Parables of Jesus: The Tenants

Most of us are pretty familiar with product warning labels. It seems like almost everything has a warning label on it today. I recently came across some actual warning labels that really make you question the intelligence of American consumers:


  • Ÿ  A Vidal Sassoon hairdryer: DO NOT USE WHILE SLEEPING.
  •   iPod Shuffle actually has a warning that says: DO NOT EAT IPOD SHUFFLE
  • Ÿ  Nabisco™ Easy Spread Cheese announces on its label: FOR BEST RESULTS REMOVE CAP.
  • Ÿ  Auto-Windshield sun visor bears the reminder: DO NOT DRIVE WITH SUNSHADE IN PLACE
  • Ÿ  The label on a Dremel Rotary Tool says: THIS PRODUT IS NOT INTENDED FOR USE AS A DENTAL DRILL.
  • Ÿ  A warning label on a pair of Superman pajamas: WARNING! THIS GARMENT DOES NOT ENABLE WEARER TO FLY.


Parables of Jesus: The Wheat & The Weeds

I know the forecast is calling for frigid temperatures and frosty condition this week, but I’m so thankful for the brief preview of spring we had last week. Two days of 50o temps was such a welcome reprieve from the snow and ice we’ve been having. I don’t know about you, but I am ready for spring to arrive. Spring brings so much warmth and color and new life. Flowers start budding, grass turns green again, blue skies and rainbow fill the air. One of the big things Ashley is looking forward to this Spring is planting a new garden. There’s something about feeling the dirt between her fingers, and the hope of seeds turning into five-foot tall tomato plants, or a high-bearing pepper plant that she finds enticing. To me, gardening just sounds like a lot of work. Hoeing, tilling, planting, fending off the bugs that think your bean plants were planted just for them, and of course the endless weeding that goes along with it.

I don’t know if Jesus ever had a garden, but a lot of his parables have to do with seeds and soil. Apparently he wasn’t very fond of weeds either, as evidenced by the parable of the wheat and the weeds. He tells this story in Matthew 13 along with several other parables about planting and harvesting. Here’s what he says:


Parables of Jesus: The Laborers


Well over fifty years ago, during a conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated, what—if any—belief was unique to the Christian faith. The debate went on for quite a while, until C.S. Lewis wandered into the room and asked, “What’s the ruckus about?” His colleagues explained that they were discussing Christianity’s uniqueness among world religions. Lewis responded, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.” A sort of enlightened hush fell over the crowd. Everyone at the conference had to agree.

Grace. We talk as if we understand the word. “The bank gives us a grace period. The corrupt politician falls from grace. We describe the hostess as gracious and the dancer as graceful. We even say grace before our meals. We talk a lot about grace, especially at church.” What’s interesting to me is that Jesus never said grace.


Parables of Jesus: The Firm Foundation


The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the most famous structures in the world—not because of its gently rising series of arches, but because of its legendary tilt. Construction began on the historic tower in 1173 (840 years ago) and lasted for nearly two centuries. But before the first three levels could be completed, it began to shift on its foundation ever so slightly. Gradually leaning further and further over the centuries, it’s now heralded as the most lopsided structure in the world. In fact, by 1990 the top to the tower was seventeen feet further south than the bottom. It was finally closed to the public for safety concerns and not reopened until 2008. During that time, engineers completed a 25 million dollar renovation project designed to stabilize the tower. They removed 110 tons of dirt, and reduced its legendary lean by about sixteen inches. What was the problem? Bad design? Poor workmanship? An inferior grade of marble? No. The problem was what was underneath. The sandy soil on which the city of Pisa was built was just not stable enough to support a monument of this size. The tower had no firm foundation.

Unfortunately the same can be said of some of us.


Parables of Jesus: The Lost Sheep

Among the many metaphors used throughout the Bible to describe God’s relationship with people, one of the most common is a Shepherd and his sheep.  David first wrote “The Lord is my Shepherd” in Psalm 23 and Jesus often used this imagery, identifying himself as the Good Shepherd. Now, I don’t really know if that’s a compliment. If you ask a classroom of Kindergarteners, “If you could be any animal you want, which animal would you be?” I don’t think any of them would say a sheep. You’ll never see a college sports team with a sheep as their mascot. Can you imagine the Southern Illinois Sheep, Louisiana Lambs or the El Paso Ewes? People will even use the word sheep as an insult, implying that a person is just a follower that doesn’t think for themselves.

Yet, these are the creatures to which Christians are most often compared in the Bible. Perhaps it’s because they naturally flock together; sheep are very social creatures and enjoy living in groups. Or maybe it’s because of how worrisome they can be. A sheet of paper blown by the wind will frighten them. A thunderstorm may throw them into a panic. Or possibly it’s their relationship with their shepherd. Sheep are able to identify human faces and voices, remembering them for years. They won’t follow just anyone, but they will hear and obey the voice of their Shepherd. Or it could be their tendency to wonder that makes them worthy of comparison. This seems to be the primary parallel of the parable of the lost sheep.


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!