I’ve been to a lot of conferences in thirty plus years of pastoral ministry. Another one has gone into the books. I, along with the rest of the elders at OGC, just finished attending The Gospel Coalition’s 2015 National Conference. The theme was “Coming Home: New Heaven and New Earth.” We drank from a non-stop fire hose of teaching about eschatology, the doctrine of last things, the recreation that is not yet, and how it makes a difference in our lives in the now.
I’ve dubbed it my sorrowful-yet-always-rejoicing conference. Of course I’m thinking of Paul’s description of gospel-shaped saints in 2 Cor. 6:10. This is the nature of living in the now while we wait for the not yet. We suffer the sorrows of the now, living under the curse (see Genesis 3). However, we do not grieve as those without hope, but rather rejoice always in the sure promises of the not yet still to come.
I experienced the tension in both ways these forty-eight hours just passed. I felt the sorrow. While Voddie Baucham preached on 1 Cor. 15 about the resurrection of the dead, he painted a picture. In it he described standing over the dead body of his sixteen year old cousin and the emotions which flooded him as he was confronted by the sting of death. I flashed back to standing over my own son’s lifeless body last year. Yet another terrorist attack of grief detonated within. I endured once more those horrible pangs of sadness which I suspect will linger until I finish out my own numbered days.
But I also felt the rejoicing. The conference finished with Phil Ryken teaching out of Revelation 21-22). He too painted a picture. It involved not a now, but a not yet hope for every believer as detailed in Rev. 21:4 – “He will wipe away every tear.” That hope comforted me. It tempered my loss and renewed my joy. On that day when I go home, because of what Jesus has done for me in His death, burial, and resurrection, the Lord will greet me and personally wipe away every tear I have and ever will shed over the agonizing loss of my firstborn. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to that moment.
Of course, as you might expect, there were many other things of value that came from the conference. Not the least of which was the benefit of having all seven of our elders there to increase our gospel passion and ponder how better to lead OGC. Please pray for us as we gather our thoughts and eventually debrief toward some action steps as God would lead. I can hardly express the value which comes from these rare opportunities when we can discuss with leisure the state of Christ’s church and how to lead her into the future.
On behalf of our entire team, this pastor says, “Thank you, the gospel-shaped, giving people of Orlando Grace Church.”