Over the next several days I plan to spend some time highlighting some lessons learned during my time at the Desiring God National Conference in Minnesota. I will begin today by just sharing some general comments, and over the course of the next several days will interact with some treasures mined from the depths of God’s Word from the powerful preaching and exposition of Timothy Keller, D.A. Carson, David Wells, and John Piper. My thoughts and experiences are certainly not comprehensive enough to give one a full picture of the blessing of this conference, but I hope my feable attempt to draw you in will encourage you in some way as well. Let me also commend Joshua Harris’ thoughts (http://joshharrisblogson.blogspot.com/2006/10/desiring-god-2006-day-two.html), pastor of Covenant Life Church, about the conference.

The weather in Minneapolis was beautiful. Such a gift from God that He would give us an electric blue sky and gentle breeze as the setting for our encounter with Him. I went to the conference with two good friends, both former students during my ministry in Birmingham, Alabama. It was good to be away with them and think critically and objectively about our culture, doctrine and the current state of the church. My only sadness is in the fact that I was the old guy in the group, and therefore had no wise sage by which to lean on and bounce my impressions or insights about Jesus, culture and how the church should appropriately engage culture.

One thing that stood out to me about my few days in Minneapolis was the number of Muslims I encountered. On Saturday night of the conference there was also a gathering (which I believe was a wedding) at the convention center. There must have been over 1000 Muslims gathered only meters from 3000 Christians. What irony, that we would be gathering to worship the supremacy of Jesus Christ will surrounded by Muslims who accept that Jesus was messiah but not God! But I was struck by the fact that it appeared that the majority, if not all of the conference attendees, myself included, walked past these Muslims without any attempt to engage them in a meaningful conversation about Jesus.

Providentially, we did have the opportunity to talk about Jesus to our cab driver, Tareq, who also was Muslim. He was quite inquisitive about the beliefs of Baptists and was well-versed on Catholicism and Protestantism (in a broad scale). He was obviously quite intelligent and it did not take long to realize that Tareq intentions, while perhaps not to convert us, was to bring us to a place of acceptance and tolerance of Islam. He talked at length about his respect and acceptance of Jesus as messiah, though he was clear that he did not believe he was God. I would have liked to have talked to Tareq more but he was working and we never saw him again.

I experienced a strange sensation in my conversation with Tareq. When he told us that he was Muslim, I felt something in my inner being. I don’t believe it was fear. But it was a clear realization that here was a person who lives as an enemy of Jesus. I find it odd, though, that I don’t often think this way about Westerner’s who live lives of rebellion and hostility towards the gospel of Jesus. So perhaps it was, in an unconcious way, the spirit of fear in turmoil within me as I thought about what less accepting men than Tareq would do to harm me as a follower of Jesus if I had met him on the streets of Saudia Arabia rather than the streets of Minneapolis.

The conference itself was absolutely fantastic. Hands down the best conference I have ever attended. As we gathered for each session, particularly those sessions where time was set aside for singing, prayer and Scriptural admonition and confession, I was moved by the unspeakable, discernable joy in the room. I, like C.J. Mahaney has commented on his blog about the conference, felt the presence of the LORD.

I will take time in coming days to comment specifically on the messages at the conference, so let me close with a few observations about the Q & A sessions with the conference headliners (John Piper, Tim Keller, D.A. Carson, Voodie Baucham, Mark Driscoll, and David Wells).

It was extremely encouraging to see the more intimate exchange and dialogue between men I admire deeply. I often feel that these pastoral “heroes” in my life are inaccessible, and even more sanctified than they really are. The Q & A sessions really provided an opportunity to see, in a small way, the hearts of these men and what drives them to persevere in their call to shepherd God’s people and feed Jesus’ sheep.

The passion with which these men communicate the truth about Jesus is contagious and makes me desire a more visible, discernable joy in Jesus in my life.

D.A. Carson and John Piper’s inspiring words to the small-town, rural pastor were moving. I was deeply convicted about the aspirations that often ruminate in my heart and was glad to receive the stinging reminder that there is no higher calling than to feed God’s people His Word.

Finally, seeing John Piper as the “cussing pastor” Mark Driscoll is now famously noted to be and hearing David Wells confess he wants to be “hip” were hysterical and endearing. If you are completely in the dark, for the sake of space in the cyber-world I encourage you to check out J. Harris’ blog linked above for a fuller context.

My days in Minnesota were filled with sweetness and goodness from God. I look forward to spending some time sharing with you some of the things God revealed during the time spent in His Word over the next several days. I hope that you will stay tuned.

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