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

REALITY CHECK:

We are facing forces and movements in our world that are completely beyond our influence. And yet our focus on such matters borders on addiction. You may not want to hear this … but sharing videos on Facebook will not stop the onslaught of globalization or the push toward a one-world government. It makes us feel like we’re doing something … but we’re not.  Christians know that it’s coming … God’s Word says so. So, what do I do … when there’s nothing to be done?

God’s people were stuck between what appeared to be two unconquerable foes; before them the impassable Red Sea, behind them the rapidly approaching Egyptian army. How did they respond? They started talking smack about leadership. “They said to Moses, ‘Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’” Exodus 14:11-12 It’s hard to blame them really … the text also says that when they saw the Egyptians, they were “terrified.”

What should they have done … considering there was nothing to be done? Moses spells it out … “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:13-14

There are four elements to Moses’ instruction, and they were all issued as commands:

“Fear not” Cease dreading! The only way that happens is when we remember Who’s really in charge. It only happens when faith replaces fear. The Israelites were focused on their earthly leadership and had forgotten Who was leading them and what He had already accomplished on their behalf.

“Stand firm” The command here is literally “remain.” It can be translated to resist, stand against, and stand together. I wonder if “stand together” really was the point. Exodus 12:37 tells us that 600,000 men left Egypt and 13:18 tells us they “went up armed for battle.” Egypt was coming with all its chariots … but what could Pharaoh have really done against such an army? When God’s people panic and it becomes every man for himself, there is no strength.

“You will see the salvation of the Lord” It doesn’t come across in English translations, but this too was a command; ‘Look to see the Lord’s deliverance.’ God’s people were to be watching for, eagerly expecting God’s rescue. The Hebrew word here is Yeshua. Those of us who have met our Deliver should be eagerly looking for what He will do on our behalf!

“You have only to be silent” Again … a command … be silent! We are so worried about being heard these days … but what if there was more power in a certain kind of silence? (Isaiah 30:15)

Pharaoh is approaching, what will he see … a screaming, scrambling mayhem melting away down the seashore … or one body standing shoulder to shoulder, looking to God in tranquil silence? Which looks like faith? Which will tell the enemy we believe in our God?
 
 


Checking the Original

In our Covid confinement, Sue has taken to watching YouTube videos of the Russian painter Viktor Yushkevich. You should check it out … it’s way more interesting than watching paint dry. Oh … uh … anyway … it really is fascinating. What I love is how the paintings develop from dark and abstract to light-infused and intricately detailed. Shadow and confusion are swept away by tiny masterful strokes of light and color. Shallowness and chaos are transformed to depth and beauty.

While watching Viktor paint, you will see him constantly checking his original. Sometimes he’s duplicating one of his older works. Sometimes he’s referencing a photograph. His skill is not based in imagination, but in being able to transfer and translate what he sees onto the canvas.

I remember twice when I had to do a still-life in art class. Both times there was a problem; the still-life wasn’t still. Working over multiple class periods in a room that kept getting rearranged with props that kept getting jostled made it impossible to accurately transfer the scene onto the canvas. After a while I gave up looking at the original. The end product was “impressionistic” to say the least.

The Christian life develops from shallowness and chaos to depth and beauty. It is the Spirit who will finish the work … but He allows us to have a hand on the brush. Our part is to constantly gaze back at the original and transfer what we see onto the canvas of our life. If life jostles us to the point that we stop regularly referencing God’s Word or fail to apply what we learn … our life will trend towards shallowness and chaos. But little bits of light faithfully transferred to the canvas of our life will eventually create a work of depth and beauty. We will become a portrait of our Savior.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22–25

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18
 
 


Weedoitdiffernt

Sue and I are so thankful for getting to live in a home with a yard. But it has come with some challenges … like malfunctioning string trimmers. Weedies … as the locals call them. I repaired the one that came with the house a couple of times, but never to the satisfaction of the gardener. Then I bought one off Facebook Marketplace. It said it was a Stihl, but I had my doubts from the day the guy sold it to me out of his trunk. I didn’t intentionally look for a crooked deal … but the brand name on that unit should have been spelled Steal. The gardener brought his own for a while but then it quit working. Anyway, the lawn was getting totally out of hand, so I went and purchased a genuine Stihl at Cochez. The trimmer cut half the lawn, quit and would not restart. I evidently live in the Weedie Triangle … a mysterious zone that kills string trimmers.

I slogged the defective unit back to the store bracing for a struggle. The manager there was excellent and went out of his way to accommodate me. I came back with something much less expensive and much less Panama. I bought a cortagrama … a good old-fashioned lawn mower.

