Riders of the Great Roundup VBS 2009
This was our theme. We bought the material for the children, gave each one a red bandana handkerchief, and it was a joy. For the adult class I wrote my own material, using the western theme. I also made some use of "Word On The Street" by Rob Lacey.
The blessing of opportunity.
God’s Final Showdown is ticking closer. So get your head on straight and focus your attention so you can spend quality time talking and walking with God. Top priority: love each other! Because love makes up for mountains of mess-up. Cook meals at the campfire, buy drinks, put people up for the night, all without trying to score points. Use yourself to help others. Dole out God’s bonuses for the long haul and not just a weekend whim. If your talent is your mouth, make sure it’s God’s words tripping out. If your talent’s more practical, plug into God’s power line. The aim is to get God celebrated through whatever JESUS gets done through you. The hassles of life are all part of the prep. [based on 1 Peter 4:7-11.] PS: Plug in to God's POWER!
The Parable of the Talents. Matthew 25:14-30
Jesus used real events in the world to teach spiritual lessons. This parable is about investment trusts as a illustration of trustworthiness and stewardship. [a talent = $100,000.)
A rancher prepares for a long business trip. He calls in three trusted men of his staff. "I’ve sold my stake in the business and I need you boys to look after things while I’m away." He pulls out three pouches and starts handing them out. The first guy (a real talent) gets a pouch stuffed with $500,000. in crisp new bills. The second guy (good, but nothing stunning) gets $200,000., and the last guy (steady) gets just $100,000. Then the boss says, "I’m off!" and leaves them staring at each other in shock.
The first man goes off to read the newspaper and the farm report. He talks with some trusted ranchers and eventually comes up with details of investment action. After some wheeling and dealing he has doubled the money and hit the $1-million mark.
The second man also studies and plans and hits the $400,000. mark.
The third man bottles [loses all his courage]. So he takes a shovel and buries the pouch in the back yard.
Many months later, the boss comes back. "I’m back. Let’s meet. Usual place."
The first man sits smug. "You gave me $500,000. I’ve bought and sold and traded things, all honest of course. I’ve doubled your money. Now I have $1-million."
"Well done; done well! You’ve proved yourself. Now we’ll work together and do bigger things!"
The second man also looks pleased with himself. "You gave me $200,000. And I’ve doubled your money as well." He hands him the pouch with $400,000.
"Well done; done well! I’ve got some good projects for you too. You’ll have nothing to worry about from here on."
The third man is twitching. The boss says to him, "And...?" "You gave me only $100,000." "What did you do with it?" frowns the boss. "Well, I’ve heard rumors, about your middle name being ‘ruthless’ and how you can’t be doing with losers, and I didn’t want to risk losing the cash, ...so I buried it...in a safe place...it’s all here, not a fiver missing, the whole caboodle."
The boss is fuming by now. "You worthless good-for-nothing! If you knew I was so ruthless, why didn’t you get your act together and at least put my money in the bank to draw interest. Is that really so hard?"
Then the boss takes the pouch and gives it to the first guy with the $1-million. "You have it, because those who have much will get even more. And those with nothing will lose even that. That’s how it works. And get this loser out of my sight!"
"For the kingdom of heaven is like...." Each one of us is a citizen of the kingdom. This parable is about using our money and all the gifts and talents which God has given us. It is about opportunities and how we use them. Peter wrote: "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." 1 Peter 4:10
Each of us has a little bit of the one-talent man in us. We are sometimes so afraid of failure that we fail by doing nothing.
1. God has given everyone a gift. "Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it:" Further, He blesses each person with different gifts. Note Romans 12:6-8. And He blesses us in differing ways.
2. God keeps on giving. 2 Cor. 9:8-10. We will never have enough on our own. We must learn to accept God’s resources as He deems them necessary.
3. We are not judged by what someone else has. We need not be ashamed of what we do have.
4. We realize that our work is never finished. While it may be true that 20% of the people do 80% of the work, this should never give the 20% cause for a day off. Compare Luke 6:38. "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."
1. Read Romans 12:6-8. What skills and abilities and resources have you been given? Make a list.
2. Read Matthew 5:16. Have I used or failed to use my life to bring glory and honor to God?
3. Read Psalm 127:1-5. Families and friends are precious gifts. How have you been blessed by them? Make a list.
But if we face up to our life on the trail, admit to God that we did mess-up, then He sticks by us and sticks by His promises. He wipes our slate clean and cleans us up. [1 John 1:10.]
At the end of Paul’s life, he could say: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing." 2 Timothy 4:7-8
The Blessing of Growth
So, click delete on things that make you mean-minded, fork-tongued, green-eyed and foul-mouthed. Be like babies, crying out, desperate for spiritual milk - it’s the only way to grow in your liberation, now that you’ve sampled God’s appetizer. [based on 1 Peter 2:1-3.]
A Story About A Farmer. [Parable of soils. Matt 13:3-8,18-23]
A farmer is out sowing seed. Some falls on the pathway - stomped on, only good for the birds’ supper. Some land on the stones - grows a bit, but when the sun slams down they wither; haven’t got the roots to get decent moisture. Some lands over in the brambles - they grow quite well, till the brambles win the civil war and choke the life out of the good crops. Other seed land on good soil - they produce a crop, 3,000 percent, 6,000 percent, even 100,000 percent increase on what was planted.
"Please, it’s a comparison," Jesus says. "You have the inside story. But for them, it’s all kept in stories and pictures - to chew over - if they’re hungry! If not, they’ll watch but not see, they’ll listen but not hear." He explained this story to His team: the farmer’s spreading out God’s message. For some, the evil one steals it the second it hits the ground. For some, it lands but they’ve no root, so it doesn’t last. For some, it lasts longer, but the hassles of life choke it back. For others, it lands, takes root, grows strong and produces fruit.
He tries them with other pictures of heaven on earth: a lamp on a stand symbolizes hidden things becoming visible. Another story: a rich guy, only interested in getting richer, gets called a fool by God because he’s about to die and he’s got nothing to take with him. "You leave behind what you have, you take what you are"
Take heed how you hear.
Jesus quotes Isaiah 6:9-10. "And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.'" Matt 13:14-15 (NKJV)
And Matt. 23:37. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!"
1. Do not close your heart to God’s word. Some read word but not Spirit. Our hearts may become hardened and won’t allow the meaning of God’s word to penetrate our minds. Some read with a veil over their face (2 Cor 3:13-17). Jesus warned: "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees" (Matt. 16:11-12).
2. Establish a root system. Some become excited and filled with zeal! But they may quickly fall away because they have no root system and do not drink in the Spirit. Compare 1 Cor 12:13; Acts 19:2; Rev. 22:16-17.
A truth in the business world: if you are not growing, you are probably dying. Compare Hebrews 5:12. "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food."
And Hebrews 6:1-3. "Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits."
3. Give priority to Jesus and His word. "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life." John 5:39-40
"These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men." Acts 17:11-12
1. Read Matt 13:22. What are some of the thorns in today’s world that choke out our potential for spiritual growth?
2. Read Deuteronomy 6:6-9. For the Israelites, what level of importance did God place on knowing His word? Is this relative to us today?
3. Read 2 Timothy 2:15. In what way does the continued cultivation of our basic Bible knowledge bless us in the eyes of God?
4. Read 2 timothy 3:16-17. What are some ways that God’s word equips us for doing His will?
5. Read Matt 13:23 and John 15:8. How are personal Bible study, spiritual growth, Christian stewardship and fruit-bearing related?
Share God’s Love
"In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (sacrifice) for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." 1 John 4:10-11
It isn’t that we did something to persuade God to love us. He beat us to the draw! He loved us with an everlasting love even before we existed. Jeremiah 31:3
What is love anyway? [Christian love.] Not an ooey-gooey feeling in your tummy. [That’s a different kind of love.] Love gives people space and time; it does people good. It’s not jealous, not loudmouthed or big-headed. Love’s not vulgar; not just after #1. It’s not got a short fuse - love forgives and forgets. Love doesn’t smile when dark stuff goes on. Love throws a party when truth gets out. Love protects more than a blockbuster hero. Love trusts more than a toddler. Love is always positive; it always hangs in there. Love doesn’t let you down.
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant [Matt 18:23-34]
Peter had said to Jesus: "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Matt 18:21
Then Jesus said: "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." Matt 18:22 Then Jesus said a parable.
A big rancher owned thousands of square miles of territory. It came time to call in loans and accounts and due bills. One customer came who owed $1,000,000,000. [10,000 talents] He had nothing to pay on this account. So the rancher told the sheriff to put up for sale everything this man had and apply it to the debt. But he got down on his knees and begged! "Please give me some more time and I’ll pay every cent!" The rancher was so touched by the man’s plight that he let him go and marked the debt canceled.
Then this same man went out and found someone who owed him $100. Grabbing him around the neck, he choked him and said: "Pay me the money you owe me!" "Please give me a little more time," the man begged, "and I’ll pay every cent." But he refused and went to the sheriff and swore out a warrant against him. When the little man’s friends found out about this, they were upset. So they went to the rancher and told him. The rancher sent for the man who had owed him that huge debt. "You low down bum! I canceled all that debt for you just because you begged me to! Shouldn’t you, then, have been kind to that little man just as I was kind to you?" Still very angry, the rancher called in the sheriff and had the man thrown in jail until every dime of the debt had been paid.
