Category Archives: Affinity Groups

A Sure Foundation

by Lisa Kohno

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s Wisdom for Parenting (Part 4)

by Pastor Patrick Cho

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Training

by Roger Alcaraz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small Group: Life on Life Discipleship

by Josh Liu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blessing of Serving in Sparklers

by Arthur Wang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rest for Moms

by Pastor Patrick Cho

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

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

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

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

Tongue Un-Twisted

by Josh Liu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As They Grow, I Grow

by Nelson Kha

It is crazy how six months has gone by since my first day in the Sonlight ministry. For those who know me, I have always been very involved with the music ministry at the church, but the thought of working with kids has never been at the forefront of my mind. Just a little over a year ago, I prayed and asked God to reveal to me where He could use me to help and serve in other ministries other than the praise ministry. The timing was perfect because in the last few members meetings, Ryan shared during the ministry updates that the Sonlight ministry was in need of some help due to the large number of children now at the church. In the little time I have been involved with Sonlight, there are a few things that I was able to glean from it, including how the Sonlight ministry has been a profitable time for me.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

Being at the church for close to 8 years now, I have been given the wonderful privilege of seeing many of the children grow from infants to toddlers, and now to school-age children. They know the Bible! They know the stories! I can recount quite a handful of incidents in which even the youngest ones can retell what they have learned in the last few months. Sometimes, they even remember the stories and lessons better than me! In addition to the teaching time, the Sonlight ministry does a great job having supplemental activities and discussion times when the kids can further participate in applying the lesson to their day-to-day lives. It is during those moments that we as teachers can be a little more intentional with them, helping them better understand the Bible lessons and apply them to their lives. Now at this point, whether they have come to an understanding of the gospel or not, what is encouraging is seeing the children ministries at our church hold fast to the Word and raising the children up in the knowledge of our Lord. As the children continue to learn to love the Lord and others, it’s also a personal reminder for me to love in the same way and consider the lessons being taught.

Lessons after lessons, you will normally see the kids excited to participate and hear God’s Word being taught. They would come in the room, sign-in, grab their seats and are excited to learn. At times I wonder about our own attitude when it comes to hearing God’s Word preached. Do we share the same enthusiasm as these kids do? Why not? Seeing their excitement is definitely refreshing and it is an area where I am being challenged to cultivate an enthused and excited attitude towards the Word of God.

A typical day in Sonlight usually starts with the lesson being taught during first hour. Currently, we are studying through the book of Acts, though we did take a small break during the Easter season. What was helpful though was that the kids were able to follow-up with the life of Christ, then continue on with how the early church was started after Christ’s ascension. Like Ryan’s past Beacon article mentioned, this journey through Acts shed some light into God’s work in Paul’s life and in how God intended to accomplish the mission to make disciples of all nations through the vehicle of his Church. My prayer is that as we finish up our study in Acts, God will use the remaining time to teach the children to see how He intends to draw all nations to Himself and through it, they may see the sovereignty of God. After the lesson, we usually have an activity, which consists of either a game or something that will supplement the lesson. This is a good time for the kids to expel some of that pent-up energy! Right after that, we have a time of praise and then go straight into second hour. Second hour is usually where we have snack time and really get to know the kids during table time. As I mentioned before, this is where the teachers can help the kids apply the Bible lesson to their lives, as well as a chance for us to get to know the kids better.

As this school year concludes and promotion Sunday approaches, I highly encourage those that have been on the fence on whether to serve in a new ministry to serve in Sonlight! This ministry is a great place to witness God’s saving work in the lives of future generations, growing them to love Him and His people. As these kids continue to grow (physically and spiritually), God continues to use them and this ministry to grow myself. I can’t help but say that it is truly a sanctifying process, as I sometimes feel like I gain more from it than what I put in. Long story short, join us!

A Gospel of Repentance

by Roger Alcaraz

Back in high school, I would always sign my close friends’ yearbooks with a message, and somewhere in that message would be the words, “Don’t ever change.” That was because, in my mind, that was the greatest compliment or sign of love that I could give. It’s like saying “You’re perfect just the way you are.” It was only after I became a Christian, I realized how wrong I was.

Nobody is perfect, and the gospel we proclaim is not only about the forgiveness of sins, but about repentance. “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:46-47).

Repentance is a complete change of heart that grieves over sin and, in response, seeks to live a changed life. It’s turning your feelings, thoughts, and actions away from sin and toward Christ. This has always been the heart of the gospel call. We often think of evangelism as preaching the forgiveness of sins, but Christ has told us to also preach repentance. Why? Because without repentance, there is no forgiveness of sins. Yet repentance is perhaps the single most neglected aspect of contemporary evangelism, especially in an age when it’s all about accepting people as they are and just letting them be. This nation teaches that if you want to show love to someone, you must accept them as they are, without changing them.

