Photo Scavenger hunt – VBC 2021

This is the Church, use it to make sure your GPS works  44°55′57″ N  92°57′48″ W

Location Hunt

Go to each location and take a group picture. The GPS coordinates should take you within 30 yards, then follow the clues. Stay on the trail, parts will be on a dirt trail. You will cross a street. Look both directions and cross as a group. This is not a race. Just go find everything. 
  1. (TEAM 1 START HERE) a yellow traffic sign.  44°53′54″ N  92°58′8″ W
  2. (TEAM 2 START HERE) I am surrounded by green on both sides, just don’t try to talk on the green parts 44°54′1″ N  92°58′26″ W
  3. I may be smelly, but without me, things may get trashy 44°53′58″ N  92°58′17″ W
  4. (TEAM 3 START HERE) Aspiring to be the next LeBron James?  start here 44°53′54″ N  92°58′1″ W
  5. Here is a good place to take a rest, in the middle of the forest  44°54′5″ N  92°58′28″ W
  6. (TEAM 4 START HERE) Dreaming of Everest?  start here 44°53′54″ N  92°57′59″ W

Creatures, Flowers and Oddities

On your walk take a picture of as many of the following as you can find. stay on the trail. Not everything can be found.
  1. oak tree
  2. white mushroom
  3. duck weed
  4. pink flower
  5. rabbit
  6. squirrel
  7. duck
  8. fallen tree
  9. red leaf
  10. kangaroo
  11. handicap sign
  12. turtle
  13. turkey
  14. red bird
  15. grasshopper
  16. berry (Do NOT EAT!!!)
  17. electrical box

The Ya’ll Bible

I ran across this while doing some thinking today, and thought everyone needs to do their devotions using the y’all version of the Bible.
Seriously. You should take your devotional verses and run it through the y’all version.  No, its not because I grew up in Texas. But because I grew up in Texas I know the word “y’all” is plural for the pronoun “you.”  So to Tiff, I can say, “can you turn the TV volume down,” but to a group of kids playing, I would say, “could y’all be quiet!” 
So, the y’all version takes your favorite Bible passages and shows you how we often miss how communal Christianity is. The Bible is full of command to y’all people, not just you individuals. For example look at Ephesians 4:25-29
25  Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of y’all with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. 26  Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on y’all’s anger, 27  and do not give the devil an opportunity. 28  He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with the who has need. 29  Let no unwholesome word proceed from y’all’s mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30  Do  not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom y’all were sealed for the day of redemption.31  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from y’all, along with all malice. 32  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven y’all.
The Bible is speaking to Christians as a collective group, not each one individually! 
OK, if you don’t think y’all is appropriate because to it is too colloquial for the Bible, then you should read the old King James Version. Everywhere you see the words “thee”, “thine”, and “thou” know that it  NOT because these are divine pronouns, rather “thee”, “thine” and “thou” are singular pronouns. When the KJV uses the words “ye”, “you” and “your” it is using a plural pronoun.
Yes, the Bible in its original languages make a distinction between singular and plural forms of you. Unfortunately English doesn’t. I guess if y’all version bothers you and KVJ is too difficult to read, you can read it in Chinese too, and see how often 你们 shows up rather than simply 你.
Y’all have a good day, and remember we are not to live the Christian faith as long rangers. 

Do Not Stop Meeting Together

What is church? Most of you know that it is not a simply the building, in fact we  meets at a building that is not our own. The Bible says that we are the Body of Christ and God’s family. 
David Gundersen’s article  “Most Important Time to Go to Church” helps us visualize what happens if we don’t meet regularly.  (read the article, its short and well written)
A body that’s never together is more like a prosthetics warehouse, and a family that never has family dinners or outings or reunions won’t be a healthy family, if any family at all.
It’s a sad image when one of us don’t make it to church regularly. The person who misses church misses out on the opportunity to receive grace and encouragement. As Gundersen points out, often the weeks that you miss church are the weeks when you need it most.
The church is not a show. Worship leaders, pastors, and teachers are not performers or even the only ones giving grace and encouragement. We speak and act out grace and encouragement to each other when we worship God together. The church is one in Christ, so when you are missing one week, we are all missing what you bring to the table.  This is also true if you are physically present, but mentally and spiritually absent. Come to church this Sunday and every Sunday ready to give and to receive.

Christmas – Joy for the Suffering

The joy of Christmas is not a giddy joy but a profound joy.
Christmas bells, time with family, trees, sledding are good and fun, but Christmas joy is much much more. 
Christmas is a profound joy that God loves us in this way, that he gave us his Son, to die for our sins.
Christmas is a profound joy that in the midst of this broken world, God is determined at an infinite cost to himself to restore goodness.
Christmas  is a profound joy that God is here today. God with us – Emmanuel. 
Christmas  is a profound joy based in sure hope that one day there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more death., but for today,
Christmas teaches us that God is the one who weeps with us as he walks us through our pains.
This Christmas be mindful of the suffering and give profound joy, profound hope. Here is a good article to consider as you minister to those who lost a loved one. 

A Parenting Lesson: What is your Goal in Parenting?

