The end of December is an ideal time to reflect on God’s blessings from the past year. And today I am reminded of some specific memories from the Spring.
The Banner of Truth invited me to attend their minister’s conference in Grantham, Pennsylvania. To my surprise, when I landed in the Harrisburg airport I was kindly chauffeured to the conference in the same car as Dr. Sinclair Ferguson and Dr. Derek Thomas. It was a memorable 45 minutes, as the two men laughed over funny pulpit experiences. Ferguson’s humor had me rolling the entire trip, like the time he bought some marmalade as a gift for his wife and attempted to bring it through airport security. The gift was confiscated. Apparently, he concluded, the United States is fearful of being attacked by marmalade. The story seemed especially funny with the punch line packaged in a thick Scottish accent.
The conference at Messiah College was sunny and hot. Derek Thomas took a chance of speaking without a jacket on, and his friends caught word over at Reformation21. Dr. Thomas took the brunt of some public correction and perhaps lost points with Mississippi Presbyterians and “British Lloyd Jonesites.” The heat was too intense for a jacket. I think I was wearing jean shorts.
At the end of the first night of messages I experienced the now-famous Ferguson walk through the conference bookstore. The bookstore was stuffed with onlookers, and Ferguson wove his way around the tables of Banner treasures, holding up specific volumes long enough to expound their value in the library of a “gospel minister” (another phrase that sounds great with the Scottish accent). Among others, he lifted Iain Murray’s 2-volume biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, B.B. Warfield’s Faith and Life, Charles Bridges’ The Christian Ministry, J.C. Ryle’s The Upper Room, and Gerhard Vos’ Biblical Theology. Every book he mentioned was drastically cut in price and snatched up quickly. He began the walk through the bookstore with a memorable preface. When he graduated seminary, the really useful books printed by Evangelical publishers could easily fit on one shelf. In other words, we are blessed to have so many excellent volumes available today.
Overall, I had great roommates in the shared dorms. We shared a lot of laughs, ate some wonderful food, and met several new friends. The format of the conference was a bit more formal than I’m used to, but experiencing the Holy Spirit’s work in different settings and formats is always encouraging. And my time with Burlew was encouraging and edifying, especially the late drive from the conference to the Banner of Truth warehouse in Carlisle, PA. Because of a tight schedule, time allowed only a midnight tour of the Banner warehouse. It was a conference highlight.
These conference memories come back because last week (after I released my top books of the year), I received an email from a reader (Dean) inquiring about my list of favorite messages I’d heard this year. My “Now on my iPod…” on the sidebar spikes listener interest and some assume that I compile a lot of audio messages (which I don’t). But I like the idea, and off Dean’s advice I set out to complete a top-10 list of favorite messages from 2007. As much as I tried, the list never came together for me. Next year I’ll take note of favorite messages throughout the year (as I do in compiling favorite books).
Despite being unable to complete a top 10-list, there is no debate over my top two favorite messages from 2007. Sitting in an oak pew in the balcony of a hot Pennsylvania chapel, I remember frantically writing down notes in a Moleskine as I absorbed every word from Ferguson’s two messages. It was the first time seeing Ferguson in person, and his messages struck deep because he turned my attention to the Cross in a way I had not previously considered.
Taking his cue from Titus 2:11-15, Ferguson expounded how our sanctification is the purchase of the Cross. In other words, when we consider our personal growth in holiness, we should be reminded that Christ purchased this sanctification for us. It was a stirring message, and I left with a deeper appreciation for the Cross.
I could explain both messages in detail, but I’ve already written summaries and your time would be best spent listening to the audio for yourselves. Enjoy.
Related: Transcripted excerpt from the first message titled Supporting the imperatives to holiness.
Related: Transcripted excerpt from the second message titled No such ‘thing’ as grace.