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

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


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