I saw a cartoon the other day. It was a depiction
of the pearly gates. A really large guy was being judged by a diminutive angel. The angel said, “Randy Newman, eh?”
Get it? Randy Newman was famous for writing the song Short People. Luckily, we don’t get judged at the Gates (see the previous chapter). Luckily for Randy. If he had trusted Christ, anyway.
Here are the lyrics of Short People:
They got little hands
And little eyes
And they walk around
Tellin’ great big lies
They got little noses
And tiny little teeth
They wear platform shoes
On their nasty little feet
Randy must have had a run-in with some people tinier than himself that he had found distasteful.
I don’t get it personally. Actually, I would be considered short. I don’t think I’m ever been referred to as “small.” Small would be worse, don’t you think? Small-minded? Small-thinking? Someone could be about six feet tall and be considered “small.” “Oh, that’s just small.” “Hey, you’re being small.” Someone could be referring to Shaquille O’Neal or Andre The Giant.
The next place I had been charged to preach was called Sardis. I think they lived up to their name. That’s why I called them The Sardines.
I think they were small minded. The worse thing was that, I thought, that they had held to a small theology. Their preachers would read the Scripture and then jump out of the text and preach what they wanted. They would tell great stories and had some wonderful illustrations but when the smoke cleared they hadn’t said anything! So the people they were preaching to didn’t change!
Their doctrine was like that, too. They followed the teaching of a guy who had ruled in Europe five hundred years earlier. He had people executed for believing or teaching anything that deviated from what he had taught. One guy was burnt at the stake. In his defense, this ruler had wanted the “heretic” to have his head cut off since that would be less painful. How would you like to have that guy as your mayor? I wouldn’t. One defender of this man said that it had to be considered in its historic context. Possibly we should excuse slavery a couple hundred years ago? Are murder and physical abuse culturally or historically determined?
More than that, this guy didn’t have sparkling doctrine. He believed that some people were condemned to Hell just because God, in His sovereignty, thought they should go there. Where can that be found in the Bible? And ever worse, there was not any evidence that he had trusted Christ for salvation! Maybe that is why he killed people who differed with him.
Followers of this guy can be found at the preponderance of churches during the Tribulation. At least they aren’t killing anyone who disagree with them. The Tribulation is a time of tolerance in the churches.
When the preachers of this ilk preach, they treat the Scripture like they do with their doctrine. They speak of the Scripture but then bounce out of what they are reading to launch their own ideas and applications.
I have this crazy theory that the seven churches in the book of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3 represent seven eras of church history. Looking back, it is more feasible to see them as seven time periods. For example, Ephesus could easily represent the first hundred years of the church after the apostles when the church was very intellectual but had lost their first zeal. Smyrna, obviously, was a time when martyrdom was prevalent. Pergamum again represented a time of intellectualism and the town centered on a library and writings. Thyatira centered on women leadership just as the church overemphasized the mother of Jesus almost to the point of deifying her. Sardis was condemned for being sleepy and having not completed their works. It will be evident as my story enfolds that Philadelphia was a time in which Christianity thrives and Laodicea will be grossly lacking.
Smyrna and Philadelphia are clear models of the church during the time of the martyrs and the time in which the church thrived. The others fall in line with a bit of study of church history. Especially, looking forward their characteristics are evident.
But many find fault with my critique of this model of church history. They see the time of Sardis as a peak in the time of spirituality. Yet au contraire, mon frère, I see it as a low point of Christianity. And it also seems to be an unspiritual church that I encounter in Sardis.
I could see things, some times, anyway, after I was saved after my wife was gone. What I mean was that I could sense some things. I knew where I should live when I was visiting these churches to preach. I could see an area in my mind’s eye as on a map. Things would work out and I’d end up in the place that I had envisioned. I would end up in spots and then I’d look back and realize that it was the place God had showed me beforehand. Providentially, you could say, because I didn’t even set out to live in those towns.
I could know before meetings in my churches I could sense who would give me trouble.
I think it was the gift of discernment.* And I think something was going to happen.
(To be continued . . . .)
*1 Cor. 12: 8, 10 “To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits . . .”