Grace Advance Advances

Hard to believe that I am on my final day of the Grace Advance Academy.

Grace Advance Logo

Much has been spoken, heard, and absorbed in these last 8 weeks. At one point I thought about taking the two-week Intensive in January, but I am now grateful that the Lord provided a bit more time to absorb these truths and principles of ministry.As I reflect back, I would like to take the opportunity to rehearse some key thoughts that I wrote down from various faithful teachers. It might be helpful and serve to explain these memorable weeks. Because of how I organized them, I include the date and name of each teacher. Some include a quote, a word from me, or some general comments they made to us. Note that this is not exhaustive and thus does not contain all the teachers, but as I looked back on my notes, I decided to incorporate some of them into this blog post.

Monday, June 2 (Lance Quinn)
the God of Providence will take up your cause
think big, small plans don’t inflame the hearts of men

Lance exhorted us to create an appetite for God’s Word from the pulpit and to do so relationally. “Spend time with your men” he reminded us.

Monday, June 9 (Mark Tatlock)

The difference between man-centered approach and God-centered approach toward missions.

  1. The church exists for worship. Address and discern what the people in any given culture think about God, man, Christ, and salvation.
  2. The church exists for witness (See 1 Pet 2:4-12, Gen 11:4; 12:3; Ex 19:6).
Upper Room

The reality is that we have made our sanctification about ourselves rather than about God – a man-centered approach rather than a God-centered approach. The sanctification of our people is essential to the fulfillment of our Great Commission. We compromise our priestly role by idolatry/going after other gods.

Monday, June 16 (Matt Waymeyer)

Sobering thought from Matt: “There is nothing we can do to safeguard against being a causality in ministry.”

He also said: “Distrust and questioning of motives is the point where things begin to crumble among leadership.”

I look forward to hearing from Matt the other side of ministry, perhaps I will take him out to lunch.

Tuesday, June 17 (Matt White)

I really appreciated Matt’s passion for developing a ministry that considers the children in the life of the church. There are always extremes in ministry and I appreciated his balanced approach. He provided a wealth of resources, including a coffee cup that reminds me to pray for him, the children’s ministry at Grace, and my own children.

Talk about practical. He told us: “You need to find these three kinds of folks when you get to the church:”

  1. A brother
  2. A policer officer
  3. A good lawyer

I would have never thought to look for such men, but now I realize the value of knowing such men.

Thursday, June 19 (Chris Mueller)

2 Tim 2:2 – 4 generations (Paul, Timothy, faithful men, other faithful men)
The church needs to be committed to the next generation. People must fight against their culture to be Biblical.

Discipleship – Intentional relationships for the purpose of growth

Train them to be who God made them to be (cf. Eph 2:10).
Acts 13:36 – “after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation
What is your purpose? How will you serve your own generation?

Know who you are.

Here was a great reminder to us men as husbands and fathers:
Keep working on your marriage.”
Make sure your kids see you the same at church and at home.”

Monday, June 23 (Eric Davis)

The church is the sufficient organism to address the world’s problem – sinners before Holy God.
The sufficient method to address the world’s problem – disciple-making (Matt 28).

GA Cohort_01

Getting ordained must be a priority!” Lord-willing that is what I will endeavor to do this in these 3 years at Grace.

Failure to faithfulness to the Lord is failure.”

Practice the one-anothers with one another. Church planting is highly relational.

There are 40 one-anothers in Scripture – the vehicle to navigate us through rough waters. Training the core-team to be skilled at Biblical relationships.

Do a lot of confronting of one-another. Read Proverbs.

Monday, July 7 (Paul Lamey)

The things which you have hear from in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2).

  1. Train leaders in conviction (“the things which you heard”) – the totality of Paul’s words/teaching, thus rooted in sound doctrine. Earlier he writes, “retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me” (2 Tim 1:13).
  2. Train leaders in character (“entrust to faithful men”) – men who are trustworthy, dependable. Look for life-patterns. Are they trustworthy in their relationships?
  3. Train leaders in communication (“able to teacher others”) – strengthening the church, modeling ministry. Examine their abilities. What’s in place in the church to identify faithful men?

Friday, July 11 (Tom Pennington)

Our God is a God of details.”

8 Guiding Principles for time management:

  1. Get over the 40 hr work week
  2. Diligently protect your study time (15 hrs a sermon).
  3. Intentional plan and protect your time with wife/family. With a young family, never out of the home more than 3 nights a week. Be available to your wife during the day. Screen calls when you are with your family.
  4. Don’t imagine that you will have everything accomplished on your task list. It will be there tomorrow.
  5. Wherever you are, be all there. Develop some etiquette on your smart devices. Tim Challies “The Next Story.”
  6. Focus on shepherding your flock, instead of being well known. Limit your travel.
  7. You don’t need more time. You need to use your time wisely. Learn to say “no.” Look at how you use your time.
  8. Respond to divine interruptions. Prov 16:9 – “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” Serious life-threatening accidents. Suicide threat. Physical/sexual abuse comes to light. Major surgery.

