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

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.
 
 

 



Soul Armor – Part 5

Maybe it should have been a no-brainer, maybe you figured it out years ago, but something was missing in my prayer life. I’m going to omit it from the verses we’ve been considering … and see if you catch it …
 
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
 
What’s missing? It wasn’t totally missing from my prayer life. I knew God deserved it. I would always try to work it in. I would always come up with something to say … and most of the time I genuinely meant it. It was a habitual section of almost every prayer.
 
That was the issue. It was a section of my prayer life. I had a giant bin of “I need” and a well-considered little basket of “l want.” I was always careful to keep them in that proportion … but they were always full. I’d rummaged around in another cubbyhole to find something to pray for that wasn’t about me … and then I had this little collection of … “it.” It didn’t change much. I would pull out the standard items and hold them up to God and then I’d put them back for the next prayer. “Thank you for my salvation … thank you for my wife … thank you for my health … etc.” Was I thankful? Yes … but thankfulness was not central to my prayer life.
 
That’s where Paul put thankfulness, right in the middle of everything. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God. Do you see how radical that is? Paul doesn’t say (as some prayer models do) “Be sure to devote a portion of your prayer to giving thanks.” No, thanksgiving is integrated into every petition and request. Each one is offered in prayer “with thanksgiving.” (Pause … let that sink in.)
 
Does your heart rebel at finding thankfulness, some reason for gratitude, in every situation? I understand, but be assured, God does not command what is impossible or hurtful for his children. Thanksgiving directed to God in all our requests and petitions carries the promise of divine peace.
 
 

 



Soul Armor – Part 4

Philippians 4:6-7 promises supernatural, soul-preserving peace to believers in Jesus Christ who will … pray.
 
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And … peace.
 
Have you found prayer as effective as Paul promised? Can you count on prayer to quench the mind-warping pressures of modern life? Have you found it a bulwark capable of protecting your emotion stability? Maybe you’ve never thought of the question because that wasn’t the goal of your praying. Your goal in prayer was to petition or request something from God. Your expectation is that God, being both powerful and loving, is capable of answering your prayer.
 
God is powerful and loving. He is capable of answering our prayers, but that is not the promise of these verses. The promise is that if we take our petitions and requests to our Heavenly Father, he will give us his peace; Marvelous peace, divine peace, beyond comprehension and capable of protecting our psyche (heart and mind). The verses make no promise that everything we ask for will be granted. They do unreservedly promise that we can exchange our anxiousness in any situation for God’s peace.
 
I have lived through some soul-crushing experiences in life. Some I have fought through in my own strength, experiencing levels of anxiety that probed the limits of my mental fortitude and wreaked havoc on my nervous system. Others I faced with prayer, confident of my Father’s sovereign love and care. The divide between brooding anxiety and supernatural peace has been a sliding scale. It has depended on how quickly I got in my “right mind” and remembered God’s promise of “peace that passes understanding.” Even as I write, I know that the struggle between self-sufficiency and God-dependence will be ongoing.
 
In my next post on August 13 I’ll share the most recent (and perhaps most important) way these verses have challenged my prayer life.