Jesus added: "and My Spiritual Father will treat you along the same lines unless every single one of you forgives your brother from your heart."
The moral of the story: we owe a debt of sin that would be totally impossible to pay. God Himself freely canceled that debt in the Sacrifice of Christ. Since He forgave us, we should forgive one another. Jesus taught us to pray: "And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors." Matt 6:12
1. Each of us has a need to receive love.
Jesus said: "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" Matt 5:46
Like Jesus, we must learn to focus more on what others need than what they deserve. Jesus did not give the sinful woman in Luke 7 what she deserved. Jesus did not give the woman in John 8 what she deserved. Paul wrote: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
2. A willingness to pay the cost.
"But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth." 1 John 3:17-18; James 2:15-16.
3. Obligated to love.
"Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments." 1 John 5:1-2
"And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment." 1 John 3:23 Faith & love are welded together.
1. Compare the debt of the unmerciful servant to the debt we all owe God.
2. Are we sometimes more focused on what others deserve than on what they need?
3. What would be a sacrifice on our part? (widow’s mite)
4. Read Matt 23:23. Are we ever guilty of doing all the right things but failing to focus on the weightier matters?
5. Read Eph 3:17-19. How does God’s love surpass our ability to understand. Should we share His love with others?
6. Read Hebrews 6:9-10. When we show love to someone in need, will we be rewarded immediately?
Shine God’s Light
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matt 5:16
"to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'" Acts 26:18
The Lord instructed Paul to do this. This is what He tells the church (that’s us) to do also. Let your light shine!
The Parable of Salt and Light. [Matt 5:13-16]
The rancher sees to it that his cattle have salt in their diet. This helps preserve their health. Salt preserves meat and sauerkraut and pickled vegetables and such. Salt adds flavor.
You guys are the world’s natural preservative. Like salt, you bring out the flavor. But if you go bland (saltless) on Me, what use is that? You might as well be chucked out and go join the wasters at the landfill site. You guys make the world visible. You bring light. You can’t camouflage a fireworks display. You don’t put floodlights behind a brick wall, so don’t pull curtains across the good things that brighten up people’s lives. Let them see it. And get God some great review for what He’s done in your dark corners.
The Sermon on the Mount - This is how you should live.
In Matt 5:1-12 Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus didn’t say: "This is what I want you to be." Rather He said: "This is what you are." Being Christian is becoming what we already are in Christ. The Beatitudes are a list of blessings and happiness of those who would live out His instructions. If we truly love God and use our opportunities to bring Him glory, and put His love into practice with our neighbor, we cannot help but receive another blessing, our influence. We do so by being salt and light. As Christians we have the unique ability to influence the lives of others and bring them into the kingdom of God.
In cowboy language the Lord’s Prayer would say:
God in heaven, You’re our Father.
We respect everything You stand for. We want others to do so.
Please bring heaven on earth: people living life Your way; like the angels in heaven do.
Please bring us what we need to keep going each day.
Please clear our guilt, as we cancel our grievances with others and throw them all away.
Please pull us back from the edge of evil, if we’re falling or being thrown..
Because You’re all that matters; and You’re able to take the credit.
You are Awesome God! It’s Your throne! Amen - Absolutely!
1. You are the salt of the earth.
A parable is a comparison. Salt and light are comparisons which Jesus used to show Christian influence. Salt was expensive in the ancient world. Roman soldiers were often paid in salt. But salt’s value is in what it does. Some foods are loaded with salt to make it taste good. But we do not eat salt by itself. Christians by their presence in the world make it a better place. Sodom & Gomorra would have been preserved by ten righteous men. Surely there are many righteous men & women in our USA.
In ancient days rock salt was what they had. If the salt washed out and just the rock was left, it was worthless. If the world washes out our saltiness, what good are we? Each day we make decisions, and we should listen to what Christ said. In this way He preserves us [1 John 2:1-2]. Jesus is our Advocate.
2. You are the light of the world.
Most people do not turn on a lamp just to see the light, but to use the light to see those things the light shows up. As Christians we are to shine so that others can see God in our good works.
Light attracts. In the dark if you see light in the distance, you would go toward it. Christian living draws others toward God. Does your peace and joy lead others to God? Peter speaks of joy inexpressible and full of glory [1 Peter 1:8; 1 Cor 2:9].
3. What the Bible says.
a) Don’t give in to messed-up urges. 1 Peter 2:11-12.
b) Anarchy isn’t the way; respect is. 1 Peter 2:13-15.
c) Work hard, even if your boss is a hard-nosed money-grubber. 1 Peter 2:18.
d) Love and honor your spouse. 1 Peter 3:1-7.
e) Don't play tennis with the hand grenades of evil. Defuse them and chuck back something good. 1 Peter 3:8-12.
f) Be ready to explain your hope in Christ. 1 Peter 3:15-16.
g) Everything should be done in a way that will bring honor to God because of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 4:11.