Now, I’m not arguing that acceptance is bad. But there is definitely a good way and a bad way to practice it. If a doctor had a patient with diabetes, and the doctor accepted his patient without wanting him to change, that’s bad. But consider Scripture and how the heart of mankind is desperately sick and how mankind is heading to Hell. Would accepting people without any desire for change be what’s best for them?

Coaches tell their athletes to change all of the time. Parents tell their children to change all the time. If you saw a child practically inhaling sugar, and the parent casually said, “Let him be,” you would say, “You’re a bad parent.” And so if calling for change is the mark of a good parent, and it’s the mark of a good coach, isn’t it also the mark of good friend?

The world has believed that calling someone to change is unloving, but as I consider my life, it’s quite the opposite. The people who have loved me the most were the people who called me to change. And the greater test of love isn’t whether a person accepts you as you are; love is demonstrated when, as a person seeks change and growth another, that they bear with them with gentleness and patience. So we’re not beating people over the head with the command to repent and believe. We’re urgent yet patient, firm yet gentle, always seeking what’s best for them based on the truth of Scripture.

And so while the world might look at our gospel of repentance and say, “Why can’t I just keep living how I’ve always lived?” you can say, “Because I love you too much.” If your friend were planning to rob a bank and you knew that this bank was an impenetrable fortress guarded by hundreds of police officers, you would probably tell your friend to stop or else he’ll be thrown in prison. And he might object and say, “I thought you supported me. Can’t you just let me be me?” And if you were a good friend, you would say, “No.”

But would you be quicker to warn people of prison than you would of Hell? We have to remember that as each person dies, they will stand before the God who created them and have to give an account for their entire life. Everything will be exposed before God as he determines their fate. How sad would it be for people to stand before God and think, “I had Christian friends. Why didn’t they tell me I would be here one day?” Therefore, let us warn the world of their fate if they do not turn away from their sins and turn to Christ. It is a loving thing to turn them away from fire.

Spiritual Anatomy

by Josh Liu

The Bible is replete with references to various parts of the human body (e.g., foot, hand, tongue, arm, eye, head, etc.). While many references to body parts are in a literal sense (i.e., a physical organ), Scripture often uses body parts figuratively to represent or address some spiritual principle. For the 2016-2017 academic year, College Life Bible study went through a topical series entitled “Spiritual Anatomy.” We examined what the Bible taught on specific body parts to further understand how we ought to honor God with our whole being, physically and spiritually.

The following provides a brief overview of the topical series:

1. “Body Worship” (Rom. 12:1-2)

Sinners rightly deserve God’s wrath for their unrighteousness. Yet God would be merciful to justify sinners by faith in Christ so that they would never face His condemnation (cf. Rom. 3:21-22; 5:1-2; 8:1). In response, believers are commanded to spiritual worship by presenting their bodies (i.e., lives, whole being) as a living, holy, and acceptable sacrifice. This is a comprehensive body (whole person) response–a life of worship to the God Who saves.

2. “A Theology of the Flesh” (Rom. 7:14-8:1)

Besides literally, Scripture also refers to man’s flesh metaphorically, representing all that opposes God. Theologically, the flesh represents the principle of indwelling sin in believers–that which remains of his former, unregenerate, old self (cf. Gal. 5:13, 19; Eph. 2:3). While believers have a new nature in Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17), they will still battle sin on this side of eternity. Believers should not be discouraged, but persevere in opposing the sinful flesh.

3. “A Heart for God” (Selected Scriptures)

The heart is like the control center of man, being the source of life, thoughts, and actions (cf. Gen. 6:5; Prov. 4:23; 20:5; Luke 6:45). However, sinners’ hearts are also corrupt with sin (Jer. 17:9) and require God’s transforming, regenerative work (Ezek. 26:26; Acts 15:9). In response to a transformed heart for God, we are commanded to seek the Lord with all your heart (Deut. 4:29); love the Lord with all your heart (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37); serve the Lord with all your heart (Deut. 10:12); obey the Lord with all your heart (Deut. 30:1-2); turn/return to the Lord with all your heart (Deut. 30:10); follow the Lord with all your heart (1 Kings 14:8); give thanks to the Lord with all your heart (Pss. 9:1; 86:12; 111:1; 138:1); and trust in the Lord with all your heart (Prov. 3:5).

4. “Mental Metamorphosis” (Selected Scriptures)

How would you evaluate your thought life? When you are not required to think about something, what do your thoughts drift toward? How well do you control your thought life? Are you concerned with what fills or influences your mind? As God transforms and renews believers’ minds (thoughts, desires, intentions), they are commanded to proactively set their mind on the Spirit. One means is by being devoted to the things of the Spirit: edification of believers (Eph. 4:7, 12), worship (Eph. 5:18-20), submission (Eph. 5:21-6:9), etc.

