Category Archives: Affinity Groups

The Connection of Acts

by Ryan McAdams

I previously mentioned that we would venture into the New Testament through our curriculum in our Sonlight elementary and Sparklers preschool ministries, and we did have a profitable study through the earthly life of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. But our journey has taken us now to the book of Acts, into unfamiliar territory for many of our young souls.

Through our study, I hope both we the teachers and the students can more greatly appreciate the gracious gift that God has given us in this book. Without the book of Acts, we would all struggle to make sense of the New Testament, most likely inventing wild bridges to correlate the accounts of the life of Jesus to the letters (Epistles) that followed. We would laboriously hunt for the identity of that Paul fellow, and lose the drama of the incredible conversion that God orchestrated for him. Perhaps most significantly, while we would have the Great Commission that Jesus delivered to his followers, to make his disciples in every nation, we would lack some of the understanding of how God intended to accomplish that mission, namely the vehicle of his church.

Jesus reiterated his Great Commission to his disciples in Acts 1:8, saying “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And for the rest of the book, we read how the Holy Spirit brought believers together into churches, starting in Jerusalem, and propagating to Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Traditionally, the church has entitled this chronicle by Luke The Acts of the Apostles, which we shorten to Acts. And while the apostles certainly performed many acts to advance the gospel throughout the earth, the Holy Spirit empowered and drove them to establish the churches all over the Roman Empire and beyond. So, arguably more accurately, some theologians have instead called the book The Acts of the Holy Spirit.

As our pastor Josh recently taught, borrowing a bit from John Piper, God has worked to bring all nations into the white-hot worship of himself throughout both the Old and New Testament ages. Through our study of Acts, hopefully the children can see how God intends to draw all nations to himself in this New Testament age and gain a greater measure of awe for God and his sovereign hand over human history.

God’s Wisdom for Parenting (Part 2)

by Pastor Patrick Cho

One of the places in Scripture to find a wealth of helpful principles for parenting is the Proverbs. Almost every book on parenting will reference these Scriptures repeatedly because of the wisdom they contain. Besides the plethora of verses that apply to parenting indirectly, several passages address parenting specifically.

“My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD or loathe His reproof, for whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects his son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11-12)

Solomon knew the Lord’s discipline from experience. There was a keen awareness that God had purposed good for the one He reproves, and that His discipline is an act of love towards His children. While this passage is more about the Lord than it is about parenting, there is an important principle involved for parenting: Discipline, understood and exercised according to Scripture, is an act of love. When parents correct their children, the intention is always to be instructive and the motive is always to be love.

This is one of the many passages that speak against punishing children out of anger or without restraint. A loving father has a plan in his discipline, and he practices correction because of his delight in his son and not his hatred. When we as parents meet opportunities to help our children when they disobey, our first thought in the discipline needs to be, “Am I seeking to help my child in the Lord? Am I instructing my child toward greater godliness to love and fear God, or am I through my angry outbursts actually deterring faith in my child?”

One reason parents ought to discipline their children toward godliness is because this is what the Lord does for His children. Parents, then, can mimic the Lord and even represent Him through their loving and formative discipline. As their child grows up, hopefully they will come to appreciate their parents’ correction because they understand that they were being steered towards Jesus and away from the things that would take their hearts farther from Him. This is also the reason discipline must be accompanied and applied with prayer to orient a parent’s heart toward God and help curb sinful attitudes and emotions. Depend upon the Lord to use godly discipline to steer your child’s heart to Him.

A Little More Time

by Roger Alcaraz

Not many of us have gone through a life threatening situation. My closest encounter with death was back in college when I was skateboarding down a hill. I had wanted to get on the left sidewalk but I was going too fast to get on it so I ended up rolling down the outer edge of the street against traffic when, suddenly, a bus was heading my way. I still remember the feeling of that bus passing me at a relative speed of 70mph. I remember the wind from the bus physically slowing me down as it passed just two feet in front of me. It was a vivid realization for me that skateboarding might not be worth the risk, and so I traded in my cool skateboard for an even cooler Razor scooter.

