I’ve already shared my reflections on the 2011 Stand for the Gospel Conference.
Here I would like to share a few personal reflections on having Geoff Thomas and his wife Iola here in our home for what was an all too brief time.
Meeting Geoff Thomas
In 1992 at the age of 20 my life began to change in radical ways. I had grown up in church, but had never really grasped the reality of the gospel and all that Christ had done for me. However, as my church’s new pastor began to preach God’s word, the Holy Spirit began to work in my life. I found myself loving to read the Bible, hear the Bible taught, to pray, to spend time with my pastor, and to read everything I could get my hands on that would help me understand God’s word.
My pastor very wisely began to feed me good books. It never entered my mind to question the books he was giving me to read, or to go to the local Christian book store to find my own. I trusted him, and I read everything he gave me. He started by giving me everything J.C. Ryle. (My son’s middle name is Ryle as a result!) Then followed many others, mostly Puritans. What I didn’t realise was that he was giving me almost exclusively Banner of Truth volumes.
I say all of that because; unknown to me at the time Geoff Thomas was having an influence on my life through the Banner. He has been involved with the Banner for longer than I have been alive.
Later in seminary I came across the sermons and articles of Geoff Thomas online. I grew to see him as a pastor to learn from, to emulate – though from a distance. I never imagined I would hear him preach in person, meet him, or have he and his wife stay with my family some day!
I heard Geoff preach in person the one and only time prior to this conference just over two years ago in Geneva.Geoff was one of the keynote speakers at the Calvin 500 Conference held in honour of John Calvin’s 500 birthday in Geneva. I was privileged to attend this conference and present a paper. (I blogged about this at the time.) It never crossed my mind that he would be coming to New Zealand in just two years and preaching at the STAND conference (actually there wasn’t a STAND conference at that time!)
However, just one year ago, a friend in Sydney emailed and told me they were having Geoff for a conference and wanted to know if we wanted to have him for STAND. Well, I didn’t need to think about the answer to that question!
“So much to learn from men like him”
A very special privilege in having Geoff as the speaker for STAND was hosting he and his wife in our home. Although it was very brief, it was such a joy.
We stayed up late, and I listened to him tell stories of Martin Lloyd Jones, studying at Westminster under Van Til, Murray, and others; studying with John Frame, Wayne Grudem, and more; his preaching at Westminster Chapel, The Metropolitan Tabernacle, etc.; his 46 years of pastoring the same church! He has experienced so much of what has gone on in the church in the last 50+ years and more than that, has been used by God to help shape Conservative, Reformed, Evangelicalism as it is today. These conversations were more valuable than a PhD in Historical Theology. (When having a “conversation” with someone like Geoff Thomas it is really just the asking of questions and the listening to long answers. There is so much to learn from men like him.)
Geoff and Iola celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary while staying with us. They both woke up in the morning and forgot all about it! Our children hadn’t. My son woke up early and set the table with candles, and “our fancy” dishes and waited for them to emerge so he could say “Happy Anniversary.” It was such a pleasure to see the two of them together. What a wonderful example to my wife and I as we are only getting started in comparison. To watch them interact with one another, care for one another, reflect on life together was such a pleasure. I look forward to growing old with my wife!
Both Geoff and Iola were so kind and gracious to our children. Geoff entertained them with drawings, stories, & jokes. The kids thought he was the funniest guy they had every met! Our youngest thought he laughed like the lion on Wizard of Oz! Iola listened to the kids stories with genuine interest in them. For me, I saw in them, how to let go and have fun in the middle of a busy ministry weekend.
Geoff and Iola Thomas are people. They are flawed, frail, sinful people. Just like me. Yet, they have loved Christ and followed Him faithfully in life and ministry for longer than I have been alive. I am so very grateful for the privilege this past weekend was for me and my family. It will not soon be forgotten.
This report was originally posted at: http://joefl.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/geoff-thomas%E2%80%99-visit-to-new-zealand-2011-%E2%80%93-personal-reflections/
For more resources from STAND 2011, visit the conference page.