1. As salt, what could you do to help preserve your closest friends and associates? Your community?
2. As light, are others attracted to you because of your lifestyle or are you more attracted to theirs?
3. What might be some of the baskets you might hide your light under?
4. Read Hebrews 11:4. Do you live so that others will remember you as a Christian example?
5. Can a Christian be bold & confident yet without being arrogant?
Accept God’s Grace
The genuine Messiah shows up! And when He does? No one recognizes Him! But those few who take the risk realize Who He Is! To these guys He starts doling out adoption papers to sign them up as God’s Children! God’s Voice (Eternal Word) gets flesh & blood, skin & bone. We get to spend time with Him, get to know Him, see what He’s like. He is all you might expect God’s Only Son to be - and lots more!!! [based on John 1:14-16; 1 John 1:1-4]
The Right To Become God’s Children
So many of God’s blessings are given to us to use for others. Salvation is a personal thing. It is nontransferable, meaning that each person must believe for himself/herself. Our faith, no matter how strong, cannot save another person. But we can share our faith with them. We can bear witness to God’s Love.
Salvation comes from God. And "salvation takes place in the mind of God, not in the heart of the sinner" [said by F.L.Rowe, one of our old preachers]. We cannot even earn it for ourselves. It is by God’s Kindness (Grace). "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Eph 2:8-10
A Certain Man Had Two Sons Luke 15:11-32
We are so familiar with this parable that we may not see all the things that are taking place.
This rancher has two sons. The kid brother decides he has had enough! He goes to his Dad, and as much as wishes the old man dead. [This is implied in that culture.] "I want my half of the inheritance." The Dad sits down in shock. But he gets out the ledger and does the figures, sells some cattle and land, and hands over half of the family assets.
The son doesn’t even hang around to hear his father’s advice on how to survive in the world. Within weeks he’s off to foreign lands, buying drinks and spending money on those who recognize a sucker. The money goes down the toilet and so do the friends when they realize he’s broke. What to do? He does a job search and winds up cleaning out pigsties - not a great job for a Jew.
He’s working his shovel when a light pops in his head. "What am I doing? I’ll just hitchhike home. I’ll tell my Dad, "You don’t have to think of me as family. Just give me a job. Please!"
But his Dad sees him coming and runs out in the yard in his slippers. He throws his arms around him and spins him around. And the shouting! "My son was virtually dead, and he’s come back! He was lost and now he’s turned up! Let’s have a party!!!"
Don’t you just love happy endings! But there is a big brother problem. He’s coming from the pasture and sees the commotion. He asks a hand, who says: "Your brother’s back and your Dad’s thrown a party!" Livid with anger, he walks off, kicking things and muttering.
But Dad catches up with him, and hears harsh words. "How could you do this! I’ve slaved over your accounts. I’ve done everything you asked - not even taken sick time. Did you ever throw a party for me! No! But when this waster comes crawling back, oh yes, HE gets the full treatment! Well thanks for nothing!"
"Son," says the Dad, grabbing him by the shoulders and eyeballing him. "You’re around all the time, and I love it. What’s mine is yours. But how could we not throw a party - as far as I knew your brother was dead! Now he’s alive. He could have been anywhere, and now he’s here, with us. Come on, join the party."
No doubt the religious leaders and most of the audience knew why Jesus told this story. More dynamite on the barbecue.
a) The Prodigal: Those who want grace without responsibility. Did the son expect to do great things on his own? Or did he only want to have a riotous good time and forget everything?
b) The Older Son: Those who embrace responsibility but feel little need for grace. They often feel that the guilty should get their just deserts and are more interested in punishing others than extending forgiveness.
c) The Father: The God who really loves us all. He allowed the son the freedom to make a mess of things. That’s known as freewill. But when the son brought himself back, the father welcomed him with open arms!!!
Jesus is teaching that it’s a whole new ball game. God sees us as stolen property and He’s buying us back with the windfall from Jesus’ sacrifice! He’s got designs on the whole world. to wipe out all the messy cases against us that keep us locked up and away from Him! Yes, us! We’re God’s new reps!
"that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation." 2 Cor 5:19
"having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." Col 2:14
Paul wrote: "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." 1 Cor 15:10
1. Read John 6:44-45. What type of responsibility do you feel as one who has received this call from God?
2. Read Luke 6:46. How might we be guilty of wanting grace without responsibility?
3. Read Luke 18:10-14. In what ways do we identify with the older son rather than this publican?
4. Read 1 Peter 5:10-11. Why is it necessary sometimes to hit rock bottom before we are willing to accept God’s grace?
5. Compare Paul’s confession in 1 Timothy 1:12-14.
"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus." 1 Tim 1:12-14 (NLT)