Wednesday, June 26, 2013

VBS is coming soon!

And finally, to whichever little guy left the Block Party without his size 6 Garanimals sandals, we found them and would be happy to return them to you.

Did you know that our Vacation Bible School is coming July 21-25? That’s less than four weeks away! Good thing they don’t give me much to do. Just show up, hang out, smile and look pretty. I think I can get three out of those four things done anyway. 

Let me encourage you to plan on bringing your K-6th grade children for a terrific week of VBS. We might do it a little differently than when you were a kid, but there’s still upbeat music, tasty snacks, fun crafts, crazy rec games and solid Bible stories. 

Here are two things I can guarantee will happen.

One, we will show the love of Christ to your children. We’ll show it by words and actions of kindness and respect toward your children. We’ll reflect it in the way we enjoy the time getting to know them. We’ll display it in our attitudes of servant leadership. We’ll do it by providing a safe environment with proper behavioral boundaries. We’ll do it by praying for your children and by sharing the good news of salvation with them. We’ll model it in the 1 Corinthians 13 style of biblical, Christ-like love.

No, we’re not perfect, and we won’t love perfectly. Honestly, it’s not even in our human nature to love others like Jesus. But we have been given a new nature in Christ, and in the power of His Spirit abiding in our hearts we let Him live in us and do the loving through us. So we can’t even take the credit if we get this right. If we love well, then to God be the glory, and that’s our number one desire anyway!

Two, your children will come home and drive you crazy with continual singing of the songs they’ll be learning. Not that driving you crazy is our goal, you understand. Just saying you may have to raise your own crazy bar higher to allow your children to sing at home, in the car, at the grocery store, in the doctor’s office or wherever else they may be when the urge to unloosen the tongue hits.

Remember, while such singing may start pushing the needle on the crazy-meter into the yellow (I’m a parent, too, and I have my limits, as well), these songs are rich with the truths of God’s Word that you want them to hold in their hearts. Think about it. You may not have a single verse in the Bible memorized, but you can probably sing “Jesus Loves Me” and “Amazing Grace” and others word for word. Music drives the message home and helps it stick. Praise God for what our children will be learning through those songs that may drive you and me crazy!

So, if I haven’t deterred you from bringing your children or grandchildren or nieces or nephews or stray neighborhood kids you happen to find along the way, we’d love to invite you to come to Vacation Bible School! The dates again are July 21-25, Sunday through Thursday, from 6:00-9:00 each night. The last night will include a Family Night opportunity for you to come and see what the kids have been doing all week. It will be held at the First Baptist Church, 103 W. Sangamon Ave., just one block west of the only stop light in town.

Speaking of VBS, many of our former VBS children are now in our youth group and are continuing to learn and grow in the faith and serve others for the sake of Christ. This Sunday, June 30, why not come and hear from many of them about their recent mission trip? Some of them will also be leading in music. We are blessed with leaders who invest in our young people for the advancement of the kingdom of God, and youth who have a heart to follow after Jesus. Join us in worship this Sunday at 10:45 a.m. for a special time of encouragement in the Lord!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Block Party thank you's and Father's Day encouragement to Dads

To everyone who attended our Block Party last Friday night: Thank you for coming, and I hope you enjoyed the event! We were delighted to welcome you. The Lord blessed us with terrific weather, a great turn-out, an outstanding group of servant volunteers and lots of donated cakes. If you left without getting a cake, I’m sorry, but hope you were able to make up for it with some Sno-Cones or cotton candy.

To the New Jerusalem Singers: Thank you for doing an awesome job! You all played some great old gospel songs, were flexible with the schedule and conveyed a joyful, Christ-like spirit in your music. Thanks for letting me sing along on the last one, too! When you make it to Nashville, don’t forget us little people.

To Bob Swaar: Thank you for bringing your train ride over to Petersburg! You were a hit! It looked like every ride was packed. The kids (and adults) loved it, and it seemed to me that you were having the time of your life, as well.

To those who filled out a prayer card: We are praying for you. Sometimes life gets messy, and maybe it’s not turned out at all like you hoped it would. Let me remind you that God is able to help you in your time of need. He is able strengthen you in your weakness, comfort you in sorrow and surprise you with peace and joy in the midst of life’s hardships. Keep calling upon His name, and we’ll be on our knees with you.

To the First Baptist Church: Thank you for investing your time and resources to make this a wonderful community outreach event! Yes, it was a lot of work, but I hope you saw the some of the fruit of your labor in the precious faces and bright smiles of the children and their families. Our mission continues to mean glorifying God by shining the light of Christ Jesus into our neighbor and throughout the nations. The fields are still white unto harvest, the laborers are few and the gospel is still the power of salvation to everyone who believes. Let’s keep going in the power of the Holy Spirit!

