Saturday, July 11, 2015

VBS--Lessons in loving obedience

Read Isaiah 65

Seven years ago something was missing from the life of our church body.  We have always been a friendly bunch.  People knew there was love here.  If someone needed help, they found helping people right here.

God’s love in action was a natural for our motto.

That’s who we were.  That’s who we are.  There is some identity to being known by your love.  Jesus said that everyone will know that we are his disciples by our love.

But 7 years ago, something was missing.  There was a hollow spot in who we were.

At the elders retreat that year, many of us were of the same mind and all were of the same accord by the end of the meeting.

What was missing was VBS.  Vacation Bible School had atrophied away to nothing.  It went from being a few days with little help to a day to not even attempting to put it on the calendar in the years previous.

It had seemed too hard.  It didn’t have any support.

But at this elder retreat in 2008, the leadership of this body knew that VBS was something that had been on the roadmaps of so many of our lives that it was inconceivable that we did not do it anymore.  It seemed unconscionable to put it in the “too hard” category.

We were led surely by God’s own Spirit to put Vacation Bible School back on the annual calendar, and we did.

How would we make it work this time?

We had no idea—not a clue—notta.  We knew it was exactly what we were led to do.  We could not fill in the who, when, and how.

We didn’t have a clue what we needed to do next.  The past few VBS attempts had just fizzled out.  What would we do to make this different?

We just didn’t know.  God knew.

Before they call I will answer;
    while they are still speaking I will hear.

Two young ladies, Laci Stegall and Kendra Walker came forward about a month later wanting to know if they could be in charge of the Vacation Bible School.  Others joined them.

VBS was moved to an evening format.
We had enough teachers.
We had enough helpers.
We had more kids than ever before.
We learned a little each year.

The transformation of the building into each year’s VBS theme took on an atmosphere of chaos and clutter.  Glue guns and duct tape were at every turn.

Ranches, forests, national parks, big back yards, and tropical islands emerged where there had been only carpet and walls before.
VBS was not just a church event again.  It was a big event.  It was and is a very big week in the lives of those who came and learned and those who contributed.

It is not just something that we do.  It is something that God has called us to do, led us to do, equipped us to do, and blessed us by doing.

During the course of the past week, many of the VBS staff probably thought that they had all of the blessing that they could handle.

I have said this before and it holds true this year as well.  There is tired, and there is VBS tired.

Paul wrote to Timothy that he felt like he was being poured out like a drink offering.  That’s VBS tired.  You get poured out until you have nothing left.

Then God fills you back up and you come back for the next day.

Much of the Old Testament talks about God’s people not heeding his call.  They turned away from him time and time again.  They were not tuned into hear his prophets.  They were out of tune with his heart.
Earlier in this 65th chapter, God spoke through the prophet.

“But as for you who forsake the Lord
    and forget my holy mountain,
who spread a table for Fortune
    and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny,
 I will destine you for the sword,
    and all of you will fall in the slaughter;
for I called but you did not answer,
    I spoke but you did not listen.
You did evil in my sight
    and chose what displeases me.”

We do not fear judgment and wrath and punishment.  We are liberated from our sins by the blood of Jesus.

But don’t we want to please God?  He loves us so much, don’t we want to give him what he desires?

He can’t stand it when his people do not listen to him and he loves it when we listen and actually do what he tells us to do.

He loves it so much that he enjoys our response of loving obedience even before we begin.

Before they call I will answer.  God has already put in motion the logistics to support us when we answer his call.

The blessings are already on the way!

Seven years ago the Lord spoke to the elders of the church. 

They listened and responded. 
Leaders emerged.
Funding was provided.
Volunteers abounded.
And the children came, more than ever before.  The children came and were blessed.
The leaders and helpers were blessed.

VBS is an important week in the lives of these children.  It is also an example of what happens when God’s people hear God’s voice and respond in loving obedience.

He is already equipping us and sending us blessing before we take our first step.

VBS is more than a week for the kids.  It is a lesson in the blessings of obedience to God.

God’s Spirit is leading us and urging us and nudging us to stay on the narrow path of discipleship.  We need to understand that on this narrow path of loving obedience, countless opportunities to bring glory to God abound.

In fact, the more that we narrow our focus to living in loving obedience, the greater and more frequent the opportunities to bring glory to God become.

We should not respond to God’s love with obedience because it is something that we have to do.  It is something that we love to do for it pleases our heavenly Father and he is pleased to bless us for our loving obedience.