Pastor David preached at this fall’s community Thanksgiving service, which was held at the Oil City Assembly of God. He told the story of Simeon meeting the infant Jesus, as recorded in Luke 2:21-35. Listen in here:
Last week at VBS, our children came up with a list of questions that they wanted to ask God. They wrote these down on large, red cardboard question marks, and then the question marks were placed side by side to create large, red hearts. This was to remind the children of that day’s Bible theme: even when you don’t understand, Jesus loves you!
Today, I read through those questions and found some of them to be very profound. In this space, I will do my best to answer a few questions from my perspective. What do you think? Can these questions spark conversations around your dinner table, church pew, or Sunday school classroom?
How did God make himself?
God was never created; God has always existed, from before the beginning of time. Jesus Christ is “the image of the invisible God,” and “by him all things were created” (Colossians 1:15-16). The Spirit of God was present before the universe began (Genesis 1:2). It’s hard to understand, but God simply is. There never was a time when God was not around!
What happens to animals when they die?
I wonder this myself. Tara and I had a dog named Lindy who died a year ago, and we miss her very much. Where is Lindy now? Sometimes we say that people who believe in Jesus go straight to heaven when they die. Maybe this happens with animals, too. (But remember, the Bible teaches that Jesus will return to earth at the end of time, and then all Christians will be raised from the dead to live with him forever (1 Corinthians 15).) Will our pets be waiting for us in heaven? I sure hope so!
Why do people get in car accidents?
This is a very powerful question, and I don’t have a good answer for it. I do not believe that car accidents are “supposed” to happen, as if they are somehow in God’s plan – especially when someone dies in the accident. Tragedies happen to all different kinds of people, and often without reason. While I do not know why accidents happen, I do know that God provides comfort to all who are suffering (2 Corinthians 1:1-11). And maybe that’s enough.
Do you [God] like naptime?
Absolutely, God loves to rest! After God created the universe, he took a whole day off (Genesis 2:1-3). Sometimes it’s not fun for a kid to take a nap, but trust me, napping is an acquired taste. But rest assured: God never falls asleep on the job of being our God and watching out for our needs (Psalm 121).
Why does my dad need to work on the house?
(I wish I knew more about this question, because it almost seems to come from a painful or lonely place.) Dads need to work on houses because they love their children. One of a parent’s many jobs is to make sure his or her children are safe, warm, and protected from bad weather. When your dad works on the house, you can remember that God the Father is watching over you as well (Psalm 127:1).
Why do people smoke?
Smoking releases very addictive chemicals into the brain. People who smoke usually know that smoking is very bad for you, because it leads to deadly forms of cancer. But people who smoke have a very hard time quitting, because of those addictive chemicals. The Bible does not address smoking directly, but it does teach that we should honor God with how we use our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Why do teenagers sometimes get mad at grown-ups?
It is hard to be a teenager! During your teenage years, you change in many ways. Your body, mind, and emotions develop very rapidly – but not always at the same rate. Sometimes, teenagers feel grown up but still have to listen to their parents. Sometimes, they feel mad about something at school or involving their friends, and that anger carries over into relationships with adults. Sometimes, teenagers don’t understand what they are feeling at all. But trust me, eventually those feelings of anger will go away as the teenagers become grown-ups themselves.
Why does my brother pick on me?
Brothers (and sisters) pick on their siblings for many reasons. Maybe they want to feel better about themselves, or maybe they are upset because others picked on them. They may not realize how much it hurts you when they pick on you. My advice is to follow the Golden Rule, and to remind your brother (gently) of the Golden Rule: “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12 NIV).
Will the Cleveland Indians win the World Series again in Pastor David’s lifetime?
Yes, they will! (Hebrews 11:1)
What a week of VBS we have had! If you didn’t participate or visit, our Fellowship Hall was completely transformed into a busy marketplace in first-century Nazareth. (They probably didn’t have pop-up tents back then, but that’s all right!) I was very impressed by the work ethic and the pleasantness of everyone involved. This was a good week of seed-planting and sharing healthy Christian relationships with young people. Our children’s attendance increased every night, with an average of around two dozen on any given evening. And our total of thirty-three youth and adult volunteers is very encouraging!
Vacation Bible School is a fascinating church event because, in some ways, it is more beneficial for youth and adults than it is for children. I can hear you asking now: “How can this be, Pastor? Isn’t VBS a program for kids?” Of course it is, and we should not neglect or ignore the growth in our children that takes place through VBS. After all, Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (NIV). We plant seeds in children’s lives that may sprout immediately or may take many years to develop and mature, and we do so out of obedience to our Lord.
At the same time, though, VBS gives many opportunities for adults to grow, as well. We meet day after day, spend many hours together, communicate with each other, work with each other – all with the expressed purpose of ministering to children. But the time we spend together can very easily turn into ministry to each other, as well! Our frequent meetings and conversations form an intense arena in which we practice healthy Christian relationships with each other. By loving each other during VBS, we show our children the love of Christ, and we are that much more prepared to show the love of Christ to the world at large.
Another benefit coming out of VBS is the opportunity we have as youth and adults to rehearse the stories of our faith. What do we believe? Why do we believe it? Where do those beliefs come from? How do they connect to our everyday lives? These are the kinds of questions that children need to have answered, and we adults are the people who get to share our answers with them. This is the constant call of Christ: to make disciples of all nations by teaching people what Jesus has taught us. VBS is a safe environment for us to rehearse sharing the message of Christ so that we can be more prepared to share that message with others outside of the week of VBS.
I was very impressed by some of our leaders, especially some of our youth, who really took up the challenge of sharing the truth about Jesus with children this week. As they visited me in the “Synagogue School,” they encountered a Jewish rabbi who looked a lot like me but didn’t believe in Jesus. Speaking the truth about Jesus is something each of us should be ready to do at any moment, both in and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). Thank you for your work – and keep it up through the rest of the summer!
In a perfect world, I would be writing about the joys and challenges of Thanksgiving, since that is the holiday of the week. But this is not a perfect world, and I ran across an article this week that describes something quite significant for us. Are you concerned by the absence of young people from churches? Have you ever wondered why “Young Doubters Exit the Church” in great numbers today? The magazine “Christianity Today” recently published an article by Drew Dyck asking that very question.