Sunday, July 26, 2009

Little Red Riding Hood

A Quick Look: Colossians 3:12-15

Really Read It: Galatians 1:1-24, Colossians 3:1-22

Memorize: Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Little Red Riding Hood is older than Christopher Columbus. She is probably more famous too. Before 1697 her story was not written down, she didn’t wear a Red Riding Hood, and she always lost. The wolf won. He got to eat the grandmother and the girl with no fear of a woodcutter attack. During the 1700’s she had her red hood and she got to be in a lot of books, but she still died every time. Little Red Riding Hood finally learned how to win the wolf’s game in the 1800’s. She has been winning and the wolf has been dieing ever since. But now it is the wolf’s turn again. It’s only fair right?

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a village near the forest. Whenever she went out, the little girl wore a red riding cloak, so everyone in the village called her Little Red Riding Hood.

One morning, Little Red Riding Hood asked her mother if she could go to visit her grandmother as it had been awhile since they'd seen each other.

"That's a good idea," her mother said. So they packed a nice basket for Little Red Riding Hood to take to her grandmother.

When the basket was ready, the little girl put on her red cloak and kissed her mother goodbye.

"Remember, go straight to Grandma's house," her mother cautioned. "Don't dawdle along the way and please don't talk to strangers! The woods are dangerous."

"Don't worry, Mom," said Little Red Riding Hood, "I'll be careful."

But when Little Red Riding Hood came to the place where the path went two ways, she noticed some lovely flowers in the woods. She picked a few, watched the butterflies flit about for awhile, listened to the frogs croaking and then picked a few more.

Little Red Riding Hood was enjoying the warm summer day so much, that she didn't notice a dark shadow approaching out of the forest behind her.

Suddenly, the wolf appeared beside her.

"What are you doing out here, little girl?" the wolf asked in a voice as friendly as he could muster.

"I'm on my way to see my Grandma who lives through the forest, near the brook," Little Red Riding Hood replied.

“Oh I know just the place,” said the wolf. “That’s quite a long journey for nothing more than a dull visit with an old lady. But this path is shorter and easier, and it is so much more fun. If you come with me we could do all sorts of things that your strict mother and grandmother never let you try.”

“That does sound like fun,” said Little Red Riding Hood. “But I don’t think my mother would like it very much.”

“Of course not. Didn’t I just say that we would do things that your mother hates? But I’ll give you a bit of watermelon chewing gum.”

“Watermelon! How wonderful. To think, the melons in my grandmother’s garden haven’t even begun to ripen. I do think that I would like to see where your path leads.”

“There is nothing good at the end of the path,” the wolf admitted. “But we’ll have lots of fun along the way.”

With that the wolf held out his arm for Little Red Riding Hood and they started down the other path.

A woodcutter found Little Red Riding Hood’s Red Riding Hood and an empty basket in the woods. He sold them at his garage sale, but Little Red Riding Hood’s family never saw Little Red Riding Hood again.

Isn’t that a terrible story?

But it is the story of many Christians who start out on the right path and change in the middle. Paul wrote a letter to people in a city called Galatia. Their story was the same as this sad Little Red Riding Hood story. They started on the right path, living for Jesus, loving God with all of their hearts, worshiping with strength, living by the Holy Spirit, running a good race. But they stopped. They switched paths. In Galatians 5:7 Paul asked them, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” And Paul wrote a lot in this letter about their bad path instead of life led by the Holy Spirit, but he wrote another letter that tells even more about staying on the right path.

You can’t follow a list of rules to get into heaven, but I am going to write a list of things to do to stay on the right path. This list comes from Colossians 3.

  • Set your mind on things above. You can set the TV to the cartoon network so that the ONLY thing that shows up is a cartoon. What if you could set your mind the same way? Only think about Jesus and His Kingdom. Can you set your mind on just one thing? Can you set your mind on the right thing?
  • Put off anger, hate, and bad words. Put off is the same as taking off. If a goose lays an egg while it is flying over you, you will take off your egged jacket. Or you can think of it like taking out the trash. Get the gross, stinking junk out of your house.
  • Put on a new person. Put on mercy, kindness, humility, and love. Put on is the same as putting on clothes, and unless you have goose egg smeared all over your clothes, you keep your clothes on all the time. Keep these things on.

After you have set, put off, and put on, let the peace of God rule in your heart. The word “let” seems like you don’t have to do anything, but if the peace of God is going to rule, you have to stop ruling.

That will keep you on the right path, running a good race. No big bad wolf will cut in on you.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Who Needs God

A Quick Look: Luke 15: 1-7

Really Read It: Luke 15: 1-32, Romans 8: 23-26

Memorize: Romans 8:25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past,

At Camp Kids Rule the kids do whatever they want for the whole week. And there are some great things to do. Huge fast water slides. Huge fast monster trucks. Batting cages. Basketball jam fest. Music. Movies. Arcades. And since kids rule at Camp Kids Rule, the kids get to do whatever they want to do all day every day. Nobody tells them when to go to bed or when to wake up. Nobody makes the kids eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Nobody forces these kids to do anything, so the kids so just anything.

