Author Archives: Stephen Rodgers

Growing Pains: Fulfillment (Part 3)

by Kristen Lim

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

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

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

Redefining Greatness

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

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

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

Refocusing Ambition

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Will Sift The House Of Israel Among All Nations

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Amos 9:9

Every sifting comes by divine command and permission. Satan must ask leave before he can lay a finger upon Job. Nay, more, in some sense our siftings are directly the work of heaven, for the text says, ‘I will sift the house of Israel.’ Satan, like a drudge, may hold the sieve, hoping to destroy the corn; but the overruling hand of the Master is accomplishing the purity of the grain by the very process which the enemy intended to be destructive. Precious, but much sifted corn of the Lord’s floor, be comforted by the blessed fact that the Lord directeth both flail and sieve to His own glory, and to thine eternal profit.

The Lord Jesus will surely use the fan which is in His hand, and will divide the precious from the vile. All are not Israel that are of Israel; the heap on the barn floor is not clean provender, and hence the winnowing process must be performed. In the sieve true weight alone has power. Husks and chaff being devoid of substance must fly before the wind, and only solid corn will remain.

Observe the complete safety of the Lord’s wheat; even the least grain has a promise of preservation. God Himself sifts, and therefore it is stern and terrible work; He sifts them in all places, ‘among all nations’; He sifts them in the most effectual manner, ‘like as corn is sifted in a sieve’; and yet for all this, not the smallest, lightest, or most shrivelled grain, is permitted to fall to the ground. Every individual believer is precious in the sight of the Lord, a shepherd would not lose one sheep, nor a jeweller one diamond, nor a mother one child, nor a man one limb of his body, nor will the Lord lose one of His redeemed people. However little we may be, if we are the Lord’s, we may rejoice that we are preserved in Christ Jesus.

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A Sure Foundation

by Lisa Kohno

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Beloved Is Mine, And I Am His

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Song of Solomon 2:16-17

Surely if there be a happy verse in the Bible it is this-‘My Beloved is mine, and I am His.’ So peaceful, so full of assurance, so overrunning with happiness and contentment is it, that it might well have been written by the same hand which penned the twenty-third Psalm. Yet though the prospect is exceeding fair and lovely-earth cannot show its superior-it is not entirely a sunlit landscape. There is a cloud in the sky which casts a shadow over the scene. Listen, ‘Until the day break, and the shadows flee away.’

There is a word, too, about the ‘mountains of Bether,’ or, ‘the mountains of division,’ and to our love, anything like division is bitterness. Beloved, this may be your present state of mind; you do not doubt your salvation; you know that Christ is yours, but you are not feasting with Him. You understand your vital interest in Him, so that you have no shadow of a doubt of your being His, and of His being yours, but still His left hand is not under your head, nor doth His right hand embrace you. A shade of sadness is cast over your heart, perhaps by affliction, certainly by the temporary absence of your Lord, so even while exclaiming, ‘I am His,’ you are forced to take to your knees, and to pray, ‘Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my Beloved.’

‘Where is He?’ asks the soul. And the answer comes, ‘He feedeth among the lilies.’ If we would find Christ, we must get into communion with His people, we must come to the ordinances with His saints. Oh, for an evening glimpse of Him! Oh, to sup with Him to-night!

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God’s Wisdom for Parenting (Part 4)

by Pastor Patrick Cho

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

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

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

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

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

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

Renewing Our Minds for Rejoicing, Pt. 7 – “Think Nobly”

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 nobly or honorably. Namely, on whatever is just, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise. It’s to think thoroughly and comprehensively on them. In a sense, the rest of v.8 flows out from the very first trait, “whatever is true.” And to meditate on them is analogous to the cow pulling every ounce of nutrient from the cud. It’s like studying an object from every angle, weight, texture, characteristic, dimension, and purpose. How it reflects or refracts light. If we dwell accurately on His truth in His Word, then the fruit of our desire will be to dwell on ALL these very things. It’s interesting that the word “honorable” is also translated “dignified” in regards to a deacon’s qualification. It describes one of sober mind and character, who is worthy of respect. He does not treat serious things lightly, or inappropriately. It pictures a man who is joyful and pleasant to be with, yet simultaneously dignified. Therefore, such a person dwells on what is right and pure, seeking purity and holiness in all areas of thought, speech, action, and motive. We are to have nothing to do with evil. We’re to dwell on what is morally lovely and pleasing to our Creator, whether it’s caring for the poor, being gracious, mortifying sin, serving the body of Christ sacrificially, or dwelling on the strengths rather than the weaknesses of people. It may include contemplating the aesthetically lovely, appreciating His physical creation, grace, and will.