UCLA basketball player DiAngelo Ball along with two teammates were caught shoplifting during a team trip to China. They were detained for a week at their hotel by Chinese officials. Upon returning to the school, they were suspended indefinitely from team activities. 
This is a lesson about his father LaVar Ball. While DiAngelo was suspended, LaVar made a public statement and pulled his son out of UCLA. 

“There’s no accountability to them?” LaVar said of the coaches during an interview on CNN’s “New Day” Tuesday morning.

Without naming coaches, LaVar was critical of head coach Steve Alford and his staff for placing blame on the players — LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill — and not taking more responsibility. LaVar said the coaches should have enforced stronger rules during the trip.

Did you see that? Instead of taking responsibility for not raising his child not to shop lift, he blames the coaching staff! But you know, I understand …  you can raise your child right and they still make boneheaded mistakes. We all did our fair share of dumb stuff our parents told us not to do growing up. But as a parent, you take themistake and use it for training and instruction.  Don’t shift the blame on a third party!
But that is not the parenting lesson I really want to talk about. The real lesson is that parents can have huge impacts on their children.In some ways LaVar Ball is a successful parent -the problem is the definition of successful.
LaVar has three children, and from a young age he was involved in their lives training them to play basketball, and to that extend he is successful. Basketball training started in the Ball house at age 2. His eldest son Lonzo played UCLA, and had a spectacular year  before being drafted (round 1 second overall pick) by the Los Angeles Lakers. DiAngelo, the middle son had a scholarship to play at UCLA, and could have been a decent college player. The youngest son, LaMelo,  has the talent to at least play college and possibly professional ball.
Training one child to play at the college level is not easy, but having 3 talented players, including one who is one of the most hyped up rookies in the NBA this year is incredible. This requires sacrificial resources, hard work, unwavering dedication, and some luck with genes. LaVar did play a bit of college ball himself, but he wasn’t a person you would hear about in the news for his playing days. His wife played college basketball, so perhaps genetics played a bit.  Perhaps the last name Ball is a benefit too. OK I digress. 
LaVar is a successful father by his standards- which seem to be basketball and the family business. If you want to read about the drama behind his business, google Big Baller Brand, their $500 basketball shoes, and the reality TV show the family has.  
The lesson is this. We will impress something to our kids. If we really want to, some of us can help our children achieve great things, but our goals matter. LaVar’s goal is basketball, and he did AMAZING work.  We need to consider carefully what we pass down to our children. Are we working hard to pass down our faith, morals and character? Or are we trying to make them like us in professional success or social acceptability only? 
Here is what God tells the Israel as they werer about to enter the promised land.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.  Deuteronomy 6:4–9 (NIV)

We would do well to love God and pass our love for God  to our children. 

Reformation Day

Happy Reformation Day. Today we celebrate Luther’s nailing the 95 theses which kick started the reformation. Perhaps Luther picked All Hallow’s Eve (500 years ago) because it was a day where people would go to church, see his points, and kick start a conversation. Over time his followers distilled the their differences with the Catholic Church with 5 concise statements which still rings true today.

1. Sola scriptura: “Scripture alone”
2. Sola fide: “faith alone”
3. Sola gratia: “grace alone”
4. Solo Christo: “Christ alone”
5. Soli Deo gloria: “to the glory of God alone”
read more about the 5 solas here.

Human Trafficking

The American family thought they were adopting a child, but the child was not a orphan. The “adopting agency” trafficked the child by lying to the Ugandan mother. Greed – for a few thousand dollars they were willing to shatter so many lives. We live in a world full of evil.
At first, adopting had seemed the right thing to do. It was in line with their strong Christian beliefs, and it allowed Adam to practice what he preaches as an associate pastor at a Methodist church in St. Clairsville, Ohio. Blessed with four children of their own, they believed that adopting an orphan who was in a desperate situation was a way of making something good happen in a difficult world.
They opened their home and their hearts, only to suffer the crushing blow of what really transpired.
“We unwittingly placed an order for a child,” Adam says. “The only trauma this poor kid ever experienced was because we essentially placed an order for a child.”
full story here.
Pray for the girl’s two sisters who do not know the truth yet. Pray for justice and mercy for all families involved. Let us hate sin. Let us hate greed in our own lives. Let us grief with God for our sins and the sins of others. 

Why Youth Stay in Church

The culture of the American church and youth ministry have changed a bit since 2011 when this article was first published. But I think Jon Nielson observations are still important. The reasons youth stay in church through college and into adulthood are:
1. They are converted
2. They have been equipped, not entertained
3. Their parents preached the gospel to them
In summary he writes
“Youth pastors, pray with all your might for true conversion; that is God’s work. Equip the saints for the work of the ministry; that is your work. Parents, preach the gospel and live the gospel for your children; our work depends on you.”
read the full article here.

The Big Story – 5 Minute Overview of the Bible

Created for kids, but if you need a refresher this is a good one. 5 minute review of the major story arc of the Bible showing how everything points to Jesus. 

is your phone changing you?

Sometimes its hard to imagine modern life apart from a smartphone. 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You  is a worthwhile read to help us consider how the phone (like any tool) shapes us. I can’t tell you how many times while reading this book, I catch myself grabbing for the phone for no reason, and thinking to myself, this book is so right about me.
Here is a book review with an interesting video to introduce the book to you.