That was a close call, but no matter how many times we can cheat death, eventually it will catch up to us. Death is a reality that we will all face eventually, but it’s a reality we should all consider now. It can take us at any moment. For example, an earthquake can hit and bury you in rubble. Everyone in the world might see it as tragic, but the angels in heaven who see God would simply call it fair.

The Bible says “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). Since we all sin, the question we should all ask is, “Why does God allow me to live?” And for that question, Jesus gives the following parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down’ ” (Luke 13:6-9).

The story is simple. If you planted a tree for the purpose of bearing fruit, and it failed year after year, you would probably say “Chop it down!” And that is what would have happened to this tree except that the vinedresser asked for one more year. If one more year has passed, and if it still doesn’t produce fruit, then cut it down. The fruit in view here is the fruit of repentance. It’s a picture of God’s great patience toward mankind in giving us more time.

In all this, what I find baffling is that God would even endure so long for people he knows will never repent. I would tell God, “If they’re never going to believe, why are you still forbearing? It’s only bringing you more sorrow.” But what this parable communicates is that it’s worth it to God to give you more time, even if it amounts to nothing, because his greatest desire for you is that you would repent and believe. So the answer to why is anyone still alive is because God is merciful and compassionate and patient toward sinners. What is the greatest gift of God’s common grace to humanity? It’s time–time to repent, time to believe.

As I think about the time I barely scraped by the bus and how I could have easily been killed, I think about how it was my freshman year and how I did not know Jesus. At the time, whenever something bad would happen, I would mock the goodness of God, curse directly at him, and feel no remorse or any fear since I thought of it like speaking to wind. God could have said, “This tree hasn’t produced fruit in 18 years. And the bus could have been God’s way of saying, “It’s time to cut it down.” But I praise God that he said, “I’ll give him more time.” And it was later that year that I surrendered my life to Christ and now God is even still gracious to give me more time.

Sadly, patience is often taken for granted. But his patience is there for a reason. It isn’t so you would grow tired of it or forget about it, but that you would be led to repentance, as Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” The point is, there’s a reason you’re still alive–and that is because God is patient. And there is a purpose for his patience–and that is so you might repent from your ways and turn to him in faith. Tomorrow’s not a guarantee. So far, you’ve lived your whole life experiencing God’s patience. But there is a time when his waiting will end.

The parable tells us how God is giving us yet another chance to repent, but there is a definite warning that your opportunity to repent is limited. You don’t know when your end will come and when the wrath of God will fall upon you. And so while you have time, you need to call on Christ and be saved. If you trust in Jesus for salvation and follow him with your life, then the wrath of God that he endured on the cross would be done in your place. But if you don’t have Christ, then the last words of the parable are for you to hear, “Cut it down.” It’s an abrupt and sad ending for the parable, but it will be the ending for many. God’s patience is not something that should be taken for granted. And so while you have opportunity, repent.

Romans 7 and the Doctrine of Sanctification

by Josh Liu

Editor’s Note: Josh has once again graciously re-worked a seminary paper (or as I like to call it: “Pastor Mark’ed an article”), this time on the topic of Romans 7. For those who don’t know, this is a somewhat controversial chapter since opinions vary on exactly what Paul intended his readers to understand, given some rather interesting syntactical maneuvers.

On the offhand chance that anyone reading this paper also reads the blog over at the Gospel Coalition, let me just say that Josh absolutely describes Thomas Schreiner’s position qua BECNT accurately, but Dr. Schreiner does seem to have modified his view somewhat since that was published, as seen in his contribution to that blog series. Even theologians change their minds from time to time. But as Dr. Schreiner points out at the end of that article, the different positions aren’t that far apart in the greater context anyhow.

Enjoy!

Teach Them Diligently

by Leah Shen

LBC Nursery Ministry (Fireflies) serves the infants and toddlers of our church. The Fireflies ministry is divided into Nursery 1 (from birth to about 16 months old) and Nursery 2 (from about 16 months old to 3 years old). I am thankful to be able to serve with ladies of LBC through our Fireflies ministry. We endeavor to come alongside the parents and teach the children, at a young age, about God and truths of the Bible. We pray for their spiritual state and aim to be purposeful in the way we speak and interact with the children. We desire to nurture their spirit and continually point them to Christ.

