Monday, June 30, 2014

Lessons Learned in VBS - Part 3

Today we'll finish looking at the 2 most important lessons we learn in VBS. (Sorry for not posting this on Friday but it's better late than never!)

2. To worship with child-like excitement.
If you have never watched the children at VBS during the worship rally then you have truly missed a blessing. There is nothing like watching these kids sing praises to God and dance around as they worship God. There is a purity and joy in their worship that is probably only outdone by the angels in heaven. But you watch the kids don’t watch the older ones like the teenagers because they are too cool to sing loudly and dance wildly. My favorite kids to watch are the preschoolers. Their exuberance makes you want to jump right in there with them even if you sing and dance as poorly as I do. Jesus tells us in Luke 18:16-17 “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it" (NIV). When we come to faith in Christ we have to exercise child-like faith. But to worship God we ought to worship like a child, with joy in our heart and a purity of devotion that makes it all about God and nothing about us. 

The most important lesson ever taught in VBS is...
1. That Jesus loves you.
 The reason we do VBS is not to give kids a fun activity in the summer. We don’t do VBS so people will start attending our church or so we can brag about the number of kids we had at VBS. We do VBS so we can introduce children and hopefully their parents to a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s it. That is the only reason we do VBS. My wife learned about God’s love at VBS and then accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior. Many people over the years have come to faith in Christ through VBS. That is why we teach God's love at VBS through the Bible Studies and the songs we sing. We teach the children what John 3:16 means. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (NIV). We teach them how God loved them enough to allow Jesus to die in our place and that if we believe in Him we can have eternal life. We teach the children the simple message of the Gospel and we usually do that through the ABCs. We teach them first that God loves them but we’ve all done things that hurt God. We teach them that we must A - Admit to God that we are a sinner. We help them understand that we have all sinned and fell short of God’s standards. We teach them how they have to admit that they’ve sinned and to look for a way to have those sins forgiven. We then teach them that the only way to have those sins forgiven is by B - Believing in Jesus. We explain to them that if we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died on the cross so we could have our sins forgiven, then all we have to do is ask for it & we’ll receive it. Finally we teach them C - ConfessWe teach them to confess to God that they’re a sinner, that they need forgiveness of their sins, and to confess Jesus Christ as Lord. That is the message we teach and preach through Bible School. That is the whole reason we round up the volunteers, find the teachers and buy all the supplies. It’s so we can introduce children to a relationship with Christ that will alter their life forever. 

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lessons Learned in VBS - Part 2

This week we're doing a "top" 8 of the lessons learned in VBS. Monday we looked at our first three lessons (you can check them out here). Here are the next three. Sorry for the delay. VBS and a funeral this week made posting on Wednesday impossible. So here we go.

5. To respect my country and my faith.
During VBS kids get their first taste of patriotism and respect for our country’s flag. Each night at VBS we salute and pledge allegiance to the American flag, along with the Christian Flag and the Bible. We hope they realize that without the brave men and women who served under the American flag, those who follow the Christian Flag and the Bible wouldn't be able to worship freely. By doing the pledges we teach our children the importance of national pride and appreciation for those who have fought to give us the religious freedoms we have here. 

4. To give an offering to God.
When I was growing up, we were always given some money to put in the plate when the offering plate was passed around. That is one of the joys of childhood, getting to put money in the offering plate whether it’s in worship or at VBS. Sometimes kids rob their piggy banks, search under couch cushions or ask mom and dad for some money to put in the offering at VBS. I spoke to a child just last week that said they were bringing all their money to give to the offering at VBS so their team could win the competition between boys and girls. Many of the kids who give to the offering at VBS are like the Macedonians that Paul spoke of in 2 Corinthians. He wrote in 2 Corinthians 8:1-4 “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints” (NIV). Kids generally have no income and have to scrape, scrounge and scavenge for every penny they find. That makes their offering to God all the more special. We’re told in 1 Samuel 16 that God looks at the heart not the outward appearance of man. With God’s unique view of the hearts of these children's giving, we know He sees the joy and elation they get from giving to the offering. We as adults should view our opportunity to give to God with the same joy and excitement that we did when we were children. Instead of viewing it as we “have to” or that we need to “pay” our tithe we should be reminded of that child-like excitement when we have the chance to give. I realize the financial burdens of this life can rob us of the joy we had as a child but we can still have joy and be excited at knowing that God will do great things with our offering. 

