I’ve actually only been to a few GARBC conferences, and this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to be there for the opening evening. Opening Night includes several of the kinds of things the other sessions do, but there is an emphasis on introducing the theme for the week and creating the context for what will follow. More on that later.
Tonight is another first. I’m blogging! Those who hang around at SharperIron alot know that “blogging” is not the kind of writing I normally do. I rattle out alot of forum post— and front page articles a couple times a month. But “blog” is short for “web log,” and it’s not the sort of thing I usually do. The only reason I’m point this out is that in the literary genre of the blog, everything is pretty relaxed. You can even use the word “alot” alot. (For those of you who don’t get that, “alot” is really not a word).
But, as bloggers say, enough about me.
The theme for this year’s conference is “Our God Reigns,” and the preaching will take us through the book of Daniel. It’s a great theme for so many reasons. Maybe one for the short list is that the political situation here and around the world seems even more uncertain than usual these days. It will do me good to ponder the themes of Daniel this week!
The evening began with a responsive reading of Psalm 145, then we sang a series of songs and hymns—some new and some old—to piano and keyboard/organ accompaniment. I appreciated the fact that the video projections included musical notation as well as lyrics, since several of the songs were unfamiliar. The New Life Singers (an ensemble of half a dozen or so voices from Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, IA) sang a suite of traditional and newer-but-still-pretty-traditional songs.
I always look forward to the music at the GARBC conferences—not because it’s necessarily music I would use (I’m a musical stick in the mud. I admit it), but I enjoy seeing what others are using. And there is usually at least one song during the conference that I find I can never forget. I didn’t hear that one tonight but we have four days to go.
Before preaching, John Greening, the GARBC National Representative, introduced the theme for the week by means of live-narrated video. The segment aimed to present God’s sovereign rule as something He displays by conquering those who oppose Him. The “combat” of athletic competition served as an extended metaphor culminating in the image of the one-versus-one drama of the boxing match. Greening acknowledged that the analogy is imperfect.
The introduction to the week’s theme also served as the introduction to the message.
Greening preached from Daniel 1, which he likened to round 1 of the great conflict that unfolds in the book. Using the boxing-match metaphor, he introduced the opponents (Nebuchadnezzar vs. Daniel, et. al.), encouraged us to understand the strategy the enemy employs (battle in the realm of ideas—some excellent points here). Then he drew our attention to another party involved in this “match.” The “fight manager.” This was a powerful moment in the message for me. We all guessed who the “Fight Manager” was going to be, but text makes the point beautifully:
1:2 “The Lord gave him… into his hand…” 1:9 “God had brought Daniel…” 1:17 “God gave them…”
Greening observed that it’s almost like some of those WWF (or whatever it is now) wrestling matches: it seems like the outcome of the fight is determined from the start. 100 years before, God had told Hezekiah that Babylon would come. The “fight” was arranged by Him. The overall fight is “rigged.”
The message closed after drawing our attention to the struggle (theodicy… what is God’s relationship to the evil brought to Israel by Babylon? Answer: God reigns and is working out His purpose!) and then the scoring. At the end of “round 1,” our God reigns.
I don’t often see a preacher stand up on a chair, raise his arms and shout “our God reigns!” More like never. But this wasn’t a Billy Sunday-like “stunt,” not gimmicky theatrics. Just a man gripped by the truth of God’s sovereign power expressing his heart.
I’m looking forward to the rest of the week. I think successive posts will be shorter. Had alot of ground to cover in this one.
Brian McCrorie is going to be doing some Tweeting from tomorrow morning’s session. You can watch those here. We may get them into a sidebar here as well.