With the seeds of God’s word, we hope to cultivate in them an awareness of God and our need for our savior, Jesus Christ, through lesson time, songs and Bible memorization. One lesson and one Bible verse are taught for each month. With repetition, truths about God are modeled over and over so that they may begin to understand that, for example, God made everything. A few of the other lessons are: Jesus is Alive, God is Everywhere, God Always Wins, God is Good, Jesus Loves Me, Only God is Big, Jesus is Here and Gods Knows Everything. In addition, we also teach the children scripture memorization through music and hand-motions. Parents can even review the songs on the website! For example, one lesson teaches about Jesus and Zacchaeus, and the memory verse from Proverbs 17:17a, “A friend loves at all times.” We use a curriculum reviewed by our children ministry leaders. What a delight to see the children interested and engaged during lesson time and scripture memorization.

During snack time and free-play time, teaching moments can arise. I view these moments as valuable times to reinforce and to teach the child about sharing, taking turns, and showing grace to one another by being gentle and kind towards each another. We also have an opportunity to pray together for the needs of the children. Praise God for His sovereign hand in their lives. Let us all faithfully pray for each one of them and for their salvation.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it,”(Proverbs 22:6). As a mom whose children have benefited from the Fireflies ministry’s dedication and commitment to serving the children, I am greatly encouraged and thankful. I am thankful that they are able to learn about God at a young age and hope they will hold on to His word in their hearts. Even times when my child may prefer not to be in the Nursery due to separation anxiety, the ladies were gracious in taking care of them. I am grateful to have been able to join in corporate worship during our Sunday services while my children were in Fireflies. By God’s grace, during their time in Fireflies, my children have been given more examples of having a high view of God, treasuring God’s word and keeping it in their heart. So as a mom, I am thankful for the children’s ministry at LBC who continually nurture and pray for their spiritual life. And as part of the Fireflies ministry, I am encouraged by the parents’ faithfulness in teaching their children about God and allowing us to come along side them. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” (Ephesians 1:3). Joy fills my heart because my resources in Christ are adequate. Let us be faithful to God and continually pray for one another, especially for the children that they may come to a saving knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that they may belong wholly to God.

Ambassadors for Christ

by Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

In 2 Corinthians 5:20, the apostle Paul sought to explain to the Corinthian church that as new creatures in Christ, God has not left us alone in what we are to tell those who are outside of the faith. He has delivered to us the message of reconciliation, and from here on out, are called ambassadors for Christ. This is the status of every believer who names the name of Christ as Lord. Recently, I had the opportunity to teach the youth how to grow as a faithful ambassador of Christ in three key areas. As they continue their studies in school, and live in a secular culture that has influenced what they learn and the worldview of their friends, it is crucial that their minds be renewed in the truth of Scripture. It is the lens by which we can view reality aright. Here are the three areas:

Knowledge: An Accurately Informed Mind

If you were enlisted to represent your native land in a foreign country as an ambassador, and knew nothing of your native land’s leadership, economy, language, geography, politics, history, would you be considered a good ambassador or a bad one? Obviously, we know the answer. Yet, in the area of Christian discipleship, the tendency for many believers is their inability to speak for their sovereign in evangelism, as well as communicate the character of their sovereign. Many who name Christ as Savior and Lord find themselves stumbling to tell others who it is they follow, or even to know what He has said concerning Himself in the Scriptures.

In order to be considered an ambassador of Christ, Scripture assumes we know the message of reconciliation, which is the message of the gospel. In order to understand that message, it requires that we know something about the two parties who are in conflict (God and man), the nature of the conflict (sin), and the good news that brings about reconciliation (Jesus Christ, the God-man sent by the Father to redeem man by His death on the cross and resurrection, demonstrating the acceptance of His life on earth as our justification). It also seems to include what God calls for every person in order for them to call the gospel ‘good news’ (faith and repentance).

