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

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
 
 
 


Cabin Fever

The diagnosis was applied to me when I was a kid … usually in the dead of winter. Days when the biting windchill made it unwise to be outside. Days when I was done with being inside. My general kid-impression was that cabin fever was mild craziness caused by confinement. 

The first time I thought about it seriously was in a Jr. High class focusing on Kansas history. We read several stories of people who were driven mad by the extreme isolation of the prairies. Some became so disoriented and distraught that they made irresponsible decisions leading to great harm or death. After white-out conditions that raged for weeks, one man calmly hitched his team to a wagon and headed to town. Completely unconscious of his family’s entreaties, he rode undissuaded to an icy demise.

Sorry for the bleak story, but at least the snow part won’t happen in Panama. History also gives a bit of perspective. What we’ve been facing can’t be compared to wintering in a 12-foot square cabin on a frozen prairie before any modern forms of communication. Things could be worse.

Now, I’m not saying our situation isn’t real … or hard … or real hard. There was a reason I looked up the symptoms of “Cabin Fever.” Turns out Sue and I have experienced several of the less serious indicators from this list I found online:     lethargy; sadness or depression; trouble concentrating; lack of patience; food cravings; decreased motivation; difficulty waking; frequent napping; hopelessness. I guess it helped me to see that “Cabin Fever” is a real phenomenon … well documented and often observed. I also appreciated the article’s common sense suggestions for regulating the effects of isolation or confinement: get out of the house (whenever possible); maintain normal eating habits; set goals; use your brain (Facebook and Netflix don’t actually qualify); exercise. As I write, Sue is rapidly walking laps in the living room as a healthy break from her video editing.

We’ve also been blessed by the need to keep ministering. Thinking of you and thinking of families that need to be fed, gets us outside ourselves. Turns out that thinking of others is not only Biblical, but healthy. These commands to the church come to mind.

Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Romans 15:1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 
 


Keep Running

They called it P.E. … Physical Education. I guess the title was accurate. It was physical and I learned something. Actually, I learned two things: I can’t run … and I sure can’t count while I’m running.

Windom’s dusty little track set at the edge of what was loosely considered a town. There wasn’t a tree in sight to stop the prairie gale. Clouds sped across the sky mocking my pace around the limestone gravel track.

I was nearing the end of sixth grade and Kansas was already baking. It was way too hot for strenuous exercise, but this was our P.E. final. Everyone had to run a mile.

I shuffled around the track as best I could, choking on the dust of the herd ahead of me. The cloud died down as one kid after another pulled off the track. There were only a few still “running.” It was the usual suspects. That percentile of children specifically created for the coach’s vocal entertainment. “Pick it up Wiziarde … the bus is leaving!”

I ran up the straightaway opposite the low section of bleachers where my classmates were lounging. Hot air scorched my lungs, sweat seared my eyes, I rounded the corner staggering, but picked up the pace as I saw the finish line drawing closer. And … was I hallucinating? It looked as if my peers were cheering me on … encouraging me to finish the race. A few more strides, and the wind carried the truth to my ears. They were all chanting “One more lap!” I nearly collapsed. Not only was I finishing dead last … I couldn’t even count to four.

There have been times since … when I thought I couldn’t go on. Not physically, but emotionally and spiritually. There have been times when I thought I had finished a race and passed a test only to discover I had to go around again. It seems I still can’t count. Maybe l should listen to Coach Paul … “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” 1 Corinthians 10:12

Actually, Paul and the other apostles have been much better coaches to me than Mr. Beaver and Mr. Heim. But I guess that shouldn’t surprise me since … physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8

Being at the end of the pack in a physical race can be awfully discouraging … but spiritually it’s a sweet spot. All the people in the stands are proof that the race can be won. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faithHebrews 12:1–2
 
Just keep running!