The cook at Camp Kids Rule makes great food for the 100 kids in her care. The food is always ready in the Dining Hall, but the kids just don’t come to eat. Day after day she waits but the kids don’t come to get food. Finally she hears a faint voice, “I need to eat. Could I please have some food.” The cook rushes out and finds that one kid who needs food to live. She calls her friends and tells that great story over and over. She is happier about that one kids who needs to eat that the 99 who don’t need any food.

Before Luke wrote down the story of the Lost Sheep, he told us the reason for the story. Jesus told the story to religious people to show why he talked to sinners. The religious guys believed that they did everything that God wanted them to do. They thought they had it all right. And one of the things that they did was keep away from guys who didn’t keep all of the rules that they did. They thought Jesus should stay away from those bad people too, so Jesus said,

"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' 7I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15: 4 – 7 NIV

Jesus kept going and told about a woman who lost a coin and a man with two sons. The one about the sons is the longest and, I think, the best so you should read it again after you finish reading this.

The guys that heard Jesus tell the story of the Lost Sheep thought that they were not lost. They saw themselves as the good sheep who stayed with the shepherd. And they saw the sinners, the bad people that Jesus was talking to as the one sheep who got lost. They got those parts right but they missed what Jesus was really saying to them. Another time Jesus answered the same question even more clearly.

“Why does he eat with such scum?”

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:16b – 17 NLT

Now pick 100 people. They could be people from your church, from 100 different churches, from the street of your town, from the street of the town where Jesus told the story. It doesn’t matter. Just pick 100 for this tough question. How many of those people have sinned? How many of those people need God?

The answer is 100. Romans 8:23 says that everyone has sinned. Now think about the guys that Jesus told that story to. They heard about those 99 good sheep and they thought that was them. Their weak brains and their hard hearts missed the easy riddle that Jesus told. Jesus called them “righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Repent means to turn to God. It is bigger than saying sorry. Repent is to turn away from sin and turn to God, to run toward God. Everyone needs to run to God every day. Every person needs God every day. The ones who think they have God already, they already do it all right are farther away than the sinners who know they need God.

Remember the 100 kids at Camp Kids Rule. How many of those kids needed to eat? All 100. How many of those kids knew they needed to eat? Just one.

How many kids in the world need God? How many think they already have enough of Him? How many kids need to repent? How many don’t know it? How many are far from God? How many think they are close?


Nathan is amazed to see God move in power every week at his church. You can see what is happening:

You can find more of Nathan’s writing on lulu and helium.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Wrong Fear

A Quick Look: Luke 8: 37 – 39

Really Read It: Luke 8: 22 – 39, Mark 4: 35 – 5: 20

Memorize: Acts 1 :8 You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. NLT

Rufus had never been in the water. He knew nothing about floating, kicking his feet, moving his hands. He could not swim. But when foolish Rufus saw the pretty, blue water, he could not resist. He ran full speed for the pool and jumped in. The lifeguard pulled him out of the pool.

“You need to learn to swim before you jump in the water. This is not safe for you,” the guard scolded.

“But I like it. I want to go back in there.”

As Rufus struggled with the lifeguard to get back to the water, it started to rain. Gentle drops splashed into the pool and sprinkled the people on the patio.

“AAAHHHHHH! Help me, help me, save me! Get me out of here!” Rufus was screaming and thrashing his body in terror.

“What is wrong with you?” questioned the lifeguard.

“Water is falling from the sky! It is hitting me on the head! Ahhh, a drop just got me on the arm!”

Boris wanted to visit his brother in Boston, so he went to the train station and bought a ticket. But Boris never got on the train. When his train arrived, Boris did not like the looks of it. He walked slowly to the door and leaned in.

“No, no, no,” shrieked Boris. “I am not getting into that metal box. I could get trapped in there forever. I will walk to Boston.”

So Boris walked to the front of the train and onto the tracks. He strolled calmly down the train tracks without a care in the world as the train behind him started to move.

Luke 8:22 begins a story of Jesus and his disciples crossing a lake at night and continues with what happened the next day. The disciples and the people across the lake all make the same mistake. It is the same mistake as Rufus and Boris. They are afraid of the wrong things. Fear is a big problem for kids, and the Bible has a lot to say about fear. The main message from the Bible is: fear God and don’t fear anything else. But if you think about it and really study fear in the Bible, there are some things to fear. If you can’t swim and you see a pool, do you fear the water? I hope you don’t scream and run away, but the right fear keeps you from jumping into the water. You shouldn’t panic when you see train tracks, but you shouldn’t stroll down the tracks when a train is coming either.

The disciples made all kinds of fear mistakes on their nighttime boat ride across the lake. Jesus slept while the disciples guided the boat, but a bad storm came up. It was bad enough to sink the boat, and these guys feared death. If they had no fear they might have done nothing. Does no fear means that they just sat and watched the huge waves fill the boat with water? The right fear of that huge storm would cause them to stand in faith to stop it. That is what Jesus did. And when Jesus stopped the storm with his words of faith, the disciples made an even bigger fear mistake. They should have been thrilled that God was with them with such power, but Mark 4:41 says, “They were terrified.”

