Author Archives: Stephen Rodgers

Yea Rather, Blessed Are They That Hear The Word Of God, And Keep It

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Luke 11:27-28

It is fondly imagined by some that it must have involved very special privileges to have been the mother of our Lord, because they supposed that she had the benefit of looking into His very heart in a way in which we cannot hope to do. There may be an appearance of plausibility in the supposition, but not much. We do not know that Mary knew more than others; what she did know she did well to lay up in her heart; but she does not appear from anything we read in the Evangelists to have been a better-instructed believer than any other of Christ’s disciples. All that she knew we also may discover. Do you wonder that we should say so? Here is a text to prove it: ‘The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.’

Remember the Master’s words-‘Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.’ So blessedly does this Divine Revealer of secrets tell us His heart, that He keepeth back nothing which is profitable to us; His own assurance is, ‘If it were not so, I would have told you.’ Doth He not this day manifest Himself unto us as He doth not unto the world? It is even so; and therefore we will not ignorantly cry out, ‘Blessed is the womb that bare thee,’ but we will intelligently bless God that, having heard the Word and kept it, we have first of all as true a communion with the Saviour as the Virgin had, and in the second place as true an acquaintance with the secrets of His heart as she can be supposed to have obtained. Happy soul to be thus privileged!

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Good Grace to a Bad Sinner

by Roger Alcaraz

I’ve only been a pastor a few years, but one of the highlights of it is that I get to be at the membership interviews and hear people’s testimonies of how they are saved. And even in just a few years, I’ve heard a wide variety of them, ranging from 30 seconds long to two hours long, from people who were born into a Christian home to people who never even heard of Jesus until later in life, from people who lived an outwardly moral life to people who lived in open rebellion. But even with all of the details that make each testimony unique, all of them, if genuine, center around one theme and one person–the grace found in Jesus Christ. Our testimonies are amazing and I hope it’s not just something you reserve for interviews, but that you can’t help but to recount it every time the gospel message is thought of.

The apostle Paul was a man who deeply saw how the gospel changed his own life. In 1 Timothy 1:11 Paul speaks of “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” and even just the mere mention of the gospel is enough to take over his thoughts, and he can’t shake how it affects him. This is supposed to be a letter to help Timothy know how to conduct himself in the household of God, and yet the gospel is so personal to Paul that he can’t even say the word without going into his own testimony.

And throughout the next six verses, Paul recounts his former life and how God extended great mercy to him. But in the middle of it all, he says something worth taking a closer look at. He says: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” If I had only a few words to share the core gospel message, it might say exactly this. Yet for Paul, it was more than a message to spread to others; it was a message for himself.

We always ask in our membership interviews, “What is the gospel?” Maybe that’s even a question you’ve been asked by friends. And we can easily just state the facts, but for Paul, the gospel was personal. That’s why Paul goes on to say, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

He preaches the gospel message to himself because he can’t escape the idea that the gospel is, first and foremost, for him. And what this shows is that in the midst of Paul going to the ends of the earth with the gospel and sharing it with thousands of people, he’s thinking, “This gospel that I’m preaching–nobody needs it more than I do.”

I don’t think Paul was giving an objective statement that he was, indeed, the worse sinner ever, but that from his perspective, nobody needed grace more than himself. Some think that Paul is referring to his past life of sin and persecution, but that’s not the case. He doesn’t say, “of whom I was the foremost.” He says, “whom I am the foremost.” I am the foremost of sinners and I am still undeserving of salvation.

And he can have that perspective, even as an apostle writing the Word of God, because he knows the depths of his own sin and the heights of Christ’s holiness. Paul understood that Jesus had absolutely no obligation to do anything good for him. Thus, Paul could see salvation as magnificent grace, and in response his life then became all about the gospel.

There’s a good lesson for us to apply here. Paul was entrusted with the gospel message, just as we are, but as we seek to proclaim the gospel to others, the question we need to ask is, “Do we view ourselves the way Paul viewed himself?” Is the gospel more than how Christ saved sinners but how he even saved you? And do you let that impact your own life before taking it to others? I think if we’re going to make a greater impact for God’s kingdom while honoring him each step of the way, it begins with how personal we view God’s grace and how overwhelmed we are to be recipients of it. Let us learn from Paul’s example and marvel at the grace in our own lives before we seek it in others. And even as we share the gospel with others, may the world see just how astounded we are that God would save sinners like you and me.

