I love VBS. Now that I have that off my chest… For some people VBS is a painful experience they have to live through. For some youth workers VBS is some of the hardest times of their lives. That is not me. I love VBS. I love those 15 hours of pure joy over five wonderful days. I love the laughter, joy and Jesus we get to share with students for that week. It is some of the best times in the world.
I probably love VBS so much because it taught me something about Jesus that I will never forget and still love today. You see I came from a Church that did VBS over the top awesome. For a Church that worshiped 300 on a Sunday we had well over 550 students at VBS. We packed the place to where we had kids everywhere and adults had to stand because you couldn’t sit is a pew. (Luckily the fire marshal never showed up because I am sure we broke fire code) But seriously, VBS to this day still brings me back to some amazing times in my faith journey and I learned some amazing things about Jesus those weeks.. We are now 20 days from VBS here at St. John and I can’t wait.
I learned one very important thing at VBS growing up that I pray is something I teach kids every year. I learned Loving Jesus is fun. Knowing Jesus is fun. Singing and dancing for Jesus is fun. Jesus brings us joy. Once when I was a teen at VBS serving in music leading I was walking in late to the morning program because I was picking up my friend. When we walked in the kids were singing and the walls were literally shacking. Not the speakers were cranking… The kids were singing so loud you could see the walls shake. To this day I cannot get that image out of my head. I want my kids and all kids to sing so loud for Jesus the walls shake. I want them to know him so much that the joy of His grace spreads to our community and world. I look forward to sharing in the joy of the Lord in a few short weeks. I am almost giddy with excitement.
Today as you walk with Jesus remember the joy we have in Christ. Share that Joy with others. Maybe you aren’t in that season of Joy but I pray you can get there. I pray you can see the walls shaking because the joy of Jesus is being shared….Oh and if you are in Rochester Michigan come join us as we share Jesus with some amazing kids. I promise you will hear a joyful noise!!
I am tired. I have been busy these last few months. I haven’t written a blog post is over 3 months. It has mostly been due to being busy and tired. I often forget about how tiring ministry can be. We can be tired because we are overworked, or struggle to find purpose. Most of all I think we are tired because we grow tired of sharing Jesus. We forget our joy in sharing the story of Jesus and his forgiveness. We do this because we lose focus on what we are doing in ministry.
yesterday however was a fun and exciting day. I am a Star Wars fan. I really enjoy the fun of the light sabers and music, and the wonder we see in those films. I had the joy of leading chapel yesterday. I handed out light sabers to the ushers at chapel and I had them play Star Wars music for chapel as the kids walked in the room. It was a great moment watching many of the kids come into chapel excited to see what would be done today. We of course didn’t put our primary focus on Star Wars. We focused on Jesus. We used Star Wars as a way to share Jesus with students. We used light sabers to foscus kids on the light of the world. We had so much fun as a group. What I noticed most today was the joy I had in sharing Jesus with kids. Too often we forget about this joy because we are so focused on work to be done, or the projects to be completed. We focus on the conflicts in our churches or the pain being caused to us by our sin.
Those things above don’t go away when have are good days but when we can focus on sharing Jesus we see God working in the lives of people we can have joy. So let us instead focus on sharing Jesus. Let us never grow tired of sharing Jesus.
For those of you who are reading this and aren’t full time ministers. I would challenge you in your daily life, when you are feeling tired, to focus on the joy of sharing Jesus. We all are busy with life but if you can focus your time on sharing Jesus in our work, family and daily lives we can find joy. We may be tired today but let us all never grow tired of sharing Jesus with everyone we meet.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:29-31 NIV
So this week we I was part of a team trying to help our staff be more physically healthy. One of the ways we are doing this is through a biggest loser challenge. For those that wanted to participate we broke them into teams to help us all be accountable. The goal is to help the staff have some bonding time and also help everyone be a little healthier. The most fascinating part of this activity is people’s fascination with numbers. Some people are terrified to share their number. Others will tell you if you ask.
