Archive for the 'My Story' Category

My Story (part 5) – Sharpening and Suffering

In the early part of 2005 Amy and I were actively looking for our next church body.  We clearly felt God calling us to a new church, but were still unsure of where that calling would lead us to.  By May, we had a clear answer as God brought us together with Emmanuel Baptist Church (EBC )in Mount Vernon, WA.  Our time at EBC has been and continues to be a sweet season of growth for both Amy and I.  The two great themes of this season so far seems to be “Sharpening and Suffering.”

PMC Church served a vitally important roll in my development as a Shepherd, but at the same time the lessons I learned at PMC Church were limited to a fairly small scale.  I was able to run my own program with very limited volunteer help, PMC Church didn’t really have any boards or committees that needed to be dealt with or appealed to, and I operated under the close observation of a very gifted Senior Pastor.  EBC has afforded me many opportunities to sharpen my skills in areas that PMC simply couldn’t.  At EBC I’ve been able to manage a large budget, oversee a staff of over 20 volunteers, learn the inner workings of committees, etc. in a large Baptist Church, serve as an active and vocal member of the board of elders and even work with a large denomination (BGC) on church planting strategies, etc..  In short, God has been very gracious in providing opportunities for me to sharpen my skills at EBC.

At the same time God has graciously provided a number of occasions for suffering during this time which have served to strengthen my faith and draw me closer to Him.  Upon my arrival at EBC I learned that things were not well.  The church was immediately faced with a tragic case of adultery on the part of a leading staff member, old wounds certainly ran deep amongst the membership when it came to divisive issues such as worship and church polity, and within a year the church faced a large financial deficit resulting in the loss of a pastor.  Even something as simple as a biblical understanding of the role of a pastor was a great difficulty.  All of these issues and a multitude more were the source of many sleepless nights and many tearful days.  Yet through it all God was quietly drawing me closer and closer to Himself and developing a deeper intimacy with me than I would have known otherwise.  So while the hurts of this season were certainly real, the joy which I have found through the hurt has been rich.

Even with the heartache that the church frequently brought, the greatest sorrow of this season has certainly been my son Micah’s difficulties with speech (which I have written about elsewhere), and the ensuing season of waiting.  There are few greater pains in life than watching a child suffer and wanting so desperately to help but not being able to.  Through all of these things God has proven Himself to be faithful and has remained a constant source of comfort and peace for both Amy and I.

Much has changed in the 4 1/2 years that I have been a part of EBC.  Our church has undergone what I consider to be a revival as old wounds have been healed and trust in leadership is continually being restored.  Micah has begun speaking much more and seems to surprise us with new words every day.  Neither Micah nor EBC have arrived, but God has certainly worked mightily in the lives of both and I give Him all the praise and glory for it.

At the beginning of this series I said that my desire was to point out two great truths that I have seen demonstrated over the course of my life: 1) I am a great sinner, and 2) Christ is a great Savior.  In reflecting back on the story of my life I am filled with reminders of how great a sinner I am.  Whether they be sins of pride, selfishness, or just plain self-centeredness the jury is in and I am clearly guilty.  While one would think that this guilt would drive me to despair, quite the opposite is true.  While I am a great sinner, the magnitude of my sin only serves to magnify the greatness of my Savior who took my sin upon Himself.  It is true that I am a great sinner, but by God’s grace I belong to Him because my great Savior has taken my sin upon Himself and given me His perfect righteousness.

January 11 2010 | My Story | Comments Off on My Story (part 5) – Sharpening and Suffering

My Story (part 4) – Shepherding

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I’ve already written about “My First Church”, so a large part of this story has been told in previous posts.  However, as I reflect back on this season of my life I am again struck by the two facts that have framed this series, 1) I am a great sinner, 2) Christ is a great Savior.  Before coming to PMC Church I don’t think I had any idea of how great of a sinner I was, but God continued to prove himself to be a great Savior as He molded and shaped me into a shepherd.

