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

Face Down

If you saw a picture of a room full of people praying face down, what would you assume? Would you think they were Christians? The Scriptures are replete with examples of people falling on their faces before God. At least twenty-eight times the Bible records situations where people fell face down before God. From Abraham’s first encounter with God back in Genesis all the way to the saints worshiping around the throne in Revelation, the people of God have been getting on their face before God. This ancient Christian posture for prayer predates the birth of Mohammad by 500 years.
 
There was a time when kneeling in prayer was a common part of Christian worship. Many of us were brought up with this as part of our bedtime ritual. My sense is that as we have grown increasingly casual in our worship styles, this posture has fallen into disuse. Perhaps we have forgotten the cost of grace.
 
Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
 
We are encouraged to come before God with confidence in prayer; that’s awesome news! But notice what we are approaching … “God’s throne.” Earlier verses make it clear that our unhindered access to God the Father came at the cost of Jesus’ sinless life and atoning death. The King we approach is predisposed to mercy, but he is still a King.
 
Bowing ourselves before another speaks of total surrender; it is position that leaves us vulnerable. To prostrate oneself before a king was to admit that you were at his mercy. He could slay you, but it could also show trust that he would not. How perfect is that in my relationship with God. He has every right to slay me, but because of the Cross, I trust that his intentions toward me are only good. When was the last time you got low before your King?
 
 

 



Making It Your Own:

This past week we had the pleasure of entertaining friends from Illinois. It was fun and refreshing to have two sets of fresh eyes looking at the place we now call home. Along the way, we experienced:
 
  • Exclamations about the eccentricities of Panama’s traffic.
  • Marvel at the beauty of the mountainous skyline.
  • Wonderment over where we are privileged to live.
  • Curiosity about the differences in dress and customs.
  • Amazement at the grand scale of the Canal operations.
  • Admiration over our Spanish skills … even though we feel like we know next to nothing.
As we tried to help our guests navigate through and appreciate Panama, we were called upon to explain, sometimes defend and often confess our ignorance. Still, I was amazed at how much I have learned in a few short years. Each time we show Panama to visitors, I find myself feeling a little more at home. Somehow sharing the country helps us own the country.
 
It is a phenomenon that I’ve experienced in another more intimate area of my life. The more I share what I believe about my faith, the more it becomes my own. When you talk to people who don’t know Jesus as their Savior, you are forced to explain, defend and often confess your ignorance. The challenge forces you deeper in your own understanding. The fact that critics do not dissuade you from what you believe, confirms the reality of your faith. You realize that it is gift of the Spirit and not merely an inherited cultural construct. Here’s a passage I share with you as an encouragement to share your faith … and own your faith.
 
I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Philemon 1:6
 
 


Hang up the Light

In 1919, Western Electric introduced the first freestanding dial telephone for home use. The old Candlestick models were obsolete, but my imaginative grandmother saw something new in her old phone. She asked a local handyman to make some modifications. What she got back was something familiar, but radically different and unique. The telephone became a lamp.
 
Being one of her sturdier antiques, I don’t remember being scolded for touching it. I think she appreciated the fascination it held for her grandchildren. Picking up the receiver turned on the light. I remember having pretend conversations on the lamp … and I remember being told to “hang up the light.” It is a peculiarly fun part of my childhood memories.
 
My grandmother’s home was full of the “repurposed.” There was a set of magazine holders made from a copper wash tub that had been cut in two. There were multiple rugs made from crocheted bread bags. You could find almost anything in Mason jars; from pickled beets to assorted screws. It was a time of re-purposing. It was definitely not a throwaway society.
 
God’s household is like that. His first desire is to redeem, not destroy. The reality of salvation is multifaceted. From God’s standpoint when a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ it looks like 2 Corinthians 5:17, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” When you place your faith in the person and work of Jesus, the spiritual transformation is instantaneous and complete. It’s as radical as being changed from a phone into a lamp!
 
But our old “phoneness” remains. God doesn’t wipe your memory and start from scratch when you come to faith. No, he does something infinitely more difficult and precious. He begins to work with what is there; memories, personality, gifting; redeeming every part of who you are. It’s called sanctification. He cleanses you and repurposes your past; he wastes nothing. Anything relinquished to him can be turned to your good and his glory. That looks like 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
 
 
 


Shades of Something Different

DoIt, Novey, Cochez … change geographic location, repeat. I quickly found exactly the roller shades that I wanted for the guest bedroom. Well, they weren’t precisely the color I wanted … okay, I wasn’t looking for brown shades at all. Still, they exceeded my expectations; they were in stock and the right size. Somehow, those shades grew nearly ten inches during the trip back to the condo. Maybe something in the conversion from Imperial to Metric.
 
While trying to return the shades, I suddenly discovered that I could effortlessly read Spanish. Actually, the other side of box was in English and inches. The new set of shades claimed to be “43,3 inches” wide. I’d never seen that exact nomenclature for measurements, but these were exactly what I wanted. They were in stock and the right size. On the way back to the condo, they lost 1,3 inches. The measurement was the shade width plus hardware. DoIt, Novey, Cochez in the city … bigger stores … smaller selections. I bought drapes instead.
 
It was one of those homesick moments when I found myself frustrated by the differences in my adopted culture. Three big-box hardware giants were within fifteen minutes of my home in Illinois. Each had an entire department for “window treatments.” Fifty-seven different shade styles, each available in thirty-one colors, glistened beneath halogen lights in perfect air-conditioned comfort. Friendly, articulate, professional employees attentively hovered waiting to cut the blinds to my custom specifications. I might be romanticizing … a bit.
 
What surprised me more than missing my Stateside conveniences was the time I wasted waiting on Panama to conform to my expectations. If I had invested the same amount of energy trying to order blinds, I’m sure I would have succeeded. Even though it didn’t fit the reality of my new context, it felt safer to try what I knew than to venture into a complex situation with limited language skills.
 
I wonder if there is a spiritual lesson here … a lesson about faith? I think I’ll try something different and invite you to practice Colossians 3:16 by making the application. Email me a Bible verse and a spiritual lesson that you drew from my story. jon@panamission.com
 
 
 


Love’s Dividend

I’ve met some amazing people in my lifetime, but only one Carolyn Switzer. In more than fifteen years of interacting with her in ministry, I cannot recall one instance of harshness or ill-temper. She was one of the most gracious and steady people I have ever met. She could talk about Jesus to anyone without it ever feeling artificial or forced. Carolyn was a gifted Bible teacher, but I think most people would say she simply loved them into the Kingdom. Getting close to Carolyn made you want to get closer to Jesus. 
 
It was not at all axiomatic that Carolyn should have turned out this way. Her life was marked with a series of staggering tragedies. Her six-year-old son died in her arms; her forty-year-old husband died unexpectedly of a brain hemorrhage at work. After raising three daughters as a single mother, Carolyn found love again later in life. Her and her second husband served as missionaries to Venezuela until he fell sick and rapidly succumbed to cancer. Carolyn’s latter years were plagued with constants bouts of pneumonia.
 
Carolyn’s infectious joy was wonderful, but it seemed extraordinary, even counterintuitive when you heard about her great suffering. Not all Christians are so beautifully formed through pain. I asked Carolyn about the absence of bitterness in her life and besides giving the glory to Christ, she told me an amazing story. When her first husband passed away, several Christian families banded together and completely assumed her home mortgage. She had struggles as a widowed mother, but she never had to worry about housing. She said God’s love was so real and proven in their actions, that it totally influenced her response to suffering. Carolyn repaid that loan for the rest of her life as she poured what she had received into countless other lives.
 
No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
1 John 4:12 (NLT)