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

Calling Barak

If the book of Judges were rendered as a massive mural, the careful observer would find it strangely incomplete. Two elements that should have been prominent in the life of the Israelites are noticeably absent.
  • The Tabernacle so carefully constructed during the dessert wanderings is totally missing. This, despite that fact that prior to entering the promised land, it was the constant center of the Israelite religious and social existence.
  • The Priesthood established to teach and interpret the law for the spiritual and social good of the people is almost unmentioned. The priests were specifically tasked as arbiters among the people.
These elements are missing by design of the author. They were so neglected in the life of the Israelites that they had become invisible in daily life. Their absence proves the authors opening charge against God’s people. “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel … they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the Lord’s commands.” Judges 2:10 & 17
When we read in Judges 4 that “Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time … and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided,” it is further evidence that all was not spiritually right in Israel. This casts no shadow on Deborah. She was undoubtedly God’s messenger, doing God’s will and she proved a capable leader. It was just simply not the plan that God had laid down for his people.
God used Deborah to call Barak as Israel’s military deliverer. Despite a direct command from God, Barak refused to go to war unless Deborah accompanied him. Deborah’s response is telling,“I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman.”Judges 4:9
Women have proven themselves extraordinary leaders in all facets of life and should be recognized and rewarded accordingly. And yet … God still calls men to take the lead in the spiritual life of their homes and churches. (Ephesians 5:22-32; I Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:6-10, I Peter 5:1-3)

Fact Vs. Fear

Since we moved to Panama, Sue and I have been cliff dwellers. We loved to perch on our balcony and watch the coming and goings of people, clouds, tides and storms. Besides the interesting and beautiful vistas, twenty stories up has some other advantages. In all our time there, I had never seen a scorpion. In all my life … I had never seen a scorpion.
Now that we have descended to earth, we have dispatched two in the space of less than a week. I screamed when the first one scuttled past my foot. I didn’t want to go near it, but I also didn’t want it hiding in the bedroom. I grabbed the nearest thing I could and wacked it like Thor swinging his hammer. I backed away trying to see where it had gone and nearly stepped on its twitching carcass. It had somehow followed my backswing and landed behind me. I don’t even want to think about the “Dancing with the Stars” gyrations that would have ensued had it landed in my hair. When the deed was done, I realized that my heart was racing faster than when I’d recently gone paragliding. How could a creature, maybe three inches long, induce such alarm?
Misinformation played a part. Prior to that encounter, old westerns were my only source of information on these arachnids. In films, the equation is simple; One sting = One dead cowboy. The scorpion trots happily through the desert sand and into Chester’s boot. Chester wakes and grabs the weathered piece of footwear. “Don’t do it Chester!” Too late … he’s already doing a death scene of William Shatner proportions (and quality).
Some scorpions are poisonous, and what you don’t know could kill you. But not all scorpions are deadly and what you don’t know could keep you bound in fear. John 12:42 tells us that many of the religious leaders believed in Jesus …“But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue.” They feared the wrong thing in the wrong proportion. Otherwise they would not have preserved their status and tradition at the cost of a relationship with their Messiah and Savior. See Luke 12 (especially verses 4 & 5).

