While we lived in Florida we were blessed to be able to attend the annual Conference for Ligonier Ministries, in Orlando, several years in a row. Now that we live so far away, we enjoy the blessing of watching the conference streaming live on the internet. Rather, I should say, the mixed blessing of streaming live on the internet. Because the live webcast affords us the ability to watch from home, it means that as we are watching the conference, we are- say it with me- still at home.
When we would travel to Orlando to attend the annual conference we would leave home behind, with the phone, schedules, routines and expectations also left behind. Now, being at home, the phone was the easiest issue to remedy- we simply unplugged it. In fact, I'm enjoying the silence so much we may extend our little vacation to last beyond the time allotted for the conference weekend. When we traveled to Orlando the kitchen also stayed behind, but now I find that I am snacking far more while sitting 10 feet from my refrigerator than when I sat in a sanctuary in which food and beverages where forbidden. Snacking plus sitting all day are a decidedly bad combination for me. Attending the conference in person also meant that between the sessions there was a bookstore through which to wander, perusing the selections and benefiting from the conference discount. From this distance I realize that my pocketbook is safer, so perhaps this aspect is a benefit.
Far above these considerations however, when we went to Orlando it meant that we were sitting among the thousands of other worshipers for the singing of the hymns which opened each session, an experience not remotely parallel to standing alone in my living room warbling out the songs on my own as the sounds of the congregation's voices come through the television speakers. The experience of joining those thousands in worship was as close to worshiping with the multitudes in Heaven as I have yet been. That alone is worth the trip.
Since we are watching from home and the kids still have to get to track practice, Jim's day is interrupted by running them back and forth to school. Jim, for that matter, is also deeply involved in his own schoolwork and job hunt, since this isn't an actual vacation, so he joins me for a snippet of the conference here and there, but that's about it. Convincing the kids to sit and listen with me is a lost cause since it's "only here at home" and therefore loses the weight of importance. And while we are speaking of interruptions, I must say that the internet streaming is not terribly smooth. Whether it is my laptop, internet connection, or something on their end, there have been repeated breaks in the broadcast as the stream pauses to buffer or my shockwave player crashes. I'll be on the edge of my seat listening to what is being said from the pulpit when suddenly it freezes. It may not be the godly response to jump up and down and tear my hair out- but that's what I've been tempted to do. (And let's not go into the BSOD- which is straight from the pit of hell… obviously.)
Whine, whine, complain, groan. Enough.
There are benefits to having the conference streaming live through my computer. Really.
For one, there's simply no way that we could have afforded the trip. This fact above all others stands out in obvious clarity. If there were no other benefits this would be enough. For the price of a small donation I am able to see and hear (for the most part) these Pastors, Theologians, and the lone Historian, who are some of my favorite expositors of the Word of God. Saying that they are "my favorites" may sound as if I'm a groupie- and maybe I am just a bit- but by that I mean that these men preach and teach the Scriptures in a way that is edifying to my mind, and by that I am profoundly blessed.
Another blessing is that other friends here who also would not be able to go all the way to Florida have been able to join me for some of the conference, and in sharing we are blessed.
Finally, I realize that even if I was there for the entire conference, with a bottomless bank account to purchase stacks of discounted books, with the luxury to enjoy restaurant meals in the intervals, and with the privilege of a front row seat for every message, it would be too much to take in. Every year that I attended the conference in person I reached a point where I glazed over, my hand went numb from the furious attempt to take notes, and the messages delivered seemed as if they were pouring straight back out of my ears. In order to truly benefit from every message I need to buy the conference cd set so that I may listen to each individually in the quiet of- yup- my own home.
To conclude, I'll just share some of the brief snippets which I can decipher from my barely legible scribbling, otherwise known as notes.
"Any departure from the Scriptures is a departure from God himself. Every attack on the Word of God is an attack on the holiness of God." -Steve Lawson
"Your problem, Bozo, is that you have not yet considered the greatness of the weight of sin." –Anselm, quoted by Sinclair Ferguson
"You can't open your eyes in this universe without seeing a theater of divine revelation." -R.C. Sproul
"The first thing that struck the Apostle John upon his arrival in Heaven, (Rev 4) was not who was there and who wasn't; was not a Q&A session with the Lord; was not admiring the streets of gold and the gates of pearl; but the Throne that represents the supreme authority and the absolute sovereignty of God." -Steve Lawson
"My purpose in life is to show that God's glory, manifest supremely in Christ crucified for a sinner like me, is infinitely valuable." - John Piper
"In the first redemptive act of the Gospel, Gen 3:21, God Himself replaces the inadequate articles of clothing (with which Adam and Eve had covered themselves) and condescended to make clothes for His embarrassed, guilty, and ashamed creatures; stooping to cover their shame." -R.C. Sproul
"The Lord may return at any moment; always eat dessert first." -Robert Godfrey