Christ, My Strength and Portion

This is a song I composed on the piano about a year ago (July 2018). One day, when I have time, I’ll upload a recording:
Christ My Strength and Portion
Num. 23:19; Pss. 3:2-3; 55:12-13; 57:1; 71:5; 73:25-26; Mark 10:45; John 2:24-25; 17:17; Phil. 1:21; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; 1 Pet. 1:18-19
Verse 1
       C                  G                Am
The slander and flattery of man may deceive
             F                G             C
But my LORD, His Word is Truth
    F                 G                C G/B Am
To Him the unchanging God I cleave
     F               G                        C
My hope and trust from my youth
Verse 2
             C                  G                      Am
Though foes may revile and close friends betray
            F                 G        C
But my LORD, He is my shield
          F                 G                   C    G/B Am
In the shadow of His mighty wings I stay
              F               G                  C
He’s my glory, the lifter of my head
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And earth has nothing for me but You
My weary flesh and heart may yet fail
                                  F                      G                 C
But Christ is all my strength and portion forever
Verse 3
The Lord gave Himself as my ransom price
Let all I do, His love constrain
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
Now to live is Christ, die is gain

Double Spout

(This poem is a tribute to my patient wife in blues form, which has roots in the African-American oral tradition and typically expresses, per Ralph Ellison, “the agony of life and the possibility of conquering it through sheer toughness of spirit.”)

Your water can’s got a double spout
Drippin’ sad tears to make me sprout
Your water can’s got a double spout
Cryin’ sorry drops to make me sprout
‘Cause you bin waitin’ it’s overdue

To break my harsh and arid pout
And moisten dry and hardened flout
To break my harsh and arid pout
And soften mean and stubborn flout
Baby keep goin’ and don’t you rue

When you’s over and under, done bottomed out
Your can’s got nothin’ but airs of doubt
When you’s over and under, done bottomed out
Your can’s bin emptied and full of doubt
Mix your drops with heaven’s dew

-ssw (11/20/2015)

A Tribute to Geoffrey Quinn

This past week, I lost a dear friend of mine. I found out on Monday that Geoff Quinn passed away last Friday on June 21st, 2013. He had been battling cancer since 2011.

We graduated from the same college. We were seminary students together. We worked at the same high school. We were baptized together. We had traveled to Thailand, Myanmar, and South Africa together for various missions activities. I loved Geoff.

Geoff was a humble man of God who exemplified Christian joy. In his valiant fight against cancer, he showed me what it’s like to trust in the sovereignty and love of God through fiery trials. He taught me what it means to live in light of eternity. Like Job, he cried, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15).

Though he would never finish the last two classes of his Master of Divinity… Though he would never fulfill his dream of serving God in pastoral ministry… Though he would never get married to form a family as he so desired… He firmly held onto his faith that “[his] Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25).

It turns out that God was preparing me for this dreaded news. The very day I found out, I had been reading from Psalm 115, which says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Ps 116:15), and from Revelation 21, which promises that, in the end, “[God] will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more.” Oh how I long for that day to come soon!

As a tribute to Geoff, I have composed a song about loss, suffering, hope, and future glory based on Romans 8:18-25. Oh Lord, let me never forget Geoff’s witness and encouragement to me!

“Glory After All”

From South of the vineyard, leaks
Three drops (oh~)
Pressed from our dear and precious grapes
That never felt the touch of a
Swa-ddling cloth

Hope that is seen is no hope at all
Grace that is earned is no grace at all
Love that is bought is no love at all
So I say, it’s for Your glory after all

Verse 2:
From East of the garden, wilts
Three years (a~)
Budding shoot under the Pyrrhic heat
Blighted by the curse of

Verse 3:
From West of the city, bleeds
Three days (He~)
Crushed in the winepress of God’s wrath
Groaning in the pangs of
Chi-ld birth


Where do I turn? This question resonates with me because it’s a question that I wrestle with daily. Right now, this is the question of my life. The most important lesson that I’m learning is that I gain peace in my trials when I see the nail-pierced hands that control them. I’m able to embrace God’s control over my life to the extent that I see His passionate love for me, to the extent that I see His extravagant love for me, to the extent that I see His costly love for me, I’m able to embrace His control over my trials.

I don’t know how much time I have, but I do know that if I must die, Jesus’ nail-pierced hands have me covered. One day, all the marks of my suffering will be gone…

My hope is in the resurrection–a resurrection that’s been purchased and ensured by Jesus’ own suffering, death and resurrection. This is my hope. One day, I’ll see Jesus face to face and I’ll be able to touch the hands, I’ll be able to touch the wounds that healed me. I’ll be able to touch the wounds that saved me.