2001 proved to be a momentous year for Amy and I.  We were married on March 17 and were planning on Amy finishing her teaching credential, after which I would start seminary.  Much to our surprise the Lord moved us up to PMC Church in December of 2001 and started to give me a crash course in shepherding.  Having graduated from The Master’s College I came into ministry with a lot of assumptions and to be honest probably a lot of pride.  Over the course of the four years that I ministered at PMC Church God broke me down piece by piece and reshaped  me into the shepherd that He wanted me to be.  God used two primary tools in tCapturehis reshaping process, 1) Pastor Ray DeLaurier, 2) The Master’s Seminary.  Pastor Ray was a godsend for my  prideful heart.  He demonstrated the utmost patience with me and was faithful to instruct me in the art of preaching and pastoral ministry.  The Master’s Seminary took the practical lessons that I was learning from Ray and showed me the depth of God’s Word that undergirds  every aspect of Pastoral ministry.  With these two tools, the Lord went about the gracious work of turning me into a shepherd.

I’ve recorded a number of different experiences from my time at PMC Church, however when it comes to my own personal story one incident stands out above the rest.  About a year after I’d started at PMC Church I went into Pastor Ray’s office and broke down.  I told him that I felt underappreciated and that I just wasn’t getting the respect that I thought I deserved.  The truth of the matter was that I was prideful and had forgotten my own great need of humility in the face of the gospel.  As Ray and I talked God worked powerfully to humble me, to mature me and to break me of my pride.  That event in Ray’s office was a turning point for me in ministry.  I began to realize the truth of Isaiah 66:2 – “This is the one to whom I will look, to he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and who trembles at my Word.”  I finally understood by experience that God does not look to the great, nor the powerful, nor the highly respected in this world.  Rather, he looks to and uses shepherds who are humble and who tremble at His Word.

Throughout my time at PMC Church the Lord tenderly called me again and again to remember the fact that I am a great sinner and time and time again He demonstrated Himself to be a great Savior.

December 28 2009 | My Story | Comments Off on My Story (part 4) – Shepherding

My Story (part 3) – Study

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In the fall of 1997 I began my first semester of college at The Master’s College (TMC).  Ironically enough, I knew next to nothing about TMC before I arrived there.  I had heard the name John MacArthur before, but knew next to nothing about him.  To be honest, the reason I chose to attend TMC was mainly because of the financial package they offered me and the fact that I knew it was a good school.

My first days at TMC were difficult at best.  I had become so comfortable in Bakersfield with my friends, family, church, etc. that leaving and starting over was nothing short of terrifying.  In fact, the first weekend of college I actually went back home to Bakersfield, which is only an hour away from TMC. 

In the sovereignty of God, He used my discomfort to take me down a path I had not expected to travel.  I was so uncomfortable and out of my element during those first few weeks that I almost withdrew and went back home, but after thinking things through I decided to stay and make the most out of the year by taking all of the Bible classes that I could and foregoing any general education classes for the time being.  This turned out to be one of the best decisions that I have ever made in my life.

While my teenage years had been filled with lessons on having a servants heart, one thing that was sorely missing from those years was any serious Bible Study.  I understood that the Bible was a good book, that it was important for me to read it, but I really didn’t have a working theology, nor any understanding of the overall story of Scripture.  My devotional life consisted mostly of flipping my Bible open and searching for a verse that would warm my heart and prepare me for the day.

I was confronted with this lack of Bible knowledge immediately in the classes that I was taking.  I will never forget sitting in my first systematic theology class where the professor (CW Smith) was talking about “exegesis” (BTW: Exegesis refers to the study of Scripture).  He kept using the word “exegesis” over and over and every time he did I wondered to myself “What does Jesus have to do with this topic?”  I was, to say the least, behind the curve of my fellow students.Untitled5

This obvious lack of knowledge thrust me forward in a hot pursuit of understanding.  I read  the Bible like I had never read it before and with each class period my eyes were opened wider and wider to the great story of Scripture.  To this day, I would classify that year as the greatest year of spiritual growth that I have ever experienced as I fell in love with God’s Word in a way that I had never done before.

One of the great lessons that I have taken away from this season of my life is the unmitigated power of God’s Word to change a person’s life.  The professors at TMC are of the highest caliber, the chapel services were moving, and the campus life was very good, but what changed my life in college was the power of God’s Word being unleashed in my soul in a way that it hadn’t been before.

On a side note, this is one of the reasons that I have such a deep love and respect for the ministry of John MacArthur.  I knew virtually nothing about him going into college, but time and time again he helped me to understand the Bible through his preaching, his commentaries, and his administration of the school. 

