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

Answering in the Storm

 

stormy sky

I cannot explain my mood, but small discouragements, internal and external, rolled into a somber smoldering cloud of emotion. The storm blew up quickly and then hung over my heart … heavy, dull-gray, oppressive.
 
Late in the afternoon, I heard the distant timpani of thunder. A storm was brewing outside the confines of my heart. I scanned the horizon from our balcony, but no clouds looked as if they meant business. Suddenly, I realized that I desperately wanted it to storm … I wanted to be in the midst of the storm. I walked to the back of our building and there were the heavy boiling clouds of rain. Their deep laughter spoke to me from the distance, but they remained aloof, hugging the heights of Altos del Maria. “Lord,” I prayed, “send the storm my way.”
 
A meteorologist might tell me that the storm’s course was determined long before the prayer, but it seemed only moments after I breathed those words that the clouds broke loose of the hills and raced past our building out to sea. When the storm was past, so was my dark mood. Is it strange to find your soul soothed by forces that others fear? I cannot put words to all the spiritual therapy of the tempest, but I never hear thunder without humble thoughts of God. Most often when I’m in turmoil … humility is what my soul needs most.
 
Maybe I’m wired like Job who could not, by reason alone, cease from all his emotional striving. Peace and clarity came only after … “the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm.” Job 40:6
 
(Bonus)  For an interesting personal study use an online Bible search to query on words like: storm, thunder, wind, rain, etc. See how they are connected to God throughout the Bible. When you’re done, you may look at storms with new appreciation. Here’s a sample:
Praise the Lord from the earth … lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding.
Psalm 148:7


Cob or Spider Webs?

web

Right after purchasing my childhood home, I had to make a trek through its basement. Undisturbed for years, the descending stairs were tangled from tread to ceiling with cobwebs. I contemplated calling Stephen King … maybe the sight would inspire another novel.
 
I grabbed a long metal rod leaning on the corner of the top step and ventured down, twirling my rapier in front of me as I went. By the time I had traversed the fifty-foot length of the rambling cave, my wand looked as if I could light it as a torch.
 
I comforted myself with a little factoid from my youth. Only patterned webs are made by spiders. All of that other random stuff is just statically charged dust particles clinging together in strands. They’re not actual spider webs; they’re simply cobwebs. Very scientific sounding, very comforting … but totally bogus.
 
Webs are made by arachnids and some strand producing insects. Not all spiders produce patterned webs and even those that do often leave random strings while traveling to new feeding grounds. New strands are nearly invisible and by the time accumulated dust makes them visible, they have been abandoned by their builders. That’s why you seldom see a living spider in those random webs. Cobweb is just an archaic term meaning “spider web.” The Old English word for spider was … attercoppe : ator, poison + copp (later cob), head.
 
Ungodly thoughts and attitudes are like webs. If they’re not knocked down, they will eventually attract actions and become visible to all. That’s why the Bible has so much to say about what we do with our minds/hearts.
 
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:45


Crumbling Hope

 
foundation
I read of the carnage in Nice, France (200 casualties, 80 deaths); victims of hate. I read about a progressive agenda using teen pregnancy to “educate” the Panamanian population about aberrant sexuality. I watch a race war heating up in the States … not between blacks and whites, but between black and blue. Vladimir Putin claims Europe is inevitably headed to WWIII. I feel the rising pressure to conform to a new set of world values … that are not Christian values.
 
Financially, relationally, morally and spiritually our world is crumbling. The towers and parapets of our great societies are tilting precariously, yawning fissures have opened in the supporting arches … because our foundations are gone. What hope does a pastor have? Is there any efficacy in my calling? Why keep talking to a world that would rather chose its opinions from the internet than listen to God’s Word?
 
During that particular pastoral-pity-party a sentence from the Psalms 11 stirred in my heart … “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” So … God’s Word agrees with my assessment of the world situation. NOT! In the Psalm, that sentence comes from the mouth of an enemy bent on discouraging a follower of God. The speech counsels taking flight because the evil people are out to get you. Sometimes I’m tempted to run off … not physically, but by simply slipping off into silence. Here’s a portion of Psalm 11. I’ve highlighted the words of worldly discouragement in blue. Notice that the Psalmist is arguing against them …
 

In the LORD I take refuge. How then can you say to me:

“Flee like a bird to your mountain. For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart. When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne.
 

A simple argument silences the voice of despair, “God is my hope; my circumstances may change, but he does not.”


The Unchained Word

 
open-bible-11288023214vduX-1263x560
Did you grow up in a church that had a large Bible prominently displayed at the front? The history behind that tradition is fascinating and challenging. For centuries the Word of God was chained within the Latin language and purposefully kept from the common man because, it was argued, he would misinterpret its meaning. Men like Wycliffe, Huss, Tyndale and Luther were all pioneers in a revolt to end the sacerdotal stranglehold in which the organized church held Scripture.
 

One decisive blows in this battle was dealt when Thomas Cromwell, general secretary for Henry VIII and Vicar General of the Church of England issued orders that all the clergy under his leadership provide a large Bible,

” and the same set up in some convenient place within the said church that ye have care of, whereas your parishioners may most commodiously resort to the same and read it.” (1538)

The result? Every church in England eventually had a large Bible at the front which the common folk were free to read. People stood in line for hours for their chance to read God’s Word with their own eyes. But, the Word of God was still chained … literally. Because of the scarcity and value of these manuscripts (many of them still hand-copied) they were bond to the church altars with chains.

Things have certainly changed! Most of us know experientially that the Bible is more available to more people than at any other time in history. There are still places in the world where God’s Word is “chained” but most of us do not have that excuse. Let me close with question: What if any “chain” is keeping you from reading God’s Word?


The ‘In’ Crowd

Tight-PhatTHE “IN CROWD” Throughout my years of pastoring, I’ve had periodic stints of involvement with youth ministry. During one tour of duty, I noticed a couple of words being used in unfamiliar ways. I heard a girl tell a guy that his shirt was “Tight!” This would have mortified me as teenager, but he seemed quite pleased. Then I heard the kids calling all sorts of things “Fat!” Movies were “fat” … outfits were “fat” … snacks were “fat” … they even called me “fat.” The oddest part was that I could tell it was meant as a compliment. So, I did some research and discovered that in their mid-90s vernacular “Tight” meant stylish, cool, having everything together. “Phat” (pronounced fat) similarly meant excellent or first-rate. So … theoretically, “You’re Phat and your clothes are tight!” would be a great compliment; that’s when I realized I wasn’t cut out for long term youth ministry.

One of the things that I admire in a good youth pastor is their ability to connect with the youth culture without becoming part of it. There are few things as sad as a 40-year-old youth pastor who tries to dress and act like a teenager. There’s no long-term productivity in embracing folly to reach little fools (Proverbs 22:15). The point of youth ministry is to use God’s word to lead them to wisdom. Most kids who are really seeking Christ long to see what a mature Christian looks like.

That’s the challenge for Christians in every age … connecting with the culture without becoming like it. Doing all that we can to connect while staying true to who we are in Christ. Genuine followers of Jesus will never be part of the “IN CROWD.” We are called to be different from the world for the sake of the world (1 Peter 2:12). In fact, our model and our warning against thinking that serving God could be popular is Christ himself (Matthew 24:9; John 15:8; John 16:33; Hebrews 13:13-14).