VBS for Grown-Ups: The Bible Helps Us

All week long I’m thinking about the Bible points for our Vacation Bible School and what they mean for adults.  This week will be a mix of some old and some new as I share these lessons.

Tonight at Kingdom Rock VBS (Group Publishing), we’re learning: The Bible Help Us…Stand Strong!

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet…and a light for my path” Psalm 119:105
Originally published as Dumbo Always Makes Me Cry, July 25, 2012

Dumbo gets me ever time.  It’s the one Disney movie I remember bawling at as a kid. I haven’t gotten over it either, not after all these years.

Once one of my girls found a storybook at the library about Dumbo.  She checked it out and then climbed up in my lap at home so I could read it to her. At first it was easy.  Baby elephant with big ears . . . Blah blah blah . . .

Everyone makes fun of him, mocking and taunting (sniffle, sniffle).

The mommy tries to defend him and they lock her up.  Dumbo gets dragged away from her, their trunks locked in embrace until the last possible second . . .

Someone please pass the tissues!  I just can’t do this story without tears.

In fact, it’s hard for me to do this story at all.  I sent the book back to the library ahead of time and I can’t bring myself to watch the movie.  It’s just not worth the blubbering, red-faced mess I become.

Sure it’s a cartoon elephant who ultimately flies and makes friends, but it’s still a child hurt by the cruelty of others and taken away from his mama!

In Scripture, we see people reacting even more intensely than me snatching tissues out of the box at the slightest reminder of Dumbo’s story.

Not because of a fictional scenario, though. They were hearing God’s Word.

Eighteen-year-old Josiah, for example, was king of Judah when a member of his court went to the temple to perform some administrative tasks.  There he met the High Priest, who announced that he “happened” to have found the Book of the Law.

So, the royal secretary read it and then read it aloud to King Josiah:

“When the king heard what was written in the book, God’s Revelation, he ripped his robes in dismay. And then he called for Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the royal secretary, and Asaiah the king’s personal aide. He ordered them all: “Go and pray to God for me and for this people—for all Judah! Find out what we must do in response to what is written in this book that has just been found!” (2 Kings 22:11-13 MSG).

Josiah knew that God’s Word requires a response.

In the same way, when the exiles returned to Jerusalem and stood inside the rebuilt walls of the city, Ezra the High Priest read the Book of the Law of Moses to everyone.  Men and women and kids old enough to understood stood from morning until lunch time listening to him read Scripture aloud.

Just God’s Word.  And nothing else.  For hours and hours.

They didn’t yawn, tune it out, roll their eyes, poke their neighbor, or skip attending so they could do chores or kick back with the latest release of ancient Middle-eastern epic poetry.

Instead, “Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah 8:5-6).

At first, the people were filled with remorse and driven to repent.  Yet, Nehemiah (their governor) and the Levites (their priests) encouraged them to celebrate instead:

And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them” (Nehemiah 8:12 ESV).

Their response to Scripture was emotional and intense.

There was true repentance and grief over how their sins had broken the heart of God.005

There was a hunger for more and the willingness to stay as long as it took to hear what God had to say.

There was passionate worship with shouts of “Amen” and bowing low to the ground in awe of Mighty God.

There was joy and celebration because “they had understood the words that were declared to them.”

 How do you respond to God’s Word?

If we pick it up and read it with unemotional disinterest or with a bored and distracted mind we are missing it!

We are missing out on all the power of Scripture to revolutionize our hearts and minds, driving us to repentance, inciting us to intensely passionate worship and filling us with the kind of joy that makes us want to tell everyone what we’ve learned.

Scripture can’t be a mandatory item on our to-do list or an occasional emotional pick-me-up we drag off the shelves and dust off anytime life gets hard.

It’s got to be life and breath and food and drink to us because it holds God’s very own words, so active and relevant in our lives!  As you read, pray and ask God, “How do you want me to respond to this?”

Maybe you’ll need some of my tissues or maybe you’ll dance, but either way you’ll be giving God’s Word the response it deserves and you’ll allow the Bible to be your rock-solid foundation in any circumstance present and future.  The Bible will help you stand strong.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer 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.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

VBS for Grown-Ups: Prayer Helps Us

All week long I’m thinking about the Bible points for our Vacation Bible School and what they mean for adults.  This week will be a mix of some old and some new as I share these lessons.

