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

Fallow Ground

I grew up in a place and time that allowed me to understand the concept of “fallow ground.”  Plants draw their nutrients from the soil. If farmland is harvested year after year without somehow replenishing the dirt, the crops will slowly drain the soil of all lifegiving nutrients.
Prior to modern fertilizers, wise farmers allowed their land to “rest.” They rotated their crops from field to field, periodically allowing a field a “year off.” Many farmers followed the seven-year or Sabbath plan outlined in the Leviticus 25:4. Every seventh year, God’s people abstained from sowing their fields and harvesting the volunteer grain. They did not prune their vineyards or harvest grapes from the untended vines. In this way, they displayed their trust in God as their provider. God’s law of the land Sabbath proved not only spiritually advantageous … it had tangible benefits. The crops that died on the stalk, were plowed back into the soil replenishing its nutrients and maintaining the lands fertility.
While the Israelites were commanded to allow the land to rest in the seventh year, they were also commanded to plow up their fallowed ground the following season. God’s regular method of providing for his people was through their own labor. God is the provider of every good thing, but He also calls His people to meaningful work. To allow the land to remain fallow year after year was not a sign of trust, but indolence. Look at this verse from Hosea 10:12
Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until He comes and showers righteousness on you.
God’s people had neglected righteousness … their land was spiritually fallow. Their society had grown thick with the weeds like idolatry and injustice. God warned them to loosen up the soil of their hearts and turn back to following Him and His commands. It was time get up and plant! It was time to seek the Lord!
I love the reciprocity of this passage. If the people would seek God and sow righteousness … He would come and shower righteousness on them. If in response to God’s gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, we live a life that honors Him … is that His work or ours? Yes! Salvation is free gift, but it also a call away from sin and toward obedience. As we obey that call, God adds blessings of spiritual growth and maturity. Redeemed people sow righteousness … and God rains down more righteousness into their lives.

Dream Big

Can you imagine your name inscribed in granite? No … no, not your tombstone. That’s not difficult to achieve. I’m talking about Hollywood Boulevard. Can you fathom being so famous you have a star in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre? To get there, you would have to distinguish yourself in one of five categories: Live Theater, Motion Pictures, Radio, Recording or Television. What if you were so famous you earned a star in all five categories. That’s only happened for one person … Gene Autry.

Anyway, you’d be in an elite group. From the 1920s to present, only 2600 people have been awarded stars. That’s a bit of a misstatement; three of that number were dogs and eighteen were fictional characters. Still … who wouldn’t want to be as famous as Lassie or Godzilla?

Have you secretly dreamt of fame and fortune? Maybe it wasn’t as a performer. You just wanted to stand out in your career. You fantasized about inventing the “next big thing.” You had lofty financial aspirations. You wanted to be a published author. Some of you even realized your dreams. 

Fame can be fickle though. When I was researching the “Walk of Fame,” articles kept talking about celebrities being “immortalized.” That’s seems a ridiculously overblown description for having your name in a granite monument less than a hundred years old. How long it will endure? Is your star secure? James Stewart, Gregory Peck and Kirk Douglas all had their stars stolen. Donald Trump’s star for the Apprentice TV series was recently hacked to bits by a man venting his political opinions. Most of the stars, which have remained intact, have fallen prey to another vandal … forgetfulness. That villain eventually erases almost everyone from public memory.

Despite these realities, I still treasure one dream of fame. There’s a group of luminaries which I long to join. The renown will not be ours, it will not accrue to our personal glory … but it will be truly immortal! There’s a day coming for honor … or shame. God told His prophet Daniel,

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. Daniel 12:2–3

If you’d like to be “immortalized” in the very best sense of the word, be wise and put your faith in Jesus Christ. If you’d like to shine like the stars … lead others to Him.

A Healthy Hush

Growing up in a home with strong roots from the Old Country had its humorous peculiarities. My mother and her dad repeatedly used a German phrase with us kids. We knew its basic meaning was “Hush!” When our voices had reached full throttle, it meant, “Tone it down!” When we were verbally bucking a chore or protesting some perceived injustice, it meant, “Stop your whining!”

Now here’s the deal … the literal (and most polite) translation of that phrase is “Be, still … I’ll slap you naked.” It sounds like an awful threat, a bullying intimidation tactic, but it wasn’t like that. I can still see the twinkle in my grandfather’s eye when he said it. It was a genuine warning … but a good-natured and preemptive one. If we listened and corrected course, we were not in trouble. It was a humorous way of saying, “Remember your place … and who’s in authority here.” My emotion connected to that memory is a feeling of security. I’m so thankful for adults in my life who knew their place and reminded me of mine. I innately sensed that their power to correct meant they also had power to protect.

