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

A Picture of Grace

Just one street off the Interamericana, I was driving on a road that could easily be mistaken for a dry riverbed. The dry spaces between its mudholes are paved with small boulders. It’s one of those paths that doesn’t allow a driver to look away for very long. Even though I was only going five km/h, I thought it prudent to look up at the intersecting road. When I did, a magnificent tree caught my eye. I’d never seen its kind before. It was an arching, verdant palm covered with clusters of brilliant white flowers. The second glance that it begged for helped me better understand what I was seeing. It was not one, but two trees.
The Frangipani tree puts on clusters of snow-white blossoms prior to developing its leaves. Well … one of those trees had grown up and through a standard coconut palm. The combination created the illusion of a new and beautiful species of tree. It was as if they were lending what the other lacked; one tree supplying the foliage, the other the flowers. This again reminded me of 1 Peter 4:10 and how the body of Christ is supposed to function,
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
Last month I explained that in this verse, the word “serve” is the same word elsewhere translated “ministry.” The application question was, “What’s your ministry?” But 1 Peter 4 also talks about God’s grace coming in “various forms.” The Greek word translated there literally means variegated or many-colored. God’s grace is expressed with variety and beauty as we pour into others what He has poured into us. One lends leaves, another flowers as the church paints a living picture of God’s glorious undeserved favor towards the world. What are you contributing toward the picture of Grace?

Calling Barak

If the book of Judges were rendered as a massive mural, the careful observer would find it strangely incomplete. Two elements that should have been prominent in the life of the Israelites are noticeably absent.
  • The Tabernacle so carefully constructed during the dessert wanderings is totally missing. This, despite that fact that prior to entering the promised land, it was the constant center of the Israelite religious and social existence.
  • The Priesthood established to teach and interpret the law for the spiritual and social good of the people is almost unmentioned. The priests were specifically tasked as arbiters among the people.
These elements are missing by design of the author. They were so neglected in the life of the Israelites that they had become invisible in daily life. Their absence proves the authors opening charge against God’s people. “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel … they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the Lord’s commands.” Judges 2:10 & 17
When we read in Judges 4 that “Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time … and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided,” it is further evidence that all was not spiritually right in Israel. This casts no shadow on Deborah. She was undoubtedly God’s messenger, doing God’s will and she proved a capable leader. It was just simply not the plan that God had laid down for his people.
God used Deborah to call Barak as Israel’s military deliverer. Despite a direct command from God, Barak refused to go to war unless Deborah accompanied him. Deborah’s response is telling,“I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman.”Judges 4:9
Women have proven themselves extraordinary leaders in all facets of life and should be recognized and rewarded accordingly. And yet … God still calls men to take the lead in the spiritual life of their homes and churches. (Ephesians 5:22-32; I Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:6-10, I Peter 5:1-3)

Fact Vs. Fear

Since we moved to Panama, Sue and I have been cliff dwellers. We loved to perch on our balcony and watch the coming and goings of people, clouds, tides and storms. Besides the interesting and beautiful vistas, twenty stories up has some other advantages. In all our time there, I had never seen a scorpion. In all my life … I had never seen a scorpion.
Now that we have descended to earth, we have dispatched two in the space of less than a week. I screamed when the first one scuttled past my foot. I didn’t want to go near it, but I also didn’t want it hiding in the bedroom. I grabbed the nearest thing I could and wacked it like Thor swinging his hammer. I backed away trying to see where it had gone and nearly stepped on its twitching carcass. It had somehow followed my backswing and landed behind me. I don’t even want to think about the “Dancing with the Stars” gyrations that would have ensued had it landed in my hair. When the deed was done, I realized that my heart was racing faster than when I’d recently gone paragliding. How could a creature, maybe three inches long, induce such alarm?
Misinformation played a part. Prior to that encounter, old westerns were my only source of information on these arachnids. In films, the equation is simple; One sting = One dead cowboy. The scorpion trots happily through the desert sand and into Chester’s boot. Chester wakes and grabs the weathered piece of footwear. “Don’t do it Chester!” Too late … he’s already doing a death scene of William Shatner proportions (and quality).
Some scorpions are poisonous, and what you don’t know could kill you. But not all scorpions are deadly and what you don’t know could keep you bound in fear. John 12:42 tells us that many of the religious leaders believed in Jesus …“But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue.” They feared the wrong thing in the wrong proportion. Otherwise they would not have preserved their status and tradition at the cost of a relationship with their Messiah and Savior. See Luke 12 (especially verses 4 & 5).

Presence Vs. the Power of Fear

Last year we flew in a six-seater, twin-engine plane. Sue aptly described the aircraft as, “an old Volkswagen Beetle with wings.” The pilot climbed into the cockpit, flipped a few switches and pressed a button. The image of the 1960s Bug became more vivid. The engine chugged, “Errerrerrerr … ughumph.” Five times the pilot tried unsuccessfully to bring the beast to life. Finally, it coughed its way into a full-throated roar and he began to taxy down the runway. The reluctance of the engine worried me; the fact that the pilot was willing to trust his life to the craft, gave me peace.
Jumping off a perfectly good mountain above Medellin, Colombia was a similar experience. The sign at the entrance notified the daring that their flight would not exceed 9000 feet (2750 meters). The attendant strapped a helmet on my head and I thought, “In what circumstance would this do me any good?”  They unrolled the Paraglider to which I was about to entrust my life and I noted the spindly, webish character of the supporting lines. The harness that enveloped me looked rather tired and over-experienced. I would have never entrusted myself to such a contraption … except … there was someone who was willing to strap himself in with me and trust it with his own life. Sometimes the right presence can trump the power of fear.
The past two weeks in Bible Study, we talked about the two greatest fears most people face; the fear of want and the fear of man. In Matthew 6 and 10, Jesus says that God’s promised presence in our lives should trump those fears. Fear of going without, often disguises itself as a love for stuff. Concerning the basics of life, Jesus said, “the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Hebrews 13:5-6 is another portion of God’s Word that captures this common human struggle:
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”


The Ministry

What comes to your mind when someone says, “Ministry” ?  Many people think of something very formal and very disconnected from themselves. Culture has reinforced that understanding of the word. Merriam-Webster offers the following definition:
  • the office, duties, or functions of a minister
  • the body of ministers of religion
  • the period of service or office of a minister.
Many people think “ministry” belongs to a special, highly trained group who do things for God that the normal person cannot do. As a kid growing up in the Lutheran Church, I remember thinking along those lines, “Ministry is done by ministers and that’s not me.”
Then I sang my first solo in church. Afterward, one lady remarked, “You have such a lovely vibrato!” I didn’t tell her it was created by my knees shaking. Many told me how the song had touched them. Then I saw our church’s minister headed my way. Honestly, my respect for Pastor Ziekert bordered on idolization. That’s why the next words out of his mouth, stunned me, “God bless your ministry Jon!” Had I heard correctly? He referred to my singing as ministry. If I had a ministry … wouldn’t that make me a minister?
When the word “minister” or “ministry” appears in the New Testament, it translates the Greek word, diakonía. That word is even more commonly translated “servant.” Here’s a great example, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10
God’s Word teaches that every believer in Jesus has received at least one gift for the “common good” of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7). Using those gifts to serve others, and glorify God is the real definition of ministry? What’s your ministry?