Today at Kingdom Rock VBS (Group Publishing), we’re learning: Prayer Help Us…Stand Strong!kingdom-rock-logo-hi-res

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything (Philippians 4:6)
Originally published as “Run to the Throne,” May 6, 2011

“Teach me to run to you like they run to me for every little thing.”  That’s what Caedmon’s Call sings in their song, Sacred.

Yes, that’s true in my house.  I button buttons and zip zippers, diffuse arguments and mediate disputes, kiss bumps and supply Band-Aids for nearly invisible scratches, refill juice cups and find lost toys, help with homework and hard-to-sound-out words.

I answer to “Mom” all day, every day.  And, while at times I would like to sit still for more than five minutes at a time, I love that they turn to me for help.  At some point I know they will feel too grown up to bring all their problems to me.  Or maybe they’ll still come, but their problems will be so big that my supply of Band-Aids and apple juice won’t fix them anymore.

God must love when we turn to Him for help with all of the hopeful innocence that I see in my daughters’ eyes.  We could struggle to solve our troubles in our own strength or we could offer them up to Him—both the life crises and the daily concerns—-giving them over to a God both big enough to handle them and compassionate enough to care about them.

And as we do, we confess belief.  We say, “God I believe that You are Lord over all things, that no situation is too much for Your strength or too small for Your compassion.  I believe that You have saved me and will continue to save me.  I believe that You are Love.”

Years ago, a godly woman gave me this advice: “run to the throne before you run to the phone.”  Before we call on our friends and our own mommas with a problem, we should bring it to the God who can actually solve the problem we’re facing.

Too often we don’t.  We worry, we fret, we gossip, we chatter with others and seek solutions of our own making.

And all along, God’s waiting for us to just bring it all to Him.

Philippians 4:6 says:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

and Ephesians 6:18 says:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

We are to pray “in everything,” and “on all occasions.”  We should drop to our knees over a health concern or a family in crisis or a daughter’s lost toy.  It’s all too much for us anyway.

That’s what men like Daniel and Nehemiah did.

When King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream no one could interpret, Daniel and his friends plead “for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery” (Daniel 2:18).  When the decree was signed saying no one could pray to any god but the king, Daniel went home in front of an open window and “three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10).

Nehemiah prayed when he heard about the horrible state of the walls surrounding Jerusalem. When the king asked him what he wanted, Nehemiah “prayed to the God of heaven” before giving an answer.  Enemies threatened the work of Nehemiah and his crew, “but we prayed to our God” (Nehemiah 4:9) and when the enemies tried to frighten the Israelite construction team into quitting, Nehemiah prayed to God: “now strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:9).

They went to God with every annoyance, difficulty, burden, sadness, disaster,  enemy, and worry.Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_5902698_mature-woman-sits-on-the-beach-with-her-head-bowed-and-praying-as-the-sun-sets-on-the-water.html'>sframe / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

At times, I’m overwhelmed by the weight of the requests I’m carrying to the throne.  I’ve been duped by impossible-appearing circumstances into thinking that it’s fruitless to pray any longer.  That there is no hope.  That the marriage is truly dead.  That the housing situation will not be solved.  That the cancer statistics are too certain.  That the job market is too sparse.  That I’ve prayed for so long with no answer, nothing could possibly change now.

A friend confessed this in a whisper to me this week:  “I’m just tired of praying about it.”

I knew exactly what she meant.  Fighting and fighting to have faith for so long, to pray and pray with no evident answer, no release, no deliverance, it makes a body tired.

But we are to “always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  And God, who is so gracious and compassionate, knows the exact moment when we need to see a glimmer of His light in the dark places and when we need the smallest reminder that He is active and alive where we only see death.

And He does this.  He gives us these glimmers of hope and hints of His glory and it becomes prayer that helps us stand a while longer, stand no matter what, and even stand strong.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer 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.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

VBS for Grown-Ups: Family and Friends Help Us

All week long I’m thinking about the Bible points for our Vacation Bible School and what they mean for adults.  This week will be a mix of some old and some new as I share these lessons.