It started with one pull and stayed running … the exact opposite of most weedies. The low purr of its larger engine was soothing compared to the whipping, whirling whine of a string trimmer. I plodded along happily behind it instead of pivoting my sacroiliac into spasming knot. And … I didn’t come in smelling like a Hookah bar that specializes in crude oil. Most of all … it was familiar. I hadn’t realized that I missed mowing the lawn. There are plenty of other jobs to keep the gardener busy; I get to mow the lawn.

It was strange how long it took me to go back to a time-tested tool. I guess I was convinced that the locals knew something I didn’t. That there was some reason a mower wouldn’t work. Without much examination, I tried really hard to conform to the weedie culture. Even after I’d purchased the mower, I felt like I was getting strange looks loading it in my car. I did have some prep to make the lawn safe, but found my old friend the mower worked perfectly.

Why do Christians try so hard to fit into the culture of this fallen world? We are citizens of a different Country and its time to stop apologizing for its values. It reminds me of a couple of scriptures …

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

 
 
 


Finding Me Again

Paper has always been a challenge for me. This is true at home and in the office. One book about organization helped me immensely. The big secret for taming paper piles is cutting down the number of times you defer making decisions. If you act on a note, your can get it off your desk. If you take a moment to evaluate whether you’re really going to follow up on an advertisement, it may land in the trash immediately instead of taking the slow route and cluttering your workspace. 

There’s still a class of paper that I wrestle with; quotes and scriptures that I’ve jotted on tiny scraps of paper. For years, I’ve kept a supply of business-card-sized pieces of paper handy on my desk. When a quote or a scripture inspires me … I jot it down. When I had a desktop computer, I used to tape them around my screen or on the wall just behind. Eventually it would get a bit unruly looking and they’d all come down and end up in a little pile. I couldn’t quite bring myself to throw them away. The good part was that those quotes kept finding me, challenging me and inspiring me.

One of those little scraps found me just the other day when I moved my desk out into the front office. It simply reads … “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12” I needed to read it again.

It’s one of those beautifully simple portions of scripture that clarify life. It’s just a snip out of chapter filled with commands for Christian living. Each phrase begins with an active participle. It could be translated, “Rejoicing in hope, persevering in persecution, devoting (yourself) to prayer.” This is ongoing action … it’s how Christians are to face every day.

What hope gives us joy? Paul defined it for Titus as the “blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13) He wrote to the believers at Thessalonica, “We continually remember … your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonian 1:3) Gazing with confidence toward the day of Christ’s return (and all that will mean) focuses us forward. As we concentrate on what will be, we get joy for traveling through what is. Christians don’t live in the past … we live in sight of our glorious future and that sustains us in the present. That’s why hope and perseverance are inseparable in the Bible … and in our lives.

What’s the connection to prayer? Affliction … or persecution always ignites prayer among the followers of Jesus. Their anticipation of the world to come, keeps them from expecting ease and security in the world that is. Because their real joy and hope are in Christ, they are constantly praying for power to serve, endure and honor Him until He comes.
 
 
 


The Drug of Choice

There have been many wonderful things about electronic social platforms. There are also aspects I find increasingly alarming. One of my less productive activities is browsing one platform’s video feed. I’ve noticed that it tracks my habits like an overindulgent parent … always trying to anticipate what I want and give me more of that. It will feed me more cake … more candy … or more poison if that’s what I have a taste for. Now, I’m not a kid. I’m responsible for monitoring my own media diet, keeping it balanced and healthy. So, I can’t blame the platform if I start seeing a lot of junk in my video feed. Or … can I?

My dad passed on to me his love of military history. I enjoy watching videos and movie clips about WW2 on social media. But the clips gathered for me by that platform trend steadily toward more violent and bloody … and farther off topic. I’ve noticed it happening in other topics I’ve perused. Even watching Christian videos introduced a stream of other “religious” videos. Why am I getting all these Hindu gurus? A live tarot reading … what? So, I’m changing my analogy. This media platform acts more like a drug pusher. If he gets a kid to have a beer … the next time he offers him a little whiskey. If the kid displays a liking for hard liquor … he pushes him toward marijuana. When the kid dies of a crack overdose, the peddler says, “Hey, I was just giving him what he wanted.”  Or … did the peddler purposefully escalate his client’s preferences.

If I want to watch WW2 videos, I must be diligent about not allowing that escalation. When something appears that seems provocative or gratuitously violent, I click on the video preferences and select “hide video.” I don’t allow the platform to choose for me … I tell it “shows me less like that.” My video feed on that platform is now almost entirely political commentary and Christian apologetics. Now … even the political videos seem to be getting more and more hateful. Would a media platform intentionally push each of us toward the most extreme version of our political views? I’m sure they’d say they were only giving us what we wanted.

Be careful brothers and sisters. I’m not telling you what to watch. I’m just saying lead your eyes … don’t be led by them. You ultimately hold the responsibility for your feed … whether that’s on a video platform or in the privacy of your own thought-life. Stop your aimless drifting … take charge!

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

 
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23