Weekly Links (12/5/2017)

by Stephen Rodgers

I know what you’re thinking: a Weekly Links articles but it’s not a Friday? This place has totally lost the plot since Richard moved to Orange County!

Well, in this case, even Richard couldn’t have prevented the awkward timing of December’s first Friday being so close to the beginning of the month that resources weren’t even out yet. But they’re out now, so buckle up and hang on…

  • Why the Reformation Still Matters (free audiobook) – This month’s free offerring from christianaudio.com is actually pretty great. Reeves and Chester do a fantastic job of tracing the applications of church history down through the centuries to our current day. This is definitely recommended.
  • Psalms, Vol. 1: Psalms 1–41 (free Logos resource) – Boice is a great commentator, and the Psalms aren’t too shabby either. If you’re a Logos user, grab it. Don’t even think twice.
  • The Temple (free Tabletalk magazine) – I always recommend Tabletalk, and this month is no exception.
  • Themelios 42.3 (free journal) – You may want to peruse the TOC and the list of book reviews for articles that interest you, but this journal is still my go-to resource for DA Carson editorials. Don’t miss one of those.
  • Crucial Questions (28 free ebooks) – While we wouldn’t agree with RC Sproul about every particular of theology, these 28 free books are an amazing resource for just about anyone. And they’re free in every conceivable format (EPUB, Kindle, iBooks, etc.) Some are also available in Spanish!

Well there you go. That’s a pretty great haul in time for Christmas, so enjoy!

Pro Rege

Waiting For The Adoption

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Romans 8:23

Even in this world saints are God’s children, but men cannot discover them to be so, except by certain moral characteristics. The adoption is not manifested, the children are not yet openly declared. Among the Romans a man might adopt a child, and keep it private for a long time: but there was a second adoption in public; when the child was brought before the constituted authorities its former garments were taken off, and the father who took it to be his child gave it raiment suitable to its new condition of life. ‘Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.’ We are not yet arrayed in the apparel which befits the royal family of heaven; we are wearing in this flesh and blood just what we wore as the sons of Adam; but we know that ‘when He shall appear’ who is the ‘first-born among many brethren,’ we shall be like Him, we shall see Him as He is.

Cannot you imagine that a child taken from the lowest ranks of society, and adopted by a Roman senator, would say to himself, ‘I long for the day when I shall be publicly adopted. Then I shall leave off these plebeian garments, and be robed as becomes my senatorial rank’? Happy in what he has received, for that very reason he groans to get the fulness of what is promised him. So it is with us today. We are waiting till we shall put on our proper garments, and shall be manifested as the children of God. We are young nobles, and have not yet worn our coronets. We are young brides, and the marriage day is not yet come, and by the love our Spouse bears us, we are led to long and sigh for the bridal morning. Our very happiness makes us groan after more; our joy, like a swollen spring, longs to well up like an Iceland geyser, leaping to the skies, and it heaves and groans within our spirit for want of space and room by which to manifest itself to men.

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All Church Retreat Reflections: Brief Student Interviews

by Josh Liu

All Church Retreat is a special time for the whole church family to gather together for a weekend of personal fellowship and intense study of God’s Word. As the church grows (by God’s grace), these opportunities for whole-church intimacy become increasingly important. In serving in College Life, I am always encouraged by the collegians’ investment and participation in their church family.

The 2017 All Church Retreat (Nov. 3-5) focused on the theme, “The Mission Minded Church.” Tim Carns, pastor of missions and discipleship at Calvary Bible Church in Burbank, CA, gave four sessions: (1) A Mission-Minded God (Eph. 1:9-10, 4:11-16; Acts 1:8; 2 Tim. 2:2); (2) A Mission-Minded Gospel (1 Cor. 2:1-5; Zech. 4:4-7); (3) A Mission-Minded Home (Deut. 6:4-9; Ps. 78:1-8; Matt. 5:13-16); and (4) A Mission-Minded Heart (Jonah). In reflecting on the retreat and messages, here are brief interview responses from some of our students:

