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

Navigating Life

I am such a fan of the Waze app on my phone. It has greatly reduced the trauma and drama of navigating Panama. Repeated use has shown it to be accurate and reliable. Even when its route didn’t look right, it got me where I wanted to go. It’s gotten me out of a few places that my own faulty navigating skills got me into.
 
There are two ways to use Waze. If you’re connected to Wi-Fi when you plot your course, your entire route is uploaded onto your phone. You are given an estimated time of arrival and alerted to any known hazards or delays. Once you leave the Wi-Fi connection … you’re on your own. GPS plots your movement along the preloaded route, but you’ll have no warning of complications that could slow your travels or even create an unsafe situation. Your plotted route might indicate that The Bridge of the Americas is the fastest way to your destination. You’d have no idea that a Conway truck and a Rojo collided at its apex until you were greeted by the sea of taillights right after turning off Ruta 1. If, on the other hand, you had a constant data stream, Waze rerouted you over the Centenario bridge saving you time and preserving your sanity.
 
The Psalmist wrote, “I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” 119:104-105
 
Just before a recent trip into the city, I discovered my data plan had expired. I didn’t leave for the city until I had reestablished that link. Why? Because I hate traveling the wrong path in my car.
 
If we hate traveling the wrong path with our cars on the way to Tocumen Airport, how much more important is it that we keep a constant connection to God. Traveling the wrong path in life is exponentially more serious. I believe the more regular and intimate your connection to God’s Word, the more powerful it becomes for navigating life. Repeated use has shown it to be accurate and reliable. Even when its route didn’t look right, it got me where I wanted to go. It’s gotten me out of a few places that my own faulty navigating skills got me into. What about you?
 
 


The Death of Journalism

I’m not an uncritical fan of the professional news agencies. Neither am I overly thrilled with the fact that anyone can have a “news” site. Unfettered and unfiltered access to large audiences should be good for the exchange of ideas, but I believe it is destroying ethics and professionalism in print media.
 
I’m not claiming that professional journalists always follow their own code of ethics, but at least they admit there should be one. The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) has thirty-five clearly articulated statements in their code. There’s not room to reproduce them here, but even a glance at their four main headings raise serious questions about the integrity of much of what we call news.
 
SPJ Code of Ethics
1. Seek the Truth and Report It.
2. Minimize Harm
3. Act Independently
4. Be Accountable and Transparent.
 
Under heading one, the SPJ states that a professional journalist should, “support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.” Recently, I began reading an article on a purported news site. I was sympathetic to the view of the commentator, but stopped reading when he referred to the subject of his article as a “turdbucket.” Hardly what I’d call promoting the open and civil exchange of views. There’s something to be said for professionalism. Saying things articulately and with respect is a worthy ethic. I’ll go farther and say it is a Christian ethic.
 
1 Peter 3:15-16 sets the standard for how Christians conduct themselves in society.
 
 In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
 
Christians are called to reasoned responses, delivered with love and respect … even in the face of societal slander. Social media has given each of us a voice, so we can begin by adopting this standard for every personal post or response. Then we can begin holding our news sources to the same standards. Civilly plead for civility and if nothing changes, change where you go for your news.
 
 
 
 
 
 


Faith’s Integrity:

 While Abraham’s nephew Lot still lived in Sodom, it was besieged by foreign kings who carried away its citizens and wealth. To save Lot, Abraham and a coalition of his allies pursued and conquered the invading army. Abraham returned in triumph, treasure and former captives in tow. After tithing from the spoils, a recognition that he credited God with his victory, Abraham engaged in an interesting conversation with the King of Sodom. Genesis 14:21-23 records,
 
The king of Sodom said to Abram*, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’
 
“To the victor go the spoils” is an ancient code and one that seems to have been followed at the time. This is made obvious by that fact that Abraham says later that he will accept only “the share that belongs to the men who went with me.” But for his part, Abraham would accept nothing from Sodom’s King. Notice, that Abraham made his decision before the King ever offered. Abraham said, “I have raised my hand … I have taken and oath” … past tense.  Abraham would not have his reputation (or more importantly God’s) mixed up with the wickedness of Sodom. Abraham put himself at great risk affecting the rescue and deserved a reward, but he would rather operate at a loss than make a deal with the devil. God had already prospered Abraham and had promised to do more. Abraham was zealous for God’s glory and reputation and would not do anything to sully it. This was integrity fueled by faith.
 
