Sanctity of Life Sunday

Good morning. For a long time I’ve been saying that Blooming Grove is more than a church; it’s family. As such we rejoice whenever someone new is added to the family. And whether you’re new to the Grove or you’ve been around longer than I have, I hope that you know that you’re a valuable part of our family. We’re glad you’re here.

This Sunday is Sanctity of Life Sunday. Pastors all across the country and even the world, will stand behind their pulpits and confront one of the most critical issues of our generation—the question of when life begins.

In 1973, the year that abortion was legalized in America, Planned Parenthood reported 744,600 abortions. Today, there are approximately 2,000,000 unborn babies painfully killed every year and organizations like Planned Parenthood receive nearly a billion dollars annually in government funding. There will be more unborn children killed this year alone than the total number of American soldier who have died in every single battle ever fought since the American Revolution.


A Year of Growth

Another Christmas has come and gone. Perhaps, the tree is still up, but it looks mighty empty underneath. All that’s left of the turkey is a bare skeleton. Trash bags stuffed with wrapping paper line the streets. Visiting family members have returned home. The excitement of Christmas built for weeks to a crescendo … and then it’s over.

The story of the first Christmas is a lot like that. The weeks and months leading up to Jesus’ birth were bustling with activity—the angel’s appearance, the wedding arrangements, the census, the Journey to Bethlehem, the birth of the King, the shepherds preaching, the Magi praising. Eight days later, baby Jesus is presented at the temple where Simeon and Anna both praise his arrival. But then… nothing.

From that day forward, until Jesus begins his messianic ministry, the Scriptures are all but silent. Aside from the enchanting tale of Mary and Joseph losing Jesus at the temple, thirty years of our Lord’s life are reduced to a single sentence. But it’s an insightful sentence.


Giving Thanks in the Storm

If you’re like me, you were probably a little distracted last Sunday when the weather alert system kept going off during worship. Thankfully none of the bad weather struck too close to home, but intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept through Illinois causing damage and destruction in areas all around us. At least six people were killed and neighborhoods were leveled, leaving first-responders sifting through rubble in search of people who may be trapped. The suburban city of Washington, just outside of Peoria, was particularly hard-hit. An EF-4 tornado cut a path from one end of town to the other, knocking down power lines, uprooting trees and rupturing gas lines. Several blocks of houses have been erased from the landscape, leaving hundreds homeless and thousands without power.

With tragedies with this hitting so close to Thanksgiving, most of us are just thankful that we weren’t affected.  But what about those who were? What about the people who were in the midst of the storm. What can they be thankful for? And, as if the physical storms weren’t bad enough, what about the figurative storms? You may be weathering one of life’s storms right now. By that I mean, maybe you’re facing some unexpected crisis or tragedy of your own. Storms come in all shapes and sizes. When debt-collectors are calling your house, or the doctor gives you the worst possibly news, or a family member is slowly succumbing to Alzheimer’s, it can feel like you’re being swallowed up by the storm. You might look around and wonder—what is there to be thankful for?


Holy Heroes: Spider-Man

Last month, while volunteering as the Avengers for the Route 66 Mother Road Festival in Springfield, we learned of a little boy named Tyler. Radiation treatments keep Tyler’s lymphoma at bay, but also kept him from the festival that day. We told Tyler’s mom about Costumers for Christ and she told us that Tyler would absolutely love a visit from his favorite superhero—Spider-man!

Although I made several Spiderman costumes as commissioned works, this was the first time I cosplayed as Spider-man myself. Saint John’s Children’s Hospital was colorful and inviting. Both patients and staff smiled brightly as Spidey walked the halls and rode the elevator to the fifth floor. A somewhat startled security guard pointed us to Tyler’s room. But when I poked my head through his door, I was surprised by what I saw. I expected a frail little boy too weak to move. But as soon as Tyler saw Spider-man he excitedly jumped out of bed and ran over to meet me, energetically bounding around the room. He spewed forth enough Spider-man knowledge to impress any fan. As we talked, I learned that Tyler is in “maintenance” now, which means he still has radiation treatments on a regular basis, but has been cancer-free for several months! Praise God!


