Monday, March 31, 2008

Obama and the Gospel

Last week I posted about the inflammatory comments that Rev. Wright made from the pulpit of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Before his retirement, Rev. Wright pastored Barack Obama for twenty years. While Obama stated that he wasn't at church on the Sunday(s) in which Rev. Wright damned America, he has said that the Reverend led him to Christ; that the sound bites don't tell the whole story.

That is fine, and I respect Obama'a reasoning. One should not be judged solely on the basis of a few comments. I have made many comments of which I am ashamed. I would not want to be strictly judged only on those comments. As I stated in my March 25 post, however, the problem I had with Rev. Wright's asinine rhetoric was related to where he said what he said; not that he said what he said.

This is a free country that allows free speech. While steam might leak from my ears because of such ridiculous remarks, I am thankful that he is free to be foolish. Here is the problem; Rev. Wright made those remarks during a church service from the pulpit. He substituted the message of the Gospel with a political message.

There is no excuse for that.

And then you have Senator Obama proving his ignorance of the Gospel.
In this Christian Post article Jennifer Riley reports that the Illinois senator...

said he believes that Jesus Christ died for his sins and through God’s grace and mercy he could have “everlasting life.” But he also believes Jews and Muslims and non-believers who live moral lives are as much “children of God” as he is.

That is just not true.

To support his view Obama used his non-believing mother as an example. He said:

[S]he was the kindest, most decent, generous person that I have ever known. I'm sure she is in heaven, even though she may not have subscribed to everything that I subscribe to.

Therefore he is assured of her salvation based on her kindness, decency, and generosity. While Christians should be kind, decent, and generous, one cannot earn, warrant, or receive salvation based on those or any positive character qualities.

Paul said that there are none who are righteous, not even one. We are all sinners. Some people are just more respectable than others; still, all people are sinners separated from a holy God and in need of salvation. While God is infinitely holy He is also supremely loving. The same apostle who clearly declared that all men are sinners, gloriously affirmed that God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Paul teaches us that, for our sake, Christ was made to be sin, even though he knew no sin, so that in him we might be made righteous before God.

It is only in and through Christ that one may be made righteous; that one may receive the grace and mercy that leads to the everlasting life that Obama mentioned. Christ alone is the way, the truth, and the life, and the only way to the Father is through him. That is not just my view, those are the very words of Christ.

Salvation has nothing to do with religious behavior or rituals; it is received by grace through faith. No one can boast of their salvation because it is not the result of any good works which they have done. The person who has been saved is transformed. He is a new creation in Christ; the product of his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God ordained beforehand, that we should walk in them.

This is the gospel. This is what must be clearly, charitably, and consistently proclaimed by pastors from their pulpits, and by Christians wherever they may be.

After the Second Weekend

As usual, this year's NCAA Tournament has been entertaining. For the first time in my life I have successfully selected all of the Final Four teams. Coincidentally, this is the first time ever that all four #1 seeds have reached the semifinals. I have North Carolina playing UCLA in the final, with North Carolina proving victorious and providing coach Roy Williams with his second national title.

Albeit, this will be his first title with his team. You may remember that he won his first championship coaching a team made up of players recruited by the previous coach Matt Doherty.

Really, I don't buy into the theory that Williams was coaching another man's team. Yes, he didn't recruit those players, but he coached them to the championship. I've only mentioned this for one reason. In 1998 Tubby Smith became the first black coach to win a championship. He won the title in his first year at UK, and he was the first black coach to lead the Wildcats. The problem was that no one could mention his accomplishment without hearing, usually coming from a UK fan, "It was Pitino's team!"

Actually it wasn't. Pitino's team was defeated by the Arizona Wildcats in 1997. Tubby's teams won it all in 1998, beating Duke, Stanford, and finally an impressive and talented Utah team. Smith inherited a team which, over the previous two seasons, had lost six players to the Association. Nevertheless, rabid and unrealistic Kentucky fans believed that only a national championship would due. During the tournament UK came back from deficits of 17 to Duke, 10 to Stanford, and they trailed Utah by 10 at the half. It takes great coaching to motivate and engineer double-digit comebacks against quality teams. Pitino was struggled coach the Celtics to mediocrity. I'm sure that he wasn't coaching the Cats to a championship all the from Massachusetts. (This also applies to Mike Davis and IU's 2002 Final Four run.)

Now that I have that out of my system I'll get back to the 2008 bracket.

The West was my best region. I only missed two picks, and both were related to UCONN. I picked the Huskies to advance to the Sweet 16; instead they were dumped in the first round. The Midwest was my worst region, thanks to Villanova, Siena, and Davidson. Kansas was the only thing I correctly picked from that region, but I loved watching Stephen Curry and Davidson. I'm glad that this young man will be playing college ball next year.

In IU basketball news, it is quite humbling when a second year D-1 basketball coach turns down the Indiana position. Tony Bennett has evidently chosen to remain at Washington State as opposed to take over in Bloomington. That really hurts. It has many folks in Hoosier Nation seething, but I can't blame the guy. Right now IU does not look like a plum job. At the moment IU is dysfunctional, and it may be a long road back to glory.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pleasing God

I can recall the moment in vivid detail; a bright and clear fall morning, a group of parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends lined the sidelines of the Greencastle youth football field. We were cheering for our kids, who looked slightly odd with their small bodies shrouded in football gear, and their heads capped with helmets. My son was playing cornerback, and he looked small compared to most of the other kids. That was an observation I had never before noticed.

My son’s team was on defense and they lined up in their places opposite the offense. The opposing RB looked especially big. I was just beginning to raise the possibility that he was too old for this league when the ball was snapped. I quickly shut my mouth and watched intently as the ball was pitched to the big RB who was running a sweep to my son’s side of the field. The runner was flushed to the sideline. If he could get past Noah it would be a long gain, maybe even a TD. Noah struggled with the blocking wide-out; eventually shedding the block, eating a face full of stiff-arm, and holding on for dear life to record a solo tackle on a minimum gain.

I was pretty pumped!

This was Noah’s first year playing football. This was my son’s first real test as a football player. This was his first athletic accomplishment on the gridiron, but it was more than that. I had stood on the sidelines of fields and courts before applauding the success of others, but at that moment I experienced the emotion that accompanied the success of my son. There is a world of difference between applauding the victories of others and the intense delight of cheering the triumphs of my own sons. It is a unique and blessed experience to be so incredibly pleased by someone else’s success.

It is at such times, being pleasingly thrilled with the achievements of my boys, that I am compelled to consider this. If I, an earthly father, can know such a sensation of pleasure in the well-being of my sons, how does our Heavenly Father feel when we please Him? I believe that is a thought with which we should be revolutionized. The children of God living so as to please the Father God.

We live in such a time that overwhelmingly desires only the pleasing of self. Ours is a society of self-love, “pleasing ourselves” is the credo of our culture. All are encouraged to live by there own rules and to engage life without regard to the standards or rules of anyone else, not even God. The basic philosophy of this age can be summed up in two words: “me first.”

And this is not just a secular ideology; there are those who call themselves Christian who also trumpet this self-love dogma. This man-centered theology proclaims that Jesus will make your life carefree and painless; that Jesus just really wants you to become a better a salesman, a better ball-player, etc. Jesus just wants you to feel better about yourself, to improve your self-image, to put an end to your negative thinking.

