Why I’m All in for Vacation Bible School

I’m all in for Vacation Bible School and here’s why.

I’m all in for Vacation Bible School at my church. We have a great group of volunteers, but I love being a part of the opening and closing rallies and helping out any way I can. I look forward to greeting parents as they drop their kids off and giving out high-fives to those same kids as they make their way down the hall. This year, I get to share the gospel with the children at a few key points throughout the week.

Here are my top 5 reasons why I’m all in for VBS:

  1. VBS is fun. I know that it takes a lot of hard work and advanced planning to put a VBS together. The daily schedule can be a little tiring, but it’s a good kind of tiring. The music is upbeat, the decorations are colorful, and the kid’s smiles are fantastic. Add in some crafts, snacks, and games, and you have a recipe for a memorable time.
  2. VBS encourages the church to focus on the next generation. There are all kinds of activities that can happen in church, but you can’t have VBS without children. Children and youth are the future and they need to be a priority.
  3. VBS encourages the church to look outward. Parents are always looking for things for their children to do during the summer months when school is not in session. VBS is a natural connection point that is easy to share with the community. These factors and more, make it easy for the church to use VBS as an outreach opportunity.
  4. VBS encourages the church to think about the gospel. The daily schedule usually includes a lot of activities. But a full schedule is an invitation to think about what kinds of messages are truly important. In other words, what do we really want to pass on to our children? The good news about Jesus Christ – his death, burial, and resurrection for us – is the best message of all and VBS an ideal time to share it.
  5. VBS brings out the best in our church volunteers. All kinds of people can volunteer at VBS. People who enjoy working with their hands and building can help. People that like to teach and organize can be a part. People that enjoy music and crafts can do their part. Even athletic types can serve.

These are my top 5 reasons why I’m all in for Vacation Bible School. Feel free to share your own reasons why you love to participate in VBS in the comment section below.

Is the Bible Still Relevant for Today?

Is the Bible relevant for today?

The negative response to the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on religious liberty and abortion is heartbreaking. An increasing number of Americans are opposed to authority. They are against any limits that might be put on their personal choices, even if that choice involves ending the life of an unborn child. They are offended by the free exercise of religion in the public square. In the end, they reject the idea that a document written hundreds of year ago could have any authority over their lives as citizens of the United States of America.

The Bible was written thousands of year ago, but it has some similar challenges in today’s culture. It is automatically dismissed by some as a collection of myths and fairy tales. It is rejected by others as a handbook for religous zealots. Even those who say they believe in the authority of Scripture seemly increasingly open to reinterpreting and renegotiating doctrines that have been establishes in the church for ages.

The church were I serve as senior pastor just affirmed Teaching the Bible as one of our Core Values. This means that we believe in the inspiration, inerrance, and authority of God’s Word. We will do our best to opperate our shared ministry according to Biblical principles. Our decision making will push us towards ways that we can teach the Bible and share the gospel with as many people as possible. We will encourage our church family to follow God’s Word in their everyday lives. Teaching the Bible means that we affirm the authority of a text written years ago.

I am grateful for the people in our society who are willing to submit their lives to the authority of a higher power. If we throw off all others sources of authorty in our lives, we make ourselves out to be the ultimate authority which never ends well. Senece, the Roman statesman and philosopher said, “If we are our own authority we enslave ourselves to ourselves, which is the worst bondage of all.”

Why is Children’s Ministry So Important?

Why is children’s ministry so important?

People bring their Bibles to church, but they also bring their expectations. Sometimes, those expectations clash with other churchgoers in the same congregation. Since children are rarely involved in church leadership, their needs and interests can take a backseat to other “more important” ministries. Here are 10 great reasons why churches prioritize children’s ministry.