This, in itself, requires knowledge about the Scriptures! Knowledge about God, His character and works, man and his rebellion, Christ, His character and works, the gospel, and the call of the gospel. We must get the gospel right, since it isn’t ours to edit, but to proclaim. Not only will this require knowing the message, but primarily knowing the One who gave us that message. It requires us to know God Himself!

Wisdom: An Artful Method

To continue the portrait of an ambassador, if one is fully aware of the culture and customs of their native land, but cannot communicate them in a language that foreigners can understand, would it make a difference how much you know? Certainly not. There is an awareness that an ambassador must have in order to be effective in fulfilling his/her duties. You must know how to express the knowledge you have in a way that is intelligible and persuasive to those you are speaking with.

As we are to communicate this message to those who don’t know God, we will come up against those who are either apathetic about the message, or entirely antagonistic at the message. These are roadblocks that can also be a setback for many who want to represent the King faithfully. Many times, in delivering the good news to unbelievers, there may be opposition that comes in the form of objections, many of which we may be unprepared to handle. Issues of morality concerning God’s actions in the Old Testament, atonement by way of crucifixion, perceived conflict between faith and science, and more come to the forefront of what one may raise.

Being able to drive the conversation to a deeper understanding of the Christian worldview must include drawing others to justify their own worldview in opposition to that of Scripture. This is most effective in terms of asking questions that will allow us to practice listening to those who do not accept the authority of Scripture. Asking the kinds of questions that get at knowing what others believe, why they believe it, and whether they have seriously considered the ramifications of their beliefs will advance the conversation in a wise fashion.

Character: An Attractive Manner

The final key to being an effective ambassador involves having the kind of character that will draw people to want to know what message you bring. If you know the message, and can direct the conversation in a way that will expose others to the message of the King, yet are brash in your attitude, with constant interruptions, would that interest a person in knowing what you have to say? Not at all. An ambassador must act consistent with the message that he/she intends to bring to those who need to hear it. Otherwise, the ambassador will be left to speak into the air, or to him or herself, and that’s just weird.

When we try to bring the gospel to others, our intention is to get it across to them, and yet believers have generally fallen into two errors: being so nice that nothing is said of the offense of the gospel, or being so offensive, that the gospel pales in comparison in terms of offense. Our growth as Christians must include the kind of character that commends the gospel, and point to the God we love and worship. To act contrary to His character distracts from seeing the truth, goodness, and beauty of the gospel.

Christlikeness is the Goal

Imagine if Jesus Christ, when speaking with the Pharisees, would not know how to answer their pointed questions concerning the intricacies of the Law. Or if, when speaking with Pontius Pilate, he cowered, neither confirming nor denying what was claimed about Him by the crowds. What if he was arrogant in His attitude towards the woman at the well for her sinful life, or brash in dismissing her as a Samaritan? Would this gain a hearing, or be consistent with the character of God? We all know the answer to that. If it wouldn’t be ok for Jesus to do this, why should it be ok with us?

As believers, we have the duty to get the gospel out to dying sinners unaware, or in complete denial, of their ultimate destination. Would we be so calloused as to ignore the darkness that surrounds us, while having the light of the gospel in our hearts and minds? Some have never seen it, or have been put off by the behavior of others to seriously give it consideration. If we truly seek to fulfill the Great Commission in response to the Great Commandment, our calling as ambassadors would be taken with utter seriousness and reverence for the One who called us to it.

As Christ modeled conversing with the knowledgeable leaders of His day, boldness in identifying who He is to those in authority, and compassion to those who were in need of grace, we too need to grow in these areas as a means of pursuing Christlikeness. These three areas are life pursuits of an effective ambassador for Christ, and I pray we all seek to glorify God in seeking His strength to model His character consistent with His message of reconciliation that He gave us. Let us never waver, no matter what age we are, in representing the King of kings and Lord of lords, all to the praise and honor of His holy name.