It was Benjamin Franklin, not Jesus, who said, “God helps those who help themselves.” But from his pulpit and in his two best-selling books Joel Osteen has advocated that message, too, only his spin is more like: “God helps those who think well of themselves. Imagine yourself to be a winner, and someday you will be a winner! Visualize yourself in a big house or a Lexus, and one day you will find yourself with both!” In other words, you do not exist to please God. He exists to please you. In a world of "me-first" Christians must become reacquainted with the priority of pleasing God.

Osteen is not the only pastor to espouse this selfish, gospel-less Christianity. Robert Schuller is the leading evangelist of this self-love gospel. Here is one quote from his book Self-Esteem: the New Reformation, “Classical theology has erred in its insistence that theology be God-centered and not man-centered.” He goes on to write: “I don't think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition.”

That is as twisted and contrary to the Scriptures as one can be. Christ Himself preached, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15b). Why repent, unless you realize that you are indeed an unworthy sinner, dead in your trespasses and sins?

Does this mean that Christians must be miserable, long-faced, unhappy, gloomy people? Does being saved and serving God amount to unhappiness?

No! I’m not advocating that at all; neither do the scriptures. This is what I know from God’s Word: a genuine Christian, one who has been born again, old things have passed away and all things have become new; such a person will live his or her life not in order to please self but in order to please God Almighty! In so doing the person will be pleased, and able to live life joyfully and abundantly. As John Piper says, "God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him. Even better, the Psalmist said, “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”

The Psalmist also wrote in Psalm 147:11, “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.” The believer makes a grave mistake if he compartmentalizes life into the “religious/spiritual” sphere and the “physical” sphere. The totality of our lives should be involved in pleasing God; whether we eat, drink, or whatsoever we do, we labor so that we may be accepted of (pleasing unto) Him.

In a society of self, we must give way to the priority of God. The Lord Jesus said in John 8:29, “I do always those things that please [the Father].”Surely we can do nothing other than to follow in Christ’s steps.

All of the Christian's desires, decisions, aspirations, and affections should be governed by a prior determination to please God. This desire to please God is distinct from a superficial interest in religious things that is really nothing more than a thinly veiled form of self-preoccupation. We exist to please God, not so that He may please us.

So, ask yourself, “Who am I trying to please?”

Where Were You Born?

When most people are asked that question they answer, not with the hospital's name in which they were delivered, but the name of the city and/or state in which they were born. That is because most people are, at least nowadays, born in a hospital, and it is much more interesting to name your home state rather than the hospital.

But what if you were not born in a hospital?

My dear friend and former pastor, Darrell Sparks, was blessed this morning when his eldest daughter gave birth to his third grandchild and second grandson. The boy was born early this morning; around five o'clock, and he was born in Indiana. God bless him!

He wasn't born in an Indiana hospital; however, he was birthed in an Indiana driveway.

Before dawn Chris Young (Darrell's son-in-law and the music minister/youth pastor/computer geek of Dearborn Baptist Church, where Darrell is pastor) dropped off his two children at the grandparents' house as he was on his way to the hospital with his wife who was great with child and ready to deliver.

Boy was she ready!

While handing off the kids, Sarah Young let loose a primal yell from the car. Chris dashed off to his wife, and then dashed back to the front door with the news that the baby's head was crowning. In stepped Carla Sparks. Darrell's wife, who would on this day deliver her third grandchild in the back of a Crown Vic which was sitting in her driveway. By the time the ambulance had arrived at their Lawrenceburg home, Carla had delivered the baby, tied off the cord, and delivered the after-birth!

This is truly an amazing story, and praise God that baby and mother are fine. Praise God the grandma was on top of the situation! This is all second-hand news by way of Carla to my wife to me. I haven't had the opportunity to talk with Darrell yet today. But I am dying to know what he was doing while his wife was delivering their grandchild.

I was able to talk to Sarah's sister Larah, and from her I learned that the boy who was born in his grandparents' driveway was named Ethan. Welcome to world, Ethan! Congratulations Chris and Sarah! And way to go Carla!!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Noonan's Take on Senator Clinton

Writing in today's Wall Street Journal, columnist Peggy Noonan has adroitly identified Senator Hillary Clinton. The Democratic presidential hopeful is a liar. This is not really new news. As Noonan says,

There's no dodging now. You either understand the problem with her candidacy, or you don't. You either understand who she is, or not. And if you don't, after 16 years of watching Clintonian dramas, you probably never will.

Clinton's preposterous accounts of dodging sniper fire while visiting the troops in Bosnia should be proof positive that this woman, she of the "vast right-wing conspiracies", does not deserve to be President. Here again are Noonan's comments:

That's what the Bosnia story was about. Her fictions about dodging bullets on the tarmac -- and we have to hope they were lies, because if they weren't, if she thought what she was saying was true, we are in worse trouble than we thought -- either confirmed what you already knew (she lies as a matter of strategy, or, as William Safire said in 1996, by nature) or revealed in an unforgettable way (videotape! Smiling girl in pigtails offering flowers!) what you feared (that she lies more than is humanly usual, even politically usual). (Emphasis mine)

Even more ridiculous than her lies are her comments explaining why she lied. ("Lie" is Clintonian for "misspoke".) Her memory was confused, she said, because this campaign has left her sleep-deprived.

If the senator from New York is so sleep-deprived during the Presidential campaign, how will she be able to function as President?! Will she be able to take that 3am phone call, or will that just have to wait until a more reasonable hour?

This is not just about differing views on life, the economy, big government vs. small government, universal health care, etc. This is waaay more basic than all of that.

This is about telling the truth. The Clinton's do not seem capable of consistently telling the truth. They seem quite comfortable offering up a lie whenever it seems advantageous. Yet they have only proven that it is never advantageous to lie!

How do you believe the stuff that comes from that woman's (and her husband's) mouth? They have proven, time and again, that they cannot be trusted. Mr. Clinton's marital infidelity was just a physical expression of his vocal infidelity. Mrs. Clinton's charge of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" was not the mad ravings of an emotionally damaged wife. It was just Hillary being Hillary.

She lied.

I'll tie off this post with one last quote from Noonan's article. (BTW, if you want to watch the video that outed Senator Clinton, visit this blog's VodPod.)

What struck me as the best commentary on the Bosnia story came from a poster called GI Joe who wrote in to a news blog: "Actually Mrs. Clinton was too modest. I was there and saw it all. When Mrs. Clinton got off the plane the tarmac came under mortar and machine gun fire. I was blown off my tank and exposed to enemy fire. Mrs. Clinton without regard to her own safety dragged me to safety, jumped on the tank and opened fire, killing 50 of the enemy." Soon a suicide bomber appeared, but Mrs. Clinton stopped the guards from opening fire. "She talked to the man in his own language and got him [to] surrender. She found that he had suffered terribly as a result of policies of George Bush. She defused the bomb vest herself." Then she turned to his wounds. "She stopped my bleeding and saved my life. Chelsea donated the blood."

Made me laugh. It was like the voice of the people answering back. This guy knows that what Mrs. Clinton said is sort of crazy. He seems to know her reputation for untruths. He seemed to be saying, "I get it."

I hope everyone "gets it", and I hope that the "Clintonian dramas" will end in August at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

A Pregnant Man?!

No chance of that. Men are (thankfully) unable to become pregnant. Therefore, "Thomas Beatie's" pregnancy is not a scientific miracle; it is a sad and pathetic commentary on our culture.