Thursday, July 17 (Todd Murray)

How to plan a service:

  1. Begin with the fix elements (i.e. what passage of Scripture will be preached?; Scripture reading? Lord’s Supper? doesn’t have to be fixed but it may inform)
  2. Choose expressions of praise that are appropriate (take care of change; pray, don’t merely exercise your preferences like choosing just your favorite songs; don’t manipulate through mood inducers like fast then slow; look at a topical index in a hymnal; is it singable; syncopation; is it Biblical sound; is it aesthetically excellent? Music itself is not a-moral but that does not mean that it is not a-potent; it is a powerful tool)
    • Pray as you can, do not pray as you cannot. Do music as you can. Do not do music as you cannot. Be who you are and be content with that.
    • You need to aim at beauty; musical excellence. Accompany the song.
    • Introducing new material: you need a strong vocalist. First impression is deep impression.
    • Remember not to introduce a new song every week or to introduce more than one song a month. Be thoughtful and strategic about introducing new music/songs.
    • Consider transitional remarks – put thought into them.
  3. Be explicit, not subtle – this is why we are doing what we are doing this morning. “In a few moments…” “in the passage before us this morning, our pastor will be preaching…” “look ahead in verse 3…” “as i mentioned to the musicians a minute ago.” Perhaps a quick bio of the writer or history behind the hymn writer. We are keepers of a song/of a heritage.

Monday, July 21 (Alexander Strauch)

GA Cohort_02
    • there is nothing more precious than laying the foundation of a church
    • everybody loves dead prophets
    • how to relate to people properly
    • Are you courageous or are you in fear?”
    • kindness is love wearing clothes
    • sometimes the next wave of conflict hits you, but that’s the way it is in a curse world.”
    1. Lessons in conflict from the churches of Galatia (Gal 5:13-26)— Act in the Spirit

You may limit my freedom to serve my brother through love. To bite and devour one another is to carry out the desire of the flesh.

          1. When facing conflict, be controlled by the Spirit not the flesh. 2 Cor 12:20 – 8 social sins that correlate to Galatians (5:19-21).
          2. When facing the conflict, display “the fruit of the Spirit.” Especially “self-control” (Gr. ἐγκράτεια).
          3. When facing conflict, display the “wisdom from above.”
          4. Learning to handle disagreement as a Spirit-controlled Christian.
            1. Pray
            2. Check our attitudes and conduct
            3. Act in love
            4. Seek the counsel of the Spirit-filled believers
            5. Treat others with kindness and gentleness (2 Tim 2:24-26).
            6. Be humble
      1. Lessons in conflict from the first Jewish churches
        1. Control the anger – “everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19-20). Be a listener. Ask lots of questions. Don’t do all the talking. Your angry disposition will never produce God-honoring behavior. “Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph 4:26). “a gentle answer turns away wrath” (Prov 15:1). “A soothing of the upright” (15:4).
        2. Control the tongue – “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth” (Eph 4:29). Words of edification.
        3. Control the criticism – beware of faultfinding critics. Whatever you say negatively about a person, will eventually get to that person.  Do you really need to make a negative comment about this individual? Are you a person in leadership that is required to criticize? Is it for the person’s good that you are doing this? The right motive needs to be there.

Thursday, July 24 (Jerry Wragg)

I thought Jerry summed it up well in his prayer before class. He prayed for this, “socratic cohort of pastors in residency.”

He said, “a good leader corals a wide range of personalities and moves them in the right Biblical direction.”

Corporate worship drives everything in the church. Gifting determines function; function and responsibility determined by gifting

Q&A as an outlet for the church. Elders are servants of the church.


Again, there is so much more I could write but at least I give you a grain of the wealth of wisdom and insight we were exposed to during these last 8 weeks. May God raise up faithful men through these men who desire to be faithful to the One true God. In an attempt to go back to my high school days and “sign a yearbook” as it were, I’d like to write a word to each of the men in our “cohort.”

