Reflections from AnCon 2016

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
// 2 Corinthians 5:17 //

photo from ancon

“You can’t overhype AnCon”, they told me.

But, if there’s one thing that I mildly dislike – it’s hype. A lot of the time, I feel that hype is just a great blob of emotions that make you feel excited and great for a little while. But it’s just sugar – soon the rush disappears and you realise it wasn’t anything substantial anyway. Surely, AnCon was going to be good… but was it really going to be that good? So feeling a bit detached, and perhaps even a little dry, I rocked up to my first AnCon.

And… five days later, I discovered that AnCon was like a meal – a wholesome, delicious meal. It was one that not only tasted great, but also one which left you feeling filled, nourished, and with the satisfying knowledge that your body had what it needed to grow – despite the great food coma that it left you with (which I am still recovering from to this day)! It tasted so good. The special ingredient, truth. Much unlike the whole idea of ‘hype’ which so irked me, these five days at AnCon were eye-opening and challenging in a deeply real and genuine way. So, here are some reflections:

Over the course of AnCon, I slowly learnt how to function on three hours of sleep, just surviving through Rowan’s talks (the answer is an overdose of apples, and lots of tea). But through this, I was immersed in truth over and over. I was dead in Adam, but now alive in Christ. God made us for glory, and loved us in Christ. My most fundamental identity is being found in Christ. These were truths which I “knew”, yes, but being exposed again and again awakened in me a very strange realisation – “Hold on… these things are true!” True, for me. And true, whether I felt it or not, whether I was hyped or not, and whether I wanted it or not. Coming to grips with God’s truth and appreciating it for what it was – this was so, so refreshing. AnCon wasn’t just about learning cool pieces of theology or obscure facts about God. We talked about “being transformed by God’ word”, and I felt that I was certainly being transformed. And I watched as 700 other odd people were transformed too, as they lived out this reality over those five days at Merroo.

If there was one other big take away from AnCon, for me it was this – I’ve never been hit by so much talk of the LRLR (less-reached-less-resourced) before. We heard from our bold missionary friends each day, and the entire EU was buzzing about this whole ‘festival’ thing. And I realised that there was a task here to be done. I was challenged about the great needs of people all around the world, and furthermore, the fact that the LRLR exist on campus. The lost are out there, and need to hear the gospel. The gospel is powerful to save, and we should be bold with it. It might be scary or uncomfortable, but as Rowan said, “There will be plenty of comfort in Glory.”

So, my prayer is that AnCon might not be the high point or climax of the year, but a starting point and springboard for God’s great mission, as we continue on our trajectory towards glory!

// Nuggets of truth //

1) We are on a trajectory – once dead in Adam, to now alive in Christ. This is a God planned, God enabled trajectory towards glory. And this stands true, whether I like it or not, whether I feel it or not. The truth is that God has loved us so much, brought us to life, redeemed us as his people – all by the work of Christ. God made us and loved us in Christ. This is thus the most fundamental, most important truth about us. We are made in God’s image – his representative ruling presence, and He is sanctifying us each day to become his faithful image bearers.

2) “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:15) God’s word is powerful, and it transforms us. We have been saved into community – a family of those who are in Christ. So let us keep coming back to the word to be transformed by it, and continue to remind ourselves of the truth, and encouraging one another with it.

3) We must be bold with the gospel – because the gospel is powerful to save. It is not how well we present it or how engaging we can speak, but only through the working of God’s spirit that people may come to know him. ‘So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.’ (1 Corinthians 3:6). The consequences are real and terrible for those who are lost, yet the joy and glory is unsurpassed for those in Christ – so let us go out into the world, be faithful seed-sowers, and share this great joy that we have. There are so many less-reached less-resourced peoples – and the gospel is for everyone. And reaching out to the lost and the LRLR may be uncomfortable. But let us stop pursuing the ‘god’ of comfort. There will be plenty of comfort in Glory.

4) Jesus redefines the primary family as those who are in Him – those who do his will. Having been adopted as God’s ‘sons’, the body of Christ is thus our true family, with Jesus having our primary allegiance. We are co-heirs with Christ, and enjoy the same relationship that God the Son has with God the Father. Yet, our commitment to Christ generates and shapes a renewed commitment to love our biological families – a persisting, steadfast love which mirrors the love of God for us.