To those who may be looking for a church home: I hope you’ll join us in the journey. We’re not a perfect church. We’re made up of people who have walked the same path you’re on right now. We’ve got baggage, too. But we know that in Jesus we have been washed clean from our sins, are being made holy in the image of Christ and are looking forward to better things (heavenly things) yet to come. We’ve found that God is our Refuge and Strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1). We know that He is our Good Shepherd, the One who is Faithful and True, whose love is unfailing with mercies unending and grace overflowing though we’re undeserving.

We’ve not “arrived” spiritually, but we’re growing and learning to trust and obey our Savior more and more each day. We’d love for you to experience what it means to have a saving relationship with Jesus, what it means to be a part of the family of God, and what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Why not come and join us this coming Sunday at 9:30 for Sunday School, 10:40 for worship? I think you’ll be glad you did.

And finally, to all the Dads doing your best to raise your children right: Thanks for being there for your sons and daughters. You have an incredible responsibility, yet an awesome privilege. I know because when I look at my own two boys I am reminded of what a blessing this is, but also what an overwhelming task lies before me. There’s only so much time we have to shape and guide and train them in the way they should go, and I don’t know about you, but I want to honor the Lord in the way I raise my boys. Let’s set them a godly example by our own lives, men, and be intentional about investing in them, praying always for them, and instilling the truth of God’s Word and the way of righteousness into their hearts. It’s not always easy, but by God’s grace we can do this.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Free Block Party Time!

If you don’t already have plans for this Friday night (June 14), from 5-8, let me invite you to our Block Party. Bring the whole family, because there really is something for everyone. We’re at the corner of 7th and Sangamon (Petersburg, IL), just one block west of the only stoplight in town. 

For the children there will be the big inflatable bounce house, which is really a great opportunity to bounce as high as you can and crash land into the walls and other small children while laughing and giggling all the way. With arms and legs flying all over the place, there’s a good reason why they make you take your shoes off before entering.

Another inflatable is the Bungee Run. That’s the one where you’re hooked on to a large bungee cord, you take off running and when you reach the end of the rope it jerks you back, you go tumbling and everyone has a good laugh at your expense. 

We’ll also have other games and prizes that the young ones enjoy, as well as do some face painting. Just don’t let your kids ask for a Cubs logo on their cheek because we’d rather keep the atmosphere positive. Oh, and Sno-Cones, popcorn and cotton candy. 

Personally, I’m not a big fan of cotton candy. What is cotton candy anyway? Sugar swirled on a stick? My stomach can’t take too much of that, nor do I really want to end up with sticky stuff all over my face and fingers. But if you don’t mind your kids bouncing off the walls on a sugar high and getting everything they touch sticky, then go for it. Mine will probably do the same. 

Back this year we’ve also invited Bob Swaar to come over with his train ride! Then there’s the dunk tank, the ever-popular cake walk (I bet County Market loves it when churches or other organizations have a cake walk), and free hot dogs and hamburgers and chips for everyone.

And for your musical enjoyment, do we have a variety of entertainment scheduled for you! From 5-6, Christian rap/hip hop artist Zach Ayappa will be on stage. Zach was here last year and got the crowd up on their feet when he broke it down and dropped the beat. If you want to see Zach and get your shirt signed, or your back as at least one young man did last year, then be there early and be ready to hip and hop.

The other end of that spectrum will feature The New Jerusalem Singers, a Southern Gospel group complete with cowboy hats, vests, bolo ties and at least one pink country guitar. If that’s a little more your style, then make sure you find your way over to the stage area around 6, and, yes, feel free to tap your toes, clap, raise your hands or even dance if you want to. 

Did I mention that everything’s free? No tickets, no armbands, no cover charge. The First Baptist Church desires to glorify God by shining the light and love of Jesus into our community, and this is one way we do that. As much as we want you to enjoy the event and have fun, we also want you to see the joy of Christ in us, and ultimately to be drawn to Him by God’s grace through faith. We’re not in business to sell you anything. Our prayer is that you will receive “the free gift of God [which] is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). 

This year we are also making available a prayer station. If you have something going on in your life you just want someone from the church to pray about with you, we’d be glad to do so. We really do care about you, and this is another way to show it. 

So we hope to see you along with the whole family this Friday night! Maybe we’ll even provide a hand washing station for all those sticky fingers!