Category Archives: Single’s Ministry

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.

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.

DTR Article

by Sharon Kim

DTR. A random concoction of alphabet letters? What does it stand for? Well you’re in luck, because it was defined and described on October 9, 2016 by Pastor Patrick (sermon audio found here). DTR, which can be a noun or a verb, stands for “Defining the Relationship.” It is often used as a synonym for “asking out” or the act of clarifying the relationship between a guy and a girl when one or both parties suspect that they have become more than friends. This sermon in particular defined what a God-honoring vs. flesh satisfying-relationship would look like.

Relationships are not perfect, which can be due to preconceived unrealistic expectations. It is important – actually, ESSENTIAL – to be imbued by the Holy Spirit and to pursue/maintain a relationship that would glorify God. Because God’s way is less painful, more fulfilling, and as Pastor Patrick challenged the listeners, more romantic. More often than not, we have seen the pains of broken relationships, which is the result of sin. God has graciously and mercifully taken away our sin, and thus, He has given us the freedom to have a relationship that could be bearing the fruits of the Spirit.

So let us look to the all-sufficient Word of God, the sword of the Spirit, to battle the shortcomings of relationships. Galatians 5:19 gives us key words that describe acts and states that we should avoid because they are not God-honoring. This sermon dissects and describes each word which is meant to ask questions that can identify if someone is engaged in what is immoral, consistent strife with God… SIN.

  1. Sexual immorality, which can come in many different forms. A prevelant form that was highlighted was fornication (pre-marital sex). Are you in deed, action or thought performing an act such as this?
  2. Sensuality, which can be defined as debauchery (seduction from duty, allegiance, or virtue). Do you indulge in this?
  3. Idolatry, which can take the form of anything that takes precedence in your life over God. Is your dating relationship or even your desire to date consuming areas in your heart and mind that should be reserved for God?
  4. Sorcery is a broad term that involves steering one towards a reliance void of God. For example, the use of illicit drugs. Do you drink, smoke or use any substances that disrupt your or your dating partner’s consciousness for pleasure or escape?
  5. Enmity, which is a synonym of hatred. Can you not stand your relationship or the person you are dating?
  6. Strife, which describes quarrels, bickering and arguing. Though relationships may go through arguments, can you say that it is a consistent pattern in your dating relationship?
  7. Jealousy, a sinful reaction when sharing your partner’s time with others. Do you have a hard time sharing your partner with others and allowing them to be a blessing?
  8. Outbursts of anger includes having no control over your anger which can translate into rash speech. Do you constantly have apologize for what you have said to your dating partner?
  9. Disputes, the root cause of which is selfish ambitions, i.e., a self seeking attitude. Are there disputes in your dating relationship?
  10. Dissensions, which means to stand apart or give someone a cold shoulder. An example of this can be shown when a dating couple has broken up and have a hard time being in the same room because of the pain. Can you see this being the direction of where your dating relationship can end?
  11. Factions, which is when a dating couple separates themselves from the church and can even refuse wise counsel. Are you in this kind of position?
  12. Envy, which is another self-centered attitude where one does not rejoice of the success of others. Are you like this in your dating relationship?
  13. Drunkenness, which is defined by excessive drinking. Do you get drunk from alcohol or are you filled with the Holy Spirit?
  14. Carousing, which is similar to partying/clubbing. Is this a characteristic of your dating relationship?

Remember that there are still many more that can reveal if your dating relationship can be of the flesh rather than of the Lord.

As we continue to verse 22 to describe a relationship that is honoring to God, let us start with the foundation. Galatians 5:14b says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This means that relationships are not about you. It is not about self-fulfillment and what you want from the relationship. It should start with the thought of “How can I serve my brother or sister in Christ in love?”