Author’s Note: I have been greatly helped by the ministry of Stand to Reason, who models this approach in every interaction. You can learn more about their Ambassador Model.

How Sonlight Serves My Soul

by Justin Lin

Sonlight is one of our church’s Children’s Ministries, and we serve the elementary aged children of the church. It has been a little more than a year since I applied to be a part of Sonlight ministry, and it has certainly been a joyful year. I remember praying to God for ways to serve in the church – a few weeks later, God answered my prayer. I went to a Members’ Meeting and heard the ministry coordinator ask if anyone was interested in serving in Sonlight. I had never thought I was particularly gifted, or even had a specific heart for children’s ministry. But I learned God doesn’t just ask you to serve where you are gifted, but he asks you to serve where He sees fit. He commands you to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” (Matt 6:23), and will faithfully sanctify you through it. Here are a few of the ways God has blessed me and grown me through my time serving the children of the church –

Humility

“‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God.” (James 4:6-7a)

As I joined the ministry, I quickly learned that children usually aren’t “adult / people-pleasers,” yet. I had been asked to lead the singing time for the children on the piano, and for my first week, I had prepared meticulously, listening to the soundtracks on YouTube from Sovereign Grace. I learned “To Be Like Jesus,” and “W-I-S-D-O-M,” and practiced throughout the week. When Sunday morning came, everything went as I had practiced, and as I closed the singing time in prayer, to my shame, I thought about giving myself a pat on the back for how well I thought things went. As quickly as that thought came, I was met with a chorus of multiple children yelling “Mr. Justin, you played that too slow! We always sing it FASTERRRR!” I was so offended – in my mind, I thought they didn’t know what they were talking about, that I played it how it was “supposed” to be played. But God caused me to realize that even in these innocent comments, my purpose was to direct hearts toward glorifying Him, not myself. There was always and will always be room for me to grow, and if I were to be counted faithful each week, I would need to grow in humility before God and these children each week.

Truth

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, or joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Each week, one of the teachers will prepare a lesson from our curriculum, The Life of Christ. I’ve always been surprised at how these lessons are not only relevant for the children, but for the teachers as well. The truth of God does not change, whether you are a child or an adult – it is constant and always applies to your life. Just a couple weeks ago, we examined the different responses of the Pharisees, Judas, and Mary to Jesus Christ. In challenging the children to respond rightly to the Lordship of Christ, I was convicted to examine my own heart, and my response to Christ every day. When we teach lessons to the children, we strive to be doers of the words we teach, to submit to the word of God and grow in Christ-likeness. The lessons we teach in Sonlight are just as much for their souls as they are for us.

Love

“If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:46)

Many of the children in Sonlight are at the age when the “Sparklers’ cuteness” has somewhat faded, and the autonomous rebellion begins to shine. I learned that in their youth, they usually don’t thank you or give you the positive/polite feedback I’m used to hearing from adults. Thus, from a worldly perspective we have little or nothing to gain from them. However, true love and service expects nothing in return – as Dr. Street said, true love is not a “50-50 type of love.” The love we show these children should be a reflection of Christ’s love to us, that He loved us while we were in willful and sinful rebellion towards him. Our love for these children is nothing more than an extension of Christ’s love for us, a love that chooses to seek their good and benefit, no matter what they do or say towards us. It is a love of choice, that does not expect anything in return, and, Lord willing, if they are saved one day, I hope they can say that we showed love toward them. Serving in Sonlight helps us to practice Christ-like love.

I never expected to be blessed in these ways when I joined the Sonlight ministry, but God has been faithful to grow me in this time, in humility, truth, and love. During this time, I’ve seen that raising a child really takes the partnership of the church and family together to impress God’s truth upon young hearts in word and action. I pray that no matter how the demographic of our church may change in the years to come, that we would continue to be a church that loves the children of the church, and continues to help families to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” (Eph. 6:4). Praise God for our church, and all that he is doing in the lives of these children!