So any and all that is truly excellent, worthy of God’s praise should not be left out of our active and thoughtful meditation. Thus, v.8 is a stunning portrait of how we must think. And how we now can think, by God’s enablement! It’s helpful to notice that when we’re dwelling on these 8 filters in v.8, that Jesus Himself is all of these things, isn’t He? So, it’s instructive for us to think that He is the one we are to put our minds on! Jesus is true. Jesus is worthy of respect. He is just, pure, lovely, kind, gracious, of good report. So, it’s a good exercise to fill our minds and thoughts and think on Him first! We can’t think more nobly than that. Instead of thinking what a broken clay pot each of us is, may we rather dwell on what our powerful Savior can do with broken, weak clay pots like each of us! Instead of dwelling on past guilt and foolishly trying to pay God back, we can set our mind on Romans 8:1 that because of Christ alone, there is therefore now no condemnation for those who reborn in Him! We are not to be driven by guilt, but be driven by grace! When we are undergoing a severe trial, and are being tempted to believe everything can and will go wrong for us, we can repent and set our minds on Romans 8:28. When we’re so discouraged that we won’t ever learn to be content, we can set our minds on His promise of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things (including learning contentment) through Christ who strengthens me.” We can set our minds on heaven. We can take control of our thought life and take more control of what influences our thought life.

As whatever is true speaks positively, in regards to our flesh, whatever is noble speaks negatively. Let me explain. The weight of dwelling on these 8 positives demands the active rejection of the negative, in terms of input. Listen carefully to the logical inversion of v.8, “Finally brothers, whatever is untrue, whatever is dishonorable, whatever is unjust, whatever is impure, whatever is unlovely, whatever is uncommendable, if there is anything NOT morally excellent, if there is anything unworthy of praise, DO NOT THINK about these things!” Do not think about those things! To “put on” means we have to also “put off.” Paul instructs, if one was previously a thief, that it’s not to enough to just stop stealing. Don’t just “put off” stealing, but “put” on “being generous”. It means we say “yes” to godly things, not merely say “no” to ungodly things. We replace them with noble things, more satisfying things, as the former loses its appeal. Thus, in order to put off, we often have to first put on! If we’re not actively dwelling on what is pleasing to the Lord, the vacuum of our minds will be filled by the anti-God thinking of the world. The world system preaches that we ought to dwell on the opposite of what is noble. As F.F. Bruce warned, “If the mind is dyed the color of its waking thoughts, then what one thinks about gives character to life. As good food is necessary to bodily health, so good thoughts are necessary for mental and spiritual health.”

When our thoughts are sloppy, when they become saturated with error, we don’t think nobly, or logically. But we are prejudiced by embracing arguments on the grounds of “eloquence”. The more something “sounds” convincing to our flesh, we rush in as fools. It’s kind of like evaluating a car based only upon the one factor of its paint color?! But that’s what we do. Because we hear a convincing argument, “Wow, I can, I could… I will.” We are also prejudiced by the things we are already thinking, because the problem isn’t ultimately with the thought… but with us the thinker! We prefer the easier, more pleasurable road. We hate feeling humbled, feeling bad, by any accurate self-lowering truth. We are prejudiced by our past experiences, being slow to believe truth or slow to disbelieve error, because it either clashes with our comfort, or revives a bad memory. Why? Well, we’re sympathetic on one level, because we all understand what it means to be a sinner, or to be deeply hurt in the past. But, why? Because our pride. We’re fond of ourselves, we flatter ourselves, thinking arrogantly that we’re better than others, when we’re totally never and not. Our remaining flesh always loves opportunities for our self-exaltation.

If we take sanctification seriously, we would do well to hit the OFF button, instead of entertaining sin so nonchalantly, just because we’re immersed in the culture. I know we can’t control everything we see or hear, like freeway billboards I don’t want my kids to see. But, do we do enough in response? And I’m speaking to those who might regard themselves as “conservatives”, because that’s all relative… when God’s holiness is absolute. A solid daily dose of God’s Word, read and prayed, goes a long way, but neglect of our devotional life reaps what it doesn’t sow. The kind of tv shows, movies, plays, media we watch. The places we visit and drag our children to be exposed to. The internet sites we visit, the eroticized, the violent, the intolerant of Jesus. We might laugh at things we shouldn’t be laughing at, so that the minds of countless professing believers are sub-Christian in their thinking. A.W. Tozer was prophetic when he warned of the moral downgrade infiltrating the church decades ago:

The cult of Eros is seriously affecting the church. The pure religion of Christ that flows like a crystal river from the heart of God is being polluted by the unclean waters that trickle behind the altars of every abomination that appear on every high hill and under every green tree from New York to Los Angeles. The influence of the erotic spirit is felt almost everywhere in evangelical circles. Much of the singing in certain types of meetings has in it more of romance than it has of the Holy Ghost. Christ is courted with a familiarity that reveals a total ignorance of who He is. It is not the reverent intimacy of an adoring saint, but the impudent familiarity of a carnal lover.

