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

First Sunday of Advent – The Light of Hope

  
If you’re not familiar with the term Advent, it simply means “coming.” From the Latin “Adventus” it translates a Greek word that was used in anticipation of Jesus’ return at the end of days. So, Advent is a season for looking ahead … but it has also been used to remember the great expectation that preceded the coming of the Messiah to a lowly manger.  Many Christians celebrate the season with the use of an Advent Wreath. Each candle represents a different aspect of the Christmas story.
 
This morning, the Candle of Hope has been lit. This first candle is symbolic of the long years of waiting and hoping for God’s promised Savior to come. God’s prophets kept reminding the people to look forward to the coming of Messiah,  who was to redeem the people from their sins. The Hebrew word for Jesus means “salvation.” In Bethlehem, long ago, Jesus Messiah came just as He promised. This candle reminds us that our hope is in the God who keeps His word.
 
“When the time had fully come, God sent his Son.” Galatians 4:4 
 
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”  Isaiah 9:2, 6–7
 
 


Unexpected

As I headed to the church on Friday morning, I had a simple agenda: help a crew get started with some window work, grab breakfast at McDonald’s and work on my message for Sunday.

There were some things not on my agenda: deep clean the floors, wash out the dust mop by using it as a squeegee, clean out the inside of my shop vac, wash the carpets, clean under the platform, do plumbing. Guess which list got priority.

The water running out from under the front door at the church was my first clue that my plans might be changing. The water pouring into the sides of my sandals settled the matter. As I walked across Lake CBC towards the sound of rushing water, I assumed someone had left the sink faucet on … maybe while we were without water. I reached the source of the sound, but the sink was empty. I opened the cabinet doors and the reality of what happened hit me … actually, it sprayed me in the face. One of the pipes to the filter system had changed its profession and become a decorative fountain. I guess it just couldn’t handle the pressure. Anyway … once the water was shut off, the three hours of cleanup began. Quick calls and quick responders meant I didn’t have to work alone. With Hieu and Don’s help things went much more quickly … but my schedule was toast.

We cannot make our plans with total impunity. Pipes fail … things happen. Many people find it difficult when life … or God … adjusts our plans. That’s actually a pretty good lead in for Christmas. In the next few weeks, when something unexpectedly changes your plans, consider this: There was a young girl dreaming of marriage, not motherhood. There was an old priest fulfilling his duties in the temple, not expecting a son. There was a wicked king, not planning on a challenge to his title. There were shepherds hoping for a quiet night with the sheep, not an angelic visit. The long-expected Messiah came with some unexpected twists. All those best-laid plans bent to one sovereign will … But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” Galatians 4:4-5
 
 


Time for Thankfulness

Just this week, I asked Google, “What time is Thanksgiving Dinner?” I had to ask because my family’s tradition was … you eat when it’s ready. Maybe it was just my hungry childhood inpatience, but it seemed like we were always waiting on something or someone: a miscalculation in turkey cook time, that member of the family hadn’t arrived yet … again, etc. So, I had no recollection of a traditional time to eat the festive meal.

According to one article turned up by Google, the most popular time for Thanksgiving Dinner is 3:00 pm. It’s okay to argue … because your family tradition should have been the gold-standard for the rest of the world. Why not at noon or 6:30 pm? The article provided a list of plausible reasons. I quote …

  • An earlier meal creates a more relaxed celebration, plus there’s plenty of time to digest before going to bed.
  • An earlier dinner accommodates traveling guests and lets them return home at a reasonable hour.
  • Football! Dinners are scheduled to coincide with the end of the early afternoon game, or to begin well in advance of the late afternoon game
  • The Historical Answer: “Dinner” was once the main meal of the day, served around one or two in the afternoon, while “supper” was a much lighter meal, or even just a snack, eaten around sundown.
  • Bonus: Sue remembers their mealtime being tied to watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade together as a family.

