Category Archives: Affinity Groups

Some Things Don’t Change

by Ryan McAdams

Over the summer, my daughter and a number of her friends graduated from our Sunday preschool (Sparklers) ministry to the elementary school (Sonlight) ministry, bringing the number of children who regularly attend our Sonlight program to between 45 and 50 children. Less than two months later, our church moved to a two-service format which runs the same program for both the first and second services. I won’t bore you with the details, but this resulted in our Sonlight program transitioning from one group altogether to four groups, splitting the older and younger groups, and splitting with the two services. Of course, this resulted in needs for more staff and changes to the way we run each classroom. But, amid all of the changes we made to accommodate this new structure, Sonlight will always comprise the following components:

Teaching the Breadth of God’s Word

We have over an hour with the children whenever we have time with them in Sonlight, and we want to make the most of our time. Though most of the children probably hear Biblical teaching at home, we want to do our part to assist the parents in the making of disciples, even little ones, and we know that faith comes by hearing, and hearing from the word of God. And, believing that all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, we don’t want to limit our instruction to the familiar Bible stories, but proclaim the whole of God’s greatness to the next generation.

A Safe Environment

We run our Sonlight program concurrently with our Sunday School Services to enable our parents to receive the benefit of teaching without distraction. If the parents can’t trust that their children are in a safe environment in the Sonlight classroom, then we give the parents cause to worry and are providing a hindrance to the parents’ learning and thus failing in our goal.

Staff Who Love the Children

While we did have additional staffing needs with the transitions and we do promote service in our Children’s Ministries as a way for a member to begin to involve himself in the church, we don’t want to throw unwilling participants on our staff. We want staff who desire to serve the families of our church body and shepherd the children of the church. Additionally, we want staff who have demonstrated faithfulness and consistency in their Christian character, people who would model Jesus Christ well for the observant children in our care. So, even with the desire for greater numbers in our staff, we won’t just look for warm bodies to fill spots, but rather those who love God and want to use their abilities to serve the church in this particular way.
Though the adjustments for the recent changes may not have finished, I know that however our program looks, we can count on these components to help form the core of our Sonlight ministry, as we seek faithfulness to our Lord and to bring glory to his name in every ministry of our church.

Right in His Own Eyes

by Josh Liu

College Life had its annual luau at the beginning of October. It was a great time with all of our semester and quarter students back together! We welcomed a number of new students as well! It is exciting seeing all of these students begin or continue their college careers. This stage of life provides unique opportunities to explore, learn, and mature; lifelong friendships are often formed during this time; habits and decisions are made that often lead to a particular direction of life. It can also be a confusing time.

CL Luau Group Photo

During the devotional, Pastor Patrick began with recounting Israel’s lawlessness. Israel forsook God as their rightful King and did what was right in their own eyes (cf. Judges 21:25). Israel’s rebellion against God’s authority is illustrative of every person’s rebellion against God. Every person, in his or her depraved nature, rebels against God (cf. Ps. 2:1-2; Rom. 1:18-32). Sinners deceive themselves by believing that they are the rulers of their own kingdoms, declaring what they believe is right or true. Opinions, preferences, and personal desires become “law.” This self-inaugurating authority reveals itself in many ways. For example, a person may believe anger or premarital sex can be right simply because he or she feels that it is right, whereas God proclaims such acts as damnable sins (cf. Gal. 5:19-21). Or, abortion is declared right because of one’s personal claim over the body, though God declares every life precious and the body to be used to glorify Him (cf. Gen. 9:6; 1 Cor. 6:20). God has ultimate authority over all of His creation, over your life (cf. Rom. 9:20-21). God has the authority to righteous judge sinners, and the authority to graciously forgive sinners (cf. James 4:12).

By God’s grace, Jesus Christ came to redeem rebels into obedient servants (cf. Rom. 6:4ff; Titus 3:3-7). Those who repent of their sins and submit their lives to Christ through faith are liberated to truly live with Christ as Lord and King.

Here are some questions to examine your heart on what authority might be ruling you:

  1. What can you not live without?
  2. What would ultimately satisfy you?
  3. What do you sacrifice for?
  4. What do you spend most of your time, energy, thought, and money on?
  5. Where do you find refuge, safety, comfort, escape, pleasure, or security?

Some common authorities (idols) may be a relationship, respect, material possession, accolade, comfort, control, etc.

Brad Bigney provided an insightful caution: good things can become god-things [idols] when we exchange the glory of God [God’s authority]. Let us seek to live for and submit to God in all that we do.

Here are some principles to help you live with God as your authority:

  1. Prayerfully examine your own heart through what Scripture teaches on the responses to the questions above.
  2. Prayerfully study and practice Scripture before coming to a judgment or decision based on your own experiences, opinions, or preferences.
  3. Prayerfully practice appropriate silence or flexibility where God’s Word has not specifically spoken.
  4. Prayerfully seek biblical counsel from godly mentors and leaders who will direct you back to the Word of God in all situations.
  5. Pray through the truths, promises, and commands of Scripture in all situations.

God’s Word is our final and absolute authority for life and godliness (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3). We must be saturated with God’s Word in order to appropriately live under the beautiful lordship of Christ. And we must be immersed in God-centered prayers–approaching His throne of grace through prayer (cf. Heb. 4:16).