The scale is a terrifying thing for many people. This week we set up a scale in the office for people to use if they wanted for our biggest loser challenge. I can tell you a few of them left that room with very angry faces. In fact, one told me we shouldn’t speak to her for the rest of the day. That scale can be terrifying, hurtful, and down right painful. It doesn’t paint the whole picture of health. I can however give us a snapshot of how we are doing. It doesn’t really tell you if you are healthy but it can tell you which direction you are heading in terms of your health. I for one wanted to throw it out the window.
(One note if you are a member of St. John or any Church please look after your Church workers’ health. Bring in some healthy snacks and less cookies we need the help!)
Kicking off this program got me thinking about not just my physical health but also many families’ spiritual health. Weight gain doesn’t happen over night it happens over months and years. Weight loss is the same way. Your health spiritually is very similar. We have good years and bad years. We have ups and we have downs. This is a great time of year to get on your faith life scale. (disclaimer, I am not saying if you are not doing the following things you do not love Jesus or you do not have faith so don’t comment non-stop and tell me I am preaching moralism please)
Are you in prayer as a family? As an individual? Are you in worship? Do you come to receive God’s blessings in Communion? Have you spent time in God’s word this week? Have you cared for someone beyond yourself? Have you served your neighbor? These questions don’t tell us if we have saving faith. This is just meant to help us look at our faith lives and reassess where God can work in us to be more faithful. Let us take a look in the mirror. Let us as Jesus’s disciples get on the scale and see where we are at. Maybe it is time in your life as it is in mine to lose a few pounds and get back to work.
It is the day after Christmas. All those things under the tree that seemed new just 24 hours ago are looking less so. Soon all those decorations around the house will need to be taken down. All the stuff put away and life going back to normal. Maybe even a little dull. Soon the kids will be bored with their toys and other things they got for Christmas. It will all lose the luster of being new.
The day after Christmas reminds me of my own faith walk. Often what seems new each day gets a little dull. It is so easy for me to forget the newness of the gospel. The beauty of its work in my life. It is so easy to look at our faith and miss the point. When we focus on how we feel or look at something it can so easily dull in our minds.
So what can we do. How do we make it seem new every day? Well the answers aren’t simple. They don’t have an easy answer. We don’t have some simple way to make everything seem new. The reality is our emotions have little to do with the faith we trust in. With the God we believe came near to us. Time can sometimes make us lose focus on this. We can get caught up in the emotion of this moment. Yet God has promised he is near. In our baptism he came and claimed us as His own. In the Lord supper we experience the Grace of God in the Body and blood. In Worship we hear about the one who shed his blood for us. This is what helps us be new every day.
So today as you begin looking at the rest of the year. The decorations and presents look a little dull remember the one who was the reason you celebrated. Remember the God of the universe coming down for us. Remember the work of Christ to be near so that he could die for you and me. It is so simple; it isn’t a new story to hear or a new gift. It is the gift we received long ago, the gift that changes everything for you and me. The Gift of the Son of God coming to be with us, to die for us, and to rise again.
I make mistakes. I know this is a news flash for most of you. I say the wrong things. I do the wrong things. Often they lead to big messes, but mostly God uses my mess ups for His purposes.
I messed up last Sunday. It wasn’t big but it was a mess up. During worship I was leading the end of the service and I was supposed to say the prayers,then go into the creed, followed by a song. I finished the prayers of the people and then sat down for the song. I missed the creed all together. The pastor told me lead them in the creed after the prayers, and I missed it. It was a total mess up hopefully no one but the person running slides and the music team noticed. It didn’t end the world but I was frustrated with myself.
Right after the service I went up to the music team leader and apologized. While we were talking someone came a lady came up and told us saying the creed after that song was one of the most moving moments she has had in worship in a long time. She finally said it and really meant it. It was a great Jesus moment.
I feel like we all need this reminder from time to time. We need to be reminded that God can use our mistakes, our mess-ups for his Work. He can use our broken best laid plans for his Work. So today if you messed up remember God is working it for his good. God is working it so others can know Jesus. May you be reminded of Jesus working in your good times and your bad.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV