be speaking about Malachi over the next four nights. In this first talk he dealt with the first 5 verses of Malachi; a short passage which revealed a lot about how the people of God, the Israelites, felt towards their god. Somehow the Israelites were oblivious to all the things God since the Exodus from Egypt. Raj spoke of how ungrateful and forgetful the Israelites were of God’s grace and loving acts. As a result we see the people questioning about whether God loved them or not, and as anyone would imagine, God would have a “wth?!” sort of response to them.
The point to take away for us was that we should also learn to remember all the loving acts God has done for us, namely sending his son Jesus to die for our sins. I guess this is a real motivation point for all of us as Christians because it keeps us remembering that God has loved us and continues to love us, even though today we might not feel that God has done anything nice for us recently. As a result we remember God’s love to motivate us to continue loving others and serving him.
And over all three sessions today, I can see how everything ties in together to say that we should continue fighting to spread the truth about Jesus Christ to everyone because God loves us, and we are to learn to do so through service to God as leaders, by putting other people before us and serving and loving them.
The first day of next gen has definitely been a great reminder to many of the things I haven’t remembered as much these days, which has caused me to become complacent about living my life for Jesus. But today I feel a much greater urge to think through carefully all the knowledge I’m being offered through the Bible, and also how I can specifically put this knowledge to use in the things around me, namely youth group, church, and also the upcoming retreat that’s being organised for our university group.
I am definitely looking forward to the next four days of camp!
Update: just as something random, I’ll let you guys interpret what’s happening in this photo.