… Each of us, sooner or later, we’re going to hit the wall. Where are you going to turn? Whether it’s with raised hands, or a raised fist, I implore you to turn to God, only take the time to behold the One you’re addressing. Take the time to look at the One you’re speaking to. Those wounds were taken for your healing. The Father’s arms are open wide and you’re welcome to come in…”

-Geoffrey Stuart Quinn
November 27, 2011
Park Street Church

Grieving Infertility

An illuminated manuscript depicting Elkanah and his two wives, c.1430. Hannah, one of his wives, struggled with infertility (1 Samuel 1:1-20).

(Picture above) An illuminated manuscript depicting Elkanah and his two wives, c.1430. Hannah, one of his wives, struggled with infertility (1 Samuel 1:1-20).


March 16th, 2013.

It was a frigid, but fresh, Winter morning. Thanks to daylight saving, we were enjoying ample light on our drive down to Reading, MA. The traffic seemed to move in slow motion. The only noise I heard was the low hum of the engine punctuated by the occasional swish of passing cars. Hanna had been spotting, so she was visibly nervous. The images of her past miscarriages seemed to impose themselves on her troubled mind. “I don’t think I can handle another miscarriage… but God knows that doesn’t he?” I was silent. “I keep getting this ominous sense that it’s going to be a miscarriage again…”

I could not get myself to mouth the platitudes that I hadn’t enough faith for. So I asked her if I could pray for her. My prayers of faith were streaked with fits of worry, but I prayed nonetheless. Afterward, I suggested that we spend the rest of our ride listening to God.

About ten minutes into our listening silence, a passing car kicked up a pebble onto the windshield and startled me, prompting me to look up through my windshield into the sky to see a hawk soaring directly above me. Isaiah 40:30-31 immediately came to mind:

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

After a few more minutes of listening and waiting, I asked Hanna if she had heard anything. “I don’t know if this is God speaking to me or not, but the line, ‘Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord,’ keeps replaying in my head.”

Though we hadn’t heard the song in a while, I recognized that the line was from the song “Everlasting God”:

Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord,
We will wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord

Our God, you reign forever
Our hope, our strong deliverer

You are the everlasting God
The everlasting God
You do not faint you won’t grow weary
You’re the defender of the weak
You comfort those in need
You lift us up on wings like eagles

Amazed by this independent corroboration, I enthusiastically shared Isaiah 40:30-31 with her. The message was clear. “Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord.” “Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.” We weren’t sure what this message meant for our pregnancy, but we were to set our hope on God and he would give us the strength that is necessary–we gathered as much. We were grateful to hear from God in such a personal manner.

After drawing blood at the Fertility Center, we returned home and waited anxiously for the phone call. Hanna started to bleed more heavily and pass tissues. Discouraged and afflicted, yet Hanna held out hope. A few hours later, the phone finally rang and her reproductive endocrinologist confirmed the dreaded news.

We embraced each other and wept.

Then we sang, “Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord. We will wait upon the Lord. We will wait upon the Lord.”

Later that day, I discovered through a youtube video that the author of the song, Brenton Brown, and his wife had suffered a tragic miscarriage themselves, and that “Everlasting God” was actually based on Isaiah 40:27-31 and written during a time of adversity in their lives. Verses 27-29, which I had not memorized, struck close to home:

Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD;
my cause is disregarded by my God?”
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

Though we could not fathom God’s understanding, we were reassured that our way was not hidden from the Lord, that our cause was not disregarded by him. This truth strengthened our weary hearts that day.

And we continue to wait upon the Lord…

Pressed Grapes

From South of the vineyard, leaks
three drops, pressed from precious grapes that never felt the
swaddling cloth.

From East of the garden, he bleeds
for three days, trampled in the winepress of wrath, groaning in the pangs of

Why I Am Excited About Church Planting

Many view church planting as unnecessary at best and schismatic at worst. They raise these common objections:

  1. There are already enough churches to meet the needs of the community.
  2. The number of church-goers is decreasing and church planting will siphon away more of the market share from existing churches.
  3. Quality, not quantity, is the matter with churches, and therefore efforts should be directed at helping struggling churches and not to founding new churches.

These objections have an air of irrefutable logic, but they are simply inconsistent with the facts. The truth of the matter is that church planting is the single most effective way to fulfill the Great Commission by reaching the unchurched and stimulating growth in existing churches (Peter Wagner, Strategies for Growth, p. 168).

Church planting fosters authentic community and discipleship.

