Nearly every year since 1997, my wife Tammy and I have experienced a taste of Heaven each February or March as we make the trek from the frigid Midwest to sunny Orlando, Florida to attend the Ligonier Ministries National Conference. It is the home of the “Happiest Place on Earth” after all. For the second year in a row we enjoyed the conference with fellow elder Don Lusk and his wife Angela.
First Baptist Church of Orlando, the usual host of the conference, was not available due to renovation work (though the 2016 conference will return there February 25-27). As a result, the conference was held this year at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, a beautiful location, where we enjoyed the beauty of the lakes, landscaping, wildlife and several walks during the five days we stayed there.
The conference was highlighted by the release of the newly revised and updated Reformation Study Bible, which R. C. Sproul served as the General Editor. Go to http://reformationstudybible.com/ to find out more about this important new resource.
Another highlight of the conference was the release of the new album of sacred hymns Glory to the Holy One from Jeff Lippencott (music) and R.C. Sproul (lyrics). Lippencott is an Emmy-nominated composer. See http://www.scphilharmonic.org/aboutjeff.html to find out more about Jeff and his accomplishments.
The album was presented in full at Saint Andrews Chapel the night before the conference with full orchestra and choir. In addition, four songs from the album were performed at the conference on Friday evening. Go to http://www.ligonier.org/blog/glory-holy-one-announcing-rc-sprouls-new-sacred-hymns-project/ to find out more about this powerful new release. The album includes R.C.’s song “Clothed in Righteousness”, which has become one of my favorite hymns sung at Ligonier National Conferences and Saint Andrews Chapel the past few years. The hymn singing with such a huge crowd of believers is a highlight for my wife, only topped by the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah at the end of the conference.
This year’s conference began with a pre-conference event, kicked off by Tim Challies, who spoke on “Purity in the Digital Age”, a very helpful message that everyone needs to listen to. All conference messages can be watched free at http://www.ligonier.org/learn/conferences/after-darkness-light-2015-national-conference/.
Tim’s message was followed by the inspirational story of Rosaria Butterfield, as she detailed her journey as a lesbian professor in the English Department and Women Studies Program at Syracuse University. Her academic interest was focused on feminist theory, queer theory and 19th century British literature. She achieved tenure in 1999, the same year that she converted to Christianity and ultimately became a pastor’s wife. I picked up Rosaria’s book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, and will be reading it shortly. She recommended the book, The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door by Jay Pathak. She said that the GLBT community values hospitality and applies it with skill, sacrifice, and integrity; something the Christian community could learn from. Peter Jones gave the final message in the pre-conference, and a “Question and Answer” session (always among my favorite sessions) closed out the pre-conference.
Sinclair Ferguson, one of today’s most respected Reformed theologians, opened the formal conference with “Christ’s Message to the Church”, from Revelation 2:1-7, the message that most impacted me. This is a message that all church leaders should listen to. This was such a powerful message, Tammy and I listened to it again on the way to Saint Andrews for worship the day after the conference ended.
Other highlights for me were Alistair Begg’s “No Place for Truth”, “Whatever Happened to Sin?” from Russell Moore and “Do Not Love the World” from Kevin DeYoung. Other conference speakers were Steven Lawson, R.C. Sproul Jr., Robert Godfrey, Stephen Nichols and R.C. Sproul. Another highlight was a session we attended Friday night in the conference bookstore in which Sinclair Ferguson described a number of books that he recommended we read.
All of the messages were strong. The messages and the question and answer sessions challenged and encouraged me. I left the conference with a greater desire to read and study the Bible and to pray.
Below are the daily recaps of the conference from Ligonier.org:
We ended our conference experience by attending Sunday worship at Saint Andrews Chapel in Sanford, where we sang hymns accompanied by their beautiful pipe organ. Sinclair Ferguson filled the pulpit and preached (in his Scottish brogue) on “The Gospel in Four Propositions” from Galatians 2:20 in the morning and evening services.
Aaaahhh…. Another taste of Heaven.
If you get an opportunity to attend the 2016 Ligonier National Conference I would highly recommend it.