Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Playing with Matches at VBS

Somewhere I think I still have a craft project that I’ve kept from Vacation Bible School long ago at Trimble Bible Church near Robinson, IL. It’s a stone tablet on which are written by the finger of God the Ten Commandments. Well, maybe not, but a wooden plaque with a typeset copy of the Ten Commandments will have to do.

I remember the project because for some reason the teachers let us play with fire to make it. Can you imagine a group of 10-year-olds using matches with permission? I can’t even recall a single child requiring medical assistance.

The way it worked is that we took this regular-sized, 8.5x11 sheet of paper with the words of the Ten Commandments copied onto it and burned the edges of the page away to give it a more authentic look, I suppose. Then we glued what was left onto the wooden plaque. Given how some of those children turned out, I think they burned out the commandments they didn’t like. I wish I would have burned out number 10 because my neighbor has a nice motorcycle that I wish it weren’t a sin to covet.

After peeling glue off our hands to gross out the girls we brushed a thick coat of lacquer over the tablet. Some kind of varnish anyway, and I put mine on heavy. There are still a couple of lumps that apparently weren’t applied very smoothly. A few months later when the finish dried out I took it home and hung it on my bedroom wall, and I know it’s still around or in a box somewhere today.

If you’ve ever attended Vacation Bible School you can probably remember some of your favorite craft projects. Maybe given the right set of circumstances one of the familiar VBS songs will pop into your head and you’ll start singing something along the lines of: “Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah! Praise ye the Lord!” You probably remember having cookies and Kool-aid, playing games outside and making new friends. You might even remember a Bible verse or two from those days.

Vacation Bible School at Ridgway First Baptist Church begins this Sunday at 6:00! Yes, the songs have changed and we’ve upgraded the snack options, but it’s still an exciting and potentially life-changing week for the children who attend. I want to urge you to bring your children and your grandchildren to this year’s VBS. Invite the neighborhood kids to come. They’ll be making memories to last a lifetime.

Our Bible teaching this year focuses on Peter’s relationship with Jesus. From the call to lay down his fishing nets and follow Christ, to his worship of the Son of God, his denial of Jesus, Jesus’ forgiveness for Peter, and Peter’s obedience to carrying out God’s mission for him, your children will be encouraged and challenged to love, trust and obey Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Without apology or hidden agenda, that’s really what it’s all about. That’s why we do VBS. That’s why we sing the songs we sing, that’s why we do the crafts we do, and that’s why we love your children the way we love them. We want to give every child the opportunity to hear the Good News that God loves them so much that He sent His Son Jesus into the world to save them from sin and give them eternal life in Christ.

And parents, grandparents, and others – our prayerful desire for you is the same. We’re all sinners separated from Holy God by our sin. Even one burned out commandment is enough to keep us from fellowship with God in heaven. That’s playing with a deadly fire! But the bad news is what makes the Good News so good!

Even though we don’t deserve it, and even though there’s not a single thing on earth we could ever do to earn it, God has made a way for us to be saved from the death penalty our sin deserves. That way is through His Son, Jesus, who took our penalty on the cross, who offers forgiveness for our sins, and who defeated death forever when He rose from the grave on the third day. And “whosever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Is Jesus your Savior and Lord? If not, why not repent of your sin and receive forgiveness, believing that He died and rose again as you commit your life in trust and obedience to Him? This is our prayer and hope for you, and for your children through VBS – even though they may not get to play with matches.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

How Shall We Escape?

Our nation is on such a slippery slope to destruction that it's scary. Not so much scary, but heart-wrenching. The devastation that awaits cannot be far off.

Yes, I believe that America is about to suffer under the wrath of God's judgment in a way not unlike how God responded to the prophet Habakkuk: "Look among the nations and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told" (Hab. 1:5).

That "work" that God was doing was raising up a more wicked nation than Judah - the mighty and cruel Babylonians - to bring punishment upon His own people for their sin.

Here's a truth found throughout the Scriptures and proven throughout history: The Lord deals justly with the wickedness of men and nations.

What had Judah done to deserve such punishment? They were disobeying God's laws. They were perverting justice. They were in a moral and spiritual freefall as wickedness abounded.

Why should we arrogantly think that we will somehow escape God's judgment in our day when we're just as guilty as Judah ever was?

From the United States of America's President, elected by the people of this nation, comes this official proclamation recognizing June as "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month." (See related article including the proclamation here.)

Is this not the grim picture of Romans 1:32: "Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them"?

