VBS Lessons: No Matter What Happens

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 Happens…Trust God!

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“I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love”
Romans 8:38

There are times when I take prayer requests at the close of a meeting almost reluctantly, not because I don‘t care or because I don‘t want to pray.  It’s just that the requests seem so big and I feel the heaviness of them.

That perpetual litany of need, of cancer; mystery illnesses; the death of babies, husbands–and marriages; lost jobs and shattered finances seems like darkness with light, pain without hope.

I feel an affinity for the disciples in the three dark days between the cross and the resurrection, a silent understanding of their pain.  In “Valleys Fill First,” Caedmon’s Call sang: “It’s like that long Saturday between your death and the rising day, when no one wrote a word and wondered is this the end.”

Yes, that was the terror of looking at the cross and standing at a grave and thinking it was all over.

Days after riding through the streets of Jerusalem cheered by the crowd, Jesus had been captured, put on trial, crucified, and shut up in an impenetrable tomb, leaving the disciples overwhelmed, confused, and without hope.  They questioned everything they had seen, heard, and believed about Jesus just days before.

Then, they had confessed Him as Messiah.
Now, their Messiah was dead.

Then, they had seen Him raise Lazarus and others from the dead.
Now, His own death seemed unconquerable.

They had been catapulted into darkness and all of God’s promises and even their personal testimonies were called into question.

In the dark places, we too forget.  Surrounded by pain and despair, we allow circumstances to determine our view of God.  The physical “reality” of death, sickness, financial insecurity, and broken relationships tells us God isn’t loving, God won’t provide, God isn’t at work on our behalf.

When faced with tough circumstances, David also asked God some tough questions: “Will the Lord reject forever?  Will He never show His favor again?  Has His unfailing love vanished forever?  Has His promise failed for all time?  Has God forgotten to be merciful?  Has He in anger withheld His compassion?”  (Psalm 77:7-9, NIV).

Ultimately, though, David fought against these doubts by returning to what He knew was truth: “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.” (Psalm 77:11-12, NIV). 

In the same way, we remember who our God is.  No matter what happens, we trust God.

Because He is a Creator, who can bring forth something altogether new out of nothingness.

Because He has Resurrection Power, the ability to take what is utterly dead and bring new life.

Christ’s resurrection gave the disciples new hope, real hope, true absolute belief and confirmation that their faith was more than a fairy tale, whim, emotional crutch or delusion.

So often, we use “hope” to mean little more than “good luck” or “best wishes.”  We give a friend a hug and say, “I hope you have a good day” or pat them on the back and say, “I hope you get that job you want” or “I hope your treatments work.”

We might as well be calling “heads” as we toss a coin.

Instead, because of Christ’s resurrection we have real hope for eternity.  We can have full, confident assurance in what Titus 2:13 calls “the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (NIV).  

Because of the Resurrection, we also have hope in the present.  After all, nothing is too big for a God who has power over life and death.  Jesus proved that no matter how bleak our physical reality looks and how much our five senses tell us God is not in control, He is still Lord and He can do all things.

Fortunately, our hope is in His strength and not our own.  It’s too much for us to carry around the weight of our problems and our dead circumstances.  We’re not creators. We don’t have resurrection power.  A world that relies solely on us is a hopeless place indeed.

Yet, no matter how dark our circumstances, even when we are in the closed tomb with every sign of death, we can have hope in Christ.

God, who conquered death and the grave, is working on your behalf in the here and now and also in preparation for our eternity with Him.

Instead of struggling to handle things on our own, we need to do something that is sometimes far more difficult–yield.  Cry out to Him that this weight is more than you can handle, allow Him to carry the load, and have renewed hope in God’s ability to care for you no matter how insurmountable the circumstances appear.

Would you like to hear the Caedmon’s Call song, Valleys Fill First?  Click here to follow the link or play it directly from the blog:

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

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