Why I’m Thrilled to Travel to Louisville this Week!

T4G stands for “Together for the Gospel.” Every other year some pretty heavy hitters in the world of reformed evangelicalism pool their efforts to host this amazing event.

I’ve managed to go twice over the years. God never fails to show up. With the 500th birthday of the Protestant Reformation right around the corner, no way did I want to miss this edition. Check out the quick video clip below to see what I  mean:



I feel so fortunate to have pastored a Reformed Baptist congregation for the past eleven years. That we get to stand on the shoulders of the likes of Luther, Calvin, and the rest to proclaim the doctrines of grace to our city, I take as an enormously serious stewardship.

Thankfully my jaw has healed enough to allow the trip. I’m asking the Lord to speak in profound ways to me and the thousands of other pastors who will attend this week. Would you pray to that end as well?

According to the T4G website, they plan to live stream the sessions in case you want to join the event at any point. Sweet!

A Sorrowful But Always Rejoicing Conference

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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.

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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.”

The Grand Canyon of the Gospel

Have you ever visited the Grand Canyon? I have. Twice. The view from every vantage point takes one’s breath away.

As stunning as that vista is, it doesn’t compare to the scene of God’s love on display in the gospel of Christ. Greg Gilbert capitalizes on that illustration in his book What Is the Gospel?

How long has it been since you looked up from the earthly details of life and came face to face with the Grand Canyon of what God has done for us in the gospel—his unfathomable grace in forgiving people who have rebelled against him, his breathtaking plan to send his Son to suffer and die in their place, to establish the throne of the resurrected Jesus over a kingdom of perfect righteousness, and to bring those who are saved and redeemed by his blood into a new heavens and new earth where sin and evil will be forever conquered!

How is it that I let the beauty and power and vastness of that gospel be crowded out of my mind so often and for so long? Why is it that my thoughts and emotions are often dominated by silly things like whether my car is clean, or what’s happening on CNN right now, or whether I was happy with my lunch today, rather than by these glorious truths? Why do I so often organize and think about my life as if I were wearing blinders, rather than in the light of eternity? Why does this gospel not permeate, all the time and all the way to the bottom, my relationships with my wife and children, my coworkers and friends and fellow church members?

I know exactly why. It’s because I’m a sinner, and worldliness will continue to linger in my heart and war against me until the day Jesus comes back. But until then, I want to fight against that. I want to fight against spiritual laziness—against the drugged stupor this world constantly threatens to put me in—and I want to embrace this gospel hard and let it affect everything—my actions, affections, emotions, desires, thoughts, and will (p. 114-15).

Content likes that makes me eager to sit under Greg’s teaching this Friday night and Saturday morning in our Living in the Grip of the Gospel Conference at OGC. Oh for a people who embrace the gospel hard and let it effect everything!

Transition – Time for Pondering Anew

Any time the Lord gifts me with the privilege of attending a pastor’s conference, especially the Desiring God one in Minneapolis each February, I always pray the same thing. Lord, speak. Let me hear your voice. Show me what you require.

Once again He has not failed me as I reach the end of day two of this particular event entitled, Brothers, We Are Still Not Professionals.

This morning Pastor John Piper introduced his replacement at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Pastor Jason Meyer. Ever since I heard about this young man having to step into such humongous ministerial shoes I have asked myself, who in the world would want to follow John Piper? I learned this morning as no surprise at all that this man has felt much the same thing. In fact, when first queried about the possibility of taking over Bethlehem’s reins by Piper himself, Meyer responded quite vulnerably, “Nothing scares me more than that.” To which the retiring mentor replied, “Well, that’s not a no.” The rest, as they say, is history.

In his talk entitled Pastoral Transition After a 32-Year Ministry: Strategy and the Supernatural, Meyer went on to do two things. He told the story of how the whole surprising and, in some ways, unlikely appointment to such an imposing post came about. And then he offered four lessons from the process for our edification. You can listen to the entire message here. Consider it a worthy use of your valuable time. You won’t be disappointed.

