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

Risk-Free Investing (Part 2)

I remember the first seeds Sue planted after we were married. They were Impatiens and came in a wedding card someone had given us. We planted them in an egg carton and put it in the kitchen window where they’d get proper warmth and light. We watered them according to the package instructions and waited for that first sign of green. A week went by and another and another … and after about a month, I thought, “Maybe I misread the package. Maybe they’re called Impatience.” Those seeds never did sprout.

Years later, Sue planted Impatiens again. The sower was the same, potting soil again, similar container…. but that spring she had hundreds of plants. Where was the difference? In the seed. Some seed is sterile, and some seed contains the miraculous ability to produce life. We fertilize and hydrate and cultivate and aerate and stand on our head with a magnifying glass day and night, but if there is no life in the seed, our efforts are in vain.

Last week we learned from Jesus that no one who invests in the Kingdom of God loses. In fact, you receive back all you put in with interest. The only person who loses is the one who never invests. In His next parable, Jesus taught a humbling but encouraging lesson about Kingdom investing. You’re not responsible for the results … only the investment.

Jesus also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain–first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29

I believe the Apostle Paul had this teaching in mind when he wrote, I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (l Corinthians 3:6-7)

Often in Jesus’ teaching, “seed” equals the Word of God. This is certainly what Paul was referring to. The Gospel, like fertile seed, has intrinsic power for life. When the Word is sown into people’s lives, life and growth will result according to God’s will. God has given us the privilege of sharing the Kingdom message, but He has not burdened us with the responsibility of making it grow. That’s His job! The only way we can fail is by failing to scatter the seed … the Good News about Jesus Christ. Once again, our every investment for the Kingdom is guaranteed!

 
 


Not in Panama

During my recent travels back in the U.S. I experience sign overload. Highway departments in the States just give you a lot more information on the roadways than they do here in Panama. I still don’t know why I needed this one … “Center Rumble Strip Next Five Miles.” Is that so people don’t keep stopping to look for airplanes?

I saw signs that ranged from rare to “never happening in Panama.” I couldn’t believe the number of railroad crossing signs in the U.S. I can only think of two in Panama. How about the signs that say, “Bridge Freezes Before Roadway?” Just for laughs, let’s put up a few of those on the Interamericanna. And then there were the dozens of snowmobile crossing signs which we passed on our way up to Wisconsin. That’s just never going to be a need in Panama. One of those signs was especially disconcerting. It was an empty snowmobile with an arrow underneath pointing down at the highway. Did it mean “watch out for falling snowmobiles?” Did the lack of a driver indicate there’s a low hanging branch on that part of the trail? Signs help you safely and successfully navigate the environment you’re in.

Wouldn’t it be strange to live in one country while obeying a set of signs from another? Maybe we Expats do that to some extent. Early in our time in Panama, Sue and I saw a driveway in Altos del Maria so steep that we both thought “How are they every going to get up that when it snows?” We were living in Panama but driving with U.S. sensibilities.

Christians are supposed to do that … we walk through this world while obeying the laws of another. Sometimes it makes us stand out, sometimes it draws laughter, at times hatred. Consider the following passages …

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:11–12

As a guest of Panama, I must adapt to its signs and patterns and learn to navigate safely and successfully. But as a child of God, a citizen of heaven, I cannot play it safe in this world. I walk according to the rules of the Kingdom with the express hope that some might notice and follow me in. (For further reflection: John 15:18-19; Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:18)
 
 
 


Risk-Free Investing (Part 1)

 When I first started investing for retirement, an advisor took me through a risk assessment. “Given your age,” he said, “you should have a higher risk profile … because greater risks usually yield higher rewards.” In 2008, when the market took a tumble another advisor reassured me, “Stay in there. The only people who’ve lost anything are the ones that got out of the market.” Both pieces of advice turned out to be helpful. My investments rebounded, recouped and surpassed any of my earlier losses. And … taking bigger risks has (over the long-haul) paid bigger dividends.

What if your advisor guaranteed that whatever you invested with him would only grow and never diminish? Another well-tested truism comes to mind, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” I guess you’d need to decide how much you trust your advisor.

In Mark chapter four, Jesus told His closest followers that they had been given the “secret of the kingdom.” They must have been wondering, “Since it’s a secret, do we keep it to ourselves?” Jesus immediately addressed what they were thinking, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:21-23) In other words, “Take what you’re learning from Me and share it freely with others.” Then Jesus shared three pictures of investing in His Kingdom. Here’s the first …

Consider carefully what you hear,” He continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you — and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. Vv.24-25

Some commentators read the Greek to mean … “it will be measured to you and measured out again.” They believe Jesus was saying that investments in the kingdom would at least double. Even if you don’t take it that far, Jesus clearly was saying, “You will always get back more than you invested.” It’s an investment with a guaranteed return … a guaranteed increase. The only way you can lose is by not investing!

Here’s my point … all Kingdom investments are risk-free! Invest your time, your talents, your personality, your resources, even your perceived deficits in Christ’s Kingdom … you can’t lose! DISCLAIMER: I don’t believe Kingdom investing is a guaranteed path to financial abundance in this life. I’m not preaching that distorted gospel. Being truly invested in God’s Kingdom has more often cost people all their earthly resources … and finally their life. A young missionary who made that sacrifice got it right,

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep … in order to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot

 
 


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.