Abe Cheung

Pastor Tim Carns gave me a much-needed reminder that it is only the gospel that saves. No, not even vibrant and “hip” ministry events. No, not even spectacular and ear-appealing worship songs. No, not even pious and excellent conduct in the workplace. It is so easy to twist the simplicity and the beauty of the truth that the gospel saves. Sure, events, songs, and proper conduct are helpful towards the gospel ministry, but it should never replace the gospel itself. I definitely fall into this incorrect thinking too often—that Christ needs my extra work to save people. Then it becomes the gospel AND my deeds that save people. But rather it is only the gospel that saves. And I must depend upon that, not my works, to save people. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (‭‭Romans‬ ‭1:16‬ ‭‬‬‬‬‬‬‬)

Christian Cheng

Pastor Tim Carns’ message on “The Mission-Minded Home” was, for me, a much-needed reminder of God’s grace in bringing my parents to salvation and working in them to foster faithfulness in my family. Like many others who grew up in a Christian home, I went to church every week, read Christian books, and attended kid’s programs like AWANA and BSF. For many church kids, these activities feel so normal. We don’t always realize how much our parents have blessed us by fostering the attitude of a mission-minded home. However, hearing Pastor Tim emphasize the importance of teaching sound doctrine and biblical character helped me recognize how faithful my parents have been in ministering to their mission field at home. When I first started college and moved away from family, the influence they had on me became more important than ever. As a collegian, I still look back on their wisdom and teaching and apply them to the way I live my life now. I’m thankful for my family and their faithfulness, and most of all, I thank God for using them as instruments to preach the Gospel to me.

Connie Pung

This year’s All Church Retreat theme about how to be a mission minded church was a great reminder of God’s will for my life here on earth. I was reminded of how it is only by God’s grace that I am able to receive the Holy Spirit and receive salvation through Jesus Christ.
The session on how to be a mission-minded home stood out to me the most. Although I don’t have believing parents, I am still able to witness the faithfulness of the parents at Lighthouse and see how they teach their children, truly hoping to see their child know Christ. It also reminded me that my focus on evangelism shouldn’t be solely towards peers and overlook the children—they are lost souls as well in need of a Savior.

Other than the messages, I think it was just encouraging to meet other people in the church from different life stages and be encouraged by how God has been challenging them. We may not be in the same area all the time, but we are able to still share this special bond in knowing that we are God’s children and instruments in furthering His kingdom!

Hannah Tan

A convicting lesson I took from retreat this year was the necessity, urgency, and beauty of sharing the gospel, and the need to be mindful of where my hope in evangelism is founded. Oftentimes, in the workplace and at school, I have bolstered my timidity to share the gospel with the mentality that my example will be enough to show people who Christ is. In Pastor Tim Carns’ second message, he challenged this mentality by quoting Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” Pastor Tim emphasized that only the gospel, illumined by the work of the Holy Spirit, can save. I realized that to think my example alone is sufficient to bring people to Christ is to deny that the sole and sovereign work of God is the only means to salvation. I was reminded that we are not to be ashamed of the gospel, for only the gospel saves. And I was challenged to confront my Jonah-like heart, the heart that is quick to forget God’s mercy to save me, realizing that desiring salvation for and sharing the gospel with others is learning to love them more than I love my comfort.

Karen Chang

One significant lesson I learned was how the events that go on during our lives all point toward God’s greater plan. Session #1 was a huge reminder of how I have to break away from the tunnel vision I have on my own goals and desires in life to be a part of His bigger mission to preach and live the Gospel. It’s never my will that needs to be done, but His will. Ephesians 1:9-10 tells us that the mystery of His will is supposed to be revealed to us, not just figured out on our own. It is not us writing our own plans for what will happen in the future but God. All that we gain in wisdom and insight is a gift from God, and all of the actions we do and efforts we take to serve one another and/or evangelize are planned in advance by God. Therefore, I am to realize that the race we run is to fill a specific role chosen by God to see that Christ is lifted up to the ends of the earth. I pray that I can continue to prioritize Him first when managing my time, gifts, and resources so that I can fill my spot in His ongoing mission to make disciples of all nations!

Nathan Park

My most memorable moment from retreat was the encouragement and honesty that came from members of our church family during the time of sharing. Growing up, I’ve always heard the ambitious and passionate cry for missions being preached to students and children, but seeing that call for being “mission-minded” is for all of us as believers of Christ regardless of the particular life stage the person is simply a sober joy for me.