Bethlehem’s “Joshua” transitioning into her treasured “Moses” role as shepherd of this congregation, fashioned his talk around phrases from two great hymns of the faith – Praise to the Lord the Almighty and To God Be  the Glory. The phrase from the first was this: Ponder anew what the Almighty can do. There is where the Lord spoke to me in the way the man linked that timeless exhortation of the hymn writer to the challenge of change in any ministry. Transitions are not to be feared; they are opportunities  from God to ponder anew what He can do.

Truth be told I can get scared when I think of losing Greg & Christina this summer to his church planting apprenticeship. How will our rich music ministry continue? Where will help for pastoral demands come from? Who will take care of the seemingly endless number of administrative details Greg handles in a given week? These questions and more can keep any pastor awake at night.

God knows. I say it again. God knows.

So ponder anew with  me what the Almighty will do as we wait on Him for His provision. Pray with me and the elders that we will plan and execute a God-centered strategy that profits Orlando Grace nearly as much as the one these dear folks in Minnesota employed to arrive at a replacement for someone of Piper’s stature.

Let us not fear transitions, but God who unfailingly leads His people through one change after another.

Then we will sing once again, “To God be the glory, great things He has done.”

Save the Date!

Let me encourage you to access your calendar right now or as soon as possible and set apart the dates below at OGC for the following:

What: Living in the Grip of the Gospel – What Is the Gospel? Conference

Who: Pastor and Author Greg Gilbert, Third Avenue Baptist Church of Louisville, Kentucky

When: April 19 & 20, 2013 (Friday evening and Saturday morning)

Where: Orlando Grace Church, 872 Maitland Ave, Altamonte Springs, FL

Why: Greg Gilbert is author of the 9Marks book What Is the Gospel? (Crossway, 2010, 127 pages). Dr. Al Mohler writes this about Greg and his book:

Greg Gilbert is one of the brightest and most faithful young men called to serve the church today. Here he offers us a penetrating, faithful, and fully biblical understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no greater need than to know the true gospel, to recognize the counterfeits, and to set loose a generation of gospel-centered Christians. This very important book arrives at just the right moment.

That’s our goal – to set loose a generation of gospel-centered Christians in Central Florida. Pray that God does just that!

When Sinners Say I Do – March 10th!

A proper understanding of God’s purpose in marriage, the problem in marriage, and discovering the power of the gospel in marriage is vital to everyone whether single, preparing to be married, newly married or married for decades.

Our friends at Crosspointe Orlando are hosting Pastor Dave Harvey, author of When Sinners Say I Do, in a day long seminar on understanding God’s plan for marriage, EVERYONE’S problem in marriage and how discovering the POWER of the gospel will result in a thriving marriage. Click here to register.

I want to convince you that dealing with the sin problem is key to a thriving marriage. When we apply the gospel to our sin, it gives us hope in our personal lives and in our marriages. Bad news leads to great news. It’s the story of the Bible, and the story of our lives. -Dave Harvey, When Sinners Say I Do

This is the text I am now using for premarital counseling and marital distress counseling. If there is any way you can make your way to fit this into your schedule, I highly recommend it!


Email laila@xpointe.com if you need childcare (include how many and age of children). Note there will be an additional fee for childcare.

More information about When Sinners Say I Do

The Powerful Life of the Praying Pastor

Greetings from the Desiring God 2011 conference for pastors. This year, thanks to a most generous OGC benefactor, I traveled with a friend, Jack Jenkins, pastor of Faith Baptist, Orlando. Thank God for a peer to compare notes on such a strategic theme as prayer in the life of God’s man.

God as done so much already. Consider this sample of quotes:

We’re a room full of ordinary jars of clay. Sam Storms

One of the ways we will be most relevant to the world is by not being like it. Mark Dever

If some sermons had the small pox, the text would never catch it. Mark Dever (Think about it.)

All the things we care about the most are impossible. John Piper (Ain’t that the truth?)

