Category Archives: Pastor's Corner

Loving the Truth

by Pastor Patrick Cho

After giving it a lot of careful thought, I have concluded that I do not like Brussels sprouts. If you know me or have ever eaten with me, you might think this strange because when I eat in restaurants I order Brussels sprouts all the time. I thoroughly enjoy Brussels sprout dishes served at many restaurants, but I would still contend that I do not like Brussels sprouts. How is this possible? This revelation came to me when I asked myself if I would enjoy a Brussels sprout in all its naked glory. Would I enjoy a plain Brussels sprout simply cooked without all the accompanying accoutrements? Of course not.

I realized that it is not so much the Brussels sprout that I enjoy but the butter and bacon and caramelized onions and garlic and the other ingredients used to dress a Brussels sprout and make it not only edible but even enjoyable! You must admit that with enough butter and bacon, onions and garlic, you could probably make a bike tire sound somewhat appetizing.

What does this have to do with loving the truth? The truth is everything to a believer. It is by the grace of God, which leads us to the knowledge of the truth, that a person is saved (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Without a proper understanding of the truth, one cannot know God. Jesus emphasizes our need for the truth when He tells His disciples that if they continue in His Word they will know the truth and the truth will set them free (John 8:31-32). Truth is so vital to the believer that the Apostle John equates a person’s salvation to having the truth in them (1 John 1:8; 2:4).

But as you examine Scripture, you also see that true believers not only have the truth, they love the truth, as well. This is one of the marks of saving faith, that a person loves the truth (cf. 2 Thess. 2:9-10). The psalmist gives praise to God and thanks Him for His lovingkindness and truth (Ps. 138:2). Think of how often the psalmist proclaims His love for God’s Word, which is His truth (Ps. 119:47, 48, 97, 113, 119, 127, 140, 159, 163, 167). The sad indictment given in John 3 is that Jesus came as the Light of the world, but people loved the darkness more than the Light (John 3:19).

Many Christians will say that they love the truth, but their lives portray the exact opposite. When you read some of the accounts in Scripture and question God’s good character, when you dismiss biblical principles because to you they are not realistic or practical, when you would rather heed the counsel of your own heart rather than the counsel of the Word of God, you are not loving the truth.

Seeker sensitive ministries across the globe are filling their pews by offering an attractive service – amazing music, appealing stage design, shorter sermons, compelling drama, and delightful food. People will confess their love for Jesus and yet will often stand against clear biblical principles. When they come across scriptural teaching that does not sit well with them, they justify their unbiblical positions by arguing that God must have changed or that the Bible is somehow applied differently today. In the end, people are not submitting to the truth of God but forcing the Bible to fit into their own personal belief systems and agendas. This is not loving the truth. This is going to church because you like the dressing.

One mark of spiritually mature believers is that they love to hear God’s Word preached. Spiritually immature believers place a disproportionate value on the preacher or the delivery. You might prefer some preachers over others because of their style, but do you outright refuse to listen to pastors that do not appeal to you? Or do you find yourself constantly criticizing the delivery of a sermon rather than meditating on its truth?

As believers, we need to be very careful that we do not love the dressing more than the proverbial sprout. Do you love the truth? Do you come to church because you love the Lord and want to hear His Word, or do you come to church merely for social reasons or because you simply enjoy all the frills? With the psalmist, we ought to agree that God’s Word is “more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb” (Ps. 19:10). The truth of God is everything to the believer.

Renewing Our Minds for Rejoicing, Pt. 5 – “Think Submissively”

by Pastor James Lee

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

To think well is to think submissively to the Lord as Lord, to trust His wisdom, to obey His will, and not challenge either as being defective, nor to bring Him down to our size, which in reality is to put us above Him. If we think submissively, we’re remembering that our future in Christ could not be better! We’re content because of that. We’re secure because of that. And God grants us a peace that surpasses all understanding, one that transcends all analysis, human definitions, rational powers, because you don’t go to people to get it, you go to God to get it. It’s more than all that we can ever ask or imagine on our own. And notice something very important… Paul doesn’t say that if you pray with thanksgiving, then God’s going to answer all your requests the way you want. In fact, he doesn’t say anything about an answer, but that whenever and however the answer may come, God will give us what? Peace in the storms of life. That’s the gracious issue. That’s the sole expectation. So our expectation is not ultimately that He’ll give us a better life or a new job or the gift of marriage or a perfect church or certain type of president or healing of our cancer or nicer body or better parents or even relief, but that our expectation is that God will answer in whatever form He deems best for us… so we can rest in the goodness of that. He’s going to answer our prayers, but we submit ourselves to the truth He’s going to answer in an infinitely better and wiser and greater way that we would ever ask! So we’re not demanding anything, insisting on anything, we just want to know God, trust God, glorify God. Isaiah 26:3-4: “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock.”

  • So we’re thinking well as we sing, “Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to know, it is well, it is well with my soul.”
  • So we’re thinking well as we confess, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have words of eternal life.”
  • So we’re thinking well as we live out our calling, “Whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, we do all to the glory of God!”
  • So we’re thinking well as we proclaim to ourselves and others, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
  • So we’re thinking well as we praise God, “Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”
  • So we’re thinking well as we pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the power and glory forever and ever! Amen and Amen and Amen!”

