this past weekend, I had the privilege of attending and serving full time at the NEXT conference in Baltimore MD. I had a great time and came back completely exhausted yet so incredibly refreshed…
Looking back, here are a few of the top highlights … (I’m sure I’ll be delving into more of the details at some point in the future but for now my brain is too tired to do so!)
1. God seems to have a tradition of using worship during the conference to teach me a lot and this year was no exception. There were several new songs and we actually recorded a live album during the conference (I’ll post a link to it when its available… I think they said that it will be downloadable for about $5). Every worship set seemed to have the same theme … God’s unchanging, overwhelming, undeniable love for sinners like me.
God seemed to impress on my heart even before the conference to pray for physical healing in my body. As I began thinking through this, I met a powerful feeling of guilt… how can I ask God for such a gift?… knowing that He has already given me so much?… knowing that His glory is more important than His gifts?… knowing that ultimately it is He, not a body of good physical health, that will satisfy.
He used the worship sets to reveal that my desire not to pray for this was pride… that I wanted to somehow earn it, yet instead He is holding out an open hand of love and favor freely to me… “But God, don’t you see there is still so much sin in me? Don’t you know I don’t deserve such a gift?” “Yes, my child, but I love you…I sacrificed my Son and He gave His life for your freedom. I desire good gifts for you. And I may not heal you but I want you to know I love you and I delight in you asking and looking to me to be your gracious Provider.”
I had some sweet times of prayer, just crying out to my God for mercy. I know that He wants my good. And at this point I don’t know if that involves physical healing, but I’m asking for it and hoping and praying that in His mercy the answer to this prayer would be a “yes.”
2. Since I was ushering and working through portions of every main session I was not able to really focus on the sermons like in years past. I wasn’t able to take any notes (that being said, I’m really glad they record the main sessions). So during each sermon, I found myself just trying to grasp for just one drop of truth in the midst of the deep theological current that was being shared with us.
I think in many ways this was helpful for me where I’m at right now in my life. I didn’t leave the conference overwhelmed with a million things I need to learn and apply and change. I left the conference with one overwhelming truth… my God is full of love and rich in mercy and that truth brings freedom.
One quote from the final sermon was the main quote God used to remind me of this. Sinclair Ferguson was speaking on the return of Christ and His ultimate control over the world. He made the comment that “if God had returned 18 months ago, some of you here would be in hell today.” My mind immediately went to the book of Revelation and the persecuted saints crying out “how long, sovereign Lord will evil go unpunished? How long until you avenge our blood?” It hit me with a blood-curdling reality and overwhelming pool of mercy that if God had answered those many prayer even only 5 years ago, then I would be in hell today. That if God had not withheld his anger and had not shown patience that I would be in hell. It was just an amazing reminder of God’s mercy to me.
That quote allowed my faith in God to grow… to grow in seeing that He is sovereignly in control, even when it seems He is delaying unnecessarily. Often I see a delay in answered prayer as either indifference or anger (in a “get it together and then I’ll answer your prayer” kind of way). I’m grateful He opened my eyes to see the mercy behind what doesn’t make sense to me.
…stay posted for more thoughts… :)