Growing Pains: Fulfillment (Part 3)

by Kristen Lim

This article is a continuation of the Growing Pains series, a look at various topics that young Christians encounter.

My late paternal grandfather was a Korean immigrant who came to the United States to provide more opportunities for his children. He worked odd jobs, making just enough to put food on the table and pay for rent. He wasn’t a leader at his church or a part of any official ministry due to his poor health. He never became a homeowner, got his name in the newspaper, obtained awards, or had a mass following. He didn’t enjoy long vacations traveling around the world, dining in fine restaurants, or had the latest technological gadgets. On purely earthly standards, you would come to the conclusion that his life didn’t achieve greatness, and thus was unfulfilling. But how about on God’s standards?

Young Christians need to be mindful that there is a spiritual war going on, and living in this world means being bombarded with unbiblical ideologies, perspectives, and values. We all need to be continually renewing our minds with God’s word (Romans 12:2), since the Bible is the lens through which we can clearly evaluate the world and our lives. Let’s discover what God has to say about two factors that lead to fulfillment: greatness and ambition.

Redefining Greatness

There is nothing new under the sun. Humans have always been on the quest to achieve greatness, investing time and resources to make sure they’re the best, the top dog. Even Jesus’ disciples argued about who was the greatest amongst them. In Luke 9:48, when prompted to give an answer of who was the greatest, Jesus answers “…the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.” You can imagine the disciples’ jaws dropping from that response. It’s noteworthy that Jesus doesn’t denounce their desire to be great; rather, their definition of greatness was the problem. True greatness is not found in eloquence of speech, abundance of knowledge, achieving many degrees, building a platform, or to be well known by others. Those things are not necessarily bad things, but they do not define true greatness.

Since God is the Creator and author of life, He is the one who determines the definition of greatness. Can we all give a collective amen that Jesus is the epitome of greatness? He is greatness incarnate and exemplified, so we learn from his example. In John 13, we see Jesus and His disciples getting ready to begin the last Passover supper before His crucifixion. “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God,…” (John 13:3). From just reading that verse, what would you assume the next verse to be? Naturally, we would think the flow of thought would lead to something grandiose and majestic. Let’s read on in John 13:4. “[Jesus] got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded…” (John 13:4-5). At first glance, it doesn’t seem logical that the God of the universe would choose to wash dirty feet, but this is exactly what our Savior and Lord did.

Not only did Jesus condescend to do a slave’s job of washing filthy feet, but He laid down His life in order to give sinners the hope of salvation through His substitutionary life, death, and resurrection. This is true greatness. “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28). Jesus died for us not only to save us from our just sentence of God’s wrath, but so that in the newness of life we would be like Jesus in how we live. In John 13:15, Jesus says, “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” So, a truly great person in the eyes of God is someone who mirrors Jesus, characterized by sacrifice, looking out for the interests of others in self-forgetful service (Phil 2:4).

Refocusing Ambition

Just as we are called to pursue biblical greatness, God desires for us to have godly ambition. Ambition can almost seem like a taboo word among Christians. We erroneously equate ambition with pride, but ambition in and of itself is not necessarily a sin. Ambition can be either selfish or godly. In Dave Harvey’s book Rescuing Ambition, he describes the difference between the two. Simply put, “selfish ambition is a motivating desire to do things for selfish glory. Godly ambition is a motivating desire to do things for God’s glory.”

In James 3:16, we can see the destructive nature of selfish ambition. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” A heart that is focused on “me, myself, and I” will not be submitting to God’s will or desire God’s glory, since no one can serve two masters. A sure sign of selfish ambition is if you are sinning (or willing to) in order to achieve certain desires, or sinning in the event of desires being unmet. Or, if you wallow in envy and are not able to rejoice when God chooses to allow other people to achieve success or obtain a desire that you sought after.

A common question to ask a young person is “what do you want to be when you grow up?” which focuses just on the vocation itself. But how often do you hear the question framed in this way: “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” Godly ambition starts with who you are, your character, rather than what you do. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he spends the first half to remind the church of the gospel, that God has saved them by grace through faith in Jesus. They have been brought near to God, and have peace through the blood of Christ. With that foundation laid, he proceeds to exhort them to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love” (Eph. 4:2-3). Note that Paul doesn’t say that in response to the gospel they all need to become pastors, overseas missionaries, soapbox preachers, or do “big things for God.” Those things aren’t bad, and certainly God calls people into those roles, but what matters most is cultivating a heart that wants to love like Jesus.

A sure sign of godly ambition is attributing glory to God for the blessings, gifts, and success you may experience, because you know that He is the source of power for everything you do. Can you resonate with Paul when he proclaims in Romans 11:36, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” Can you echo the words of the psalmist in Psalm 115:1, “Not to us, O LORD, not us, but to Your name give glory because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.”

Paul succinctly sums it up by saying, “Therefore we also have as our ambition whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2 Cor 5:9). Our ambition will remain the same for all eternity, to please our Heavenly Father. So whether you’re a mom with three kids all under the age of 5, or working in the office under an unreasonable manager, or a student studying for finals, or changing your career direction, your aim is to please God by being faithful in your specific roles and responsibilities at hand and proclaim Jesus in words and actions.

