VBS Lessons, Day Three: God watches over you

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

God Watches Over You
“Even in darkness I cannot hide from You”
Psalm 139:12

“God is watching, watching over you.  Twenty-four-seven, watching over you.  My life is in your hands, whoa!  He’s got great big plans ’cause He’s watching over you.”

We’ll be singing that tonight at Vacation Bible School and I know it’ll be a favorite of the kids.  Not my favorite perhaps, but theirs, so we’ll likely sing it often during these last few days of VBS.

They may like the song because it’s catchy or the video that goes with it is in a roller skating rink (flashback to the 80’s).  Some of them like the motions that accompany the words.

But there’s something here that I do love—“My life is in your hands . . He’s got great big plans.”

God has a plan for you and He desires that you respond in obedience to His call.  We can even prepare our hearts in advance for His directives.  Oswald Chambers wrote that we should “make the determination to abide in Jesus wherever you are now or wherever you may be placed in the future.”

Before we even know what He will ask of us, we say in radical faith, “No matter what, God, I want to obey you.  I’m willing to follow where you lead.  I want the plans that You have prepared for me.”

Then, when God directs our steps and asks us to follow Him, we should leap up like Matthew the tax-collecting disciple, who abandoned his paper and pen to follow after Jesus in instantaneous obedience.  There’s power when we abandon our plans and instead follow after God.  Oswald Chambers also wrote: “I must realize that my obedience even in the smallest detail of life has all the omnipotent power of the grace of God behind it.”

That’s the amazing thing about obedience.  It’s all God requires of us.  He doesn’t expect that we come up with the results.  His “great big plans” don’t depend on our ability or know-how.  The success of God’s plans rely solely on our submission and His omnipotent power.

Have you obeyed God?  Don’t worry if you are in darkness right now or if the results haven’t been the glorious success you envisioned.  Your responsibility is to obey.  God can handle everything else.

But how do we obey?  Sometimes we envision God’s will for our lives as a hit or miss discovery.  We occasionally stumble into God’s will and then other times trip right out of it.

When we worry and fret over God’s will in that way, we are saying that God is fickle and demanding, that He removes His love and favor at whim if we fail to choose the right answer in the multiple choice test of life.

As long as our hearts are set on obedience and the desire of our heart is to be in God’s will, we can trust the God who created communication to communicate His desires to us. It is then our choice whether to obey or disobey those “great big plans” that the VBS song talks about.

Even if we choose disobedience, though, and go our own way, God doesn’t turn His back and shut His eyes to what we endure. Jonah knowingly boarded a boat headed in the opposite direction of God’s command.  It may not have looked like it at the time, but even then God was with him.

It was God that shook the ship Jonah was on with a storm that made even experienced sailors panic and look for a supernatural cause for the tempest.

It was God that set him on a ship of pagan sailors whose hearts were prepared to respond in faith to God.  God even used Jonah, the runaway, disobedient prophet to evangelize them: “At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him” Jonah 1:16.

It was God that sent a giant fish up from the depths of the ocean to swallow Jonah whole and carry him safely to land.

Jonah could indeed echo the words of Psalm 139:7-12″

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

Sometimes the darkness and the storm and the big fish are grace in disguise.  They are God’s way of guiding us and holding us fast when we have traveled away from His side.

Even when we’ve remained in His will, though, and responded in obedience at every call, even then we sometimes face darkness.

But, God is watching over you, every moment of every day.  His back was not turned when you faced tragedy.  His eyes were not shut tight when you were hurt.  Sometimes in this evil world full of sin we face the ugliest circumstances possible, but “even the darkness will not be dark to (God); the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to (Him)” (Psalm 139:12).

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 Two: God Listens To You

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

God Listens To You
“You know what I am going to say even before I say it”
Psalm 139:4

Last week, I quietly explained to my oldest daughter that even though people are friendly and strangers ask her questions, doesn’t mean they always have time for her entire life story.  Perhaps not everyone can listen to everything she has to say.

