Getting Schooled at VBS

I guess after three years you could call it tradition. My family is now in the routine of spending the last week of June serving at a Vacation Bible School. Just today we closed the books on a week packed with fun, sweat, wonder, singing, crafts and a multitude of juice boxes. Of course all those things played second fiddle to God’s Word. It was wonderfully exhausting!

My childhood VBS memories are quite sentimental. The unique sights, sounds and smells of small church culture. Singing to tape recorded sound tracks. Song words projected from smudged overhead slides. The spirited team competitions and Spirit-led calls to repentance. There was hot dry grass, red Kool-Aid, assorted homemade cookies and the wooden sanctuary that desperately needed to be air-conditioned. Cherished memories.

Now that I’m all grown-up, VBS has a different flavor. I still sneak an occasional cookie, but my childhood VBS delights have been exchanged for adulthood responsibilities. Responsibility for spills, scrapes, cleanup and discipline. The grown-up side of VBS is not as romantic as my youthful experience. Has the delight faded?

Not at all.

In many ways, my VBS love has deepened. My fond memories from decades ago are blending with recent joys of leadership. God is growing in me a new love for making Him famous. A fresh desire to work in the field of souls. But like most parts of my journey with Jesus, the path isn’t straight and flat.

If you ever need to be humbled, teach at a VBS. It’s a wonderful crucible all teachers should experience to hone their craft. This past week, in the midst of my unmet teaching desires, God was developing in me a new confidence. A fuller picture of faith. A fresh understanding that my efforts aren’t really mine. That I’m a piece of His teaching plan. That He’s got it covered – in spite of my “big idea” for the day.

Part of what stimulated my development was this quote from Puritan preacher Thomas Lye: “Patience is hope lengthened and confidence is faith strengthened.” I prefer instant. Quick. Timely. But when sowing gospel seed, a long patience is required. Patience covered with grace and prayer for continued watering followed by steady rest in the hope gained through the empty grave of Jesus Christ. Some fruit grows slowly. And growth isn’t a result of what I do. It comes from Someone else, and what He’s done. In that, I must be confident. Hopeful. Patient.

It was a wonderful week. Souls were rescued from the enemy. Now for some rest – but just for a bit. There’s much work to be done when it comes to sowing, reaping, discipling, and my own sanctification. I am grateful that God is continually at work, bringing to complete fullness what He has begun in me, and in all those who call Him Lord.

Making Contact

It seems my wife and I are raising a literalist.

The other night our family was socializing after church. As we talked, a blur of action caught our attention so we paused our conversation. Another adult in our group looked at one of my sons and asked, “Did you just kick your sister?” Without delay, my son replied matter-of-factly, “No… I swung my leg, but didn’t make contact.”

He’s a funny one.

Yes, my boy was right in regard to his physical action. However, if judged on intent his guilt has no defense. In that humorous moment I made a quick mental note. I, too, can be a literalist. Like when it comes to, “I’ll be there in a minute” or “I meant to put my clothes in the drawers.” Intention or action? This could get interesting.

Parents constantly wrestle with intentions and actions. My last post on this blog (Mini-Me) was filled with some raw reflection on being a dad. Raising little men and women is bruising work. But more than that, it’s colored with soul-stirring joy, pride, satisfaction and reward. Through the highs and lows, I need help. If you’re a parent, you do too. So, to fulfill my promise of last time, let’s get some parenting help from Deuteronomy 6. Here’s the small section we’ll consider:

“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:7–9, ESV)

Four words in these three verses are gold nuggets for parents. For now, we’ll mine just one: teach.

Teachers are influencers and equippers. They instruct, correct and guide. They shape and train. Develop. Teachers are knowledge gardeners.

It’s clear in Deuteronomy 6 that God intends for parents to be teachers. In the context of family, mom and dad are called to spiritually nourish the souls of their children. They are to teach the story of God. Celebrate His character. Engage His desires. Marvel at His plans. Through words, actions and attitudes, parents instruct their children. There’s not a moment when the activities of teaching and learning are not in motion.

Scared yet? Me too. The responsibility to teach our kids should foster a fearful humility before God. It should drive us to His Word. It should force us to our knees. It should cause our lips to beg God for the courage and perseverance to teach our children truth, with grace.

Parents don’t typically lack for good intentions. We want the best for our mini-me’s. But let’s follow-up our desires with intentionality. Let’s take action. Be teachers.

Let’s kick – and make contact.