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

Who Makes the Coffee?

Ask that question in our home and the answer would be “Me mostly.” If you were holding a cup of my brew and asked the question, I’d say, “Café Ruiz.” That’s the brand we normally buy.

This past week, Sue and I got to tour the Ruiz family farm in Boquete. Our guide, Carlos, opened our eyes to what it takes to get coffee from the bush to our cup. It went something like this … Carlos speaking rapidly in one breath … “We cultivate the plant, we hand pick the beans, we float-sort the beans, we husk the beans, we ferment the beans, we wash the beans, we dry the beans (twice), we age the beans, we mill the beans, we sort the beans again, we grade the beans, we bag the beans, we ship the beans.” Then chuckling, Carlos showed us the label on a bag of foreign-marketed coffee. It read, “Proudly Roasted in Italy.” If you had asked me who made that coffee, I would have responded, “The Italians … I suppose.” But all those steps from plant to green-bagged beans … happened in Panama. All the Italians did was burn it. And, of course, there is another person routinely left out of the coffee equation. Who imagined and created a plant that produces beans rich in flavor, caffeine and flavonoids? God makes the coffee!

How often in life we consider the last two steps of a process and place all the credit there. Museums don’t display brushes, tubes of paint, finely crafted easels and expertly stretched canvases. None of the producers of those products are known or remembered … only the painting and the artist are celebrated.

What if we change the question? What if we ask, “Who makes the church?” Far too often, the growth of a church gets attached to a few key leaders. We suffer from a serious celebrity mentality in the world today … even in the church. But when any community of believers grows and flourishes, there are a hundred intangibles that nobody sees; invitations, acts of kindness and hospitality, quiet service, one-on-one discipleship, empathy, generosity, prayer. And … when something emerges that’s more than a prosperous and morally upright country club, there’s another answer to the question. Who makes a true church? Jesus Christ!

You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:19–22

Lord Jesus, build your church!
 
 


Together

In my office, I used to keep copies of a book entitled, “The Cross-Cultural Marriage.” Beth was from the States … Cooper was from South Africa, I made them read the book. Earl grew up on the Navajo reservation, Katy in middle-class suburbia, that book was there first assignment. But the longer I did premarital counseling, the more I realized every couple needed the book. Even when a bride and groom come from very similar demographics they are, to some degree, from different planets. Sometimes it’s the next planet over, sometimes another galaxy … but every marriage starts off as a cross-cultural experience.
 
Though close in age, Sue and I were from different generations. My parents were closer to the age of her grandparents. I came with a different and baffling vocabulary. I would say, “The leftovers are in the icebox,” and she needed to know “Which part?” I wanted something from the “cubby hole” but she could only find it in the “glove box.” She’d never heard of getting a “sticker” in your foot or suffering from an “interned hair.” I’d used “cream rinse” my entire life and suddenly it was “conditioner.” My language also came sprinkled with a few words of German slang, like referring to all small flying insects as “fliegers.” Despite those and other more serious differences, we have managed to survive … and thrive in marriage. Tomorrow, August 5th we celebrate thirty years.
 
Neither of us can believe it. We don’t even feel that old! We have closed the distance between our cultures and God has truly made us two … one. I feel as if we’ve been together since childhood. I have a difficult time remembering life before Sue and a harder time imagining life without her. Proverbs is right, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.”  And … “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” Proverbs 18:22; 31:10-12. 
 
Praising God for the favor He pours into my life through Sue!
 
 


SEX

Let’s get it right out there. Don’t hide your bulletin … the word is permissible in church. God invented sexual intimacy with all its excitement and joys. To quote C.S. Lewis in part, “God is the Creator of any pleasure in it’s healthy and satisfying form. He made the pleasures: the devil has never produced one. All Satan can do is encourage humans to take the pleasures which God has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden …”
 
Some of our reticence concerning the topic of sexuality is prudent. It stems from a healthy desire to protect what God intended between a husband and wife. The relationship is, by design, so exclusive that we instinctively shield what goes on behind closed doors. Thus the “closed doors.”  But there is another source of discomfort that is not healthy.
 