What things? Well, back up the bus and read Romans 1:18-32. You see'll what things God's talking about, including those who:
  • suppress the truth in their godlessness and wickedness
  • neither glorify God nor give thanks to Him
  • claim to be wise but have become fools
  • exchange the glory of the immortal God for all kinds of man-made images
  • degrade their bodies in sexual impurity
  • trade the truth of God for lies
  • worship and serve created things rather than the Creator
  • exchange natural relations for unnatural ones
  • lust after and commit perverse acts with the same sex
  • do what ought not to be done
  • fill themselves with all kinds of wickedness, evil, greed, depravity, murder, strife, deceit and malice
  • are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful
  • invent ways of doing evil
  • disobey their parents
  • are senseless, faithless, heartless and ruthless

These are the ones who know what's right in God's sight and they know the due penalty for their sin, but they not only keep on doing these things they also stand up and applaud others who practice them (and issue proclamations approving of their sin).

"God's wrath is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men..." (Romans 1:18).

And many more examples of wickedness in our nation could easily be cited, notably the legally-approved murder of some 50 million unborn babies in the womb since 1973.

Something's cooking in our day that we would not believe even if it were told. The Day of the Lord will come, and the judgment of God is not far off. Just as it was in the days of Noah when the wickedness of man was great in the earth and the flood came and destroyed all but eight, and as it was in the days of Lot when the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was very grave and the Lord rained down sulfer and fire from heaven to destroy those cities...and as it was in the days of Judah when their sin brought God's shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation (Heb. 2:3)?

I plead with you, dear reader, to turn to Jesus before it's too late! He alone is our hope for salvation - through His blood shed on the cross for our sins and by His resurrection victory over death and hell. The patience, mercy and grace of God begs for you to receive Him by faith today! "The righteous will live by faith" (Hab. 2:4).

I plead with this nation and all mankind to "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins..." (Acts 2:38). He's our only escape.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Beyond Cracked Windshields

You wouldn’t think that a nine-year-old throwing a baseball would crack a windshield. I mean, he’s got a decent arm but he’s no Roger Clemens even without steroids. The thing is, we just had our van windshield replaced three weeks ago after a rock hit it on Hwy. 13, chipped it about the size of a nickel and eventually led to a larger crack.

I probably should have lowered the deductible on my comprehensive insurance coverage, but I didn’t. Maybe I should have moved the van into the garage before we broke out the gloves.

I guess the ball had to hit it just right. I’m pretty sure it’s not the first time that a baseball has hit our windshield. But I suppose the right force at the right angle in the right spot will do it.

Windshields take a lot of abuse, if you think about it. They’re often getting rained on and they take a lot of heat. Bugs like to smear their guts all over them and birds seem to frequently mistake them for the toilet. And sometimes the wayward baseball is all it takes to make them crack.

Have you ever been there? Ever felt like a van windshield? Know what it’s like to be abused, to take a bunch of heat, to have people smear your name and get dumped on? Feel like you’ve had enough, and just one wayward word or action is all it’s going to take to make you crack?

Let me say that if you’re at the end of your rope about to crack, let go of the stupid rope and hold on to Jesus instead! Life is tough. It’s unfair. People can be mean. You get taken advantage of. Bad stuff happens. Let go of your rope, let go of whatever you’re trying to hold onto – it’s never going save you from neither the trouble life brings nor the trouble you bring upon yourself. Let go, and hold on to something solid, something that will save you.

That something is a Someone, and His name is Jesus. Maybe you’re like the apostle Paul, a faithful believer in Christ, but yet you’re suffering hardship and great pressure far beyond your ability to endure. Perhaps you’re despairing of life itself and feeling the sentence of death in your heart. Hold on to Jesus, dear friend, and let Him hold on to you!

Here’s how Paul surveyed his situation: “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us…” (2 Cor. 1:9-10).

He is able – more than able – to deliver you, to rescue you from the miry pit and set your feet on level ground. Let go of all the stuff that’s dragging you down and choking the life out of you and robbing you of joy and peace, and set your hope on Jesus. Turn your heart to Him, trust Him, and walk in His ways.

Or maybe you’re just feeling exhausted and weary from the burdens you’re carrying around. Hear the words of Christ Jesus: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28). There’s a rest for your troubled soul that’s more real than the air you’re breathing.

And listen to 1 Pet. 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him, for he cares for you.” In Jesus you find a Savior who cares more about you than you’ll ever know. He knows how to handle the things you get so worked up about. But you have to come to Him through faith.

Listen, if you’re about to crack from life’s hardships and troubles, if you think there’s no way out and all hope is gone, then why not turn your life over to Jesus? You have absolutely nothing to lose and positively everything to gain. Jesus gave His life on the cross to save you from death and eternal hell. He conquered the grave when He rose from the dead. And He longs for you to let go of the stupid rope and hold on to Him in faith.