Now to fruits of the Spirit:

  1. Love: This act can be shown through the choice of loving others despite their actions, speech or even looks. This is unmerited love which Christ has shown to us when He came to die for us, sinners. Do you show your dating partner this Christ-like love?
  2. Joy: Are you joyful when you are together with your dating partner?
  3. Peace: This word is something deep that can be defined as “soul satisfaction,” or a completeness. Do you both find your peace in God and see Christ as all sufficient?
  4. Patience: Do you and your dating partner not lose heart in the face of trials/hardship and continue with kindness?
  5. Kindness: Do you desire to be a blessing to others? Could you say that you two are pleasant to be around?
  6. Goodness: Can you ask yourself truthfully if you care more for your partner’s good than your own? To be good is to treat others better than yourself. This should translate in treasuring other people’s time just as much as your own.
  7. Faithfulness: Are you reliable and can be counted on? Can you say that you conduct yourself in a way that will not be considered questionable?
  8. Gentleness: Are you gentle, not condescending and taking to account the feelings of others? A good example that was presented was when Jesus was ministering to the woman at the well (John 4:7-42). The woman was in sin, but Jesus patiently and lovingly served her, which caused her to joyfully spread the news of His existence & message.
  9. Self-Control: Are you driven by your emotions? Are you rash in your decision-making?

These questions which have been formed from these few verses (and do not limit yourself to just these) are great to understand where you might stand in your dating relationship.

A Little Known Man Worth Following

by Roger Alcaraz

Not a lot is known about Epaphroditus. Even as you read his name, you might have thought, “Who?” I’m talking about the man who was sent to Paul’s imprisonment and then later was sent back to the Philippians. We read a little bit about him in Philippians 3:25 where Paul writes, “I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need.”

While we don’t know many details about him, we do know some things. We know that while Paul was in prison, the Philippian church heard of his situation and sought to help by sending money to support his ministry. The man who delivered the money was Epaphroditus (c.f. Phil 4:18) But the Philippian church instructed him not only to deliver the money but to stay and serve Paul however he needed. So he was a messenger and minister representing the church. And you can be sure that the church would have chosen a man of good character and faith to represent them.

And over time, Paul saw him not just as a messenger, but as his “brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier” (Phil 2:25). He partook the the same work as Paul, labored by his side, and endured trials together. Thus, he carried a good reputation in the church for his godliness. He had a servant mindset, and he was brave, even risking his life.

But he was also desperate–desperate to go back and see his church family. Paul writes, “for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill” (Phil 2:26). Because of his illness, Paul actually decides for him to go back. If it were up to Epaphroditus, he probably would have stayed with Paul as long as he could, because that was the nature of his commitment and servitude.

But Paul could clearly see how his being separated from his church family was affecting him and so he decides to send him back, but look closely at the wording for the reason he wants to go back so badly. It reads, “for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death.”

It’s not because he was sick that he wants to go back, but because the church heard that he was sick. That is quite a selfless love–that in his pain, he would be focused on how his pain is affecting others rather than himself.

I think most of us are the opposite. The more natural thing to do when we’re suffering is to focus on how our suffering is affecting us and how others ought to be serving us. Now granted, our suffering will primarily affect ourselves, but that doesn’t mean it has to be our primary concern.

For Epaphroditus, he missed his church very much. But what he missed more than the blessings he would receive from them were the blessing he could offer to them.

That was why he wanted to go back. He couldn’t bear the fact that he had been the cause of pain and worry in the church, and he so desperately wanted to go back to comfort and encourage them with the news that he’s okay.

How about you? When you’re sick for a while, are you more upset by the fact that you’re unable to minister the way you would if you were healthy, or are you upset by the thought that people should be ministering to you?

Now you might be wondering, “Wait, shouldn’t others be caring for me when I get sick?” And yes, they should. But that’s their priority; it shouldn’t be yours. And we see a perfect picture of what it looks like from both sides.

Epaphroditus fell ill, almost to the point of death, even. And yet his desire was to not cause pain by the news to his church. That was his desire. But the church said “Too bad! We’re gonna hurt along with you, and so long as you’re suffering, we’re suffering.” Each side is more concerned about the other. And this is God’s design for how we ache and suffer for one another.

Epaphroditus sets for us, a true display of love in that no matter how much he suffered, he always thought of others. And the church also displays true love in that no matter how little the person wanted them to carry his burden, they carried it. You might talk to someone who tells you of a trial in their life and they tell you not to worry about it. That is no licence for you to say, “Okay, I won’t worry about it.” Fortunately for everyone involved, God had mercy on him and on Paul who would also have experienced great sorrow if he died.

