Thursday, April 07, 2011

Senior Testimony

Well, I started this blog in hopes of using it as an outlet for what I was learning over the last four years of seminary. It happened a little bit, but other things took priority. Nevertheless here I am on the brink of graduation. This morning I gave my senior testimony in chapel. It was both rewarding and frustrating. Rewarding because I was able to express my gratefulness to the Lord. Frustrating because I was limited to five minutes and could only say an ounce of what was in my heart. In order to honor my classmates and leaders, I transcripted my testimony in order to keep to my alloted time. So here it is:

Good morning, my name is Gabriel Powell. To stand before you today is a very surreal experience, and I’m hoping once I step away from this pulpit I won’t wake up realizing I’m late for class—like I did my first day of seminary.

I was born in Argentina while my dad was a missionary pastor sent from Grace. When I was three we moved back here and I attended Grace Community School from preschool to second grade. We then moved to Bellingham, WA where I grew up. For many years I was self-deceived about my spiritual state and thought I was saved, but it wasn’t until Junior High at a Bible camp that I realized I was on the path to hell. So I repented of my sin and submitted my life to Christ.

A couple years later I was serving on the student leadership team in our youth group, and the Lord began to light the kindling of my soul for ministry. In God’s providence I attended The Master’s College—where I met my wife—and got a degree in Computer Science. After graduation and marriage, we planned to work for about 10 years before pursuing seminary. But just over a year into that plan the Lord brought a TMS grad to work at Logos Bible Software, where I worked. He dangled the carrot of seminary in front of me and rather easily convinced me to apply right away.

Our original 10 year postponement plan was based purely on financial concerns. Through the selling of the home, my job at Grace to You, and the support of family and strangers, the Lord took care of those concerns. If you’re waiting, like I was, to have all your ducks in a row before starting seminary, know that God wrote the book on duck organizing.

If you’re wondering how I chose to attend The Master’s Seminary as opposed to going somewhere else, let me just say this: there was no other choice. And after four years of being here, the saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: there is still no other choice.

The greatest lesson I learned during seminary would have to be this: the gospel. Early on in seminary my heart was drawn to Colossians 2:13-14, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” For nearly four years this text has raptured my heart. Through this text the Lord has deepened by understanding of the depravity of my own soul—both before and after conversion. Through this text the Lord has deepened my understanding of regeneration—what it means to be made alive with Christ. Through this text the Lord has deepened my understanding of forgiveness and its implications. And through this text the Lord has deepened my understanding of the cross. My time in seminary and Grace Church has given me a deep love and affection for the gospel.

The second greatest passion the Lord has providentially worked into my heart is biblical counseling. For over a year I’ve had the privilege of serving as a counselor in the counseling department at the college. That experience has deepened my confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture, the power of God, and the joy—and yes, sometimes heartache—of shepherding. Men, people don’t need your pithy advice. They need God’s Word. A woman called me once, and through her tears she said, “I’m pregnant, but I don’t want to tell my husband because I don’t know how he will react.” In that moment, I got angry. Not at her or her husband. But at their pastors who effectively refused to shepherd them. Don’t be one of those pastors who are too busy running programs that you can’t shepherd the people. I thank God that He has given me the opportunity to learn at an institution which has as its motto, “We train men as if lives depended on it.” Within the providence and sovereignty of God, lives do depend on it.

Finally, I would be a fool if I did not express publically my unsurpassing gratefulness to the Lord for my wife and children. My wife has put up with a lot the last four years. She has done so with grace, patience, and support. My children also have been remarkably understanding and patient. God has been too good to me.

As for future plans, I’m candidating for the pastoral position at Sudden Valley Community Church in Bellingham, WA. If the Lord doesn’t open that door we’re content to continue the Master of Biblical Counseling program, which I’ve already started, until such a time as the Lord sees fit to entrust me with full time ministry.