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Farewell Eric

My dear brother has been called to the pastorate in the great land of Texas leaving many of his close friends behind.
It has been the joy of my heart to know this scholar and gentleman.
  Eric and I were hired at the same time at GTY and we have even had some classes together at TMS. More recently we moved up to Palmdale and we would ride together on most days with some exceptions.
  It was fun to listen to music together and talk about life and ministry. It is easy to love the man. In honor of him, I will try to listen to more country music, fix myself a pour over coffee, and enjoy the beauty of friends that God in His wisdom and kindness bestows.  My life is richer and I have laughed a bit more having spent time with my brother, whether in the car, at the office, or at church. I will miss him dearly but I promised myself I wouldn’t get too emotional.
  As is my custom in farewells, I leave him with the words of Numbers 6:24-26
24 The Lord bless you, and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’

Farewell Gabe

“A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
  We can “friend” just about anyone in social media. You can even “unfriend” them if the relationship becomes non-existent or even sour. It is likely that you have experienced both. Finding a friend liken to this proverb is a whole other matter. It goes beyond a push of a button. Here, the Bible describes a friend as one who even surpasses the biological relationship of a brother. Such a friend is said to “stick” closer to you than a brother. This term is commonly used to express a state of loyalty, affection, and close proximity.
  Today I may lose the close proximity [in miles] to my brother in Christ, Gabriel Powell, but I will always enjoy the affection and loyalty his friendship has afforded me in this season of my life. I entered this particular season of my life in April of 2014 when I left the pastorate and re-joined my home church and began working at Grace to You.
  Those beginning weeks I was becoming acquainted with so many new people as well as reconnecting with some old friends. It was there in the break room that Gabe and I began sharing about each other’s lives including the seminary years of old and the experiences of being a pastor. I had no idea how much our lives would be intertwined in the coming months and years. Besides working at GTY, we enjoyed being a part of the same fellowship group at our church and began co-laboring in the same Bible Study. He would lead in music while I would teach and vice-versa. We road together to our monthly leadership meetings and would car-pool for classes at TMS.
  We would wonder about the future and talk about the past, all the while enjoying God’s goodness in the present. We would pray together and share the hard providences of life that only a few people get to know. All along, I had riding in my car (or sometimes in his), a tangible snapshot of this glorious verse in Scripture. Only in the wisdom and kindness of God would a friendship like this be born. God is most gracious to have given me Gabe as a friend. He is to be praised for such care and lovingkindness. How benevolent is the God of Heaven and earth.
 So today, I bid farewell to my good friend Gabe. Praise be to God that the affection and loyalty remains beyond today. The close proximity in this season of life was truly an undeserved gift of God. Even now I smile thinking about the future occurrences of when our paths will cross. Such days and moments will be a welcomed delight. They will be like a homecoming to the soul. What can I say to my beloved friend but to speak the words of Numbers 6:24-26
24 The Lord bless you, and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’
Thank you Gabe for being a “friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

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.