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

Getting the Right Lenses

There’s a pair of blue glasses on the market that are purported to make golf balls absolutely glow. Most reviews I’ve read claim they actually work. One negative review complained they didn’t help, “unless your ball is partially visible.” Uh … they didn’t claim to be X-ray glasses! The glasses are especially effective in one area: as soon as you put them on other golfers will presume something about the quality of your game.

There are amber glasses that are supposed to help you see at night and through fog. My late brother wore tinted glasses especially calibrated to help with visual acuity and reduce the affects of his dyslexia while reading. He greatly benefited from getting the right lenses. Filtering out specific spectrums of light make certain objects come into sharper focus or give relief.

In these strange days, it’s hard to see through the weeds. Many are consumed with ferreting out what forces are driving or influencing the affairs of our world. The bent seems to be that all government is intentionally evil or manipulated by sinister forces. I’m actually not going to argue against that point. Satan is always trying to assert his desires in the world and will use anyone who is willing and available. It is also not wrong to call out organizations and individuals who are promoting blatantly ungodly causes. I would strongly plead one caveat … that we strive to be people of uncompromising and careful truthfulness. Be sure that your personal filter doesn’t become the measure of truth. Don’t just post something because it sounds right to you … check it out. One guy, reviewing the blue golf glasses, complained, “If you wear them all the time, you’ll get a headache.”

There’s only one lens for life that’s never lets me down. In fact, most of my headaches come from forgetting to use it. Try running world events through this filter:

To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are His. What He tears down cannot be rebuilt; the man He imprisons cannot be released. If He holds back the waters, there is drought; if He lets them loose, they devastate the land. To Him belong strength and victory; both deceived and deceiver are His. He leads counselors away stripped and makes fools of judges. He takes off the shackles put on by kings and ties a loincloth around their waist. He leads priests away stripped and overthrows men long established. He silences the lips of trusted advisers and takes away the discernment of elders. He pours contempt on nobles and disarms the mighty. He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light. He makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and disperses them. He deprives the leaders of the earth of their reason; He sends them wandering through a trackless waste. Job 12:13–24
 
 


Are You Listening? Part 2:

Yesterday as I replaced some broken light switches at home, I continued listening to God’s Word on my Bible App. In Philippians, these words caught my ear … Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. Philippians 4:5  Those words come in the context of Paul trying to resolve a conflict between two believing women (Euodia and Syntyche). Both had labored beside Paul in his Gospel work … but now something had come between them. He pleads with them to agree in the Lord … to be like-minded. It’s sad, but far too common, genuine believers to divide over misunderstandings or slights and forget the central and unifying truth of the Gospel. That happens in the Church of Jesus Christ … but we can also loose sight of the centrality of the Gospel when communicating with unbelievers.

That’s where my mind went immediately when I heard, Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. I thought instantly of all the unreasonableness that I’ve witnessed in social media. We probably should call it what it has become … antisocial media. I’m still shocked at the amount of defamation and name-calling that makes it into “journalism.” More jarring is the way people approach the propagation of their Christian worldview. I have watched quite a few videos of Christian apologists and I can’t believe the titles:

  • “Ravi owns socialist snowflake.”
  • “Panelist destroys libtard”
  • “Apologist eviscerates atheist”

I could … but I won’t go on. The fault seldom lies with the speakers, but those who repost video-bites that resonate with their beliefs. I can’t imagine the ever-calm gentlemen, Ravi Zacharias, walking off the stage chuckling, “I owned that girl.” It’s true, Ravi has revealed the foolish reasoning of many a person, but I have never seen him try to “make of fool” of anyone! He always argued from love toward Jesus Christ and the Gospel. That last one really gets me … “Apologist disembowels atheist.” That’s what the word “eviscerate” really means. Are we out to destroy people? Is that what Christ has called us to? Or did He come that they might not face destruction?

We must argue with the world about the timeless truths of God’s Words. To do less would be unloving … but we cannot stoop to the tactics of the world. Whatever unbelievers think of our beliefs, whatever they say to us or about us, Christians should be known for their reasonableness by everyone.

I have underlined the word translated “reasonableness” in three other scriptures to help fill out the meaning. Also note the words by which it’s surrounded and the attitude to which we are called as followers of Christ:

1 Timothy 3:2–3 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

Titus 3:1–2 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

James 3:17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

(Part 1 of “Are You Listening?” was aired Friday as a video on Facebook and YouTube.)

 



Freedom with Responsibility

Kids roamed the halls during classes, went to the bathroom, fetched things from their lockers and felt free to stop and have brief conversations. There was a culture that came down from the head office … “Act like adults and we will treat you like adults.” My days as a Little River Redskin were days of freedom with responsibility.

I graduated and every part of me left. I had no idea what was going on at the high school even though it was just across the alley from where I lived. I did hear they had a new principal, but I never considered what that meant for change.

Then one day they called and asked if I would help with a photography project. I was kind of excited as I walked through the double doors as an “adult.” I checked in at the office and headed off to the dark room. I made it as far as the main hallway when I was struck by the feeling of lifeless vacancy. It was so unlike my memories … my memories of a corridor pulsing with life. I just stood there wondering if I was in the right place. I spotted a pale little waif walking in my direction. He eyed me nervously as he drew near. I asked in a normal voice … “Where is everybody?” “In class,” he whispered incredulously. Then I noticed a large Redskin tomahawk hanging around his neck on a lanyard. “What’s up with that?” I said pointing.  Sheepishly he replied, “It’s my hall pass, everyone has to get one from the teacher to be in the halls.” That was such a strange feeling, being in the familiar unfamiliar. It looked like my high school, but the culture had shifted, and it made it hard … and awkward coming back.

