VBS – What a Great Place to Share the Message of Salvation

Salvation, What Does That Mean?

VBS is a common acronym used for Vacation Bible School. Many of us grew up going to VBS and have good memories from it.

Vacation Bible School can be traced back to Hopedale, Illinois in 1894. Sunday School teacher D. T. Miles was a public-school teacher. She felt limited by time constraints in teaching the Bible to children. So, she started a daily Bible school that taught children during the summer. The first Bible school enrolled 40 students and lasted four weeks. A local school was used for classes, while an adjoining park was used for recess.

While not under the title of Vacation Bible School, Dr. Abraham L. Latham, of the Third Presbyterian Church in Chester, Pennsylvania, initiated a five-week, four-hour day summer Bible school in 1912. While at its peak, it had 650–700 students. This was claimed to be the world’s first summer Bible school.

Today, many churches run their own Vacation Bible School programs. Some churches use themed curriculum programs from their respective denominations. Others use independent publishing houses which provide easy preparation and include marketing tools.

Our church had VBS last week. Thanks to everyone who made this possible.

What a great place to share the message of salvation.

So, what is salvation? Salvation is the act of saving or protecting from harm, risk, loss, destruction, etc. It is a source, cause, or means of being saved or protected from harm, risk, etc. Deliverance from the power and penalty of sin; redemption.

In Romans 10:1-13, it says, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.’ Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’.”

Salvation comes at a cost, but the price has already been paid.

“Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:6-8)

It’s up to us to believe and accept this gift.

Sharing the message of salvation in VBS is great, but it shouldn’t stop there. All of us who believe need to be bold and share this message beyond VBS.

Choosing to believe is a decision that you have the power to make or not…it’s up to you.

Be Who God Made You To Be

Don’t Be Afraid to Witness Boldly

God made each and every one of us exactly how He wanted us to be. We are unique and different and have skills that are specific to us. 

It’s up to us to be willing to use our skills the way they were intended. 

As a Christian, it can be scary to talk about our faith. We may not know what others believe and don’t want to impose our beliefs on them. This “kid glove” viewpoint seems to be more and more common.  

A recent article in The Washington Stand, written by Sara Holliday pointed out that 40% of British Christians prefer not to share their faith. According to a recent survey, British Christians seem to be going through a bit of a “self-confidence crisis”, as phrased by the researcher. 

“Authorized by the Institute for the Impact of Faith in Life (IIFL) and steered by Whitestone Insight, the survey, “Britain’s attitudes to faith in public life,” received responses from 2,064 U.K. adults between May 1 and 2 of 2024. Author Dr. Jake Scott emphasized, “Data were weighted to be representative of all U.K. adults.” Among several key findings, perhaps the most eye-opening was that roughly 40% of the Christian respondents prefer to keep their faith to themselves and out of “the workplace and politics.” 

Some other statistics include “49% of religious respondents” who were opposed to seeing more religion in the media, and 27% felt religion was not necessarily “a force for good in society.” This isn’t exactly encouraging news.”  

This doesn’t sound very bold. 

“However, there were two positives — maybe even encouraging — aspects to these results worth recognizing. 

First, there was a distinction between “exclusivist” Christians and “cultural” Christians — the former being “those who believe their religion is the only true faith,” and the latter being “those who were baptized but attend church infrequently and do not strongly identify with the Christian faith.”  

The exclusivists were far more willing to share their faith, as they are called to in Scripture. And we can’t be too surprised the cultural Christians, who don’t appear to take their faith seriously, don’t take intentionally sharing their faith seriously. 

The second encouraging point was the influence faith seems to have on younger generations such as Gen Z. As reported, “69% of respondents within the 18-24 year old bracket believe their faith significantly impacts their lives,” 72% “find faith helps them find purpose in life,” 78% “feel their faith has shaped their moral values,” and 53% “believe their faith to be the only true religion.” 

Reading about Christians intentionally keeping their faith to themselves and not having an optimistic view of their faith should motivate us to offer some encouragement. Moving forward, let’s not focus on these statistics.  

Scripture calls us to be bold, not timid. It calls us to share our faith, not purposefully keep it to ourselves. 