God’s Wisdom for Parenting (Part 1)

by Pastor Patrick Cho

One of the places in Scripture to find a wealth of helpful principles for parenting is the Proverbs. Almost every book on parenting will reference these Scriptures repeatedly because of the wisdom they contain. Besides the plethora of verses that apply to parenting indirectly, several passages address parenting specifically. As the book is generally wisdom being passed down from a father to his son, it’s not surprising that some of the key verses are about listening to the counsel of one’s parents.

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck. (Proverbs 1:8-9)

This verse needs to be read and applied considering its immediate context. This is not a wholesale, unqualified command to obey anything that your parents tell you to do. I’m sure this would be a tempting verse for many parents to cite out of context. The opening verses of Proverbs speak about the value of true wisdom. Of course, true wisdom is only found in the Lord (v. 7). Solomon is imploring his son to listen to the wisdom that he is imparting because it is godly counsel and will lead to a fear and knowledge of God (Prov. 2:1-5). Especially in the opening chapters, there are multiple exhortations for his son to listen to Solomon’s counsel.

These verses are not given to emphasize Solomon’s authority as a father as much as to highlight the blessings that come with heeding godly wisdom (cf. Prov. 3:1-2). Before you as a parent expect your children to listen to your counsel, it is imperative that your children understand that your counsel is framed from the inerrant and authoritative Word of Truth. Only then will what you say prove to be that “graceful wreath” and “ornament” to help beautify your child’s life and understanding.

Compassion of the Christ

by Roger Alcaraz

Not too long ago, I attended a biblical counseling conference hosted by Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). I probably wouldn’t have gone except that this year it was on the topic of emotions, and was it a blessing! I thought I might give you a taste of the conference. So this article is a reflection of some of what I learned there.

When it comes to your emotions, maybe you feel you have good control over them. Even so, I’m willing to bet you sometimes feel emotions you don’t want to. Sure, we can fake being happy, put on a smile, spend time with people, laugh at the right times, but then go home and bury our face in our pillow with tears. We can fake being at peace, speak calmly to people, show hospitality to those who have wronged us, and say we forgive them, but then pound our fists on the walls the moment no one is looking.

Even as you consider today, you can probably think of a time when you faked an emotion. When you were angry, you pretended to be peaceful. When you were anxious, you pretended to be patient. When you were sad, you pretended to be happy. Emotions are certainly hard to control, and I think if we were able to control our emotions, most of us would want to produce more joy in our lives. While joy is something we’re commanded to seek, what about purposefully engaging in a painful emotion for the sake of serving someone else?

In John 11, we have the account of Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the grave. We read that Jesus is near Bethany when a man named Lazarus becomes ill. His sisters were two of Jesus’ friends, Martha and Mary. And in verse three, we read “So the sisters sent to him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’” Thus, this story is ultimately about the glory of God. It then makes sense that Jesus would allow Lazarus to die: in order to show that he has power over death and, thus, bring glory to God.

But verses 5-6 have always confused me. They say, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” I was confused by one word at the start of verse 6, “So.” It could also be translated as “therefore,” connecting two idea in such a way is “this” results in “that.” What’s shocking is the two ideas being connected: Jesus’ love and Lazarus’ death. The verses could be summarized to say, “Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, therefore he let Lazarus die.” You can see why it makes no sense. Because we would expect to read, “Jesus loved them, but he let Lazarus die.” Or, “Jesus loved them, so he healed Lazarus.”

But this is the disciple, John, writing, and he’s providing a type of divine commentary to what’s happening. We might not see the connection, but God has revealed it to John and he understands it looking back on the event as he writes. I doubt he would have understood at the time, that Jesus, in waiting for Lazarus to die, was motivated by love. But as he records these events for all Christians to read forever, he lets us in on a divine mystery. So here’s the question: How could love motivate Christ to let Lazarus die and to let his sisters agonize over his death? Unless you’re able to answer this question, you’re going to have a skewed understanding of Jesus’ love in your own suffering.

Jesus’ love for them is undeniable. Even in this short account, we’re told multiple times that he loves them. But more than that, we see a demonstration of his love that, without the death, these sisters would have never been able to experience.