Though my grandfather didn’t have much material wealth or fame, he had the greatest treasure of eternal life, in knowing Jesus Christ. He found the secret jewel of contentment in having a thriving relationship with Jesus, and that made him wealthy in joy. He displayed true greatness by sacrificially serving his family and passing down the love of God to them. He was ambitious for God to be glorified and pleased with his life, not to make much of himself. Not many knew his name, but many will be pointed to God because of his life, as those who have been impacted by him continue on the work of making disciples of Christ. He enjoyed a fulfilled life because God had redeemed him to pursue true greatness and ambitiously seek first the kingdom of God. May our church be unified in that same pursuit, for God’s glory.

A Sure Foundation

by Lisa Kohno

Take a moment to imagine a cute animated bear’s face on a robot’s body. Now imagine that this “care bear robot” is not just a toy to buy for your child, but it’s actually life-sized and designed to take care of your child. In this day and age, this is not an imagination but rather a very real reality in Japan where these Baymax-like robots are currently being introduced to Japanese nurseries in response to the nation’s acute scarcity of childcare workers (Advisen). Certainly these amiable automations have been programmed to be able to greet a child, comfort them, record their temperatures, and even monitor their general health, but they are far limited in their ability to care for the most important aspect of a child’s life: their soul.

In contrast, our Fireflies Nursery ministry is concerned with both the material and immaterial needs of the infants and toddlers of our church family, as we recognize that caring for a child is not merely ensuring their physical wellness and growth, but most importantly nurturing their spiritual maturation and shepherding their hearts to know, love, and worship Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Yes, a typical day in nursery will entail playing with the children, having snacks, consoling those who are crying, and changing diapers, but what I so highly admire about Lighthouse Bible Church is how we seek to uphold a high view of God and His Word at every stage of life, and this by no means is watered down for our Children’s Ministries.

Thus, from early on we want to set the tone that our Lord is intimately involved in the young ones’ everyday life by emphasizing time to pray, participate in worship, rehearse Scripture memory verses, and teach lessons from the Bible. Some unbelieving friends and coworkers have expressed bewilderment that we actually instruct the children at this young age, but it’s crucial to remember that although their minds may be limited, their spirits are assuredly active and able to grasp simple truths of God. Just as it is with newborn babies and physical food, although we don’t endeavor to feed them a buffet right from the beginning because it’d be impossible for them to intake everything doesn’t mean we don’t feed them at all lest they should starve. Rather, we start with consistently feeding them milk as the basic building block to feed and nourish their growing bodies. Likewise with spiritual food, although they may not be ready to comprehend deep theology and feast on the riches of hermeneutics at their age, it is still vital that they start by feeding off the pure spiritual milk of His Word that they may grow up into salvation until they are ready for more solid food (1 Peter 2:2; 1 Corinthians 3:2).

With this knowledge in mind, particularly on N-2 which is comprised of the older walkers to potty-trained three-year-olds, we teach basic lessons from Scripture about God’s character, remembering that the only sure foundation for the little ones is Jesus Christ (Isaiah 28:16). Because at this age repetition is key, we go over the same lesson for the entire month using pictures, felt boards, and sometimes crafts, seeking to impart great truths of our awesome God in simple words. Some examples of our rotation of lessons include:

  • God is Good
  • God Made Everything
  • Jesus is Alive
  • God is Everywhere
  • Jesus is the Boss
  • God Knows Everything
  • Jesus Loves Me
  • God Always Wins

Although we recognize the young children may not be able to understand every phrase and lesson immediately, we believe that with time and constant reiteration they can grow in their familiarity and comprehension of these basic truths, especially as they mature and move on to the older Children’s Ministries. This is an important place to start since how can they come to love Someone they do not know? Therefore, little by little we seek to help usher them towards a greater awareness of who our God is so they can eventually come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Though it will take patience and perseverance, we press on and will not cease to declare the “sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Psalm 78:2-4). It’s been my great joy to personally witness how shakily waddling one year-olds with blank stares and bad separation anxiety who slump down in their chairs, soon become stable and confident three year-olds who follow along with the motions to our memory songs and enthusiastically proclaim, “God!” or “Jesus!” with shining eyes as we ask them who created them / provided for Elijah / brought the Israelites out of Egypt / stilled the waters and waves / died for our sins and is alive today / etc.

Serving on staff as a single lady has also offered a unique perspective as I am reminded that my mission in life is to make disciples of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20) and be poured out to testify of the Gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:24), whether that is through marriage and shepherding my own children one day–which isn’t a guarantee–or not. Learning how to joyfully submit and lead the life to which God has called me to now (1 Corinthians 7:17) in His infinite wisdom, incomparable love, and infallible sovereignty, I’m grateful He has graciously placed me in different spheres of influence to carry this commission out in my current stage as an employee / daughter / sister / friend. But I especially give praise that without even having children of my own or knowing the future, He has already granted me the gift of becoming a spiritual mother through this ministry, that I may play a small role in impacting future generations unto Christ. Although not always glorious and definitely with its share of challenges, it is a sweet joy and tremendous privilege to help plant the seeds of God’s truth in the fertile hearts of these little souls and have the honor of partnering alongside the parents in the discipleship of the most precious people in their lives towards our one sure Foundation.