5. “Spiritual Nephrology” (Selected Scriptures)

In Scripture, the human kidney is sometimes figuratively used to refer to man’s inmost being, mind, or affections and has been translated as mind, heart, and feelings. Since the areas surrounding the kidneys are sensitive, the kidneys were believed to be the seat of emotions (cf. Job 19:27; Ps. 73:21; Prov. 23:16). Often times, people have been told to ignore their emotions and grunt through some situation by sheer will power. While we are not be led or dictated by our emotions, we must redeem our emotions to honor God.

6. “Tongue un-Twisted” (Selected Scriptures)

The mouth, tongue, and lips are often used to refer to the activity of speech and communication. Scripture confronts the misuse of speech (cf. Prov. 10:1-32; 12:18; 20:19; etc.). God will judge every person for his or her words (cf. Matt. 12:33-37). Christ’s servants ought to seek to honor and glorify God with their speech and communication. They must silence sinful speech (e.g., gossip, slander, lying, critical speech, insults, etc.) and communicate sanctifying speech (e.g., edifying words, encouragements, comfort, etc.).

7. “Covered and Unashamed” (Selected Scriptures)

Scripture uses a variety of words to euphemistically refer to the sex organs. The sex organs are also used to refer to the activity of sex. Unfortunately, these (literal) parts are sinfully abused and used to pursue immorality and wickedness. Figuratively, Scripture references the sex organs in contexts of shame and guilt. For example, after Adam and Eve sinned, they realized they were naked and ashamed (cf. Gen. 3:7). However, for those who have ever sinned sexually yet have submitted to Christ as their Lord and Savior, Christ covers their shame with His righteousness and allows them to stand unashamed (forgiven, reconciled, and sanctified) before God.

8. “God’s Good Design – Part 1: Male Headship” (Selected Scriptures)

Scripture uses a variety of words to euphemistically refer to the sex organs. The sex organs identify mankind’s gender–male or female. God created mankind in His image male and female (though God is not gendered). Men and women are created equal as God’s image-bearers, and fulfill differing functions or roles. As heads (or leaders), men are called to be mature–spiritual maturity, character maturity, relational maturity, and stewarding maturity.

9. “God’s Good Design – Part 2: Female Helpership” (1 Tim. 2:9-15)

Men and women are created equal as God’s image-bearers and fulfill differing functions or roles according to those genders. One of the primary responsibilities for women is the role of a helper. A significant aspect of understanding this helper role is authority-submission. The Apostle Paul provides further instruction on authority and submission in the church by addressing women’s appearance, conduct, design, and blessing.

10. “Eye Exam” (Selected Scriptures)

The eye is used in its literal meaning and in connection with expressions relating to seeing. Figuratively, the eye refers to the seat of perception, understanding, and realization. Theologically, sinners are spiritually blind (cf. Jer. 5:21) and Jesus Christ gives spiritual sight (cf. John 8:12). Sinners ought to turn to God for spiritual sight through repentance and faith. Also, believers ought to fixate (focus, behold, look toward in anticipation and priority) on God (as oppose to worldly things), purity (as oppose to immoral images), and eternity future (as oppose to only the present).

11. “Beautiful Feet” (Rom. 10:1-15)

Scripture often uses the feet to refer to activity and movement. Believers are to be busy (active) in witnessing, evangelizing, and making disciples. The Apostle Paul declares, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” (Rom. 10:15). To be active in evangelizing (declaring the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ), believers can remember to be impassioned for the lost, recognize man’s responsibility, be confident in the promises of salvation, make no distinctions between persons, and carry the Gospel wherever they go.

12. “A Spiritual Physical” (Ps. 38)

A brief observation of the world (and human history) will reveal at least one thing: the world prizes health. There are many who are ailing and ill in need of care, recovery, and cure. It is often during ill health where man recognizes the fragility of life, true priorities of life, the blessing of good health or relief, and so on. Believers can idolize health in much the same way as the world. Scripture reveals that sinners are spiritually sick and in need of Christ, the spiritual Physician (cf. Luke 5:31-32). Our physical and spiritual health–emotional, cognitive, and physical state–can be affected by sin. Psalm 38 is the portrait of one who is in poor physical and spiritual health due to personal sin. Such experiences are opportunities to worship God, examine oneself for personal sin, and patiently endure suffering.

13. “One Body” (Selected Scriptures)

One cannot miss the absolute unity of believers as the body of Christ (cf. Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:14ff; Eph. 4:4-5). Each believer is to be a healthy, functioning member in the body (i.e., church), with humility and harmony.

Conclusion

As sinners, man’s body and spirit is corrupt with sin. By the mercies of God, He transforms man’s spirit in Christ and promises a bodily resurrection. So then, while believers await new glorified bodies, they are to steward their bodies (literally / physically) and lives (figuratively / spiritually) for God’s glory as an act of worship. May the Spiritual Anatomy series exalt God, edify His saints, and evangelize the lost.