Nanci and I had a great time in Minneapolis this weekend. As the 3,500 who attended will attest, Desiring God Ministries knows how to put on a conference! Thanks especially to Scott Anderson who is the Events Director; he also did a great job last spring when we had the Desiring God Regional conference at our home church in—yes, no kidding—Boring, Oregon.
Desiring God has already made not only the audios of all sessions available online, but also the videos. And all for free! If you want a larger screen, higher resolution, you’ll be able to buy on DVD, but the downloads are 100% free. Visit their site to see all the sessions.
You might enjoy any or all the sessions, but let me highly recommend the second Friday session, in which Justin Taylor interviews John Piper and John MacArthur. He asks them about their fathers, and their responses are touching. He asks how they met, and how they have dealt with times of discouragement in their ministries. This is where it gets very revealing and pretty funny, actually, as you see two great men who are in some respects similar and in others, especially their emotional makeup, radically different (to the point that they don’t really “get” each other in this way). But I thought it was wonderful, because it demonstrates that unity transcends our differences. The two men have great respect for each other, as was also evidenced in some comments John MacArthur makes in his second and final session the following morning.
We loved getting to know Jerry Bridges and his wife Jane. I had met and spoken with Jerry years ago, but this was the first time I’d had extended conversations with him. The speakers and wives spent an unusual amount of time with each other, which was very enjoyable.
One of my favorite times was sitting there at the end of the table at lunch, wrestling with a unique interpretation of a biblical passage, one which we didn’t agree on. I thought, here I am talking theology with Jerry Bridges, John Piper and John MacArthur. It was fun, and again, refreshing. We could disagree, but the common core of belief in God, His Word, His Son and His sovereign grace, and a commitment to following Him wholeheartedly, overrides all else. As long as we experience the unity of John 17 I spoke of in the last blog, our diversity makes the church not weaker, but stronger.
The worship at this conference was tremendous. Most sessions we were in the front row, and when we stood we had over three thousand voices behind us. At times the power of the voices was overwhelming, and God’s Spirit was palpably upon us. And the song selection was tremendous—hymns and choruses and praise songs filled with grace and truth and overflowing with a BIG view of God.
Many of the songs were familiar to me because they originated from the churches of Sovereign Grace Ministries. I’ll never forget my first visit to a Sovereign Grace church in 1992. It was Covenant Fellowship in Philadelphia, where I was blown away by the quality of and intensity of the worship. I thank God for these people, who have brought a vitality of life and penetrating doctrine-drenched songs that for years have been spilling over into many fellowships besides their own, including my home church in Oregon.
Check out the Sovereign Grace site at www.sovereigngraceministries.org. And check out the worship blog written by Bob Kauflin, worship pastor at Covenant Life church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, one of my favorite churches in the world: www.worshipmatters.com.
After the conference ended Sunday morning a group of us gathered at the Piper home. Nanci and I had a late flight out (actually, nearly three hours later than scheduled; we arrived home at 2:30 AM), so we stayed at John and Noel Piper’s until 6:30 when we dropped by Bethlehem Baptist church to greet Joni Eareckson Tada and her husband Ken. Joni and Ken were meeting with some church folks who had participated in the Joni and Friends Wheels for the World Program. What a treat, in God’s providence, to see these dear people. Check out Joni and Friends at www.joniandfriends.org.
I know a number of you prayed for the Piper family in light of the death of little Felicity. Here are John Piper’s words from her funeral.
Speaking of precious unborn children, at the Desiring God conference we gave away a few thousand of my Why Prolife? books, now in paperback. If you’d like a free copy sent to you, just email us at email@example.com, and request it, saying you saw the offer on the blog.
Nanci and I thank God for a wonderful weekend. We had a great time with each other, the speakers and many friends at the conference. We were grateful that Kathy Norquist and Sharon Misenhimer came and worked so hard in the EPM booth. And it was special to see our dear friends Robin Green (an EPM board member) and Margie Boslaugh. There were some great divine appointments involving people I gave books to in airplanes and elsewhere.
To top it off, we came home to a semi-annual royalty check to our ministry from one of my publishers, for over $200,000. It’s our privilege to give away 100% of the royalties. So in the next few days we get to distribute those funds to Bible translation, world evangelism, feeding the poor, giving micro-enterprise business loans to believers in impoverished countries, helping persecuted Christians and their families, reaching prisoners, helping the disabled, assisting women in unwanted pregnancies, printing Christian books in a communist country, and saving the lives of preborn children. And much more.
What a privilege and joy to invest in God’s kingdom. As Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Thank you, Lord. “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (1 Chronicles 29).