She replied, “But I just like to talk and I have a whole lot to talk about.”

Thus, when a friendly cashier asks how old my kids are, they give an unabridged biography as an answer.

And when the lady cutting their hair asks where they go to school, the girls launch into a weekly schedule that lists off all their normal activities and then give an infomercial about their preschool and kindergarten.

My PandaMania VBS leader materials for Day Two say:

Kids can tell you exactly what it’s like to be ignored or unheard.  They know what it feels like to talk to a busy parent or teacher, who responds with a distracted “mm-hmm.” They’ve been that hand, waving in the air, that didn’t get called on to share an answer.  And even when someone is tuned in, kids may not have the words to express what they’re feeling.   . . . God not only hears our voice . . .God hears our heart!

There’s a powerful promise buried in this simple lesson—God Listens to You.  Just like my kids may sometimes feel like I’m not listening closely enough, there are times when I feel as if God has gone deaf or, even worse, is choosing to ignore me.

Last week, a prayer request came through my email and I prayed: “Please don’t turn away from this request; please don’t hide your face from us.  Please hear what we are asking of You and deliver them.  Don’t be deaf to our pleas, not this time.”

I’m not alone in this prayer.

David asked, “Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth” (Psalm 54:2) and “To you, LORD, I call; you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit” (Psalm 28:1).  Asaph prayed the same:  “God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God” (Psalm 83:1).

Have you prayed this before?  The request of attention, the desire for God’s ear, that He would really hear the petitions you bring so passionately before the throne?  With particular fervency sometimes we say, “I know I pray things all the time, God, but I need you to really pay attention to what I’m asking right now.  This one matters more than normal!”

The promise we are teaching the VBS kids this week is that God always hears us, not just what we say, but even when we don’t know how to pray within the confines of words.  Even when the desires of our heart are too bulky to be smashed into syllables and sounds and long “before a word is on my tongue, you, LORD, know it completely” (Psalm 139:4)

God doesn’t tune us out as we pray or ignore the outpourings of our heart.  Psalm 10:17 says, “Lord, you have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their hearts.  You will listen carefully.”

He hears what we pray.  He hears our heart’s cry even when words escape us.  During the tough times, heaven may seem silent and our prayers may seem to bounce against a ceiling rather than land at God’s feet.

Regardless of how you feel, though, you can trust in an attentive God who hears the prayers we offer on our knees, the whispers as we lie in bed at night, the tears as we fall in despair in His presence.  God listens to you.

We know this because God doesn’t change.  From beginning to end, from person to person, our God is consistent in His character.  So, just as He threw down fire from heaven in response to Elijah’s prayer, so He hears and responds to our cries for help.

In 1 Kings 18, Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah not just to a test of their gods’ power, but also of their gods’ ability to hear them.  He declared, “Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God” (1 Kings 18:24).

God’s character–the things that sets Him apart–isn’t just that He is able to deliver us; it’s that He truly hears our cries for deliverance.

And so the prophets of Baal danced and shouted. At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”  So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.  Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention (1 Kings 18:27-29).

Their god was silent.  Their god was deaf.  Their god was unimpressed by their passion and unresponsive to their cries.

Not our God.

Elijah sloshed water all over the altar so it was running down over the soaking wet sacrifice and spilling onto the ground below.  He prayed, “‘Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.’  Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.  When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!'” (1 Kings 18:37-39).

Answer me, God, for the display of Your glory!  So that everyone watching my life and these circumstances can see and declare, “The Lord—He is God!  The Lord–He is God!”

The song we will sing tonight at VBS says, “God knows every word before you even say it; He hears every prayer before you even pray it.  So let Him hear you now.  So let Him hear you shout!  He knows you.  He loves you.  God is listening.”

Be assured of that today and rest in that promise.  Remember that what defines God is that He is alive and active, powerfully able, and mercifully responsive to us.

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

VBS Lessons, Day One: God Made You

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”
Psalm 139:14

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!

For those at Newington who are interested in David Crowder’s book, Praise Habit, great news!  It’s in the church library!

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.