My time at The Master’s College yielded many benefits in my life.  I met my future wife while at college, I made many good friends, and I grew like never before.  All of this was preparing me for the next stage of my life where God would take the investment that was made into me at TMC and use it to develop me into a shepherd.

December 21 2009 | My Story | Comments Off on My Story (part 3) – Study

My Story (part 2) – A Servant’s Heart

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As I look back over the course of my life I am stunned by the sheer number of blessings that God has placed in my life.  A a child, the single greatest blessing was certainly being born into the family that I was born into and having the privilege of hearing the gospel from an early age.  As a teenager, I believe that one of the greatest blessings in my life was the church I was a part of and specifically, the youth ministry that I was involved in.

My years in youth ministry at Riverlakes were full of wonderful memories that I cherish to this day.  My Youth Pastors (Ed Kelley and later Brian Murphy) are both godly men who made significant investments in my life and are still dear friends today.  It was during this time and under the care of these men that God began to call me to the ministry as early as Junior High.

God was working in my life in many significant ways during this time: teaching me about the church, leading worship, friendships, mission trips, etc.  If I were to put a single banner over the lessons that I learned during these years it would be how to have a “servant’s heart”.  One of our theme verses was Mark 10:42-45 –

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  But it shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

Through mission trips to Mexico, to regular service projects, to student leadership teams and beyond God’s heavy emphasis upon servant-hood was impressed deeply upon my heart by godly men and women who loved me, often times in spite of myself.

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For me, my High School years were much more about the church than the High School I  attended.   I loved South High, but for me it was mainly a place that I had to go during the day to get an education.  My true love was fast becoming the church.  I suppose this is one of the reasons that I love Student Ministries so much, because it had such a profound impact on my life and my love for the church.

As I mentioned in my lat post, one of my hopes in this series is to draw attention to two great truths that I have clearly seen working themselves out in my life: 1) I am a great sinner, 2) Christ is a great Savior.  There is probably no better place in my life that I can testify to the truth of the first of these statements than my High School years.  The emotional turmoil of High School, the besetting sins of lust and pride that continually haunted me, along with the rampant  occupation with self are all clear testimonies to my own sinful heart.  In spite of all this my great Savior was quietly calling me closer and closer to himself and developing in me a heart that would be sensitive to Him.

December 14 2009 | My Story | Comments Off on My Story (part 2) – A Servant’s Heart

My Story (part 1) – Salvation

Drew & Microphone The first time I gave my testimony was my freshman year on a Mexico Mission trip.  I still remember standing in front of a crowd in the small city of Baviácora in Sonora Mexico and mumbling out the lines that I had rehearsed.  It was a traumatic experience for a freshmen boy but a valuable one in that it forced me to begin thinking about the larger story of my life, which was something that I had never done before. 

Many things have changed since that first experience in Mexico but two things have remained the same: 1) I am a great sinner and 2) Christ is a great Savior.  My hope in writing my testimony out here is to draw attention to these two facts and to demonstrate how they have worked themselves out in my life and the paths that God has lead me down.

snapshot-1259790012.181060 I was given the unusual privilege of being born into a pastor’s home.  My Dad served for several years as a missionary pastor at Bellevue Community Church in Santa Rosa, CA.  This unique privilege afforded me the opportunity to hear the gospel from a very young age.  On one of my bookshelves at church I still have my first copy of the Bible.  On the inside cover there is a note that reads “November 22, 1982.  Andrew asked Jesus to cover up his sin with Jesus blood and come live in his heart!”

Like many Christians, I don’t remember that day.  My mother has told me that I was in the bathtub when she explained the “Wordless Book” to me and I asked to be saved.  It’s hard to say whether I understood the gospel at that time or not, what I do know is that I was raised in a godly Christian home where my parents loved me, disciplined me (believe me, I needed it) and taught me about Jesus.

I believe that this alone is one of the greatest evidences of God’s grace in my life, that He allowed me to be born into the family that I was born into and to receive the kind of instruction that I received as a child.  Even as a sinful young child, God was carefully orchestrating the events of my life in order to call me to Himself in saving faith.

December 07 2009 | My Story | Comments Off on My Story (part 1) – Salvation