When Jesus and the disciples got to the other side of the lake, they met a messed-up guy. This guy lived without clothes in a graveyard, because he wouldn’t stay in a house and no one could keep him in a prison. He cried out night and day and cut himself with rocks. This was a scary guy. There are some safety steps to remember for naked, super-strong, crazy guys, but you don’t have to study them now. Instead look for foolish people with the wrong fear. They showed up after Jesus God met the demon-filled crazy man.

God’s power won, and the people from the nearby town saw the guy with clothes on, sitting quietly, and listening to Jesus. Then “a great wave of fear swept over them” and they forced Jesus to leave. Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t afraid of this guy before. But now there is NOTHING to fear. It was easy to see that good came from Jesus. It was easy to see that good came from the power of God. This guy would not wear clothes. It is good that he put some on. This guy was screaming, yelling, and cutting himself with rocks. It is good that he stopped. But these foolish, blind people didn’t see good. They saw a reason to be afraid. They were afraid of Jesus, because he brought the power of God to do good to their town. These people would rather have their crazy graveyard guy than Jesus.

Think about the wrong fear. Rufus and Boris used the wrong fear. The disciples and the people across the lake were afraid of the power of God. And that is the wrong fear that will cause the most harm in your life. Never fear our amazing, loving, powerful God. God does only good. Never be afraid of good happening in front of you. If sick people get better, that is good. If fighting families find peace, that is good. If storms stop, that’s good. If a boy who doesn’t care about anything starts to care about God, that’s good. If a girl who never feels anything feels God, that’s good.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Thrash Monday

A Quick Look: Matthew 21: 12 – 16

Really Read It: Matthew 21: 1 – 22, Mark 11: 1 – 24

Memorize: John 4: 23 – 24

This is not the Palm Sunday story. It is not the cross or the Jesus rising from the dead story. Those almost have to be studied in the spring. This story goes right with them, but Sunday-school teachers never get to it because they are so busy with those other stories on Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday.

In many houses, April is the time to stick colored eggs and cartoon rabbits to your windows? Do you have little Easter baskets for the mantle? Do you have a picture of a cross or an empty tomb? I might not be a fan of all of those decorations, but I would like to suggest you add some more. How about some decorations for Palm Sunday? You could make a palm branch frame for a picture of a donkey. And then continue from Palm Sunday to Thrash Monday. To remember Jesus on the Monday before he went to the cross, turn your kitchen table on its side and scatter money all over the floor. Flip at least half of the chairs and toss three or four animal cages into the mix. It will make meals a bit of a challenge, but it is worth it to remember the big mess that Jesus made in the temple.

But why? Why did Jesus make such a mess?

He explained it this way. “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”

On Palm Sunday, Jesus was in a little parade, and all the fans at the parade did the right thing. They praised and cheered with strength. Most parades are pointless; they go nowhere and nothing happens. In Christ’s parade something happened and he went somewhere. He went to the temple.

The temple then and the church now look quite different and very different things happen in them. I have never seen a guy in a robe kill and burn a goat at church. But the purpose is the same. The temple is the place to meet God, a house of prayer, a room for worship. Jesus entered the temple on Sunday evening and looked around. The next morning, Thrash Monday, he went back into the temple and made a mess. He drove out the people who were selling in the temple. All of these people were selling animals. The people who bought the animals then took them into the Temple and gave them to God, killed them for God. Some pet lovers think that Jesus wanted to stop them from killing all those animals. Sorry, that wasn’t it. Jesus wanted to take the greed out of His house. He had to get the greed out of His worship. He overturned tables. He made a mess, but he wasn’t in a rage of anger. If anger had taken over Jesus, he would have torn the place up Sunday night when he went there the first time. He waited for the right time to make a mess.

His mess was a message. Jesus wanted regular people to have a place to meet God. He wanted His people to have a house of prayer and a room used just for worship. No one could find God in that temple because God wasn’t there. Jesus drove out the people who were stopping God. And as soon as they were gone, Jesus brought that activity of God into the temple. He healed the blind and the lame. A healing God will heal bodies in His house, if He is really there. The children began to worship. True worship will come from children and adults. Worship is our response when God comes down. Worship gets God to come down. God will come where people show that they want him.

Jesus wrecked that temple which was full of worthless worship. Hundreds of people filled the temple and did religious things, but they did nothing to stir the heart of God. God made zero response to their worship. What kind of worship comes out of your mouth? What kind of worship comes from your heart? When you stand in your church, does God see a reason to listen? When it’s kids’ church time and all the kids sing, do you stir the heart of God? When your family gathers in the living room pray, do you say empty words? In your room at night when you talk to God, does he hear worthless worship? On Thrash Monday the message of Jesus was that religious activity is not what He wants in His house. He wants His people to gather and show with strength and passion and heart that they want God to step into that room and be God. It is a special room for God's use only. It is a special time for God's use only.


Nathan is amazed to see God move in power every week at his church. You can see what is happening:

You can find more of Nathan’s writing on lulu and helium.