 

Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north

“If the clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie.”
– Ecclesiastes 11:3

It was in the late afternoon, on the third day of ISCF Camp 2015. The clouds had just rolled in over the country landscape and rain was falling. The sky was greatly overcast. The day up until this point had been several hours of logistical duties, and I felt like that we had nothing else to give. Drained. Sitting on the step on my right was my fellow camp overseer,equally as drained.

We decided to turn towards God’s word for perhaps even a small speckle of light. Some word of encouragement. And we flipped, and we landed on the 11th chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes. Okay… let’s read. It began: “Cast your bread upon the waters”.

And in our completely deadened state, we burst into utter laughter. What strange wisdom the Bible had to offer. We read on. “If the clouds are full of water, the pour rain on the earth”. Hysteria continued. Geography lesson from the word of God. Continuing, “Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie”.

What.

“Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie.”

Hold up. Are we seeing things, or is this legit? Right there; these few words were hysterical. Where a tree falls, the place it falls, there it will lie. Wow! And for the next half hour, the three of us were on the ground, laughing at this seemingly meaningless piece of wisdom.

Over the next few days, I reflected back upon these words. And with each moment, it made more and more sense. Let me tell you what ISCF camp was like from the perspective of a leader – someone who was involved in organising it.

Before camp had even begun, in the early weeks of the term, we were already running into problems. We had no attendees. We needed at least 80ish attendees for camp to even run. And the weeks progressed. Notes were due in the seventh week. And at that point, we were barely scraping half the number of attendees we needed. Things were not looking good. Yet, as we neared the holidays, and camp was barely a week or two away, our attendees list was overflowing. We had over a hundred people coming this year; so much that we needed to request extra cabins! How foolish were we to worry that we wouldn’t have enough people. Our God is the God of the universe, and we were worrying? Ridiculous, right?

A week out from camp, and weather forecasts were rolling in. Now, if you were on camp, you would have known that the plan was to hop off the train at Richmond in the afternoon and spend a few hours in the park before taking the bus to the campsite. Now, the weather. Rain was on the radar. I don’t know about you, but taking over 100 people to the park in the rain, with luggage, isn’t the most pleasant experience. And so, in the days leading up to camp, we were frantically planning, coming up with plan B’s and plan C’s if it were to rain.

Fast forward a few days, and it is the day of camp. I was driving up all the equipment earlier in the day. At first, the sky seemed ominously overcast, but then, the first rain drop fell on the windscreen. Then another. Then another. And it started pouring. WHAT WERE WE TO DO? Yet, ask anyone that went to camp. The moment they stepped out of Richmond station, the sky was blue, and the sun was shining. Rain? No. Plan B? No. God’s in control? Yes. From this, we started to learn – “perhaps God has a plan”.

Even with the smallest things; we ran into problems. In setting up all the music equipment, we realised that the campsite didn’t provide all the audio equipment we needed. They were, of course, provided just as we needed them. On the first day, the session time was looming closer and closer, and we didn’t have all the equipment driven up. We were waiting for a bass amp and drum kit – two of the most important things in the rock songs that we were going to open with. Come session time, and we still didn’t have a bass amp and drum kit. But God always provides. He gave us a way out. We could link everything through the sound system, and play drums (funnily enough) on the keyboard. We were so worried that the session wouldn’t work out. Foolishly. God has a plan.

Just a few of the stories and stresses that we leaders went through. But throughout the course of camp, we realised one important thing: God has a plan. It was almost as if He was toying with us. Ye of little faith. We have the God of the universe, the sovereign God who is in control. Yet, we worry and stress that things won’t work out. Foolish. I guess camp was one big lesson – to trust in Him. Because whatever happens, it is in His plan.

“Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie.”

If a tree falls to the south, it will lie to the south. If a tree falls to the north, it will lie to the north. Whatever happens happens. Because it’s in God’s will. And we should trust it.

Crazy Busy

Life can get terribly… busy.

I mean, even in the holidays (it’s the last day as I write this!), it feels like there’s an endless list of things to do. Thrilled to to see how busy the term will get. In my life, there’s always this feeling that I need to be doing something. I’m sure it happens in yours too. There’s just so much to do, and so much that can be done. But alas, we are given 24 hours a day, and that’s it, so I guess that’s something we just need to deal with.