One significant lesson I learned was how the Book of Jonah turns itself to check the reader towards the end of the book. Essentially, God not only looks at the act of living “mission-minded” lives but he also checks the heart and motive to show his just mercy towards traitors and rebels like ourselves. It is by God’s grace we live “mission-minded” lives. In application of the messages I’m going to commit to praying and asking the Lord to show me areas where I am dull and careless about his mission and to turn and seek to weave Gospel-centered conversations in my own daily life. Whether working, studying, or serving, I seek to daily remember that, ultimately, we live for a “Mission-minded God.”

Zachary Preslar

This past retreat God made it evident to me that I do not simply reside at LBCSD as a student leader of College Life, but that my membership makes me part of the whole of the local church, and that I should not neglect to fellowship with the whole church body (Hebrews 10:24-25). Seeing the way our church emphasizes the wisdom of God, even to the children’s ministry has humbled me, because only in the Word can true wisdom be found. Wisdom apart from the Word is not wisdom, but foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:18-20), and God, through Sonlight, further expanded the priceless value of His wisdom to me when they led worship. God’s wisdom is timeless just as He is eternal (Psalm 102:23-28), whether you are just learning to walk or old enough to teach your little ones to walk.

Renewing Our Minds for Rejoicing, Pt. 8 – “Think Patiently”

by Pastor James Lee

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:4-8)

To think well is to think patiently, slowly, thoughtfully, over time, to “dwell on these things.” To think patiently, also means, to think persistently, faithfully, continually, consistently – we’re to ponder them without ceasing, as patience requires lots of time and humility, for we don’t get it all at once. It’s why we see things later upon restudy. The Greek word for “dwell” is logizomai which is the root word for logarithm. We need to have the same deliberate, prolonged, patient contemplation of “these things” as it takes to weigh and solve a difficult, complex mathematical problem. We don’t do that quickly, nor superficially.

Remember that 1 Cor 13 declares love is patient. So then impatience is not loving. It’s a form of self-love. Sometimes I sin against my wife Sandy when she’s talking to me, and I’m not listening or not listening well, trying to multitask. But that’s not loving her when I do that, especially when something important from her heart is being shared. The truth is that we do that with the Lord. We’re not fully there, are we? If you want an argument for the grace of God, then there’s at least one right there. He doesn’t treat believers as they deserve, and He doesn’t treat us as we treat Him. T. David Gordon wrote, “We become acclimated to distraction, to multitasking, to giving part of our attention to many things at once, while almost never devoting the entire attention of the entire soul to anything.” Wow. That’s pretty descriptive of the age and even us as Christians, who are products of this age. That’s hardly loving God with all our entire being, is it? We sort of mechanically do that. Remember who was quite good at that? The Pharisees…they were always hearing, but not understanding. They were busy in religion and life, but their hearts were far from God.

We’ve generally neglected the art of biblical meditation. We don’t seem to know what it means to be still and know that He is God. Try to convince someone you love them by giving them 10 minutes a day, or by saying the same rehearsed lines every time you speak to them? We need to concentrate and camp out in God’s Word. We need to fill up our minds with biblical truth, instead of never drawing from its deep well, with only sips, here and there, when we’re in trouble. Rather, we need to chew it over in our minds until it becomes a part of us and how we think. Gerard Chrispin says, “We read and rush off too quickly. We listen to the Bible being expounded and leave too thoughtlessly. We must meditate on these things in order to cultivate that mindset of holiness that we had been considering.” We shouldn’t be assigning “patient thoughtful mediation” such little value, while assigning greater value elsewhere. We need to make for a quiet time early in the morning, or in a private space at lunch, or in a corner of the house at night. So we’re reading and rereading, meditating, asking questions, praying over a word or phrase, contemplating a concrete application, sharing with others, and taking every thought captive to Christ! It requires us to think patiently, to think slowly, to think devotionally, and not just check it off our spiritual-to-do list.

