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During the summer of 2001, I was working as a summer programmer at Camp Barakel.  We always started the summer off with two weeks of counselor workshop and I will never forget one particular workshop session.  We all gathered in the East Side chapel and Dan Cummings spoke on the glory of God’s sovereign grace.  I had heard of these “Reformed” guys before… but I had never heard one who was so passionate and amazed by God’s grace as he.  We talked over lunch before he headed back home about all things God-centered.  It was a great and gracious conversation, and one that changed my life.  He, of course, did not let me leave empty handed and gave me two books that day, Still Sovereign and The Pleasures of God, and promised to send me more for my summer reading, which he did.  I gave him a gift for Reformation Day last November with the note, “Happy Reformation Day to the man who introduced me to it!”  I bless God for sending me to Barakel (which is a story in itself) and his providence in sending Dan to preach and giving me ears to hear.

Over the next few years, Dan mentored me as I finished college and started my pastoral ministry.  We went to pastor’s conferences and ETS meetings.  Starbucks and Wendy’s.  And boy did we go to bookstores!! I cannot remember one bad conversation.  They were always God-centered and Christ-exalting.  He helped me through some tough early years of ministry.  He loved to help me think through issues and papers when I was in seminary.  He would always make those conversations come back to the text of Scripture… always.

I was called to the pastoral staff at Five Points Community Church in May 2006 and I could now walk into his office any time I wanted.  He was always ready to help, assist, think, talk, and laugh.   He taught me much about how life and ministry are not two separate things, but one.  He was a living example of how to live under the banner of “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”.  I will miss many things that became so normal around here… afternoon cups of coffee at our second office (Starbucks), theology talks, movie nights, oral book reviews, ministry visions and plans, and whether Michigan State is better at any sport than Michigan.

As I sit in the office that I spent so much of the past 3 years in, I remember the thing I will miss the most.  Whenever I told him about some ministry idea, he would look at me and without hesitation say, “Rock on!”  Never “Have you thought about…” or “Maybe you should try…” or “Let’s wait and see if…”  I am sure there were times when he might have wanted to say some of those things, but he never showed anything but confidence in me.  And when I would screw up, he always continued to show confidence.  Always.  And then we would usually have a cup of coffee! Things will be different around here, but if there is one thing I know he would tell us, it would be “Rock On!”

And we will… for the glory of God!

I am usually helped greatly by Sovereign Grace Ministries.  CJ Mahaney wrote a book called Humility that has helped me progress in my being a more Christ-like husband, father and pastor.  They also have a few guys that write amazingly God-centered, Christ-exalting, Gospel-saturated songs in a time dominated by songs and chorus that are not.  Recently, our church body has been experiencing a time of trial.  We have many in our body who are sick with cancer and other painful ailments, including our beloved Pastor Dan Cummings.  One song in particular sometimes brings me to tears, feeling both overwhelmed and convicted.  The title is As Long As You Are Glorified by Mark Altrogge on a great album, Come Weary Saints (which is on-sale this month at the Sovereign Grace Music Store).  You can download the song for free here.  Here are the lyrics:

SHALL I TAKE FROM YOUR HAND YOUR BLESSINGS
YET NOT WELCOME ANY PAIN?
SHALL I THANK YOU FOR DAYS OF SUNSHINE
YET GRUMBLE IN DAYS OF RAIN?
SHALL I LOVE YOU IN TIMES OF PLENTY
THEN LEAVE YOU IN DAYS OF DROUGHT?
SHALL I TRUST WHEN I REAP A HARVEST
BUT WHEN WINTER WINDS BLOW, THEN DOUBT?

O, LET YOUR WILL BE DONE IN ME
IN YOUR LOVE I WILL ABIDE
O, I LONG FOR NOTHING ELSE AS LONG
AS YOU ARE GLORIFIED

ARE YOU GOOD ONLY WHEN I PROSPER?
AND TRUE ONLY WHEN I’M FILLED?
ARE YOU KING ONLY WHEN I’M CAREFREE?
AND GOD ONLY WHEN I’M WELL?
YOU ARE GOOD WHEN I’M POOR AND NEEDY
YOU’RE TRUE WHEN I’M PARCHED AND DRY
YOU STILL REIGN IN THE DEEPEST VALLEY
YOU’RE STILL GOD IN THE DARKEST NIGHT

O, LET YOUR WILL BE DONE IN ME
IN YOUR LOVE I WILL ABIDE
O, I LONG FOR NOTHING ELSE AS LONG
AS YOU ARE GLORIFIED

SO QUIET MY RESTLESS HEART, QUIET MY RESTLESS HEART
QUIET MY RESTLESS HEART, IN YOU.