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

The Contrast of Grace:

Ugliness and beauty are most themselves in each other’s company. On the backside of Cinnamon Pass, Colorado, headed for Silverton, Sue and I drove through a valley that had been ravaged by mining. It’s treeless, red mud slopes were littered with the rusting tools of someone’s fortune. The miners left it looking like the surface of Mars. Just around a bend was another valley so verdantly pristine that my eyes felt like a direct connection to my Creator. Man’s worst and God’s best in the space of half an hour.

I felt that way in my Bible reading this week. I slogged through the heart-sickening end of the Book of Judges. My Bible innocuously entitled the story, “The Levite and His Concubine.” It’s a drama so dark and bloody you couldn’t even show it on network television. God’s brutal honesty about the depravity of man and the consequences of evil. It’s ugly.

Just on the other side of that dark valley, you come to the Book of Ruth. Ruth isn’t beautiful all at once … like passing between those valleys in Colorado, there is a transition from the scarred to the sacred. The book begins with disobedience, tragic consequences and a woman so bereft she changed her name to “Bitter.” But in four short chapters, the full beauty of God’s providential love unfolds.

Noble, wealthy Boaz puts his reputation and fortune on the line to rebuild the name of a disobedient dead man. Boaz is a vivid Old Testament picture of Christ. What impressed me with this reading was how Boaz treated his destitute relatives. The Law of Moses required that he leave the edges of his field uncut and to allow the poor to pick up what the harvesters missed (Leviticus 23:22). Boaz went beyond law and showed grace to Ruth. 

Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.” Ruth 2:15-16

Ruth went home after a day in the field with so much grain that Naomi instantly knew that some field owner had gone beyond the expected and deep into grace. Though I sometimes forget, that is the way my Father treated me in Christ … the gleanings, plus the full heads of grain and no rebuke. My worst, answered and abundantly covered by His Best. (See Romans 8:32)

 



Remodel?

When Sue and I have access to cable TV we invariably end up watching something like Property Brothers. I don’t know if home buyers are as moronic as they appear, or if they’re just made out to look that way by the producers.

The Property Brothers are experts at finding fixer uppers and turning them into dream homes. But the couples that appear on the show are always saying things like, “I don’t know if this can be done.” “Look what bad shape this is in.” “Don’t the famous expert brothers who have done this a thousand times have a clue how hard it will be?” They trust neither the brother’s expertise or experience.

Have they never watched the show? If they have, then they make another error … they don’t learn from the mistakes of past participants. In the last episode we watched, the couple decided to waive the home inspection to sweeten their offer to the sellers. The brothers warned them of the risks, but they persisted. Then in horror they exclaimed, “What? The wiring isn’t up to code in this one-hundred and thirty-year-old mansion?” Completely rewiring the house meant they had to give up some other part of their dream … and it took them over budget.

If the Bible were a reality show, people would make the same two mistakes. They would not trust The Expert on mankind, the Creator. Despite the fact there have been multiple episodes showing that He is capable and faithful of carrying out His word, they would wonder … “Can He really pull off the things that He claims He can do?”

They would also … as I have made … the mistake of not learning from the episodes of those who’ve gone before. Referring to the stories in the Old Testament, Paul says, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.”  1 Corinthians 10:11  The stories were recorded that we might learn to trust our Creator and not repeat the mistakes of those who did not.

When we neglect God’s Word or fail to take its lessons to heart … it ends up putting us over budget; Over budget in terms our stress levels, over budget in terms of our relationships … over budget spiritually.
 
 


Facebook Religion

I saw it again … the meme that says, “ ‘Do Not Be Afraid’ is written in the Bible 365 times … one for each day of the year!” I hate to tell you this, but it just isn’t so. A simple Bible search reveals that the word “afraid” only appears 205 time in the entire Bible. It does depend which version of the Bible you search, but none will give you that tidy number … 365. None of them will even get close.
 
The command “Do not be afraid” occurs 70 time in the NIV, with other translations showing similar results. Throw in “Do not fear,” and “Do not worry” you will find another 26 references. So, my grand total was 96 commands not to be afraid afeard or worried. I hate to be pedantic, but even out of the 96, I’m pretty sure they don’t all apply to me. The angel Gabriel saying it to Mary does not have a direct application to my life. Context matters!
 
