It was a great privilege to be a part of Pure Life Ministries’ Annual Conference in Florence, KY again this year. The great blessing of fellowship with a like-minded family of believers is always such an awesome joy to experience. I’m so grateful for the Body of Christ and the love that we share with one another. I was able to connect with many friends from all around the country—some whom I haven’t seen in years—and the fellowship was sweet.
I thank the Lord for the ministry of Pure Life. Many of you reading this post already know about the deep work of repentance that He performed in my heart back in 2011 through their residential program. It is hard to imagine that eight years have already passed since that time. To see all that the Lord has accomplished in my heart, my family, and my ministry is truly overwhelming. Pure Life Ministries made that transformation possible by putting me into an environment that pointed me to Jesus every day for nine months.
This year’s conference theme was, “Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares.” As part of my personal preparation, I felt the Lord leading me to read Pilgrim’s Progress. It had been several years since I last went through this Christian classic. I was again astonished at the way that God used John Bunyan to describe the Christian life in such a simple but powerful allegory. The central message of the story comes through its pages so clearly: We are on a narrow road, heading toward the celestial city, and the devil will do anything he can to try to lure us off the path and get us to take a different way. I have seen this play out in my life over the last seventeen years in countless situations. And I thank the Lord that—by His grace alone—I have been able to continue on the path despite many and frequent failures.
Pastor Steve Gallagher opened the conference with a message, “The Danger of Apostasy.” He took the seven letters to the churches in Revelation, and used them to describe the tendencies that all of us wrestle with as believers. On the one side, some of us are rule-benders. If a rule-bender is pursuing Christ, he will be a great blessing to the church because of his ability to think outside of the box and his resistance to status quo spirituality. However, if a rule-bender drifts from true devotion to the Lord, he will become lawless and compromising.
On the other side are the rule-keepers. This type of Christian will have a tendency toward legalism and dead religious works when they are not in close relationship with the Lord. However, if they are passionately pursuing Him, they will help to keep the Body of Christ walking in consistency and morality according to the principles of the Scriptures. Pastor Steve showed us how the churches in Revelation displayed the characteristics of each and showed us the danger we all face in drifting away from true devotion to the Lord. The message was a powerful reminder to make sure we are truly seeking the Lord and leaning upon our relationship with Him, rather than on ourselves.
After this, I moderated a round table discussion about the conference theme. We heard from four different people about the obstacles that they have had to overcome in their own walks of faith. It was inspiring to hear about the Lord’s ability and willingness to help each of us, regardless of our background, experiences, or hardships. We heard multiple times about the importance of being anchored in our relationship with Christ, especially when facing dangers, toils, and snares in life.
Brother Dave Leopold shared a message about toiling. He spoke about the necessity of having a rich, intimate relationship with Christ. The fruit of a real walk with Jesus will cause us to not only be able to verbally share the Gospel, but actually become the message that others need to hear.
One of the illustrations that he used was the story of Martha and Mary when Jesus came to their house. He explained that the difference between these two women was not that Martha had more of a servant’s heart, as seems to be the case in the story. It would be assumed that Mary was often busy serving guests as well. However, Mary understood when it was time to sit at Jesus’ feet rather than being “busy with many things.” This was a great reminder for me, as I tend to struggle sometimes with disconnecting from the chaos in order to find time to sit at His feet, and just be with Him, without any other motive.
I shared a message with the men called “Enduring to the End.” In this sermon, I dealt with the very real topic of suffering as a Christian. This is a topic we often do not like to talk about, but as I prepared for the message, it seemed that it was on every page of the Bible I studied. I found myself asking, “Is there anything in the Bible that is not about suffering?”
I encouraged the men to learn to expect, embrace, and endure suffering in their lives. The way we can do this is to realize that it is promised to us. We must also remind ourselves that the Lord uses suffering for good in our lives. And finally, as we keep our eyes fixed on Christ and all that He offers us, we will be able to walk through the difficulties of this life with a redemptive view of suffering.
Brother Glenn Meldrum closed out the conference with a powerful warning. He talked about the need to deal with sin like a deadly cancer, rather than try to minimize it in our lives. He explained that we need to call sin by its name. He spoke about the Israelites in the Old Testament and their propensity to worship idols rather than the Lord. Though most in the West aren’t bowing down to physical idols, we still erect idols in our hearts. He showed us how the devil is at work to cause us to give in to sensual desires, bitterness, and other snares in order to destroy our lives, marriages, and ultimately our souls. The altar was full of men and women crying out to the Lord for His intervention in their lives.
As always, the banquet was a special blessing to me. Hearing the men in the residential program’s choir singing their hearts out to the Lord brought me back to April of 2011, when I was one of the choir members at the beginning of my residential stay. As I stood on that stage eight years ago, there was no way I could have ever imagined the mercy and transformation that I would experience in the coming months. I am so deeply grateful to the Lord for all that He has done!
Overall, the Pure Life Conference was a remarkable experience. It was incredible to see how the Lord interwove everything throughout the weekend. Themes and Bible verses were reiterated multiple times, although none of the speakers shared notes before the conference. The worship was refreshing and the fellowship rich. I am deeply humbled to have played a small part in what the Lord was doing in Florence, KY that weekend. Thank you to everyone who was praying for the event. The Lord answered your prayers in a wonderful way.