Category Archives: Affinity Groups

Good Grace to a Bad Sinner

by Roger Alcaraz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Church Retreat Reflections: Brief Student Interviews

by Josh Liu

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

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

Abe Cheung

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

Christian Cheng

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

Connie Pung

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

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

Hannah Tan

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

Karen Chang

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

Nathan Park

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

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

Zachary Preslar

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

It Takes a Village

by Andrea Vigil-Ruiz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Things Don’t Change

by Ryan McAdams

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

Teaching the Breadth of God’s Word

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

A Safe Environment

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

Staff Who Love the Children

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

Right in His Own Eyes

by Josh Liu

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

CL Luau Group Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing Pains: Fulfillment (Part 3)

by Kristen Lim

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

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

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

Redefining Greatness

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

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

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

Refocusing Ambition

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Sure Foundation

by Lisa Kohno

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s Wisdom for Parenting (Part 4)

by Pastor Patrick Cho

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Training

by Roger Alcaraz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small Group: Life on Life Discipleship

by Josh Liu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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