Today at Kingdom Rock VBS (Group Publishing), we’re learning: Family and Friends Help Us…Stand Strong!kingdom-rock-logo-hi-res

1 Thessalonians 5:11  “So encourage each other and build each other up”
Adapted from “We’ve Got to Pray,” originally published November 26, 2012

I saw it when I took my kids to the zoo.

We walked through the darkened reptile house and stopped at every single window trying to find the tomato frog, the pancake turtle, the boa, the green tree snake, the cotton mouth.  Sometimes we stared carefully through the glass for minutes, examining every leaf and rock, trying not to give up.

Occasionally, the family in front of us helpfully pointed out the camouflaged creature and we passed the news along: “There he is…do you see him?  On the big tree in the back.”

My older daughters patiently pointed out lizard after lizard, snake after snake for their three-year-old sister and waited for her to follow their pointing fingers until she could exclaim, “Oh, I see him!” with a giggle.

And then, when she needed to be given a boost to see the meerkats in the Africa exhibit, my youngest daughter didn’t even need to ask for a boost.  Without a second’s pause, her older sister hoisted her up onto the shelf and held her while she peered against the glass.

As we finished for the day, I–the super-planner, never-spontaneous mom— actually gave my kids permission to run and play in the fountains with the other kids.  The sun had finally warmed up the day and maybe it was crazy and thoroughly impractical of me, but I sat on the bench while my daughters splashed, ran and giggled.

Even then, I saw it.  My three-year-old looking around, not seeing me, and her older sisters bringing her to where I sat.  Then, as they played, they led her by the hand, they smoothed her wet hair away from her face, they called her over to join them.

It wasn’t a burden to help.  It was a joy, to be the big sister, the one who could be depended on, the cheerful face, the kind voice and the strong arms that a little sister needed to feel love010d and safe.

This….was….beautiful.

And there I was, sitting in those benches around the zoo fountains just watching my daughters.

They were teaching me that day, teaching me how to be the bigger sister.  Teaching me how to come alongside others who are in need, others who need a boost, others who need a friendly smile and someone to notice their lostness and lead them to a Savior.

But they also taught me how to be the younger sister.  How to trust others and the helping hands they offer.  How not to give up and despair when the blessing is out of reach or I can’t see the hope camouflaged among the mess.

Too often we try to go it alone out of pride, or shame, or inferiority, or just not knowing where to turn.  We could sit there at our kitchen tables by ourselves with our Bible and prayer journal and pray.

Yet, Scripture reminds us of the power of praying together.

When Esther prepared to enter King Xerxes’s presence uninvited, placing her life in jeopardy in order to save her people from mass genocide, she didn’t just pray on her own.

She organized a nationwide prayer meeting, instructing all the Jews of Susa to “fast for me.  Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day.  My maids and I will do the same…” (Esther 4:16 NLT).

Her story isn’t one of a lone heroine rising to face an enemy.  She trusted in the advice, counsel, encouragement and prayers of her godly cousin Mordecai and depended on the intercession of her people.  Without it, maybe she wouldn’t have stood before the king and the Jews would have been slaughtered.

Jesus didn’t just fall to the ground in the Garden of Gethsemane alone as he waited for his betrayer to arrive with an army of soldiers and an unwelcome kiss.  He took along “Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed.  He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.  Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:37-38).

Paul, who seemed so confident and capable in ministry and who always seemed content and able to rejoice despite circumstances, wasn’t afraid to ask the church in Ephesus to “pray for me, too.  Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan…” (Ephesians 6:19 NLT).

God brings us others because He didn’t design us to walk through the dark places alone.  He created us for community and formed shoulders to help carry burdens and hands to hold hands.  He meant for family and friends to help us stand strong…and for us to help others do the same.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer 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.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

VBS Lessons: No Matter Who You Are

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 Sky VBS, so that’s what I’ll be sharing about here.

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No Matter Who You Are….Trust God

I’m easily duped.

I view another person’s life from afar:

Big house, family vacations, nice cars: Finances are solid.