Making the Most of Your Ministry

by Pastor Patrick Cho

One of the potential challenges of local church ministry is that most of the people who serve do so on a volunteer basis. If you are serving on a ministry staff, the reality is that while you might want to give your all to it, you most likely also have other commitments like work, school, and family that rightfully demand your time and energy. Being involved in church does not mean that you are called to abandon all other commitments. Providing excellent service in church ministry does not require quitting your job, dropping out of school, or leaving your family.

However, it is sadly easy to treat church ministry as if it is on a lower tier of importance than these other commitments. One reason for this is an incorrect assumption that most of the ministry should be performed by the pastors and leaders of the church, while the rest of the members are simply there to assist. There are some who believe that since pastors are paid to do ministry, it is only right that they shoulder the bulk of the work of ministry. Another reason is that people in the church compartmentalize spiritual things and do not see how Christ impacts every area of their lives. One outworking of this error is that people pursue marriage and career much like the rest of the world, treating these things as of ultimate importance. Church ministry, then, is relegated as optional or time-permitting, not much different than any other hobby or recreation. The thinking is essentially, “God, let me take care of all the ‘me’ stuff, and then I will give myself to the ‘You’ stuff.”

Because of these reasons and more, there can be a tendency to grow lax in service of the church. We put in less of an effort and do not strive for excellence in what we do. It is easy to procrastinate, get lazy, and drop the ball. Since you are probably not paid for your ministry to the church, it can be easy to develop a mentality that you will only serve when it is comfortable or convenient. On the other hand, it might simply be that you have been running so hard for so long that you are simply tired and so you are not serving at the level of excellence you once did.

While there is an understanding that church ministry is not all you are supposed to do, what you do ought to be done well to the glory of God. There are several reasons we need to be careful not to relegate church ministry as an inferior commitment.

  1. The Lord is ultimately the one you serve. Whether it is at home, at school, at work, or at church, God is the one we ultimately serve (cf. Col. 3:23-24). He is Lord of all. Thus, we must not compartmentalize certain aspects of our lives as ours and others as His. It is all His. Additionally, when it comes to our service in the church, we ought to strive for excellence because what we do is offered to God as worship. Everything we do is to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). God demands our best because we have been set apart unto Him who is most excellent.
  2. You are called to serve, so you are not just a volunteer. A volunteer is someone who freely offers to do something. But believers do not serve out of the goodness of their own hearts. We are commanded to serve, and this service is to be done from a loving, willing, and joyful heart. The Bible teaches that this is the higher purpose for which we were created (Eph. 2:10). It is not only the responsibility of the church leaders. Ephesians 4:11-12 says that the members of the church are equipped to do the work of ministry. It is something all believers are called to do.
  3. You have been gifted and equipped by God to participate. Your service in the church is a stewardship of what God has entrusted to you by His grace. Oftentimes, we fall into the mentality that our talents, skills, gifts, and abilities are there to heighten our experience as individuals. We want to improve ourselves. While this is not necessarily evil in and of itself, believers are given a greater purpose. God has blessed you to be a blessing. This is why Paul employs the body metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14. Although each member of the body is unique in its ability and giftedness, all the parts are required to work in conjunction in order for the body as a whole to thrive and mature. You have not been given what you have only to invest it in you. You have also been given these skills and abilities to employ them in the service of the church that others might benefit and be blessed.
  4. Other people are counting on you. When you are unfaithful to your ministry commitments, it affects more than just you. Again, Paul likens service in the church to the physical body. Imagine if part of your body decided to take a break or not function at 100%. That is detrimental to the entire body. We can serve with excellence as an act of love to our fellow brothers and sisters. In Christian discipleship, our commitment to excellence can also serve as a helpful example for others to follow.
  5. You can reap an eternal reward. When we commit ourselves to the service of the church in obedience to Scripture with excellence and from a right heart, we can be assured that God is well-pleased. It is good to be reminded that we strive for something greater than the rewards and accolades of this life. By investing in what is eternal, we store up a heavenly reward that is imperishable and unfading (1 Pet. 1:4).

In the end, consideration needs to be given to each side. The church should not overburden its members requiring so much that other commitments suffer. Take family for instance: if the church demands so much of your time that it is detrimental to your family because you are honestly left with little time for your spouse and children, then the church should reconsider its program to ensure that it is not designed to cause you to sin against your family by neglecting them.

At the same time, there are many people who use family as an excuse not to get involved in the ministry of the church. We need to be wary of using family this way as a sort of trump card. The Bible does not say that we are all members of one another until we have families of our own. It does not command us to love one another and serve one another until we start a family. Of course, it can be challenging to discern how to be excellent both in church ministry as well as in our homes, but we are called to both.

Renewing Our Minds for Rejoicing, Pt. 4 – “Think Humbly”

by Pastor James Lee

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

To think well is to think humbly. And anywhere we’re not humble, we’re not thinking well. And to think humbly requires us to think reliantly, think prayerfully, so that we’re refusing to be anxious or fearful about anything, trusting Him, and not ourselves. Remember v. 6 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We need to dwell on that… prayerfully. If we’re anxious, then we’re not believing His promise, are we? The sooner we get a grip on ourselves that we’re nothing, outside the grace of God, the sooner we’re going to be rejoicing. Paul writes, repeats our Lord Jesus, don’t worry! Anxiety is opposite of being primarily concerned about others. Prayer reflects and effects. Worry, anxiety and discontentment, Dr. Sam Storms, rightly says are all self-centered, rather than God-centered, when he writes,

“Anxiety is rooted in self, while prayer is rooted in God. Anxiety is the fruit of a narrow, constricted view of life. The only thing one can see is the problems or perplexities surrounding us. Prayer is the fruit of a broad and expansive view of life in which God is so big that everything else, even our worst problems and worries, shrink into insignificance. Anxiety is horizontal in focus. Prayer, on the other hand, is vertical in focus. That is to say, when you worry you are consumed with looking to the left and to the right, forward and backward. When you pray, you can’t help but look up. Anxiety never raises your eyes above your problems, your situation and your circumstances. Prayer raises your eyes above and beyond yourself to God and His power. Anxiety looks to self to solve problems. Prayer looks to God to endure problems. When you are anxious, your circumstances and problems control you; they have sovereignty over you; you invest in them a power and authority to shape your life. Anxiety is an expression of fear. Prayer is an expression of faith. That is why prayer is an antidote to anxiety.”