All this to say… if you have been waiting for a sign to join our Fireflies Nursery ministry, THIS IS IT. (Just kidding!) But if you are a female member who loves God and children, I highly encourage you to at least try observing and prayerfully consider serving our church family in this way, especially as splitting to two services now offers more opportunities to get involved and practically apply all that you are learning through the preaching of His Word. Not only is this a valuable ministry to get to know and come alongside solid, like-minded sisters from all different affinity groups (and develop a deep respect for what parents do 24/7 with no break!), but it is also a great way to tangibly live out the “Passion Statement” to love God and people (Matthew 22:37-40) week to week and grow in your own worship of our Lord. Again, it may not be the most esteemed position, but what will you learn through Fireflies Nursery you ask? Well, let me share with you just a few nuggets of wisdom I’ve gained through the past four blessed years…

It’s learning that love is doing the hard work and truly sacrificing for the sake of others rather than simply loving them when they are lovable (Romans 5:8). This means not just holding the adorable babies when they are sweet, docile, and cuddly, but also changing exploding poo diapers and catching spit-up with your bare hands,. It also means patiently consoling an emotionally distressed toddler as they push you away and your ears ring from their screaming, and most importantly, gently but firmly instructing their hearts of their sin and need for a Savior as cold defiance grips their wills and hot selfishness drives their choices. And to do this all being empowered by the love of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-15) as we get a small taste of how much God loves us as His own children (1 John 3:1) and bears with us compassionately in our mess and rebellion as well, to remember that He likewise disciplines us as a loving Father that we may partake in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10).

It’s learning the paradox of what it means to be great in God’s eyes by becoming last and serving the least (Luke 22:26-27), as we lovingly (and literally) stoop low to minister to the children and esteem it the highest honor to be entrusted with their souls. It’s learning from and being challenged by the kids too, whether we run to our Abba Father as gleefully and desperately as they do when they see their parents walk through the door, or if we are like the ones who hold on to lesser toys/snacks/things of this world thinking they will satisfy us more than the presence of the One who has made us and treasures us. It’s learning to grow in awe and childlike wonder of who our great God is and all He has done for us. It’s learning that God’s laws and boundaries for us are for our good and protection, just as we seek the children’s highest welfare even if that makes them think we are not after their highest joy at times. It’s learning through tears like the children who eagerly await their parents’ return and keep asking where they are, to trust that He is coming back again for us even when we cannot see Him, that we can cling to His character, hope in His promises, and rest in His love for us at all times.

Frankly, it’s a lot about learning our own deficiencies and helplessness too, that God is sovereign when it comes to salvation and it’s up to the Spirit to change hearts (Ezekiel 36:26). Although it has been mentioned serving in Children’s Ministry is sometimes difficult for this very reason as you may not see the fruit of your efforts right away, I trust that God is faithful and I’m thankful knowing the harvest of this ministry may take a few years to see which has taught me to all the more depend solely on God, the power of His Spirit, and persevere in the priority of prayer as we remember, “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1).

And ultimately, I have learned that when you love anyone, the greatest way we can show them this reality is to love them not in word or talk, but in in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18) all the way to God Himself by consistently pointing to Him and investing His Word into their hearts. So let us do this with abounding joy and confident hope in the power of the holy Scriptures that from childhood are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:14-15). Let us behold our King and pass on the greatness and glory of God to the next generation, laying a firm foundation in Jesus Christ that we may train up an army of little image-bearers to proclaim all His praiseworthy deeds!

God’s Wisdom for Parenting (Part 4)

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.

Assuredly, the evil man will not go unpunished, but the descendants of the righteous will be delivered. (Proverbs 11:21)

Grace Life has been walking through a series in the Book of Proverbs examining passages that relate directly to parenting. Today’s article looks at Proverbs 11:21 which states that the descendants of the righteous will be delivered. The context speaks of God’s judgment on the evil person, so that the deliverance of the righteous man is specifically from the judgment of God. We know from the greater context of Scripture that our only hope of righteousness is the imputed righteousness of Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). What makes this passage interesting is that it does not say that the righteous man will be delivered, but that the descendants of the righteous man will be delivered.

One of the demonstrations of God’s grace is generational faith. Of course, faithful, godly parenting does not guarantee the salvation of one’s children. A person is saved by God’s grace alone, and not by any personal effort or merit (cf. Eph. 2:8-9). But a pattern that we see in Scripture is that God desires one generation to tell of His greatness to subsequent generations that they would also have faith (cf. Deut. 4:9-10), and sometimes He even demonstrates His amazing grace to the future generation in spite of the previous generation’s faithlessness (cf. Ps. 78:4-8).

From experience in life, this is a pattern that we oftentimes see in the church. Those who are faithful to the truth of God and seek to live joyfully according to His commands are often blessed by God so that their children also follow their example of faith. I will never forget the testimony of one friend of remarkable faith. When I asked him how he came to live for the Lord with such rigor and strength, he said it was the example of his parents that motivated him to love Christ.