Whenever you lack the impulse to pray, then pray. Joel Beeke (keynote)

American culture is the hardest in the history of humanity for praying. Paul Miller

Helplessness is one of the biggest secrets to prayer. You can’t live life on your own. Paul Miller

You can be so focused on the work of God that you neglect the person of God. Francis Chan

Prayer differentiates us from the rest of the world. Our God listens to us. Francis Chan

Do people see you as someone who just can’t get enough of God? Francis Chan

My peoples’ greatest need is my personal holiness. Robert Murray M’cheyne (biography by John Piper)

Tomorrow we hear from Jerry Rankin on prayer and missions (buckle your seat belt) and then the panel Q&A. The Lord and weather permitting we fly out of MSP at 3 PM, local time.

What a rich privilege to attend yet another DG conference on this the 25th anniversary of the publishing of John Piper’s seminal work, Desiring God, the book that put me on the road toward a God-entranced vision of all things (if you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for?). I got so excited at one point this afternoon I shouted Hallelujah in the session – from what I could tell the only one out of 1700 hundred  in attendance. Not sure why no one else was similarly moved, but no matter. When I get back home, ask me about it. I’ll be glad to tell you what moved me so.

Oh to experience an abiding with God that amounts to a walk in love that leaves the stamp of God on the work of God through a man of God.

Two Complimentary Registrations

Through my connections with the Florida Chapter of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, I have access to two complimentary registrations for this weekend’s conference on adoption in Lake Mary.

For a detailed look at the conference click on here.

The description on the site is as follows:

We will hear gifted men exposit the Scriptures concerning how you, your family, and your local church, can embrace this life-changing truth in very practical ways. The speakers will trace the love of God to the adoption of His children. They will also bring out how that love should motivate us to care for the needs of children that do not have loving parents or a family.  These teachings on the comfort and hope of adoption will warm your heart and deepen your understanding of what it means to be a part of God’s forever family. Your appreciation for the Christian family and the church will grow as you discover how these divine institutions meet very real needs in practical ways.

Registration included entry, meals, and a concert by Andrew Peterson on Friday night!

If you would like to know the coupon code to use for registration, email me at revheff@gmail.com and I will be happy to share it with you, first come/first served.

Story '10 from Pioneers

Pioneers will do it again.

In the years between Urbana conferences, they host their own mission’s conference right here in Orlando. I went to Story ’08 and found it well worth while.

Here is the description of the conference from their VP:

Story’10 is a missions conference from Pioneers which invites you to be a part of God’s story among the unreached peoples of the world.  You’ll hear first-hand accounts of how God is moving in the world from missionaries fresh off the field from areas like Thailand, Central Asia, Indonesia, Europe, South America, Africa and more!  There’s even a track specifically for kids!  For more information check out pioneers.org/story!

Watch the trailer now!

Story’10 Trailer from Pioneers-USA on Vimeo.

Adopted4Ever Conference

A few weeks ago David Wooten of Embraced By Grace ministries joined us to tell us about this event in Lake Mary on Nov. 5 & 6 at the Westin Lake Mary that will focus on adoption from two directions – vertical in terms of our relationship with God and horizontal in terms of the ministry of adopting orphans into our Christian families.

Here is a portion of the description for the conference web link:

We will hear gifted men exposit the Scriptures concerning how you, your family, and your local church, can embrace this life-changing truth in very practical ways. The speakers will trace the love of God to the adoption of His children. They will also bring out how that love should motivate us to care for the needs of children that do not have loving parents or a family.  These teachings on the comfort and hope of adoption will warm your heart and deepen your understanding of what it means to be a part of God’s forever family. Your appreciation for the Christian family and the church will grow as you discover how these divine institutions meet very real needs in practical ways.

Early registration of only $59 ends this Thursday, September 30, and includes two meals AND a special concert by Andrew Peterson.

If you want to learn more about this doctrine of Scripture that John Owen called the fountain privilege of the gospel and/or find out more information about adopting children into your own family, this conference is for you.