Realize anxiety is an indictment on God’s flawless wisdom and a mocking of His infinite power. And that’s not very humble, for the creature to say that, about the Creator, is it? We might not think about it this way, especially when we’re struggling, but it’s self-righteous arrogance. But the opposite is humility, which is to do as 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all our anxiety on Him, because He cares for us.” The opposite of prayer is pride. But heartfelt prayer is an expression of humility. John MacArthur said, “If you are going to be stable in the tough times of life, it is born out of an absolute distrust of yourself and a total trust in the sovereign God of grace and power.” Spurgeon said, “If you believe everything turns on the free will of man, you will naturally have man as the principle figure in your landscape.” Then you’re going to be disappointed, by putting all your hope in what people might provide you. Because the dilemma you’ll come face to face with, is how weak and how fickle people are. And, then you’re going to have every reason to be full of anxiety! When the Source of our joy is unshakeable, then our joy becomes unshakeable, and we get HIS peace.

Question: if God already knows what we’re going to ask and what we need, before we pray, then why do we pray? There are different biblical reasons, but one is that we need it, not Him. Prayer is not to inform Him, but to rely on Him, and to glorify Him. And a big reason why we don’t pray well, is because we don’t think well. We’re not desperate enough. We haven’t come to the end of ourselves, so that we’re not expecting anything beyond the grace of God. We realize we don’t deserve anything anyway, and what we do deserve, God’s wrath, is not at all what we’re getting. Thus, we haven’t been cheated out of anything, we haven’t received the short end of the stick or a raw deal. So we’re not looking for kudos or appreciation or understanding from others. So, we will not be disappointed, only thrilled and thankful when we get anything good. And humble people are always thankful people! Because humble people are not thinking that they deserve something better, but discontent and angry and greedy people think they do. That’s why Paul says we pray, “with thanksgiving.” That’s why we can be content, in hunger or in plenty. Do we not tend to be plentiful in requests, but minimal in thanksgiving? But if we know He’s worthy, that He’s already solved our biggest problem, then we’re going to be habitually thankful. It’s no surprise then that Paul says in Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.”

The irony is that we usually think that our complaining is due to our unhappiness, but in the context of the cross of Christ, very often, the truth is that our unhappiness sometimes is ironically due to our complaining. Spurgeon said, “If we complained less and were more thankful, we would be happier, and God would be more glorified.” FF Bruce on the flip side, warned us, “Lack of gratitude is the first step to idolatry.”

Sentinels of Speech

by Pastor John Kim

Thumper: He doesn’t walk very good, does he?
Mrs. Rabbit: Thumper!
Thumper: Yes, mama?
Mrs. Rabbit: What did your father tell you this morning?
Thumper: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that there are many people around us that don’t say very nice things. For some people it is second nature to be sarcastic, biting, contradictory, joking, cutting, or just plain unhelpful. Some are quick to speak and take advantage of someone, whether it be when someone mispronounces a word, uses wrong grammar, or misuses a word. While it is easy to notice this in others, do we take a look at our own lives to consider what comes out of our own mouths?

I still remember a time when I was a youth pastor and held a staff meeting one weekend. We had what was called “brutal honesty” times and it was to give staff members the opportunity to share without fearing repercussions. One staff member shared how she felt that the majority of the staff, especially the guys, were constantly sarcastic and joking and upon reflection, it was true. The atmosphere at church tended to be comfortable with a joking attitude and while it might not have been malicious, there was definitely a sense where the sarcastic tone dominated the interactions. It was sobering to realize that there were those who were hurt by such words.

Now some will say, “Can’t people just take a joke?” Maybe some can but this kind of question might reveal something deeper. Is there consideration for how our words either edify or tear someone down? Does our speech reflect the kind of words and consideration that would honor Christ?

Ephesians 4:29 has long been a verse where it stands guard over my mouth. It presents some very simple and straightforward thoughts that have helped me from saying things that would not have been very helpful. I think it’s when we give thought even to the little things, the quips, the remarks, the retorts, the reactionary words that are often careless – it is when we care enough to glorify God with our speech in all things that we can see our words as a ministry.

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

If we were to setup four guards at the point of our mouth and have them determine what is allowed to come out, these four sentinels would serve us well:

Guard #1: Nothing Unwholesome

The idea here is something that is bad, rotten, worthless, harmful. The verse starts off with a pretty comprehensive coverage – “let no unwholesome word.” In other words, every word that comes out cannot be allowed to pass by if characterized in this way. Sometimes we think that certain words or phrases are harmless if they are just said in a joking manner. But this does not take into account a deeper consideration. The question is whether what is being said wholesome or not. Will it contribute to the health of the one who hears it? Will it bring blessing and increase toward godliness? Someone might say, “But can’t we just kid around once in awhile?” What is revealed through questions like these is a blindness to one’s own selfishness and lack of consideration toward others. Is it okay to speak in whatever way I wish without regard for those who hear it? We should only be aware that the words are not only for the person they are directed toward but those around who will hear it as well. What kind of testimony do you bear witness to when you open your mouth around others?

