Be patient: You never know what that fellow has gone through

While attending a conference on the campus of a Christian college, I sat in the auditorium with several hundred other ministers and their families.  The pre-session music was provided by a man playing a violin, and doing it rather poorly, I felt.

I am not a musician nor the son of a musician, but I can usually tell when a violin is being played well.  And particularly when it isn’t.

As the music ended, our host stepped to the microphone. “We want to thank Mr. Hoskins for playing the violin for us tonight. One month ago, he was in an automobile accident in which his car was totaled. In fact, for a while it appeared that he had lost the use of his hands. So, the music tonight was special for a lot of reasons.”

As the congregation applauded, I slumped down in my seat and hoped the shame I felt did not register on my face.

Continue reading

Quoting preachers and naming scoundrels

“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 founded the Crystal Cathedral in California and hosted television’s “Hour of Power” broadcast, making him 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.

My favorite Robert Schuller story: When he was a kid, his mother taught him piano. 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. “Any time you mess up in the middle of a piece, end with a flourish and no one will ever remember what you did in the middle.” Schuller would look at his congregation and say, “Some of you have messed up in the middle of your life. But my friend, you can still end with a flourish if you start now.”

It’s a great story and makes a fine sermon illustration.

However….

Continue reading

The two sides of grace

For by grace are you saved through faith… Ephesians 2:8

Behold, I stand at your door and knock.  If any man…. Revelation 3:20

As many as received Him…. John 1:12

The country singer had a number at the top of the charts.  She was the guest that morning on a talk show that entertained millions of people across America.  Because she was outspoken in her Christian faith, she talked about the Lord on the program. That’s when the host asked her to sing.

“Give us a little of Amazing Grace.”

She sweetly went into the first verse of the wonderful old John Newton song.  “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…”  That’s when the host stopped her.

“That’s the problem I have with your religion,” he said. “I’m not a wretch.”

I’ve long since forgotten how she answered.  But I know what the best answer is.

Continue reading