Posts on Facebook about a husband bringing home flowers and how often he cleans up the house, makes dinner and does bath night with the kids: Their marriage is strong and the husband is divinity in human flesh who puts all mere mortal husbands to shame.

Reports of kids’ school achievements, activity accomplishments and cute parenting stories about bedtime prayers and how much they love Jesus: They are perfect parents.

Then their life implodes.  The marriage crumbles seemingly overnight with pain that’s been ripping away the threads of their home for years.  They teeter on the cliff’s edge of bankruptcy and foreclosure or fall right on over into a financial pit.  Their kids rebel.  They disappear from church.  Perhaps they seek solace in suicide.

And we all are catapulted into shock.  We just didn’t know.

It’s true that a life without Jesus can’t be truly fruitful and that “a good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit; on the other hand, a bad tree doesn’t produce good fruit” (Luke 6:43).

Sometimes, though, we’re terribly accomplished counterfeiters, building a facade of happy perfection that belies the truth of what happens in the hidden places of our lives . . . . our marriages . .. our homes . . . our families . . . even more pointedly our hearts.  Maybe it’s just wax fruit that we’ve been surreptitiously tossing onto our branches all these years, but it looked so real.

It’s just impossible to know sometimes what goes on behind the closed doors of another person’s life.

But we try.  In the same way, we might quickly glance at a person’s clothes, makeup or hair and decide whether or not they love Jesus or whether or not they are close to salvation.

Maybe we’re the ones making judgments about others or maybe we’re the ones playing pretend.

God can give us a spiritual discernment to help us see truth in these situations, but often times we finite-minded humans only have what we see–the outward appearance–to help us form judgments and make our minds up about people.

To quote from my favorite movie, The Philadelphia Story, though, “The time to make your mind up about people is never.”

Consider how God’s story would change if He was fooled by outward appearances as we often are:

He would have overlooked the prostitute Rahab as a potential savior for the Israelite spies.

He would never have chosen the teenage shepherd boy, David, to rule Israel.

Jesus would have selected pharisees and teachers of the law to be his disciples instead of a tax collector, a bunch of burly fisherman, and a guy so prone to doubt it became part of his name, good old Doubting Thomas.

A raging bull of a man bent on the destruction of the New Testament church would never have become the apostle to the gentiles, the great advocate for salvation by grace alone, and the predominant writer of the New Testament

And when a centurion burst through the mob surrounding Jesus and asked this miraculous healer to save his ailing servant, Jesus would have turned in disgust.  This Roman soldier was an enemy.  A Gentile.  An occupier.  Instead, Jesus, amazed by his faith, heals the ailing servant with a simple command.

Scripture confirms that “people judge by the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT).  Aren’t you thankful for that?

King David shared this same wisdom with his son Solomon: “the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts(1 Chronicles 28:9).  In Hebrews, we read that “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

God always knows our motivations and the condition of our heart.  He’s not duped as I am by the Kodak moment snapshots of our lives, where the makeup is perfect, the hair in place, the smiles just right.

He sees all the photos we rejected, not just the one we framed on the wall for all to see.

Yes, God knows the truth about us all—and the truth that God sees ever so clearly—-is that we all need a Savior.

And He is there ready to receive us, whether we’re joyful or broken with sorrow, whether our marriages are strong or crumbling, whether we live in massive new homes or tumbledown shacks, whether we’re church girls from way back or partyers who’ve discovered the emptiness of indulgence.

No matter who you are . . . trust God.

He doesn’t require us to have it all together before we stroll into His presence cocky and self-assured.  He accepts us crawling in on our knees seeking grace, sweet grace, unmerited and undeserved salvation.

Then He lifts our heads up so we can gaze on His glory, covers us with forgiveness, redeems us and makes us new, uses us for His kingdom purposes, and invites us continually into His presence, where we don’t need to pretend or hide any more.

And He reminds us that others need to know this grace-giving Savior, too, not just those who look broken and needy, but even those who seem to have it all together.  No matter who we are, we all need a Savior.

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.

VBS Lessons, Day Four: God loves you, no matter what

This week I’m going through the lessons of Group’s PandaMania VBS and considering how they apply to more than just kids!

