Day two of the Basics Conference is the long day. It started at 8am and finished after 8pm (although we did have a few hours in the afternoon of free time that I spent at Panera Bread doing a little work). That means many things, but one is that to write about the entire day in one blog post would be really long. Because of that, I have split my take on it into two blog posts. This first one will be what took place in the morning before lunch. And then at 1pm today, I will post my thoughts on the afternoon and evening sessions.
The morning began with me spending some time trying to learn Logos Bible Software, that I purchased at the conference last year. I will spare the details, except to say that it has been a year and I still do not know how to use much of it. I found out from the instructor that my problem will not be solved in a one hour training session, but that I need to watch the tutorial videos that are provided with Logos. I think I will do that.
Main Session: The God Who Speaks by Mark Dever
Since I attended "The Weekender" I have come to really enjoy the ministry of Mark Dever. I was really looking forward to sit under his preaching. I was even more interested when I heard that he was going to preach on Ezekiel 1, a chapter that has some interesting twists and turns. His main point in the sermon was to try to answer the question as to why we preach as preachers. His answer from Ezekiel 1 was because behind us is a God who speaks.
One thing I was particularly struck by was his reading of the entire text of Ezekiel 1. I asked the question last week as to whether we should read large portions of Scripture that seem confusing. He did. And the way in which he read it was compelling. If you do not have time to listen to the sermon, at least jump online to listen to the first five minutes as he reads the text. His use of pauses and inflection drew me into this rather unique portion of Scripture.
He gave five things that we need to learn about God from this portion of the Bible.
- God Is Not Like Us - God is who He is, independent of us. He encouraged us to not make God into our image, but to realize the otherness of God. God is so different that Ezekiel had a hard time describing Him. He had to use the phrases "like this" to describe God. And when he finally heard God speak to him, he had to fall on his face before Him.
- God Is All-Powerful & All-Wise - the pictures of these unique creatures go to make a point about a God that knows and sees all. God is not limited in time or space. He looks into the future as easily as He looks into the past. What should our reaction of this be when we experience the presence of God in our life? It should be reverence and awe, not casualness.
- God Is Not Limited By Circumstances - This is what he said would be the main thought in this chapter. As a priest who had been exiled from Jerusalem and from the temple, Ezekiel would have been distraught. In losing their land, had they lost their God? The answer: NO! The point is that there is hope even in the worst situations of life.
- God Initiates - This vision doesn't come because Ezekiel is someone special or because of his rather unique holiness. All the wording goes to show that God is the One doing the work. The heavens were opened; the Word of the Lord came; the storm came; the creatures came; then there came a voice. God initiates, man responds.
- God Communicates - There was sight, then sound, and then speech. Verbal communication is essential for real relationships to exist. He made the point as a church that we are not trying to cultivate reverence to a mute God.
At the end of the sermon, Dever asked a great question that drove it home for me. And probably should for you as well. It doesn't matter whether you are a pastor or not. His question was this: What difference does it make if you believe these five points or not?" Just go through them. What difference does it make in your life whether you believe that God is not like us or not? What difference does it make in your life whether you believe that God is all-powerful & all-wise? What about whether you believe that God is not limited by circumstances? Or that God initiates or communicates? It Should Mean Everything! And I would say that it should change the way a pastor preaches and how listeners listen.
Main Session: The Shepherd Who Prays by Voddie Baucham
In his first session Baucham shared about the shepherd who preaches. In this one, he shared about the shepherd who prays. His main text was 2 Timothy 1:3 when Paul says that he prays for Timothy. Homiletically, I had a hard time following his main points. He shared several aspects of the shepherd that prays, but I didn't get how he organized them. So I will just give them in random.
First, Our Dependence In Our Prayers. He made the point that praying shows that we are dependent. And praying for someone shows them that we cannot fix all their problems. He asked us not to wait till the end of our lives to teach our people that they need to be dependent on someone other than us. They need to be dependent upon God. God does not change, we do!
Second, Our Prayers Should Be An Expression Of Intimacy. Paul said that he prayed constantly, night and day as he remembered Timothy's tears. That means they had some very meaningful conversations. He knew the history of this young man. He knew his mother and grandmother. If it is not important to know the person, then we will not think it will be important to pray for those things in his life. The message of the book of 2 Timothy is Paul telling Timothy that he was about to be killed for preaching the gospel and when they do that, Timothy, preach the gospel. Paul knew that Timothy was timid. But he knew his spiritual heritage. That level of knowing his friend moved him into deeper levels of prayer.
Third, Our Prayers Should Be Christ-Centered Prayers. Praying in 'Jesus name' is not about just adding a tag at the end of our prayers. It is about praying according to His will and to His glory. It is about praying the heart of Christ over them.
Fourth, Our Prayers Should Be Made Public. He encouraged us to engage in more public pastoral prayers. For one thing, all of Paul's prayers in his letters were read publicly in the gathered worship service. For another, Jesus said that His Father's house would be a house of prayer. I was challenged to take my pastoral prayer time in our main worship service a bit more serious. Maybe even to think through what I am going to pray and why. I just need to be more deliberate in my public prayers.
That was the morning sessions, I will post my blog at 1pm on the afternoon and evening sessions. Today is the last day of the conference. If you want to stream the main sessions, you can find it HERE. This is today's schedule:
9:30 am - Q&A with Main Speakers
11:00 am - Main Session with Alistair Begg