“I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you. I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you….” (from Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Opening theme)
“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). This verse is quoted in the New Testament in Matthew 5:43 and 19:19; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14 and James 2:8.
Mr. Fred Rogers, who left us in 2003, is back in the news these days. Books and articles, television specials and a couple of movies remind us just how special this good man was.
Anyone who reads Mr. Rogers’ words or dwells on his life for even a few minutes comes away thinking more about being a good neighbor.
My wife and I saw the movie “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Thursday of this week. There were perhaps 25 or 30 others in the theater, most of them seniors. This was not the Tom Hanks movie on Mr. Rogers which I had expected, but is more of a documentary or biopic, I think they call it. The Hanks movie will be out soon, we’re told, and is not so much a biography as a story about Rogers’ interview with a magazine writer.
A couple of observations about Mr. Rogers from the movie we just saw. One, the man truly was almost too good to be true. As a result, during his lifetime some had tried to find dirt on him and made accusations against him. All to no avail. He was “all that,” as the saying goes. One of his sons said, “I was raised by the second Christ,” with a smile.
“The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).
It often comes as a surprise to believers new to the faith that there are among us, in the Lord’s family, a small but vocal contingent who insist that true Christians should be worshiping on the seventh day of the week and not the first day, “The Lord’s Day,” as we call it.
Recently, on this page I told of a recent full-page ad in our local paper–and presumably in newspapers across the land–warning of the imminent fulfillment of the “seven trumpets” prophecies in Revelation. The world’s population would soon be divided into two groups, said these doomsdayers. But whereas we would have expected the groups to be the faithful and the unfaithful, the sheep and the goats as Matthew 25 puts it, or something such, it turns out the single thing differentiating the two groups is one worships on the Sabbath, the seventh day, and the others on the first day of the week. That’s it.
Truly amazing how much emphasis they put on a single command. And they’re not alone. Many who belong to denominations with “seventh day” or “Adventist” in their names promote seventh-day worship and rest and are constantly after the rest of the Christian family to get with the program.
“Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem saying, ‘Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?….And He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?'” (Matthew 15:1-3)
“The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).
Historians tell us the Pharisees started off well, as revivalists in a way, calling the nation back to faithfulness. Eventually, however, their insistence on righteousness settled down into a code of laws and rules. They went from being encouragers to harassers, from lovers of God to bullies and legalists.
The legalist is someone who says, “I know the Lord didn’t say this, but He would have if He’d thought of it!”
The legalist is smarter than God. He helps the Lord by completing His Word, by filling in the gaps where the Lord clearly forgot to say something, explain something, or require a thing.
“Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation” –Psalm 51:12.
Just because salvation is for eternity, anchored forever in the faithfulness of God, does not mean you cannot lose the closeness and fellowship with our wonderful Lord. A married couple can lose their joy and intimacy for a season, although the marriage is still valid and intact.
God’s faithfulness does not wax hot and cold depending on what we do or how we felt when we woke up this morning. He does not undo our salvation when we weaken and falter. The blessings upon us are conditional to our faithfulness and may dry up, but the relationship never varies. Forever, we are His and He is ours.
My children may be in or out of my favor at given times, but they are still mine.
“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6). “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Mary Todd Lincoln was gifted in the dark art of sarcasm. Her sister Elizabeth said of her, “She was also impulsive and made no attempt to conceal her feelings; indeed, it would have been an impossibility had she desired to do so, for her face was an index to every passing emotion. Without desiring to wound, she occasionally indulged in sarcastic, witty remarks, that cut like a Damascus blade, but there was no malice behind them.” Lincoln’s biographer notes, “A young woman who could wound by words without intending to was presumably even more dangerous when angry or aroused.” (Honor’s Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln by Douglas L. Wilson).
Woe to the person bound in marriage to one gifted in sarcasm. Lincoln bore many a scar from the blade his wife wielded.