In Acts 4:1-13, Peter and John are arrested and taken before the rulers, elders, and teachers of the law because they healed a crippled man. Peter told them that the power that healed the man was Jesus, the man they killed.  

The members of the council were amazed at the boldness of Peter and John because they were just ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. But they were with Jesus. 

Being bold doesn’t mean we shout from a mountain top or get up in someone’s face. We can be bold by living our daily lives the way God made us. 

We are all ordinary. Made just the way God wanted us. It’s up to us to witness boldly the way He made us. 

We Should Pray Like Jabez

And How Did He Pray?

As names in the Bible go, Jabez is not someone who we hear a lot about. He is mentioned in 1 Chronicles in middle of the genealogy of Judah. As you’re reading through the long list of names there in Chapter 4 Verse 9 and 10, Jabez pops up. 

Another thing that’s a little different is that rather than telling who his father, bothers, or sons were, it says… 

There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request. 

And that’s how we should pray.  

Then in Verse 11, it goes right back to: so and so was the father of so and so and on and on. 

Other than the fact that Jabez’s prayer is stuck in the middle of this genealogical list of names, what makes it a good example of how we should pray? 

Prayer is our direct line of communication with God, our way of expressing our hopes, dreams, and desires. Among the countless prayers that have been uttered throughout history, this one stands out. 

This prayer resonates with those who long to move beyond the limitations of their current situation and experience God’s abundant provision. 

But what makes this prayer so different?  

It’s the simplicity of it. In a couple of short sentences, it recognizes our need for God’s power to transform our lives. It’s the boldness to ask for God’s favor, knowing that He delights in blessing His children. It’s the faith to believe that God can take us from the ordinary to the extraordinary, from the mundane to the miraculous. 

There are the four simple but powerful points to Jabez’s prayer –  

  1. First, Jabez asks God to bless him. - This is a recognition that all blessings come from God and that we are dependent on God’s favor and provision. Jabez desires God’s blessings in all areas of his life, both spiritually and materially. 
  2. Next, Jabez asks for an enlargement of his territory. - This can be understood as a request for God to expand our influence, impact, and opportunities. Jabez wants to make a greater difference in the world and fulfill his God-given purpose. 
  3. Then, Jabez asks for God’s hand to be with him. – This is a plea for God’s presence and guidance in his life. Jabez recognizes that he cannot accomplish anything without God’s help and desires to walk closely with Him. 
  4. Lastly, Jabez asks God to keep him from harm and free from pain. – This is a request for protection and deliverance from any form of evil or suffering. Jabez desires to live a life shielded from harm and filled with peace. 

And the last words of Verse 10… “And God granted him his request.”  

Too often we make prayer something too lofty and grand. Something that, as flawed and imperfect sinners, we have no right to tell God. After all, He made everything and can do anything.  

We need to stop kidding ourselves. God already knows our hearts and minds. He knows what we want before we do.  

This doesn’t mean that God isn’t all powerful and shouldn’t be honored. What it does mean is that there is a balance of honor and relationship.  

God wants a relationship with us.  

We are supposed to honor our earthly parents, but we’re also supposed to have a relationship with them.  

Jabez spoke to God honestly, openly, and respectfully and God heard him. 

If we align our desires with God’s, He will hear our prayers as well.

Life Happens…It’s What We Do When It Does That Matters

It All Comes Down to Choice

We’re all faced with a lot of choices every day. When situations happen, we can choose this or that.

Choice is the most powerful weapon we have.

Too often we make the wrong choices. Sometimes we make what we think to be the right decisions based on what we know at the time, only to find out later it was the wrong one. Then we can make a different decision.

The important thing is that when making decisions, we’re making them for the right reasons with the right guidance.

We need to be clear on what makes a decision right.

In 2 Kings 18:1-5, Hezekiah became king of Judah. He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done. He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it.

 Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel.

He was 25 years old when he became king. I don’t know about you, but I made some bad decisions when I was 25.

King Sennacherib of Assyria came and began attacking the towns in Judah. After which Hezekiah offered to pay Sennacherib if he would withdraw his armies. The king of Assyria demanded a settlement of more than eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold. To gather this amount, King Hezekiah used all the silver stored in the Temple of the Lord and in the palace treasury. Hezekiah even stripped the gold from the doors of the Lord’s Temple and from the doorposts he had overlaid with gold, and he gave it all to the Assyrian king.