My point in all this is simple. Epaphroditus as a great man of faith and love. So much so that the church decided to send him to Paul as part of their gift to him. But his love for the church was so great that it brought anguish upon him and eventually, he had to go back to see and comfort them. He didn’t write Scripture. He didn’t perform outstanding miracles. But he serves as an example of great faith and love found in an ordinary man. And while he has mostly been forgotten throughout history, he undoubtedly received great honor from the one who matters the most. Let us follow in his footsteps and receive the same honor from Christ.

Reflection on the 2016 Singles’ Retreat

by Dawn Hwang

The 2016 Lighthouse Bible Church’s Singles Retreat was … crazy. It was busy, hectic, and tiring. My voice was gone by the first night, which I didn’t get back until the following Thursday, and I felt so physically pushed and exhausted. But at the same time, it was also incredibly fun, encouraging, and humbling. If you were to ask me would I go to retreat again, I would not hesitate to jump up and down and ecstatically scream “Yes!”

TeamFootball

This year Pastor Kurt Gebhards, visiting us all the way from Chicago, spoke on the topic of the Lord’s prayer under the theme “The Disciple’s Prayer.” He broke down Matthew 6:9-13 verse by verse and delivered four messages titled (1) Communion with the Father, (2) Commission with the Father, (3) Provision of the Father, and (4) Protection of the Father.

We are disciples of Christ and as a disciple, prayer is an intrinsic part of our lives. The disciple’s prayer, the Lord’s prayer is so familiar to us that we often tend to skip over the beauty and glory of it. Pastor Kurt focused on the implications of the Lord’s prayer and the importance of it for us as disciples.

The first session was on Communion with the Father (Matthew 6:9). During this session, Pastor Kurt challenged us on how we view and value our time in the word. We throw out the terms “quiet times,” “devos”, “devotions” and “DTs” left and right, but what is at the heart of these words? Communion. He explained the importance of relishing our time with the Father and the detrimental repercussions of not doing so, likening it to cutting off our own limbs when we relinquish this time. God has done all that He could to procure our communion with Him and we just want to microwave it instead of slow cooking our time with Him.

The second session seamlessly continued from the first session with the topic, Commission with the Father (Matthew 6:10). Jesus gives us the consequences of communion. When we are able to slow cook our communion with the Father, we find our identity and with any identity comes an activity. Our identity is grounded in Christ and this should and will lead to activity. When Jesus was here on Earth, He took care of everything and He was the Light. But now that He’s in heaven, we are the light of the world. He uses us to do His mission and what an honor that is! Communion and commission work together beautifully and we have to ask ourselves, what are our current commitments to the Great Commission?

The third session was on the Provision of the Father (Matthew 6:11). For someone living in the 1st century, this part of the prayer could have applied quite literally but how does this apply to us, 21st century Americans? The fundamental message that Jesus is telling us to ask for God to provide for us. We all know that our God is a good God and He is a gloriously good provider, but do we really understand and view Him in this way? Pastor Kurt’s challenge allowed us to reflect on whether or not we could genuinely trust that even through all that we’ve gone through, we’re going through, and will go through that God is good.

Pastor Kurt concluded the series of messages with the Protection of the Father (Matthew 6:12-13). We are called to live a perfect life and Jesus is the standard, but we fail thousands of times a day. Every single sin is a debt and when we sin against God, we take something away from Him. Our debt is massive but hallelujah! It is forgiven. The answer to all of these prayers is God, Himself. It’s not about what can God do for me, but that God Himself is what we need. In order to understand the protection of the Father, it’s exceedingly important that we understand justification.

TeamBaseball

It doesn’t end there! Not only were the sessions awesome, but everything in between was also really great. This year, I had the opportunity to serve as a team captain (woot woot Team Baseball!) and I learned so much through this experience. When I first got my list of teammates, I was somewhat overwhelmed with not personally knowing a good portion of my team as we had Lighthouse Bible Church San Jose and Orange County joining us for retreat. But God is gracious and He showed me so much love through all the people around. It was great getting know to people from the various Lighthouse churches and fellowship was so sweet. The feeling of being overwhelmed quickly dissipated and throughout the retreat, my love for everyone, not just those from San Diego, grew. It was encouraging to see people mingling, learning from each other, being vulnerable with each other, and challenging each other. We were able to witness people who didn’t know anything about each other form a relationship on the sole foundation of Christ.