The Puritan Isaac Watts wrote a standard introductory book on how to think in 1724. For about 200 years, it was the go-to-textbook at institutions like Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, and Yale, and is still regarded highly. The title of that book was Logic: The Right Uses of Reason in the Inquiry After Truth With a Variety of Rules to Guard Against Error in the Affairs of Religion and Human Life, as well as in the Sciences. That’s the title! Some say my sermon titles are long? Now do you think Isaac Watts knew how to mediate and think deeply? It seems so. That’s why his book has stood the test of time. Not just the content, but how it was communicated as part of the writing process. That’s why most of us can’t just read Shakespeare quickly. We have to sit there and decipher it. We don’t read poetry or philosophy like we read our daily newspaper. So when we read our Bibles, how much more we have to give patient attention to every single word, phrase, thought? In contrast, Kent Hughes says, “The greatest danger in our busy, increasingly post-literate world is that we make little or no effort to think God’s thoughts after Him, to hide His Word in our hearts so that we might not sin against Him. We cannot be profoundly influenced by that which we do not know.”

Why are we all in such a hurry? I know there is no virtue in being not busy, as we should be diligent stewards of what the Lord has entrusted to us… which is everything we have and are. So the question is what are we so busy in? Do we love Christ? Is He our all in all, sufficient for all our needs? Is He our overarching priority directing all other priorities to be subservient to His glory? Are we seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness? Or is the reflection of our lives not very different than the rest of the world… run the rat race, make money, get a home, have 2 ½ kids, or whatever else it might be? Some of us need to stop watching TV as much as we do, or some of us, perhaps frankly need to throw them away. TV as a medium is impatient and suited for the insignificant. Watching the news or reading an online article about Aleppo might inform us, sadden us, cause to pray, and I’m glad we have that access. But it’s quite different if we were there on mission or if we were to read a book, giving lengthy contemplation to what’s going on there. For example, the book by Mindy Belz, a reporter who was on the ground with fleeing refugees, titled They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. If you read that, you don’t think you’ll be profoundly affected? Don’t get me wrong, any news and prayer and care is good, because we can’t dwell on everything equally. That’s not what I’m saying. But I’m outlining what our media does…it makes those things so disposable…so sadly trivial to our hearts.

We need time to think. Anything hurried usually is shallow, declining toward the opposite of deep. It is NOT something even close to being worthy as God’s loving Revelation to us! Carl Honore in his book In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed wrote, “We live in a world of scarce understanding and abundance of information. We complain that we never have any time, yet we seek distraction. The modern storm of bits and stimulation relents only when we sleep. And only if we remember to turn off our iPhones. Lost in all of this is the art of stillness. We have come into the belief that the simple act of reading confers understanding. We rush, we skim the surface, and fail to make real connections with the world or other people. Thinking requires time and space. It’s slow. It means saying I don’t know.” It means, he says, saying I don’t know. Ultimately, it’s about humility. Listen, sports fans leave games early, no matter how close the score, just to avoid the traffic out. The curse of multitasking is that people think they’re so clever, so efficient, so modern, but all it usually means, is that they’re usually doing 2 or more things…not very well.

We’ve lost the art of doing nothing, shutting out the background noise. Did you know that “boredom” was a word that didn’t even exist 150 years ago? Somehow we say we’re so busy, but then have the gall to say we’re bored. And we get all fidgety, panicked, awkward, looking for something to do or say. We don’t like silence, whether we’re with people or whether we’re home alone. Being bored demands repentance, and I don’t say that flippantly, because you’re not then doing what God calls you to do. We should never be bored. As children of God, called to be a light to the nations, we have too much to do…to be “bored.”