There is a phrase in Psalm 46 that begins with the command “Be still.” You’ve probably seen it on a plaque, a poster or a meme. Do an image search for Psalm 46:10. You will predominantly find the verse scrawled in cursive across some tranquil nature scene or a picture of a person sitting tranquilly in a tranquil nature scene.

Psalm 46 is certainly about peace and security for the God’s people, but the force of “Be still!” has more in common with my grandfather’s tone. It means “cease your striving” … “stop your raging.” The command was given in the face of international upheaval and military threat against the city of Jerusalem. In that setting, God commands, “Be still and know that I am God.” This is about positional security … peace based in the comprehension of God’s right and power to rule. In fact, the preceding verses say,

Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations He has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; He breaks the bow and shatters the spear, He burns the shields with fire. Psalm 46:8-9

I’m glad I have a heavenly Father who does not abdicate His role, His authority … His place. I am quite content to have Him remind me of my place. I feel most secure when I know that … He is God. Then I can say with the Psalmist, “The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46:11

Questioning Orders

General Eisenhower and the top brass were arriving that afternoon, two days ahead of the scheduled base inspection. PFC Shippley was rushing through one of the last jobs that needed doing. He was painting the yellow parking space lines right outside of HQ. Moving towards the last spot (right next to the base flagpole) he tripped over one of the parking blocks. Yellow paint exploded from his toppled can blanketing the entire spot. Panicked, Shippley began futilely mopping at his gaff with a tiny rag. His heart almost stopped as he watched the paint spreading into every asphalt crevice. Suddenly a thundering voice interrupted his coronary. “No … no … no, we haven’t got time for that!” Then came the brilliant command, “Just paint it in!” The inspection went perfectly; no one gave another thought to a solid yellow parking space next to the flagpole.

Fifty years later, Colonel Shippley returned the base to speak at a company reunion. During the drive in, he was astounded that so little had changed since the 1940s. His driver swung the car to a halt in the spot indicated by an orderly. Colonel Shippley stepped out of his car (dramatic pause) into a solid yellow spot right next to the flagpole. No had ever given that spot another thought … literally. For fifty years no body questioned … they just kept refreshing the stain.

This is a longer than I normally quote for my Pastor’s Corner, but I invite you to read it thoughtfully,

Since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 1 Peter 4:1-5

The life of a Christ-follower is not intended to be one in which we “just keep refreshing the stain.” In fact, we are to be militant against sin, armed with the knowledge that Christ suffered and died to set us free. As Paul wrote, Christ died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Corinthians 5:15  In the Army, it might be safer not to question orders … but when our sinful past or the old crowd try to bully us into continued disobedience, we look to Christ and refuse.

Developing Your Palate

I was whipping up a batch of Thai Vinaigrette dressing for today’s potluck. Though following a rough recipe, I wanted to add a signature ingredient … something to make it my own. I mixed “it” in and tasted my creation. Instantly, I knew I had added a too much because the flavor was recognizable. Used in right proportion, this ingredient can add a spicy, exotic flavor that the average person can not identify. They just would not suspect that you added “it.”
The Chinese restaurant I worked at was known for its outstanding eggrolls. People would order them by the plateful … make a meal of them. We mixed the ingredients in a food-grade tub the size of a scrub sink. It was enough filling to make 150 rolls. In went the Cabbage, beansprouts, salt, pepper, soy sauce, sesame oil, the meat of choice … and seven pounds of “it.” In every batch we put seven pounds of our secret ingredient. People would ask about it … but most never guessed. In three years, I had maybe four people discern the flavor. One lady came up and said apologetically, “I’m sorry … I’m not sure that this is okay … because it taste like it was made with ______  ______.” Her discerning palate had identified the secret in our recipe.
Your taste palate can be trained and developed. If you don’t believe me, take a coffee tour. People get paid big bucks to aspirate coffee and identify an “essence of roasted grain with rich chocolate overtones.” Your palate for truth can be trained and developed. In the book of Job, Elihu said, “Hear my words, you wise men, and give ear to me, you who know; for the ear tests words as the palate tastes food. Let us choose what is right; let us know among ourselves what is good.” Job 34:2-4
Secret ingredients are fine … unless they’re harmful. Oh, how the ears and eyes of Christians must test truth these days. Most false teachers know enough not to make their lie obvious. They mix just a little in with large doses of God’s words, but over time, the effect is deadly to the soul. Like some poisons, you just don’t feel right for several meals … and then it’s too late. I’m not being mellow dramatic. Lies can be deadly to your faith.
Develop a taste for God’s Word from beginning to end. It will train your palate to distinguish truth from error. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103
P.S. Thank you for reading to the end … the secret ingredient was the same in my dressing and the eggrolls. Join us for lunch and ask me. Better yet, see if your palate can figure it out 😊