Jesus commanded us to “make disciples of all nations and… [baptize] them” (Matthew 28:19). Baptism signifies initiation into a community of believers (Acts 2:41-47), and discipleship requires accountability and guidance that only a community of believers can provide (James 5:19-20). Many traditional modes of evangelism (i.e. evangelistic crusades, outreach programs, etc.) are oriented around an individual’s “decision” to become a Christian, and sometimes this practice degenerates into a form of easy-believism that creates a false impression that the recitation of the Sinner’s Prayer is the climax of a Christian’s walk with God—when really, it is only a beginning (Matthew 13:3-23). Evangelism via church planting ensures that each new believer is nurtured unto fruition within a community of faith. In fact, church planting is such an effective method of evangelism that Apostle Paul considered his ministry of preaching the Gospel complete after he had planted churches by appointing elders in a given region (Titus 1:4; Romans 15:19, 23).

Church planting attracts visionaries and fuels innovation.

One may still question the relevance of the above arguments, since they pertain to the Apostolic era when there were no extant churches. However, the practical benefits of church planting are no less valid today. Older churches naturally develop congregational habits (i.e. order of service, length of service, liturgy, leadership style, emotional responsiveness, etc.)–a certain ethos that comes to define the congregation. As the church grows older, it becomes more and more difficult to deviate from these entrenched norms, and the younger generation, new residents, and emerging people groups often have trouble identifying with them. On the other hand, new church plants are more likely to adapt to the changing demographics. Furthermore, while older congregations emphasize tenure, tradition, and kinship ties in their leadership, new church plants attract entrepreneurial leaders that value risk and creativity. Thus, new church plants are far more effective in reaching new social groups and “outsiders,” and in empowering new leaders that otherwise would not have had a chance to serve the Church (Tim Keller, Why Plant Churches, p. 1-2).

Church planting reaches out to the unreached and the unchurched.

Studies have also shown, time and time again, that the average new church draws most of its new members (60-80%) from the un-churched (those who have no history of connection to churches) and the de-churched (those who, for some reason or another, have ceased going to church), while the church that is 10-15 years old add 80-90% of its new members by transfer from other churches (D. McGavran & G. Hunger, Church Growth: Strategies That Work, p. 100). Statistically, this means that a new church will yield 6-8 times more neophytes than an older church of the same size. While it may sound far-fetched, it is logical that a new church, which by necessity must focus on the needs of its non-members, is more effective at reaching the unchurched than an older church, which sensibly caters to its existing members.

Church planting promotes the renewal of existing churches. 

This is not to neglect the existing churches that are struggling. It is surely a false dichotomy that says we must choose either church planting or church renewal. In fact, church planting is a highly effective way to renew existing churches for several reasons. First, older congregations are typically more wary of implementing new ideas and visions, but new church plants tend to be more innovative and daring. For this reason, the church plants serve as beta versions of sorts, and the older churches can emulate their successes and/or steer clear of their mistakes. Hence the new church plants provide opportunities for the older churches to reevaluate their vision and mission strategy. Second, new church plants expose and challenge self-centered churches. Sometimes churches, like Jesus’ disciples, are preoccupied with their own glory rather than the glory of God (Luke 9:46-50). When church plants attract some people out of existing churches (as they invariably do despite the fact that they gain up to 80% of their members from the unchurched), the churches that are not Kingdom-minded react defensively and betray their narrow self-interests, rather than rejoicing in the great number of new people that have joined the Church. Thus church plants are instrumental in challenging and renewing existing churches.

Church planting has historically increased the total number of Christians.

In 1820, there was a church for every 875 people in the U.S., but due to prolific church planting, there was a church for every 430 people by around 1914 (Lyle Schaller, 44 Questions for Church Planters, pp. 14-26 as qtd. in Tim Keller, Why Plant Churches, p. 6). Thanks to this effort, the percentage of “religious adherents” rose from 17% of the U.S. population to 53% from 1776 to 1916 (Roger Finke & Rodney Stark, The Churching of America 1776-1990, p. 16 as qtd. in Tim Keller, Why Plant Churches, p. 6). Unfortunately, the number of churches per 1,000 people has been declining since WWI. If we want the Church in the U.S. to start growing again, we need to start planting more churches.

That’s what excites me about church planting. I hope it excites you too!


Done with Seminary! Thank you, Jesus!

“He’s Always Been Faithful To Me”

by Sara Groves

Morning by morning I wake up to find
The power and comfort of God’s hand in mine
Season by season I watch Him, amazed
In awe of the mystery of His perfect ways
All I have need of, His hand will provide
He’s always been faithful to me.

I can’t remember a trial or a pain
He did not recycle to bring me gain
I can’t remember one single regret
In serving God only, and trusting His hand
All I have need of, His hand will provide
He’s always been faithful to me.