Nevertheless, the king of Assyria sent his commander in chief, his field commander, and his chief of staff from Lachish with a huge army to confront King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. The Assyrians took up a position beside the aqueduct that feeds water into the upper pool, near the road leading to the field where cloth is washed. They summoned King Hezekiah… (2 Kings 18:13-18)

Sennacherib offers Hezekiah another deal telling him that no other kings can help him, and neither can God. He tells them to give up and become his slaves. It would be better for them than staying and starving to death. (2 Kings 18:19-37)

After the king of Assyria sent the message, Isaiah the prophet replied, “This is what the Lord says: Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. Listen! I myself will move against him, and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword. (2 Kings 19:5-7)

After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers, he went up to the Lord’s Temple and spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: “…You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God.

“It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that You alone, O Lord, are God.” (2 Kings 19:14-19)

That night the angel of the Lord went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there.

One day while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with their swords. (2 Kings 19:35-37)

Life happened to Hezekiah, he asked God for deliverance, and they received it.

We need to remember to go to God when life happens to us.

Deliverance comes from God…discipleship is what we do.

Being Called Out for Our Mistakes Makes Us Better

But Getting Better Requires Change

Some people like calling others out for their mistakes. Others, not so much. There are different reasons people do this. Some are good and can be helpful. Some are more for the person doing the calling out, rather than to help the person being called out.

These differences have to do with our different personalities.

There are several different personality tests, but my favorite is the DISC assessment. This is a simple self-assessment tool that categorizes individuals into four personality traits: dominance, influence, stability, and compliance.

Knowing these differences between ourselves and others can be helpful when working with people.

This difference became apparent to me years ago when I asked my wife for her input about something I wrote. Of course, I thought it was perfect. She on the other hand made some corrections and changes.

This crushed me…how could she be so mean?

This was about the time I took the DISC assessment. It was very enlightening. I found out that she was among the 10% of the people who are dominant. This does not mean that she was mean or that she was trying to hurt my feelings. It just meant that she was honest and direct.

I, on the other hand, was among the 25% who are compliant. I’m resistant to change and can be rigid.

Getting better requires change.

Then you have people who are stable. This is the largest group at 40%. These people are loyal followers and slow to act. And then there’s the final 25% who are the influencers. These people are artistic and are continually coming up with new and different ideas and are easily distracted.

Pastor Lisa’s message on Sunday was about the prophet Elijah calling out Ahab, the king of Israel, for his worshiping of Baal and not God. Elijah must have been in the 10% of the dominant, take-charge people. With 90% of the people being in the other three personalities, they were following whatever the king told them.

In 1 Kings 18:16-39, Elijah calls out Ahab and tells the king that he is leading the people in the wrong direction. Elijah shows the people God’s power and Baal’s lack of power with a demonstration involving altars.

The pagan priests go through an elaborate process with their offering to no avail. Then Elijah prepares an offering, soaks it in water, and then calls to show the people that God is Lord.

 Immediately, the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench!

And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”

Too often we’re led astray by just following the crowd and not being aware. Then, because we are followers, we lead other people astray because they are followers too.

Don’t be a blind follower or blind leader. We need to recognize our mistakes and change our direction.

Can We Have Wisdom Like Solomon?

Hopefully We’re Wiser Than He Was

Making decisions can be a hard thing. Should I do this, or should I do that? It’s easier when there’s a clear choice of good or bad.

It’s much harder when it’s deciding between good and good.

Wouldn’t it be nice if God would just tell us what to do?

The problem with this is that we would not have free will. We would be nothing more than puppets. We wouldn’t like that either.

We just need wisdom to help us make these choices.

Solomon is often associated with wisdom. In 1 Kings 3:5-15, God comes to Solomon in a dream and asks him what he wants.

Solomon was a young man and had become the leader of a huge nation. He asks God for, “…an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”

The Lord was pleased that Solomon asked for wisdom.

So, God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have!

And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life!

And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.”

Later, Solomon starts listening to the wrong voices…mainly his 1000 wives. (1 Kings 11:1-13)

“In Solomon’s old age they turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the Lord his God, as his father, David had been. In this way, Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight; he refused to follow the Lord completely.