C.S. Lewis was right … since Satan cannot produce a single human pleasure, he has made it his business to corrupt and sully those given by the Creator. Our enemy has worked extremely hard and with sinister success to ruin human sexuality; to steal what God intended and give us fraudulent copies with diminishing returns. He has made such a wicked business of this pursuit, that many Christians feel shame at the mere mention of the topic. Even when enjoying a God-given pleasure in the God-sanctioned context of marriage … some Christians feel shame. They feel shame over enjoying a good thing that God intended to bind them together, body and soul. If any of those false feelings are in the mix of your discomfort with the topic of sex, trade them for a Biblical perspective.
 
Yesterday, our Cover 2 Cover Bible read-through brought us to the Song of Solomon. Although some of the language may not resonate with our modern romantic sensibilities, it’s hard to miss the passionate physical enjoyment the book’s two lovers find together. The Song of Solomon has many facets, but it is undeniably a celebration of intimacy in marriage. I’m thankful for its presence in God’s inspired Word. It helps me hold sacred and protect what Satan desires to steal from marriage.  The picture with this article is of my wedding ring. The Hebrew inscription that it bears say … “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Song of Solomon 6:3 The Hebrew word translated “beloved” denotes “A person dearly loved and cherished; preferred above all other and treated with partiality.” It can also be translated “lover.” There’s no shame in that. (See also Proverbs 5:15-19; 1 Corinthians 7:4-5)
 
 
 


An Open Book

The dictionary defines this English idiom in two ways:
 
  1. Something that is easy to understand or decipher.
  2. One who acts (or purports to act) honestly, with no secrets.
 
The Hebrew poetry of Proverbs uses a similar expression with a similar meaning. Proverbs 15:11 says, Death and Destruction lie open before the LORD— how much more the hearts of men!
 
Think about that! Two staggering mysteries that puzzle mankind are like open books before God. Even the two Hebrew words used, “Sheol” and “Abaddon” are mysterious. If some teacher claims to have nailed down their meanings, he or she is stretching credulity. But let’s go with the broadest meaning … physical death and ontological destruction are easily understood and decrypted by our God. They are not mysteries to him. Can you imagine the amount of ink humanity has spilled trying to decipher the causes and meaning of physical death? Can you fathom the number of opinions we’ve generated on the existence, continuance and final state of the human soul? These are among the most complex questions with which human philosophy grapples and they are child’s play for God.
 
What does this astounding fact about our Creator teach us? The author of the proverb draws the conclusion, “If God easily understands these two enigmatic areas of existence … He certainly understands the inner-workings of each person.” The human heart; in Hebrew, the sum-total of everything that makes you … you. That part of you lies open before the Lord. This is the repeated testimony of the book of Proverbs and the entire Bible. How do I respond to such truth?
 
First, I respond with humility. God knows things I don’t about the universe; He even knows things I don’t know about myself. People say, “I’m an open book,” but no one really is. I have pages no other human has ever turned … and some pages even I cannot separate. I don’t always understand or rightly read my own motivations, but God does.
 
So, secondly, I respond with honest dependence. Because I am an open book before God, I can be honest before Him with what I know about myself, and I can turn to Him for help when I need to understand myself. Like the Psalmist, I can pray,
 
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23–24
 
 


Psalms & Proverbs

For centuries, many Christians have observed the devotional practice of reading one chapter from Psalms and Proverbs a day. What amazes me is how often the Psalm and selection from Proverbs for a given day seem thematically connected. For instance, my devotional reading recently brought me to Psalm 11 and Proverbs Chapter 11.

It’s not always the case in Proverbs, but Chapter 11 has a discernible and repetitive pattern. You could summarize it in two statements:

The evil man seeks evil and it finds him.

The righteous man seeks good and it finds him.

Psalm 11 uses many similar images to those found in the corresponding proverbs and concludes by saying:

On the wicked God will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.

This theme of evil coming to those who seek it and good coming to the righteous is consistent throughout Scripture. I’m not talking about a health and wealth gospel … I’m talking about something better. The Ultimate Good comes to those who seek. As the psalmist promises, “the upright will see God’s face.  God gives His best to those who seek righteousness, He gives Himself.
 
 
(Reprinted from 9/15/2013)