  • 1. The family is an important part of God’s plan for the world. He invented gender, marriage, and procreation – God invented the generations! The 10 Commandments and the Epistles both include important instructions for children to honor and obey their parents (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:1).
  • 2. The majority of people who make a decision for Christ do it before the age of 18. Most studies place the percentage around 85 percent. This number may vary slightly by family or by the stripe of church, but surely it is above 50 percent. Consider your own experience – did you make a decision for Christ as a child or a teenager? If so, then you know about the importance.
  • 3. If a person comes to Christ at a young age, they can follow Christ for their whole lives. The rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-27 is identified by his age, as well as his wealth. What if this young man would have decided to follow Christ? That would have been an amazing story of God’s grace.
  • 4. Children can be examples of sincere faith. Jesus’ disciples drove children away, but Jesus welcomed them into His presence (Mark 10:13-16). The way children accept things as truth is a living illustration of what it means to have saving faith.
  1. 5. Believing parents are commanded to disciple their children – and they need help. Parents in the Old Testament were expected to teach their children about the things of God (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). This expectation is continued on into the New Testament as well (Ephesians 6:4). Parents can have a huge positive spiritual influence on their kids, e
  2. 6. There are all kinds of forces clamoring for our kid’s attention and loyalty. Retailers and advertisers have focused their efforts on children for decades. Today’s social reformers are directing their efforts at younger and younger ages to capture kids while they are still impressionable. The destructive power of Satan takes on a whole new level of meaning if you think about it in relation to our young ones. (1 Peter 5:8)
  • 7. Reaching out and ministering to kids is the key to ministering to the whole family. Children’s and youth ministry is one of the top three ministries that modern families are looking for in a church. (The other two are worship/music style and preaching). Some church planting experts are recommending a children’s minister/director as the first staff hire beyond the church planter himself. Parents will come to and even in engage in the church if their children are happy and growing.
  • 8. Churches need the energy and enthusiasm of up-and-coming generations. It’s inevitable – we all grow older over time. Churches need a balance between the wisdom and experience of older generations and the energy and enthusiasm that children and youth bring. I’ve had several conversations recently with apologetic parents and concerned church members about the noise and activity level of some of the kids in our church. In my opinion, that’s a good thing because we need these kids!
  • 9. God blesses the discipling efforts of those who minister to children. Proverbs 22:6 is a general principle rather an iron-clad promise. As a church, we have an opportunity to partner with parents as they “train up their children.” This kind of ministry focus invites God’s blessing and we need all the blessings we can get!
  • 10. Every person, no matter how young they are, is precious and important to God. The sanctity of human life begins at conception and extends all the way to natural death (Psalm 139:14). Sanctity refers to the holiness and intrinsic value of every human life. The very young and the very old are frequently discounted in our culture, but not so with God.

Take your pick – there a lots of reasons why children’s ministry should be important in today’s church. Investing in children will pay off dividends now and for eternity. 

How Do We Get Godly Wisdom?

  1. The screen revolution has had positive and negative impacts on society. One of the negative impacts it has had on many people is moving the focal point of authority from external to internal. Meaning that people feel freer to disagree with the things they learn because they think they discovered that information on their own by looking it up on Wikipedia or Google.
  2. This past Sunday, we talked about the importance of passing wisdom down from one generation to another. Not just any knowledge or wisdom, but godly wisdom. According the book of Proverbs, godly wisdom is the key to life.
  3. The first section of Proverbs 1 serves as an introduction to the book as a whole and primer on gaining godly wisdom. The first 7 verses contain four principles for growing on godly wisdom. Here they are…
  1. 1. Proverbs are pint-sized portions of Godly wisdom (v. 1). The book of Proverbs contains a long list of short, pithy sayings and poems. They contain a concentrated dose of reality to help the reader see things for how they really are vs. how they appear. The book of Proverbs was written by Solomon, Hezekiah, Agur, and Lemuel during Israel’s golden age – and has stood the test of time.
  2. 2. Proverbs help unlock the mysteries of life (v. 2-3, 6). Most of us have a set of keys that we use to open up our house, turn on our vehicle, and gain access to our workplace. The right key makes all the difference. Proverbs help unlock the mental mysteries of life by providing wisdom, instruction, and understanding. 
  3. 3. Proverbs are for the innocent, inexperienced, & impressionable (v. 5). Those who already have life figured out don’t need godly wisdom. But those who are teachable and humble, will find a wealth of wisdom in God’s Word. Steph Curry is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. According to one of this coaches, Curry is, “The most educable player I’ve ever known—both in terms of his willingness to listen and in his ability to absorb and execute.”
  4. 4. Proverbs pave the way to Godly wisdom (v. 7). The closing verse in this passage introduces theme that is reapted throughout the book: godly isdom is a path that must be pursued (It shows up again in chapters 4, 9, and 15). Those who purse wisdom will find it and will be transformed by it.
  • Godly wisdom is the key to life, but it must studied and acted upon. Instead of treating like one more news headline, or one more piece of trivia, or one more social media post, we must hold on to it like a priceless treasure. We must do whatever it takes to incorporate godly wisdom into our lives and to share it with the next generation.

What Kind of Partnerships are Permissible?