What can happen though is that busyness turns into stress. Sometimes, I feel completely overwhelmed by the ten million different things I need to do, and it feels hopeless. Absolutely hopeless. You don’t know where to start, you don’t know what to do. Need to do this. Oh, but don’t forget that. And that other thing you had to do. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. Please stop. Life just generally sucks when you’re stressed, doesn’t it?

Before the holidays started, I picked up a book called ‘Crazy Busy – A (Mercifully) Short Book About A (Really) Big Problem’ – by a guy called Kevin DeYoung. It’s a book written from the Christian perspective on busyness, what it means, why it happens, what to do about it, so forth. Here are a few things I got out of it:

We are finite beings.
Bluntly put, we can’t do everything. We are limited beings constrained by our physical bodies and mental needs. We are not God, because God is God. That’s really important. We can’t do everything or serve everyone simply because we are finite. Often we forget this, and we try and do way too much, which makes us busy, then stressed. Accepting our finitude   also means to set priorities – because you cannot do everything or serve everyone. This is important if we are to keep ourselves from becoming crazy busy.

We are prideful beings.
Pride is one of the things which can make us really busy. Sometimes, we try and do things for the purpose of glorifying ourselves – making ourselves look good. Other times, we try and do things to please people. I guess, these are all manifestations of pride. We should question who we are doing it for. Am I trying to do good or to make myself look good? I mean working hard isn’t bad – but when you work to feed your pride, things can go crazy.

Sleep is important!
Sometimes, one of the most productive things to do is sleep. As physical human beings, we need sleep. You simply just can’t ignore it, or sooner or later, you’ll crash. It is hard work indeed to let go, trust God, and go to sleep. Yeah. Sleep. Good stuff.

Rhythm is important too.
Like sleep, rhythm is important. I guess they are all linked. Rhythm means purpose and order – if you have a rhythm of doing things, things become easy to do. It makes things less stressful. It makes things seem less busy. It’s important to have a rhythm of work and rest.

Lastly, and most importantly, we need more Jesus.
Life can get so crazily busy that we forget the most important thing. Coming before God, learning more about Him, spending time with Him, in a world where we need to do this and do that, is the single necessary thing. I guess, the last sentence of the book sums it up quite well – “What is wrong – and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully avoidable – is to live a life with more craziness than we want because we have less Jesus than we need”.

So yes, there we go, 5 points that I took out of the book (there’s plenty of other good stuff which I haven’t included though). Busyness is something I continue to struggle with. Hoping that through this busy year of HSC, I place my trust more and more in God, who unlike us, is infinite, is powerful, and is in control.

I want to end with a rather lengthy quote from the book. I think it ties everything above nicely together.

“Busyness is as much as a mind-set and a heart sickness as it is a failure in time management/ It’s possible to live your days in a flurry of hard work, serving, and bearing burdens, and to do so with the right character and a right dependence on God so that it doesn’t feel crazy busy. By the same token, it’s possible to feel amazingly stressed and frenzied while actually accomplishing very little. The antidote to busyness of soul is not sloth and indifference. The antidote is rest, rhythm, death to pride, acceptance of our own finitude and trust in the providence of God.”

2015

Wow… it’s 2015 already.

For a while, I’ve been wanting to write something down. But up until this point, a grand total of 0 words have been written. I guess this reflects my feelings towards blogging… perhaps it’s the awkwardness in being so open and letting others into my thoughts… or perhaps it’s just the plain inability to put things into words. Even now, this is being written on an offline notepad; whether I ever post it online and make it open, I don’t know. But recently, I’ve been thinking; perhaps there is some ‘value’ in being open, in a sense, being vulnerable. It feels weird.. even stupid.. to vomit out all these thoughts for people to read (if people ever do actually read this), but maybe.. just maybe it might encourage another person who stumbles upon this.. or even just for myself to look back upon and see “ah that’s who I was back in 2015”. But here we are, and I’m writing this down. I don’t know where I’m going with this, but eh, only time will tell. I guess the new years is a good time to start afresh!

Speaking of the new year, it’s the year “2015”. I guess to many, 2015 is just the number after 2014, yep, whatever. But to me (and by extension, my entire grade), 2015 is the number that is on the name of our grade facebook page – ‘NSB 2015’ . For several years, we’ve seen this name ‘NSB 2015’, but never did we think that the year 2015 would actually be upon us. It’s finally here. Yes – the first thing that pops into mind when I see those four plain numbers 2 0 1 5:

HSC year.

(whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat D;) More about that later…

I guess another thing which I don’t usually think highly of is the whole conundrum of ‘new years resolutions’. I mean, people make “goals” which they end up doing for maybe a month or two, before sinking back into their old ways again. From what I’ve read, most new years resolutions don’t last at all. Useless. Silly. And this is why I’ve always written it off. BUT, I’ve been thinking, and perhaps maybe there is something to it. I guess, new years is a good time to reflect upon the previous year, get rid of bad habits, and put into play some good habits (I talk a lot about habits… quite a significant concept in the way I do things, eh I’ll post something up about that some other time). Considering that this year is HSC year, more than any point in my life so far, I want to make things as smooth sailing as possible (which, inevitably, will not be true. But one can try haha). Anyway, I’ve thought about what I wanted to change this coming year, and wanted to write some of them down.

In general,

1. To make better sleeping habits. I’ve come to see the importance of sleep; it’s the backbone of being able to do stuff during the day haha. So I guess, in order to make other things work, I’ll need to sleep well first. So I guess that means waking at the same time each day (to match my trains in the morning, that’s 6:20), and sleeping at a time that gives me a decent amount of sleep (say within the 10-10:30 range each day). I think this would be a hugely useful habit to have.

2. Talk less, listen more. I tend to talk alot sometimes. It makes me feel self conscious afterwards for some reason 😦 I guess, become a better listener.. that’s important.

Here are two for my Christian walk. I guess it is the most important part of my life… everything revolves around this in a sense, ‘since your view of the future determines how you live in the present’ (will write more about this one some time later!). Living life in light of what Jesus has done, and glorifying God should be in everything I do, whether it’s in ISCF, or in my hsc studies, or in interacting with people around me; everything I do should be in light of this literally life-changing message. If you’re a non-Christian reading this, it might be a bit radical/weird/whattheheck. Come and talk to me about it 🙂 or maybe I’ll write about it some other day. But eh, it’s something I sometimes feel self-conscious/awkward talking about to my non-Christian friends, and yep, right now as I’m writing this. But either way, I’ve thought about two main things I really want to do more of this year, in my last year of high school:

3. Discipleship – There’s so much that I want to say about this haha… but I’ll keep it brief. Discipleship is to walk with another person, helping them to grow in Christ. Then they can go on and help other people grow 🙂 I guess there is an emphasis on the personal relationship you have with that other person. I want to hopefully become close with my mentoring kids (those crazy year 10s… ohwait they’re in year 11 now. growing up!) or I guess, anyone else, and do the Christian walk together with them.

4. As a Christian, most of my friends are not Christians. Well yeah… I guess every one is entitled to believe what they want to believe… but hearing such an amazing message to not share it with the people I’m closest with? It feels wrong, unloving even. Sometimes I try to ignore it. Sometimes, I get complacent – “they’ll be aight”, or even procrastinate – “I’ll tell them later”. I really want to devote more time to hearing out my non-Christian friends, and seeing what they think, and sharing with them the most important thing in my life 🙂 (I’d give this a label of ‘evange’)

I guess I’ll add one more, and this one is about, of course, HSC.

5. Since 2015 is HSC year – work hard, work consistently, but don’t take my eyes off the big picture. HSC isn’t life. You can only do so much. Stressing about it won’t change anything. Just do what’s in front of you, accept what happens, and be comforted in the fact that all of this is in the hands of the one who shaped the universe!

There’s lots more I want to add to this list, but let’s keep it at 5 shall we? Haha – don’t want to create too many, otherwise they’d lose their meaning methinks. 2015 will be a fun year no doubt; excited for what’s ahead. Starting to appreciate how great high school is… will definitely miss it when it’s over. My prayer is that this year will be a year of growth; that through whatever happens this year, we’ll view life more and more in perspective, and that we continue to encourage and look out for one another.

Wow… this is turned out to be quite a long post (sorry!). But there we have it. My first blog post; thoughts laid out bare and naked. Probably messy and uninteresting. Eh. Hopefully, as I get more used to this, we can talk about all sorts of stuff. What this will become, I don’t know. Only time will tell. So let’s just look forward to a great year shall we?

“Let’s make 2015 ours.”