Like I said … I mostly remember waiting. And when we finally set down? Mom would put the whole affair on hold until we each listed something for which we were thankful. This was acute torture … not to mention how hard it is to talk with all that preparatory saliva. But my mom was right, there should always be time to slow down and offer thanks. Thankfulness is mentioned 133 times in the Bible and that number would increase greatly if you included synonyms. Slow down and take time to be thankful … at 3:00 pm this Thursday … or any other time, every day of the year.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7

 
 
 


Dreams of Redemption

Occasionally, I read a devotional that seems especially fitting to our times and world situation. I want to share such a one today. In my lifetime, I have never known the U.S. and Canada more polarized religiously and politically. The war of words in the media is often bitter and mocking. The feeling that I get, even from many Christians, is that they have written their opponents off as hopeless causes. I can certainly go there in my thinking but this devotional by John D. Barry challenged me to be praying for those who seem most opposed to the Gospel of Christ.

I’ve known people who seemed beyond saving—who seemed to have gone too far down the wrong path to ever turn to the right one. But in the Bible we see that this is not the case. God is capable of turning anyone’s heart. One of the most shocking examples is Nebuchadnezzar.
 
In a decree to all the nations he rules (and perhaps other nations as well), Nebuchadnezzar remarks: “It is pleasing to me to recount the signs and wonders that the Most High God worked for me. How great are his signs and wonders, how strong is his kingdom, an everlasting kingdom; and his sovereignty is from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:2–3). He then goes on to recount a dream that Yahweh planted in his mind.
 
Before Nebuchadnezzar experiences redemption, he tastes humiliation and endures great trials (Daniel 4:28–33). But Yahweh does not intend to merely humble the king—He intends to make him a righteous man who can be used for His good purposes. We don’t know whether Nebuchadnezzar ever fully accepts Yahweh as his God and turns from his evil practices, but it does seem that he experiences repentance: “But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up my eyes to heaven, and then my reason returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and the one who lives forever I praised and I honored” (Daniel 4:34). In return, God restores him.
 
We can never predict how God will use people, and at times we may be shocked by whom He uses. Some people we think are lost may end up being found after all. Let’s dream of redemption for those who need it most.

 

What people in your life need redemption? For whom are you praying? Have you lost hope about anyone God may still redeem?

 
 


Off by Degrees

Wednesday and Friday of this week a great team of people showed up to help with preparations for using our new entrance. Emptying out the back of the sanctuary to make way for more seating revealed how badly the rear wall needed painting.

Finding no old paint cans for reference, Sue and I headed off to the store with a clear vision of the color in our heads. We perused the color swaths and agreed on one we were sure was “very close … although a bit warmer.”

Friday, I was summoned from my office to give and opinion. The freshly painted wall glowed with a stomach upsetting sort of orangish glow. Trying to stay positive, I said, “Well it looks better than before.” One of the crew responded, “Eh … not so much.” The paint color was “Totally Tan” but they were calling it “Fake Tan” and “Spray on Tan.” I felt bad about wasted money and volunteer time, but it was clear that even the paint crew thought the color needed to go. When someone proclaimed that the color was “Trump Tan” … I finally agreed.

I’ve done a lot of painting in my life and know that it’s hard to predict the final effect based on a two-inch color swatch. Still, I was amazed that our memories had led us so far from the desired color. Saturday morning, I was rummaging through some painting supplies and found an old roller pan. It was filled with a thick layer of our original color. I peeled out a large swath from which we were able to get a match. THANK YOU … to those who came out to help us cover “Intolerably Tan.”

When it comes to major wrong turns in life, they seldom happen overnight. The shift in a person’s behavior might seem sudden, but it was more likely a long time coming. The change took place by shades. When their new color finally hit the public wall, people were shocked … sometimes appalled by the contrast. That’s why we all need to keep going back to some immovable point. God’s Word lived and taught in God’s community is that point.

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:12–13