This retreat was such a good reminder of God’s goodness and as I mentioned earlier, if I could attend retreat again, I would jump at the opportunity.

What Kept Jesus on the Cross?

by Roger Alcaraz

Last year, our college ministry tabled at UCSD during Triton Day. It’s an event where all of the school clubs get to advertise to the incoming students. Coincidentally, our church was right next to the Atheist Club. And I was curious what the club does since it centers around a non-belief, but I found out they like to watch debates, specifically those against Christianity. And after talking with them, I came to the conclusion that this club wouldn’t have been started apart from Christianity because their main focus wasn’t to attack God in general but to attack Christ. The atheist club should have more accurately been named, the Anti-Christian Club.

But this is nothing new. People have always hated Jesus since the time of his ministry. While he was on Earth, the Jewish leaders saw Jesus as a threat to their power and tried to get rid of him. They tried various tactics, but eventually realized that the only way to get rid of Jesus was to kill Him. So they devised a plan and this eventually led to his death on the cross.

While on the cross, spectators had the opportunity to hurl insults and even taunt Jesus. Luke 23:35 gives the following account: “And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!’”

The claim was, “He saved others; let him save himself.” So the question then is, why didn’t Jesus save himself? In other words, what kept Jesus from coming down from the cross?

Was It the Nails?

Some would argue that the reason he couldn’t save himself was because Jesus was just a man, like any other. So of course he couldn’t save himself, he didn’t have the power to. But Scripture tells us the opposite. Jesus did the impossible and he did it with plenty of witnesses.

He once told the storm to be still and the winds immediately obeyed his words. Later, 5,000 of his followers got hungry, so Jesus took a small amount of bread and fish and multiplied them to be able to feed them all. On multiple occasions, Jesus visited crowded funerals and raised the dead. Other times he gave sight to the blind, healed the leper, and commanded paralytics to walk and they would instantly obey. Jesus was so popular that people came from all over Israel to be healed. Even Romans were coming to him, believing he had amazing power. And his power extended over spirits as even demons obeyed his every word and even trembled at his mere presence.

Clearly, Jesus proved himself to be a powerful man, capable of controlling spirits, nature, even life itself. The clearest explanation for this is that he is God incarnate. All this is to say that we’re dealing with someone who, if he wanted to, could have easily pulled himself off the cross. So again I ask, what kept him there?

Was It Our Sin?

Maybe you’ve heard before that it was our sin that nailed him to the cross and kept him there. And I think there is an element of truth behind that statement. What is true is that Jesus’ death on the cross was necessary for salvation. We have all sinned and deserve death. But God has allowed for someone to stand in our place. And Jesus Christ is the only acceptable sacrifice that can remove God’s wrath from coming to us because he alone is perfect.

And so it’s true–if we had not sinned, then there would be no need for Christ to die, so it is really our sin that nailed him to the cross. But here is where the answer falls short of answering the question, “What kept Jesus on the cross?” God was never obligated to save anyone. He could have looked at sinful humanity and decided to simply condemn us. This would have been the easier option for him. And he would have been perfectly just to do so.

In fact, 2 Peter 2:4 tell us that this is what God did with the angels. It says, “God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell.” That could have been us. So then, Jesus certainly was powerful enough to remove himself from the cross, and God was under no obligation to save mankind. Then why didn’t he save himself? Why did he instead say, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing?” as he continued to bear the wrath of sin?

It Was Love

Before Jesus was handed over to be crucified, knowing he only had a few hours left, he fervently prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 26:39). It’s here where we begin to see why Jesus went and stayed on the cross. It’s because God the Son, loved God the Father. Jesus submitted to not his own will, but to the will of the Father and obeyed him to the point of death, even death on a cross.

In John 10:18, Jesus talks about his impending death, saying, “This charge I have received from my Father.” Thus Jesus was commanded by the Father to die on behalf of humanity. And the reason for Christ’s obedience was his love. Later, while Jesus is speaking again on his imminent death, he says, “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father” (John 14:31).

