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

Happy New Year!

The ubiquitous greeting for this first week of 2019. So, what would it take? What would have to happen so that in 359 days you would look back and say … “This was a happy year.”
 

Would weight loss do it? Better health? Being more appreciated, more loved, more understood? How about financial stability or better yet prosperity? Maybe leaving Panama for “home.” I hope this isn’t the case, but someone out there thinks it would take a new spouse.

Let’s get real … nothing on that list can guarantee happiness. Body builders have image problems. Some people get praised all day and never hear it. There are deeply loved people incapable of receiving love. Some rich are desperately empty and unhappy. You’ve romanticized home and your troubles and unhappiness might follow you there. You could change spouses and discover you’re the one that’s hard to live with. Things and people can contribute to happiness, but they can’t guarantee happiness. And let’s just take our honesty all the way … health, love and wealth are nowhere guaranteed. Past generations of Christians expressed their hopes for the future with hymns like this …

Day by day and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials here; trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.

He whose heart is kind beyond all measure gives unto each day what he deems best – lovingly, it’s part of pain and pleasure, mingling toil with peace and rest.

Help me then in every tribulation so to trust your promises, O Lord, that I lose not faith’s sweet consolation offered me within your holy Word.

Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, e’er to take, as from a father’s hand, one by one, the days, the moments fleeting, till I reach the promised land.

Or as the Apostle Paul said, I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11–13

Whatever this new year holds, I pray that faith’s sweet consolation will bring you peace and joy in abundance as you trust our kind and sovereign God.
 
 
 


Fourth Sunday of Advent – The Candle of Love


Since 2008, Hallmark has produced 158 Christmas romance movies. 2017 was their record year with 33 original movies. Well … “original” might be a stretch. The movies are, at best, formulaic. They all feature pizzicato strings in their soundtracks and I’m pretty sure those are the same warbling carolers in every show. My research shows that there are at least 15 different Hallmark movies where the love interest turns out to be … wait for it … a prince of a tiny country that no one has ever heard of. And then there’s the surprise plot twist where the love interest turns out to be a princess from a tiny country that no one has ever heard of. So, the only thing original about Hallmark is their use of the word “original.”

I doubt anyone from their management team would argue with my assessment. Romance has been a moneymaker for Hallmark from their inception in 1910. But even they, I think, are surprised by how love sells at Christmas. It is their most lucrative time of year.

“The Candle of Love” may sound like one of Hallmarks Christmas movie titles, but it’s really about the greatest most original love story every told. In this story, a baby born in obscurity and poverty turns out to be the ruler and rescuer of the world. This morning’s candle reminds us that God’s plans for us grew from his love … and that we are to grow in his love.

God’s people in other times waited and trusted in the promise of Messiah. And … the Christ was born just as God had promised. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

God’s perfect gift of love teaches us to look forward to eternal life and to the promise of Messiah’s return. But our hope in Him is not just about “then,” it’s for today. Jesus left us this instruction until He returns … A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35

Enjoy a couple (or ten) Hallmark love stories this season. But really … what are they compared to the Christmas story? Let’s revel in that love and then lavish it on others.

(Disclaimer: My interest in and knowledge of Hallmark romance movies is purely hypothetical.)

 
 


Third Sunday of Advent – The Candle of Joy


A small nativity has followed us around for years. The largest figure is barely an inch tall. Each character once had a small gold loop of thread and for many seasons they hung on a tiny tree that adorned my office desk. They are not the somber, awestruck crowd you find in most nativity scenes. Every character is smiling. Baby Jesus is smiling … even the animals. These are not little smiles, they are giant, swooping, ear to ear, face rearranging grins. If you ran into such a crowd of people, it would be difficult to not ask … “What are you all smiling about?” It’s an infectious little scene.

Israel anticipated and hoped for her promised Messiah. God had never failed to make good on His word … surely their faith was not in vain. But then came long years of silence, no prophetic words, no visible signs that He was working on their behalf. But today, we light the Candle of Joy and remember how the news of Messiah began to break through that silence …

To a young virgin … “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

To her questioning groom … “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

To shepherds watching their flocks … “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.

Good news of great joy … for all people! This season let’s be the people who carry that unquenchable joy. There’s an old saying, “Smile and the world will wonder what you’re up to.” They might also wonder what we know. Maybe our little nativity got Christmas right. Smiles all around!

 

 



Second Sunday of Advent – Grounded Faith

 
My four-year-old nephew quivered on the side of the public pool. It was not a cold day that made him shiver. He was a mingled mass of fear and anticipation. I stood chest-deep in the water, arms outstretched, beckoning him to jump. But Calvin only knew the shallow end of the pool where his own legs could carry him to safety. These waters were dangerously deeper.
 
Just when I was about to give up, he catapulted himself toward me with reckless abandon. He was swimming before he ever hit the water. A few mad strokes and he was in my arms … smiling ear to ear, teeth chattering with excitement. I praised him for his bravery and walked him back to the edge of the pool. This time, he hesitated only seconds before leaping from his safe place. I don’t know how many times he jumped that day, but he could barely wait for me to reach my spot before going airborne. His fear was replaced by faith and joy in the one catching him. 
 
Last week, we lit the Candle of Hope reminding us that God’s people in other times waited and hoped for the anticipated Messiah. Then, Jesus Christ was born fulfilling that hope. God kept his Word to his people long ago.
 
Today we light a new candle, the Candle of Faith. It reminds us that the God who kept His word in the past will keep it for our future. By faith Christ lives in our hearts and by faith we watch for His promised return. This hope … this faith teaches us how to live.
 
As Paul wrote in Titus 2:11-14, For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. 
 
Let this Christmas season teach us to leave our norms and safety to follow our Savior wholeheartedly. The same One who saved you from sin and death also holds your future.
 
 
 


First Sunday of Advent – The Light of Hope

  
If you’re not familiar with the term Advent, it simply means “coming.” From the Latin “Adventus” it translates a Greek word that was used in anticipation of Jesus’ return at the end of days. So, Advent is a season for looking ahead … but it has also been used to remember the great expectation that preceded the coming of the Messiah to a lowly manger.  Many Christians celebrate the season with the use of an Advent Wreath. Each candle represents a different aspect of the Christmas story.
 
This morning, the Candle of Hope has been lit. This first candle is symbolic of the long years of waiting and hoping for God’s promised Savior to come. God’s prophets kept reminding the people to look forward to the coming of Messiah,  who was to redeem the people from their sins. The Hebrew word for Jesus means “salvation.” In Bethlehem, long ago, Jesus Messiah came just as He promised. This candle reminds us that our hope is in the God who keeps His word.
 
“When the time had fully come, God sent his Son.” Galatians 4:4 
 
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”  Isaiah 9:2, 6–7