  • To Steven I write: Your humility and transparency has been an encouragement to me. May the Lord provide wisdom from above through these days ahead and may He provide His sufficient grace to be a father to your precious little ones and to be a loving husband to your precious bride.
  • To Albert I write: Praise God that He brought you here to the States 16 years ago to study. Now as you continue to sit in the posture of student, always learning God’s Word and ways, may He bless your efforts for His glory.
  • To Paul I write: You make our big world small with all the friendships the Lord has brought into your life. May the Lord provide you further friendships, for I know you will be a blessing to them.
  • To Dan I write: Thank you for stepping out in faith. Coming to the Shepherds’ Conference and coming to GA, I am witness because of you, of God’s faithfulness to lead and guide. May the Lord bless your family and bring you into a loving church family.
  • To Darren I write: My Canadian brother! Praise God I met you. The attributes that Todd Murray spoke about in a music director/pastor are those I see in you. May the Lord see fit to grow you and establish you in Bakersfield in the years to come.
  • To Grant I write: My son will forever remember that man from New Zealand. I will too. I am excited for you and how the Lord will use you back home. We will pray that your in-laws come to a saving knowledge of the truth.
  • To Matt I write: I am grateful to the Lord for these years of preparation at Grace. Soon you will be a daddy to another little one! Praise God for preparing you and molding you into a servant for Christ and His Kingdom.
  • To Lawrence I write: I rejoice at God’s sovereign plan for you. I see your desire to serve Him and to serve Him well and it is encouragement and motivation to my soul.
  • To Rob I write: Thank you for serving us. You truly are a man who strengthens the church by your life and testimony. May God bring us in fellowship once again. I leave sorrowful that I missed a lunch appointment with you!
  • To Lance I write: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I am blessed by your honesty, integrity, and passion for the Lord and for His Church. May the Lord see fit to gift me with a little of what all of these teachers enjoy… a friendship with you! Love you!

Now in the words of what Aaron was to say to the sons of Israel recorded for us in Numbers 6:24-26

The Lord bless you, and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’

Thus saith the Lord

Paul writes to his “son in the faith” in 2 Tim 3:16

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness

All Scripture is God-breathed (Gr. θεόπνευστος). Not only did God choose to breath the universe into existence as we read in Ps 33:6 – “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth,” but God choose to breath out Scripture. Scripture is not a product of man, but of God. 359 times do we read these words, “Thus saith the Lord.” It is God-breathed and thus carries divine authority and is profitable for the guiding of both faith and life.

The Holy Bible

Concerning faith it tells us in whom to believe, the one true God of the Bible, in what to believe, His Holy truth. Concerning life, Peter explains it best in 2 Pet 1:3 – “everything pertaining to life and godliness.” All that this life entails for the believer, everything under the sun, and more importantly walking in “the newness of life” (Rom 6:4), we have been provided with the sufficient and sustaining power to manifest godliness, holiness, and obedience to His precious Word.

The church cannot simply give lip service to this great doctrine, but must weave this great thread of truth into the fabric of church governance and living. Depending on their “diet,” it may take a church body a while to attain to a high view of Scripture. Just “think in every line you read that God is speaking to you” is what the Puritan pastor Thomas Watson would say to us.

To this day, we only transmit what we have received. The human authors received their message directly from God. Jeremiah testified, “the word of the Lord came to me” (Jer 1:4). God put His words in his mouth (v. 9). Paul did not “confer with flesh and blood” (Gal 1:16). He received his message directly from the Lord. The Apostle John was explicitly told, “what you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches” (Rev 1:11). Though no apostles exist today, we continue that same level of commitment to transmit only what we have received. I love the practical advice Paul gives to the church at Corinth, “learn not to exceed what is written” (1 Cor 4:6).

At times we may have to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3) because of the culture we live in, but we must be faithful to declare to all, “thus saith the Lord.”

It begins in the pulpit. It is lived out in the attitudes of the people as they remind one another that our opinions or feelings are not the end-all, but it is what God has revealed in His Word that matters. Truth matters. May God instill in us a greater love and appreciation for His Word and may we be faithful to not “turn aside to the right or to the left” (Deut 5:32), but to “observe to do just as the Lord” our God has commanded us, for His glory, for His Name’s sake.

Total Sacrifice

A few days ago around the dinner table, I told the kids about my day at Grace to You. I was overwhelmed with the opportunity to tell my kids about the blessing of hearing a sermon at work. “Most people don’t get to listen to a sermon everyday, let alone get paid for it.” These words were encouraging to my soul even as I spoke them to my children.

At work, I have been working on editing a series my faithful pastor has taught on the spiritual privileges we possess as believers. The topic of sacrifice came up and I was drawn to one verse in the OT, the first testament from Gen 22:2

He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”

Spurgeon had but one question as he contemplated this text of Scripture, “Could we thus obey the Lord?” I have one word that comes to mind as I consider not only this question but this passage of Scripture, nay two, total sacrifice.