Perhaps it’s expected that the Son loves the Father, but amazingly, mankind is also the recipient of Christ’s great love. Romans 5:8 is one of my favorite passages of the whole Bible because it speaks of the superior nature of God’s love. It reads, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Incredible! God loves sinners! Which tells you that God’s love is not something we earn or could ever deserve. We might think that God should love us because we’re used to thinking of ourselves as lovable, good people. But in God’s eyes, we are sinners. Even so, the good news of it all is that he still loves us. The good news is that his love has nothing to do with anything we have done, but it has everything to do with who God is. God is love. He is the very definition of love.

This is ultimately what kept Jesus from saving himself: his love for the Father, and his love for sinners. And so he provided a way of salvation by paying the ultimate sacrifice. Praise Jesus Christ for his love!

Beware of Complaining

by Roger Alcaraz

There’s a lot in the world we can complain about. From the tragic to the trivial. From a broken heart to a broken pencil. And the truth is, we will always have an excuse to complain, even if we have to make one up.

I think even if we were to go to heaven in our unglorified state, we would still complain, much like the fallen angels did before us. Adam and Eve lived in a world without sin, and yet Eve was tempted to believe God was holding out on her, and so she complained in her heart about God. It goes to show you that mankind’s attempt to better the world so that we have less to complain about is futile. We will never stop complaining as long as we are able, even in a perfect world.

Complaining is so easy to do, and many of us probably do it without even noticing. But complaining will only bring you more heartache, and it goes directly against God’s commands. Furthermore, it could be what prevents others from coming to know Christ. Philippians 2:14-15 commands us to “do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”

The application from this passage is pretty obvious: to do all things without grumbling or disputing. And I doubt this command is new to you. Even if you grew up in a non-Christian home, you were probably told to stop complaining. Yet chances are, even as a Christian, you still complain. But Paul understood that we need proper motivation when trying to obey God’s commands, so he spends less time giving this command and more time explaining why it’s so important for us as believers.

Being Blameless Before God

It may not seem like much to grumble. Maybe it’s something you think you should stop doing, but it’s not hurting anyone, so why the rush? If so, you need to look at what God says about complaining.

Jude wrote to encourage Christians to contend for the faith, especially against false teachers because “certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). Jude goes on to reveal that a severe judgement awaits these false teachers “It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him’” (Jude 14-15). And so who are these ungodly sinners whom God will execute judgement on? “These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires” (Jude 16).

And so the grumblers and malcontents mentioned in verse 16 are actually the false teachers mentioned in verse 4. Now that might not make sense to you because when you think of false teacher, you think someone who spreads lies and heresies. How is this the same as someone who complains? But think about it–if you complain, you are actually teaching. And when you complain, you’re teaching that Christ is not enough. You might even be teaching that God himself is not good. When you complain, you teach this to yourself, and if you complain to others, you spread your teaching to them, as well.

It’s tempting to want to complain about our situation, but if we trust that God is sovereign and has placed us where we are for our good, there will be no room for complaints. Instead of complaining, we are to be content whether we have much or whether we have little, and whether we like our circumstances or not. And as a result of our refusal to complain, we will not only be happier, but more than that, the world can see Christ through our trust in God.

Shining Brightly Before Men

Going back to Philippians 2, we live in a crooked and twisted generation, and you as believers shine as light in the world. But you will ruin it all by complaining and disputing. Earlier I said that we teach people about God in the way we complain and this is most true with unbelievers.

Imagine witnessing to a friend one moment and complaining the next, perhaps over dirty dishes that your roommate left. On the one hand, you’re telling them that Christ is of the utmost importance. But on the other hand, you’re telling him Christ is only enough so long as there are clean dishes. I think they’d have trouble reconciling the difference in their mind.

It would be more consistent with the gospel message to, instead, just take your roommate’s dishes and wash them joyfully. What kind of message would that communicate to your unbelieving friend? One that says: “All I need to be happy and fulfilled in life is Jesus.” And this is over insignificant dishes; imagine how much more that message would be communicated as they see this type of attitude during a real tragedy.

Friends, the world notices how you complain and argue. Sometimes it’s done on social media where the whole world can see. But we cannot afford to persist in this sin any longer. For the sake of those who do not know Christ, we must stop complaining.