It is definitely heartbreaking to see anyone’s children stray from the faith. Again, faithful parenting unfortunately does not guarantee the salvation of your children. But oftentimes, God does demonstrate His sovereign grace to families by drawing their children to Him. This should serve as a great encouragement to live faithfully before Him. With that said, it is also a great reminder of God’s grace to bring our children to saving faith despite our own inconsistent, imperfect, and oftentimes sinful parenting. Praise God that He can use broken, damaged vessels for honor and to His glory.

Personal Training

by Roger Alcaraz

In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. That’s 40 hours a week for almost five years of practicing. And if you’ve ever listened to a pianist who has practiced for that long, you can instantly see (or hear) the fruit of all that practice.

Whether or not Malcolm’s statement is accurate, I think most people would agree that if we want to master something, it’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of discipline. And what’s great about the internet is that you can see the wide variety of skills people have mastered to the point where it seems like just about everything has been mastered by someone. Whether it’s the piano or juggling or cup stacking or rubix cube, they have all been mastered.

But I have yet to see any man or woman achieve mastery over one area in particular: the flesh. No one has mastered the flesh. And we can’t say it’s because nobody has tried. Religious people all over the world have spent their whole lives trying to be perfect and trying to subdue every sinful thought and desire of the flesh, but to no avail.

This is true even when it comes to just the tongue, one of the smallest parts of the body,
James 3:8 tells us that “no human being can tame the tongue.” You can try for 10,000 hours. You can try for 10,000,000 hours. You will never master the tongue, let alone the rest of your flesh. Your tongue lies, gossips, and slanders. Your eyes lust. Your heart envies. Your hands steal and murder. And all of it is beyond your ability to master.

Even so, as Christians, we understand that there is no more important pursuit than controlling the flesh and pursuing holiness. God is holy and man was created to worship him in holiness. Only then will man be satisfied. Thus, holiness is the most important and rewarding pursuit, yet it is also the most difficult pursuit.

Paul sometimes refers to athletics or uses athletic imagery like running, or disciplining his body. And he uses these imagery to teach about the Christian life. And it seems Paul saw a lot of similarities between athletics and Christianity in terms of the discipline and training needed.

Every athlete who wants to be great has two things worth mentioning. The first is sort of training ground where they are equipped to be able to perform their best. And the second is a coach, someone who will correct their mistakes and spur them on to greatness. If the Christian life can be compared to athletics, our training ground is the church–the place where we are equipped and ready to run the race of faith. But who is the coach? Is it Pastor Patrick? Is it me? Pastor Josh? We might be part of the coaching squad, but if you look at the really great athletes playing for the best teams, they have a head coach who guides the overall direction of the team, but then there are coaches underneath them that are more specialized, and then the best of the best athletes even have a personal trainer.

Usain Bolt is among the fastest men in history. So you might think, “There’s no way the fastest man alive needs a coach.” But if you thought that, you’d be wrong because even the fastest man alive has a coach. His name is Glen Mills and without him, Usain would still be fast, but not record-breaking fast.

Usain needs a coach in order to run excellently, but who is there to train up men and women in the church to live excellently? Where are the coaches and trainers of the faith? They should be you all.

You can read in Titus 2:2-6 that God’s design for the church is that the the older men and women live excellently themselves and then teach and train the younger men and women.

And you might be thinking that you’re too young, or too immature, or don’t know enough to disciple anyone. But no matter how young you are in the faith, you will always be able to find someone to disciple. So no matter who you are, you can help others to persevere in this life and run the race of faith excellently, and as you do, I believe you will be rewarded in this life and in the life to come.

Small Group: Life on Life Discipleship

by Josh Liu

The Mission of LBC is to make disciples of Christ, which encompasses baptizing and teaching (cf. Matt. 28:18-20). Small group ministries can be an effective means of discipleship for many churches. At LBCSD, it is one of the ways we extend accountability, instruction, and fellowship so that believers would spiritually mature.

Pastor Patrick has written on being a faithful small group participant:

We also desire to equip small group leaders to serve with excellence.

A small group leader is simply a servant of Christ seeking to help other servants of Christ mature. Therefore, small group leaders must prove themselves qualified with exemplary godly character, worthy of being followed. The Apostle Paul was able to humbly exhort other believers to follow in his example as he pursued Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 4:6; 11:1; Phil 3:17). To those considering or serving as small group leaders:

  • How are you growing spiritually? Are you pursuing Christ first?
  • How are your spiritual disciplines?
  • Are you being faithful to Christ according to His Word?

Consider the following passages on godly character: Prov. 31:10-31; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-2:8; 1 Thess. 2:1-20; Rom. 12:1-21; Gal. 5:16-26; Eph. 4:17-32; Phil. 3:7ff; 2 Pet. 1:3-7.

Small group leading is essentially life on life discipleship. Discipleship is not a program; it is life (cf. 1 Thess. 2:8). The Apostle Paul’s example of shepherding and ministry illustrates this principle. He does not simply impart facts or govern decision-making. Paul not only pours out his heart into those whom he ministers, but also lives life with them. While structure or programs may help facilitate discipleship, they are not the defining marks of discipleship. So, a small group leader seeks to invest his or her life into the lives of the small group members in a way to walk with them and to mutually help one another grow. To those considering or serving as small group leaders:

  • Are you willing to walk with individuals through their trials and failures?
  • How are you practicing the “one another’s” with your small group members?
  • Would you consider learning from your small group members and be vulnerable when appropriate?