The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord…”

Both David and Solomon received direction and blessings from God, but their lives ended up drastically different.

David made plenty of mistakes, but he repented and realigned with God. Solomon, on the other hand, did not. This resulted in consequences for Solomon’s family and the entire kingdom.

We need to constantly be in communication with God. This ongoing, nonstop connection is the only way that we can align our desires with His. Sure, we’ll make mistakes and wrong decisions. This is what happens in a fallen world.

But we also have the power of choice and can ask for forgiveness and repent of those mistakes. David chose this and Solomon didn’t.

We need to align what we ask from God with God.

Living a Good Life is Not as Hard as We Make it

Learning to Live Life from the Bible

Over the past couple of weeks, we been looking forward to Easter through a series of messages about Peter’s relationship with Jesus.

The first week was about Peter’s introduction to Jesus (John 1:35-42) by his brother Andrew. This simple act of introduction changed not only Peter’s life but the lives of those he met, as well as people throughout history and even still today.

Being introduced to Jesus can have this same kind of impact on us today and others that are introduced to Him.

Last week was about Peter’s invitation from Jesus (Matthew 4:18-20, Luke 5:1-11). Jesus invited Peter to follow Him and fish for people rather than fish.

Jesus invites every one of us to join Him. He gives us the direction of where to go and how to do it…whatever our “it” is.

This week we learned about Peter’s instructions from Jesus. A big part of learning is instruction. We all need it, but too often think we have it all figured out. Peter was no different.

In Mark 8:31-9:1 Jesus tells His followers that He is going to suffer terrible things, ultimately going to be killed and then be raised from the dead. This is not the kind of king the people were expecting, and Peter reprimanded Jesus for saying it.

Jesus then told Peter, “Get behind me Satan. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

Jesus went on to tell the crowd that if they wanted to be His followers that they needed to quit focusing on their worldly thoughts and focus first and foremost on what He was telling them.

Just like the people listening to Jesus then, we need to be open to His instruction in our lives today.

We can get His instruction today through daily reading of the Bible, being a part of a Bible-believing church, and communicating with Him regularly through prayer.

Invitation, introduction, and instruction…a good way to live life.

Life is Like a Rubik’s Cube

Wouldn’t it be Nice to Have the Solution to the Puzzle of Life?

Life can be a bit complicated and difficult to find solutions, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort. Solving life’s problems is similar to the Rubik’s Cube.

The Rubik’s Cube is one of the most famous puzzles of all time. Invented in 1974 by a Hungarian professor of Architecture, Erno Rubik, the cube was not originally intended to be a game; its original purpose was for science.

The first time he scrambled the cube he thought it would be unsolvable. However, after a month’s time, Erno was finally able to solve the first Rubik’s Cube.

The purpose of the cube was to be able to rearrange the colors of a scrambled cube so that each of the six faces contained only one solid color. This is an extremely difficult feat…

There are over 40,000 ways to arrange the cube!

Rubik’s Cube enthusiasts have developed standard protocols for solving even the most difficult cube permutations. Today, these protocols are followed religiously by competitors in the worldwide Rubik’s cube speed cubing competitions. Most of these allow for solving the cube using less than 100 moves.

Many still struggle to solve their first cube, but the competition for speed cubing remains high, with the current record being 3.13 seconds.

The Rubik’s Cube is a fun and entertaining device that engages the minds of people around the world.

Life is like the Rubik’s Cube in that it is made up of a variety of colorful pieces, some the same, some different. All these pieces can be moved around, but they’re still connected to the bigger story. As we’ve been going through the Bible, we’ve seen examples of some colorful characters trying to figure things out.

Getting one side of a Rubik’s Cube done is pretty simple, but the further into it we get the harder it is. Life is like this as well, some parts of it are easy, some, not so much. Once we’ve figured out the puzzle and continue to do it, it gets easier. But, if you quit doing it for a while, it can be hard to pick it up and start again.

Solving a Rubik’s Cube can be done without help, but it’s easier with some. This help can come in the form of people with experience showing us or it could be written instructions. The same is true in life. We can figure it out on our own, but it’s quicker and easier with help. This is where spiritual mentors, our church families, and the Bible can help. In both the Rubik’s Cube and life, if we don’t accept the help, it’s going to be harder and take longer. And we might never get it right.