God’s Broken Image

by Sean Chen

In the Lord of the Readers book club, we’ve been studying The Christian Life. Upon reading chapter 2, I was struck by the title— “God’s Broken Image.” I initially thought to myself, “God is perfect. How could His image be tarnished?” Sinclair Ferguson clearly illustrates how our sins dishonor the image of God. According to scripture, the effects of our sins disintegrate our relationships with God, our fellows, the world around us and ourselves. Sin is missing the target which God has appointed, and falling short of the glory of God which we were created to enjoy (Romans 3:23). Naturally, we not only deviate from the right path but also rebel against our rightful and loving King. Consequently, we find ourselves as traitors to the goodness of God (Romans 3:10-18), guilty in the presence of the Eternal Judge.

1. The image of God defaced

Genesis 1:26-27 introduces us the image-bearer of God—man. The image of God probably means that God originally made man to reflect his holy character and his position as bearing rightful rule over all his creation. In that respect he is like God. From the first moment of man’s sin (Genesis 3), however, God’s gracious plan is distorted, accompanied by a change in the image of God.

Fallen man is essentially an affront to God. He takes all that God has lavished upon him to enable him to live in free and joyful obedience, and he transforms it into a weapon by which he can oppose his Maker. The magnitude of his sin is also the measure of his need for salvation. The wonder of God’s saving purpose lies in the fact that he longs more than we imagine to restore what has been lost. But the old creation must pass away, and a new one must be established; what was lost in Adam must be restored in Christ if there is to be any hope of sharing the glory of God from which we have fallen.

2. Man under the dominion of sin and death

The threat of sin and death appears early in the narrative of Genesis; Satan came in serpent-guise to destroy the divine-human fellowship. He attacked the promise that man would come under the dominion of death (Genesis 3:4). He also undermined the goodness of God by his suggestion that God grudged their presence in his garden (Genesis 3:4-5). The rest of Genesis 3 narrates the sad tale of man’s yielding to temptation to sin. The same truth appears in the teaching of Jesus (John 8:34). Paul emphasizes the same point in Romans; the references to sin in the Greek are usually to The Sin, as though it had taken on personal characteristics (Romans 5:12-6:23). As a result, men are powerless (Romans 8:6-7), yet “the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19).

3. Man guilty before God

Not only does man suffer the consequences of sin in human misery, but he comes under the condemnation of God. In Romans 2:1-16, Paul outlines the principles which God employs in coming to a verdict on our lives. He shows that God’s judgment is always according to truth and reality (verse 2) that is given in accordance with works (verse 6), and also is tempered by the light of revelation which men have received (verses 12-15). It is a judgment which will be administered through Christ (verse 16) and therefore will take into account all the secrets of men’s hearts. Paul demonstrates the guilt of all men before God. By the standard of Christ’s life we are guilty sinners. Every mouth will be closed and all men will be declared guilty before God (Romans 3:19). Apart from Christ, “the wrath of God remains” (John 3:36).

4. Man in the grip of Satan

The light shows the true nature of the darkness. In the full light of Christ, Satan is drawn out into the open, unmasked and identified. Men are seen not only as living a lifeless death in sin, dominated by the course and fashions of this world, but are described as being under the dominion of the devil (Ephesians 2:1-3). John describes Satan as the “prince of this world,” suggesting that the whole world lies in his power (1 John 5:19). The ultimate tragedy of man’s self-understanding is that he believes himself to be free, has all the feelings of a free agent, but does not realize that he is a slave to sin and serves the will of Satan.

In order to escape the grip of Satan, the gospel exemplifies our needs:

  1. We need re-creation by Christ in order that the image of God, once distorted by sin, may be restored.
  2. We need deliverance from the dominion of sin in order that we may live freely for God.
  3. We need to be rescued from the power of Satan so that our lives may be given to Christ the Lord as his glad bondslaves.
  4. We need to be saved from the wrath of God so that, released from this most terrifying of all prospects, we may live the life of forgiven sinners.