Since small group discipleship is life on life activity, it requires love, time, sacrifice, and patience. Without a spirit of love, discipleship ministry will eventually become frustrating and will lead to sinful attitudes. A leader’s love for the Lord must be the foundation for his love for others (cf. Matt. 22:37-40). Also, life on life ministry is going to require time in order to make a good investment. The time required may be inconvenient or longer than expected. So, a small group leader will be expected to make some level of sacrifice. Discipleship ministry is seldom convenient for the leader. If a person’s attitude is that others must do all they can to accommodate him or her, he or she is not fit for leadership. Spiritual growth and change is oftentimes slow. The small group must practice compassionate patience because people most often do not take in lessons after being instructed only once. A leader must be prepared to teach the same lessons over and over until the small group member understands and applies that spiritual lesson. To those considering or serving as small group leaders:

  • Have you considered or are currently practicing the appropriate love, time, sacrifice, and patience to be an effective small group leader?

The goal of small group discipleship is maturity in Christ (cf. Col. 1:28) and becoming a disciple-maker (2 Tim. 2:2). Small group members ought to be equipped to make other disciples (cf. 1 Thess. 1:6-8). The teacher needs to help students teach others. This is the disciple-making work that all believers are called (cf. Matt. 28:18-20). While it is a humble goal, leaders should desire others to excel beyond them. To those considering or serving as small group leaders:

  • Are you equipping others for the work of ministry and to be disciple-makers?

We depend and praise God for His work to transform souls and sanctify His people into the image of His Son. We are also humbled that God may use us as His instruments to accomplish His sanctifying work.

The Blessing of Serving in Sparklers

by Arthur Wang

My wife and I have been serving in the Sparklers preschool ministry for two years, and with our utmost joy, we can say that God has used this ministry to grow us in the knowledge of God’s truth and in love for God’s people. It has been an incredible blessing to serve and teach.

The preschool ages are such a wonderful stage of a child’s life. As many know, they are also the most fundamental years in development. They are so energetic, silly, curious, and can be very receptive to teaching. In Proverbs 22:6, the Bible says “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” If we establish a strong foundation for the gospel message in each child’s heart, our prayer is that God would use those seeds to someday save them. That said, our Children’s Ministry as a whole emphasizes seizing the time we have with them so that they may learn God’s Word while their parents are in service.

Teaching a group of 20 or so preschoolers can have its challenges. Any small distraction can lead to complete chaos during Sunday school lesson time. I naively thought in the beginning that it would be easier to teach to a preschool audience rather than an adult audience. Let’s just say God humbled me in a very big way. Preparing a lesson that did not dilute God’s Word and yet is understandable to a three to five-year old is no small feat. It involves many hours of preparation and creative ideas to engage the children, using age appropriate terminology. Teaching in Sparklers has taught me to be succinct and concise with God’s Word while at the same time not minimizing the valuable truths of the passages we go over each week.

It involves a lot of patience, love, and understanding the unique traits of each special soul. I pray more prior to when I am scheduled to serve. I pray that God would give me the strength and energy to be super enthusiastic around the children. They may be young, but they are also very perceptive and constantly observing. We need to be good testimonies with the aim to exemplify Christ-like behavior.

Some things I really try to emphasize are God’s attributes. For example, what does the story of Jonah tell us? It is not simply about Jonah, but it is about a forgiving God who gave Jonah not one, but multiple chances. In our lessons, I emphasize who God is (holy and just) relative to who man is (sinful and wretched). Even though there is a huge discrepancy between God and man, God lovingly provided His Son as the sacrifice on our behalf for the sin of all men. How amazing is that? We hope to clearly communicate our need of God to the children, being sure to remind them that we are sinners too.

Preschool-aged children, however small they seem, are capable of learning God’s truth by what we formally teach them during lesson time and by what they observe us say and do outside of teaching time.

Serving in Sparklers has been so much fun and a tremendous blessing. God has taught me that it is only by His mercy and grace that any of us are able to understand the great gospel truths in Scripture. We look forward to not only serve, but to grow alongside other Sparklers staff and the Sparklers’ parents as we continue to study and teach the amazing truth of God.

Rest for Moms

by Pastor Patrick Cho

A few weeks ago, we were pleased to have Pastor Mark Chin from Lighthouse San Jose come to speak for our annual Grace Life Weekend Conference. Mark addressed the theme of “Time, Work, and Rest: Ours or God’s?” The messages were timely, convicting, and extremely helpful. One of the principles Mark walked through was the importance of maintaining a time of spiritual rest amidst our hectic lives. A question that came up several times was: How can moms do this effectively when their responsibility to their children is seemingly endless? Here are some practical helps to consider:

  1. Turn Off Your Phone. This obviously does not apply to all mothers, but many who complain about not having time for the Word of God spend significant time on social media. Understanding that this seems outrageous in today’s culture, consider uninstalling Facebook and Instagram (or at least severely regulating your usage). Enjoy life’s moments without the incessant need to capture every one of them. You might be surprised at how much time this frees up!
  2. Maximize Nap Time. If you have young children, chances are they take at least one nap during the day. It is easy to utilize this time to catch up on chores and emails or even to nap yourself! But if you are one who really struggles with finding refreshing time in Scripture, take this time to spend with the Lord and feed your soul. You can discipline your children to help you with chores, but they cannot spend time with God for you.
  3. Go to Bed Earlier. God has designed us to need rest. He is the only one who neither sleeps not slumbers (Ps. 121:3-4). Implement a stricter schedule that will allow you to go to bed and wake up earlier. If it is not practical to spend time with the Lord before the children wake up, at least you will have greater energy throughout the day.