This past Sunday I shared a message with my church about the distinction between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness from Ephesians 5:3-14. In the passage, Christians are called “children of light” and called to live in God-honoring ways. One of the instructions in the passage that stands out is the warning about partnering with unbelievers (v. 7, “Do not be partakers with them”).

This should make thinking Christians ask, “What kind or partnerships are permissible and what kind of partnerships are out of bounds?” This original question led me to four more additional questions. The answers to these questions serve as a framework for evaluating the types of relationships believers should engage in with those outside the faith.

Will it affect your identity? Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (NIV). A “good name” involves your identity and reputation. Once your identity and reputation have been tarnished, they can be very hard to restore.

Associations with certain social clubs or even social movements can be viewed a kind of voluntary partnerships. Believers should be careful not to associate themselves with a club or a cause they don’t fully understand. If they do, they might unintentionally harm their identity.

Will it affect your values?  2 Corinthians 6:14 is verse another verses that addresses Christian partnerships, especially marriage. It says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (NIV). This verse emphasizes the importance of going the same direction, pursing the same things, and valuing the same things in a long-term relationship.

A solid marriage is built on agreement in a number of key areas. How will you spend your time and money? How will you raise your children? How will you express you religious convictions? Bible believing Christians and agnostics have different views on these key areas because they have conflicting values. This is just one of the reasons why it is unwise for a believer to marry an unbeliever.

Will it affect your resources? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). In other words, the way someone uses their money is a window into their soul.

Entering a partnership with someone who has a different faith commitment can be tricky. A business partnership along these lines may be strained as you make decisions that affect your bottom line. Christians must be cautious here.

Will it affect your witness? 1 Peter 2:12 is just one of many verses that urge believes to steer clear from blameworthy behavior. If a Christian lives like a non-Christian, it can be hard for them to explain their faith to others. Some connections, and even some friendships, can have a negative impact on your ability to share the gospel.

The warning in Ephesians 5:3-14 should not be misunderstood as a call for isolation or various levels of separation from the world. We must engage the world and the kingdom of darkness. But we must also be thoughtful and wise about our longterm partnerships, so that we can live in ways that honor God.

What questions would you add to evaluate the types of relationships believers should engage in with those outside the faith? Please leave your comments below.

Exalting Christ in Our Leadership

What does it look like to be a good leader in the church?

Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

This past Sunday I shared 5 principles about being a good follower in the local church and the greater kingdom of God from Hebrews 13:7-19. Each one of the principles I shared can also be applied to leaders so I promised to share those this week through this blog post. You can find a link to my sermon notes on good followership here.

Jesus Christ is exalted when followers follow and leaders lead. Here are 5 ways that leaders can step up to make a difference in their local congregations based on Hebrews 13.

1. Set an example that others can follow (v. 7). The first generation of leaders may have passed off the scene in the church that recieved the book of Hebrews, but they left behind a pattern that was worth replicating. The best leaders set the tone for others in performance as well as their behavior.

2. Spread the right doctrine (v. 9-14). Like many of the other first century churches, some of the original recipients of Hebrews struggled with false teaching. Christian leaders today would do well by grounding everything they teach in the Word of God. This may seem obvious in theory, but it’s not so obvious in practice.

3. Showcase your sacrifice (v. 15-16). This principle sounds prideful, but it’s not intended to be. These verses describe two practices that believers should engage in regularly, two “sacrifice.” They are the sacrifice of praise and the sacrifice of service. Pastors and teacher in the Church should lead the way in worshiping God and serving others with a spirit of humility.

4. Step up for your sheep (v. 17). Shepherding is one of the most familiar metaphors for leadership in the Bible. Sometimes sheep bite, butt, buck, and wander away (metaphorically speaking of course), but they still need to be cared for. Pastors and elders especially, will be held accountable for the “flocks” of believers under their care.

5. Share your prayer requests (v. 18-19). The writer of Hebrews is transparent about his needs and concerns. His request for prayer in verse 18 should be a model for today’s Christian leaders.

The writer of Hebrews (your guess is as good as mine) was concerned with the believers under his care. He wanted them to be good followers as well as good leaders so that their congregation would grow and flourish. We need good followers and good leaders in our churches today as well.

Silhouettes of the Heavenly Father (Part 3)

How should God’s mercy and love impact your prayer life?

Earlier this week I started a three-part mini-series of posts exploring the intersection of our views of God as our Heavenly Father and our practice of prayer. This is important because the things we think about God (either good or bad, biblical or unbiblical, consistent or inconsistent) have a huge impact on how we approach Him in prayer. This is the third and final post in that series.

