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

Crumbling Hope

 
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I read of the carnage in Nice, France (200 casualties, 80 deaths); victims of hate. I read about a progressive agenda using teen pregnancy to “educate” the Panamanian population about aberrant sexuality. I watch a race war heating up in the States … not between blacks and whites, but between black and blue. Vladimir Putin claims Europe is inevitably headed to WWIII. I feel the rising pressure to conform to a new set of world values … that are not Christian values.
 
Financially, relationally, morally and spiritually our world is crumbling. The towers and parapets of our great societies are tilting precariously, yawning fissures have opened in the supporting arches … because our foundations are gone. What hope does a pastor have? Is there any efficacy in my calling? Why keep talking to a world that would rather chose its opinions from the internet than listen to God’s Word?
 
During that particular pastoral-pity-party a sentence from the Psalms 11 stirred in my heart … “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” So … God’s Word agrees with my assessment of the world situation. NOT! In the Psalm, that sentence comes from the mouth of an enemy bent on discouraging a follower of God. The speech counsels taking flight because the evil people are out to get you. Sometimes I’m tempted to run off … not physically, but by simply slipping off into silence. Here’s a portion of Psalm 11. I’ve highlighted the words of worldly discouragement in blue. Notice that the Psalmist is arguing against them …
 

In the LORD I take refuge. How then can you say to me:

“Flee like a bird to your mountain. For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart. When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne.
 

A simple argument silences the voice of despair, “God is my hope; my circumstances may change, but he does not.”


The Unchained Word

 
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Did you grow up in a church that had a large Bible prominently displayed at the front? The history behind that tradition is fascinating and challenging. For centuries the Word of God was chained within the Latin language and purposefully kept from the common man because, it was argued, he would misinterpret its meaning. Men like Wycliffe, Huss, Tyndale and Luther were all pioneers in a revolt to end the sacerdotal stranglehold in which the organized church held Scripture.
 

One decisive blows in this battle was dealt when Thomas Cromwell, general secretary for Henry VIII and Vicar General of the Church of England issued orders that all the clergy under his leadership provide a large Bible,

” and the same set up in some convenient place within the said church that ye have care of, whereas your parishioners may most commodiously resort to the same and read it.” (1538)

The result? Every church in England eventually had a large Bible at the front which the common folk were free to read. People stood in line for hours for their chance to read God’s Word with their own eyes. But, the Word of God was still chained … literally. Because of the scarcity and value of these manuscripts (many of them still hand-copied) they were bond to the church altars with chains.

Things have certainly changed! Most of us know experientially that the Bible is more available to more people than at any other time in history. There are still places in the world where God’s Word is “chained” but most of us do not have that excuse. Let me close with question: What if any “chain” is keeping you from reading God’s Word?


The ‘In’ Crowd

Tight-PhatTHE “IN CROWD” Throughout my years of pastoring, I’ve had periodic stints of involvement with youth ministry. During one tour of duty, I noticed a couple of words being used in unfamiliar ways. I heard a girl tell a guy that his shirt was “Tight!” This would have mortified me as teenager, but he seemed quite pleased. Then I heard the kids calling all sorts of things “Fat!” Movies were “fat” … outfits were “fat” … snacks were “fat” … they even called me “fat.” The oddest part was that I could tell it was meant as a compliment. So, I did some research and discovered that in their mid-90s vernacular “Tight” meant stylish, cool, having everything together. “Phat” (pronounced fat) similarly meant excellent or first-rate. So … theoretically, “You’re Phat and your clothes are tight!” would be a great compliment; that’s when I realized I wasn’t cut out for long term youth ministry.

One of the things that I admire in a good youth pastor is their ability to connect with the youth culture without becoming part of it. There are few things as sad as a 40-year-old youth pastor who tries to dress and act like a teenager. There’s no long-term productivity in embracing folly to reach little fools (Proverbs 22:15). The point of youth ministry is to use God’s word to lead them to wisdom. Most kids who are really seeking Christ long to see what a mature Christian looks like.

That’s the challenge for Christians in every age … connecting with the culture without becoming like it. Doing all that we can to connect while staying true to who we are in Christ. Genuine followers of Jesus will never be part of the “IN CROWD.” We are called to be different from the world for the sake of the world (1 Peter 2:12). In fact, our model and our warning against thinking that serving God could be popular is Christ himself (Matthew 24:9; John 15:8; John 16:33; Hebrews 13:13-14).



The Good Old Days

Good Ole Days croppedNostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days.~ Doug Larson

Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.~ Franklin Pierce Adams

In every age “the good old days” were a myth. No one ever thought they were good at the time. For every age has consisted of crises that seemed intolerable to the people who lived through them.~ Brooks Atkinson

In my opinion those quotes not only adhere to a realistic view of history, they line up with Biblical wisdom. Ecclesiastes warns,“Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” (Eccl 7:10). Even amateur students of history find themselves nodding along with another bit of Solomon’s wisdom … “There is nothing new under the sun!”

Of course we have devices and conveniences that would spellbind Solomon, but even technologically we are not smarter or more advanced. If you could dissect the reality of your smartphone, you would find more than circuitry. You would find an amalgamation of miniscule advances accrued over centuries … over millennia.

Besides, Solomon didn’t have technology in mind. He meant there is nothing new to be discovered in the wisdom and folly of man. We decry the events of the day, but each age has had its share of depravity, sensuality, heinousness, mockery, genocide and religious fanaticism. There is nothing new under the sun. The good old days … weren’t.

The Bible is not totally against fond reflection on the past. Many verses counsel a sanctified memory, one that dwells on God’s past goodness and faithfulness (Ps. 111:4; Ps. 143:5; 1 Chron. 16:12). The purpose is not living in the past, but gaining strength and hope for today and tomorrow. Overindulged nostalgia related to this world sours us on the present. It makes us fear the future by telling us the lie that “Things have never been this bad before.” The main thrust that I find in God’s Word is living this day as close to our God as possible (Isa. 55:6-7).


Happy 1st of July

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HAPPY 1st of July!

I know I’m a little early, but let me be the first to wish our Canadian friends Happy … Dominion … Fête du Canada … Canada Day! I’ve been the typical provincial U.S. citizen who didn’t know what was happening in the world much beyond his own country. I lived all this time without realizing that Canada celebrated it’s founding every July and they do it with Fireworks! I thought the U.S. invented celebrating with fireworks … or was that the Chinese? Oh well … I knew I liked our northern neighbor!

Our two countries’ histories are interconnected, similar and different. The U.S. constitutionalized, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, while Canada talks about “Peace, order and good government.” U.S. independence came earlier (1776) and through a decisive revolution. Canada became a Dominion within the British Realm in 1867 and gained increasing autonomy from England. The last vestiges of British governmental influence slipped into history with the signing of the Constitution Act in 1982.

When I first learned about Canada’s gradual progress toward independence, I thought of the progressive nature of our walk of faith. Salvation is revolution and freedom gained by measures. Unlike the amicable relationship both the U.S and Canada maintain with Great Britain, sin is an enemy whose rule the Christian wants totally destroyed. That happened at the cross … that is happening because of the cross.
 
Romans 6 states that when Christ died and rose from the dead, he decisively defeated sin, so that we should no longer be slave to it (vs. 6). But in the same chapter, Paul makes it clear that we must daily choose to live in the freedom of that victory (vv. 11-13). Oh how I long for my Spiritual 1982. Either Christ will call me home or appear to take me home and then … all vestiges of sin’s rule will fall away.