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

An Open Book

The dictionary defines this English idiom in two ways:
 
  1. Something that is easy to understand or decipher.
  2. One who acts (or purports to act) honestly, with no secrets.
 
The Hebrew poetry of Proverbs uses a similar expression with a similar meaning. Proverbs 15:11 says, Death and Destruction lie open before the LORD— how much more the hearts of men!
 
Think about that! Two staggering mysteries that puzzle mankind are like open books before God. Even the two Hebrew words used, “Sheol” and “Abaddon” are mysterious. If some teacher claims to have nailed down their meanings, he or she is stretching credulity. But let’s go with the broadest meaning … physical death and ontological destruction are easily understood and decrypted by our God. They are not mysteries to him. Can you imagine the amount of ink humanity has spilled trying to decipher the causes and meaning of physical death? Can you fathom the number of opinions we’ve generated on the existence, continuance and final state of the human soul? These are among the most complex questions with which human philosophy grapples and they are child’s play for God.
 
What does this astounding fact about our Creator teach us? The author of the proverb draws the conclusion, “If God easily understands these two enigmatic areas of existence … He certainly understands the inner-workings of each person.” The human heart; in Hebrew, the sum-total of everything that makes you … you. That part of you lies open before the Lord. This is the repeated testimony of the book of Proverbs and the entire Bible. How do I respond to such truth?
 
First, I respond with humility. God knows things I don’t about the universe; He even knows things I don’t know about myself. People say, “I’m an open book,” but no one really is. I have pages no other human has ever turned … and some pages even I cannot separate. I don’t always understand or rightly read my own motivations, but God does.
 
So, secondly, I respond with honest dependence. Because I am an open book before God, I can be honest before Him with what I know about myself, and I can turn to Him for help when I need to understand myself. Like the Psalmist, I can pray,
 
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23–24
 
 


Psalms & Proverbs

For centuries, many Christians have observed the devotional practice of reading one chapter from Psalms and Proverbs a day. What amazes me is how often the Psalm and selection from Proverbs for a given day seem thematically connected. For instance, my devotional reading recently brought me to Psalm 11 and Proverbs Chapter 11.

It’s not always the case in Proverbs, but Chapter 11 has a discernible and repetitive pattern. You could summarize it in two statements:

The evil man seeks evil and it finds him.

The righteous man seeks good and it finds him.

Psalm 11 uses many similar images to those found in the corresponding proverbs and concludes by saying:

On the wicked God will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.

This theme of evil coming to those who seek it and good coming to the righteous is consistent throughout Scripture. I’m not talking about a health and wealth gospel … I’m talking about something better. The Ultimate Good comes to those who seek. As the psalmist promises, “the upright will see God’s face.  God gives His best to those who seek righteousness, He gives Himself.
 
 
(Reprinted from 9/15/2013)
 
 


I’m All Ears

How many times have you heard that? How often have you found it to be true? How often do you encounter a person who seems to genuinely … interestedly listen?
 
My issue is that my two ears are connected to my brain and my brain is connected to my mouth. Well … I guess that’s not really the problem. After all that’s standard issue, original equipment. The issue is not using what God gave me in a disciplined and loving manner.
 
Most of us can process information at a much faster rate than another person can produce it. Our mind has ample resources to take in significantly more information than what they’re saying. Overall, that’s good. It allows us to process more than just facts. We hear inflections giving us hints to the speaker’s mood. Our eyes read a thousand subtle nuances in posture, stance, eye movement and facial expression; more data about mood and feelings. I’m not saying we always “hear” the total person correctly … just that when we’re truly tuned in, our brains have an amazing capacity for understanding. Listening also involves drawing conclusions, making associations and formulating questions. Again, this can be tremendously helpful if it’s done with love and discipline.
 
Here’s the rub, it’s hard to stay tuned in … sometimes it’s hard to love the speaker as we wish to be loved ourselves. Our brains run ahead … and run amuck. I’ve heard half of what you’ve said and already I’m dying to tell my story; formulating my transition, intro and illustrations. Even worse, you’ve expressed a fraction of your thought and I’ve decided I know exactly where you’re headed. I’m no longer truly listening; brain resources have been reallocated to prepare my rebuttal or defense. Finally, the worst infraction; my brain is so done listening, so ready to speak, that I … interrupt.
 
Later this week, our reading plan will take us into the book of Proverbs. If you’re willing to listen, you can learn a lot about disciplined and loving communication. Here’s a proverb that prompted these thoughts,

 

He who answers a matter before he hears it—this is folly and disgrace to him.

