I knocked on the door again and again, but no one was home. Glen and I were supposed to play golf that morning but I had no idea where he’d gone. He wasn’t answering his cell phone, so all I could do was wait. Fortunately, I had entertainment.
Glen lived next door to the Bible Sign Guy. On his front lawn, he had over 200 hand-painted yard signs with Scripture verses on them. The first time I came over there, I thought this might be his personal Bible memory verse system. I assumed he was either using the signs as some kind of evangelism/teach-the-world-God’s-Word program, or he just felt comforted having the Truth fill every corner of his property. I was wrong on both accounts. This was his personal inventory showroom. He sold these signs to anyone who’d buy them, and over time I saw that many people in town did purchase his signs and put them on their lawns.
Full disclosure: I have no problem with any of that. There could be a thousand worse ways to decorate your yard and influence your neighbors. What comes to mind are lawn jockeys and political placards.
As I was reading some of his verses, the owner of the property came out with his lawn mower. Before starting it up, he began removing every one of the signs from the grass. This was going to take him a long time to accomplish, so I walked over with every intention of helping him get the job done.
“Good morning… I’m Glen’s friend and I’m waiting for him. You haven’t seen him around have you?”
He looked me over several times and then pleasantly shook his head. “Nope. But I’ve been in the shop all morning. Are you a friend of Glen’s?”
“I am. We are going to play golf this morning and he isn’t here. He’s probably afraid I’m going to beat him again.”
The pleasantness from before vanished. “Golf…phe!” was what he said. Lacking the Gift of Interpretation, I have no idea what “phe” meant, so I moved the conversation along.
“I noticed you were going to mow the lawn. Would you like some help pulling out those signs?”
“Yeah, I guess that would be good.” I could tell he was unclear about my moral standing now that I had revealed I play golf. In relative silence, we pulled the signs like weeds from his lawn. It took about 20 minutes, but we finally accomplished it, and he began pulling the cord to start up the mower. Apparently, he flooded it and it didn’t start. He had to let it sit for a few minutes before trying again. I pointed at stuff on the mower engine to give the best advice I could, but when he told me he had rebuilt this particular engine three times in the 18 years he owned it, and knew every bolt and wire personally, I scratched around for another conversation topic.
“So, can I ask an obvious question? What’s with these signs?
“It’s God’s Word.” I was supposed to read volumes in that statement, I guess, but I’m a little thick at times.
“Uh, huh. So what’s with all these signs?”
“Sir, do you know the Bible?” I thought about dropping the existence of my Theology degree on him, but that seemed unfair and excessive.
“I read it regularly” I answered.
“Then you’ll recognize my reason for all these signs.” Then he quoted the Bible to me: “My Word, which goeth forth from my mouth, shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” So you see why I make these signs?”
“No, I’m still lost. But that was Isaiah 55, right?”
“Yes sir. I paint these signs and people buy them. They put them on their lawns and people driving by read them. God uses these Scriptures on lawns to change lives. “…it shall accomplish that which I please” is a promise from God.
I rushed in where many would have skulked away. “So what you’re saying is that somebody driving by at 45 miles per hour, glances at an obscure King James reference, on a sign stuck by an elm tree fifty feet away, and that will make him go back to his wife or sell all his possessions and move to India as a missionary?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody puts these signs that far back on their property”. I guess the part about India was correct. At that moment, he pulled the mower cord violently and it roared to life. As if we had achieved some kind of perfect cosmic alignment, Glen drove into the driveway at that moment and hopped out of his truck. I waved goodbye at sign guy who barely acknowledged my departure with a slight nod of the head.
“Where were you?” I asked Glen.
“Darrel forgot his lunch at home. I was bringing it to him at school. I see you met my neighbor.”
“Interesting man. He has this superstitious belief in the power of signs.”
“He’s a nut job. Let’s go play golf.”
There are millions who would never believe these signs could produce anything of value. But these same people are superstitious enough that they might even try it themselves at some point. They wonder if perhaps the guy with the John 3:16 sign in the end zone of the Rose Bowl produces converts with his reference. What if a tract left on a Light Rail seat is read by a suicidal teen and it turns his life around? What if one guy in a million is driving off to meet with his mistress, sees “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery” on a sign around the corner from her apartment, and decides to go home and be faithful to his wife? The superstitious are among us and sometimes they buy and place signs.
I am not being critical of Bible Sign Guy and his lawn ornaments. As I said, there are worse ways to clutter up your yard, and he certainly isn’t doing any harm. I want to address the harmful concepts behind his signs. These are the false ideals that teach others to approach the Bible in the Flesh, an approach that can limit the ability to be touched by the Spirit of God through the Bible
All this week, we will explore how to read the Bible by the power of God’s Spirit instead of reading them any other way.