Here is the story. 34 years ago in Hawaii Tracy Lagondino was born. Ms. Lagondino grew into a prominent gay-rights activist. She decided, however, that she identified more with manhood than womanhood. Since God had made a mistake with Tracy's gender (my tongue is placed firmly in cheek); Ms. Lagondino underwent a sex change to correct the mistake. Her breasts were surgically removed. Regular injections of testosterone were received. Gender status from female to male was legally changed. Ms. Lagondino/Thomas Beatie was "legally" a man whose female reproductive organs were left intact.

Here is the problem. Ms. Lagondino/Thomas Beatie is "married" to Nancy Roberts. This couple wanted a child, but Nancy was unable to conceive because of her past hysterectomy. In steps Ms. Lagondino/Thomas Beatie. This person stopped her twice-weekly hormone injections, allowed her periods to return, and tried for a baby. Here is her comment:

Sterilisation is not a requirement for sex reassignment, so I decided to have chest reconstruction and testosterone therapy but kept my reproductive rights.

"Reproductive rights"?

Ms. Lagondino/Thomas Beatie continues:

Wanting to have a biological child is neither a male nor female desire but a human desire.

Sure, but carrying the child and giving birth to the child is the sole domain of the female. Which is what Ms. Lagondino/Thomas Beatie is, and that is why she is able to become pregnant.

Nevertheless, both articles which I have linked in this post used only masculine pronouns when referring to Ms. Lagondino, and all the people interviewed for the stories did likewise. The reporters were more considerate of Ms. Lagondino's feelings that many others. She was quoted in the TimesOnline article as saying:

Healthcare professionals have refused to call me by a male pronoun or recognise Nancy as my wife. Receptionists have laughed at us. Friends and family have been unsupportive; most of Nancy’s family doesn’t even know I’m transgender.

I cannot even imagine how to be supportive of a woman who alters her physical appearance to resemble a man, and then becomes pregnant. I understand why they haven't told most of Nancy's family.

The cat is out of that bag now.

Ms. Lagondino is pregnant with a baby girl who is due in July. About her manly appearance, apart from the pregnant tummy, Ms. Lagondino stated:

How does it feel to be a pregnant man? Incredible. Despite the fact that my belly is growing with a new life inside me, I am stable and confident being the man that I am. To Nancy, I am her husband carrying our child - I am so lucky to have such a loving, supportive wife. I will be my daughter's father, and Nancy will be her mother.

I don't believe that I have ever read a more confused and sad statement. She is not a man. If she was she would not be pregnant. She is not Nancy's husband. She is an artificially masculine looking woman who is married to Nancy. (Since Ms. Lagondino is legally classified as a man the state - Oregon - does not recognize this as a same-sex marriage. Oregon is just as confused as Ms. Lagondino.) She will never be her daughter's father. She will be the male looking mother who gave birth to this child.

Here is the real problem: gender confusion; complete, total, utter, unfathomable gender confusion. It is amazing that gender, the most basic aspect of humanity, has become such a confusing issue. Yet news stories abound with phrases such as: "transgender", "unisex", "gender transition", "gender expression", "gender dysphoria", "gender fluidity", "sex reassignment", and more. This confusion is directly related to a cultural consensus which states that the differences between male and female are strictly aesthetic. Therefore, if you change the plumbing you've changed your gender.


This story and others like it are disturbing, but they are the reality of our day. It is sad and amazing that we must think about these issues. But we must think about them so that we may be ready to respond Biblically and in a Christ honoring manner. Al Mohler devoted yesterday's radio show to this topic -
Accounting for the Gender Confusion of Our Day. As usual, the show is well worth your 38 minutes. I have previously posted two articles on this subject. You will find them here and here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What Made Rev. Wright's Comments Wrong

Was not mainly his anti-American, anti-white, conspiratorial rhetoric. Yes, that hate speech was vile and ignorant; just as vile and ignorant as any redneck spouting off about blacks and other minorities, but it's not what was so wrong about Reverend Wright's comments.

Here was the problem; the man used the pulpit for political oratory instead of it's intended purpose: the clear, consistent, and compassionate proclamation of the Gospel. Christ has commissioned His church to go and make disciples. Not political disciples; conservative or liberal, but disciples of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

To make disciples is to proclaim the Gospel. Here is the Gospel: Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, according to the scriptures. He was buried, and He rose again from the dead on the third day, according to the scriptures. Those people who repent of their sins and believe on the Lord Jesus are to be baptized and taught to observe all things that Christ has commanded through His word. This is the mission of every church from the time of Christ until the time of His return. Any church that fails to declare the gospel in all facets of church life and ministry - which means the church members living out the gospel reality through the week - has failed to follow the Lord's directive.

I highly recommend that you listen to a discussion led by Russell Moore and involving Mark Dever.
Politics in the Pulpit, a presentation of "The Albert Mohler Radio program" with Russell Moore as the guest host and Mark Dever as the show's guest, intelligently and cogently explores the place of politics in the life of a church; specifically from the pulpit.

By far, the most appalling aspect of Reverend Wright's wrongheaded sermons was his replacing the clear declaration of the gospel with political rhetoric. Politics do not belong in the pulpit. The pulpit is to be used for the clear and faithful proclamation of God's Word. That is the case for every true church regardless of cultural context. The Gospel transcends every and all ethnic and cultural barriers.

Monday, March 24, 2008

After the First Weekend...

My bracket is down the drain; just like normal. What was atypical in this year's bracket was my inability to predict IU's game of exit. I have never been so embarrassed to call Indiana my team. It's not just that they lost to a less talented Arkansas team. It is the fact that this group of IU players had quit on their school as soon as Coach Verizon took the money and ran; except for DJ White, who deserved better from his teammates. To make matters worse, the university unveiled their ridiculous 10-man coach hunting committee, and they made that announcement the weekend of the tournament. From the top down IU has lost touch with reality.

After the tournament's first weekend I have 50% success rating, and because of Davidson's shocker and Butler's inability to finish off Tennessee, I'm already down two of my Elite Eight picks.

My best region was the West. I correctly predicted West Virginia's upset of Duke, and Xavier's victory over Purdue. I did not see Western Kentucky making the Sweet 16; although I did pick them to eliminate Drake.

Kansas is my only correct selection from the Midwest. In the East I had UNC and Louisville, but not Washington State or the Vols.

Texas is making me eat crow in the South. I had picked the Longhorns to be upset in the second round by St. Mary's. Unfortunately, St. Mary's wilted under the Miami heat, and Texas weathered the Hurricanes. I also did not think Michigan State would advance to the Regionals. I am happy that I mispicked here. The Big Ten, apart from IU, has played well in this tourney. Conversely, the SEC's play thus far has proven that they did not deserve six selections.

I've already missed on Butler and Georgetown advancing to the Elite Eight. Let's see how I do with the other six picks:
  1. North Carolina
  2. Kansas
  3. Memphis
  4. Stanford
  5. UCLA
  6. Xavier

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Let the Madness Begin!

The NCAA tourney begins today. Too bad that my beloved Hoosiers have decided to tank the season in an apparent protest over the university's treatment of their former coach Kelvin "program killer" Sampson. The players should be thrilled that an anonymous alum shelled at $500,000; which, added to the $200,000 the school chipped in, provided a tidy going-away sum for the coach who initially showed great promise but in actuality may have set the program back three or four years.

Talk about madness. The last fourteen years have almost been exclusively maddening for Hoosiers fans.

Pat Forde of has written a funny article on the best case/worst case scenarios for each of the 64 teams in the tournament. You may read the full article by clicking
here. I've pasted the IU snippet, which is painfully funny (and true).

