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

Keep Your Distance

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Fourteen years after the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, the Jewish exiles in Babylon receive a message from God through the prophet Ezekiel. It came as a vision of how to construct a new temple when God brought them back to Israel from captivity. God reminded the people of why Jerusalem with its temple was destroyed and why they were sent into exile. Here is the rather strange charge from Ezekiel 43:8,
 
“They placed their threshold next to my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them, they defiled my holy name by their detestable practices. So I destroyed them in my anger.”
 
What does that mean? In the last few decades of the Kingdom of Judah, some of their kings actually built shrines to foreign gods within the courtyard of YHWH’s Temple. The doors and doorposts of these shrines were right next to those leading into the Holy of Holies where God had promised to dwell among the Israelites. Holy means, “set apart for special use.” It was bad enough that the Jews worshiped other gods, but to do so within the temple courts showed utter contempt for the holiness of God’s name (his reputation).
 
Back to the plan for the new temple. The new temple, where God’s glory was to reside, was to be quite small; 172 feet by 172 feet. It was to sit in the center of the Temple Mount where only the priests were allowed. That was an area of almost seventeen acres. All of that was to be surround by the Holy Precinct; land dedicated to God and his service. That area was a staggering fifty-three square miles (137 km sq.)! God’s message? “I am holy … keep your distance.”
 
When Jesus died on the cross, Luke 23:45 tells us that “the curtain of the temple was torn in two.”  No more would man be separated from God. The grace of God poured out through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ, made a way for us to approach the Holy God (Hebrews 4:15-16). In fact, God now dwells directly in and among his people through the Holy Spirit. Wonderful news! God is still Holy … how should the knowledge of His constant presence affect our daily lives?


The Soul Enemy

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Who’s the worst, most evil villain you can remember from a movie? I saw some horrendous ones in my high school days. One circle I ran in had an informal social planner we’ll call Alex. He was constantly reading horror stories, reading magazines about the special effects for horror flicks and introducing us to the latest movie he’d discovered. I remember watching one movie with Alex laughing uncontrollably while one person after another was murdered. He claimed he was laughing at the absurdly bad special effects, but deep down I think Alex was a horribly frightened person. For him, laughing at evil was a twisted sort of therapy. I had to walk away from that group of friends … or at least beg off of movie nights. I came out of the womb wired to care for people. I just won’t be entertained by watching them be hunted, tortured or murdered (even pretend). I can’t imagine the images our youth are burning into their minds. I can’t imagine where this “entertainment” will take our world.
 
Here’s the tragic truth … the most insanely evil character you can imagine is a cartoon imitation compared to the real enemy of your souls. The usurper Satan would prefer to be feared and worshiped in the place of, or on a par with his Creator. If he can’t get that, his next choice is laughter or ignorance. If he can’t steal the outright title of “lord” in someone’s life, he’s fine with not being taken seriously. As long as he can pull the strings and shape the hearts and minds of future generations, he’s more than pleased. Perhaps his greatest trick on Western society has been foisting himself off as an imaginary character who is good fodder for our entertainment. If you’re amused by evil … be afraid … be very afraid!
 
(Reprinted from January 19, 2014 blog)
 


Trophy Bag

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A cloudy sky hung low over the slate grey waters of the Pacific Ocean. The verdure of the shoreline glowed in the subdued atmosphere and fled by as our chartered Panga sped toward shore. It had been an enjoyable day, but long. Our lines were in the water, but it had been some time since our lures had any takers.
 
My sleepy absorption in the gorgeous Azuero coastline was suddenly interrupted by the distinctive “braazzing” of a spinning reel. The boat sprang to life as Arthur and Rick called for me to take the pole. Once I had the stout rod in hand the fight began. The struggle was fierce. Either it was fighter or it was three times larger than anything I’d caught that day. The captain looked at the flex of the pole and hollered, “You’ve got a real fish now!” I struggled to find the rhythm, “pull up … reel down.” Something large crested momentarily above the boat’s wake and voices called out the suspected species of the finned warrior. With every instant of battle, my anticipation mounted. What dastardly denizen of the deep was I fighting? The spinner was visible close behind the boat as I finally started to feel that I had gained the upper hand. The deck hand bent over the back of the boat obscuring my view. Finally, he turned revealing the glittering specimen. The result of my valiant struggle? A fifty-three-pound plastic bag of sea water.
 
Thankfully that wasn’t the only catch of the day. We took home four very tasty Yellow-fin Tuna. I also caught something else … my first sight of dolphins and whales! I’m so thankful for those experiences and the friendship of men like Rick and Arthur. Joking about my “trophy bag,” Rick quipped, “Things aren’t always what they seem.” So true … sometime we fight for things that we believe will satisfy, only to come up empty.
Isaiah 55:1-3
asks, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” The passage teaches that the one true need of man can be obtained without money. Men and women can have a relationship with their Creator simply by asking.


Toddler Christianity

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He broke free from his parents and headed straight for the ride. The toddler was already doing an awkward limbo under the turnstyle before his mother caught hold of him. In a few moments they returned and paid the fee. He made a beeline towards a little camouflaged jeep and beamed as the attendant buckled him in. Sue and I watched with amusement as the car swung around the track in our directions. Cherubic cheeks, a broad smile and crinkled eyes betrayed the simple joy of his experience. His parents were enjoying the moment also, so much so that they paid the girl at the booth for another round.
 
But … all good things must come to an end. The car halted and the father stepped forward to collect his child. The boy began to crawl toward the other side of the jeep. He clung to the safety bar and began to wail as his father gently pried him from the ride. The child’s face was transformed into a canvas of grief and loss as he gazed back at the object of his desires. I felt sad that such a moment of joy ended with pain. I wondered what his tiny mind would remember of the experience; joy or loss. Why do we come out of the womb programed to want … more?
 
Lord save us from toddler Christianity … teach us to experience contentment in the midst of abundance or privation, because our ultimate hope and joy are fixed on you.
 
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13
(See also 1 Timothy 6:6-10; Habakkuk 3:17-18)


Zipping through traffice

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You can hear Rod Serling’s thin, wiry voice in the back of your head…“You’re travelling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of … torturously slow traffic; a journey into a cramped little world of bumpers and taillights. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, Lane Closure!”
 
I see the flashing arrow of doom and because I was raised to be conscientious and polite behind the wheel, I move over at an appropriate and safe distance. All drivers of a similar constitution do the same … leaving the closed lane empty for a space of some thousand meters. There is another class of drivers on the road; ones who have always suspected that they are more important and should be moved to the front of the line. They see the open lane as our tacit agreement with their inflated self-assessment. They speed gleefully ahead, careening in at the last possible moment. As we watch them, our ire rises and we try to turn our cars into an impenetrable wall of resistance against these pretenders to the throne. Both sides end up frustrated, perplexed, delayed and sometime with crumpled fenders.
 
It has been proven that if drivers stay two abreast and take turns at the bottleneck, traffic is safer and flows significantly faster. It’s called zippering. Zippering is safe, polite and would get us all where we’re going faster. Doing what’s best for the other guy would be best for us. The downfall of this technic is that it has to be observed by all or at least most of the drivers to work. I don’t know that I’ll ever see that lived out on our roadways. We can at least strive to live it out in the Body of Christ … the church.
 
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10
(See also: 12:16; 13:8; 14:13; 15:17)