Any husband who has taken care of the kids while mom was away understands how incredibly challenging it can be. Whenever Christine goes out even for a little while, and I have to watch the kids, I can hardly get anything else done! This should clue you in to the fact that your wife needs a break from time to time. Dads, what are some ways you can provide your wives time alone to spend with the Lord or even to recuperate from the daily challenges of motherhood?

  1. Give Your Wife an Evening Off. If this can’t be weekly, then plan for at least twice a month. This time could be used to enjoy some much-needed fellowship with other ladies in the church, or it might best be spent going to a coffee shop to read her Bible and pray. Since you know that your wife needs these times to rest in the Lord and that she seldom gets time when she is home with the kids, this is a great way to serve her and encourage her faith.
  2. Institute a Quiet Time. Most families understand that with young kids there is hardly a quiet moment in the house. One thing fathers can do is to implement a quiet time in the evening before bedtime. Try starting with a fifteen-minute period and over time extending this to half an hour. The way this works is that you, your wife, and your kids enjoy some quiet reading time together before the kids go to bed. If your child is too young to read, they can work on a puzzle or draw, but they have to do it quietly. This might seem impossible for your kids, but with perseverance and discipline it could develop to be a refreshing oasis in an otherwise spiritually barren day.
  3. Weekend Retreat. Consider providing your wife a weekend retreat away with friends. One great way to implement this is to send your wife to a biblical women’s conference. Usually, groups from church will attend these conferences together. Plan ahead to clear your schedule and watch the kids. This also gives you a chance to have some extended quality time with the kids. Take them to the park, the beach, or the zoo. Or better yet, encourage them to help you clean the house or do chores to serve Mommy.

Tongue Un-Twisted

by Josh Liu

Our lives are filled with words (e.g., speech, communication). Many of us acknowledge the power and influence–and source of problems–speech and communication have. However, very few of us discipline our speech with careful discernment. Paul Tripp has said,

…even though we aren’t always aware of it, every day of our lives is filled with talk. Every moment is infected with talk. Every relationship and situation is dyed with words. We’re word-ish people. You could hardly identify a more formative aspect of our daily lives than our world of words. Yet whenever I begin to think, speak, or write about this topic, I experience a bit of frustration. What frustrates me is the vocabulary of communication. The terms are so mundane–words, talk, dialogue, conversation, communication. They just don’t seem to carry the freight of how profoundly significant and important this area of life actually is. (The Power of Words and The Wonder of God, 23)

Words are ultimately significant because of what God reveals in Scripture concerning our words (the Book of Proverbs contain over 100 verses related to speech). Our words are a window into the human heart. We speak thoughts, intentions, desires, wishes, beliefs, and so on contained in the heart (cf. Prov. 18:4; Matt. 15:18; Luke 6:45; Mark 7:21). Our words command power and can be a source of destruction (cf. James 3:2-12). Our words are so important that Scripture describes controlling the tongue as one of the keys to a successful life (cf. Prov. 21:23; 1 Pet. 3:10). Frighteningly, God will judge our words (cf. Matt. 12:33-37).

So, how aware are you of your speech and communication? Do you think before speaking, or do you more often find yourself regretting your words? Is there any sinful speech you need to repent of and work to root out of your life? Is there any edifying speech that you to include more in your life? What are some helpful communication skills to practice in applying biblical principles on speech? These are important questions to reflect on.

Christ’s servants are commanded to silence sinful speech. In other words, believers are to silence, put away, stop, mortify, mute, reign in all speech that dishonors or disobeys Christ and tears down others (cf. Eph. 4:29). This is not exclusively about profanity; this is any speech dishonors Christ and tears down others. E. Bradley Beevers says,

Evil speech isn’t just talking when you should be silent or saying things you immediately wish you hadn’t said. Some things we say are bad for other reasons. For example, with some speech, we determine whether it is evil or good by asking when, to whom, under what circumstances, with what tone of voice something is said. At the other extreme, we distinguish “foul language” from the rest of language; “foul language” is inherently bad. It’s not a matter of saying something at the wrong time or to the wrong person. Such “evil talk” is always wrong, always to be avoided by the believer. (“Watch Your Langauge!”, 24)

Believers’ speech is not to be characterized with the world’s speech. The Bible describes a variety of sinful speech that must be silenced. Below is a summary of a personal study on sins of the tongue with questions for reflection.