Best Case: Dan Dakich has a group hug with sulking Kelvin Sampson recruits, D.J. White brings it for a full 40, Eric Gordon is on fire and the Hoosiers flash back to midseason form for a run to the Final Four. Suitably exuberant, Indiana offers Dakich the full-time coaching job, but he chooses to share the role with Bob Knight. Old-school Hoosiers weep uncontrollably. NCAA decides not to assess additional penalties for Sampson mess.

Worst Case: The team that is coming off losses to Penn State and Minnesota brings the same weak stuff into Denver and is routed in Round 1 by Arkansas. Three players quit at halftime. Two more write, "Kelvin, call me!" on their shoes. Fans grumble that this never would have happened under Knight, forgetting that his final Indiana game was a 20-point, first-round loss to Pepperdine.

Madness indeed!

I have never been a good bracketologist. I am prescient with my IU picks, but I don't do well across the board. It takes me all of five minutes to fill out my bracket, and this year half of that time was spent bemoaning what could have been a stellar year for my beloved Hoosiers. Instead they have an 8 seed and a date with UNC in the second round if they are able to advance past "woo pig suey".

In this year's bracket I have all four number one seeds advancing to the Final Four. I am sure, although not positive, that has never before happened, but it is what I have selected. My upsets are:
  • West Virginia beating Duke in the 2nd round and setting up a Bob Huggins vs. Xavier rematch in the Sweet 16
  • Xavier wins and advances to the Elite 8
  • St. Mary's defeats Texas to go to the Sweet 16
  • Butler advances to the Elite 8
Let the madness begin.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Is the Crucifixion too Much for Kids to Handle?

Publishing house FirstLook believe so. Writing to a church which had used their curriculum the publisher stated:

Easter is a special time in churches. It's a time of celebration and thankfulness. But because of the graphic nature of the Easter story and the crucifixion specifically, we need to be careful as we choose what we tell preschoolers about Easter.

I recommend that you read Russell Moore's blog-post on this issue - Silly Rabbit, Easter's Not for Kids.

All I will say is that one cannot and must not delete the crucifixion from the Gospel; no matter who (or how old) the audience is. If there is no Crucifixion and Resurrection, there is no Gospel.

Has it Come to This?

Should divorce be celebrated? Some people think that it should. Los Angeles entrepreneur Christine Gallagher has established a business, "The Divorce Party Planner", and written a book of the same name, to meet the growing demand for post-divorce celebrations.

This cannot be a good thing.

Yesterday, ran a story by Elizabeth Bougerol which covered this growing trend. In my opinion, the trend is also troubling; not because of the celebrations per se, but because of what is being celebrated.

Gallagher is quoted in the article as saying:
[Divorce is] part of life, and yet it's the only major event for which we have no ritual. A celebration communicates that divorce is OK -- life affirming, even.
Divorce should not be a part of life. It should be avoided at all cost. That begins with the beginning. Saying "I do" should be a life-time commitment, which means that one should not stand "before God and these witnesses" with just anyone. The reason this "major event" has no celebration ritual is because it has never before been viewed as a celebratory occasion. The dissolution of what was supposed to be a life-long relationship should be mourned, not exalted like the wedding itself. The above quote reveals this age's mood regarding divorce: "it is OK -- life affirming, even."

Actually it is neither.

What does a divorce celebration look like. According to the article, one size doesn't fit all. Bougerol writes the following:
"Burning is big," says Gallagher, who's seen everything from wedding dresses to a husband's trophy deer head go up in flames at divorce celebrations organized by her event-planning outfit. The parties -- two or three per month --serve up signature cocktails with names like the So Long and the Sucker, split themed soundtracks ("Hit the Road, Jack" and "I Will Survive" are popular) and dartboards adorned with the ex's face.

Sounds very cathartic, but not very helpful.

Not all the celebrations are "bash the ex" carnivals, and the article refers to a "wellness counselor" who stresses the need for "emotional recovery after divorce: forgiveness, of oneself and one's ex."

Forgiveness is good, but why wait until after the divorce? Can there not be forgiveness and reconciliation during the marriage? There should be.

This is not a post against people who are divorced. It is a post against the cultural mindset that views divorce as just another bump along the road of life; as just another event that should be celebrated. "Hey, thanks for coming to our wedding. If it doesn't work out, I'll be sure to invite you to the divorce soiree."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bill Clinton in Lawrenceburg, IN

7 Butler Court Lawrenceburg, IN 47025. That was my address before moving to Greencastle, IN in the summer of 2006. My parents were raised in Lawrenceburg. Both are graduates of the LHS. On the Lawrenceburg levee walk there stands an historical marker citing the visit of President Lincoln whose train stopped in the SE Indiana town long enough for the president to make an address.

Former President William Jefferson Clinton is no President Lincoln, but he was in Lawrenceburg, IN this afternoon.

Referring to himself as the "rural hitman" of the Clinton campaign, the former President spoke for 40 minutes to a packed house at the Dearborn Adult Center. Reports indicate that about 375 people packed a small room at the facility on Tate Street while another 125 listened in an adjacent room. Another 150 students and 50 adults listened to the speech at the new firehouse across the street.

I've been in the Adult Center many times. I used to teach a Bible study in there once a week. I would never have guessed that 375 people could fit in the entire building; let alone 375 in one room with another 125 people stuffed into an adjacent room.

Evidently, Mr. Clinton intoned the same tired mantra that the Clinton campaign has fed the American public for this entire race: Hillary is the best prepared, best qualified, most experienced candidate who can beat John McCain. According to the IndyStar report Mr. Clinton used his 40 minutes to...

"stress [that] Hillary Clinton would turn the economy around by solving the sub-prime mortgage crisis and generating new jobs through an aggressive energy policy."
Great sound bites. I'm not impressed that she recognizes the problem(s).I'd like to hear how Senator Clinton plans on solving the sub-prime mortgage crisis, as well as the details of this aggressive energy policy.

Oh well, I don't think she'll have to worry about formulating those plans. I believe that Barack Obama will win their party's nomination.

Mr. Clinton made another statement that caught my attention on his tour of the Hoosier state's eastern border. He said:

Nobody believes she can win in Indiana because it borders Illinois.

I am a "nobody" who believes that Obama will beat Hillary, in Indiana and for the nomination, but not because Indiana shares a border with Illinois. I do not think that Hillary will win Indiana because the last President to win Indiana was Lyndon Baines Johnson. I am more than surprised that the Clinton campaign even dispatched Mr. Clinton to this state. In his 1996 landslide victory over Bob Dole Indiana voted for Bob Dole! If Mr. Clinton cannot defeat Bob Dole, how on earth is he supposed to stir up voters against a charismatic candidate like Obama?!

Speaking of the Obama camp; they seem to draw support from younger voters, while the supporters braving the rain to here Mr. Clinton's pitch were...well, just see for yourself.

More pictures may be found by following this link.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Absolutely Hilarious!

Political cartoonist Gary Varvel is no stranger to this blog; at least his cartoons are no stranger here. Not long ago Varvel started to run a series in the Indianapolis Star called "Caption This." He draws a cartoon with an empty text bubble. Readers submit suitable options, and Varvel selects the winner, along with the runners up. This past week' cartoon and winner, as well as the other finalists, were absolutely hilarious.

On March 8 this cartoon was published and in need of a caption:
I thought this was a nice take on the "3am" commercial that the Clinton campaign employed in the battle for Texas (which didn't help her win that state after all).