Proverbs 18:13

 

Your brain is faster than my mouth … but let’s make one simple rule for the communication race. You only win if we both end up in the same place. Otherwise, you have the embarrassing distinction of being first at the wrong finishing line. Here’s a simple and apropos prayer I found on the internet, “Dear Lord, please keep your arm around my shoulder … and your hand over my mouth.”
 
 
 


Burning Bibles .. Burning Bones

One application on my smartphone gives me access to 59 English translations of the Bible. As staggering as that number is, it only represents 13% of the total number of Bible translations in English. I call that number “staggering” because there was a time when there were none.

The first known, complete translation of the Bible into English was not completed until 1382. The man credited with making it happen died peacefully just two years later, on December 30, 1384. Forty-four years after his death, bishops at the Council of Constance condemned his teachings as heretical and ordered that his bones be exhumed and burned.

His many radical views had indeed challenged the established church. He took on issues like, clerical celibacy, indulgences, praying to the saints and even questioned the legitimacy of the Papacy. That may sound like Martin Luther, but John Wycliffe preceded Luther and the Protestant Reformation by more than 100 years. While many have called him the Morning Star of the Reformation, Wycliffe is best known for that first complete English Bible. The same council that ordered his bones burned, also ordered that his writings be burned. This unfortunately included some of his “unauthorized” English translations of the Bible.

Wycliffe’s Bible translation was viewed as heretical because of the belief that gave it birth. Wycliffe had come to regard the Bible as “the only reliable guide to the truth about God and maintained that all Christians should rely on it” rather than the teachings of the church. His belief that men ought to be able to read God’s Word in their own language led directly to his work of translation. While that view hardly seems radical today, all of Wycliffe’s challenges to the authority of the Roman church sprang from his high view of God’s Word. Those challenges led to burning Bibles and burning bones.

Our Cover-2-Cover reading of the Bible in 2019 has a history that goes right back to John Wycliffe. Many men and women sacrificed for our ease of access to God’s Word … let’s not waste that opportunity.

Side note: A great organization named after John Wycliffe carries forward his belief that all men should have the Bible in their native tongue. Due to their efforts and other like-minded organizations, the entire Bible is now available in 683 different languages, with the New Testament available in 1,534. There’s still much to be done … check out their work at https://wycliffe.bible.

 
 


Questioning God

“I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” That first question led to many more for Moses.

Once drawn in, he was confronted and commissioned by God to be ambassador to Pharaoh on behalf of enslaved Israel. Immediately, Moses began to question God. He questioned …
 
  • ·       God’s choice, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh?”
  • ·       God’s word, (But) “What if they do not believe me listen to me?”
  • ·       God’s enablement, “I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor  since you have spoken to your servant.”

I get Moses … I understand his questions. There have been many times when I have had similar misgivings about God’s ability to use me. Let that soak in! When we focus on ourselves, the obstacles or the audience … we end up asking outrageous questions of God … like “Are you able?”

I’m grateful for a questioning God. He asked Moses three types of questions that every Christian needs to hear:

What’s in your hand? When Moses doubted that anyone would take him seriously, God asked, “What is that in your hand?” A wooden staff became a writhing serpent from which Moses ran. Something Moses had within his grasp, something he viewed as ordinary, became extraordinary when relinquished to God.

Who made you?  When Moses lamented his powers of communication, God asked, “Who gave man his mouth?” The point is crystal clear, the Creator knows best the capabilities of his creature. If the Designer of the human tongue says, “You will be my witness … to the ends of the earth,” we assume nothing about our abilities, but rather trust wholly in the enabling power of His Spirit.

Who is on your side? When Moses persisted in fixating on his own capabilities, or lack thereof, God showed him that he had allies. God put Moses in partnership with his brother Aaron, so he didn’t have to face Pharaoh alone. This human support was grace upon grace, because God’s first word to Moses should have been enough. Remember Moses’ question, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh?” God did not answer that query with a moral boosting pep talk … but with the greatest words of strength anyone could ever hear … “I will be with you.”

I’m not expecting you to see any flaming bushes … but every believer in Jesus Christ has some clear callings on their life backed up by clear promises about God’s enabling presence. What ordinary resources do you possess that could be radically transformed by obedience? What could you surrender to the hands of your Creator? What could you accomplish for the Kingdom in His power and in the company of His people?