VBS Lessons: No Matter What People Do

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 Sky VBS! (Group Publishing), we’re learning: No Matter What People Do…Trust God!

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In high school, Carl didn’t score touchdowns like the sports star Norman.  Instead, Carl served as the sports manager for the team—close to the action, but never quite getting the glory.

One day in the locker room, Norman played a teenage prank on Carl and then they went their separate ways.  Norman played football and studied education in college, earning his master’s degree and returning to the high school to teach and coach for over 30 years.

Carl took a different path.  More than 50 years after that initial locker room prank, Carl showed up at Norman’s house and shot him with a pistol.  At 73 years old, Carl is now starting a life term in prison.

Not exactly the best way to spend your retirement years.

I read this new story last week and it troubled me in a deep-down unshakeable way.  It’s partly because the story dismisses that teenage prank.  Of course, it couldn’t possibly be worth killing someone over 50 years after the fact.  Of course it makes no sense to murder a 70-year old man for something he did in high school.

Yet, bullying, teasing, and publicly embarrassing others seem to be the signature traits of our society and they aren’t easily shrugged off, even by the strongest and most confident among us.  It’s a reminder to us all how how lives can be destroyed by what we say and do.

The story, though, also illustrates something else.  It shows how what people do to us usually determines our character far more than it impacts theirs.

Carl—the 73-year-old killer over a high school grudge—lived an embittered life, entangled in jealousy and unforgiveness.  Norman lived a full life that sounded successful and happy.

We have a similar choice when people intend evil for us.  Like Joseph staring across an Egyptian banqueting table at the brothers who sold him into slavery decades before, we must choose what to do with our offenders.

The Lord’s Prayer instructs us clearly: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

If you look at most modern translations of this passage, they read something like: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12 HCSB).

That’s because we perceive wrongs against us as a debt that someone needs to pay.  Someone owe us because they took something from us–our innocence, our purity, our dignity, our job, our financial security, our husband, our self-esteem . ..

Pretty soon we’re wrapped up in unforgiveness and anger so tight that our whole life is hindered.  We’re tripping all over ourselves when we try to get anywhere.

In his book, Enemies of the Heart, Andy Stanley reminds us that the only way to break free from the snare of anger and unforgiveness is to cancel the debt.

We need to forgive.  Why?  Because we’ve been forgiven.

Stanley writes:

In the shadow of my hurt, forgiveness feels like a decision to reward my enemy.  But in the shadow of the cross, forgiveness is merely a gift from one undeserving soul to another (129).

Jesus Himself, tortured and crucified by a jeering mob when he had done nothing at all to deserve it, still looked down from the cross and prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

In “You Want Me To Pray What?” I wrote:

“In the same way, Stephen, the first Christian martyr, prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” just as the final stones pelted his body and killed him (Acts 7:59).

Have you considered who Stephen was praying for in that moment?  One of the men standing by the coat rack cheering on the crowd was Saul—later the apostle Paul.

Stephen asked for God to forgive his persecutors and shortly afterward this same Saul sat on a roadside blinded by Jesus Christ himself, experiencing repentance and conversion.

Satan fully intends to tangle us up in bitterness and jealousy.  He wants to defeat our ministry and make us thoroughly unusable because we’re so riled up and distracted by dissension and arguments.

He just doesn’t know what to do when we pray shockingly humble prayers on behalf of others, particularly our enemies.  There’s power there.”

No matter what people do to us, we can trust God to use it for His glory and to help us through.  More than that, we can ask him to help us forgive so we can move forward in freedom and blessing, no longer hindered by the bitter entanglements of our past.

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.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk: 07/30/2011

Hiding the Word:

I did so great with my index cards and my verse meditation for the first two weeks and last week I struggled.  How is it going for you?  I realized on Thursday that I hadn’t really thought about my verse for the week much at all, so I made it my mission on Friday to pray it throughout the day.

Here’s the fresh verse for a new week.  You can choose your own, but I’d love to see what verse you chose!  Please share it with us!

