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.

There Is Praise In Our Pain

by Pastor Patrick Cho

As the Thanksgiving season is upon us, it reminds us to consider daily all the manifold reasons we have to praise God for His many blessings. The Apostle Paul teaches us that every spiritual blessing we enjoy is in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Of all people, we ought most to be thankful in that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have been forgiven of our sins, redeemed in Christ, reconciled to God, and made new in the Spirit. It is no wonder that Scripture commands us as Christ-followers to always be thankful (Phil. 4:6; 1 Thess. 5:18).

However, even for us who have been forgiven in Christ, it is easy to lose sight of God’s grace in our lives. It is easy to complain, become bitter, or be discontent. Of course, there are the mundane, daily distractions that war for our hearts so that we take our eyes off what is eternal and focus instead on what is temporal. But sometimes our hearts are discouraged by trials, suffering, attacks, weakness, etc., even severely. It isn’t that we are so much distracted by everyday life, but we find ourselves dealing with difficult people, conditions, or problems. How are we to be thankful then? It is in these times that obedience to this command is understandably challenging.

Praise God that even in times of trial, when we face hardship and suffering, we can still maintain a heart of thanksgiving. Scripture gives several reasons:

  1. There is purpose in our pain. We can be sure that our suffering is not in vain if we are in Christ. It is working out its purpose to shape us into the image of God’s Son (2 Cor. 4:7-11), and God is using it to mature us in faith (Rom. 5:3-5; James 1:2-4).
  2. Our painful experiences better equip us to sympathize and help others who are hurting (Rom. 12:15). It isn’t that we know exactly what they might be going through, but we do know what it means to hurt and to wait on the Lord in the midst of it.
  3. God uses our hardships to test our faith so that having passed the test, we might look forward to glory in heaven (2 Cor. 4:16-18; 1 Pet. 1:6-9).
  4. Our suffering reminds us of Christ who also suffered and sympathizes with our weaknesses and pain (Heb. 4:14-16).
  5. God uses our suffering to bring us into a more intimate relationship with Christ so that we might know Him more and understand better our union with Him (Phil. 3:7-14).

There is more revealed in God’s Word about why we ought to praise God in our pain, but these five reasons alone are sufficient to encourage our hearts. Let us trust Him who is eternally and infinitely good, even in our trials, because He is faithful and promises to work out our salvation to completion.

That Those Things Which Cannot Be Shaken May Remain

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Hebrews 12:27

We have many things in our possession at the present moment which can be shaken, and it ill becomes a Christian man to set much store by them, for there is nothing stable beneath these rolling skies; change is written upon all things. Yet, we have certain ‘things which cannot be shaken,’ and I invite you this evening to think of them, that if the things which can be shaken should all be taken away, you may derive real comfort from the things that cannot be shaken, which will remain.

Whatever your losses have been, or may be, you enjoy present salvation. You are standing at the foot of His cross, trusting alone in the merit of Jesus’ precious blood, and no rise or fall of the markets can interfere with your salvation in Him; no breaking of banks, no failures and bankruptcies can touch that. Then you are a child of God this evening. God is your Father. No change of circumstances can ever rob you of that. Although by losses brought to poverty, and stripped bare, you can say, ‘He is my Father still. In my Father’s house are many mansions; therefore will I not be troubled.’

You have another permanent blessing, namely, the love of Jesus Christ. He who is God and Man loves you with all the strength of His affectionate nature-nothing can affect that. The fig tree may not blossom, and the flocks may cease from the field, it matters not to the man who can sing, ‘My Beloved is mine, and I am His.’ Our best portion and richest heritage we cannot lose.

Whatever troubles come, let us play the man; let us show that we are not such little children as to be cast down by what may happen in this poor fleeting state of time. Our country is Immanuel’s land, our hope is above the sky, and therefore, calm as the summer’s ocean; we will see the wreck of everything earthborn, and yet rejoice in the God of our salvation.