Guard #2: Only Edifying

The principle of edification is one that needs to be taken seriously as we have the opportunity to either build up someone or tear them down. There really can’t be wasted words when it comes to how we communicate with each other. There are again many who want to insist on looking for exceptions to joke around or speak nonsense while at the same time lacking in being deliberate to edify others with their words. There are some that would even want to justify pointing out the faults of others by saying they have the right to say what needs to be said. But it is not always helpful.

All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all
things edify. (1 Corinthians 10:23)

It is a challenge but if one gives careful biblical consideration to what is said, the heart of one who truly loves others will desire the edification of others by carefully thinking how one can build up another person’s life by the words you choose to use. Not only can words be edifying, but they can minister healing to someone’s soul!

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24)

Guard #3: Timely

“According to the need of the moment” means that there needs to be a sense of discernment that gives consideration to not only addressing a need but also seeking to be timely in the manner in which things are spoken. Timing is key for so many things and the words we speak can be a blessing or a curse in the timing of when they are spoken. Even if there is truth spoken, truth spoken in love gives consideration to the timing of how someone will receive it. Too many people insist on speaking what they want to share without Philippians 2:3-4 in mind:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one
another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3–4)

The timeliness of speaking the truth in love reflects the application of this truth, that you are willing to consider someone else’s interests before your own. How many conflicts could have been avoided or trouble averted if people just gave this particular sentinel to guard what came out of one’s mount? While we obviously cannot avoid all conflicts, there seems to be many times where people unnecessarily cause trouble by lacking this consideration.

He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent. Proverbs (17:27–28)

To exercise restraint and even keep silent show knowledge and wisdom. You can speak too soon and show how foolish you are.

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 29:20)

Guard #4: Gracious

Our words should be like gifts. The presentation of the right words is like setting the table with just the right dish to serve. The fact that grace is the operating principle also keeps in mind that these words are not just being given because the person deserves such word but even when the person doesn’t deserve such gifts.

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances. (Proverbs 25:11)

James writes how the tongue is such a small part of the body and yet it boasts great things, capable of setting fire and stirring up a world of iniquity. It is no surprise that so many conflicts stem from how we talk to each other. But we also have the great opportunity to bring blessing through our words and we can minister the truth in love by setting a guard over our mouths so that what comes out truly honors God and communicates the love of Christ to His glory.

Renewing Our Minds for Rejoicing, Pt. 3 – “Think Reverently”

by Pastor James Lee

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

Paul says in v. 5, “The Lord is near” or “The Lord is at hand.” If my lack of joy, my lack of contentment, my lack of patience, says anything about me, it says that I don’t functionally believe He “is near.” Those sins always occur in the context of God’s omnipresence and omniscience. So that the Lord is right next to us, in the same room, and we’re behaving like He’s not enough, like He’s not holy, like He doesn’t actually care about us, like He’s not powerful or loving enough to be the answer to our struggles and problems. It’s one thing to believe the attributes of God, it’s quite another to see it and live it every moment. It’s both convicting and comforting, isn’t it? It is for me, big time… the “Lord is near” both in terms of our time and space. It’s both His presence and His imminence. He’s right here with us now, yet He’s coming back soon.

Depending on the state of our minds at a given time, we can view that positively, so that we’re running to God, rather than running from Him. His nearness in a sense equals His grace. Or we can view that just as accurately yet negatively, realizing we’re not getting away with anything. But, the good news is that the gospel addresses both in glorious mercy. So on one end, we should be deeply comforted, that Christ our Friend and Savior is with us all the time, and will never forsake us. He’s keeping us, our bottom line, our rock, our anchor, and if we ask, He’ll guide us, enable us, help us, transform us. On the other hand, there also ought to be a reverential fear, expressed by a poem titled, “If Jesus came to your house.” It challenges us about the things done, said, thought, and watched in the home, and asks what changes would there be if Jesus turned up as a guest for a day? But the point of the poem, of course, is that He is there every day. How true are the things we say? How different would our lives look if we each took holiness more seriously? How does our noble Savior judge our attitudes, the way we might deal with company expense forms, our critical spirit, our greed, or when we gossip about others? What would we do less of, or not at all? What would we do more of? What greater joy also might we experience? Greater usefulness and witness in the name of the Lord? How deep is our pride when we refuse to forgive brethren? Gerard Chrispin asks, “He will treat all His children with the same grace and favour. How can I face Him, and give an account of my life as a Christian, if I fail to treat some Christian brothers and sisters sensitively and gently, possibly just because our personal chemistry differs?” Therein, I believe, is the rub. Think reverently of God with me now. Do you know that every sin is a direct violation of the Great Commandment, which Jesus says is the sum of the law? Every sin is a failure to love God and love people, whether by commission or omission, correct?

That should cause us to pause and make us realize both how much grace we’ve received and how much grace we need. We’re washing others’ feet with joy and seeking to understand others and not just be understood. Everything has a horizontal and vertical component. Romans 12 is an example of that. To be a living sacrifice of worship to God, will mean humbly loving our fellow brethren. Philip Ryken comments, “We need to be honest about the fact that all of our dissatisfaction is discontent with God. Usually we take out our frustrations on someone else. But God knows that when we grumble, we are finding fault with Him. A complaining spirit indicates a problem in our relationship with God.” Right relationship leads to joy!