Actress Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia in Star Wars, once quipped, “instant gratification takes too long.” We’re so impatient, and that’s not a fruit of the Spirit. And I’m not patient, I’m a type A, gotta do this or that, burn myself out type of person. As I age, I’m still as passionate as ever, but not only have I had to slow down and learn the sanctification of rest. I’m learning the utmost importance of quiet study, prayer, and meditation. I have to say no to say yes. Honore said, “Fast is busy, controlling, aggressive, hurried, stressed, superficial, impatient, quantity over quality. Slow is the opposite: calm, careful, receptive, caring, patient, reflective. Fast eats time. One consequence of fast is that we make poor decision after poor decision. It’s not like we make a bad decision and we’re done with it. No, they come back to haunt us, creating issue after issue.” To dwell on these things is to give thoughtful thought to, with the goal of God’s glory and the spread of the gospel! It’s not hearing a few facts from a guide as we stop to click a few photos and nod to each other “it’s so cool” while on a bus tour. It means getting out and spending time there, taking it in and allowing it to become a significant part of us. It’s to set up base camp at the foot of Yosemite Valley and marvel. Even further, it’s to explore the back country wilderness, and feel the incline and thin air, to brush against weather, hang your bear proof food canister up on a tree, lay down next to the camp fire and see a night sky like you’ve never seen it. The inverse irony of our times is that the average length of a sermon has declined 10 minutes each of the last four decades where 40 years ago the average sermon was 60 minutes, and today, it’s 20 minutes. I argue that to think that less of the Word of God is making real progress, is NOT thinking well?! That’s NOT thinking well! That’s thinking like the world. We’re all busy, but the question is with what are we busy? We should not deprioritize the Word of God and prayer, we should re-prioritize it!

John Piper urges us to swim in the deep end of the Bible, “Too many of us settle for too little from our Bible reading. Often, we are content simply to check off the box of our Bible reading, and if we come across something we don’t understand, we’ll run to a commentary or give up without a fight. The payoff of this type of shallow reading is too small. If we want to walk away from the Bible with authority in our bones like fire, we must learn to grow hungry in our Bible reading — we must learn to grow discontent with splashing in the shallows and learn to swim in the deeps. We must labor in looking at THE book.” Humility means saying I don’t know. So when we’re rushing, we’re only cultivating our arrogance towards God and man. That’s the opposite of prayerful dependence in v.6-7! Which is why I believe, we don’t pray deeply, why we don’t pray at length. It is why prayer meetings are usually small, very small, or not at all in our day… and always far less attended than Bible study. It’s our prideful independence, not prayer dependence. It is also partly why we don’t read our Bibles, or take it more seriously. Because in that prideful independence, we entertain in defiance of its very clear instructions…such “respectable sins” as bitterness, discontentment, indifference, immodesty, clear non-evangelism, laziness, neglect of fellowship, subtle greed, worldliness, etc. As Sven Birkerts warned, “The harder it is for you to slow down, the more you need to be rescued.”

Ephraim Is A Cake Not Turned

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Hosea 7:8

A cake not turned is uncooked on one side; and so Ephraim was, in many respects, untouched by divine grace: though there was some partial obedience, there was very much rebellion left. My soul, I charge thee, see whether this be thy case. Art thou thorough in the things of God? Has grace gone through the very centre of thy being so as to be felt in its divine operations in all thy powers, thy actions, thy words, and thy thoughts? To be sanctified, spirit, soul, and body, should be thine aim and prayer; and although sanctification may not be perfect in thee anywhere in degree, yet it must be universal in its action; there must not be the appearance of holiness in one place and reigning sin in another, else thou, too, wilt be a cake not turned.

A cake not turned is soon burnt on the side nearest the fire, and although no man can have too much religion, there are some who seem burnt black with bigoted zeal for that part of truth which they have received, or are charred to a cinder with a vainglorious Pharisaic ostentation of those religious performances which suit their humour. The assumed appearance of superior sanctity frequently accompanies a total absence of all vital godliness. The saint in public is a devil in private. He deals in flour by day and in soot by night. The cake which is burned on one side, is dough on the other.

If it be so with me, O Lord, turn me! Turn my unsanctified nature to the fire of Thy love and let it feel the sacred glow, and let my burnt side cool a little while I learn my own weakness and want of heat when I am removed from Thy heavenly flame. Let me not be found a double-minded man, but one entirely under the powerful influence of reigning grace; for well I know if I am left like a cake unturned, and am not on both sides the subject of Thy grace, I must be consumed for ever amid everlasting burnings.

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It Takes a Village

by Andrea Vigil-Ruiz

“It takes a village to raise a child.” This is a quote that I’ve heard in different contexts: amongst people who serve in Children’s Ministry, the church coming together to provide meals to parents of a newborn, and in informal ministry capacities where people meet together outside the church to help care for one another’s children. In all of these different contexts, the child is usually young in age, probably from about 0 to 5 years old. However, have you considered that this quote can also apply to people who are of youth age? It may sound strange that we would think of 6th-12th graders as children who need a village, but I’d like to challenge your thoughts in this area and how important of a role the church body plays in ministering to our youth aged attendees.