3. Missions are important.
It was always exciting as a kid to have a real life missionary come share with our church about the work they were doing to tell people about Jesus in some distant land or jungle village.  During VBS we have a class where the kids learn about missions and missionaries around the world. This class helps to introduce kids to the importance of missions. For many kids this helps them see that this world is much bigger than the few miles they drive to school. This is where we help kids understand the primary objective of the church and that is to spread the gospel. Jesus tells us in Mark 16 that we are to "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." This is the most important command Jesus ever gave us as believers and we teach it to our kids at VBS.

Friday we will end our series on Lessons Learned in VBS with our final two lessons.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Lessons Learned in VBS - Part 1

Sunday I preached a message on the lessons we learn in VBS as children. It was titled All I need to know about life I learned in VBS. With our church, and many others in the community, doing VBS this week I thought it might be good to share those lessons in this week's posts. I'll share 3 today, 3 Wednesday and the final 2 on Friday. We'll do this in a "top" 8 fashion and build up to the number one lesson we learn in VBS. So here goes.

8. Man does not live on vanilla cream cookies and juice alone!
When I was growing up my great-grandmother and a few of her friends faithfully served cookies and a small cup of juice, year after year to the kids in VBS. Snack time was a great break in the middle of VBS that gave us a chance to recharge our batteries after recreation. But what we learned in VBS about nourishment came more from our lessons than the snacks we ate. Especially when we learned that Jesus said "Man does not live on bread alone.” in Luke 4:4 (NIV). The lesson we learned in VBS is that there is something much more satisfying to our souls than a couple of cookies and a cup of fruit punch. That satisfaction comes through a relationship with Christ.

7. It’s okay to be messy when making art!
One of the more dangerous jobs at VBS is working in crafts. The reason being you have kids working with glue, paint, and at times scissors. Our theme this year is the secret agent theme from Lifeway. To work in crafts at VBS, following that theme, you have to be as quick on your feet as a secret agent like James Bond. Sometimes the artwork does get to be messy when you do finger paints or something like that. When we let the kids do something a little messy like that, it’s a reminder that life is messy but there is Someone larger than us who is willing to help us clean up our messes. God is always there to help us.

6. Games are more fun in 95 degree heat!
Kids can play dodgeball or tag at school in P.E. and be bored with it by the second week of school. Sometimes they're bored with it by the second day! When they play those games, and others, at VBS they take on a new level of excitement and interest. It may be that the kids are delusional from the heat, but games at VBS always seem to be more fun. The lesson learned here is that church isn't boring and dull, but can be fun and exciting.

Wednesday we'll share other lessons learned in VBS.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Some things are universal, even in the church.

"After the message we congregated like our own church in the States does after church, simply talking & sharing with each other. I guess somethings are common in church life all across the world."

A year ago today I returned from a 9 day mission trip to Honduras. Earlier this week I re-read the journal I kept during the trip. I read the statement above and it reminded me of how universal some things are, especially when it comes to matters of faith. In the instance referenced above, I preached in a "church" under three beautiful mango trees in southeast Honduras. The lady who's property the church met on, was constantly running dogs out of the "service." It was hot and the sweat was rolling. But once the service was over, everyone just stood around and talked and had a good time. We talked about putting together a community game between us (the U.S.) and the locals (Honduras). We talked about the work we were doing on the house and VBS. We shared and they shared. While talking about basketball, I even playfully jumped completely over a standing kid who had scored a goal on me in soccer the day before. We truly had a great time of fellowship.

What we found out that day in Honduras was that worship of God, fellowship and many other things are universal in the church. The diversity and uniqueness of each church (and individual believers) adds to the flavor and vitality of the church. If God wanted us to all be the same, act the same and worship the same then He would have created us as robots and never given us freewill. Instead we should embrace the differences among churches and ourselves when it comes to the uniqueness and similarities that we find. We should always be willing to embrace different ways of doing things because we never know if we will like it until we do. The things that should remain the same are the teaching of God's truths from His Word and the worship of God. As long as we have those two parts down pat, then church can be universal and can be diverse all at the same time.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Teaching Done Wrong

Dru's Sunday School teacher has offered a pretty nice reward to his class if they are able to memorize the Books of the Bible. If they do so by the end of the summer they get a trip to Carowinds. Cooper isn't in the class but I've got him in on the action as well. Each morning as I take my sons to my parent's house for the day, we go through and do as many as they can remember and we are currently at Jeremiah. Yesterday as we were doing this I mixed up Ezra and Esther, which both surround Nehemiah, respectively. I corrected them repeatedly, or so I thought. So as we get closer to my parent's house, I realize the error and commend the boys for being right when I was wrong. This morning as we were once again headed to my parent's house, Dru made the same error I had made the day before. I'm sure my continual misguided coaching from the day before had caused him to stumble today.

