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

Following the Right Jesus

Last Sunday, I was trying to explain how people’s attitudes about Jesus could have changed so drastically between his Triumphal Entry and the day of his death. The jubilant crowds turned against him, or at best kept silent as he was carried away to death. Of his trusted twelve, one betrayed him for money, another publicly renounced him and the other ten just melted into the shadows. My premise was that people were following the wrong Jesus. Many believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but what that meant was the issue. When Jesus turned out to be a messiah vastly different from what they had imagined, they turned away.
 
The premise of my message was that we should be certain that we are following the right Jesus; Jesus as he claimed to be; Jesus as the Bible presents him. Near the end of the sermon, a thought came to me and came out of my mouth something like this: “This is Sunday, we worship Jesus in freedom and with little fear, but a Friday may be coming when it is costly to be his follower. Let’s be sure that we’re following the right Jesus so that when hardship comes we don’t become disillusioned and fall away.” That application was not in my notes.
 
Later that afternoon I learned that almost fifty Coptic Christians had died in two separate terrorist attacks in Egypt. Not everyone who died that day had chosen to follow Jesus into harm’s way, but many had. The Coptic Christian community has lived for years with the reality of persecution and death. As I read articles about their ongoing response to living as targets of aggression I was impressed by three themes;
  • It is common for them to read and reflect on scriptures that say followers of Jesus will face persecution.
  • It is common for them to respond with love toward their persecutors and pray for their conversion.
  • It is common for them to speak about how the hope of the resurrection keeps them going.

I’m certain that the Coptic worship services today, on Resurrections Sunday, look very different from what I’m used to, but I believe they are following the right Jesus. The resurrection was the game changer for the first followers of Jesus, it erased their cowardice and turned them into an unstoppable force that changed the world. Are you following the risen Jesus?

After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.  John 2:22
 
 

 



Face Down

If you saw a picture of a room full of people praying face down, what would you assume? Would you think they were Christians? The Scriptures are replete with examples of people falling on their faces before God. At least twenty-eight times the Bible records situations where people fell face down before God. From Abraham’s first encounter with God back in Genesis all the way to the saints worshiping around the throne in Revelation, the people of God have been getting on their face before God. This ancient Christian posture for prayer predates the birth of Mohammad by 500 years.
 
There was a time when kneeling in prayer was a common part of Christian worship. Many of us were brought up with this as part of our bedtime ritual. My sense is that as we have grown increasingly casual in our worship styles, this posture has fallen into disuse. Perhaps we have forgotten the cost of grace.
 
Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
 
We are encouraged to come before God with confidence in prayer; that’s awesome news! But notice what we are approaching … “God’s throne.” Earlier verses make it clear that our unhindered access to God the Father came at the cost of Jesus’ sinless life and atoning death. The King we approach is predisposed to mercy, but he is still a King.
 
Bowing ourselves before another speaks of total surrender; it is position that leaves us vulnerable. To prostrate oneself before a king was to admit that you were at his mercy. He could slay you, but it could also show trust that he would not. How perfect is that in my relationship with God. He has every right to slay me, but because of the Cross, I trust that his intentions toward me are only good. When was the last time you got low before your King?
 
 

 



Making It Your Own:

This past week we had the pleasure of entertaining friends from Illinois. It was fun and refreshing to have two sets of fresh eyes looking at the place we now call home. Along the way, we experienced:
 
  • Exclamations about the eccentricities of Panama’s traffic.
  • Marvel at the beauty of the mountainous skyline.
  • Wonderment over where we are privileged to live.
  • Curiosity about the differences in dress and customs.
  • Amazement at the grand scale of the Canal operations.
  • Admiration over our Spanish skills … even though we feel like we know next to nothing.
As we tried to help our guests navigate through and appreciate Panama, we were called upon to explain, sometimes defend and often confess our ignorance. Still, I was amazed at how much I have learned in a few short years. Each time we show Panama to visitors, I find myself feeling a little more at home. Somehow sharing the country helps us own the country.
 