Renewing Our Minds for Rejoicing, Pt. 2 – “Think Reasonably”

by Pastor James Lee

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

Thinking well will mean thinking reasonably, gently, and patiently. After all, that’s a manifestation of growing Christlikeness, which is a fruit of contentment, as verse 5 says, “let your gentle spirit be known to everyone.” One translation says “sweet reasonableness.” It refers not just to an outward gentleness, but a genuinely gentle spirit.  If we’re thinking after Christ’s thoughts, we’re going to resolve to be gentle, patient, and reasonable. But if we’re not thinking to honor Christ, we’re not.  Even if life seems to be coming apart at the seams, reasonable thinking will remind us that God is sovereign and in absolute control, and nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God!  We think, “Come on, don’t you remember God is still on His throne, and He’s for you, not against you.”  It’s irrational to think otherwise.  And so you’re gracious and forgiving and lending careful thought to what’s in your heart. You’re thinking how to properly relate to others, not merely reacting out of the flesh, but responding by the Spirit. Reasonable thinking remembers God’s call upon His children to love as He loves us, to forgive as He’s forgiven us.

Thinking well means thinking reasonably as it pertains to our hearts. For example, the actual cause of discontentment and depression is not people or circumstances, it’s us, it’s our response. We’re not victims in this. The reality is that no situation automatically produces a result inside you. And if it did, then there are three blasphemous consequences: (1) then we can blame God who is in control of all situations, (2) call God a liar declaring that 1 Corinthians 10:13 wouldn’t be true, and (3) so that there is no hope for contentment. We might convince ourselves otherwise, but it’s our response to adversity that’s the difference. So it’s never the circumstances. And if it’s never the circumstances, then we can have joy in any situation.

Adversity can build character, or it can break it down into something ugly. It’s how we respond. Ideally, we would like to respond well from the start, but I’m speaking ultimately too. It reveals where we put our trust and satisfaction and worship.  We can allow it to make us better, or we can allow it to make us bitter. For example, sometimes if I’ve had a difficult day, I come home from work or a painful meeting, and I sadly take it out on my wife and kids. Even though what might have angered me is so trivial and inconsequential, or plainly not even wrong.  Either way, I’ve sinned against them. It might be that they didn’t clean up their toys, or that they’re too loud… but, then I sinfully get upset.  And then I react with a blameshifting, unloving heart.  Why?  Because of my wife and kids?  No.  The real answer isn’t that. So, why?  Because of me, because of what’s stirring violently in my heart and painfully entertained in my mind. But hopefully and thankfully, I come under the Spirit’s conviction… and my wife Sandy’s godly correction helps a bunch too.  And God’s Word drops like a hammer on my proud heart.  And reasonable thinking recalls God’s grace. Therefore, I’m looking for the kids to ask them forgiveness, I hope, in bearing fruit in keeping with genuine repentance. Daddy is confessing his sin, and giving them hugs and kisses, serving them with affection, because I treasure my relationship with them. Reasonable thinking puts on joy and self-giving, and puts off anger, arrogance, aloofness, anxiety, apathy, as being contrary to a life that is saturated in the glories of the gospel.

Sadly, that wasn’t happening in verse 2 with fellow believers Euodia and Syntyche, so much so that their stubborn rift had to be publicly addressed. With a gentle spirit, we’ll discover that there is no façade, no posturing, no insecurity, no anxiety about what people think of us, because God knows the worst of us and sent His Son for us!

Make sure that your character is free from greed, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?” (Heb 13:5-6)

If we believe that, then we’re going to seek to be soft, winsome, vulnerable, healing, a relational red carpet, an attractive spirit, an inviting haven, not self-protecting, not fearful of getting hurt, but one that reaches out to the hurting in a spirit of humility and service.  Otherwise, our bitter discontentment with God becomes both self-destructive and other defiling.

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.” (Heb 12:14-15)

Unaddressed, people start walking on eggshells around us, wondering what little thing will set us off like a truckload of C4.  Then feeling guilty when it does happen, we withdraw even more, and we deepen our suffering, becoming more bitter and more lonely. It unleashes a cascade of sad consequences, until we lose our witness, lose friends, and lose our bearing. But the good news is the sufficiency of Christ that undergirds right thinking that leads to joy!

What Does It Mean to Be Faithful?

by Pastor Patrick Cho

Faithfulness is a quality that every Christian should seek to cultivate. Indeed, God’s people are called to do so in Scripture (Ps. 37:3). Generally speaking, faithfulness is defined as trustworthiness or dependability. Simply put, to be faithful means that you will do what you say. But I wonder if there is something deeper and more foundational to its definition. In Proverbs 27:6, it says that the wounds of a friend are faithful. What does this mean in light of our working definition: “to do what you say?” Does a true friend first promise to wound and then follow through with this promise? Is that the intention of the verse?

Likewise, what does the psalmist mean when he says, “…in faithfulness You have afflicted me” (Ps. 119:75). What do the trials and troubles we face have to do with God’s faithfulness? Is it that our troubles are the fulfillment of God’s promise? It seems verses like these demonstrate that our simple definition of faithfulness is too simple.