In verse 35, John tells us that Jesus wept, and it’s in the very next verse that the crowds proclaim, “See how much he loved him.” Soon after this, Jesus resurrects Lazarus but the crowds give no such response, not even a remark about his love. And so we see, just as the Jews did, that Christ demonstrated his love through weeping and not by resurrecting Lazarus. Isn’t it amazing to think that more love is shown through weeping than through coming in and just fixing the problem?

As soon as Jesus heard that Lazarus was nearing death, Jesus could have snapped his fingers and say, “No he isn’t!” And they all would have said, “Praise Jesus!” But they would have never known how much Jesus loved them had he not come and wept. Also, had Jesus simply healed Lazarus from the start, he would have saved himself this agony as well. But we see that Jesus’ desire to show people love is greater than his desire to save himself from pain. He’s willing to endure the more painful route, not necessarily to fix the problem, but simply to demonstrate love.

And so, as it relates to your own struggles, realize that your suffering allows Christ to demonstrate his love for you as he cares for you. You may feel distant from him because of trials. Perhaps you’re thinking, “How can God love me if I’m suffering?” But understand that it’s actually during trials that Christ is able to draw nearer than ever.

Just before Jesus ascended to heaven, Jesus commanded the disciples to spread the gospel, and he gave them this promise: “And behold I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jesus made that promise while commissioning the disciples for a task that would end up killing them. They needed that promise. They needed the confidence to say, “No matter where I am and no matter who’s threatening to kill me, Christ is with me.”

We have a great high priest who sympathizes with our weakness (Hebrews 4:15). It’s more than just him saying, “Oh, I know how that feels.” If you’re lonely, not only does he know how that feels, but his heart weeps for you. If you suffer a severe loss, sure he knows a thing or two about loss, but he also grieves over your suffering.

There are a lot of passages that talk about how God grieves, there are even some that talk about the Holy Spirit grieving, a lot of times they’re seen grieving over sin and I believe that remains true today. God, the Holy Spirit, even Christ grieve over your sin. But when we look at Jesus’ earthly ministry, what else does he grieve over? Many times, it’s people’s pain. Jesus hates tragedy. He mourns at your loss. He grieves in your suffering. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked; how much less does he take pleasure in the suffering of his children?

The heart of Christ we see in the gospels is the same heart he has for his people today. Why else give the promise to always be with us except to comfort us in our suffering? Christ wants to comfort you in your pain. When you cry out to him in all of your distress, do you really think he shakes his head and says, “Why is this person still struggling?” Or do you think he bears your pain and takes it as his own, just like he did every time he showed compassion on earth?

It’s no wonder that Christ said “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” It’s also no wonder that the law of Christ is summarized into one command, “Bear one another’s burdens”– because that is what Christ did and continues to do. And you’ll notice the verse doesn’t say, “Fix one another’s problems, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” We’re called to bear each other’s burden.

So if this is how Jesus is, why is it that when we hear of someone’s distress and tragedy, our first thought is to try to fix the problem? I know it’s done out of a heart of love, but if you want to show love, you’re going to have to weep with them. It has to bother you as though you were the one suffering.

This isn’t to say that we don’t eventually try to speak truth into someone’s life. Romans 8:28 is a glorious verse that assures us of God’s good plan, but there’s a proper time for that. At the conference, a letter was read from a man describing how his friends tried to help during his time of suffering but often fell short. The man was heartbroken, and as he was pouring out his experience on paper, he wrote, “The next person to quote Romans 8:28, I’m gonna punch them in the stomach. And then, while the pain is still fresh, I’m going to remind them of Romans 8:28.”

It’s not about applying the most expedient solution. In fact, you shouldn’t even think about a solution until you’ve meditated on their pain, until you feel weighed down by their troubles, until they know you love them because you’re willing to suffer with them. We can learn a lot from Jesus on how we ought to love one another. But I pray if there’s one thing you remember from this article, it’s that Jesus always demonstrated his love by taking our pain upon himself, and we need to do the same.