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

Love’s Dividend

I’ve met some amazing people in my lifetime, but only one Carolyn Switzer. In more than fifteen years of interacting with her in ministry, I cannot recall one instance of harshness or ill-temper. She was one of the most gracious and steady people I have ever met. She could talk about Jesus to anyone without it ever feeling artificial or forced. Carolyn was a gifted Bible teacher, but I think most people would say she simply loved them into the Kingdom. Getting close to Carolyn made you want to get closer to Jesus. 
 
It was not at all axiomatic that Carolyn should have turned out this way. Her life was marked with a series of staggering tragedies. Her six-year-old son died in her arms; her forty-year-old husband died unexpectedly of a brain hemorrhage at work. After raising three daughters as a single mother, Carolyn found love again later in life. Her and her second husband served as missionaries to Venezuela until he fell sick and rapidly succumbed to cancer. Carolyn’s latter years were plagued with constants bouts of pneumonia.
 
Carolyn’s infectious joy was wonderful, but it seemed extraordinary, even counterintuitive when you heard about her great suffering. Not all Christians are so beautifully formed through pain. I asked Carolyn about the absence of bitterness in her life and besides giving the glory to Christ, she told me an amazing story. When her first husband passed away, several Christian families banded together and completely assumed her home mortgage. She had struggles as a widowed mother, but she never had to worry about housing. She said God’s love was so real and proven in their actions, that it totally influenced her response to suffering. Carolyn repaid that loan for the rest of her life as she poured what she had received into countless other lives.
 
No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
1 John 4:12 (NLT)
 
 


Victorious Retreat

Long unbroken periods of frenetic activity fatigue not only the body, but the soul. Jesus, the Son of God stole away from the rush and crush of ministry to pray and recover his strength. Though fully God, Jesus in regards to his humanity needed to spend time in the Father’s presence and rest. Even when his disciples would have argued that ministry demanded that he engage, Jesus resisted the pull to live by the expectations of the masses.
 
The news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. LUKE 5:15-16
 
The gospels show Jesus instilling this pattern in his followers; requiring that they also take strategic retreats from ministry (Mark 6:31-32). He commended those who stepped away from the task driven life to spend time in his presence (Luke 10:38-42). If this is the witness of Jesus’ life, why do we try to do it on our own?
 
I am slowly learning the discipline of saying … “I am too busy not to pray about this.” I need to grow in the practice of strategic retreat. Times of quietness and concentration on God’s Word and prayer are indispensable for a life lived in God’s power.
 
That said, one awesome aspect of prayer is that it allows you to retreat anywhere and at any time. Amid a busy schedule, before you open your mouth in a difficult situation, you can step next door into the throne room of God Almighty and
receive mercy and find grace to help in your time of need (Hebrews 4:16). No one notices your absence, but stepping momentarily into God’s presence can bring his presence back into the situation. There are no spiritual victories apart from the retreat into prayer.
 
 


Shattered Reality

I have always loved words. I suppose it is somewhat genetic … or at least inherited. My paternal grandfather was a playwright and author. My father had a broad and constantly growing vocabulary and both my parents played with and invented words. Although spelling was a struggle for me, I always tested several grades ahead when it came to vocabulary. My parents only deprived me in one area of language … foul language. I am still grateful that my parent’s vocabulary of vulgarities was so anemic.
 
I’m not saying I never heard swearing in the home. My father’s knowledge of “choice words” was probably as robust as any World War 2 veteran … but he was very strategic in their deployment. The effect of him not normally swearing increased the affect when he did. Still, by today’s standards, my parent’s language would be strictly G-rated.
 
One of my father’s indulgences was calling things with which he disagreed by the initials B.S. When chided by my mother (every time), he would respond (every time), “It just stands for Basic Sediment.” Basic Sediment was the useless black sludge left in the bottom of holding tanks in the oilfield industry. Judge for yourself if my dad’s interpretation of the initials was any less insulting than the common vernacular.
 
