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

New Year’s Resolution … or Dissolution?

Do you know what today is? According to one poll published by the New York Post … it’s the day by which most New Year’s Resolutions are broken. This is hardly a statistic hurriedly thrown together. The publishers of this finding (Strava) analyzed global online postings from 31.5 million people. Their research pinpointed January 12th as “the fateful day for New Year’s Resolutions.” Astounding!

Strava is a social network for athletes, so most of their failed resolutions had to do with fitness. Understandable, since that is the most popular category for resolutions. Another survey reported the top three resolutions are consistent year after year: 1) Lose weight, 2) get in better shape, 3) eat healthier. These three goals far outstrip resolutions that could be viewed as more significant like, “see more of my friends and family” or “get a better work-life balance.” That same poll, asked the question, “How long did your broken resolution last?”

  • 43% not even a month
  • 66% one month or less
  • 80% less than three months
  • 86% less than one year
  • 14% resolve not to lie on poles in the coming year.

Okay … I made that last one up. But … these dismal statistics do raise the deeply profound question … “Why bother?” If almost nobody keeps them, why even make them? I have some suggestions …

  • Don’t give up on resolutions … you can find them in the Bible. “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.” Job 31:1 Or this awesome resolution, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me. Men of perverse heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with evil. Ps 101:3–4
  • Spend your resolve on things more important than health. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “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 Whatever the Bible highlights as leading to godliness … resolve to do that.
  • Don’t resolve in your power alone. The most profound and best kept resolutions I’ve ever read were penned by the 18th Century theologian Jonathan Edwards. His life proved his resolutions … and his preamble to them read, “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.” Resolve from a place of dependence on your Maker. That’s wisdom straight out of Philippians 1:6.
  • Don’t allow past failure to determine your future. “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13–14

Happy New You!

Can you believe it’s the beginning of 2020? Neither can a large portion of the world. Three countries will celebrate their new year in February; two people groups will in March; four in April and another three in October.

If it weren’t for a Pope named Gregory, we wouldn’t be celebrating the new year for another 8 days. The most widely accepted calendar prior to Gregory’s day was slowly drifting with reference to the observable celestial markers. So, in 1582, leap year was introduced, an adjustment was made, and October 4th was followed immediately by October 15th. The Gregorian Calendar with its established year of 2020 is recognized by most of the world. Most … of the world.

If 2020 makes you feel old, just imagine following the Assyrian calendar … Happy 6770! That would have looked weird on your party hats. How about the Hebrew calendar clocking in at 5780? Oy Vey! Would you like to turn things back a bit? We could adopt the French Republican Calendar and wish each other Happy 228! Although abandoned after only 12 years … it kind of made sense. Each year consisted of twelve, thirty-day months, with 5 non-days left at the end of each year. This year, being leap year, you would have received six non-days. That scheme fit very well with the French penchant for celebration.

Well … I’ve merely scratched the surface. I found twenty-one different opinions on what year it is. How can we have so many different dates? It depends where you started counting. In the Gregorian calendar, A.D. abbreviates the Latin Anno Domini … Year of our Lord. According the most widely recognized calendar in the world, we’ve been counting from the birth of Jesus Christ. Historians agree that this count may be off by four to six years … but most serious historians do not deny the reality of Jesus birth or His impact on our world. Academia has largely abandoned A.D. for the abbreviation A.C.E. (After Christian Era). Even this testifies to enormous impact of Jesus Christ on world history.

How about His impact on your personal world history? Are your days anchored on Jesus the Messiah? I may not know which month marks a new year … or even which year it marks, but I have a new beginning worth celebrating.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Happy New You!

Handprints and Hope

One of the most neglected aspects of our church’s first impression is our windows. Nobody enters the church without passing them and sometimes they are a mess! It’s not that we never clean, it’s just a never-ending job.

The doors have handles, but that requires aim and the glass is a much larger and more accessible target. I’m guilty of this, so I’m not throwing stones (although that would take care of cleaning the windows). Every week, several sets of telltale signs appear on the outside: the greasy nose-print and the cupped hands of curiosity. The kids from the restaurant in the food court are evidently still curious … even after looking in 4,362 times. Sometimes, I even clean lip prints off the glass. I haven’t figured that one out yet.

Just before a recent event, we had cleaned all the noticeable marks off the glass. After the service, I spotted them: two distinct little handprints about a foot and half from the floor. I couldn’t help the feeling that came over me when I saw those smudges. The words just tumbled out in my head … “Thank you God for little hands.” Really! I found myself thanking God for little hands. Little hands that had been to church and then charged out into the world through our doors. I remember a time when people here scratched their heads as to why we were building a nursery and buying little chairs for kids we had yet to see. God has been so good in answering our hope … with little hands.

