Well, the Downpour conference this past weekend was great, but not necessarily in the way that I expected. It certainly wasn't a feel-good Christian conference, with lots of things to make you laugh and pat yourself on the back for when you left. (Not exactly my own desire, but one I've certainly noticed at other conferences.) In fact, I left on Friday evening with a very somber feeling. The theme of the conference is personal revival. The theme verse of the weekend was Hosea 6:3:
"Let us know,
Let us press on to know the Lord.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn.
He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rains watering the earth."
The five key talks were
*God on the Throne - A Picture of Holiness (James MacDonald)
*Sin in the Mirror - A Picture of Brokeness (Beth Moore)
*Face in the Dirt - A Picture of Repentance (James MacDonald)
*Christ on the Cross - A Picture of Grace (Joe Stowell)
*Spirit in Control - A Picture of Power (Crawford Loritts).
Friday evening's theme was "God on the Throne" presented by James MacDonald. He started with the key verse for the weekend, Hosea 6:3. He reminded us that in our pressing on to know God, we must realize that He is holy. The worship focused on the holiness of God, with purposefully chosen songs on this theme, as well as excellent visual representations. Pastor McDonald's theme was simple: We have forgotten the holiness of God. I was hit squarely between the eyes.
He quoted from Isaiah 6. As he did, I pictured with Isaiah the LORD high and lifted up on his throne, with the train of His robe literally filling the temple. A pertinent illustration that Pastor MacDonald used to illustrate the train of His robe, was a description of a bride on her wedding day. Clearly a train is to call attention to the bride, that it's her day. He also described Queen Elizabeth's train at her coronation, telling us how the train of her robe was literally trailing out of the church it was so long. Only a queen would deserve such a lengthy train. Then, Pastor MacDonald asked each of us to picture a train that literally filled the entire temple, back and forth, back and forth, draping, flowing, piling up to the very top of the temple. What a picture of God's splendor!
He used other scriptures to highlight what God looks from those in scripture who saw Him, and recorded their visions, such as Ezekiel, Daniel, and John. From Ezekiel 1:26-28, we learned that holiness describes separation. The train of his robe is a symbol of this separation. From Revelation 20:11, we learned that holiness demands caution. We were reminded the the seraph who attend Him cover their eyes and their feet, not ever gazing upon Him directly. That rightly seen, holiness only makes one want to hide. From Revelation 4:11, we learned that holiness declares glory. The cries from those in God's presence were, "Holy, Holy, Holy" and scripture also declares that the whole earth is full of His glory. And from Daniel 7 and Revelation 10: 4-7, we learned that holiness determines mystery. The books described in these chapters will be opened one day to full revelation. Until then, God keeps them a mystery. We can never plumb the depths of His wisdom.
James MacDonald, who I frequently listen to on the Moody Broadcast Network, is an animated, humorous speaker normally. This night too, he was humorous. But not purposely so. When his natural inclination to be funny came out, MacDonald respectfully reminded the crowd of the weightiness of the topic. Indeed, the awesome holiness of God is no laughing matter.
One of my favorite of his points was that we like to think of God's foundational characteristic as love. He contended that it's holiness. Love came only after the demand for a price for our unrighteousness in contrast to His holiness.
So, Friday evening, I left with a sense, a weighty feeling of this holiness, this extreme otherness that is our God. And I was humbled, to say the least. God on the throne was forefront on my mind as I prepared to hear what Saturday would bring.
Tomorrow, I'll share more about the sessions entitled "Sin in the Mirror" and "Face in the Dirt".