Harsh? Psalm 101:2-3 challenges, “I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.” Jesus said in Matthew 5:29, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”

As Christians, we “know” these things. Nevertheless. Let me ask each of us. Do you functionally think that spending more time in the Word will cause you to miss out on something better? Do you think, in terms of practice, that by spending more time in the Word and prayer somehow you will experience less happiness or less productivity? In reality, that’s exactly how many of us think. When I’m really busy, and outside demands are being pressed on my life, I am tempted to think that way. “Ah, I’ll get to it later.” No, it’s the first priority! Not just first priority, but it must be given our best thinking, best efforts, best thoughts, and best affections each and every day. In fact, the irony is that we’ll be more productive and joyful if we do prioritize our daily communion with Him. The problem is that we believe the lie. Otherwise, we’d be hungrier. We would know the Word more, be more powerful spiritually, more fruitful, bolder in evangelism, more content, more sensitive to sin, less stressed, godlier, and more joyful. The Word and prayer, the apostles gave them priority… those are OUR weapons for joy, at our full disposal. It is not just an apostolic thing, but given for every Christian! But the lazier we are with them, the more we lack peace, the more we escalate conflict, the more we drain ministry resources, the more ineffective our witness, the more unfulfilled, discontent, and depressed we can become. Spurgeon encourages this way, “The way to get a mind worth having is to get one stored with things worth keeping.” We are to dwell nobly on Him.

And They Were All Filled With The Holy Ghost

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Acts 2:4

Rich were the blessings of this day if all of us were filled with the Holy Ghost. The consequences of this sacred filling of the soul it would be impossible to overestimate. Life, comfort, light, purity, power, peace; and many other precious blessings are inseparable from the Spirit’s benign presence.

  • As sacred oil, He anoints the head of the believer, sets him apart to the priesthood of saints, and gives him grace to execute his office aright.
  • As the only truly purifying water He cleanses us from the power of sin and sanctifies us unto holiness, working in us to will and to do of the Lord’s good pleasure.
  • As the light, He manifested to us at first our lost estate, and now He reveals the Lord Jesus to us and in us, and guides us in the way of righteousness. Enlightened by His pure celestial ray, we are no more darkness but light in the Lord.
  • As fire, He both purges us from dross, and sets our consecrated nature on a blaze. He is the sacrificial flame by which we are enabled to offer our whole souls as a living sacrifice unto God.
  • As heavenly dew, He removes our barrenness and fertilizes our lives. O that He would drop from above upon us at this early hour! Such morning dew would be a sweet commencement for the day.
  • As the dove, with wings of peaceful love He broods over His Church and over the souls of believers, and as a Comforter He dispels the cares and doubts which mar the peace of His beloved. He descends upon the chosen as upon the Lord in Jordan, and bears witness to their sonship by working in them a filial spirit by which they cry Abba, Father.
  • As the wind, He brings the breath of life to men; blowing where He listeth He performs the quickening operations by which the spiritual creation is animated and sustained.

Would to God, that we might feel His presence this day and every day.

6.19a

Personal Training

by Roger Alcaraz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Am Come Into My Garden

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Song of Solomon 5:1

The heart of the believer is Christ’s garden. He bought it with His precious blood, and He enters it and claims it as His own.

  • A garden implies separation. It is not the open common; it is not a wilderness; it is walled around, or hedged in. Would that we could see the wall of separation between the church and the world made broader and stronger. It makes one sad to hear Christians saying, ‘Well, there is no harm in this; there is no harm in that,’ thus getting as near to the world as possible. Grace is at a low ebb in that soul which can even raise the question of how far it may go in worldly conformity.
  • A garden is a place of beauty, it far surpasses the wild uncultivated lands. The genuine Christian must seek to be more excellent in his life than the best moralist, because Christ’s garden ought to produce the best flowers in all the world. Even the best is poor compared with Christ’s deservings; let us not put Him off with withering and dwarf plants. The rarest, richest, choicest lilies and roses ought to bloom in the place which Jesus calls His own.
  • The garden is a place of growth. The saints are not to remain undeveloped, always mere buds and blossoms. We should grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Growth should be rapid where Jesus is the Husbandman, and the Holy Spirit the dew from above.
  • A garden is a place of retirement. So the Lord Jesus Christ would have us reserve our souls as a place in which He can manifest Himself, as He doth not unto the world. O that Christians were more retired, that they kept their hearts more closely shut up for Christ! We often worry and trouble ourselves, like Martha, with much serving, so that we have not the room for Christ that Mary had, and do not sit at His feet as we should.

The Lord grant the sweet showers of His grace to water His garden this day.

6.18p

Small Group: Life on Life Discipleship

by Josh Liu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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