Embrace this puzzle called life, seek help and keep working to find its solutions.

How Do You Know If You’re Heading in the Right Direction or NOT?

When it Comes to Clarity of Life Purpose, This Can Be a Hard Question to Answer

Too often, we find ourselves going through life without really knowing where we’re headed or why. This may be because of where we were born and raised, our family and community dynamic, or an unexpected situation in which we are caught.

Going through life, headed in the wrong direction leads to being lost.

People start life making decisions based on what they know. We all know of stories where the child is living out the life that is expected of them. Whether that’s following in the family business or going all in on sports because that’s what a parent wanted. Or maybe someone takes a job to pay the bills and continues to work there without any clear reason.

Or, we may have been doing exactly what we’re supposed to up until the time we need to make changes. These changes may be a slight adjustment to course, or a complete one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turnaround.

Being aware is where clarity of direction starts.

Sometimes the direction changes come in a flash of light or maybe it involves getting hit upside the head with a board. I experienced the latter.

In Act 9:1-16 Saul experiences the flash of light direction change. Saul had been persecuting the early followers of Jesus. This is how he had been raised and what he had been taught. He thought he was doing the right thing. While Saul was on his way to Damascus to round up some of the followers, he was blinded by a bright light and redirected.

Saul could have pushed back and stayed the course…but he didn’t. Instead, he chose to follow the directions given to him by Jesus. Saul became Paul and went on to do the work he had been called to do.

We need to open our eyes and ears to what we’ve been called to do.

We can be led by the crowd to do what seems like the right thing. How can we be clear on what the right thing is? Ultimately, there is an internal voice that aligns with the Word of God. We can choose to listen to it or not.

The crowd’s voice can be very loud and make it hard to hear God’s voice. We need to be aware that sometimes when we choose to listen the crowd instead of God there may be a flash of light or board coming our way.

Sometime this change of direction can be a scary thing. Going to some place out of our comfort zone may require courage. If we want to go where we’re supposed to and be obedient, we need to be willing to step out in faith.

Be open to God’s leading, and you’ll experience a life beyond your dreams.

What’s the Best Way to Navigate the Difficulties of Life?

This Life Expedition is Made Easier with a Good Leader and a Good Plan

This past weekend our area was hit by a strong wind. I’m talking about a really, really strong wind. I’ve heard reports ranging from 80 to 100 miles per hour. I don’t know what the exact wind speed was, but what I do know is this…there was a lot of damage, a Ferris wheel blown over at the county fair, and a widespread electric outage for around to 24 hours in some areas.

The upside is that I haven’t heard of any serious injuries and witnessed neighbors helping neighbors.

Being without electricity for that amount of time brought to light how spoiled we are.

Don’t get me wrong…I love being spoiled with electricity and don’t want to go without it. But the disruption this caused to our everyday routines was evident. No electricity meant – no air conditioning, for those of us with well water…no running water, no charging of cell phones, thawing of food in freezers, etc.

This meant starting my day without my normal morning shower or coffee. ☹

I love routines and am much more productive when they are followed, but sometimes things happen that upset those routines. The question is how are we going to handle these disruptions?

Sometimes these routines can become so prominent that we become rigid and don’t look outside them. Jesus pointed this out to the Pharisees in Luke 14:1-6. Jesus was healing people on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees were stuck in their rules and laws. Jesus pointed out to them that if their son or ox fell in a well on the Sabbath, they would help them out.

When we get so set in our ways we don’t want to change. This leads to making excuses. In Luke 14:15-24, Jesus shares a story about people who were invited to a banquet but made up all kinds of excuses not to go.

It isn’t like they were being asked to do something that was hard or unpleasant…it was a banquet after all.

We are like the people in this story. We’ve been invited to an eternal banquet with Jesus, but we get caught up in our daily routines and make excuses for not accepting the invitation. We put it off.

When things like storms and power outages happen, we need to be clear about who we are and what things are the most important. We need to be flexibly rigid.

Life is an expedition and like any big undertaking there are going to be difficulties and hardships along the way.

The question is how are we going to handle them?

If we have a good Leader (Jesus) and a good plan (Bible) the adventure will be much better.