Salvation

We will never properly understand the work of God which takes place in the Christian life unless we first of all have some kind of grasp of why we need the grace of God. It comes to us in our sin and begins to undo what had been wrongly done in our lives in order that God’s image may be restored. But the Bible pronounces us already to be, in Christ, what we will be only when we are transformed into his perfect image (1 John 3:1-3). Our newness does not only reflect what Adam was in the presence of God and what he would have been had he continued in obedience. The gospel does not make us like Adam in his innocence—it makes us like Christ, in all the perfection of his reflection of God.

This is the essence of the salvation Christ provides (Romans 8:29). He came into the world as the Second Man, the Last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45, 47). Out of his perfect reflection of the image of God we may draw by the power of the Holy Spirit. We share in his death the freedom from the dominion of sin (Romans 6:10). Under him we shelter from the wrath of God, knowing that he bore our guilt (Galatians 3:13). He became sin for us although he himself knew no sin, so that in him we might be made the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). He died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). On the cross he triumphed over Satan, and exposed him as our enemy (Colossians 2:15). In his name therefore we may also conquer (Revelations 12:10). Christ is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). All we shall ever need we will find he supplies by his grace.

A Guide to Counseling One Another

by Roger Alcaraz

So you’re at church on Sunday and everything is going peachy as you’re getting to know some of the newer faces of the church. You find yourself bonding with a younger member who reminds you of yourself from 5-10 years ago–perhaps they’re even struggling through some of the same issues that you once did. You pray with them and tell them if they ever need someone to pray with, to find you. Then they ask you the all terrifying question: “Can we meet up regularly?”

Gulp. “Regularly?” I mean, praying with them is one thing, but how would you go about counseling them week to week? Well, I hate to break it to you, but as the church gets bigger, the more impossible it becomes for the leaders to counsel everyone. And so the church must rely on its members (including you if you’re part of Lighthouse) to point each other to Christ, to shoulder one another’s burdens, and weep with those who weep.

But if you’ve never done this, it could be a daunting task. Heck, I’ve done it many times and I still get scared. Questions run through my mind like, “Do I have the time to invest in this person’s life? What if the situation is more than I know how to handle? What if I make things worse?” Still, I trust God with all of those things and find the experience rewarding every time. So even if you’ve never regularly counseled someone, I encourage you to serve the church in this way. And to help you in this, I’ve written out some steps to guide your times together in counseling.

Gain Involvement

Interestingly, your very first goal as a counselor is to gain involvement—establish the kind of relationship with the individuals that they tell their problems honestly and honestly take the counseling to heart. Without this, there is a lack of trust and the counseling becomes questionable for the individuals. I cannot emphasize this enough. If the counselee doesn’t trust you, they will likely hide their deep struggles from you. And even if you manage to draw them out, they will likely ignore any counsel you give. So building trust is a must.

Gather Data

Next, you need to gather data that would allow him to understand the individuals and the problem as much as possible. This should be done regardless of how well you think you understand the person or the situation because there will always be new things revealed that will affect how you counsel. Often times, gathering data is done by asking a lot of questions. The questions range from focusing on what happened, to why it happened, to how the person felt when it happened, all to gain clarity on the situation. It may seem like a tedious time and perhaps even a waste of time, but you should not feel bad if you spend a majority of your early sessions just asking questions and learning. Data gathering can also be used to gain involvement and trust from the individual. It can also be used to know just what homework to assign. Overall, it sets the foundation for the rest of the time with the individual and helps make all those times profitable. Once the you feel confident that you have all the relevant data, you must then proceed to interpreting that data.

Give Hope

After this, you need to give hope. It starts as early as the first session because most people who come for counseling are lacking hope. It is your job to offer the hope that can only come from God and his word. Look for the promises God gives concerning their situation and continually remind your counselee of them. They might be comforted by God’s word, but it’s up to you to have them meditate on Scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to bring about change.

Provide Instruction

After all of this, you are finally ready to provide instruction from God’s word. The warnings in Scripture towards those who teach should cause a healthy fear during this time. Hopefully, by this point, you understand the person you’re counseling and the situation in full to know how to instruct. The most important thing to consider is that your instruction is biblical. For this, it’s helpful to categorize your instruction as either a biblical mandate (such as avoiding fornication), or a helpful instruction (such as setting a curfew in dating). The difference between the two is whether or not Scripture commands it. Disobeying would then be a sin. But our instruction can also include things that would serve as a help to our counselee, even though Scripture doesn’t directly command it. But we should always make the distinction clear to our counselee so we don’t promote legalism (the idea that if we follow man made rules, we’re more righteous before God). The helpful instruction we give is meant to help people obey biblical mandates.

