Every year at Vacation Bible School I watch as adults lead the excited children around the church from station to station, sing the songs (maybe we even do the accompanying motions), shout and laugh. Do we also, though, compartmentalize? Do we box up the VBS messages and declare they are just for kids and not relevant for us?
But is there any message in Scripture that God delivers just for people under 18? We older and wiser ones sometimes make faith so complicated and fail to recognize or really consider the beautiful truths in these simple messages. So, this week, I’m thinking about VBS and what the lessons for children mean for you and me. Our church is doing Group’s PandaMania VBS, so that’s what’s on my mind.
God Made You
“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex”
God made us. What then should we do about that?
Do we nod our heads in complacent agreement? Do we go about our everyday lives with no realization, no recognition, no response to an act so incredible and a God so powerful? Have we forgotten the wonder of it all?
Sometimes we do just that.
But in this very moment, I pause. “God made me. God made you.” That should elicit a response of unconfined, unhindered, from-the-bottom-of-my heart, I-don’t-care-what-anyone-else-thinks praise and thanksgiving.
So often we determine the mission and measure the success of VBS by how well we reached unchurched kids. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Yet, VBS has power for churched kids, too. For one week we encourage them to throw their hands up and sing out loud. We tell them it’s not just okay, but it’s expected for you to be unashamed about worshiping.
It’s not that way all the time. Truth be told, in normal church mode in some sanctuaries, not everyone looks excited about worshiping God. We so often grip our hands to our side and feel the eyes of others on us if we look too involved, raise our hands, close our eyes, sing loudly. For some of us, Sunday morning worship means feeling peer pressure and avoiding embarrassment rather than giving God the praise He deserves.
This isn’t about musical styles or song choices or volume or service order. This isn’t about personal preferences. This isn’t about one person judging another’s worship and determining a set formula for what praise looks like. How you worship is between you and God and it may be different from day to day, song to song, moment to moment.
God Himself though has declared that “true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).
I can’t help but quote my favorite description of praise from David Crowder’s Praise Habit. He writes:
We naturally understand praise . . . Kids just know how to enjoy things. They give themselves fully to whatever has a hold on them. Remember as children how we would fearlessly hold up our favorite toy and petition anyone who was in close proximity to behold it? ‘Look, Mom, look!’
We instinctively knew what it was to praise something. It’s always been in us. We were created for it. . . .But as adults we become self-conscious and awkward. Something gets lost. I think we do it to each other. At some point, I hold the toy up exultantly and you comment that it looks ridiculous to hold the toy up in such a way. . . And we slowly chip away at each other’s protective coating of innocence until one day we wake up and notice we are naked and people are pointing.”
I’ve seen this happen. After a few months in Children’s Church, my oldest daughter told me that kids laughed at her when she sang and made her feel silly for raising her hands.
Do we adults do this same thing to each other? Do we do it for the children who sit next to us in the pews all around the sanctuary?
Do they watch us and see what wholehearted worship and total unashamed glorifying God looks like? Or do they instead see how peer pressure should control our behavior and even our relationship to God?
For boys, the pressure is even greater. How often do they see men not just standing up when church music plays, but unashamedly praising God? Our behavior mostly teaches boys that men don’t get emotional about worship, men don’t raise hands, men don’t sing out, men don’t look involved, men don’t close their eyes.
We forget David. He fought bears and lions with his hands and as a young boy felled a giant with a slingshot while grown men in hardened armor cowered in their tents. He led armies and slew tens of thousands of the enemy Philistines.
He was the manliest of manly men and yet he also penned most of Psalms, the songs of praise to God. He danced before the Lord and declared “I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this”? (2 Samuel 6:21b-22a). This warrior-king didn’t care what other people thought when he worshiped.
Later David Crowder also writes
My point is we are all fragile. Somewhere along the way we abandoned abandon. Or perhaps we gained things that need to be discarded. We have covered ourselves. Someone pointed out that we were naked, and the clothing we have woven is bulky and pretentious. It hinders our freedom of movement. Expression with childlike spontaneity has become difficult. It bares too much of us. . . .
What if we were so moved by who God is, what He’s done, what He will do, that praise, adoration, worship, whatever, continuously careened in our heads and pounded in our souls? . .. This is what we will do for eternity. What makes us think our time on earth should be any different? What keeps it from being so?”
Charles Spurgeon wrote, “When your heart is full of Christ, you want to sing.” The response in Scripture is clear, when we consider that God has made us, made the universe, poured out His sacrificial love for us, given us the very breath of a new day and provided us with all that we need, we “sing to Him, sing praise to Him” (1 Chronicles 16:9).
- We “sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).
- We “lift up (our) hands in the sanctuary and praise the LORD” (Psalm 134:2)
- We “make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise” (Psalm 98:4).
David Crowder is right. We will be singing praises to God for all eternity. We will be surrounded by others doing the same at the throne of the Most High God and there won’t be anything in heaven to hold us back from giving “all that is in” us in worship to Him (Revelation 5:13). No peer pressure. No embarrassment. No expectations.
I tell my daughters all the time—Don’t be embarrassed for singing. Be embarrassed not to sing. Don’t worry about what other people think. Care about what God is thinking.
Can you do the same thing? Can you put aside notions of dignity, feelings of embarrassment, worries about what other people will think and fix your eyes only on God?
This week, every time the kids hear me say, “God made you,” they are to respond immediately in a shout of worship, “Thank you, God!” How will you also respond in thanksgiving?
PandaMania VBS runs all this week (06/20 to 06/24) from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Newington Baptist Church for ages 4 through 5th grade. We hope to see you there!
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.