In this next year, I’m going to purpose to use every mark as a prompting for praise. I will be thankful for the people peering through our windows … maybe they’ll come in and find life in Christ. I’ll be thankful that the kids from the food court smile and wave when they see us inside. Their feeling about our church is positive. I don’t know how to thank God for people who kiss the windows … still working on that one. It’s not just the windows. I have and will continue to try and thank God every time I pick up a broom or a mop. Perpetually clean churches are perpetually empty churches … and they do exist. Thank God that’s not our problem.

The more God grows our fellowship, the more of these issues we’ll encounter. Wherever there is growth there will be costs and inconveniences and sacrifices. One of these days we may need to create some dust to enlarge our worship space. Whatever comes along in 2020 … let’s decide now to greet these challenges to our time and comfort with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving requires that we think of the good of others and not just ourselves.

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

Christmas Craziness

I’ve never shopped for that many people before. I’ve never shopped with that many people before! Sue and I ventured in to Albrook Mall because we heard the big chains were having Christmas sales. We had a list of 122 children to shop for (ages 3 months to 15 years).

The Titan toy section was an absolute zoo! Dazed parents slowly scanned each shelf. Employees madly unpacking boxes and roaring down isles with carts of more … only slightly annoyed by those nuances called customers! Cart traffic was … well, like all Panama traffic. You get the picture. An eight-year-old boy test-drove a rubber ball in and out of customers, stopping just long enough to ask me if I’d buy it for him. Mom came to my rescue. About that time a guy started shopping in my cart. Still, our first foray went well … 55 gifts from one store. We hadn’t thought about how we’d get the five large bags to where they needed to go. My arms are still sore.

The stores got busier as more and more families arrived. Navigating El Costo close to closing was like being part of a giant slider puzzle. You know … this piece must move to the left before the next one can move forward … and the whole picture is horribly scrambled.

Making the entire experience even more lovely was the frenetic music blaring through the store’s speaker system. Four-thousand anxious adults and excited children packed into half a city block evidently don’t make enough noise. Just about the time my right eye began twitching … I tuned into the fact that these were Christmas carols. I still don’t appreciate music that sounds like it was composed by a squirrel hyped up on caffeine … but they were Christian Christmas carols. Wed with the thumping beat, I heard,

Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come, offspring of the Virgin’s womb:
veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail th’incarnate Deity,
pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel.
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth.
I’m glad I ‘came to’ long enough to find Jesus there in the crazy Christmas crush. I’m glad that He has not left Himself without a witness. Whatever craziness comes your way this season, I pray you’ll be able to do the same.
In your hearts set apart 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. 1 Peter 3:15

Instant … Not Easy

You message a friend that you can’t make your arranged meeting. You get back the one-word response … “Fine.” Look at the faces to the left. Which face is on the other end of that text? Is it an indignant “fine?” Are they hurt? Is it a relaxed and friendly, “Don’t worry about it?” Perhaps they’re relieved you can’t come. Can’t you hear the different possible intonations? Maybe I should ask, “Can’t you imagine them?” We read the words and our minds jump to supplying the rest; the look in their eyes, the set of their mouth, the cock of their head. We might even hear their voice.

People seem to be catching on that text doesn’t always convey exactly what we intend. I found several very useful articles on the internet about how not to start a war with your email. One article had a radical suggestion; “If you suspect that your message might be misunderstood or cause offense, get out from behind your computer and go talk to the person face to face.”

Paul didn’t always have that luxury, but he was sensitive to the limits of a written message. One of his hardest hitting letter was written to the church he founded in Galatia. In his absence, other teachers came in and persuaded the believers to return to some sort of works-based salvation. Paul did not shy away from confronting this distortion of the true Gospel. He did not mince words … “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” Galatians 3:1  Paul felt he had not only the right, but the obligation to speak in such a forceful manner. The situation required it … the Galatians were in spiritual danger! And yet you find that he was concerned that they understand the heart behind his message. “How I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!” Galatians 4:20

Paul is a good example of going the extra mile in communication. Sometimes he even sent his letters with another pastor to make certain the recipients got the right message. 1 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 6:22; Philippians 2:19; Colossians 4:8. We live in an age of instant and easy communication … but good communication is seldom instant or easy. Go the extra mile. Reread your texts and emails before you hit ‘send’. If a message feels a little hot … let it cool overnight. If you know there’s a chance for misunderstanding, be brave … pray and go in person.