God Loves You, No Matter What
Lead me along the path of everlasting life
Psalm 139:24

After a conversation with a friend this week, I recalled the first time I had to turn over my green card on the classroom behavior chart and leave the yellow card on top.  I was in third grade and had forgotten my math homework.  The teacher asked us to hand it in and I quickly zipped open my backpack to grab up my finished paper.  Only it wasn’t there.  So, I pushed things around gently and then more energetically.  I scrambled through the papers and then yanked everything out.  Slowly I realized my paper wasn’t in there.  I had nothing to turn in.

So, I had to shuffle over to the behavior bulletin board and take my punishment.  A yellow card for Heather.  Bright yellow so everyone in the class could see I messed up.  I forgot.  I was careless and irresponsible.

Embarrassed, I slinked back to my desk and slumped down hoping to become invisible in my chair.  My face was burning red hot, the kind of shame that makes your ears sear into the sides of your head.

But, when I sheepishly glanced at the bulletin board the next morning, I saw a green card next to my name again.  It was a new day and with it came a rush of joy that the mistakes of yesterday could be so simply erased and forgotten.

It was the astonishing grace of a fresh start.

That’s what Christ did for us.  Raising us up from the dead.  Taking our place on the cross and erasing the record of our wrongs so that we could stand before the Most Holy God and look . . . holy and pure.

He saw you and me as worth saving even when we were splattered with the mud of sins and caked in the foul dirt of this world. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

So, what should we do with this amazing grace?

I know what I do most of the time—forget it, take it for granted, or, even worse, nullify it by trying to be perfect.  I begin to live in a spiritual world of musts, shoulds, do’s, don’ts, shalls and shall nots.

The Psalmist wrote, “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness; therefore, You are feared” (Psalm 130:3-4).

Yes, we would be pounded into the ground if we carried the weight of our sins on our wimpy shoulders.  We couldn’t stand in His presence much less crawl face to the ground before His throne.

But.

But with Him there is forgiveness.  Praise God!

The Psalmist ends that thought with, “Therefore, You are feared.”  Not the fright of might, though.  Not the run and hide kind of fear.  Not obeying God to escape His wrath.  Not surrendering to Him in order to earn His love.

The Old Testament Bible Knowledge Commentary says this is the fear of “worship and obedience.  The Scriptures state that many results come from fearing the Lord; the most notable is that the person keeps himself from sin.”

In January of this year, I felt the heavy nudging of the Holy Spirit asking me two questions, one of which was, “Are you ready for where I want to take you next?”  The God who loved me passionately was asking me to walk in worship and obedience—holy fear in response to abundant grace.

“That depends,” I answered.  “Where are we going?  How long will it take?  What is the expense-to-benefit ratio?”

It sounds mercenary, but those are the questions that rumbled around in my head and heart for weeks.  Was it safer to stay where I was?  Was safer necessarily better?

His question sounds so simple and easy when we belt out “I surrender all” in a church service.  Then there’s that moment when God takes you up on your offer and asks you to surrender your plans for the future, your comfort, your life, and you wonder how much “all” actually is.

And then I felt it, the pull of performance and the tug on my heart to just do what God wants so He’ll love me, so I won’t let Him down, so I can live up to what a Bible Study girl should do.  It was a works-based response of duty rather than the bride’s response of affection to the overwhelming passion and love of her Groom.

So I waited to answer God.  I waited until I truly believed that God would love me no matter what.  That the choices I make here may affect God’s plans for me, may affect my impact on others, may affect how I am blessed, but they will never affect His unconditional and unending love.  Only then, in the light of so much grace, knowing that I answered Him out of love and not duty, I bashfully answered, “I do.”  I do want to go with You.  I do want whatever you desire for me.

Why do we obey Him?  Why do we whisper “I do” when He asks us to surrender?  Why do we choose the difficult right over the much easier wrong?

So He will love us?  No—because He loves us.  That’s what we are learning at VBS tonight—-God loves us, no matter what.

We ask Him to “lead me along the path of everlasting life”  because there’s no other place where we can walk next to Him, our tiny palm nestled inside His nail-scarred hand (Psalm 139:24).

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.