I did check my findings on the web … and many people have arrived at the same conclusion. The most generous estimate I found was 119 references, but that person’s search included about a dozen synonyms for “fear.” Not all of those reference were commands. I found another article claiming, “there are nearly 400 verses telling the faithful not to have fear.” That’s possible (and would require more research) but the meme said … “Do Not Be Afraid” appears 365 times. I thought maybe there was still hope for the saying when I found a Facebook user who promised she would share a “Do Not Be Afraid” post each day of the year … her posts stopped, without explanation, at day 132.
 

So, what’s my point? First, I think Christians, of all people, should be careful with the facts … especially when it comes to God’s Word. An encouraging meme that isn’t true, will only encourage those who don’t study the Bible for themselves. Second, does the number really matter? If it only appears 70 times, does that mean I’m free to worry the other 295 days of the year? How many times does God have to say something before we believe Him?

 
 
 
 


Tenacious … or Stubborn

Three weeks ago I extolled the tenacity of a robin that would not give up on its efforts to nest above our patio. We should be so persistent in our desire to draw close to God.

Same bird … new illustration: While I still admire the robin’s stick-to-itiveness … I’m starting to wonder about it’s intelligence. As I mentioned before, we’ve been removing the nest because the house is on the market and being shown. But really … I’ve knocked that nest down so many times I was beginning to feel like Atilla the Hun. The bird just wouldn’t give up.

It obviously had a nest blueprint in its birdbrain (no offense intended). Each attempt followed the same pattern. It arrived with several beak-loads of mud to form its foundation. Into this it cemented sturdy twigs and then laid in a lining of softer grass. If allowed to continue, it would have eventually feathered its own nest … literally. Down plucked from its body would have formed the final protective cushion for the eggs.

This bird had enough perception to distinguish between a blue garden hose and a snake. But it didn’t know when to move on. A brush completely crowding out the nesting location finally convinced it to relocate. There’s tenacious … and then there’s stubborn.

It’s scary how often in the Old Testament, God called His people stubborn. A few were tenacious in seeking His presence, but most were characterized by an obstinate bent toward evil. I’m just about into the book of Judges in my daily Bible reading and I know the cycle that’s coming; sin … painful consequences … repentance … deliverance … more sin. Judges 2:19 sums their character up like this, “They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.” Lord help me to recognize and move away from sinful patterns. Lord help me only be stubborn in seeking your pleasure and presence.
 
 


Our Thoughts Captive

We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5

 

Our thought lives are so important … that they aren’t supposed to be our own. The verse from Paul includes a chain of command. First, we are to master our thoughts … instead of being mastered by them. But we don’t take our thoughts captive to do our bidding. This isn’t the power of positive thinking. We’re simply taking prisoners for our Commander. Every thought is to be captured and examined against the standard of Christ and then subjugated to that standard. It is not gentle process, but a ruthless and radical one. Paul used the language of battle. The first part of the verse reads … “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” … we take captive every thought and make obedient to Christ.

From 2001 to 2006 the U.S. Army used the recruiting slogan … “An Army of One.” It was eventually replaced because it appeared to devalue teamwork … but there was a positive idea behind the motto. The byline of some posters read, “Smart, Strong and Prepared.” Thoroughly trained and well-equipped soldiers know their part in the conflict. Each man is an army within the army. Each must to go in well versed in the goals and objectives of central command.

The battlefield of the mind is a dangerous, potentially deadly conflict. Unexamined thought patterns lead to retreat, desertion and collateral damage. Enemy thoughts allowed into secure areas wreak havoc in our lives. The reason so many Christians fall prey to the devil is simple … they don’t know the objective and goals of their Commander. The only way we can realistically capture and subdue every thought to Christ … is if we know Christ’s will for our lives. This doesn’t happen magically or accidentally. Christ’s first battle plan, given to His closest lieutenants was, “go and make disciples of all nations, … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20 They carried out His orders so diligently, that 2000 years later we have Jesus’ commands in a neatly bound field manual. You can use it to renew your mind … or you can be conformed to the pattern of the world dominated by the enemy of our souls. Romans 12:2