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

Power-Grab

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Last week I confessed my love for the Carols of our faith … and the Holiday Classics. There is, however, one song that always bothers me. It was cowritten by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn and sung by my favorite Christmas crooner, Bing Crosby. It has a melody that imbeds easily in your neural synapsis and runs ad nauseam until supplanted by another song of equal or greater irritation. But that’s not what bothers me. I object strongly to the words of “Santa Clause is Coming to Town.” The song is a brazen Christmas power-grab.
 
He sees you when you’re sleepin’
He knows when you’re a wake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake
 
The song takes attributes only belonging to God (Omniscience and Omnipresence) and attributes them to a fictitious fat man. There is only One who sees you when you’re sleeping. What a comfort to hear the words of the Psalmist … He who watches over you will not slumber (Psalm 121:3). There is only One who has the global awareness of your waking and walking through this life. What a comfort to hear Jesus say … Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).
 
The other aspect of this song that bothers me is the blatant motivation to goodness based on earning Santa’s favor. This is the polar opposite of the Gospel. God saw mankind’s inability to be good and met the requirements of his own righteousness at his own expense.
 
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!    Romans 5:8-10
 


Classic … faith

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I enjoy the Holiday classics. My heart thrills to the theologically rich carols about the Messiah’s birth. I also enjoy sentimental crooners who sing about a “White Christmas” or being home for it “if only in their dreams.”  Maybe it’s because it’s the music of my much-loved parents … or maybe it’s because Bing Crosby is one of the few entertainers who sings in my range. Whatever the reason, I went looking for some good old-fashioned Christmas music and found an internet station playing a great mix of Christian and secular songs.
 
After enduring “Blue Christmas” and “Hear Comes Santa Clause,” violins started schmaltzing out a familiar melody … but it didn’t ring any Christmas bells (pardon the pun). Then Bing started singing and I was amazed to hear these words …
 
Faith of our fathers, living still in spite of dungeon, fire and sword,
O how our hearts beat high with joy whene’er we hear that glorious word!
Faith of our fathers! holy faith! We will be true to thee till death!
 
I had never considered that hymn a Christmas Carol, but an online search revealed that it’s included on several Christmas albums. Nothing in it expressly speaks about Christmas themes and I still have not discovered why it would be in this genre.
 
Perhaps it simply came from a time when people believed that the message of Messiah’s birth was worth dying for … and living out. “Listen” to the last two verses … and may this be the resolve of all who understand the true meaning of Christmas:
 
Faith of our fathers, we will love both friend and foe in all our strife,
And preach thee, too, as love knows how by kindly words and virtuous life.
Faith of our fathers! holy faith! We will be true to thee till death!
 
Faith of our fathers, we will strive to win all nations unto thee;
And through the truth that comes from God mankind shall then indeed be free.
Faith of our fathers! holy faith! We will be true to thee till death!
 


Christmas is a Person

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2010 and 2011 was a time of God renewing my passion for His mission. He greatly increased my desire to be personally involved in seeing people find salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Every time I turned around He was showing me something new about how blessed I was to know Jesus … or how truly lost a person is without Him. Here’s a Facebook post from November 30, 2011 that captures the Holy Spirit’s work in my life.
 
A hauntingly beautiful voice lilted a line of questions through my radio this morning … “Where are you Christmas? Why can’t I find you? Why have you gone away?” The song created both joy and sorrow in my heart at the same time; Joy that the Answer found me, sorrow that people are looking for that Christmas feeling without realizing that Christmas is ultimately a person. He isn’t hiding, he wants to be found, he hasn’t gone away. Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us … find him and you’ll find Christmas!
 
It’s easy to lose the real meaning of Christmas. It’s also easy to lose your passion for the Gospel. This year, let’s remember that they are intimately connected …
 
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.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
 
Is there some step you can take in your community to show that you agree? Something as simple as inviting a friend to church. Polls show that people are ten times more likely to respond to an invitation to attend church during the Christmas season.


Circular Sin

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I used to frequently indulge in a peculiar sin pattern. Sunday after church we’d lunch out with friends or family and then stop by the store for a few things on the way home. I liked going to Wal-Mart because they had my recreational drug of choice. Since we lived in the Chicago area, it came in a large package, roughly the weight of fireplace log. You needed to be sure to go several layers down to get the complete product, but it was a bargain at $1.50. I’m talking about the Sunday Edition Chicago Tribune.
 
I didn’t read the news, the cultural section or the sports. In fact, all of that was a giant waste of tree fiber. I wanted two things; the comics and most of all the circulars. That’s right, my purchase was purely anesthetic in nature. I planned to take it home, laugh a little, dream a little and then fall asleep under a warm layer of sales ads.
 
Circulars are interesting windows into culture, technology and … or souls. My problem with sales circulars was that I didn’t just look, sometimes I bought. There’s no problem with purchasing things that you need, but “need” became a rather loose category. So, not only did we purchase things we didn’t need, we spent money we didn’t have. I finally realized that my Sunday routine had become “Circular Sin.”
 
One wake-up call for me was being unable to help a friend with a need because we had too many payments. My attraction to stuff and the debt incurred caused me to transgress one of God’s commands on two fronts. Romans 13:8 says,
 
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
 
My love of stuff had made it impossible for me to love my friend in the tangible way he needed. Because I owed creditors, I could not pay my debt of love. The desire to be free to love others has loosened the grip of junk. Lord complete the work! (See also 1 John 2:15-17)


Spiritual Ear Training

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Today’s pastors corner was written by speaking into a computer program. I tried this years ago but the programs were a bit glitchy. The one I used originally could learn your speech patterns. For instance, I might say my name and it would type “John was already” instead of “Jon Wiziarde.” You could stop, say “spell that” and then spell out the word. The next time you used that word, there was a much better probability that the computer would understand correctly. The more you used the program, the better the accuracy.
 
That was probably 10 years ago and things have advanced greatly. This entire Pastor’s Corner was dictated on the internet using Google Docs and it’s doing amazingly well. Sitting alone in my office talking to my computer is a bit strange, but I guess some people do it all the time. Hey, this is the closest I have come to having a personal secretary. Now if I could just get my computer to make coffee. 🙂  Okay that’s just weird, I said “smiley face,” and it knew what I meant.
 
Before I get too weirded out about the technology, let me get to the point. People seem incredibly hungry these days to hear from God. Many are talking about prophecies, visions and dreams. I don’t want to discount these. I believe that God still speaks through his Holy Spirit to his people. Two things do alarm me:
 
  1. Much of what I hear reported as prophetic conflicts with God’s written word and
  2. Increasing numbers of people hold private revelations in higher regard than God’s written revelation.
 
Even if we’re not talking about prophecies or visions, when we seek God’s guidance, how can we know his voice?  We need someone to train and correct our spirits, until we hear accurately … until we can discern the voice of God as opposed to the voice of our desires … or worse influences. There are only two ways to accomplish this:
 
  1. Systematic and repeated exposure to God’s written Word, followed by,
  2. Active obedience to God’s Word.

 

If you’re not doing those regularly … don’t expect to “hear” from God (Romans 12:2). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the God we know. He inspired the Bible that you possess and he will not contradict himself. 2 Peter 1:19-21