I’m going to take two weeks and memorize a block of verses from Psalm 145.  This is the first half:

“The Lord is trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all He does.
The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time.
You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”
Psalm 145:13b-16

Weekend Rerun

The Lord is My Portion, originally published 03/10/2011

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Psalm 73:26 (NIV)

This morning, I was a woman with a plan.  I envisioned reaching new heights of productivity and speed, accomplishing my work goals for the day, getting in a quiet time, cleaning, exercising, checking off all of the phone calls and appointments on my to-do list—all with joy and energy.

And then.

Then, I used the last slices of bread for toast and lunches.  I used one of the last diapers to change my baby girl.   I pulled out the ingredients for my crockpot dinner and realized it’s pretty hard to make salsa chicken with tortillas when you actually don’t have any tortillas or cheese.

Change of plans.  I rushed around the house throwing into the diaper bag the supplies needed for a grocery store trip with children—goldfish crackers, notebook and crayons, books, juice.

Normally, I like to plan out my shopping trips the night before, pulling out all the coupons I think I’ll use and discarding ones that are 3 months out-of-date.  Then, I like to prepare my list while going about my day, making sure I’m not forgetting anything.

Not this time.  I grabbed my unorganized coupons, my car keys, my children, my bag of things to entertain them and off we went.  Shopping.  In the rain.  With sleepy children.  Without a list.

The worst part of this whole story is that I was just at the store yesterday.  I ran in just to get a gift and the milk that would help “tide me over” until my real shopping in two or three days.   And now I had to go back again the very next day.  I quietly prayed that none of the cashiers recognized me from yesterday as the crazy woman who can’t stay out of the Wal-Mart.

It’s one of my life dreams to shop just one time a week and that’s it.  Clearly, I’m not there yet.

But this impromptu shopping trip reminded me that time with God should never just be a once-a-week affair where we stock the shelves of our heart and live off the supplies for a while.

Instead, in the Lord’s Prayer, we ask Him to “give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11, NIV).

Today.  Not tomorrow or the next week.  Just for today, Lord, provide what I need.  In this moment, fill me up and sustain me.  Give me the encouragement and provision I need for the here and now in my life.

This daily dependence is something the Israelites had to learn in the wilderness between Egypt and The Promised Land.   In Numbers 11:5, they complained to Moses, “We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic, but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes.”

In Egypt, it was no big deal to swing by the farmer’s market for some fresh veggies and then pick up some fresh fish from the docks.

In the wilderness, however, they ate manna.  Lots and lots of manna.  It was bread from heaven, sweet, and miraculous.  God sent it every night, not so they could store it for the future, but so they could eat just enough for that day.  Exodus 16:21 says, ” Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away” (NIV).

At first, not all the Israelites obeyed God’s commands.  They tried to store some of the manna so they wouldn’t have to gather it every day.  Their goal was to make one shopping trip for the week, not daily excursions to the Wal-Mart.  But, the food they stored overnight rotted and was infested with worms.

Daily dependence on God.   It’s the overarching message of Scripture.

David wrote in Psalm 73:26:  “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (NIV).

Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations 3:24: “I say to myself,  ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him'” (NIV)

God is our portion.  He is more than enough for us in every situation, but we need to depend on Him for His presence, His encouragement, His strength, His provision, and His guidance daily, and even more than that–second by second.

Sometimes I think that my planning or my productivity can be enough, that in my own strength and ability I can make it.  But, that’s just when I have a day like today, when all of my well-laid plans and my confidence in my self are destroyed.

All I can do is place my to-do list, my perfect plans, my work schedule, my bank account and bills, my kids all at His feet and ask Him to “be enough.  Lord, I am not enough for any of this, but You are my portion and the strength of my heart.  So, I depend on You today and You alone.”

Then tomorrow, I’ll go to Him again . . . and the next day  . . . and the day after that.  Because this Christian walk of ours is a daily journey of dependence on God.

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.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King