Presence Vs. the Power of Fear

Last year we flew in a six-seater, twin-engine plane. Sue aptly described the aircraft as, “an old Volkswagen Beetle with wings.” The pilot climbed into the cockpit, flipped a few switches and pressed a button. The image of the 1960s Bug became more vivid. The engine chugged, “Errerrerrerr … ughumph.” Five times the pilot tried unsuccessfully to bring the beast to life. Finally, it coughed its way into a full-throated roar and he began to taxy down the runway. The reluctance of the engine worried me; the fact that the pilot was willing to trust his life to the craft, gave me peace.
Jumping off a perfectly good mountain above Medellin, Colombia was a similar experience. The sign at the entrance notified the daring that their flight would not exceed 9000 feet (2750 meters). The attendant strapped a helmet on my head and I thought, “In what circumstance would this do me any good?”  They unrolled the Paraglider to which I was about to entrust my life and I noted the spindly, webish character of the supporting lines. The harness that enveloped me looked rather tired and over-experienced. I would have never entrusted myself to such a contraption … except … there was someone who was willing to strap himself in with me and trust it with his own life. Sometimes the right presence can trump the power of fear.
The past two weeks in Bible Study, we talked about the two greatest fears most people face; the fear of want and the fear of man. In Matthew 6 and 10, Jesus says that God’s promised presence in our lives should trump those fears. Fear of going without, often disguises itself as a love for stuff. Concerning the basics of life, Jesus said, “the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Hebrews 13:5-6 is another portion of God’s Word that captures this common human struggle:
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”


The Ministry

What comes to your mind when someone says, “Ministry” ?  Many people think of something very formal and very disconnected from themselves. Culture has reinforced that understanding of the word. Merriam-Webster offers the following definition:
  • the office, duties, or functions of a minister
  • the body of ministers of religion
  • the period of service or office of a minister.
Many people think “ministry” belongs to a special, highly trained group who do things for God that the normal person cannot do. As a kid growing up in the Lutheran Church, I remember thinking along those lines, “Ministry is done by ministers and that’s not me.”
Then I sang my first solo in church. Afterward, one lady remarked, “You have such a lovely vibrato!” I didn’t tell her it was created by my knees shaking. Many told me how the song had touched them. Then I saw our church’s minister headed my way. Honestly, my respect for Pastor Ziekert bordered on idolization. That’s why the next words out of his mouth, stunned me, “God bless your ministry Jon!” Had I heard correctly? He referred to my singing as ministry. If I had a ministry … wouldn’t that make me a minister?
When the word “minister” or “ministry” appears in the New Testament, it translates the Greek word, diakonía. That word is even more commonly translated “servant.” Here’s a great example, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10
God’s Word teaches that every believer in Jesus has received at least one gift for the “common good” of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7). Using those gifts to serve others, and glorify God is the real definition of ministry? What’s your ministry?

Following the Right Jesus

Last Sunday, I was trying to explain how people’s attitudes about Jesus could have changed so drastically between his Triumphal Entry and the day of his death. The jubilant crowds turned against him, or at best kept silent as he was carried away to death. Of his trusted twelve, one betrayed him for money, another publicly renounced him and the other ten just melted into the shadows. My premise was that people were following the wrong Jesus. Many believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but what that meant was the issue. When Jesus turned out to be a messiah vastly different from what they had imagined, they turned away.
The premise of my message was that we should be certain that we are following the right Jesus; Jesus as he claimed to be; Jesus as the Bible presents him. Near the end of the sermon, a thought came to me and came out of my mouth something like this: “This is Sunday, we worship Jesus in freedom and with little fear, but a Friday may be coming when it is costly to be his follower. Let’s be sure that we’re following the right Jesus so that when hardship comes we don’t become disillusioned and fall away.” That application was not in my notes.
Later that afternoon I learned that almost fifty Coptic Christians had died in two separate terrorist attacks in Egypt. Not everyone who died that day had chosen to follow Jesus into harm’s way, but many had. The Coptic Christian community has lived for years with the reality of persecution and death. As I read articles about their ongoing response to living as targets of aggression I was impressed by three themes;
  • It is common for them to read and reflect on scriptures that say followers of Jesus will face persecution.
  • It is common for them to respond with love toward their persecutors and pray for their conversion.
  • It is common for them to speak about how the hope of the resurrection keeps them going.

I’m certain that the Coptic worship services today, on Resurrections Sunday, look very different from what I’m used to, but I believe they are following the right Jesus. The resurrection was the game changer for the first followers of Jesus, it erased their cowardice and turned them into an unstoppable force that changed the world. Are you following the risen Jesus?

After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.  John 2:22