Pesaro – Friday 31st October 2014
It is always interesting sharing a room with a stranger. We got on fine – apart from being woken at 4am with the snoring! Thank the Lord for the IPhone and earphones, which allowed Beethoven to soothe me, back to sleep.
Food for the Body
Lets talk about food. Italy is rightly famous for its food and this hotel is no different. The breakfast was overcrowded but the food healthy and the coffee wonderful. Indeed the coffee here is fabulous. I have never experienced the kind of coffee bar they have here – tiny espressos, drunk standing up, and quickly. It meant I had to revise my talk on coffee shop evangelism because to many of the people the idea of drinking a cup of coffee does not necessarily mean sitting down and having a leisurely cup in a café. The lunch and evening meals are large. The same pattern is followed. A pasta dish (with bread and parmesan), followed by a meat or fish dish, followed by a cake style desert. All of this accompanied by beautiful wine. It is simple and delicious. It also makes sense not to have an afternoon session after such a lunch!
Food for the Soul
As to the sessions themselves, I have enjoyed listening to Lindsay Brown speaking at two of the plenaries. There is warmth and wisdom in his teaching. As a senior evangelical statesman he has a lot to teach us. Two quotes in my notes stand out
Amy Carmichael – “I thank God for all his good gifts to me, family, culture, music etc…but I hold them in the palm of an open hand so if God asks me to give up some of them for the greater good, they don’t have to be prized from my hand.”
Lloyd Jones told Lindsay ‘don’t go looking for sacrifice and suffering, it will come’!
I enjoyed speaking at my two seminar sessions. I had prepared for a 45-minute session with translation. However because they thought they would be popular it was held in the main hall and that meant we had simultaneous translation that automatically doubled the time I had (each session was 90 minutes). That meant there was plenty time for questions which were forthcoming. Some things I said had to be questioned and explained. For example I had said that the ‘four spiritual laws’ and other such formulas were to be treated carefully. One lady had been converted through the four spiritual laws and found it a helpful means of proclaiming the Gospel. But she was very gracious and spoke to me rather than moan to others. I listened to her and took on board what she said and apologised publically at the next session because her point was valid. Although I also pointed out the main point, that we should point people to Christ, not to our systems and formulas, was also valid.
Of course the best thing about these kinds of conferences are the people. I have met some very interesting and fine people – including more people connected with First Pres, Jackson. It has been especially good to talk to the younger Italian Christians but also one lovely older lady, Gerardo, whose face shone with life and Christ. She had witnessed to a member of staff who she thought was a Scottish Moldavian. After the meeting we went to meet her and as it turned out she was a Russian Moldavian. But we talked, shared a bible and did the best we could with her limited English and my non-existent Italian (there are only so many times you can say grazie!).
There are always things that cause one to smile! I love the fact that simultaneous translator begins every evening with ‘evening y’all! ‘ – I’m not sure what Italian words are translated by ‘y’all’. Even funnier was the man who wanted to touch me to get some of the ‘aura of Sinclair’ after I told him that I worked with Sinclair Ferguson!
Lindsay finished his talk with a moving personal testimony. Next week would have been his daughters 25th birthday. But she died as a child. After she died his parents asked for baptism. Lindsay told them ‘You have to become a Christian first’. His father said yes, he wanted to become a Christian…when asked why, after 20 years he answered – “Didn’t you know, I have been watching you for 20 years every day…I had to know it was true. I have seen many people in the business world who profess to be Christians who were not for real. It’s hard for a man who is 65 to tell his son who is 35, that he got there before him. I see the hope that you have. I cannot cope with a granddaughter who is dead. “
Lindsay then went on to issue a cry that really appealed to me “We have to repent of our compromises – the view that we can’t beat the culture so lets accommodate it. And we have to repent of our pessimism. We will always be a minority, the road is narrow, but a small number can have a disproportionate influence on a culture. “ Amen.
PS. Pray for me today (Saturday) as Lindsay had to go home for a wedding, so I am doing two plenary sessions as well as two seminars!