It has been about two weeks since I returned from the BASICS Conference in Cleveland Ohio. I am super blessed that Parkside Church once again brought me up and provided everything for me to get there and for me while I was there. This year was awesome also cause my bro Don was able to come with me. I know without a doubt that he was blessed beyond measure as well. One thing for sure, it isn't a restful time. Not even getting into the thirty six hours of travel to get there, or the running around to get some much desired American products at Target. Setting that aside, the conference itself is a lot. It is a full three days. Besides that, during breaks and free time, and each day after the conference ended, we were meeting with the Parkside director of ministries or their missions pastor or some elders from the church. It was a full go. I am not complaining at all. I was so excited and blessed. It was a good busy. There are certain conferences you go to that when you come back you are ready to hit the ground running. This isn't one of them. I needed a couple days off to digest and process all that took place. The problem was (I don't know who did the preaching schedule, oh ya it was me), I had to preach on Sunday (we got back to Cajamarca sometime on Friday) and then my wife and oldest daughter left on Tuesday morning for Chile for two and a half weeks! But the Lord is gracious and I have had quiet early mornings to process and go through several of the main points that I came away with. Sitting under teaching for hours a day for three days, it is a lot to try to retain. Over the next several months, I will be going back through all the teaching sessions to re-chew on them. And over the next couple weeks I plan on opening up this blog and just write out with no real structure or thought on some of the things I took away and my first impressions. So today is the first of those. It is funny cause what I am going to write about is really what hit Don the most. It hit him immediately. For me, it took me a little while for it to take hold. It resonated with me right away, but over the last two weeks it has just brought this great joy and gratitude to my soul.
We arrived Saturday night in Cleveland and after a shower, meal and a good night sleep we awoke early on Sunday morning to head over to Parkside to spend time praying with the pastors and elders before service. We were told that Sinclair Ferguson would be preaching the morning message. He preached from Romans 8:28. Just a few weeks ago, when Mud and Miracles were here in Peru, Pastor Brian preached from Romans 8:28. Pastor Brian's message was one of the best messages I ever heard, not only from Romans 8:28, but best messages from anywhere in the Bible. For me it was so special to have him preaching in the church that I pastor. He has graciously allowed me to teach in his pulpit on multiple occasions and so I was extremely honored and excited for our people at Refugio to hear him. (Several people during the week asked if Pastor B was going to be teaching again the up coming Sunday, to which I replied no, and they would reply back "oh" with disappointment all over their faces). So I was curious how Dr. Ferguson would compare. I am not going to lie. It was good. It was right up there with Pastor Brian's. It was the best message I heard while there at the conference. It was better than any of the conference messages (and all of them were on point). Dr. Ferguson's message was one of the best messages I have heard on Romans 8:28. It was from a different perspective than Pastor Brian's. I am still partial towards Pastor Brian's but Dr. Ferguson's was a powerfully good message. Kay Carter, who is Alistair's assistant, told me on Monday afternoon that it was one of the best messages she has ever heard and she sits under Alistair's teaching. Think about that. Anyways, the point Dr. Ferguson made was, we as God's people are blessed. We are blessed because God loves us. He loves us so much that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Ultimately, we are not blessed because of material possessions or because or our health or because of anything else. See that is what has begun to really soak into my soul and give me this overwhelming joy and gratitude. Here is why this has made such an impact on my soul. I look at my life and I think, "wow, I am blessed." Why do I say that? What makes me think I am blessed? Honestly the first thing I will think about is my wife. The Lord has blessed me with an incredible woman. Then I look at my children. The Lord has blessed me with four incredible and unique children. I think about what I am doing. I am blessed to be able to play a small part in what the Lord is doing here in Cajamarca. All of that is truly a blessing from God. There is no doubt. I am not taking anything away from that and I thank Him everyday for those blessings and many others. But the main reason I am blessed, is because I am a child of God. Because while I was a sinner, Christ died for me. That is the blessing. Cause let's be honest, there are people who do not know the Lord, who have great families. People who have great "jobs". And so often I hear people talk about how the Lord has blessed them (and it is true, I don't want to take anything away from what the Lord gives) but they are speaking in materialistic ways. "Oh the Lord blessed me cause I have this new house or new car or new job or whatever". "Isn't God good, look at what He gave me." I hear, "God is good to me because of_________", fill in the blank. What if you didn't have that? Would you still be blessed? Would God still be good? How often do people hear you speak of how good God is because of the cross? Would you still give glory to God if you didn't have the "items" you wanted? Material items are no sign that God is blessing you. The Bible tells us that God makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. We are told the wicked prosper. Materialistic blessings are not great signs that you are blessed. We know that every good and perfect gift is from our Heavenly Father. We know that even for those who do not love Him, what they have are blessings from God and by His grace. But we, as believers need to grasp this, that we are blessed because while we were sinners, Christ died for us. What separates us from those of the world? Is it because we have been blessed with family, friends, job, wealth, health, possessions? No! The world has all of that. I can't help but see some prosperity gospel, which is no gospel, in our use of language. "I am blessed because I have this and I have that." Really? That is why you are blessed? Since that message I find myself now saying, "Lord I am blessed because I am your child. I am blessed because of the cross. Thank you." And from there I proceed to thank Him and praise Him for the earthly gifts that have been bestowed upon me by His gracious hand. I want to be sure that I relish in the greatest blessing. I want to be sure that my highest praise and thankfulness is not for anything other than Christ and what He has done. We must be sure that we are not looking to temporal, earthly items as our blessings (which they are blessings, don't misunderstand me), but we have an eternal inheritance that will not rust or that thieves can steal. We have an inheritance that is beyond measure. We will be with the Lord for ever, the same Lord, that while we were yet sinners, died for us.
I am grateful for such an incredible woman to share my life with and who pushes me to serve Jesus more passionately. I am grateful for my four crazy kids. I am grateful for where the Lord has me. I am grateful for many of these blessings that the Lord has granted me. And really they are blessings because I am His. But my biggest blessing and what I want to keep at the front of my mind and my speech and in what I do is the cross of our Lord Jesus, where He died for me while I was still a sinner. No longer am I a stranger, I am a child of God. What a glorious thought.