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

Ancient Contemporary

There are hundreds of depictions of Cain and Abel online. This one, by artist Reuben David, was unique. Most paintings of the subject depict the moment of the murder and can be quite grotesque. The power of this depiction is in the setting. The horror of the first murder surrounded by the golden, almost heavenly, glory of a sun emblazoned field. Desperate ugliness in the midst of beauty; that has always been the puzzling contrast for me. How could it have happened … not far from Eden?
 
The second thing that gripped me about this painting was the remorseless and determined stride of Cain. His body still taught from the dreadful deed, still clutching the stone. This is the moment after and Cain has carelessly turned from all natural feelings of familial love.
 
Read Genesis 4 and marvel for yourself at the conundrum of Cain. He had direct access to God … even direct counsel from God and yet he became a murderer. Our present world still reverberates with Cain’s cry of rebellion. Like Cain, we are …
  • prone to wanting God’s blessing without following His ways
  • prone to resisting His saving influence and savoring sin
  • prone to letting resentment grow out into tangible harm
  • prone to being mastered by our passions
  • prone to denying our responsibility for our fellow man
  • prone to thinking God’s judgements are too harsh
  • prone to turning God’s mercy into an occasion for greater sin.
 
It’s all there in the story … and it’s all here today in our world. It is ancient and contemporary. God graciously challenged Cain about what was growing in his heart and said, “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Don’t follow Cain. If God is dealing with you about a seedling sin, don’t let it mature into bitter fruit.
 
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.  1 Corinthians 10:13

 



The Fall

Some dismiss the Bible as ancient and arcane, but for me it is alive and contemporary. This past week’s Bible reading reminded me that all the maladies of modern society are present in the opening chapters of Genesis. When Adam sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, innocence, transparency and personal responsibility were all casualties of his Fall.
 
It was Adam’s sin that derailed humanity. The prohibition about the fruit was given to Adam prior to Eve’s creation. God entrusted Adam with the role of spiritual leader and his was the greater and damning sin. No change is reported until the man ate of the fruit … Then,” the Bible says, “the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked.” (GENESIS 3:7) When Paul wrote about the coming of sin and then salvation, he did not contrast Christ to Eve. He said, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ will all be made alive.” (1 CORINTHIANS 15:22) Every human is born into Adam’s sin and so are destined to die. But every human who is, by faith, born into Christ is granted eternal life.
 
Adam’s spiritual fall had an immediate and tangible impact on his relationship with his wife and his God. The two great commands of love for God and love for your fellow human were shattered:
  • Shame replaced innocence … “they … made coverings for themselves.”
  • Hiding replaced transparency … “I was afraid … so I hid.”
  • Blame replaced responsibility … “The woman you put here with me.”
Eons have passed, and these instincts of sin still wreak havoc in our relationships. Praise God for the curse reversing work of Jesus Christ. We still live in a fallen world and struggle against sin, but God has opened the door to restoration.
 
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 CORINTHIANS 5:18-19)
 
 


A New Year’s Blessing

When I was a kid, one of my favorite parts of the service was the very end. Don’t get me wrong … it wasn’t because the service was over. I loved it when my Pastor would raise his hands and pronounce a blessing over the church. One of the most commonly invoked was from Numbers 6,

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
 
Why was that moment so special to me? Maybe because I had good pastors. I never doubted that the men who served our little congregation really loved me and desired God’s blessings to rest on my life. It was obvious in how they preached and shook my hand and taught me in Bible class and prayed for me. So when they pronounced God’s blessing … I felt blessed.
 
Now, almost 40 years later, I have the privilege of closing each service with a blessing. My calling as a pastor gives me no special power to bless … only God can do that. What I do is announce that God desires to bless you. I earnestly believe that and long for it to be true in your life. Fallen man that I am … I hope that’s obvious in how I preach and teach and greet you and pray for you. Let me share two of my favorite Scriptural blessings … and I pray that by God’s grace they will be true for you in the coming year.
 
May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:7 
 
I pray that Christ will dwell in your hearts through faith and that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Eph. 3:17-19
 
 


Be a Better Neighbor

I watch the Frank Capra film “Meet John Doe” almost every Christmas. It never became a hit like Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The aforementioned film is darker and even cynical at times. It takes on issues like big government, corrupt politics and the erosion of free speech.
 
What do I like about it? It’s well acted by an all-star cast; Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Walter Brennen, James Gleason, etc. It’s got great lines; a mayor tells a mob pressing into his office to see John Doe,
“No stampeding. Walk slow, like you do when you come to pay your taxes.” What I like most is that it has a Christian worldview. The film unashamedly promotes the idea that our world would be a drastically better place if people treated their neighbors with a Christian ethic.
 
In a radio speech, John Doe (Cooper) steals lines from Jesus, “Your neighbor — If he’s sick, call on him. If he’s hungry, feed him. If he’s out of a job, find him one.” When the “Be a Better Neighbor” movement is coopted and nearly destroyed by the villain, John Doe becomes despondent. The movie ends on Christmas Eve with an impassioned plea for John not to end his life. Ann Mitchell (Stanwyck) says, “Oh, John, if it’s worth dying for, it’s worth living for. Oh please, John … you don’t have to die to keep the John Doe ideal alive. Someone already died for that once. The first John Doe. And He’s kept that ideal alive for nearly 2,000 years. It was He who kept it alive in them. And He’ll go on keeping it alive for ever and always for every John Doe movement these men kill, a new one will be born. That’s why those bells are ringing, John.” Consider what she said; Jesus’ death launched a movement of love, He has kept it alive for 2,000 years and will keep it alive for ever. The movie takes seriously that Jesus lived and died in history, is currently alive and continues to directly influence our world with unstoppable power.
 
The movie’s theology isn’t perfect, but it’s not bad for Hollywood.
 
 


The Unintentional Grinch:

Marvin fretted about Christmas. Thelma would know what the grandkids wanted, but she’d been gone for almost a year. Would Emily like a doll or be offended … she was at that age. Henry would love hunting boots, but the way that boy was growing they wouldn’t fit by spring. Ernest loved books, but what hadn’t he read? Marvin also had his daughter’s five to buy for. Finally in desperation, he sat down at his desk and wrote out eight generous checks and eight cards. In each he wrote exactly the same message beneath the appropriate name:
 

Merry Christmas!

Love Grandpa

P.S. Buy your own present.

 
Marvin drove to Seattle where his family had gathered for the holidays. He was greeted with warmth and enjoyed Christmas with family, but the entire time passed with no mention of his gifts. In fact, the grandchildren all seemed a bit distant. Once Emily looked at him, burst into tears and ran from the room … she was at that age.
 
Marvin went home puzzled and a little depressed. Setting down at the old desk, he pulled out his checkbook to pay some bills. From it fell the eight checks he’d written for his grandchildren’s Christmas. Suddenly, “Buy your own gift” had an entirely different sound to it.
 
When God sent the gift of his Son Jesus into the world that first Christmas … He didn’t leave anything out. He not only offered new life in Christ, he supplied everything needed to live it.
 
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:2-3
 
 
 
(reprinted from 12-7-2014)