Our children put plenty of faith in the things we teach them. The problem is we sometimes teach them the wrong things. Sometimes its clearly a teaching moment, as with me teaching the boys the Books of the Bible. Other times our children learn from our example and the way we live our lives. If we teach them bad habits or ungodly traits through our actions, such as swearing, pride, lying, greed, or dishonesty, then they will perceive these traits or habits to be acceptable. I'm like any other parent that has watched their children growing and I've been horrified when I see my bad traits manifesting themselves in my children. Now I'm not saying we should be fake around our children and someone else when they are around. What I am saying is that we need to resolve to live lives worthy of the One who created us. That means we seek His guidance and help with living a life that avoids the unholy things of this life and pursues the holiness of the next. Our objective in this matter should be to make sure that the example observed by our kids, and even the kids we influence, is an example that points them to God and is an example God would want them to mimic.

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Bucket List

In the past couple of decades the term "Bucket List" has crept into our cultural vernacular. It is generally considered a list of items someone wants to accomplish before kicking the bucket. For some people it may be something adventurous like swimming with sharks or something like traveling to a particular foreign country. On my unofficial Bucket List I have a little of the adventurous and the mundane. I want to hike some of the more exciting trails around the world. The picture to the right is of one of those trails on Mount Hua Shan in China. Other items on my list are less adventurous like skydiving with Cooper (he's the one more determined to go) or traveling to all 50 states (on my way with 40 down and 10 to go). Bucket lists are great for setting goals. You can even manage your bucket list through a website (honestly, it's But have you ever considered if God has a bucket list for your life?

There are many things that God wants to accomplish in and through you during your time on earth. Regardless of the amount of time He gives each of us, He wants to accomplish many of the same things in each person's life. Top of the list is Salvation. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us how God is patient with us and wants us all to come to repentance. Another item on His list is for us, once we've received salvation, to be conformed to the image of Christ. Romans 8:29 and 12:2 tells us how God wants us to become more like Christ and less like the world. God also has on His bucket list for your life that you would tell others about the change He has made in your life through salvation. Matthew 28:18-20 and many other scriptures tell us how God wants us to share the Gospel once we have believed it. I'm sure there are many other things that God would add to the list. They would generally be what we consider commands like obedience, giving, serving, or loving Him and others. Consider today what God has written on your bucket list and make sure that His list takes priority over your own.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What do people see?

If you walk into my office you will see some of my interests and things I enjoy. You will see pictures of my family and pictures of my boys playing sports. You will see brain teaser puzzles on my desk for kids to play with because I'm a kid at heart and always like a good challenge. I have mementos from mission trips that have impacted me and others. I don't have anything to represent my love of hiking but I will have to find something. On the wall opposite my desk you will see my wall of reproduced tin tractor signs. I even have one (seen to the right) that is an original 1945 tin sign that hung on our family's milk barn for more than 60 years. I enjoy farming with my dad and looking over old tractors. My office is a slight reflection of who I am. But more importantly it shows you what is important to me.

People can easily tell what is important to you. If it's your kids they know it. If it's a hobby like hunting, biking, fishing, movies, books, sports...people will know it. How? They see it reflected in your life. Those things that mean the most to us are the things we share, show off and talk about regularly. But the real question is do people see how important your faith is to you? Some will read this and quickly say, "Oh, yes. People know I'm a Christian." But that wasn't the question. The question is, "Do people see how important your faith is to you?" The answer for all of us is an emphatic or even sheepish "yes." People do see how important your faith is to you. If it's important to you they see it takes top priority in your life. They see you adjusting your life's schedule around your relationship with God. They see you stopping to bless your food when it's not important to others. They see you making the time to worship God with others. They see you relying on Him in your darkest moments without giving it a second thought. For those who don't give a second thought to God or their relationship with Him except for an hour on Sundays, people notice how important these things are to you. We can try and hide it as best we can but in the end the way we live our lives and the things people see in our lives will show them how little importance we put on our relationship with God.

Don't hear me encouraging you to be fake about your relationship with God. Remember, Jesus condemned hypocrisy regularly. Instead of being a hypocrite be authentic. Show the world what your relationship with Christ really means to you. If it doesn't mean anything more than spiritual fire insurance, I'd encourage you to check your relationship with Him. If it means everything to you, then show it to the world.

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