My mother’s strongest denigration was to call a person a “stinkpot.” This word, she applied only to the most cantankerous, obstreperous and ornery rapscallions. I’m not sure why, but I was recently intrigued about the derivation of this word. It turns out that the term “stinkpot” originally referred to a weapon employed by the Chinese in Naval warfare. They were thin metal or earthenware containers filled with sulfur and other suffocating concoctions. When hurled burning onto the deck of an enemy vessel, they burst into a cloud of toxic smothering fumes. The enemy was either overcome or forced to abandon their ship in search of oxygen.
 
Think of the implication of applying this word to a human. When you are heated, jostled or shattered, what spills out of you? How does it affect those around you? Jesus said, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45
 
 
 
 


Navigating Life

I am such a fan of the Waze app on my phone. It has greatly reduced the trauma and drama of navigating Panama. Repeated use has shown it to be accurate and reliable. Even when its route didn’t look right, it got me where I wanted to go. It’s gotten me out of a few places that my own faulty navigating skills got me into.
 
There are two ways to use Waze. If you’re connected to Wi-Fi when you plot your course, your entire route is uploaded onto your phone. You are given an estimated time of arrival and alerted to any known hazards or delays. Once you leave the Wi-Fi connection … you’re on your own. GPS plots your movement along the preloaded route, but you’ll have no warning of complications that could slow your travels or even create an unsafe situation. Your plotted route might indicate that The Bridge of the Americas is the fastest way to your destination. You’d have no idea that a Conway truck and a Rojo collided at its apex until you were greeted by the sea of taillights right after turning off Ruta 1. If, on the other hand, you had a constant data stream, Waze rerouted you over the Centenario bridge saving you time and preserving your sanity.
 
The Psalmist wrote, “I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” 119:104-105
 
Just before a recent trip into the city, I discovered my data plan had expired. I didn’t leave for the city until I had reestablished that link. Why? Because I hate traveling the wrong path in my car.
 
If we hate traveling the wrong path with our cars on the way to Tocumen Airport, how much more important is it that we keep a constant connection to God. Traveling the wrong path in life is exponentially more serious. I believe the more regular and intimate your connection to God’s Word, the more powerful it becomes for navigating life. Repeated use has shown it to be accurate and reliable. Even when its route didn’t look right, it got me where I wanted to go. It’s gotten me out of a few places that my own faulty navigating skills got me into. What about you?
 
 


The Death of Journalism

I’m not an uncritical fan of the professional news agencies. Neither am I overly thrilled with the fact that anyone can have a “news” site. Unfettered and unfiltered access to large audiences should be good for the exchange of ideas, but I believe it is destroying ethics and professionalism in print media.
 
I’m not claiming that professional journalists always follow their own code of ethics, but at least they admit there should be one. The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) has thirty-five clearly articulated statements in their code. There’s not room to reproduce them here, but even a glance at their four main headings raise serious questions about the integrity of much of what we call news.
 
SPJ Code of Ethics
1. Seek the Truth and Report It.
2. Minimize Harm
3. Act Independently
4. Be Accountable and Transparent.
 
Under heading one, the SPJ states that a professional journalist should, “support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.” Recently, I began reading an article on a purported news site. I was sympathetic to the view of the commentator, but stopped reading when he referred to the subject of his article as a “turdbucket.” Hardly what I’d call promoting the open and civil exchange of views. There’s something to be said for professionalism. Saying things articulately and with respect is a worthy ethic. I’ll go farther and say it is a Christian ethic.
 
1 Peter 3:15-16 sets the standard for how Christians conduct themselves in society.
 
 In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
 
Christians are called to reasoned responses, delivered with love and respect … even in the face of societal slander. Social media has given each of us a voice, so we can begin by adopting this standard for every personal post or response. Then we can begin holding our news sources to the same standards. Civilly plead for civility and if nothing changes, change where you go for your news.