It is a phenomenon that I’ve experienced in another more intimate area of my life. The more I share what I believe about my faith, the more it becomes my own. When you talk to people who don’t know Jesus as their Savior, you are forced to explain, defend and often confess your ignorance. The challenge forces you deeper in your own understanding. The fact that critics do not dissuade you from what you believe, confirms the reality of your faith. You realize that it is gift of the Spirit and not merely an inherited cultural construct. Here’s a passage I share with you as an encouragement to share your faith … and own your faith.
 
I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Philemon 1:6
 
 


Hang up the Light

In 1919, Western Electric introduced the first freestanding dial telephone for home use. The old Candlestick models were obsolete, but my imaginative grandmother saw something new in her old phone. She asked a local handyman to make some modifications. What she got back was something familiar, but radically different and unique. The telephone became a lamp.
 
Being one of her sturdier antiques, I don’t remember being scolded for touching it. I think she appreciated the fascination it held for her grandchildren. Picking up the receiver turned on the light. I remember having pretend conversations on the lamp … and I remember being told to “hang up the light.” It is a peculiarly fun part of my childhood memories.
 
My grandmother’s home was full of the “repurposed.” There was a set of magazine holders made from a copper wash tub that had been cut in two. There were multiple rugs made from crocheted bread bags. You could find almost anything in Mason jars; from pickled beets to assorted screws. It was a time of re-purposing. It was definitely not a throwaway society.
 
God’s household is like that. His first desire is to redeem, not destroy. The reality of salvation is multifaceted. From God’s standpoint when a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ it looks like 2 Corinthians 5:17, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” When you place your faith in the person and work of Jesus, the spiritual transformation is instantaneous and complete. It’s as radical as being changed from a phone into a lamp!
 
But our old “phoneness” remains. God doesn’t wipe your memory and start from scratch when you come to faith. No, he does something infinitely more difficult and precious. He begins to work with what is there; memories, personality, gifting; redeeming every part of who you are. It’s called sanctification. He cleanses you and repurposes your past; he wastes nothing. Anything relinquished to him can be turned to your good and his glory. That looks like 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
 
 
 


Shades of Something Different

DoIt, Novey, Cochez … change geographic location, repeat. I quickly found exactly the roller shades that I wanted for the guest bedroom. Well, they weren’t precisely the color I wanted … okay, I wasn’t looking for brown shades at all. Still, they exceeded my expectations; they were in stock and the right size. Somehow, those shades grew nearly ten inches during the trip back to the condo. Maybe something in the conversion from Imperial to Metric.
 
While trying to return the shades, I suddenly discovered that I could effortlessly read Spanish. Actually, the other side of box was in English and inches. The new set of shades claimed to be “43,3 inches” wide. I’d never seen that exact nomenclature for measurements, but these were exactly what I wanted. They were in stock and the right size. On the way back to the condo, they lost 1,3 inches. The measurement was the shade width plus hardware. DoIt, Novey, Cochez in the city … bigger stores … smaller selections. I bought drapes instead.
 
It was one of those homesick moments when I found myself frustrated by the differences in my adopted culture. Three big-box hardware giants were within fifteen minutes of my home in Illinois. Each had an entire department for “window treatments.” Fifty-seven different shade styles, each available in thirty-one colors, glistened beneath halogen lights in perfect air-conditioned comfort. Friendly, articulate, professional employees attentively hovered waiting to cut the blinds to my custom specifications. I might be romanticizing … a bit.
 
What surprised me more than missing my Stateside conveniences was the time I wasted waiting on Panama to conform to my expectations. If I had invested the same amount of energy trying to order blinds, I’m sure I would have succeeded. Even though it didn’t fit the reality of my new context, it felt safer to try what I knew than to venture into a complex situation with limited language skills.
 
I wonder if there is a spiritual lesson here … a lesson about faith? I think I’ll try something different and invite you to practice Colossians 3:16 by making the application. Email me a Bible verse and a spiritual lesson that you drew from my story. jon@panamission.com