Assign Homework

In school, homework is used to improve one’s ability to perform some task and it is also used to mark progress. The same can be true for homework regarding one’s spiritual life. More than just the need for homework is the need for specific homework. The difference between that and vague homework is that specific homework can be monitored and directly measured. For example, for someone who is struggling with selfishness, homework that consists on putting others’ needs before your own is vague. What does it mean to put someone’s need before your own and how would one be sure it was done? However, more helpful homework would be to require the person to treat three people out for a meal or ask five people for prayer requests and praying with them. The difference is that at the end of the week, one can be sure whether or not the homework was done. This allows you to provide greater accountability, and give the counselee a time to build better habits. This is all aided with the use of specific homework, cleverly chosen according to the need of the counselee.

Single Life Update

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:1-5)

by Kevin Tse

In Roger’s update last month he excitedly revealed that we’ll be going over Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi for the upcoming new year in Single Life. When Roger first brought up the idea of going through the book of Philippians, I could tell he was really excited to share with us how God’s Word instructs us on how to live a joyful life in Him. But I know Roger is equally excited (and I am too) to go over passages like Philippians 2 where Paul reminds the church at Philippi how they ought to treat one another.

Paul reminds the Philippians that because of their common bond in Christ, and their confession of faith in the same Gospel, they ought to love one another as Christ did (v5). Paul outlines what sacrificial love looks like, which is to regard others are more important than yourself (v3). He reminds us also that we ought not to be selfish (v2), but that we ought to look out also for the interests of others (v4). I’m sure this is a section of scripture that is very familiar to us, and many of us have probably even heard it exposited before. But the challenge is always to put what you hear into practice. After all, a change of heart is only complete once we are obediently acting on the Word of God. As it pertains to Philippians 2, the question we have to ask ourselves is: “What am I doing to think of others ahead of myself?”

The new year is going to bring with it new comers. They’ll probably get the bulk of the attention since (generally) we all like to meet new people. We especially get excited to meet those who we could see spending time with outside of church because they share some common interest(s) with us. While taking the time to get to know new comers is a potentially good application of regarding another as more important than yourself, be careful not to only seek out those with similar interests and backgrounds. In fact, if you think about it, by only spending time with those who are like you, you have really done nothing sacrificial at all. You’ve merely found another way to love yourself, by surrounding yourself only with people who like the things you already like to do anyway.

This might sound like a harsh rebuke, and well….it is. We (myself included) all enjoy spending time with those who are similar to us. Ethnic churches, in large part, exist because people have a hard time relating to people who are different than them. Cliques often exist for the same reason, whether intentionally or not, and are a means of keeping others out of our exclusive club. If Christ loved even His enemies, we cannot claim to be living Christ-like lives if all we end up doing is loving others whom we find easiest to love.

True sacrificial love, which looks to the interest of others ahead of ourselves, is when we go out of our way to get to know somebody who is very different than us. They might look and dress kind of funny, smell a little nasty, or act with very awkward mannerisms. And yet, if they are in Christ, they have a common testimony of faith in the same saving Gospel. We need to love them as Christ has loved us (and we all know how unlovable we were before God saved us).

As we go through the book of Philippians, in addition to learning about how to be joyful in the Lord, I challenge us all to reach out to those whom we don’t know very well. This includes the new comers, but also the old timers. People who have been around at the church for a while who you still do not know (or choose not to hang out with because they’re different) are just as blessed by your sacrificial love as any new comer. Look to the interests of others ahead of yourself, and step out of your comfort zone, and go show love to somebody at church who you really don’t know well. Christ did this by humbling Himself, taking on the form of a man, and ultimately going to the cross to die for His enemies.

If we can all reach out to at least one person who we don’t know well this year, just think of how much encouragement we can spread through the Single Life ministry, and maybe even to the rest of the church.

“The Gospel Wins;” let’s show the world why it wins.