The Pastor’s Corner is written by the pastor of Coronado Bible Church.

Familiar Strangers

As I write, a pastor I’ve known for probably fifteen years is still missing. All indications at this point are that he’s taken his own life. I’ve known his father and mother, grandparents and cousins … but I didn’t know him. The energetic, enthusiastic, gregarious, confident person I saw really was him, but it wasn’t always him … it wasn’t all of him.
 
None of us is up all the time. We all experience mood swings. Thankfully most of us have been blessed with bodies that can regulate, compensate and adjust. Others experience euphoric highs and crushing lows. I don’t understand bipolar disorder, but I know that people who love Jesus suffer from it … and I know those same people are dearly loved by him.
 
Would it have made a difference if the suffering pastor was as acceptable as the energetic go-getter? I hope so … and I believe it’s a place where God’s people need to grow. The pressure to always have the answers and be “up” is withering in ministry. I think that’s true for Christians in general.
 
We, of all people, should be open to those who suffer. Otherwise, we’re not much like our Father who is … “Close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18. Neither are we much like our Savior if we neglect to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2. Again we’re told, “Encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14.
 
At any moment I might be talking to a person who is discouraged to the point of death. I’m not saying that realization will give me special insight, but it’s a push towards loving unrestrainedly. It’s a reminder to be in the moment and not so hurried. It’s reason enough to practice Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Maybe we can’t totally be the solution … but we can cease from being part of the problem.
 
 


Minute Praise

Miniatures impress me. Making something small and detailed requires great skill. To build it small, detailed and functional requires an artisan. Building small means non-stock, special materials and tighter tolerances. I’ve built quite a few things in my life, some that have had family and friends amazed. But then I get around my friend Chris and I feel like a total amateur. He used to have one of his masterpieces sitting under the window in his living room. It was a one-twentieth scale working steam tractor and it was not a kit. He personally machined every pencil-lead-size brass bolt himself. The oilers are made from cut-down glass automotive fuses. It all works, the throttles, the gears … everything. If you saw it and weren’t impressed, I’d be shocked.
 
In modeling, miniaturization is one of the highest expressions of skill. In the everyday world it is one of most advantageous displays of mankind’s ingenuity. We experience its marvels all around us. Here’s a comparison that I found between the Apollo Guidance Computer and the average smartphone. Your smartphone has 1,000,000 times more Random-Access Memory (RAM) than it and that RAM is 800 times faster. Your phone is 3,000 times lighter and 300 times cheaper without compensating for inflation. It is 50 times more energy efficient and … those statistics are already three years old. Gone are the days of swapping out tubes or even transistors. Today’s electronic devices are so miniaturized that to most of us they seem impossible … almost magical.
 
Modern society looks at a smartphone and praises the genius of its designer … and looks at a hummingbird and assumes it is the long compilation of random chances? Just the other night, a frog smaller than a grasshopper visited, perched near out door. Its skin was so thin that you could see its miniscule heart beating. And yet … this fragile creature could jump and cling and eat and reproduce. It even seemed to study me as I studied it. I thought, “So tiny, so detailed, so functional … what an awesome Creator we have.” Some would denigrate my musings about a creator as a backward and primitive superstition. I will not return the favor … I have no room to boast in recognizing the handiwork of God. Even that faculty is a gift of my Creator’s grace.
 
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. Hebrews 11:3
 
(credits: https://superuser.com/questions/747202/how-do-modern-smartphones-compare-to-apollo-mission-computers)
 
 


Toastless Oven

It was a cheap classic with little that could go wrong. A twist of the knob opened the circuit supplying energy to the heating elements top and bottom. The mechanical timer ticked away assuring you of progress. When the bell rang, your bread had been transformed to golden toast.
 
I did all that and returned to find my bread totally unaffected. There it lay, white and limp. I twisted the knob again … and nothing. Well that’s not true. There was plenty of noise and movement, there was just no light or heat. Then I saw the issue; the unit wasn’t plugged in. If you can say this about a toaster… it was just going through motions.
 
Jesus faced the spiritual equivalent in his day. The most devout and religious looking people drew His greatest censure. Jesus confronted the Pharisees with the words of Isaiah,
 
“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
(Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8; Mark 7:6)
 
Externally, there was plenty of noise and movement, but inside there was no light and heat. They had no real connection to God they claimed to worship. Though they were called “Experts in the Law,” they could not see beyond the words to the reality. Jesus challenged them with an incredible claim, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39- 40)
 
Jesus had the audacity to say that all their religious knowledge and commitment had no meaning, because it had not led them into a trusting relationship with Him. He told them their hopes of eternal life were impossible unless they came to Him for that life!
 
Are you connected to THE source of life? Underneath the sound and movement is there the heat and light of a genuine relationship with Jesus?
 
 


Soul Armor – Final Thoughts

The Apostle Paul commanded Christians in the church at Philippi “think on these things.” It was a command to habitually focus their thoughts in a specific direction. Their thoughts were to be captivated with what was true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. (Philippians 4:8-9)
 
Imagine probing the minds of twenty random individuals to see what their thought patterns identify as “excellent and praiseworthy.” I’m not talking about what they would write on a list for all the world to see. I’m talking about what they have, through repetition of thought, elevated to the status of admirable and worthy. The revelations would range from commendable, to benign, to insipid, to salacious, to darkly frightening. For the most part, we choose what occupies our thought life, but the subjectivity of what the human mind venerates is astounding.
 
Paul’s command was not meant to be subjective or individual. While his instruction must be applied individually, it’s vital to remember that it was written to a church. The command was public and plural and meant to be lived out in community. He wrote “you all” dwell on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. The standards for what qualifies as “excellent and praiseworthy” are held in community under the rule of God’s Word. The second half of Paul’s command makes this clear.
 
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
 
Paul had spent considerable time teaching the Philippians God’s Word. Now he commands them to think collectively and concertedly about the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy truths they have heard from him and seen demonstrated in his life. By rehearsing that teaching and encouraging one another in it, they would be able to “put it into practice.” Then the God of peace would be among them. (For parallels see: Ephesians 5:15-20; Colossians 3:15-17.)
 
 
 


Soul Armor – Almost Done

Philippians 4:6-7 promises peace when we make all our petitions and requests in all situations with thanksgiving to God? In the next two verses, Paul gives a second promise of peace …
 
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9
 
“Think about such things,” the idea is prolonged thought. It could be translated “ponder these things.” Dwell on, ruminate about true, noble, right, pure, lovely, excellent and praiseworthy things.
 
So … personal peace grows out of a disciplined thought life? Isn’t that’s what all the gurus are saying?
  • Think good thoughts
  • Go to your happy place
  • The good you are seeking is seeking you
  • Focus on good thoughts and good things will happen.
No … Paul is not pushing that very popular, very pagan, very empty ideology. Now, I’m not denying the common-sense connection between your thought life and peace. What your mind feeds on will affect your outlook on life. A teenage girl who feeds on a steady diet of slasher movies will feel less peaceful in a dark room than one who has not. A husband who constantly turns to pornography will have less peace in his physical (and spiritual) relationship with his wife.
 
But Paul was talking about more than detoxing your thought life … and he was promising something deeper than mental tranquility. In Philippians 4:6-7 he promised “the peace of God.” In verses eight and nine, he promises … “And the God of peace will be with you.” The thought-life Paul is advocating leads to the peace of God and the presence of God! Maybe it would be even better to say … this course of life leads to peace in God’s presence.
 
In preparation for the last blog in this series, I invite you to make a list of topics you think would meet these criteria … whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy … think about such things.