This is my anthem, this is my song
The theme of the stories I’ve heard for so long
God has been faithful, He will be again
His loving compassion, it knows no end
All I have need of, His hand will provide
He’s always been faithful to me.

Baccalaureate Speech

Photo (left to right): Dr. Dean Borgman (main speaker for the evening), Megan Hackman (student speaker), me, and President Dennis Hollinger

Below is my Baccalaureate address given during the Gordon-Conwell Commencement ceremonies. I actually forgot to bring my notes that day and had to speak from memory (leading to a few omissions), so I’ve also copied the full script below:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” -John 15:5

For the last 2, 3, or 8 years for some of us, the faculty and staff at Gordon-Conwell have poured their lives into us so that we might know, love and honor God with our heads, hearts, and hands.

If I have learned one thing during my three years here at Gordon-Conwell, I think it’s that this is an impossible calling. Richard Baxter once said, “Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow.” I think this is an understatement. The well is not just deep, it is unfathomable, and our shallow heads cannot possibly plumb its depth. Far be it from me to think that because I can wax philosophical about the transcendence and the immanence of God, or explain the Chalecedonian Christology, or discuss the various millennial eschatologies, or because I can do sentence diagrams and semantic analysis on any given passage of Scripture that I am now a Master of Divinity. I have not begun to grasp the fullness of the divine. The well is deep, but our brains are shallow.

The well is also wide, but our hands are small. Gordon-Conwell has encouraged me to engage the world globally through the diverse student body and many missions opportunities. It has taught me that our God is not a parochial, or even an American God. He is a global God. But the truth is that 86% of all Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists in the world do not even know one Christian personally, and most of our evangelistic efforts never reach Asia and North Africa, where the largest and most-responsive non-Christian peoples reside. Moreover, there are 16,000 children dying from hunger-related causes everyday, while almost half of the dogs in the U.S. are obese. In light of these staggering realities, what am I, a diminutive and introverted 25-year-old in South Hamilton, MA to do? The well is wide, but our hands are small.

The well is also pure, but our hearts are deceitful. Our God is perfect in holiness, and he desires that we be perfect in holiness. Yet I have struggled with this all throughout seminary. My heart tells me that watching a fictional drama of ridiculously-dressed superheroes is more exciting and pleasurable than communing with the lover and savior of my soul. My heart tells me that getting the approval of men through good grades is more important than really absorbing the material so that I can edify the Church and gain the approval of God. And to this man, God is entrusting the souls of His people—His very own Body?

Knowing, loving and honoring God with our heads, hearts, and hands is an impossible calling when we consider our impotent selves. But what is impossible with men is possible with God (Lk. 18:27). The Holy Spirit illumines our understanding so that we can grasp the truths of God, and through Christ, in whom the fullness of God dwells, we can really know God. We are helpless in light of the stark global realities, but hopeful because missions is never the calculable result of our brilliance or resourcefulness, but a miracle wrought by God himself. We cannot, in our own resolve or power, produce holiness, but the Holy Spirit sanctifies us—slowly, but surely.

We graduate tomorrow, because of God’s grace. We are what we are, because of God’s grace. We are becoming what God wills us to be, because of God’s grace. So no, I am not graduating with a confidence in my own ability to serve God with my head, heart, and hands, but I am graduating with a brokenness, and faith that “a broken and contrite heart [our] God will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). Apart from God, we can do nothing; but in Him, we will bear much fruit. May all praise, glory and honor be to God forever and ever. Amen.

Rule of Life

This is a clip of me sharing my “Rule of Life” with Leadership Transformations, Inc. To borrow a definition from the Pierce Center for Disciple Building based in Gordon-Conwell, a “Rule of Life” is simply “a holistic description of the Spirit-empowered rhythms and relationships that create, redeem, sustain, and transform [your] life.” It is a reflection on one’s roles, gifts, desires, vision, and mission, and involves thinking about how one can steward his or her trust (relationships), temple (body), treasure (money), and/or talent (gifts). While we must be careful not to be legalistic in our approach to spiritual formation, it is helpful to remember that “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone” (Dallas Willard, The Great Omission, p. 61). In fact, everyone observes certain “rules” in life, doing morning devotions, giving thanks before meals, or saying bedtime prayers. Such a regula, or a guiding principle, is essential for ministers for whom myriad responsibilities and opportunities vie for attention. Faithfulness in life is a prerequisite for fruitfulness in ministry, and one cannot care for others’ souls while neglecting his or her own.

Getting Married!

DSC_3434 2

Ephesians 5:21-33

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.