Personal Training

by Roger Alcaraz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Am Come Into My Garden

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Song of Solomon 5:1

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

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

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


Weekly Links (9/22/2017)

“Young Theologs, if your main activity is discussing theology but it does not result in a deep love and concern for people, you are no heir of the Reformation, regardless of your theological positions. Pastors and those who desire to be pastors, if your idea of pastoral ministry is limited to the pulpit, then you are no heir of the Reformation regardless of the length or theological weight of your sermons. The Reformers, mirroring Christ and the apostles, were deeply involved in the lives of their people, aware that they would be called to account for the oversight of their souls (Heb 13:17). A passion for souls requires the knowledge of specific souls and involvement in the messiness of their everyday lives.” (Ray Van Neste, “The Care of Souls: The Heart of the Reformation,” Themelios 39.1)

by Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

Feliz Friday! Here are this week’s links! Enjoy!

  • If you haven’t heard already, former Muslim and now Christian apologist Nabeel Qureshi died this past Saturday after battling stomach cancer for about a year. Ravi Zacharias posted a tribute to him and spoke at his memorial service. Please be in prayer for his wife Michelle and daughter Ayah, as he was a faithful spokesman for the cause of the gospel to Muslims and all who would hear him tell others about our Savior.
  • Biblical counselor Stuart Scott continues his study of the Reformers and their relationship to the care of souls in their private ministry of the Word. We cannot divorce their profound theological impact from their profound care for the flock of God entrusted to them. May we all, not just our pastors, grow in our love for those who are in need of counsel.
  • Church historian Stephen Nichols gives a four-minute recounting of the life and ministry of John Calvin. Fascinating, especially if hearing about his life for the first time.
  • Are there bad reasons to leave a church? You bet, and Brett McCracken gives seven of them.
  • How can you remind yourself of the gospel? Paul Tautges gives you four ways to do so. We need to remember the gospel in our daily lives. May this lead to that end.

That’s all for this week! Please be in prayer for the upcoming two services beginning this Sunday! See you all then!

Soli Deo Gloria

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.

Thy Redeemer

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Isaiah 54:5

Jesus, the Redeemer, is altogether ours and ours for ever. All the offices of Christ are held on our behalf. He is king for us, priest for us, and prophet for us. Whenever we read a new title of the Redeemer, let us appropriate Him as ours under that name as much as under any other. The shepherd’s staff, the father’s rod, the captain’s sword, the priest’s mitre, theprince’s sceptre, the prophet’s mantle, all are ours. Jesus hath no dignity which He will not employ for our exaltation, and no prerogative which He will not exercise for our defence. His fulness of Godhead is our unfailing, inexhaustible treasure-house.

His manhood also, which he took upon him for us, is ours in all its perfection. To us our gracious Lord communicates the spotless virtue of a stainless character; to us he gives the meritorious efficacy of a devoted life; on us he bestows the reward procured by obedient submission and incessant service. He makes the unsullied garment of his life our covering beauty; the glittering virtues of his character our ornaments and jewels; and the superhuman meekness of his death our boast and glory. He bequeaths us his manger, from which to learn how God came down to man; and his Cross to teach us how man may go up to God. All His thoughts, emotions, actions, utterances, miracles, and intercessions, were for us. He trod the road of sorrow on our behalf, and hath made over to us as his heavenly legacy the full results of all the labours of his life. He is now as much ours as heretofore; and he blushes not to acknowledge himself ‘our Lord Jesus Christ,’ though he is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Christ everywhere and every way is our Christ, for ever and ever most richly to enjoy. O my soul, by the power of the Holy Spirit! call him this morning, ‘thy Redeemer.’


Weekly Links (9/15/2017)

“Real repentance is a new worship. It looks like a changed life, but that changed behavior results from a change of worship, not the other way around. Repentance is being convicted by the Holy Spirit of the sinfulness of our sin— not the badness of our deeds but the treachery of our hearts toward   God. Repentance means hating what we formerly loved and served— our idols— and turning away from   them. Repentance means turning to love God, whom we formerly hated, and serving him instead. It’s a new deepest loyalty of the heart.” (Michael Lawrence, Conversion: How God Creates a People)

by Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

Feliz Friday! Another week has come and gone, and yet the links are new and fresh! Here we go!

  • Professor David Murray posted a one-stop shop for various resources dealing with the issue of depression, placed under the ‘Know-Love-Speak-Do’ rubric of Paul Tripp. This will be one to bookmark for future reference.
  • RTS President Michael Kruger deals with a recent Pew study claiming Protestants are closer to being Catholic than Martin Luther. He deals with the issue of sola fide, and how true, saving faith is expressed in contrast to Roman Catholicism.
  • Pastor of Counseling Brad Hambrick at The Summit Church continues posting on his marriage seminar, this time on intimacy. If you want to watch the videos, go here.
  • Biblical counselor Stuart Scott writes on the pastoral side of the Reformers, noting the lack of emphasis, by many, on their private ministry in counseling their flock. There’s much to glean from, and it’s only part one!
  • Tim Challies writes on the duty of every Christian to be devoted to God, using Princeton theologian B.B. Warfield as a great example of devotion to his wife and, primarily, to God. May your life grow in deeper devotion to Christ and the gospel.
  • Speaking of Challies, he also began a new podcast, called ‘The Art of Godliness’ with Paul Martin, an elder at his church. The first episode focuses on dealing with conflict in the church. This looks very promising.
  • David Mathis considers the question, “Must elders be skilled in teaching?” Reading this will make you more thankful for our elders. Praise God for raising up leaders who teach the Word!
  • Denny Burk, one of the writers of the Nashville Statement, recently clarified the purpose of including the concept of ‘design’ in expressing God’s will for our lives as male and female. Randy Alcorn gives his reasons for signing the statement, and highlights others who have done the same.
  • Fred Butler posted his six-part (thus far) review of Hugh Ross’ book Navigating Genesis: A Scientist’s Journey through Genesis 1-11. Butler is a young-earth creationist, while Ross is a leading old-earth creationist speaker/writer. This can be a great conversation-starter with those in either camp.