One of the most descriptive passages of God in the New Testament is the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. This parable is more than a story, it’s a picture of the Heavenly Father.

A loving father of two sons experienced great heartbreak. The youngest son demanded his inheritance early so that he could waste it all on himself. After his money was gone, the younger son got a job feeding pig and dreamed about the comforts of home.

Every day, the loving father would go out to the road and look for his son’s return. As soon as he saw him, the father ran to meet his son, greeted him, and embraced him. Instead of punishing the son, he called for a celebration.

This vivid parable teaches us that the Heavenly Father is loving and merciful which means He will forgive you. Love includes a group of virtues like benevolence, graciousness, mercy, and persistence. When we read that “God is love” in 1 John 4:7, it means that He is all of those things.

Jesus included this character quality in His model prayer along with the holiness and trustworthiness of the Heavenly Father. In Matthew 6:12, Jesus urges us to call out to God to “forgive us our debts.”

Here are three tips for receiving God’s forgives through prayer

1. Cultivate a healthy view of your sin. We have a tendency to go to extremes in our understanding of sin. On one hand, we can blow sin out of proportion, making it impossible to to deal with. On the other hand, we can minimize sin to such an extent that it doesn’t really matter.

2. Take Him at His Word – He will forgive. 1 John 1:9 states that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (NASB)” This is a promise.

3. Confess your sin audibly if possible, to make it more definite. We can pray silently to ourselves or out loud for others to hear. Sometimes, praying out loud makes our prayer more focused and more definite.

The Heavenly Father is loving and merciful which means He will forgive you We can receive that forgiveness and make it our own through prayer. Thanks for join for this three-part mini-series on the intersection of our views of God as our Heavenly Father and our practice of prayer. Feel free to add one of your own tips for receiving God’s forgiveness in prayer in the comment section below.

Silhouettes of the Heavenly Father (Part 2)

What does God’s truthfulness mean for our prayer life?

Yesterday I started a mini-series of posts exploring the intersection of our views of God as our Heavenly Father and our practice of prayer. This material is based on breakout session I shared recently at a conference. This is important because the things we think about God (either good or bad, biblical or unbiblical, consistent or inconsistent) have a huge impact on how we approach Him in prayer.

The prophet Jeremiah warned the Israelites numerous times throughout the Old Testament book that bears his name, but one of the most colorful warnings is recorded in Jeremiah 10:1-10. The nations that surrounded Israel studied astronomical phenomena like eclipses and comets so they could worship the sun, moon, and stars as gods. In order to make their worship more tangible, they made idols out of wood and decorated them with precious metal.

Jeremiah described the deceptive nature of these worthless gods with a heavy dose of sarcasm. They looked impressive but they were fake. They were seen as powerful, but they had to be carried around like an infant. They were feared but the idols couldn’t do anything, good or evil, to enforce their will.

Jeremiah presents a sharp contrast in verse 6. Rather than being deceptive, God is trustworthy and lives up to His reputation. He stands above any other supposed god. He is great and mighty. He is real and alive, not fabricated. Jeremiah’s God was a real and truthful so He can be trusted.

Once again, Jesus brings out this aspect of the Heavenly Father’s character in his model prayer in Matthew 6:11. After acknowledging God’s holiness, Jesus asks the Father to “give us this day our daily bread.” This simple request is an expression of dependance and trust in the Heavenly Father.

Here are three tips for building your trust in God through prayer:

1. Focus on God, not just His blessings. Some folks only pray when they need or want something. God the Father loves to bless and provide for His children, but He also loves to spend time with them. Try to set aside time to pray even if you don’t need anything.

2. Be persistent, which is a sign of dependence. When you do make a request, repeat yourself often and be consistent. Not in a ritualistic way, but as a way to express your dependence on God.

3. Write out your prayer requests so that you can document His faithfulness. I tend to be forgetful. When I forget what I prayed for in the past, I miss an opportunity to praise God for His faithfulness in the present. Writing down you prayer petitions make it easier to trace out the trustworthiness of God.

God is real and truthful so He can be trusted. We can build our trust in God through prayer. Join me again tomorrow as I trace out another silhouette of the Heavenly Father. Feel free to add one of your own tips for expressing reverence in prayer in the comment section below.

Silhouettes of the Heavenly Father (Part 1)

What does God’s holiness mean for our prayer life?