Integrity based on your faith in God will not necessarily make you popular. I know one Christian man who was repeatedly passed over for promotions because he refused his employers promptings to lie to clients. Abraham’s refusal to do “business as usual” did not make him popular with the King of Sodom. The very next verses reveal that Abraham’s stand left him feeling vulnerable.
 
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward. Genesis 15:1
 
The integrity borne of faith trusts that God can be relied upon for both protection and blessing.
 
*Abram was later renamed “Abraham” by God.
 
 


Bipolar Faith

The word “bipolar” triggers thoughts of mental illness and stirs strong emotional responses for those who have been touched by it; either personally or in the circle of those they love. WebMD gives this basic definition, “Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental illness that brings severe high and low moods and changes sleep, energy, thinking, and behavior. You can think of the highs and the lows as two “poles” of mood, which is why it’s called “bipolar” disorder.”
 
It is a puzzling and potentially destructive illness that, as of yet, has not been traced to any central cause. If your emotions and energy levels follow a stable and predictable pattern, you can humbly thank God. If you know someone touched by this disorder, extend large measures of love, compassion and prayer.
 
I would also caution against judging the faith of a person who struggles with Bipolar disorder or any other form of mental illness. Research the life of the famous hymn writer William Cowper (1731-1800). His hymns are among some of my favorites for their beauty, theology and depth of insight. And yet … this man struggled his entire life with debilitating seasons of utter despair. He repeatedly tried to end his life, but by God’s hand was preserved. It is difficult to reconcile his hope in Christ and his despair in life, but perhaps that is the greatest legacy of his testimony. Once saved, “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” … not even our own tendencies toward despair.
 
In moments of deep honesty, most of us would probably admit to some level of bipolarity in our faith. We have known times of great confidence in and closeness to Christ … and we have known times when we despaired of our salvation or doubted the basic truths of our faith. As we progress through our study of Hebrews 11, you should feel increasingly less isolated. The “great cloud of witnesses” as they’re called in Chapter 12, all experienced highs and lows, triumphs and failures in their faith. No mere human can be the ultimate model for our faith. That’s why the author of Hebrews instructs us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” See also Isaiah 26:3.
 
 


Faith Inaction:

In the hour I’ve been sitting at my CBC desk, I’ve heard several loud train-horn blasts. They obviously came from nearby … but I don’t remember seeing any tracks. Let the head scratching commence.
 
According to my research, the closest train track is 61.5 km or … a little over 38 miles away. The only other railways in Panama have been defunct for over 25 years. So, what am I hearing? You know … semi-trucks outfitted with train horns. Heaven forbid that one should slow down while passing the Coronado entrance. Why do that when you can use your air-horns to clear a path?
 
It reminds me of the first car Sue and I purchased together. It was a 1985 Honda Civic Station Wagon. If you know of one in good condition … I’ll buy it. It was a super little car, camper, pickup, mountain climbing, all-purpose, do-whatever-you-want vehicle. It was one of my favorite cars … except for the horn. The horn sounded like the Looney Tunes’ Roadrunner with a serious head cold. I got no respect. So, when the horn died, I replaced it with the loudest set of dual horns I could find. The first time I used the new horn, the person I honked at searched the intersection in vain for a 1975 Cadillac Fleetwood. I still got no respect. A train horn on a semi … doesn’t make it a train. Dual, 185 dB, matching “f” horns can’t turn a Civic into a Cadillac.
 
Hebrews 11 is a running list of people who were saved by and lived by their faith in God. Their actions did not save them, their faith saved them. Good works never lead to salvation, but true salvation cannot exist devoid of good works. James 2:20 puts it this way, “Faith without works is useless.” Some translations read “Faith without works is dead.” Hebrews says that faith is evidence of things unseen … and teaches that a life lived intentionally for God and His will is evidence of real faith. Faith is more than checking off a list that you believe the right things (read James 2:19). True faith will always be Faith-in-Action.