That’s all for this week! Again, please be in prayer, as Youth and College Life will be back in their respective Bible studies tonight. Pray for the Spirit of God to open the eyes of those who do not know Christ, and that those who do will be renewed in their love for Him.

Soli Deo Gloria

Spring Up, O Well; Sing Ye Unto It

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Numbers 21:17

Famous was the well of Beer in the wilderness, because it was the subject of a promise: ‘That is the well whereof the Lord spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water.’ The people needed water, and it was promised by their gracious God. We need fresh supplies of heavenly grace, and in the covenant the Lord has pledged Himself to give all we require.

The well next became the cause of a song. Before the water gushed forth, cheerful faith prompted the people to sing; and as they saw the crystal fount bubbling up, the music grew yet more joyous. In like manner, we who believe the promise of God should rejoice in the prospect of divine revivals in our souls, and as we experience them our holy joy should overflow. Are we thirsting? Let us not murmur, but sing. Spiritual thirst is bitter to bear, but we need not bear it-the promise indicates a well; let us be of good heart, and look for it.

Moreover, the well was the centre of prayer. ‘Spring up, O well.’ What God has engaged to give, we must enquire after, or we manifest that we have neither desire nor faith. This evening let us ask that the Scripture we have read, and our devotional exercises, may not be an empty formality, but a channel of grace to our souls. O that God the Holy Spirit would work in us with all His mighty power, filling us with all the fulness of God.

Lastly, the well was the object of effort. ‘The nobles of the people digged it with their staves.’ The Lord would have us active in obtaining grace. Our staves are ill adapted for digging in the sand, but we must use them to the utmost of our ability. Prayer must not be neglected; the assembling of ourselves together must not be forsaken; ordinances must not be slighted. The Lord will give us His peace most plenteously, but not in a way of idleness. Let us, then, bestir ourselves to seek Him in whom are all our fresh springs.


Weekly Links (9/8/2017)

“As children of light, Christians do not reach those trapped in darkness by shrouding their light and acting like darkness; rather, they reach the world by shining brighter and brighter in holiness (Matthew 5: 14-16). The Bible is clear: The church has its greatest impact on the world not when it becomes like the world, but when it stands in counter-distinction to it.” (Nathan Busenitz, Right Thinking in a Church Gone Astray: Finding Our Way Back to Biblical Truth)

by Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

Feliz Friday! May these links help bring you closer to our God and Savior!

  • Erik Raymond starts us off with a great reminder of how God can work in your life through the reading of His Word. Don’t neglect time spent reading what God says to you now…in Scripture.
  • As we come closer to celebrate the day Martin Luther posted his 95 theses (do you know what day that is?), biblical counselor and ACBC Executive Director Heath Lambert decided to follow suit and post his 95 theses, digitally, for an authentically Christian commitment to counseling. Speaking of Luther, Bob Kellemen created a resource page for his new book Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life. Included are a number of Luther quotes related to the issue of counseling, and how he related the gospel to sin, suffering, and sanctification. This is a hidden treasure of a post!
  • Continuing from last week, Pastor of Counseling Brad Hambrick continues to highlight his “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage” seminars by posting the one on decision-making. Included are overview sheets of some of the lessons they went over. If you prefer video, go here.
  • Tim Lane discusses the emotional intelligence of husbands and in what way Scripture touches on this subject. Tim Challies takes up the challenge of writing on how the wife ought to respect her husband, and what that really means.
  • Paul Tripp writes on the 14 gospel principles from Scripture for parents on how to raise their kids, and why strategies never work. If you don’t have his new book on parenting, this is a very concise summary. Over at the True Woman blog, Tessa Thompson offers some tips on how moms can have joy particularly on Sunday morning. This was a great reminder for me to pray for all the moms at our church. I hope this will be of help to you, moms.
  • In light of the upcoming Sunday School class on peacemaking, I thought I’d include this post on how to forgive a friend who hurt you. This is a great way to begin the conversation with those you may need to talk to, or a way to guide a younger brother or sister in the way of maturity.
  • What does it mean for God to be self-existent, and does it matter? Dr. William Barrick of TMS gives a brief answer. What a great God we serve and worship!

That’s all for this week! Please pray for the youth and collegians as their Bible studies begin tonight! See you all on Sunday!

Soli Deo Gloria