Here is the winning caption.
The winner was Dave Zimmer from Ft. Wayne, IN. Here are the just as good runners-up:
  • Jacquie Meisenhelder, Indianapolis - "It's 3am. Do you know where your husband is?"
  • Anna Rohrer, Fishers, IN - "Sorry. Wrong number. I meant to call President Obama."
  • Jay Lynn, Indianapolis - "Hillary? Silda Spitzer here. May I borrow your copy of "Stand By Your Man?"

How Do you Spell Disgusting? - IU

In the first round of the Big 10 Tournament the Gophers of Minnesota upset the Hoosiers of Indiana 59-58 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. IU played, with DJ the sole exception, with an indifference that is inexcusable for a team which should have competed for the Big 10 title. The team is not limping into the NCAA tournament, they are being carted in on a gurney, attached to life support. The way this team is playing it is hard to cheer for them.

That is right. I, Travis Grant Gilbert, originally of Aurora, IN and lately of Greencastle, IN, am finding it difficult to root for this edition of my beloved Hoosiers.

Am I a bad-wagon fan? No! I am a fan who wants players to play for the name on the players' jersey; not the name, in this team's case, penciled on to the players' sneakers. Once in every ten columns I will agree with Indianapolis Star sports write Bob Kravitz. His column in today's Star - "Time for Hoosiers to Start Playing for IU" - is case in point.

I sympathize with the team to a certain extent. They liked Sampson, and do not want to appear disloyal. I appreciate and approve of loyalty, but the object of that loyalty should be deserving of it. Kelvin Sampson lied and cheated, He deserved his punishment, and did not deserve his fat severance. He disciplined students for breaking his rules, but did not feel the need to follow IU's or the NCAA's rules. For whatever reason, AD Greenspan chose Dakich over McCallum to be the interim coach, even though the players wanted McCallum. I understand that they are upset with the current circumstances. Still, as a whole, this team is acting like cry-babies.

They need to learn that life does not always play along with our script. They have not risen above their circumstances. They have been swallowed by them instead. DJ White continues to play the man and demonstrate that he is an amateur who handles himself like a professional. He had 23 points and 13 rebounds in 40 minutes on Friday. He was atrocious from the charity stripe (11-17 or 65%), and that cost the team. He was still the best player on the floor, and one of the few Hoosiers who played with integrity.

JaMarcus Ellis has left the building. As a JUCO I am sure that he came to IU strictly to play for Sampson, but Sampson isn't paying for his education. Ellis has quit on his teammates and his school. He was suspended for the regular season finale at Penn State for undisclosed reasons. He played in the Minnesota game, but he was still nonexistent. Here is his stat line: 16 minutes played, 0 points, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 4 rebounds, 4 fouls. Thanks for your contributions, JaMarcus!

The phenom who created an "intense" Illinois v. Indiana rivalry (I am a life long Indiana native and Hoosiers fan and I don't consider the Illini as anything but another conference opponent. I circle two teams on my IU schedule - Purdue and UK.) was also present in body but otherwise absent. Gordon scored 16 points, well below his average, and it took him 13 shots from the field and 12 attempts from the foul line to amass 16 points. He did lead the team in turnovers with five, and he was 0-6 from behind the arc. If NBA teams are still salivating over Gordon, it's only because they think his value has fallen off the table and they may be able to pick him up late in the first round or early in the second.

My worst fears about this season are coming true (click here or here). No, the NCAA hasn't banned the team from post-season play. That wasn't necessary. The team has just decided not to play.

The Glowing Believer

Having just finished his explanation of the parable of the sower, describing how the seed which falls on good soil will produce fruit of thirty, sixty, even a hundred fold, Christ launches off in to three successive smaller parables: the lamp (vv. 21-25), the growing seed (vv. 26-29), and the mustard seed (vv. 30-32). Those three parables illustrate and teach that believers must be glowing, growing, and sowing Christians. This morning we will concentrate on the first of those three parables.

Let’s read the text, Mark 4:21-34:

And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick? For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

The first of three parables which Christ delivers is the parable of the lamp; the parable of spiritual life is followed by the parable of spiritual light.

Glowing - vv. 21-25

The purpose of any light is to dispel darkness, to permit sight, to allow one to avoid dangers that would be unrecognizable in the shadows. That is a lamp’s primary function, but a light this is covered, hidden, or obscured cannot fulfill its intended purpose. We are called and commissioned to reflect Christ’s light and reveal His truth. As believers we are called to let our lights shine before others, so that they may see our good works and glorify our heavenly Father. We are to be glowing Christians.

That is the obvious and easily understandable point of v. 21. Common sense dictates that lamps are not lit to be covered. Lamps are lit to provide illumination; not to be hidden under a bed or bushel.

There are two facets of Christ’s statement in v. 22 that we must understand. The first aspect is…

The Truth's Revelation

There is nothing about God’s truth or His purposes that are secret. There was the veil of the parables, that is true, but the purpose of that relative hiding was not concealment but revelation. Nothing is hidden except to be made known. Christ did not light the lamp of the gospel just to have it smothered. The gospel light was not lit just to be arbitrarily concealed. Remember the words of the Lord to the prophet Isaiah45:19 “I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.”48:16“Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning”

In his commentary on this passage Alexander MacLaren wrote the following:

For the intention of all God’s hiding—which hiding is an integral part of his revealing—is not to conceal, but to reveal. Sometimes the best way of making a thing known to men is to veil it in a measure, in order that the very obscurity, like the morning mists which prophesy a blazing sun in a clear sky by noonday, may demand search and quicken curiosity and spur to effort. He is not a wise teacher who makes things too easy. It is good that there should be difficulties; for difficulties are like the veins of quartz in the soil, which may turn the edge of the ploughshare or the spade, but prophesy that there is gold there for the man who comes with fitting tools. Wherever, in the broad land of God’s word to us, there lie dark places, there are assurances of future illumination.

God has revealed His truth to us, and His desire is for that truth to be proclaimed, not concealed. There are no secrets with the gospel. There are no secrets in Christianity. The truths that we have mined from the inexhaustible depths of God’s word are to be clearly, consistently, completely, and charitably declared. This declaration should be made both publicly and privately. Paul reminded the Ephesian elders that when he planted that church he “Kept back nothing that was profitable [unto you], but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:20-21)

May we humbly and boldly proclaim the glorious gospel of Christ; not being ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Our mission is to make the truth known with our lips and our lives, and “it is both faithless and shortsighted to hide the light in order to avoid criticism and persecution.” (John MacArthur’s Matthew commentary, Vol. 2, p. 220).

That statement leads us to the second aspect of verse 22.

The Believer's Vindication

Jesus Christ is the One True Light of the world. The light Christ brought was purchased at a high cost. On the cross he took upon himself our sins, bearing the punishment that we justly deserved. Those who come to Christ in repentance and faith receive his light kindled within them. As he have learned, this light is not to be hoarded; it is to be spread abroad. All believers are called to be uncovered lamps brilliantly burning in a world of darkness.

While it is obviously true that lamps are lit to provide illumination, it is equally obvious that a light shines at great cost to itself. Whether you burn a candle, an oil lamp, or an ordinary light-bulb, the light is consumed as it brightly shines.

Understand this: persecution and affliction will attend the believer who shines forth the gospel light. All who live a godly life will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). In Matthew 10:25-28 Christ told his followers:

If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more [shall they call] them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, [that] speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, [that] preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

The genuine follower of Jesus Christ will fear God and not man. Solomon’s instruction is that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10), but the fear of man brings a snare (Proverbs 29:25). Yet there are many testimonies that have been hindered, ruined, or both because Christians, as well as churches, were afraid of what man may say, think, or do.