Holy Heroes: Batman

Nearly everyone knows the story of Batman. Once you’ve heard it, you can never forget it. As a young boy Bruce Wayne excitedly emerges from a theater in Gotham City along with his wealthy socialite parents, Thomas and Martha. But as the trio makes their way through a dimly lit alley, a mugger steps out of the shadows, waving a gun and demanding money. Before the couple can comply, the thief pulls the trigger. Bruce watches in horror.

Days later, kneeling by his bedside, Bruce solemnly vows to avenge his parents’ death by waging war on criminals. Relying on his billion-dollar inheritance, Bruce travels abroad, studying under the greatest criminologists, detectives and martial artists in the world. When he finally returns home to Gotham City, he adopts a persona that strikes fear into the hearts of criminals—the Batman!


Holy Heroes: Thor

If you’re just joining us, last Sunday I explained that Blooming Grove is going to be entering a float in this year’s Halloween Parade in Carlinville. The theme for the parade is Superhero Celebration and we’re looking for brave souls to dress up as superheroes—something that my family has been doing for years—and walk or ride in the parade with us. I’m excited about this parade because I’m convinced that comic-book heroes can teach some valuable spiritual lessons. In fact, I like to think of superheroes as modern-day parables. Jesus used parables—that is, fictional stories—to illustrate spiritual truths. I believe that the stories of comic-book heroes like Batman, Spider-man, Iron-Man and others can help us better understand some very Biblical concepts.

In the comic-book industry there are two powerhouse publishers—DC Comic and Marvel Comics. While Superman is the strongest one there is in the DC universe, Thor is earth’s mightiest hero in the Marvel Universe. Fans of DC and Marvel have debated for decades which superhero is really more powerful—Superman or Thor. In fact, a friend of mine, Josh Boultinghouse, even starred in a short fan-film series titled Super Power Beat Down, which pitted the Man of Steel against the Prince of Thunder. The outcome was determined by fan vote and while Thor put up an epic battle, it was Superman who stood victorious in the end.


Holy Heroes: Superman

Most of you have probably figured out by now that I’m a really big geek.

I wear that name like a badge of honor because I’ve earned it. I started collecting comic-books almost as soon as I could read. Wednesdays were my favorite day of the week because that was new comic-book day. Each week I would ride my bike to the comic-book store in the Piggly-Wiggle strip plaza to see what new comics had come out. And even before that I spent countless Saturday mornings laying belly-down on the carpet of our living watching the Super Friends and other Hanna-Barbera cartoons like Space Ghost and Birdman. 


Then Sings My Soul: All to Jesus I Surrender

If you’re still new to the Grove, you may not have noticed it yet, but we’re a pretty subtle group of worshippers. And by that I mean there’s not a lot hand raising that goes on here. I don’t know why that is. Ashley and I have been to Christian concerts or conferences where everyone is raising their hands in worship, but here at home it seems like maybe we’re not comfortable raising our hands in worship. I think maybe the reason we’re uncomfortable with it is just because we don’t know what we’re doing. So, I’m going to have Tim Hawkins walk you through the art of hand raising in worship.


Then Sings My Soul: Leaning on the Everlasting Arms


This husband and wife had recently been remodeling their kitchen and one day the wife came home to find her husband in the kitchen, shaking frantically with what looked like a wire running from his waist to the electric coffeepot he had in his hand. Her adrenaline kicked in at the thought of her husband being electrocuted, so she grabbed a nearby 2×4 and whacked him hard, intending to jolt him away from the deadly current. She managed to knock him clear across the room, breaking his arm in two places. She later she found out that, up until that moment, he had been happily listening to his iPod. What looked like electrocution were actually his best dance moves.

Music has a way making you move, doesn’t it? Even worship music. Maybe you like to tap your foot or raise your hand while you’re singing in church. David danced before the Lord in his underwear. Whatever you do at least you can be grateful that you’ve never been whacked with a 2×4 while dancing in your kitchen!


Then Sings My Soul: A Mighty Fortress

A growing church held a special song service to raise money for their new singles ministry. The worship leader announced that for a $20 donation you could pick out one hymn, and for a $50 donation you could pick out three hymns. “So who’s going to start us off?” he asked. Then a single lady in the back started waving her hand. “I will! I will!” she said. Excitedly, she ran down the aisle and put her $50 in the collection plate. The worship leader said, “Thank you so much. Go ahead and pick out three hymns.” She turned and looked over the congregation and said “All right. I’ll take him, him and him!”