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

Hang up the Light

In 1919, Western Electric introduced the first freestanding dial telephone for home use. The old Candlestick models were obsolete, but my imaginative grandmother saw something new in her old phone. She asked a local handyman to make some modifications. What she got back was something familiar, but radically different and unique. The telephone became a lamp.
Being one of her sturdier antiques, I don’t remember being scolded for touching it. I think she appreciated the fascination it held for her grandchildren. Picking up the receiver turned on the light. I remember having pretend conversations on the lamp … and I remember being told to “hang up the light.” It is a peculiarly fun part of my childhood memories.
My grandmother’s home was full of the “repurposed.” There was a set of magazine holders made from a copper wash tub that had been cut in two. There were multiple rugs made from crocheted bread bags. You could find almost anything in Mason jars; from pickled beets to assorted screws. It was a time of re-purposing. It was definitely not a throwaway society.
God’s household is like that. His first desire is to redeem, not destroy. The reality of salvation is multifaceted. From God’s standpoint when a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ it looks like 2 Corinthians 5:17, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” When you place your faith in the person and work of Jesus, the spiritual transformation is instantaneous and complete. It’s as radical as being changed from a phone into a lamp!
But our old “phoneness” remains. God doesn’t wipe your memory and start from scratch when you come to faith. No, he does something infinitely more difficult and precious. He begins to work with what is there; memories, personality, gifting; redeeming every part of who you are. It’s called sanctification. He cleanses you and repurposes your past; he wastes nothing. Anything relinquished to him can be turned to your good and his glory. That looks like 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Shades of Something Different

DoIt, Novey, Cochez … change geographic location, repeat. I quickly found exactly the roller shades that I wanted for the guest bedroom. Well, they weren’t precisely the color I wanted … okay, I wasn’t looking for brown shades at all. Still, they exceeded my expectations; they were in stock and the right size. Somehow, those shades grew nearly ten inches during the trip back to the condo. Maybe something in the conversion from Imperial to Metric.
While trying to return the shades, I suddenly discovered that I could effortlessly read Spanish. Actually, the other side of box was in English and inches. The new set of shades claimed to be “43,3 inches” wide. I’d never seen that exact nomenclature for measurements, but these were exactly what I wanted. They were in stock and the right size. On the way back to the condo, they lost 1,3 inches. The measurement was the shade width plus hardware. DoIt, Novey, Cochez in the city … bigger stores … smaller selections. I bought drapes instead.
It was one of those homesick moments when I found myself frustrated by the differences in my adopted culture. Three big-box hardware giants were within fifteen minutes of my home in Illinois. Each had an entire department for “window treatments.” Fifty-seven different shade styles, each available in thirty-one colors, glistened beneath halogen lights in perfect air-conditioned comfort. Friendly, articulate, professional employees attentively hovered waiting to cut the blinds to my custom specifications. I might be romanticizing … a bit.
What surprised me more than missing my Stateside conveniences was the time I wasted waiting on Panama to conform to my expectations. If I had invested the same amount of energy trying to order blinds, I’m sure I would have succeeded. Even though it didn’t fit the reality of my new context, it felt safer to try what I knew than to venture into a complex situation with limited language skills.
I wonder if there is a spiritual lesson here … a lesson about faith? I think I’ll try something different and invite you to practice Colossians 3:16 by making the application. Email me a Bible verse and a spiritual lesson that you drew from my story.