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Weekly Links (11/17/2017)

“You gain fluency in a language when you move from merely translating an unfamiliar language into a familiar one to interpreting all of life through that new language. It happens when you can think, feel, and speak in a language. In a sense, the new language becomes the filter through which you perceive the world and help others perceive your world and theirs…Gospel-fluent people think, feel, and perceive everything in light of what has been accomplished in the person and work of Jesus Christ.” (Jeff Vanderstelt, Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life)

by Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

Feliz Friday! A number of resources have turned up, and I’m excited to share what I’ve found!

  • The Master’s Seminary just came out with their Fall issue, focusing on Christian responses to claims from those who identify as LGBT. Don’t miss their book reviews.
  • The Gospel Coalition has announced a new learning platform called TGC Courses, online classes taught by many great scholars in their respective fields on topics as wide as church history, Old and New Testament, apologetics, doctrine, counseling, and more! The ones I’m personally most excited about is ‘Mining God’s Word’ and ‘Theology for Children’ songs. Dive right in!
  • Speaking of free courses, Biblical Training has added a course by textual critic Dan Wallace to their Institute called Textual Criticism. This course requires a login to watch the lectures, but I promise it will be worth it!
  • There have been a few cases that have been sent to the Supreme Court related to religious conscience that you may have heard about but don’t know much of the details. Kim Colby makes us aware of the three cases that are coming up, and it’s a good summary. Be on the lookout for them in the news, and pray for those involved.
  • Listen in as Alasdair Groves talks with David Powlison about psychology. That alone should pique your interest.
  • A new book critiquing theistic evolution is coming out at the end of this month called Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, edited by J.P. Moreland, Stephen Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann Gauger, and Wayne Grudem. Moreland was recently interviewed about the book, and Andrew Naselli gave his initial take on the book last week, but it’s a convenient location to find a 79-page excerpt and a 9-minute video. Check it out!
  • Lita Cosner and Dr. Robert Carter write a brief, but extremely helpful article for Christians on the amount of misinformation that exists on the internet, and how to wisely discern what is true from what is false. This should be required reading for any believer who uses the internet.
  • Do you sleep less than Jesus? If so, you may need to read this article, then get some sleep, please.

That’s all for this week! Please pray for the youth and collegians as they meet for Bible study tonight. See you all on Sunday (morning and evening)!

Soli Deo Gloria

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.

He Shall Build The Temple Of The Lord

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Zechariah 6:13

Christ Himself is the builder of His spiritual temple, and He has built it on the mountains of His unchangeable affection, His omnipotent grace, and His infallible truthfulness. But as it was in Solomon’s temple, so in this; the materials need making ready. There are the ‘Cedars of Lebanon,’ but they are not framed for the building; they are not cut down, and shaped, and made into those planks of cedar, whose odoriferous beauty shall make glad the courts of the Lord’s house in Paradise. There are also the rough stones still in the quarry, they must be hewn thence, and squared. All this is Christ’s own work. Each individual believer is being prepared, and polished, and made ready for his place in the temple; but Christ’s own hand performs the preparation-work. Afflictions cannot sanctify, excepting as they are used by Him to this end. Our prayers and efforts cannot make us ready for heaven, apart from the hand of Jesus, who fashioneth our hearts aright.

As in the building of Solomon’s temple, ‘there was neither hammer, nor axe, nor any tool of iron, heard in the house,’ because all was brought perfectly ready for the exact spot it was to occupy-so is it with the temple which Jesus builds; the making ready is all done on earth. When we reach heaven, there will be no sanctifying us there, no squaring us with affliction, no planing us with suffering. No, we must be made meet here-all that Christ will do beforehand; and when He has done it, we shall be ferried by a loving hand across the stream of death, and brought to the heavenly Jerusalem, to abide as eternal pillars in the temple of our Lord.

‘Beneath His eye and care,
The edifice shall rise,
Majestic, strong, and fair,
And shine above the skies.’

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Weekly Links (11/10/2017)

“What was the message of the Reformation? In essence, the main question asked and answered was: How does a person get right with God? This was the central issue. For Rome, sinners are saved by faithfully adhering to the dogma of the Catholic Church. But when the Reformers began to examine the Bible, they saw that salvation came by God Himself through the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (Nate Pickowicz, Why We’re Protestant: An Introduction to the Five Solas of the Reformation)

by Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

Feliz Friday! It’s time to get your dose of informative links into your life, so here we go!

