During our church’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) this week, not a single child has asked me if he or she could be confident our building would not collapse on us. While our church building has had its share of issues over the past several months, no one has expressed concern about our safety when we gather together. Frankly, we probably take our safety (pertaining to our building and otherwise) for granted. My point, though, is that we arrive at our church facilities with the confident assurance that we will leave safe and healthy. This is our expectation.
Of course, we have good reason to have such an expectation. History is on our side. Experience is a good teacher. Evidence is all around us.
Still, we all realize that even the strongest of buildings and the greatest of securities and the best of expectations can fail in this life. They will fail eventually.
During VBS this week, though, we have been talking about a foundation that will never fail. He is the only foundation who will never fail. On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Philippians 1:6 on “Jesus – Our Strong Foundation.” Just as we pray the children have grasped during VBS, I hope to communicate our need to trust and depend on the only foundation that lasts forever.
If you place your hope and assurance in other things or other people to ensure your future “success,” you will be disappointed. Only Jesus and those who know Him will endure. Only the gospel message is sufficient for our future foundation. No other way will provide what we need for eternity.
How sure is your future? What comes next is indeed certain, so are you ready? Do not take your safety and security for granted. Likewise, do not find your hope in your current safety and security. Something so much better – what you were created for – is available. Experience the sure foundation and rejoice in Him today.
Have you ever asked God, like the Israelites did in Malachi’s time, “How have you loved us?” (Malachi 1:2). Even if you have not verbally spoken those words to God, surely you have at least thought them. We all have our moments of weakness, discouragement, selfishness, and foolishness. And, in those moments, we tend to lose sight of the big picture, if not lose sight of the truth itself.
THERE ARE STUPID QUESTIONS
We have all heard people say that there are no stupid questions, but that is not true. There are stupid questions – questions of foolishness. “God, how have you loved us?” is an example of a stupid question. In fact, is there a more foolish question than this?
Stupid questions are questions that, by intention, fail to recognize and/or remember Truth and rather attempt to justify our own shortcomings. Israel, for example, was an ungrateful people in Malachi’s time, often failing to remember God’s amazing love for them and instead, complaining about their circumstances. They forgot what God delivered them from, and they were instead focused on always wanting more.
Their question was filled with foolishness, much like a child who might ask his mother after not getting what he wants, “Don’t you love me?” Stupid question, whether we want to use such descriptives or not.
GOD’S LOVE IS UNDENIABLE
We would run out of time – run out of physical life – trying name all the ways God has proven His love for us. I will not even try to accomplish such a huge task. Instead, I want to briefly talk about one such proof – Vacation Bible School (VBS).
Our church had our annual VBS a couple weeks ago, and there are few pictures of God’s great love that are clearer than VBS. There are several reasons why VBS is so special, but I will stick to three… three reasons VBS is a great example of God’s undeniable love.
1. VOLUNTEERS SERVING
VBS is impossible without volunteers, and our church had more than 40 volunteers who served this year. Wow! Many of these volunteers showed up to our church facilities after a full day of work to then work for three more hours at VBS. And, let us be clear – VBS is work! VBS is hard work. VBS is exhausting and often overwhelming, but VBS is worth it. That is why so many volunteers serve.
God loves us and loves our children through volunteers who sacrifice their time, their energy, their resources, and even, at times, their happiness for the sake of serving others during VBS. God loves us through His church, and His church does amazing things during VBS.
2. CHILDREN RESPONDING
Children are a blessing from the Lord, even when they do not behave like blessings from the Lord. Oh, what a joy it is, though, when children respond to the gospel message during VBS (or any time)! If we know and follow Jesus, surely we must agree with the Apostle John: “I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).
That joy is true of our biological children and our spiritual children – those with whom we have the privilege of discipling and encouraging in “the truth.” What a great picture of God’s love when children respond to Him.
In their response, God’s undeniable love is clear for their sake – that they get to know and follow God. In their response, God’s undeniable love is clear for our sake – that we get to be a part of their journey. And, in their response, God’s undeniable love is clear for His sake – that He loves people enough to draw them to Himself.
Praise the Lord! God loves us by loving our children and opening their hearts to the truth about Jesus.
3. JESUS SAVING
None of this would matter – VBS, volunteers serving, or children responding – if not for the ultimate picture of God’s love: Jesus saving (saving people from sin and eternal death). We have VBS because Jesus saves. We prioritize VBS because Jesus saves. We exist as a church only because Jesus saves. Volunteers serve but not in vain because Jesus saves. And, children would have no reason to respond if not for the truth that Jesus saves.
Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be starting a new sermon series – The Greatness of God – through the book of Malachi. And, as is the point of this post, I will be talking about our “Great God of Love” (Malachi 1:1-5). Do you realize and rejoice in God’s great love for you?
August is already here, and it feels like July never even existed. Busy as usual, July was a fun month with a lot of family events and church activities. Praise God for His kindness toward our family and our church!
COX FAMILY VACATION
We had a great time, as always, with Marsha’s family during the first week of July. For the third straight year, we spent our extended family vacation at Windermere Christian Camp outside Roach, Missouri. With 17 kids and 10 adults, this vacation is never dull. We love spending time with Marsha’s family – swimming, playing basketball, cliff jumping, hiking, playing games, doing the ropes course, playing archery tag, visiting, and just hanging out.
Below are some highlights via pictures, and you can see more by clicking HERE. The pictures below can be seen in full by clicking on them.
CHURCH AND DAILY LIFE
Below are some more pictures, but to see some more highlights from Vacation Bible School, click HERE.