In American society, we have not experienced the fear of bodily harm for the sake of the gospel. It seems that the chief fear faced in our culture is that of respectability. Therefore churches and individual churches cave in certain areas of Biblical truth in order to be hip, “relevant”, or highly regarded. Therefore you have...

  • Christians who continually stress that “We are not really any different” from unbelievers.
  • Christians who capitulate on the ultimate authority and veracity of scripture to accommodate a culture steeped in relativism.
  • Churches that configure their services to make the lost feel comfortable.
  • Churches that fail to proclaim the entire gospel message in fear that it might offend.

Thus, the light of Christ is placed under a bed of social acceptability; under a bushel of the fear of man. The believer must never forget what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:18, 21-25:

The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God…it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

About this subject John MacArthur made this comment:

Making God’s truth known includes teaching the so-called hard sayings of Scripture. We are not to be needlessly offensive, and never offensive in our approach or attitude. But when the fullness of God’s revelation is taught, the world will be invariably offended, because it will stand accused. Fallen man does not like to hear that he is fallen; sinful man does not like to face the reality that he is sinful; rebellious man does not like to be told that he is God’s enemy. Those are truths that Jesus and the apostles never refused to proclaim, and it was because they boldly taught such truths that the world rejected and persecuted them.

The world shows little objection to a gospel that is only “positive”, that only mentions God’s offer of peace, joy, and blessing. An unbeliever is not offended by those elements of the gospel, true as they are. But he is terribly offended when he is told that he is a sinner under God’s judgment and destined for hell."

Nevertheless, we are to proclaim God’s true word, and we are not to be afraid of the world because our God will one day vindicate us. All truth and goodness and all falsehood and wickedness will be seen for what they really are. Our concern must not be with what the world says now. Our concern must only be with what God thinks now and what He will say in the end. Do not fear unpopularity or persecution in this life, because, if you faithfully run the course you will be vindicated in the next life. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:5, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.”

Everything that is hidden will be manifested. Everything that is secret will come to light. That truth will either bring you peace of mind or anxiety. Which is it with you?

Christ told Nicodemus that men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. So there are many people who hate and resent the light; who will try to extinguish the light. On the other hand, many people will be drawn to the light, and whoever follows Christ will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

Not everyone will come to the light, but (praise God!) some will. Not every soil will bear good fruit, but we faithfully broadcast the seed everywhere because some it will fall on good ground.

One theme that is repeated, not only in today’s text but in all of chapter 4, is the matter of hearing and heeding the Word of God. The words “hear” and “hearing” combined are used eleven times in the first 34 verses, plus the references to understanding and heeding what is heard. In verse 23 Christ said “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And he immediately followed that statement with this command: “Pay attention to what you hear.” I find it interesting that Luke writes in his parallel passage to this text “Take heed therefore how you hear” (8:18 Emphasis added).

There is a great deal of importance placed on hearing the Word of God. The primary focus of the Lord is not on the strictly physical hearing of his word but on the spiritual discernment of the scriptures. To hear God’s word as Christ calls us to do means to understand and to obey his Word. James 1:22-25:

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

It is of the utmost importance that one regularly hears God’s word. This is accomplished through public worship at one’s church, and through personal, daily, systematic Bible reading and study. God’s word must be consistently, clearly, completely, and compassionately communicated from the pulpit. The whole counsel of God must be taught, but it must be caught as well. This necessitates that you belong to a church which is committed to the exposition of scripture, and it requires that each of us have a personal commitment to daily search out the scriptures that we may grow thereby (1 Peter 2:2).

Not only is it imperative that you hear God’s word, but how you hear the word is also significant. In other words, are you a good listener? My former pastor, Darrell W. Sparks, wrote about good listeners in a sermon from Luke 8:16-21. He wrote:

Good listeners make good company. Good listeners make good friends. Good listeners make good counselors. Good listeners make good learners. Good listeners make good teachers. On the other hand, poor listeners (who want to hear only themselves and who while they are listening are only planning what they will say next) are usually cheated out of the best relationships in life. From a strictly human standpoint, learning to listen is a very important lesson to learn. It will have a deep impact on our relationships with others.

Far more important than how we listen to other people is how we listen to the Lord. (“O Be Careful Little Ears How You Hear!” From the DBC pulpit 10/03 /03 – Emphasis mine)

I’ve already mentioned how often this theme is repeated in Mark 4 alone, but it is the constant theme of Scripture.

  • When the glorified Christ wrote letters to seven of the Asian churches he closed each letter with “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Revelation 2 – 3)
  • Calling people to find their rest in Christ the writer of Hebrews quoted Psalm 95:7-8 when he wrote, ‘Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (4:7).
  • The prophet Isaiah began his prophecy with, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken” (1:2).
  • On the mount of transfiguration, when Christ was glorified and Moses and Elijah appeared in conversation with the Lord, Peter became a little loopy. He said to Jesus, “Master it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Luke says he made that statement “Not knowing what he said.” Then Luke records, “While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.”(Luke 9:33-35)

The key to fruitful living is a hearing ear: “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” Pay attention to God’s word by taking advantage of every opportunity to receive the word. Understand that hearing the word of God preached is a dynamic rather than static experience. To hear scripture taught with clarity and charity is not to endure a monologue; instead, it is a dialogue between the hearer and the Holy Spirit through the word.

Do not be a dull hearer. Emulate the example of the prophet/judge Samuel, whose attitude was, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth,” (1 Samuel 3:10). To some degree, your spiritual condition is evident based on that to which you listen and how you listen.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

In Case You Haven't Noticed...

On my sidebar I have listed two links which I think you will find informative and humorous. They are relatively new to the blog, but not brand new. I am referring to my Google Reader "Shared Items" list of ten blog posts and/or news articles, and the VodPod video suite.

I update the reader nearly every day; so even if there is no post for a day (or more) there is fresh information at the blog. The VodPod is not as frequently updated as the "Shared Items" list, but there are a wide variety of videos that run the gamut of funny and informative.

Check 'em out!

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Crusader and the Courtesan

According to this report from the Associated Press and this report from the Times, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer (D) has been busted by federal officials for his involvement in a prostitution ring. The prostitution ring was known as the Emperors Club VIP. Prosecutors described it as a high-end service offering sex with women for up to $5,500 an hour.

Gov. Spitzer is in his first term as the Empire State's chief executive. Before winning the gubernatorial election he was the state's attorney general. According to the above Time's report Gov. Spitzer garnered national acclaim for his "relentless pursuit of Wall Street wrongdoing." And don't you just love this "he also had prosecuted at least two prostitution rings as head of the state’s organized crime task force."

I'm positive that his insider knowledge of prostitution rings was invaluable in the trying of those cases.

Gov. Spitzer was once dubbed the "Sheriff of Wall Street" and he was named as Time magazine's 2002 "Crusader of the Year". Upon assuming office he pledged to "bring ethics reform" to the state. Of course, one must be ethical if one is to "bring ethics reform." I wonder how his wife of 21 years and their three daughters feel about his ethics?

The politically intriguing aspect of this whole scenario is Spitzer's status as a superdelegate who has pledged his support for Hillary Clinton. I'm curious to hear how Clinton's camp will comment on this situation, and what stance Clinton will take.