To help you understand why this is such an important topic for me, I’d like to share a little bit of my own experience in youth group. When I started attending the youth group at my grandma’s church, I was not a believer. My mom would drop me off at church on Fridays, we’d sing worship songs, hear teaching from Scripture, and then a married couple that was not officially on youth staff would drive me home. Looking back, I appreciate the youth staff’s faithfulness in showing up every Friday, ready to interact with me and my friends. I also really appreciate the couple that drove me home and talked to me about church and what it means to be a Christian because even though they weren’t officially on staff, they still went out of their way to take me home every single Friday. Those Friday nights in youth group were usually the times when I got to talk to people outside of my age group. It was actually encouraging to know that people who were older and weren’t in the same life stage as I am would take the time to talk to me.

Then on Sundays, it was quite different. Usually the people that I talked to and interacted with on Sundays were my friends from youth group and maybe some of my grandma’s friends (my broken Cantonese only got me so far). I have to admit, there were times when I actually felt excluded from the church. I know I wasn’t a believer back then, but not having people outside of youth group talk to me caused me to feel a bit uncomfortable. It was as if I didn’t fit in. I want to make it clear that I’m not blaming or pointing fingers at anyone. I am just sharing my personal experience in youth group to hopefully help you see why I’m writing what I’m writing.

From my experience in being a part of youth group and now being on youth staff, I have come to see that youth groups can be made up of a wide spectrum of people: people who proclaim themselves to be Christian and are learning what that means in their young life, people who have grown up in the church and are not sure where they stand in relation to God, people who admit they’re not believers, people who say they want to believe but are not sure how to, and everything else in between. If you really think about the spectrum of attendees in youth group, you’ll realize that the youth are basically just like anyone else who is attending the church, whether they’re learning how to grow in their faith or trying to figure out whether they believe in Christ or not.

Regardless of what exact category a youth fits into (because one can never fit neatly in a box, right?), the church’s body of believers has a calling. Our church’s mission statement is “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20). Christ is calling all believers to go and make disciples of all nations, and that also includes the youth here in San Diego. As a body of believers, it is crucial then that the church upholds a consistent testimony in showing those who are younger in the faith and those who do not have Christ why the gospel and ultimately Jesus is needed. This is the task that God has commanded us to do as believers.

A couple weekends ago, our church had a retreat with Pastor Tim Carns on the Mission-Minded Church. There were so many great takeaway points, but Friday night’s sermon about “A Mission-Minded God” and Sunday morning’s sermon about “A Mission-Minded Heart” stand out. In “A Mission-Minded God,” Pastor Carns referenced Matthew 28:18-20 and how we are to make disciples of Christ. But in making disciples, it doesn’t just involve evangelizing people (although that is a very important starting point). This passage also speaks to how if we want to make disciples, we as believers are to teach others to observe all that God has commanded, which means sharing what it means to live out the Christian life daily. Our youth are in a time of their lives where they are figuring out their spiritual lives. It is even more important that the church come alongside them as they go through this stage. Having other people outside of the youth staff share about how the gospel is needed and what it means to be a Christian can be beneficial because the youth will be able to see how the same message can affect so many different lives.

Then, in Sunday’s sermon “A Mission-Minded Heart,” Pastor Carns took a look at the story of Jonah. Pastor Carns pointed out that when God asks Jonah the last question in the book in Jonah 4:11, we are to ask ourselves the same question. If God was able to show mercy to the 120,000 in Nineveh, shouldn’t we be able and willing to show that same mercy to others who need Christ? This question is basically getting down to this: Do we genuinely care for others and their salvation? “Others” also includes the youth in our church.

As believers, are we also considering there are people who are always watching us, especially if we say we follow Christ? In Colossians 4:5-6, Paul gives great advice to the church in Colossae in regards to the watchfulness of unbelievers when he writes, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” Are we making the most of every opportunity we have in terms of interacting with the youth, especially knowing that some are young in their faith or do not know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior? The youth may be young, but they do notice things around them and they are indeed watching.

