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

The Ever-Rolling Stream

My mother-in-law posted that meme on her Facebook feed. It’s funny … but less so because it’s true. I had no clever comment to post … so I just posted, “Ugh.”

It reminded me of the question once asked by a famous philosopher, “How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” I never knew what his doctorate was in, but they always called him Dr. Seuss.

You plan and schedule and project, but then you blink, and the year is gone. Isaac Watts put it more seriously in his hymn “O God Our Help in Ages Past.” He wrote,

Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away; They fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.

Watts was paraphrasing Psalm 90 which speaks to the brevity of human life and counsels, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Watts’ imagery of time as a relentless and irrepressible torrent intrigues me. It is too strong to swim against, though many try to stem its tide. Others simply surrender to its inevitability, navigating through life’s stream with all the purpose of a fat camper on a floaty. They are carried swiftly toward eternity, but there is no thought for their Maker … and little thought for their fellow man.

We are powerless against the flow of time but are not powerless in the flow of time. We who know Christ traverse the river with unsinkable hope … a hope that others desperately need. Paul asked the Colossians to pray that he might have the power to proclaim the Gospel clearly … and then he challenged them to use their time to the same end. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” The Good News of Jesus Christ saved you from time’s torrent and for eternity. Throw out a lifeline!

The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Col 4:5–6). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 
 


Anniversaries

Twenty-nine years of marriage doesn’t just happen: it requires commitment, investment, patience and forgiveness. So, I’m not saying this anniversary isn’t an accomplishment. But I would want to emphasize that … we’ve been blessed! We didn’t do this on our own. We grew up knowing Jesus and that at the core of real love is self-sacrifice. That’s priceless! We grew surrounded by examples of marriages that were loving, loyal and that lasted. That’s huge! We’ve had positive role models along the way and positive peer pressure to make our marriage work. I should be writing Thank You notes!

One “Thank You” would be to Zerald Zimmerman (honest, that was his name). I’m sure Zerald is with the Lord now … either that or he’s 115 years-old. In the receiving line after our wedding, Zerald shook my hand and then held it in a tight grasp. He said, “Jon, your bride is pretty cute!” I said, “Thank You.” He fired back, “What you mean thank you? You had absolutely nothing to do with that.” I blinked. His eyes began to twinkle, and he whispered, “If she’s still cute in 20 years then you can take some of the credit.” It struck me in a way it never had, that I was responsible for Sue … responsible for whether she turned out better or bitter … whether she became more lovely from knowing she was loved. It was only 20 seconds Zerald … but thank you for the reality check!

Another thanks would go out to whoever taught us to speak words of appreciation. I spent the last week thinking about some of the things that have strengthened our relationship. This rose to the top; we consistently thank each other for just about everything. It’s habitual … but that doesn’t diminish its power. In my role as a pastor, I can’t count how many times a spouse has told me they don’t feel appreciated. That’s a shame, because it costs very little to say thank you.

One more … the biggest thank you of all goes to God. Here’s one was can all get in on. Our God is the picture of faithful enduring love. Psalm 106:1 Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

 



It happened again …

It happened again … fresh insight from a familiar passage of God’s Word. Psalm 119 was written on as an acrostic poem in praise of God’s law. In the Hebrew, each section has eight lines all beginning with the same letter. There is one section for each of the twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet. With a grand total of 176 lines (or verses), Psalm 119 is not only the longest Psalm, but the longest chapter in the Bible.

The authors of my Bible reading plan decided to dole out Psalm 119 … one section a day. So this one psalm took 22 days to read. Psalm 119 has always been challenging to me. Not just because of the length, but because of the professed piety of the author. He uses the personal pronoun “I” incessantly. One proclamation after another about what he has done or plans to do in his pursuit of God and God’s Word. Here’s a sampling from just three verses …

  • I have chosen the way of truth
  • I have set my heart on your laws
  • I hold fast to your statutes, O Lord
  • I run in the path of your commands

Now, there are plenty of pleas for God’s assistance, but they seem overwhelmed by 115 “I” statements like the ones above. So part of me has found it difficult not to dismiss the author’s statements as pharisaical and arrogant. This time, maybe because my pace was slower I saw an “I” that I hadn’t noticed before. It’s the very last verse … Psalm 119:176, I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.

For all the psalmists love of God and His Word, for all his pursuing, the reality was that he strayed … he was prone to wander from God. A proud man would not end his psalm this way. Notice how the psalmist doesn’t say “I’ll come back to you,” but rather “seek your servant.” He has and intends to keep pursuing God, but his confidence is in God pursuing him. I finally heard the psalmists heart and mine resonates with his.
 


Superior Numbers

Here’s one last look at that ominous number from Revelation 13:18; This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.
 
Since John penned these words, people have generated hundreds, if not thousands, of obviously mistaken identities for the Antichrist.Speculators have employed many spurious methods to make their calculations work; using numbering schemes that weren’t in existence in the time of John; translating the Greek text into other languages, etc. As I mentioned previously, the easiest name to arrive at is Nero Caesar … but only after you translate his Latin name into Hebrew. That might have occurred to John’s audience … but most other attempts push the bounds of incredulity.
 
Some Bible scholars have suggested that arriving at the actual name of the beast was not the point. Instead, John’s emphasis was that for all his power and pretension, the Antichrist’s number is just the number of “a man.” The Greek reads, “because it is man’s number and the number of his is 666.” The world dominating ruler is just a man! He does everything he can to pretend to deity, but he’s simply flesh and blood.
 
Here’s how that might have encouraged John’s first readers. There is one surprising number that requires no manipulation. The comparison between the number of the beast and this number would have sent an instant and uplifting message. This inset graphic from the Holman New Testament Commentary series reveals a superior number. ἸΗΣΟῦΣ … the Greek spelling of Jesus equals 888. In any language, even mathematics, the name of Jesus is superior to all His foes … to all our foes. As Philippians 2:10-11 proclaims: God exalted Jesus to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!

 



666

 
The number 666 is being “discovered” by people everywhere:
  • The logos for: Monster Energy Drink, Taco Bell and Google Chrome
  • The trademark scrolly writing of the name “Walt Disney”
  • The hand gestures of President Donald Trump
  • The ancient Christian symbol for the Trinity
  • Even a pan of cinnamon rolls (That should help you with your diet).

I’m not making this stuff up, but someone is. People have also been multiplying theories for who the number might identify as the Antichrist. One of the strongest candidates ever put forward was Ronald Wilson Regan. It was so obvious! Each of his names had six letters and he and Nancy did live at 666 St. Cloud Road, Bel Air, Los Angeles. U.S. Presidents have always been popular targets. As I mentioned, Donald Trump is currently being identified as the Antichrist … but then so was Barak Obama. I don’t want to leave out my Canadian friends, so I think you should be warned that Justin Trudeau has been identified as a likely candidate … look it up! On second thought, don’t bother.

Revelation 13:18 describes the “Mark of the Beast” as follows; This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

Hebrew, Greek and Latin all uses letters to represent numbers. John was using an ancient practice known as Gematria. Based on letters of the alphabet, John gave the name of the Antichrist a numerical value … of six-hundred and sixty-six. It’s quite easy to convert a name to numbers … it’s much more difficult to go the other way. John invited his readers to “calculate the number” and people have been at it ever since. Let me point out that John also said that the process would require “wisdom” and “understanding.” Don’t be taken in by people who think they spot it in Trump making the “okay” symbol. Tune in next week when I’ll try to give some more insight into the meaning of 666. For now, have a cinnamon roll … you’ll feel much better.