Sinful Speech Description Scripture Questions
Sinful Speech About Others Gossip The spreading of unfavorable information about someone,
even if that information is true.
Prov. 11:12-13; 18:8; 20:19
  • Do you sweetly cherish secrets so that you can talk about it with others?
  • Do you inappropriately pry for information so that you can talk about it with others?
  • Have you said, “don’t tell anyone else” for fear of repercussions by sharing something that was shared with you in confidence?
  • Will you betray anyone’s trust by sharing?
Slander Speaking about another person (whether false or true, an accurate or inaccurate/misrepresentation) that defames or damages the person’s reputation (or character). Prov. 16:28; Eph. 4:31-32
  • Would what you say impugn someone’s reputation or character?
  • Would it cause conflict if discovered?
Lie Making a false statement; exaggeration for selfish reasons
(e.g., greater recognition); intentionally withholding the whole truth for sinful reasons.
Prov. 10:18
  • Do you lie or exaggerate truth claims to create a certain perception about yourself or someone else?
  • Do you intentionally mislead because you rejoice in deceit (for compulsive liars)?
Critical speech Negative comments about someone that may actually be true but doesn’t need to be said, but said for the purpose of tearing that person down. Prov. 21:9, 19
  • Do people seem to walk on eggshells around you, afraid of provoking you to typical negative comment?
  • Do you mostly criticize and not praise?
Instigating Stirs up strife or conflict; to provoke. Prov. 17:9; 23:9
  • Do you call out individuals to specifically set a certain context? (i.e., romantic relationships)
  • Are you a hype-man just shooting out “oh” to any comment that would normally be regarded as innocuous?
Sinful Speech About Others Harsh words Words spoken inconsiderate, thoughtless, reckless, imprudently, impetuously. Prov. 12:18
  • Are you brash or rough in speech?
  • Do you excuse bluntness as simply a personality trait or basis of perceived intimacy of friendship, excusing a lack of discernment in words and tone?
Joking or sarcasm Crude or coarse humor (words or actions/pranks) intended to amuse oneself at the expense of others (ridiculing, putting down, belittling, provoking a response, etc.). Prov. 26:18-19
  • Do you find your jokes often hurting others?
  • Have they been the source of conflicts or misunderstandings leading to conflicts?
  • Do you often excuse the shock value of your words by saying that you’re only joking?
Insults To wound, put to shame, humiliate, disrespect, dishonor. Matt. 5:22
  • Do you directly insult others without remorse?
Discourage To put down, shut out, or sadden Num. 13:31-14:4
  • Do your words remove biblical hope from someone?
Boasting To exalt self above others, and to belittle others Luke 18:11
  • Are you the hero of your stories?
  • Do you make comments to compete with others (e.g., you slept for 5 hours? I slept for 3 hours)?
Unbiblical counsel Communicating a choice, decision, or expected response as biblical yet purely based on opinion, preference, experience, or worldliness. Job’s friends; Prov. 18:2
  • Do you misrepresent or misapply God’s Word to someone’s situation?
  • Do you counsel out of personal opinion, preference, or experience and place it as God’s standard?
Internal speech Indicting God’s character, entertaining sinful fantasies (e.g., immorality, vengeance), excusing or justifying sin, or internal complaining Prov. 20:22; Mark 2:6-7; Phil. 2:24
  • Do you think about what you would say as a comeback to insult someone?
  • Do you rationalize or make excuses to sin in your mind?

Christ’s servants are also commanded to speak sanctifying speech. In other words, as a servant or disciple of Christ, you seek to do all things, including communicating, for the glory of God. Seek to not bring reproach or stain upon the testimony of Christ with your words. Rather, be known as one filled with the sweet words of your Lord and Savior. This is not about saying sweet nothings, tickling people’s ears with what they want to hear or what makes them feel good. This is about honoring Christ and loving your neighbor. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

Some examples of sanctifying speech about others are giving the benefit of the doubt (cf. Prov. 18:13), believing (or speaking) the best about another (cf. 1 Cor. 13:7), commending others (cf. Rom. 16:1), and giving thanks to God for one another (cf. Rom. 1:8; 1 Cor. 1:4; Phil. 1:3).

Some examples of sanctifying speech to others are words that build others up (cf. Eph. 4:29; consider the timing, Prov. 27:14), encourage (cf. Acts 11:23), exhort (cf. Prov. 27:6; Heb. 10:24), comfort (cf. Prov. 15:4; 16:24; 18:23; 2 Cor. 1:3-4), confess (cf. Prov. 28:13; James 5:16), and seek understanding (cf. Prov. 15:1; 18:13). Do you build others up and encourage? Kevin DeYoung helps to describe encouragement,

Encouragement means highlighting the evidences of God’s grace in the gospel or in a gospel-centered person to the glory of God. Each part of that definition is important. Encouragement is not spotlighting a person but underlining God’s grace. It is not about commending nice people to make them feel good but about commending the work of the gospel in others to the glory of God. The definition above can help differentiate encouragement from flattery. Encouragement is based on what is true about a person. Flattery affirms through exaggeration or falsehood. Encouragement keeps human praise in proportion, lifting everything up for God’s praise. Flattery gives too much influence to human agency. Encouragement blesses for the sake of the blessed and the Blessed One. Flattery harbors ulterior motives and looks for favors or reciprocal affirmation. While God despises flattery, He delights to see Christians encourage each other. (“Encourage One Another”)

Be careful of becoming the tongue or speech police. This is first and foremost an opportunity to examine your own life and heart to discern any spiritual logs in your eyes. Take this as an opportunity for you to consider how to honor Christ with your words and love your neighbor.