Pity the church member who sits under the teachings of a sarcastic pastor week after week. Such a pastor’s ministry will bear bitter fruit.
On our website, we welcome comments from friends who disagree, so long as they do so graciously. But from time to time, we receive tirades from the angry, onslaughts from the dark side, hurling slanderous accusations at us for daring to suggest that (take your pick) Christians should go to church, the faithful should tithe their income, or the Lord’s salvation is for all time. Such heretical positions, to be sure. (Not!) I’ve noticed a trend in some of these mean-spirited commenters, which provoked the following little essay….
“I know I’m right! I’m not going to change!”
When you are wedded to your position, you tend to a) become angry at anyone taking a contrary position, particularly if their point of view is the historically orthodox view with Scriptural support. In that case, you will need to b) justify your position and c) deal with scriptures that say something different.
a) You become angry with contrary views.
Each of us could learn a lot about ourselves by noticing what views on Facebook or in blogs pluck our strings. There has to be a trend, and that trend will reveal great insights about us.
“God is Watching.” –sign over the door of Gwen Williams’ home in Picayune, Mississippi.
John Ed Mathiston told his congregation in Montgomery, Alabama a story about kindness.
“Not long ago, a man from the Middle East walked into a new car showroom and asked to speak with a particular salesperson. The receptionist called for him, the fellow walked to the front, and they greeted each other.
The foreigner said, “I’d like to buy some trucks.”
Some trucks. That caught the sales guy’s attention.
“What did you have in mind, sir?”
“I want to buy 750 heavy duty trucks and 250 pickups.”
The salesman is stunned. Surely someone is pulling a prank. This cannot be happening.
The Middle Easterner pulls out a letter of credit with a huge American bank. It is legitimate. This is the real deal.
The salesman says, “Sir, you know you can go to Detroit and buy those trucks at a huge discount.”
“Give to everyone who asks of you” (Luke 6:30).
Everyone who works around the church office will identify with this.
From my journal of Tuesday, August 12, 1997…
In the afternoon, I took a phone call from a Don Peterson. “Remember me?” he said.
I said, “Refresh my memory.”
“My fiancée and I were in your services three Sundays ago.”
“Well, my father has died. In Ann Arbor, Michigan. I need some money for a plane ticket. I need to borrow it until Sunday.”
I said, “How much?”
I said, “How can I verify this?”
By laypeople, I mean non-preachers.
By speaking in church, I mean before large groups of the Lord’s people.
Many non-clergy are outstanding on their feet in front of large groups. Schoolteachers come to mind. But the typical church member, even one who teaches a Sunday School class, is out of his element when suddenly asked to deliver a talk in front of the whole church.
Marlene said to me, “I’m sorry I took the entire service, Pastor. But the Lord was leading me.” Translation: She really got into her talk and couldn’t control it. As a young pastor, I had invited church members to share testimonies in the morning worship service, something along the lines of 5-7 minutes. (Later, I learned to interview the individual and retain hold of the microphone the entire time!)
Since Marlene had not prepared adequately, once she got going, she couldn’t find a convenient stopping place. She kept on for a full 40 minutes.
Personally, I would not blame my failure to prepare on the Lord.
I see it happen all the time. It’s almost embarrassing.
At the end of a long day of touring the big city, the country boy is said to have knelt by his bed and prayed, “Lord, we saw a lot of things today. But I thank you I didn’t see a thing I want.”
“The ruler of this world is coming, and He has nothing in Me” (John 14:30).
Toward the end of His earthly ministry when our Lord was preparing the disciples for the difficult days ahead, throughout this Upper Room Discourse (John chapters 13-16), Jesus assured them He would not be leaving them as orphans. The Holy Spirit would be arriving in full force to supply everything they would be needing.
They should expect difficult days, He said. And make no mistake, He says, the devil is coming, too. (Perhaps He spotted that fallen angel peeping up from a garbage can somewhere.)