Friday, May 16, 2014

BASICally Outstanding

It's tough to read a review of a place or a report of an event that is done purely in superlatives--it's tough to write one without feeling like I haven't been observant enough to find at least something to criticize--at least a little bit. However, looking at the 2014 Basics Conference, held at Parkside Church in Chagrin Falls Ohio earlier this week, it is pretty tough to find problems. The music was excellent; speakers the same; the food beyond belief for such an get the picture ( The BASICS Conference has been an annual even at Parkside for many years. This was my fourth year attending and I've not been disappointed at all.

  • The music is always well done.  A praise band with a wide range of skills from guitar and mandolin to piano to washboard to violin plays all the music well and leads the singing with joy. The music is never mindless; but always uplifting and fitting to the teaching session which it introduces or closes. The musicians "all have real jobs" as was said; but give up their time to devote to this ministry. They do an awesome job. 
  • The speakers were awesome. Alistair Begg himself is an internationally known speaker, preacher and teacher, he opens and closes the conference, sandwiching in a couple other exceptional men whom he believes to be among the best in the world. This year he had Christopher Ash and Gary Millar as his guests. Their messages were clear and compelling calls for pastors and leaders to do their jobs well and filled with practical tips on how to do it. All of them are easy speakers to understand and present their messages clearly, concisely and simply. All speak with humility and grace.  It's interesting that Begg, whose theology appears to be Baptistic, often has Anglicans and Presbyterians as his guests. He trusts them as Godly and honest men without regard for their denominational affiliations--we should all learn from that. That openness allows the presence of men who come from a great variety of denominations--this year there were even a couple Amish men there. That's diversity without compromising truth! 
  • Books by the Park is the in-house bookstore at Parkside Church. Only the largest Christian bookstores are as well stocked and as helpful as this. During the conference, many major publishers underwrite some of the cost, allowing the store to sell everything at a substantial discount--this year was 30%!  If a student has a hundred dollars to spend, it's wise to wait for that conference.  
  • The meals are something to behold--and for a men's conference, that's important. The food is always good, well prepared and served in ample quantities--we won't even discus the desserts except to say they are amazing. The high point seems to be the Tuesday night BBQ with wonderful ribs and chicken, done to perfection. Served with spicy BBQ beans and sweet corn, it's a wonderful meal. 
  • The meals cannot be discussed without talking about the service. Though the meals are catered in, Parkside volunteers do all the service, serving with "great joy and humility," as was mentioned. A church that engenders that culture of service is to be commended for that alone, if nothing else. The volunteers are retirees, housewives, folks on vacation college students..., all kinds. One fellow flew in from California and spent three days just making coffee, nothing else. That's the heart of a servant. 

So, yes, this is review in superlatives.  I expect next years will be as good or maybe even better--though I can toss out no viable suggestions on how they can improve it. Well, maybe one suggestion--men, get a bunch of guys from your church to join us!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Too Good to Pass Up

Sharing this transcript of Erwin Lutzer's statement on a major problem of the church today.

Dr. Erwin Lutzer message from the Understanding the Times Conference
April 26, 2014, Minneapolis, MN
This is this trouble, this is the rub. If you are 40 years old or younger, there’s the 40-40 split in
America. If you are under 40, you probably belong to a group of evangelicals who basically see
nothing wrong with same sex marriage. They are more tolerant, saying that there may be other
religions that lead you to God, so on and so forth. I say it humbly: They don’t have much of a
clue. Not everybody of course, but many of them have no clue what the implications are or what
the real issues are. They were reared by “Will and Grace” on television.
They are obsessed with technology. Many young people – not the ones that are here today by the
way; they are the exception – but many young people are so narcissistic. Yesterday I heard on
the news that one kid took 200 selfies – 200 pictures of himself in a single day. I mean the whole
technology world out there.
So there are those who say we can’t preach against homosexuality or mention Islam or anything
because we want to win these people to Christ, and that’s a barrier. So what we’ve found is that
the gospel and its implications are often dumbed down. Then you have a form of ecumenism that
compromises the gospel. And then there’s something else and that is it’s popular today to say,
“God loves you unconditionally.”
Now, to the one who’s sitting in the pew that’s sleeping with his girlfriend, he says to himself, “I
know exactly what that means. That means that it’s okay for me to continue to sleep with my
girlfriend because, after all, God loves me unconditionally. That’s His job. That’s who He is.
You see it used to be, and some of you who are older would remember this, that preachers used
to preach against sin, and then when people knew that they couldn’t live up to God’s standard,
and they were aware of their sin, then grace was offered to them. Thank God for amazing grace,
how sweet the sound.
Today grace is offered up front. Grace is offered to people when they don’t even know they need
it and whether or not they really care as to whether or not they want it because God loves you
“unconditionally.” Not to put too fine a point on it, but there are several different passages in
Scripture in the Psalms where it says that God says, “I am angry with the wicked every day.” Certainly, God loves the elect, those who are saved and He loved them, the Bible says, from the
foundation of the world. But to throw that out there for everybody to hear – that God loves you
unconditionally – is really to water down the seriousness of sin and the real understanding of
grace. Because you cannot understand grace until you fully understand sin and the better you
understand sin the better you will magnify grace. But we don’t have that today in our society.”