Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Banner of Truth Conference 2008

I am at the Banner of Truth Conference being held at Messiah College in Grantham, PA. As I was telling a friend yesterday, this is the first real Pastors' Conference (outside denominational ones--like at the SBC meeting and the Evangelical Forum) that I have attended.
Messiah is a simple campus in a pastoral setting just outside Harrisburg, PA. It took Howard A., my fellow traveler, and I about 4 hours to get here by car from C-ville. There are a couple of hundred men here for the Conference. At registration we got a free book (W. B. Sprague's Lectures of Revivals) and a sport shirt. These are annual perks (only the giveaway book title and the shirt color change!). The plenary meetings are held in the campus chapel. The congregational singing of hymns is ringing!
In the first session at 3:30 pm, Iain Murray preached on John 21:18-19, 22. He has such a natural, relaxed, but compelling delivery. On thing he pointed out I had not pondered was that the Lord's prediction of Peter's martyrdom ("but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not" [v. 18]) was given to Peter as a word of assurance that he would remain faithful. If he knew he would die a martyr, he at least had assurance that he would not ultimately deny the Lord again.
After the supper break, Craig Troxel of Bethel Presbyterian Church in Wheaton, IL preached a message titled "Fan the Flame" from 2 Timothy 1:6. His four point outline:
1. The gift: Any gifts we have (like preaching/teaching) from God are simply a manifestation of his grace.
2. Fanning the gift: We must continually work at improving our gifts. Even those with excellent gifting can become lax. We are committed to "reformed and always reforming" not the status quo.
3. The gift of the Holy Spirit: We must realize our complete dependence on the Spirit (2 Tim 1:7). Troxel did a masterful job of exposing pride in preachers, telling a great illustration of a time when he lost his voice while preaching, humbling his pride in his abilities.
4. The gift of Christ's ministry: Despite our weaknesses, Christ will not break the bruised reed or quench the smoking flax (Matt 12:20).
This was a very encouraging message for preachers.
After the second session, newcomers to the conference were invited to the book room where Iain Murray did a walk around the room and impromptu talk on various books (offering discounts along the way). Apparently this also is a tradition usually done by Sinclair Ferguson with Murray substituting in his absence. It was hard for Murray not to recommend every book in the room. A few (of many) comments:
-If you had to pick one Lloyd-Jones book try Knowing the Times.
-His biography of John Murray is the only book of his that he says folk tell him they cry over.
-The best book on the Great Awakening is still Tracy's.
-A man in Edinburgh once wrote the evangelical library in London asking for a book by Finney. Instead they sent him a volume from Flavel's Complete Works and it changed his life.
-Reading the first volume of Spurgeon's autobiography (which he prefers to volume 2) will keep you up till late in the night.

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