Love’s Dividend

I’ve met some amazing people in my lifetime, but only one Carolyn Switzer. In more than fifteen years of interacting with her in ministry, I cannot recall one instance of harshness or ill-temper. She was one of the most gracious and steady people I have ever met. She could talk about Jesus to anyone without it ever feeling artificial or forced. Carolyn was a gifted Bible teacher, but I think most people would say she simply loved them into the Kingdom. Getting close to Carolyn made you want to get closer to Jesus. 
It was not at all axiomatic that Carolyn should have turned out this way. Her life was marked with a series of staggering tragedies. Her six-year-old son died in her arms; her forty-year-old husband died unexpectedly of a brain hemorrhage at work. After raising three daughters as a single mother, Carolyn found love again later in life. Her and her second husband served as missionaries to Venezuela until he fell sick and rapidly succumbed to cancer. Carolyn’s latter years were plagued with constants bouts of pneumonia.
Carolyn’s infectious joy was wonderful, but it seemed extraordinary, even counterintuitive when you heard about her great suffering. Not all Christians are so beautifully formed through pain. I asked Carolyn about the absence of bitterness in her life and besides giving the glory to Christ, she told me an amazing story. When her first husband passed away, several Christian families banded together and completely assumed her home mortgage. She had struggles as a widowed mother, but she never had to worry about housing. She said God’s love was so real and proven in their actions, that it totally influenced her response to suffering. Carolyn repaid that loan for the rest of her life as she poured what she had received into countless other lives.
No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
1 John 4:12 (NLT)

Victorious Retreat

Long unbroken periods of frenetic activity fatigue not only the body, but the soul. Jesus, the Son of God stole away from the rush and crush of ministry to pray and recover his strength. Though fully God, Jesus in regards to his humanity needed to spend time in the Father’s presence and rest. Even when his disciples would have argued that ministry demanded that he engage, Jesus resisted the pull to live by the expectations of the masses.
The news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. LUKE 5:15-16
The gospels show Jesus instilling this pattern in his followers; requiring that they also take strategic retreats from ministry (Mark 6:31-32). He commended those who stepped away from the task driven life to spend time in his presence (Luke 10:38-42). If this is the witness of Jesus’ life, why do we try to do it on our own?
I am slowly learning the discipline of saying … “I am too busy not to pray about this.” I need to grow in the practice of strategic retreat. Times of quietness and concentration on God’s Word and prayer are indispensable for a life lived in God’s power.
That said, one awesome aspect of prayer is that it allows you to retreat anywhere and at any time. Amid a busy schedule, before you open your mouth in a difficult situation, you can step next door into the throne room of God Almighty and
receive mercy and find grace to help in your time of need (Hebrews 4:16). No one notices your absence, but stepping momentarily into God’s presence can bring his presence back into the situation. There are no spiritual victories apart from the retreat into prayer.

Shattered Reality

I have always loved words. I suppose it is somewhat genetic … or at least inherited. My paternal grandfather was a playwright and author. My father had a broad and constantly growing vocabulary and both my parents played with and invented words. Although spelling was a struggle for me, I always tested several grades ahead when it came to vocabulary. My parents only deprived me in one area of language … foul language. I am still grateful that my parent’s vocabulary of vulgarities was so anemic.
I’m not saying I never heard swearing in the home. My father’s knowledge of “choice words” was probably as robust as any World War 2 veteran … but he was very strategic in their deployment. The effect of him not normally swearing increased the affect when he did. Still, by today’s standards, my parent’s language would be strictly G-rated.
One of my father’s indulgences was calling things with which he disagreed by the initials B.S. When chided by my mother (every time), he would respond (every time), “It just stands for Basic Sediment.” Basic Sediment was the useless black sludge left in the bottom of holding tanks in the oilfield industry. Judge for yourself if my dad’s interpretation of the initials was any less insulting than the common vernacular.
My mother’s strongest denigration was to call a person a “stinkpot.” This word, she applied only to the most cantankerous, obstreperous and ornery rapscallions. I’m not sure why, but I was recently intrigued about the derivation of this word. It turns out that the term “stinkpot” originally referred to a weapon employed by the Chinese in Naval warfare. They were thin metal or earthenware containers filled with sulfur and other suffocating concoctions. When hurled burning onto the deck of an enemy vessel, they burst into a cloud of toxic smothering fumes. The enemy was either overcome or forced to abandon their ship in search of oxygen.
Think of the implication of applying this word to a human. When you are heated, jostled or shattered, what spills out of you? How does it affect those around you? Jesus said, “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