I think … there’s potential for hard and awkward as we return to church. The guidelines have come down from MINSA and we’ll be returning to a very different environment for the foreseeable future. Here’s a list of mandatory regulations for reopening:

  • Disinfecting the facility before and after each meeting
  • Temperature Checks, shoe disinfecting and hand sanitizing while entering
  • Mandatory masks for the duration of the service.
  • 2-meter social distancing, only households may sit together
  • No more than 25% capacity

We’ve grown accustomed to shopping under similar guidelines but … this is church. I would like you all to be in prayer as we work together to make this as painless as possible. I think concentrating on the privilege of returning to worship and fellowship will help greatly. When you get the word that we’ve reopened … please come prayed up and with a heart of cooperation. No matter what the restrictions, I will say with the Psalmist,

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’” Psalm 122:1
 
 
 


Family Business … Gospel Business

This blog is especially for those of you living in Panamá during these COVID-19 days. I want to discuss our default stance as Christians towards government and the restrictions that they’ve imposed on us.

From the beginning, the heart of your Elders has been to cooperate with the Panamanian government and support their efforts to care for the well-being of their people. Very quickly it became obvious that they wanted people to social distance and not gather in large groups. So, before the actual mandate came down, we asked you to stay home and began broadcasting from the church with a minimal number of participants. When further restrictions were added, Sue and I moved the broadcast to our home. All activities were suspended in our facility. For the past ten weeks we have not gathered because we were seeking to honor the government and their efforts to protect their citizenry.

I obtained limited permission to be out and have kept office hours to administer relief efforts for needy Panamanian families. I have also received a limited number of visitors. Surfaces have been kept wiped down, hand sanitizer has been readily available, and I have practiced social distancing with guests. All this was done to honor the government’s authority to manage public safety.

So, we’ve been trying. But if I’ve learned anything from this crisis it’s that intelligent, well-meaning people don’t always think things through. This past week was an example. Church volunteers came together to do a very good thing … but we did it in a less than good way. We were not careful in honoring government guidelines and pictures posted on social media received some pushback from the community. Here’s why I’m taking the time to address this publicly. I received a message to the effect that … “You Christians believe you’re above the law.” Although the event was the lightning rod, I’ve seen the storm brewing for some time.

This does not describe my heart as a leader and I pray it’s not your heart as a follower of Jesus Christ. No matter how we feel about the laws or restrictions, there are very few circumstances where we as Christians would be justified in disregarding them.  Consider these marching orders from the Lord Jesus Christ through the Apostle Peter,

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. 1 Peter 2:13–17

Submission and honor are to be given to “every authority instituted among men.” These are given for the Lord’s sake, according to His will and in His service. Does government get a blank check? I think we get a hint in that closing phrase, “fear God, honor the king.” Fear God, honor the king … in that order. Peter set the example for this early in the life of the church. When the authorities commanded not to preach in the name of Christ, Peter replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.” Act 4:19 If you are forced to choose between obedience to the government or obedience to God … always chose God. Otherwise, submit to and honor the government.

Christians should be the best citizens of whatever nation they live in. If that’s not been your attitude, if that’s not been your heart, I pray that you will reflect on God’s Word (see also Romans 13). What’s at stake if we get this wrong? Peter says that we submit to constituted earthly authorities … “for the Lord’s sake.” The meaning of that becomes clear when you read the preceding verses … 1 Peter 2:11–12

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Being a good citizen is the outer perimeter of being a good witness for Christ. Submission and honor are tools of evangelism. Christians are aliens and strangers in the world … and we are extranerjos in Panamá. Let’s live in such a way as to “silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.”

Please keep me and the Elders in your prayers as we seek to fear God and honor the king. We have important decisions ahead of us as we receive government guidance for how to reopen our facility.

P.S.

If you encounter criticism from people outside the church for how this week’s volunteer event was conducted, don’t take the defensive. We could have done a better job of honoring government guidelines and I take full responsibility as the leader for that not happening. You can also assure them all future volunteer activities will diligently observe government safety guidelines.
 
 


Anti-Social Media

In these days of quarantine and different duties, I’ve been spending more time in the archives. I came across this and it seemed worth reprinting. It feels more apropos now than when I wrote it. In these days … I need a source that I can trust. God’s Word has never let me down for clarity, relevancy or … hope. It deserves far more “airtime” that it gets in most of our lives.
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I have a confession … I tend to seek and then agree with opinions that match what I already believe. Judging from what I witness on network news and social media, I don’t think I’m unusual.

There’s a website that puts out five-minute op-ed videos that I really enjoy watching. The videos are conservative, small-government, pro-life, anti-socialistic and multicultural in a good sense. They often have people espousing views that you wouldn’t expect them to hold based on their ethnicity. One recent video featured a Bedouin from the Gaza Strip, who joined the Israeli Defense Force for love of his country. I didn’t expect that. I know we shouldn’t prejudge what a person will think based on their origin or ethnicity, but most of us do that too.

So the videos sometimes challenge me … but for the most part I like them because they have a reasonable, well-balanced, logical worldview … just like me (sarcasm, tongue in cheek). I came across a clip saying that watching those videos, “will make you dumber.” The videos that make me feel affirmed, boil another guys blood. If we have a penchant for seeking, wallowing in and passing on only those things that line up with the way we already think, what hope do we have of objectively assessing any idea? Add to this the phenomena being called “Fake News” and it makes me despair of really knowing anything. What can be done?

Start reading your Bible more than you watch your favorite news source. But here’s a crucial proviso: you must pray that God will fill you with the meaning of His Word … and protect you against filling His Word with your meaning. I believe God’s Word is objective truth, but I need the Holy Spirit to guard me against subjecting His Word to my desires and will. Jon Wiziarde’s personal culture (we all have one) must bend the knee to the culture of Jesus Christ.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

Reprinted from 06-03-2018