Total Sacrifice

Truth be told, I have not thought about this important eternal truth as I ought. You ask, “what truth?” I’m talking about sacrifice. I’m talking about offering to God what is already His. I’m talking about total sacrifice.

Total sacrifice is when you offer everything you are, everything you have, everything you hope to be. That includes your hopes, dreams, and aspirations. I have them and so do you. It is when we say to our Great Father in heaven, “It’s all yours. It’s all yours. It all belongs to you Father. Here I am Lord, I am yours completely.” That my beloved is total sacrifice.

Peter tells us that as living stones, we are to “offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5). Paul points us to Christ Himself how He loved us and “gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph 5:2). God in Christ provided an example for us to follow. Abraham was tested (Heb 11:17) as we are my beloved. Will we offer up to God everything, even that which is dearest to our heart? And I mean, everything, including everything we hope to be.

Most recently I have been tested by our kind and wise Father in heaven and I’m here to tell you that it is the only way to live…total sacrifice. Give it all to Him. It’s all His. Even your desires, hopes, and dreams. They all belong to Him. Stop wrestling with God. You won’t win. He alone is sovereign. He alone is good. “O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Ps 34:8). May we all, when we are called, be like Abraham and say to our Lord, “Here I am” (Gen 22:1). As the author of Hebrews testifies of Abraham, “when he was called, he obeyed” (Heb 11:8). God does not speak as He did in times past (see Heb 1:1-2), but may our disposition always be to offer up “spiritual sacrifices” that are acceptable to God through our Lord Jesus Christ, “the author and perfecter of faith” (Heb 12:2).

A Dedi-gift of Ourselves

Deuteronomy 26:17-19

17 “You have today declared the Lord to be your God, and that you would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and listen to His voice.

18 “The Lord has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments;

19 and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people to the Lord your God, as He has spoken.”

Thomas Brooks
Thomas Brooks

Of this passage Thomas Brooks writes –

God will resign himself up to them who resign themselves up to him; he will give up himself to them that have given up their names and their hearts to him; he will bestow himself as the greatest pearl of price upon them that shall make a surrender of themselves to him.¹ There is no way to be higher than others, happier than others, more noble and honourable than others, than by making a dedi-gift² of ourselves to God. He that dedicates himself to God, dedicates all; he that doth not dedicate himself, dedicates nothing at all.”

Brooks, Thomas. The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks. Edited by Alexander Balloch Grosart. Vol. 4. Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1867.

 

 

¹ That is an apt saying of Tertullian, Negotiatio est aliquid amittere ut majora lucreris: That is right merchandise when something is parted with to gain more.

² ‘dedication-gift’?

Leaving Garden Valley Chapel

13_03_Resurrection-Sunday_087web
Fellow shepherd Tyson Steward to my left
and fellow servant-leader Ryan Bartels to my right –
beloved co-laborers whom I love (Photo taken on Resurrection Sunday 2013).

This Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, will be six years since I was asked to preach in the pulpit at Garden Valley Chapel. Sadly, it will also mark the last Sunday I will step up to the pulpit as the teaching shepherd at GVC. For months now I have been weighing the difficult decision to leave GVC and pursue further study at The Master’s Seminary, where I graduated in 2006.

I sought the counsel of some 16 men in my life, most of whom are involved in full-time ministry, to help me think through this heart-breaking decision. I cannot tell you how many times I prayed to the Lord for his will to be revealed to me through the night watches. For this reason I sought Psalm 25 which is a prayer of David for guidance. If you haven’t read it recently, I would encourage you to read this short psalm as David pleads for divine guidance in the midst of opposing darkness.

As I have relayed this to our church body, there have been many tears, but I have been encouraged by the people’s response for me to be obedient to God’s leading in my life. My oldest son, Isaiah, had the hardest time coming to grip with the decision his daddy had made. Thankfully, the Lord provided me with words that assured him that this is the way to leave a church body, with much love in your heart.

In the near future, I plan to attend Grace Academy, whose goal is to provide leadership for developing churches, for eight weeks during the months of June and July. I am thankful to the Lord that GVC has decided to help our family with a bit of the financial responsibilities in the coming months. Please pray that the Lord provides me with work in the meantime.

Lord willing, we will be moving on Friday, April 25 from the parsonage and arriving in Santa Clarita on Saturday, April 26. The pitstop in Merced that Friday night will provide us with an opportunity to break the trip in half and give some needful rest. Below is our new contact info:

23705 Valle del Oro, Apt. #101

Newhall, CA 91321-3188

Our new home phone will be installed on Monday, April 28th: 661-753-3252.

Please let us know, either by e-mail or message, if you are willing and able to help us move out or move in on those dates. Blessings.