That’s all for this week! Please pray for the youth and collegians, as they meet tonight at church. See you all on Sunday!

Soli Deo Gloria

The Foundation Of God Standeth Sure

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

2 Timothy 2:19

The foundation upon which our faith rests is this, that ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.’ The great fact on which genuine faith relies is, that ‘the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,’ and that ‘Christ also hath suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God’; ‘Who Himself bare our sins in His own body on the tree’; ‘For the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.’ In one word, the great pillar of the Christian’s hope is substitution.

The vicarious sacrifice of Christ for the guilty, Christ being made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him, Christ offering up a true and proper expiatory and substitutionary sacrifice in the room, place, and stead of as many as the Father gave Him, who are known to God by name, and are recognized in their own hearts by their trusting in Jesus-this is the cardinal fact of the gospel. If this foundation were removed, what could we do? But it standeth firm as the throne of God. We know it; we rest on it; we rejoice in it; and our delight is to hold it, to meditate upon it, and to proclaim it, while we desire to be actuated and moved by gratitude for it in every part of our life and conversation.

In these days a direct attack is made upon the doctrine of the atonement. Men cannot bear substitution. They gnash their teeth at the thought of the Lamb of God bearing the sin of man. But we, who know by experience the preciousness of this truth, will proclaim it in defiance of them confidently and unceasingly. We will neither dilute it nor change it, nor fritter it away in any shape or fashion. It shall still be Christ, a positive substitute, bearing human guilt and suffering in the stead of men. We cannot, dare not, give it up, for it is our life, and despite every controversy we feel that ‘Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure.’

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Weekly Links (11/3/2017)

by Stephen Rodgers

Alright everyone, free stuff time! Rather than highlighting all sorts of different resources, we’re going to try something a bit different this month. Given that last Sunday’s sermon was on the topic of Martin Luther and the Reformation, here are the three most recent issues of CredoMag, each of which focuses on a particular aspect of the Reformation:

CredoMag has changed the way that they distribute their “magazine,” so each of those links is essentially a table of contents for the articles in each issue. So you can easily click and scroll through to find articles that are of particular interest.

Enjoy!

Thou Art Fairer Than The Children Of Men

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Psalm 45:2

The entire person of Jesus is but as one gem, and His life is all along but one impression of the seal. He is altogether complete; not only in His several parts, but as a gracious all-glorious whole. His character is not a mass of fair colours mixed confusedly, nor a heap of precious stones laid carelessly one upon another; He is a picture of beauty and a breastplate of glory. In Him, all the ‘things of good repute’ are in their proper places, and assist in adorning each other. Not one feature in His glorious person attracts attention at the expense of others; but He is perfectly and altogether lovely.

Oh, Jesus! Thy power, Thy grace, Thy justice, Thy tenderness, Thy truth, Thy majesty, and Thine immutability make up such a man, or rather such a God-man, as neither heaven nor earth hath seen elsewhere. Thy infancy, Thy eternity, Thy sufferings, Thy triumphs, Thy death, and Thine immortality, are all woven in one gorgeous tapestry, without seam or rent. Thou art music without discord; Thou art many, and yet not divided; Thou art all things, and yet not diverse. As all the colours blend into one resplendent rainbow, so all the glories of heaven and earth meet in Thee, and unite so wondrously, that there is none like Thee in all things; nay, if all the virtues of the most excellent were bound in one bundle, they could not rival Thee, Thou mirror of all perfection. Thou hast been anointed with the holy oil of myrrh and cassia, which Thy God hath reserved for Thee alone; and as for Thy fragrance, it is as the holy perfume, the like of which none other can ever mingle, even with the art of the apothecary; each spice is fragrant, but the compound is divine.

‘Oh, sacred symmetry! oh, rare connection
Of many perfects, to make one perfection!
Oh, heavenly music, where all parts do meet
In one sweet strain, to make one perfect sweet!’

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