Oh, Danny Boy!

This is not the way to pad your resume. I never thought that Dan Dakich had a shot at having the interim label removed. Now I don't think he even has a prayer; not after being humiliated by Michigan State in East Lansing (103-74) and embarrassed by Penn State in Happy Valley (68-64 OT). IU has now lost six games; a third of them under Dakich's brief tenure. Until yesterday, all of their losses had been to ranked teams.

Not any more.

Heading into yesterday's contest Penn State was 14-15 and 6-11 in a very weak conference. Not only that, PSU was without Jamelle Cornley, their best player, and they started four freshmen; none of whom are anywhere near as heralded as Eric Gordon (or Jordan Crawford for that matter). Here is one comment that Dan Dakich made after the game:
Cornley or no Cornley, a Big Ten road game is a Big Ten road game. They got themselves a great win.
Are you kidding me?! Currently, Big 10 road games are only tough in Madison, East Lansing (but not so tough that you should be beaten by 29 points), Bloomington, and West Lafayette. Every other road game in the Big 10 should be a win for the ranked team. IU barely escaped with victories in Champaign and Chicago. I'll chalk those nail-biters up to the emotion of Gordon's change of mind and Kelvin Sampson's stupidity. (Although, how many men can earn a $700,000 severance package for breaking the rules and damaging your former employer?)

I think I'm being generous. This team should never lose to Penn State. At home, on the road, at a neutral site, on the deck of an aircraft carrier, anywhere and anytime IU should beat PSU.

I'm not going to recap the game. Why bother? Here are a few links to men who are paid to so such things:
Here is my sole observation about the game. Eric Gordon was 8 for 24 from the field and 4 for 16 from behind the arc. He turned the ball over 5 times and missed a runner in the lane at the end of regulation; a shot which could have won the game. If IU is going to make any kind of post-season run, both in the Big 10 tourney and the NCAA, then Eric Gordon must get his 26 points in fewer than 24 shots, and he absolutely must take better care of the ball.

IU is in serious jeopardy of being seeded 5th in the NCAA Tournament. I say jeopardy because the 5th seed is a prime candidate for a first round upset. Almost every year a 12 knocks off a 5 in the NCAA.

The way things are going right now, IU will be the fifth seed that goes home early.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Parable of the Sower

The gathered crowd was colossal. In order to address the throng, Jesus sat down on a boat which was anchored just off the lake shore. The geography of the area created a natural amphitheater with fantastic acoustics. The multitude was able to hear every word of the Lord, but hearing his preaching was of secondary importance to them. The crowd was increasingly attracted by his miraculous works instead of his marvelous words. Many had shut their minds and closed their ears to the words Jesus articulated. They were solely focused upon the deeds he performed.

Praise God that some were coming to faith! Sadly, others were becoming firm in their unbelief. Many were indifferent to Christ’s wonderful words of life, and were only intent on the physical yet temporal blessings he provided. That is why at this moment Jesus began speaking to the multitudes almost exclusively in parables. For those who had hearing ears truth would be revealed as they responded to the truth. For those without hearing hearts truth would be concealed as they rejected the truth proclaimed. This is a solemn, sobering reality for those who regularly sit under the teaching of God’s Word yet fail to positively respond. If that pattern is continued there may well come a time when such a one becomes so hardened to the truth that he not only will not but cannot respond.

Jesus Christ is the Light of the world; sent by God the Father into the world, not that the world might be condemned, but that the world through Christ might be saved. There is condemnation, or judgment, however, and it is this: the light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. Multitudes of people witnessed Christ’s miraculous works and heard his marvelous words of life, yet many of them did not recognize him as their savior or receive him as their Lord. They were exposed to the One True Light but they rejected the light; either by outright hostility or by unresponsive carelessness. But to all who received the Light, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God.

Praise God for that!

When God speaks, as He does through His word, we must listen and respond accordingly. Hear then the parable of the sower from Mark 4:3-9.

Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

The scene of a farmer with a seed bag slung over his shoulder, walking up and down the furrows of his field broadcasting his seed, would have been a familiar one to all who heard this parable. They may have even been able to see this very sight off in the distance as Christ spoke. The point is this: the figures which Christ used in the parable were recognizable. Jesus was taking the known and laying it next to the unknown so that those who had ears to hear might learn the mystery of the kingdom.

Once this parable was told to the multitude Christ provided no explanation, but he did extend an invitation: “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Out of the mammoth crowd there were a few who responded to that invitation. Verse 10 says, “When he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.” In addition to the Twelve there were others who had hearing ears, and they desired to understand the parable’s meaning. It was to these folks Christ did supply an explanation. It is found in Mark 4:14-20:

And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended. And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive [it], and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.

There are three elements to this parable: the seed, the sower, and the soils.

The Seed – v. 14

“The sower soweth the word.” The word of God is the seed. Luke is just as explicit about that in his account of this parable. Luke 8:11, “The seed is the word of God.” It is important to understand that the only thing we have worth sharing; worth broadcasting in this world is the seed, the word of God. Likewise, it is imperative that we understand this: we do not manufacture our own seed; we simply and exclusively use the seed which God has provided. In his
commentary on this parable John MacArthur wrote:

The work of Christ’s witnesses is not to manufacture a message, to create a synthetic seed, or to modify the seed given to them, but to sow God’s revelation by proclaiming it exactly as He has given it. The power of new spiritual life is in the word, just as the power of plant life is in the seed. The seeds in the parable are all of the same nature, sown from the same bag by the same sower. The only variables are what happens to those seeds when they are sown on the different types of soil. (pg. 356)

Scripture is God’s living word. It is living and active; discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. In His first letter the apostle Peter wrote, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1:23) The Spirit uses the word to produce life. It is the truth of the gospel that saves and that truth alone.

Last Friday
NPR aired a religion piece for its Morning Edition program. The story was about “a new kind of Sunday school, where families from a range of religions gather to teach virtues to their young children.” I am all for Sunday school, and I believe virtues are wonderful. I am not, however, all that crazy about the teaching of the “Sunday school” featured in NPR’s piece. Listen to this excerpt from Barbara Hagerty the story’s author:

Layli [the teacher] calls the children to the dining room table. In front of each child sits a little lamp shade.

"Remember how we talked about how religions are a lot like lamp shades?" she asks the group. "They may look different, they may be different colors or sit in different rooms, but they all have the light of God inside of them."

The kids glue symbols of various religions onto the shades — a Christian cross, a Buddhist wheel, a star and crescent for Islam. Then Layli calls out, "Come to the light!" And the children, one by one, place their decorated lamp shades on a light bulb. (Emphasis mine)

That sounds charitable and peaceable, but it is actually damnable. It is a counterfeit gospel. Jesus Christ is the only Light of the world; not one light of many, and His light cannot be distorted or altered with any lamp-shade of man’s religion. Remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3? Nicodemus was using the lamp shade of Judaism, but Christ said “You must be born again.” In order for Nicodemus, or anyone else, to be born again the Son of man had to be lifted up on the cross; that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. Whosoever believes in him should not perish but will have everlasting life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Christ said (John 3:18), “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (Emphasis mine)

The only light worth coming to is Jesus Christ, the One True Light, and whoever comes to Him will never be cast out.