Recently, I got a chance to participate in a conference by leading a breakout session on the intersection of our views of God as our Heavenly Father and our practice of prayer. This was an exciting study for me to share because the things we think about God (either good or bad, biblical or unbiblical, consistent or inconsistent) have a huge impact on how we approach Him in prayer. This blog post will kickoff a miniseries of blog posts on Silhouettes of the Heavenly Father.

One of the most illuminating stories about the character of God on the Old Testament is Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3:1-9. Moses had a mixed-up family tree. He was raised by a Jewish family and then adopted at an early age by the princess of Egypt. He grew up in the palace but eventually rebelled left home. When he found a wife on the backside of the dessert he also found a and a job taking care of his father-in-law’s flock.

While Moses was working he encountered a burning bush near Mt Horeb. It wasn’t unusual to see a bush on fire in the desert, but it was unusual that it wasn’t consumed. When Moses approached the fire to investigate, the Lord called out to him and told him to take off his sandals. Removing one’s shoes was a sign of reverence and humility in the presence of a holy God.

The fatherhood of God is assumed throughout the Old Testament. He always cared for and protected His people as His promises were passed down from generation to generation. That’s why it’s not surprising that the Lord introduces Himself in verse 6 as, “The God of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob.”

God was about to call Moses to lead His people out of bondage in Egypt, but first Moses had to learn that God is holy. Because God is holy He must be revered. Reverence is an attitude of fear, awe, and respect for someone in a position of authority.

Jesus Christ makes the connection between the fatherhood of God, God’s holiness, and prayer in His model prayer in Matthew. 6:9-14. After addressing His prayer to “Our Father who is in heaven,” He prays, “Hallowed (or holy) is your name.”

Here are three tips for expressing your reverence for God in prayer

1. Adjust your posture accordingly. The posture that we use as we pray is a reflection of our inner attitude towards God. You may need to stand, knee, or even lay prostrate to express your reverence toward Him.

2. Focus on God’s awesomeness before your need. Our innate selfishness pushes to focus on ourselves first before anyone else. Try listing out some of God’s praiseworthy attributes in addition to His holiness before you list out what you a looking for in prayer. This will help you put your wants and desires in perceptive as you approach the God of the universe.

3. Make every request contingent on God’s will. We often pray for the will of God to be done, but do we really mean it? Praying according to God’s will means He may have a better way of dealing with your request than you could have ever thought of. It takes humility and reverence to see that on a consistent basis.

God is holy and therefore He must be revered in our prayers. Join me again tomorrow as I trace out another silhouette of the Heavenly Father. Feel free to add one of your own tips for expressing reverence in prayer in the comment section below.

Do You Have Any Fish Yet?

A mysterious encounter leads to a boatload of fish. But that wasn’t the most surprising thing that happened by the Sea of Galilee.

Photo by Eduardo Goody on Unsplash

Jesus appeared to his disciples twice after the resurrection, but the disciples were still confused about should happen next. At some point, Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James, and John went back to fishing. After a long night with no fish a mysterious figure showed up on shore. The figure inquired about their catch and then told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. As soon as they did their net was full to capacity. Peter immediately jumped into the water and swam to shore recognizing the mysterious figure as Jesus.

Jesus was already cooking fish by a charcoal fire when the rest of the disciples arrived. As they hauled their catch on land, they heard Jesus uttered these remarkable words: “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught” These words were remarkable for three reasons. First, because Jesus was there to say them in person. He had been executed on a Roman cross and laid in a Jewish grave. The very fact that Jesus was alive again was amazing.

The second reason Jesus’ words were remarkable was because He gave them credit for catching the fish. Peter and his companions had fished all night and caught nothing. Jesus did the most important part by telling them where to cast their net, yet He still gave them ownership over their success.

Thirdly, Jesus’ words were remarkable because the disciples had abandoned and denied Jesus. When the authorities came to arrest Jesus in Garden of Gethsemane, they all ran away in fear. When Peter was questioned about his relationship with Jesus, he denied he even knew Jesus three times. The men who promised to be faithful had been faithless, and yet Jesus welcomed them anyway.

This is a picture of miraculous, gracious, forgiveness. Jesus wasn’t supposed to be a part of their frustration-filled fishing trip, but He was. Jesus didn’t have to help them catch a record-haul of fish, but He did. Jesus shouldn’t have welcomed them to join Him by the fire, but He called out the invitation. Jesus is still showing up and calling us close today.