Arise Conference 2019 is a significant one as this year the conference multiplied to two cities. The one I attended in Wellington was where past conferences have been held since 2008 and the other was for the first time in Christchurch.
The move to have conference in both the North and South Island came after the conference was sold out consecutively for the past 3 years. The conference host, Lead Pastors of Arise Church, Ps. John and Gillian Cameron, knew that they needed to make more room for lost souls and decided to have AriseConference in two venues.
Arise Conference is a 3-in-1 conference running alongside Get Smart Conference for the youths and Glow Conference for the children. There is a place for people of every age to know God while spending time with others fervently seeking God.
While there was a huge crowd at the conference, Ps. John opened the conference by reminding everyone that though there are lots of people attending, God does not just see a multitude of people but see each individual present. Every single one matters to Him.
Why attend conference?
For me, attending conference signified taking time off my daily schedule as a mum and wife managing the household, as a student teacher studying and preparing to teach, as well as as a columnist and editor writing in addition to editing comment articles.Conference was a deliberate act of stepping away from my busyness to focus on God.
While God is there with us through our day to day lives, we need to also remember that we need time specifically for God alone without any distraction. Ps. John cautioned that there is a danger oflimiting God to the close at hand God and forget that He is also the far away God.
Jeremiah chapter 23, verse 23 records God asking, ‘“Am I a God who is only close at hand?” says the Lord. “No I am far away at the same time.”’
It is easy for us to identify with the God who is with us in our day by day, helping us to find a car park or being with us through the sleepless nights while nursing an ill child. However, God is also far away at the same time – He needs us to step away from our mundane to seek Him.
Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days, Elijah went up the mountain, Moses pitched a tent outside apart from the Israelites.We can only experience the far away God when we learn to set time aside to meet Him face to face, in addition to spending time with Him throughout our everyday.
There is no question that God is a close at hand God who cares for us in our day to day routines, but we need to recognise He is so much more than that to actually understand the fullness of God. Putting aside everything to just be in His presence is what conference is for me.
The Good Fight
The theme of the conference for this year ‘The Good Fight’ reminds us that there is a fight we cannot avoid. This is a fight like no other – this a spiritual fight. There is a fight that we as Christians need to engage in for ourselves, for the people around us, for our nation, and for the entire world.
Ps. Chris Hodges starts the first session by asking us to open our eyes to where people are and what they need. We need to equip ourselves with love and truth to break the lies that have crept into society. The lies that we are not good enough, that we are not worth anything, that live is futile resulting in youth suicide rates and divorces on a high, where identity ambiguity is on the rise.
Ps. Craig Groeschel exhorts us to take up our sword, the Word of God, in this fight. That we need to use the sword in our fight to take captive every lie that is holding us back and the truth will set us free. This truth is Jesus, the living Word of God.
When we begin to write, think, confess the truth till we believe it, what science calls creating and strengthening neuron pathways to forge new thoughts is also what we perceive as God renewing our minds.
Not a smooth ride
The sessions go on to prepare us for this fight forewarning us it won’t be a smooth ride. Ps. Craig Groeschel challenges us to be grateful in the grind and to see the work as the reward to recognise the prize in the process.
Ps. Chris Durso continues by breaking down the story of Jonah who fled to the furthest he could from where God wanted him to be. One thing that opened my eye during this session is that God was the one who sent the huge storm (Jonah chapter 1, verses 1-6).
God will disrupt what’s been distracting you from your destiny. If it’s a storm that He needs to send, He will send you a temporary storm to keep you from an eternal hurricane!
So what happens if the one you are praying to to take away the storm is the one who sent it? We need to start asking the right questions. Instead of “God can you please stop the storm?”, we needed to ask him “Why is there a storm?”
Sometimes storms come because we are running from God like Jonah but sometimes there will be storms even when Jesus is with us. The disciples were caught in a storm with Jesus in the boat (Mark chapter 4, verses 35-39). The difference is, when we know Jesus is with us, we have peace through the storm.
Esther Koh is a stay-at-home mum living in Wellington with her husband and two sons. She loves people and has a passion for helping others find their purpose for living.
Esther Koh’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/esther-koh.html