The Sower – v. 14

The seed is the word of God; in particular the good news of salvation by grace through faith. The sower is any believer who broadcasts the gospel seed. That seed may be sown by any number of methods: preaching a sermon, teaching a lesson, conversation over coffee, or sharing your salvation testimony. It may be communicated in an email, a letter, in the break room at work, or over the dinning room table after supper. The seed should be sown everywhere and all the time. The seed should be sown…

  • Purposefully – our evangelism should be intentional and not only accidental. Sowing seed is every believer’s responsibility and privilege. It is a way of life and not only a church program. Mark 16:15; 2 Timothy 4:5
  • Passionately – Christ wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41; 13:34); displaying His tender heart for the people who, for the most part, rejected him. The is a good reason why Psalm 126:5-6 is so well worn, because it displays the very heart of Christ – “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves [with him].”
  • Patiently – No seed which is planted bears fruit overnight. James illustrated the Christian virtue of patience with a farmer in 5:7, “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.”
  • Perspectively – The Christian’s responsibility is to sow the pure seed of the gospel. We are not in charge of making it rain, making it take root, or making it grow. We are only accountable for sowing the seed. As Paul said to the church at Corinth, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6).
  • Prayerfully – Christ taught us how to pray in this area. He said, “The harvest truly [is] great, but the labourers [are] few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). As we pray for lost souls our prayers should be focused on God’s people, starting with me, being busy in the field.

The Soils – vv. 15-20

There are four kinds of soils, and they are representative of four heart conditions. Notice that I said four heart conditions not four types of persons. This is not a people categorization, but a description of heart conditions at any given moment. The question is: in which condition do you find your heart at the moment?

Way-side Soil – the Hard Heart – v. 15
The “way side” refers to the narrow beaten paths that crisscrossed and separated one field from another. These paths were the main avenues of passage through rural areas as travelers walked from one part of the country to another. The soil beside these paths would be packed down hard from the constant traffic. The seeds that were sown on this type of soil would be immediately consumed by birds, or trodden under foot by passers-by.

This type of soil represents a hard-hearted condition. The problem is not with the seed, but with the soil’s condition. There are three reasons why people have hard-hearts. They are indifferent, belligerent, or ignorant of God’s word and its implications on their lives. Because of their indifference, belligerence, or ignorance concerning the word of God, the seed never penetrates the soil. It lands on the surface and is “immediately” snatched up by the enemy. If he cannot prevent the seed from being sown, he will do his best to snatch it away once it has been broadcast. His methods of snatching away the seed from the hard-hearted are numerous: false teachers, lies, pride, fear of man, doubt, prejudice, love of the world and of sin, a combination of all these and so many more.

Can a hard heart be changed? Absolutely! The wayside, hard soil can be plowed and prepared to receive the seed. The prophet Hosea said, “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for [it is] time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.” (10:12 Emphasis mine)

Stony Soil – the Shallow Heart – vv. 16-17
Initially, this kind of soil appears promising. The seed was sown; it sprouted and showed some signs of life. The soil was deceptive, however, because a thin layer of soil covered a shelf of rock. Therefore the seed had no depth of root, and when the sun burned hot the sprout dried up and died. As
John Phillips wrote, “There was just enough soil to give promise but not enough to give performance.”

This heart belongs to the person who has made an emotional response only to the word of God; there was a profession of faith, but there is no possession of Christ. The word was initially received, and with gladness, but the response is superficial, shallow, and temporary. This type of shallow, superficial response is always a shame, and even more so when it is the result of an inadequate gospel explanation.
John MacArthur writes:

Sometimes shallow acceptance of the gospel is encouraged by shallow evangelism that holds out the blessings of salvation but hides the cost; such as repenting from sin, dying to self, and turning from the old life. When people are encouraged to walk down the aisle, raise their hand, or sign a card without coming to grips with the full claims of Christ, they are in great danger of becoming further from Christ than they were before they heard the message. They may become insulated from true salvation by a false profession of faith.

Shallow responses to the gospel, which are purely emotional but have not, penetrated the heart and intellect will wither and die when there is affliction and persecution. Just as the sun helps the plant to draw up water and nourishment from the soil, so suffering and persecution help the true believer trust the Lord and draw on His great resources. The opposite is true if there are no roots. Certainly authentic faith involves great emotion, but true faith is also a matter of the mind and will. Genuine conversion is not solely a matter of emotion, nor is it only intellectual assent to Biblical facts. Instead it is both combined. Genuine salvation is not reformation or rejuvenation but transformation.

Sadly, we have all known shallow soil people. They seem to do well at first. They are present for every service, Bible study, and fellowship opportunity. They appear excited and eager. They may even shame older believers for their coldness. It is afterwards, when the cost of discipleship becomes too high, that this person abruptly falls away. In his
commentary on this passage Kent Hughes writes that he is “convinced that…many enemies of the faith come [from stony soil. Having] tasted something of God’s power, but not true conversion…they have become bitter and jaundiced and terribly lost.”

It is encouraging, however, that the persecution with dries up the false believer will make the true believer even stronger. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution…But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle [you].” (2 Timothy 3:12 & 1 Peter 5:10)

Thorny Soil – Crowded Heart – vv. 18-19
The problem with the hard heart was a lack of understanding. The problem with the shallow heart is a lack of depth. There are a variety of problems with the thorny soil, which represents a crowded heart. I want to stress once again that the problem is not with the seed but the soil. Jesus lists three weeds that choke out the seed in this type of soil:
  1. Worry“The cares of this world” – preoccupation with the pressures of life.
  2. Wealth“The deceitfulness of riches” – preoccupation with plenty; gaining and keeping it.
  3. Wants“The lusts of other things” – a want list of all sorts of things that are both lewd and legitimate.

The gospel seed cannot take root in the crowded heart because it is strangled by one or more of these weeds: worry, wealth, and wants. The person who has a crowded heart does make some gestures toward Christ. He “hears the word”, but the distractions of this ages draw it back. This type of heart is divided. The division is between irreconcilable loyalties; literally a focus on the things of this world.

A young man proposed to his sweetheart. He said:

“Darling, I want you to know that I love you more that anything else in the world. I want you to marry me. I’m not rich. I don’t have a yacht or a Rolls Royce like Johnny Brown, but I do love you with all my heart.”

She thought for a minute and then replied, “I love you with all my heart, too, but tell me more about Johnny Brown!”
(Walter Underwood, The Contemporary 12, as quoted by Kent Hughes, Jesus Servant & Savior, p. 108).

That is a painful illustration of a crowded and divided heart!

A heart that is consumed with the worry, wealth, and wants of this world is not a believing heart. All three of these weeds are aspects of worldliness, which is anything that focuses your attention on this world rather than the world to come. The person who refuses to let go of his worldliness is a person in whom the gospel seed has not taken root.

Good Soil – Fruitful Heart - v. 20
The fourth and final soil is the only ground that bears fruit. It is representative of the only heart of the four which is truly saved. This heart is “good ground” because it has been rightly prepared. This ground is good because it receives the word, heeds the word, and holds on to the word. The word prevails and proves its presence by the production of fruit. Christ is to be seen in the believer’s life. Not all will bear the same amount of fruit, but they will bear the same kind of fruit. Christ will be seen in the life of the truly converted. Genuine believers bear fruit.

The Christian has the blessed responsibility to sow the seed of the word. We are not responsible for producing the seed, the soil, or the fruit. We are only accountable for faithfully broadcasting the seed as far and as wide as possible.

What kind of heart do you have? Is it hard, shallow, or crowded with the cares of this world? These are descriptions of the hearts of the unsaved, but they can also apply to the Christian who has neglected to cultivate his heart and the soil has deteriorated.