To sum up, youth aged church attendees are also in search of Christ and what the gospel means in their lives. Although the youth staff is designated to work with the youth, I’d like to encourage the church body to think of and pray for the youth and their salvation. Also, whenever a youth is nearby, please don’t hesitate to introduce yourself, talk to them, ask them how they’re doing, or even have conversations related to spiritual matters with them. After all, it takes a village to raise a child … even if the child is in middle school or high school.

There Is Praise In Our Pain

by Pastor Patrick Cho

As the Thanksgiving season is upon us, it reminds us to consider daily all the manifold reasons we have to praise God for His many blessings. The Apostle Paul teaches us that every spiritual blessing we enjoy is in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Of all people, we ought most to be thankful in that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have been forgiven of our sins, redeemed in Christ, reconciled to God, and made new in the Spirit. It is no wonder that Scripture commands us as Christ-followers to always be thankful (Phil. 4:6; 1 Thess. 5:18).

However, even for us who have been forgiven in Christ, it is easy to lose sight of God’s grace in our lives. It is easy to complain, become bitter, or be discontent. Of course, there are the mundane, daily distractions that war for our hearts so that we take our eyes off what is eternal and focus instead on what is temporal. But sometimes our hearts are discouraged by trials, suffering, attacks, weakness, etc., even severely. It isn’t that we are so much distracted by everyday life, but we find ourselves dealing with difficult people, conditions, or problems. How are we to be thankful then? It is in these times that obedience to this command is understandably challenging.

Praise God that even in times of trial, when we face hardship and suffering, we can still maintain a heart of thanksgiving. Scripture gives several reasons:

  1. There is purpose in our pain. We can be sure that our suffering is not in vain if we are in Christ. It is working out its purpose to shape us into the image of God’s Son (2 Cor. 4:7-11), and God is using it to mature us in faith (Rom. 5:3-5; James 1:2-4).
  2. Our painful experiences better equip us to sympathize and help others who are hurting (Rom. 12:15). It isn’t that we know exactly what they might be going through, but we do know what it means to hurt and to wait on the Lord in the midst of it.
  3. God uses our hardships to test our faith so that having passed the test, we might look forward to glory in heaven (2 Cor. 4:16-18; 1 Pet. 1:6-9).
  4. Our suffering reminds us of Christ who also suffered and sympathizes with our weaknesses and pain (Heb. 4:14-16).
  5. God uses our suffering to bring us into a more intimate relationship with Christ so that we might know Him more and understand better our union with Him (Phil. 3:7-14).

There is more revealed in God’s Word about why we ought to praise God in our pain, but these five reasons alone are sufficient to encourage our hearts. Let us trust Him who is eternally and infinitely good, even in our trials, because He is faithful and promises to work out our salvation to completion.

That Those Things Which Cannot Be Shaken May Remain

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Hebrews 12:27

We have many things in our possession at the present moment which can be shaken, and it ill becomes a Christian man to set much store by them, for there is nothing stable beneath these rolling skies; change is written upon all things. Yet, we have certain ‘things which cannot be shaken,’ and I invite you this evening to think of them, that if the things which can be shaken should all be taken away, you may derive real comfort from the things that cannot be shaken, which will remain.

Whatever your losses have been, or may be, you enjoy present salvation. You are standing at the foot of His cross, trusting alone in the merit of Jesus’ precious blood, and no rise or fall of the markets can interfere with your salvation in Him; no breaking of banks, no failures and bankruptcies can touch that. Then you are a child of God this evening. God is your Father. No change of circumstances can ever rob you of that. Although by losses brought to poverty, and stripped bare, you can say, ‘He is my Father still. In my Father’s house are many mansions; therefore will I not be troubled.’

You have another permanent blessing, namely, the love of Jesus Christ. He who is God and Man loves you with all the strength of His affectionate nature-nothing can affect that. The fig tree may not blossom, and the flocks may cease from the field, it matters not to the man who can sing, ‘My Beloved is mine, and I am His.’ Our best portion and richest heritage we cannot lose.

Whatever troubles come, let us play the man; let us show that we are not such little children as to be cast down by what may happen in this poor fleeting state of time. Our country is Immanuel’s land, our hope is above the sky, and therefore, calm as the summer’s ocean; we will see the wreck of everything earthborn, and yet rejoice in the God of our salvation.

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