We had Vacation Bible School with our church family this week, and dozens of parents and grandparents dropped off their children or grandchildren for three hours each evening, trusting that the children would be cared for and loved. Why such trust? In most cases, the trust was a result of relationships with one, if not many, of our volunteers working with the children. In other cases, there was a general trust in the church and the proven VBS program.
Simply put, reputation matters. This is true for us as individuals, and this is true for the church. This is true for everyone.
If our church or individuals in our church had a bad reputation in our community, who would trust us to teach and serve their children? Rightly so, most would not.
On Sunday morning during our VBS family celebration and worship service, Lord willing, I will be preaching through the short letter of 3 John and talking about the “Proof from Reputation” for genuine Christian faith. I hope to challenge people to ask themselves three questions for self-examination regarding personal character and reputation. The message, along with others in the series, will be available Sunday afternoon HERE.
In the meantime, I want to encourage you to consider three requirements of a godly reputation.
1. A GODLY REPUTATION REQUIRES TRUTH
Truth is essential when it comes to reputation. By this, I do not mean that everyone knows the truth about you, although that certainly affects your reputation. What I mean, and what John made clear in his letter, is that your understanding and commitment to the Truth are critical.
We must be “faithful to the truth” and “walk in the truth” (3 John 3-4) in order to be people of godly character, resulting in godly reputations. How? Well, only by God’s help “because of the truth that remains in us and will be with us forever” (2 John 2). That “truth that remains in us” is the Spirit of Truth when we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, resulting in faithfulness to the Word of Truth.
Have you ever met someone who is faithful to God’s Word but does not have a godly reputation? No such person exists because someone who faithfully obeys the Word of Truth will be proven to be a person of character and integrity. A godly reputation requires Truth.
2. A GODLY REPUTATION REQUIRES LOVE
John wrote a lot about love in his three letters. He was certainly an expert, or as close to an expert as a human can be, for he was, after all, the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” John experienced God’s love in and through Jesus Christ, and he embraced Jesus’ command that we love God and love others. John knew love was essential for genuine Christian faith and likewise essential for a godly reputation.
Specifically in 3 John, there is an emphasis on the commitment to the mission of the church that demonstrates sincere love for God and others. If you truly love God, you will be committed to His mission. And, if you are committed to His mission, you will love and serve others; you will love and serve His church; you will long for others to experience the love of God through Christ Jesus.
Gaius and Demetrius are great examples of this in 3 John. Gaius, for example, was showing his faith by supporting Christian missionaries, including those he did not even know (verse 5). In other words, Gaius’s love for God was proven in his commitment to God’s mission, and his commitment to God’s mission was proven in his love for others in God’s church.
What was the result? A godly reputation. Have you ever heard of someone known to not be loving and yet known for a godly reputation? Of course not. A godly reputation requires love.
3. A GODLY REPUTATION REQUIRES GOODNESS
Are you known for your kindness and goodness toward others? This goes along with the love John mentioned earlier in the letter but is more about the visibility of love. Whereas the love is ultimately an issue of the heart, the goodness is about your actions, particularly those actions seen by others.
John shared a few contrasting examples in the letter, and in all three examples, it was each individual’s reputation that was proof of his goodness. Furthermore, goodness is proof of faith.
“Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11).
While people can “fake it” for a while and sadly deceive others, the truth eventually comes to light. And, most importantly, God knows the truth. He knows our real reputations because He knows our hearts. He knows if we are doing what is good or doing what is evil. Others will know and see this, too, though, which is why there is ultimately proof from reputation of genuine Christian faith.
If you were to sincerely examine your own heart and life right now, can you see faithfulness to the Truth of God’s Word, a love for God’s mission, and a desire for good, not evil? If not (if any of those three proofs are missing, would you humbly ask God for His help? Would you willingly surrender everything to Him? Only a new life can bring about such radical change.
The amazing volunteers of Richland Baptist Church exemplified godly character and sacrificial service this week, and I praise God for them! They are the reason so many parents and grandparents gladly dropped off so many kids each night and why those kids wanted to keep coming back. Thank you, Richland Baptist Family!
Our church’s Vacation Bible School finished Thursday, and our big family celebration was today. Praise the Lord for those who have decided to follow Jesus for the first time and for the many volunteers who served our children and church family so well!
There are various reasons VBS is so valuable, not the least of which is what children learn about Jesus and following Him. As should be the case, Jesus is the focus of our teaching, and following Him is the focus of our plea.
Yes, there are a lot of valuable things we can learn in life, and there are a lot of good things we can do. But, should we not prioritize the best things over simply good things?
That was my challenge to those in attendance at our worship service this morning. Preaching through Mark 8:1-26, I talked about the “Teaching of Discipleship.” Will you prioritize learning the right things from the right One?
It is very easy to fall into the trap of settling for “second-best” in many areas of our lives, including where we spend our time and energy.
When you think about your family, your commitments and your daily routine, are you prioritizing things of eternal value? Only through a right relationship with God and daily devotion to Him can anyone possibly be faithful in prioritizing the right things.
If this is a struggle for you, cry out to God for His help, seek Him with all your heart, and make sure you are actively involved in a Bible-teaching church that will walk alongside you in this lifelong journey.
When you think about faith, do you typically think about how much faith you have and/or how great your faith is? More important than the measure of your faith, though, is the objectof your faith.
In whom do you believe? From where is your hope and assurance? If you are looking to yourself and the strength of your faith, what happens in your moments of weakness? What happens when your faith does not “feel” so great?
During our morning worship service today, I preached on “The Faith of Discipleship” (Mark 7:24-37). My challenge to those listening to the message (and to you) is that you have faith in Jesus and because of Jesus.
I would even argue that when our focus is in the right place, or more specifically, on the right One, faith comes easy.