A better way to understand faithfulness is that a person acts in accordance with who they are. In other words, when it comes to God, He is faithful in that He will never cease to be God or act like God. In this sense, God’s faithfulness is tied to the doctrine of His immutability or constancy. God will always be God and God will always act like God. This means that He will dependably be Himself regarding all that we know about Him. For instance, we know that God is a God of love, and so His love will be a faithful love.

Faithfulness, then, is part of what it means to be God. He must be faithful because He is God. This is what the Apostle Paul refers to in 2 Timothy 2:11-13. God will remain faithful even in light of our unfaithfulness not only because He cannot lie or that He is a God of truth, but because He cannot deny Himself. His faithfulness in some way is the definition and outworking of His God-ness.

What does this definition of faithfulness mean for the believer since believers are likewise called to be faithful? If all people are inherently sinful and depraved, wouldn’t faithfulness mean that they would always act in accordance with their sinfulness? No, because in Christ we have been forgiven, redeemed, and transformed. We are not the same as we used to be. What this means, though, is that our faithfulness finds its appropriate application in Him.

Any unbeliever can do what he says he will do, but the Bible calls faithfulness a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). One must have been saved by the grace of God in order to be faithful in God’s sight. To be faithful means to act consistently with our new identity in Christ. The fact that we are called to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called is itself a call to faithfulness (Eph. 4:1).

Therefore, the psalmist can conclude that God has afflicted him in His faithfulness. This means that even though he is facing some of the most difficult trials of his life, he can trust that God will not cease to be God in the midst of them. God is not acting out of evil. God has not forgotten him. The psalmist can trust that God continues to be who He has revealed Himself to be – faithful to His word, the defender of the weak, the Savior of His people. And when in the Proverbs it teaches that the wounds of a friend are faithful, it means that the one who is “being wounded” can trust that his friend is acting in love because he is a friend.

Do you trust in God’s faithfulness? Even when you face various difficulties, would you trust that God will faithfully be God in the midst of them? Also, do you seek to cultivate faithfulness as one who is in Christ? Do you understand that true faithfulness can only be lived out in Him because of the inner change that He brings about by saving us? Certainly, we ought to be faithful because God is faithful.

Renewing Our Minds for Rejoicing, Pt. 1 – “Think Intentionally”

by Pastor James Lee

Dr. Robert Somerville, in his autobiographical book If I’m a Christian, Why Am I Depressed? writes very candidly about his own recent struggles,

“Depression can often come from a spiral of worry and anxiety that lands a person in a morass of negativity. In a flash your thoughts can go down roads you’ll never actually need to travel and cross bridges you’ll never need to cross. You end up like Elijah in a deep pit of despair and depression in which there is no peace to be found! In my depression this was my state of mind. There was always an anxiety factor present. It manifested itself in a wild imagination. I worried about everything in life. I was never going to teach or preach or earn a living again. I would probably end up in my brother in law’s basement. Who would take care of my wife? I even experienced an anxiety attack for the simplest of directions… What was wrong with me? Yet in the negative grid of the depression they were overwhelming and impossible.” 

Some of us understand what he’s sharing, I certainly do.  In a time past, my heart was crushed, my fearful paranoid mind was twisted in knots, inventing living nightmares that sometimes had nothing to do with reality. My physical body was wracked in pain, I couldn’t function very well. The wounds of being deeply hurt by others accumulated over two decades of ministry, combined with the self-inflicted consequences of my own sinful responses and idolatries had taken their toll. I experienced breakdown and burnout. I’d alternate from staring blankly out a window to curling up in the fetal position, crying for hours, not knowing why. I wanted to run away and to die like Elijah. It felt like being buried alive, like drowning. The poet John Milton aptly described the vulnerability of our minds, in how they often fall short of the mind of Christ, “A mind is its own place, and in itself – Can make a heav’n of hell, and a hell of heav’n.” 

And like with Elijah, like with Dr. Somerville, like with some of you, we need others given by the Lord to patiently, but firmly, come alongside us in love, to get us to stop listening to ourselves, and to hear and embrace the truths of His Word, so that we can eventually experience stability and peace and hope and joy of service once again. And life for me came back again!  But it came by “coming home” to the basics of what it means to abide in Christ, of the gospel, of trusting the Lord for every little thing, but primarily via the means of the Word and prayer.  The most productive, most beneficial, and most necessary thing one can do on a daily basis is to read and obey the Bible, and live out a prayerful reliance on Him each moment.

As our hearts and minds go, so all else goes. Proverbs 4:23 commands, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”  And that’s where Satan attacks, when our hearts and minds are vulnerable and weak!  That’s often where the battle is! Jesus Himself when He quoted the Shema of Deuteronomy 6 in Mark 12, made an important “addition”. Don’t just love God with all your heart, soul, and strength, but also fourthly, love Him with all your “mind”! With all our minds!  Cornelius Plantinga comments, “If a 4 year old prayed outright: ‘Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my brain to keep’?  You would notice.”  That is what our Lord demands, that by His grace, we keep our minds! Sometimes, honestly, we are out of our minds! John MacArthur exhorts, “Spiritual stability is directly related to how a person thinks about God.”

The problem is not, that we don’t think, but that we don’t think well. The states of our mind and heart impact whether we will respond out of a well which is saturated by the Scriptures, or react from the sewer of our flesh.  The beloved doctor, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, comments, “Faith, according to our Lord’s teaching is primarily thinking, and the whole trouble with a man of little faith is that he does not think. He allows circumstances to bludgeon him… Christian faith is essentially thinking… The trouble with most people, however, is that they will not think. Instead of doing this, they sit down and ask, What is going to happen to me? What can I do?  That is the absence of thought; it is surrender, it is defeat. Our Lord here, is urging us to think and to think in a Christian manner.”  By the way, that’s really the conclusion to Paul’s magnificent epistle on joy, in the fourth and last chapter of Philippians. That’s also a primary aim of biblical counseling, the fruitful one another ministry of the body of Christ, to help each other think rightly.

So this is the place we’re going to drop our anchor and pitch our tent. There’s a time for slowing down, stopping, getting out of the car for a longer and more careful look. And that’s, in fact, what Paul is directing us to do at the end of his letter on rejoicing! Everything in the letter is food for our meditation, but the end of v. 8 explicitly tells us and commands us to, “let your mind dwell on these things.”  The ESV translates, “think about these things”, the NKJ similarly says, “meditate on these things.”  Dwell! Think! Meditate!

It’s just one Greek word, but large doors swing on relatively small hinges. Let your mind dwell, think, meditate – the word is logizomai and it’s not merely to entertain thoughts superficially. But it means to seriously and slowly evaluate, consider, calculate, set your fullest faculties upon, take them into account, give them weight in your decisions, ponder deeply, reflect upon them so as to shape your conduct.

So the next question becomes, what are “these things”? Certainly it’s everything just stated in v. 8 already, whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, anything excellent and worthy of praise.  But it really includes everything Paul has previously said in this letter.  Things about the necessity to be joyful and how to be joyful, even in the face of imprisonment, persecution, friends slandering you and abandoning you, of knowing to live is Christ and to die is gain, of what it means to be humble and considering others as more important than ourselves just as our Lord humbled Himself, even to the point of death on a cross, so that we are to do all things without grumbling or disputing with others. But we instead fully pour out our lives as a drink offering, because we put no confidence in the flesh, and we want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, forgetting what lies behind and pressing on in the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, as citizens of heaven, and not as enemies of the cross… That’s kind of this quick fly by, and there’s a lot more we jetted over. But for this series on “Renewing Our Minds for Rejoicing”, let’s limit ourselves to the more immediate context:

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

We’re going to take some extra time to unpack that, because we can’t do that quickly or we might miss it.  So I’m going to put the car in reverse to take a closer look on a monthly basis, but from the particular perspective of his command to “think continually on these things.” But as we do, my prayer is that it will profit us, strengthen us, so as to be better equipped in life and ministry for the joy that is ours in Christ.

Think Intentionally

That’s certainly part of what it means to dwell on these things, think on these things. It means we’re thinking intentionally, deliberately, purposefully, directionally, joyfully, not haphazardly. The idea of our mediating, of course is not eastern mysticism – it is not emptying our minds, but filling up our minds with healthy and true thoughts. It’s to analyze and mine it from every angle, to chew the cud extracting every ounce of nutrient and flavor.  So to think well is to think intentionally for God’s glory. 2 Cor 10:5 says positively, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Colossians 2:8 adds negatively, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception.” Both ways, be purposeful.

How many of us have said, after something foolish we’ve done, like buying a used car way under market value in a back alley with no pink slip, like forgetting our keys in the front door, like taking an extra helping at the buffet… “What was I thinking?!”  We way overvalue spontaneity and quickness. Truth is that we’re so impatient in our microwave, 4G LTE, click it and Amazon Prime has it on your door step culture. We’re not filling up our hearts with the things that will prepare us to respond, rather than react. We’re not consciously putting off self-exalting thoughts and putting on God-exalting thoughts.  We have to be deliberate in our holiness, because our default state functionally is not holy; it’s selfish!

When we’re not intentional about thinking how to glorify the Lord in any situation, then we’re only listening to ourselves, our desires, our feelings, our idols, our pain, our discontentment, our hurt, and guess who we’re not trusting?  The Lord!  We come up with our own terms, timing, and talents, while we blaspheme the sovereign love and perfect wisdom of God by taking matters into our own hands. It’s like attempting to solve a million piece jigsaw puzzle in 30 minutes without the picture on the box, or building a complicated robot while deliberately throwing away the instructions and manual while spitting in the face of the designer.  And we wonder why all our prideful efforts have not worked out?  Even more, we all are guilty, at the foot of our idols, of having the audacity to blame the Lord and everyone else and everything else?  We all think, but do we think rightly or wrongly?  We all think, but we’re not all thinking well.

One of the terrible counselors we listen to instead of the Lord and godly people is ourselves, namely our feelings. There is nothing wrong with having feelings, but when our feelings control us and drive us, against the Word of God, the Bible calls it carnality.  Eric Davis points out, “Feelings are the golden calf of our day. We worship our feelings and hold them higher than anything, especially truth. Our feelings become the determiner of what is good and bad; judge of what is right and wrong. If you hurt my feelings, then you are a villain. Never mind that I probably needed wounding (Prov 27:5-6). And never mind looking at what idols and sinful cravings might be fueling my hurt feelings (Jam 4:1-2). And if you hinder this cause, and do not help it, then you are labeled ‘unloving.'”   That’s why counseling is difficult, because it’s not a mere problem of deduction, but a problem of depravity. Usually there is a combination of sin and suffering, so when ministering to fellow sinners caught up in life-dominating dysfunction, we’re concerned about both their sin and their suffering.  But listen, suffering doesn’t cause sin, rather sin causes suffering. It’s why the Bible doesn’t coddle us, but it often confronts before it comforts, saying what is needful to address the heart of problems, rather than just symptoms. Otherwise, we’re caught up in repeating a cycle of death.

Let’s take for example Paul’s command back in v. 4, to “rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say, rejoice!”  He commands us to do that, precisely because it’s not easy or natural for us to do, for often we don’t rejoice. Note that this is the 3rd time we’re commanded to rejoice in the letter.  Question: Are we pondering it purposefully, or do we just let it go in one ear and out the other?  Do we nod in agreement and then forget it, or do we find ourselves thinking about what it means to rejoice throughout the day and the week, especially when we’re pressed hard, so that we’re preaching to hearts, “Man, you need to rejoice!”  Some of us don’t think that makes a difference, but it really does. Implicit in the command is the call for each of us to intentionally think that we need to be joyful always. So that when we’re fighting for our joy, asking His help, we’re thinking intentionally and purposefully as to why we’re not and why we must.

Our trials ask, “Is Jesus enough for my life?” Yes, trials test us… but are we thinking accurately by faith that they will be used to strengthen us and bless us as the Lord delights to do?  Contentment will say, “Yes”, while discontentment, anger, envy, anxiety, will want to say “No.”  Where is the source of our joy?  Where do we place our hope?  What will make us truly happy? How do we respond to disappointment, hurt, and failure?  Hab 2:18 challenges, “What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it?”  That old Johnny Lee song describes our culture, “I was looking for love in all the wrong places.” Jon Bloom says, “The power to change self-indulgent behavior is believing a different promise for happiness.”  Part of why we don’t rejoice well is because we don’t think well, and because we don’t treasure well.  We’re not considering all the facts in our favor, especially the fact of our Savior!  But the sick mind can’t remedy itself, it needs Scripture’s medicine. All we see is what’s wrong, and we’re blind to all that is good. We’ve been saved, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, made rich in Christ, have a history of sweet providences! We don’t think about His unchanging grace and infinite power.  So where there should be a defiant “nevertheless”, we’re whining about what we don’t have and who’s not giving it to us, as we talk back to the Lord, that we deserve better! The joy of the Lord is not our strength, there is no new song in our mouths, we don’t rejoice with joy inexpressible. But when we find Paul in prison singing, the elderly sister smiling with gratitude when you change her bed pan, then we’re being taught when our greatest desire is Christ, and see He’s all we need, everything pales and fades in comparison, and joy just explodes! Bring on the world! The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want!

Resounding Faith

by Pastor Patrick Cho

When one of our members resigns their membership at Lighthouse San Diego, we typically try to schedule an exit interview to bless them and pray for them. Over the years, these exit interviews have been a really sweet way to say goodbye and reaffirm the loving relationships that have been built up through the fellowship of the church. One question we ask during the interview is, “From your perspective, what is something that we can be doing better at Lighthouse?” By far, the most frequent answer is that the church could be more evangelistic.

Why is this a problem? Well, it’s a problem because one of the reasons the church exists is to proclaim the amazing grace of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even our motto at Lighthouse is that we would serve to be a beacon of God’s truth and love! So if our members are not seeing that the church is striving to be evangelistic, then this needs to be more of a focus of our ministry.

But this is also a problem because the measure of a church’s evangelistic ministry is directly proportionate to how evangelistic its members are. If the church’s members were devoted to evangelism and responded to the urgency of reaching souls for Christ, then surely the church would be characterized as evangelistic. In other words, evangelism is not firstly a program. Evangelism is the responsibility of each believer in obedience to the call of Christ and the command of Scripture.

Of course the church could initiate some exciting new evangelistic program. At first, many people might get involved perhaps because of the sheer excitement of it. But over time, we have seen that participation dwindles. The excitement fades. Sadly, enough time passes and the ministry is barely being held together by the faithful few who truly have a heart for it. How can this be avoided? It doesn’t begin with starting newer and better programs. Honestly, it must begin in the pulpit through the faithful preaching of God’s Word. Only there can the Spirit of God work through what is preached to light a fire in the hearts of the church’s members to love what the Lord loves and to commit to what the Lord requires.

This is the reason our theme for 2017 is “Resounding Faith” from 1 Thessalonians 1:8, where the Bible says, “For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.” The key phrase is “sounded forth.” It means to ring out and describes the blasting of a trumpet. The reputation of the Thessalonians was that they were faithful in their proclamation of the gospel to the extent the Apostles were hearing about their faith throughout all of Greece.

But what led to the Thessalonians’ commitment to being a faithful witness? It wasn’t some clever church program. They simply recalled the drastic life change that took place when God rescued them from their idolatry. They maintained a keen awareness of the effect of the gospel in their lives not just to bring them to salvation but also with its ongoing application. In v. 5, the Apostle Paul testifies of the power of the gospel and the work of the Spirit in their lives to bring about radical change. In v. 9, the actual transformation wrought by the gospel in their lives is undeniable. They had turned to God from serving idols. Having experienced so great a salvation, testifying to the grace of God became a natural outflow of their lives.

As we unpack this theme throughout the year, hopefully it will challenge the church to consider: 1) Do you regularly preach the gospel to yourself remembering how the Lord brought about radical change in your life? 2) Do you seek to grow in your understanding of the biblical theology of salvation so that you can better know who God is, what He does, and what He requires of you? and 3) Does your testimony and experience of conversion fuel your evangelism? I’m praying that the teaching we work through this year will cause the church to be bolder in their witness taking risks of faith to tell others about Jesus because of what is at stake.