Thoughts, rants, experiences, reviews and other things from the mind of Jason O’Conal


09 Aug 2015

Yesterday, I went to Basecamp, the new incarnation of the Katoomba Christian Convention, a Christian conference for men. I have always found that the best way to learn from something is to try to summarise it, so here goes.

Build up

The main conference started at noon, but at 10 am there was a series of lightning TED-like talks on various topics.

Lee Hatcher: Two Big Cs

I was actually rather excited to see Lee Hatcher, having read his book I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell several years ago (I was given it by a friend at Bible College when I was going through some similar things). And he was a compelling speaker.

Lee talked about ‘two big Cs’, chronic fatigue syndrome and prostate cancer. From these two rather difficult experiences, he learned five lessons:

  1. Stuff happens. Life is fleeting.

    The years of our life are seventy,
        or even by reason of strength eighty;
    yet their span is but toil and trouble;
        they are soon gone, and we fly away.

    Psalm 90:10

  2. The world carries on quite well without you.

  3. The church needs to care and to love.

  4. At the end of the day families are the last ones left standing.

  5. There is a bigger picture always.

    So teach us to number our days
        that we may get a heart of wisdom.

    Psalm 90:12

It’s always important to remind yourself that this life is not going to be easy. You’ll have troubles, people around you won’t understand, but God does. There is always a bigger picture.

Carlos Aguilera: What Persecuted Christians in the Middle East Taught Me About Hope

Carlos Aguilera ran an ultra marathon to raise money for persecuted Christians in the Middle East and he had a simple message: all suffering brings us closer to Christ.

He referenced a Spurgeon quote: ‘I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages’. I haven’t been able to find this quote in any of Spurgeon’s works. A quick search only revealed other people quoting it without citation. I was able to find a few similar quotes in Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students, Vol. 1:

Men cannot bear unalloyed happiness; even good men are not yet fit to have “their brows with laurel and with myrtle bound,” without enduring secret humiliation to keep them in their proper place. Whirled from off our feet by a revival, carried aloft by popularity, exalted by success in soul-winning, we should be as the chaff which the wind driveth away, were it not that the gracious discipline of mercy breaks the ships of our vainglory with a strong east wind, and casts us shipwrecked, naked and forlorn, upon the Rock of Ages.

Spurgeon, C.H., 1875. Lectures to my students: a selection from addresses delivered to the students of the Pastors’ College, Metropolitan Tabernacle, London: Passmore and Alabaster, p. 173.


The wave of temptation may even wash you higher up upon the Rock of ages, so that you cling to it with a firmer grip than you have ever done before, and so again where sin abounds, grace will much more abound.

Spurgeon, C.H., 1908. The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, London: Passmore and Alabaster, p. 512

If anyone can give me an exact reference for this quote, please do so.

Carlos Aguilera shared some heart-wrenching stories about Christians being persecuted in the Middle East. Yet, like with so many talks on such topics, I’m left not knowing what to do. Should I pray for the persecuted church? Of course! Should I donate money to them? Probably, but to whom and how much? Should I travel over there to be with them? What good would that do?

John Woodbridge: Chased Down by the Lord

Throughout the day, I was struck time and time again by the life-changing power of the gospel and Woodbridge’s recounting of his own story of conversion was a beautiful example of this. He grew up in a Christian home (he was the direct descendant of 14 generations of Christian pastors) but fell away shortly after graduating from university. He eventually came back to the Lord and is living proof of the transforming power of the gospel.

7 interesting facts about Dr. John D. Woodbridge

John Woodbridge: Running to Win, Billy Graham

Dr. Woodbridge talked through the stories of two remarkable Christian men, Billy Graham and Chuck Colson. The purpose was not purely autobiographical though, and he drew lessons from the lives of these Christians who ‘ran to win’ all the way to the end.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.

1 Corinthians 9:24

Woodbridge gave seven reasons Billy Graham was so effective for the Lord.

  1. An unswerving commitment to serve the Lord in ministry without reservation.

  2. An unreserved commitment to follow Biblical ethics.

  3. An unswerving commitment to the Bible’s authority in evangelism.

  4. A commitment to preach the gospel unashamedly.

  5. A commitment to give God the credit, always.

  6. A remarkable commitment to sexual purity.

  7. An indispensable need for believing prayer.

Dave McDonald: Ultimate Sacrifice

The main session was a talk on Philippians 1 and 2 by Dave McDonald. It was a great sermon, one I sorely needed to hear.

He started by saying that he had two primary character flaws, flaws that he believed we all shared: pride and selfishness.

His essential thesis was this: in the eternal Character of God there is humility (Philippians 2:9-11). Jesus, who has every right to be treated as number one, chose to be number two – for our sake. True humility hurts. Pride is so subtle and so clever. Our sense of entitlement becomes a barrier to our relationship with God.

I can tell you this is all true in my life. I am sadly so motivated by ego. I have such a tenuous grasp of my own self worth, that I often find myself putting others down as though that would lift me up.

God, who created the universe, came down from heaven, became man, suffered and died so that we might live! Christians’ lives must be marked by radical humility. There is no room for the ‘me first’ attitude so common in the world in the life of a Christian.

John Woodbridge: Running to Win, Chuck Colson

Dr. Woodbridge referred to the concept of ‘cultural contamination’, which is essentially the fact that, the more people tell us something contradictory to our beliefs (not something founded in fact, to which we should listen, but conjecture, moralising), the more difficult it is to maintain them. The media (and pretty much everyone else outside the church) is telling us of a new ethic, one built on personal happiness or fulfilment. The more this falsehood is perpetuated, the more people believe it, the more reasonable it seems. You find yourself having to constantly disagree with what you’re being told. It gets very tiring.

Cognitive contamination is the twisting of the truth into a lie.

When we allow untruth to be present in our lives, to dwell next to us as a neighbor rather than an enemy deserving death, we are susceptible to contamination. I know of too many once-biblical men and women who have been cognitively contaminated over the years to the point where they abandon the faith. And on certain occasions take others with them.

I can certainly see this leaking into my life. I’m not saying that we should ignore all new lines of thinking (the church has made many mistakes over the years), but that we must not simply allow something that doesn’t line up with God’s word to be part of the way we think about the world.

After having heard so powerfully from God’s word on the danger and prevalence of pride, Dr. Woodbridge goes on to talk of the reason for Chuck Colson’s effectiveness in Christ: humility. Chuck considered pride to be the great enemy. In fact, he was convinced of the truth of the gospel after hearing C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on pride in Mere Christianity.

I now come to that part of Christian morals where they differ most sharply from all other morals. There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which everyone in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. I have heard people admit that they are bad tempered, or that they cannot keep their heads about girls or drink, or even that they are cowards. I do not think I have ever heard anyone who was not a Christian accuse himself of this vice. And at the same time I have very seldom met anyone, who was not a Christian, who showed the slightest mercy to it in others. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.

The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility. You may remember, when I was talking about sexual morality, I warned you that the centre of Christian morals did not lie there. Well, now, we have come to the centre. According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.

Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity, chapter 8

I cannot overstate how guilty I am of this sin. In so many interactions I have with other people, there is an element of pride and self-centredness in my motivations. I am ashamed of this. It’s not something I like to think about, and it’s not something that I think will go away any time soon. I’m working on it.

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