On the highway the other day and flipping through the radio dial, I came across a Seventh Day Adventist preacher in the middle of a sermon. Within five minutes, he had made two errors that revealed either his biblical incompetence or his spiritual presumption.
So I turned him off.
In the first instance, in trying to make the case for Christians today keeping the Sabbath, he equated the Ten Commandments with all our Lord’s statements in the Gospels about “keeping my commands” and “breaking these commandments.” In John chapters 14 and 15, for instance, several times our Lord says things like, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (14:15,21,23 and 15:10,14). That preacher said Jesus was referring to the Ten Commandments.
Not even close.
“Lord, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us” (Mark 9:38).
Robert Schuller died last week. This founder of the Crystal Cathedral in California and founder/host of television’s “Hour of Power” broadcast was the “media pastor” to countless millions who would never have entered my church. He wrote books, did a lot of good, did much that was questionable, and drove us traditionalists out of our collective minds.
When I read of his passing, I posted this on my Facebook page:
My favorite Robert Schuller story: When he was a kid, his mother taught him piano lessons. Once, in the middle of a recital, his mind went blank and he forgot the rest of the piece he was playing. There was nothing to do but walk off the stage in humiliation. Later, his mother gave him some great advice. “Honey, any time you mess up in the middle of a piece, always end with a flourish and no one will ever remember what you did in the middle.” Schuller would say, “Some of you have messed up in the middle of your life. But my friend, you can end with a flourish if you start now.”
It’s a great story and a fine sermon illustration.
Since Scripture doesn’t mention “church buildings”–other than people’s homes–we have no explicit teachings concerning their function, architecture, or anything else. Therefore, a sign in front of the church to identify certain details about the congregation is also foreign to Scripture, a small innovation made necessary by the cultures of which we are a part. So, the principles here are basic common sense…I hope.
1. Your church needs a sign.
When oppressive governments first decide to persecute churches, they require that all signage and identifying insignia be removed. Mistakenly under the impression that if no one can find a church the houses of worship will soon cease to exist, pagan officials forget that the Christian faith existed for centuries by word of mouth, still the best method of propagating the gospel.
Even so, it’s a good idea to have a sign in front of a church. In America, that is a given. The church without a sign in front may as well have no door.
Please take a look at the sign identifying your church. Get out of the car and walk up close to it. Study it closely.
“For rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft, and arrogance like the sin of idolatry”(I Samuel 15:23).
“Oh, he’s so cute. Can I pat him?”
Our little daughter was fascinated by the large black bear that was crawling through the garbage cans near our house. We were attending a weeklong conference at the conference center near Glorieta, New Mexico, and had noticed signs warning about bears. Traps in the form of large steel drums had been set for them. (They would be hauled back into the mountains and turned loose.) This night, we had just returned from a two-hour service of worship and were going from our car into the duplex when we spotted the bear across the street.
“No, you may not pat him!” The very idea. We hurried inside and watched through the window.
What the child considered a teddy bear could have easily been a killer.
My sin was not a big thing.
“He who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves” (Luke 22:26).
Raise your hand if you’re the kid brother in a large family.
If so, you have been given an insight into this teaching of the Lord that most people miss altogether.
Now, in our family Mom and Dad had four sons and two daughters. I was the number three son, born between sisters Patricia and Carolyn. Ron was (still is) the eldest and Charlie was the youngest. (Charlie died in 2006 and Glenn in 2014.)
Growing up, since he was the eldest in our large household, Ron took the role of the assistant father. Whether Dad established that rule or not and whether the rest of us liked it or not, when Dad was not around, Ron called the shots. Once when we were small, some relative came to our house and gave each of us a nickel. By nightfall, Ron had all the nickels. He’d traded or cajoled or something to corner the market on McKeever nickels.
As the baby of the family, little Charlie caught the brunt of everything. He wore the hand-me-downs and had little say in family decisions.
I still smile at this exchange between Ron and Charlie when they were something like 15 and 6, respectively. Ron called out, “Charlie! Come here.” The little kid reluctantly came near.
“Why would you rather not be wronged?…..For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Corinthians 6:7,20).
In 1990, after a preacher had served only seven months and tore the church up twice, I arrived as the new pastor.
I was not the excited new kid on the block as with my previous moves. This was different.
I had endured a brutal three years in my former pastorate and thought perhaps the Lord wanted this broken church (to which I was coming) and this bruised pastor (moi!) to help one another heal.
Some years later, I learned a preacher in our area was telling people that I had torn up this church because of some serious immorality.
I sought him out and asked if he were really saying this.