Playing with Playdough and Capturing Hearts

The tears kept coming, I couldn’t help it. I was posted at the back of our church, ready to dim the lights when the video played, but also watching for stray little ones that could come in late and might need to be led to the platform. It was our closing program for VBS and my heart was full.

As I watched the little ones sing, jump, shout, and praise the Lord, my heart felt it would burst with love and longing. I long for these little ones to follow Christ and live passionately for Him. I long for them to be truth speakers in their generation! As they sang, I prayed. “Father, capture their hearts for Your glory!”

I love VBS. If you’re unfamiliar with that acronym, VBS=Vacation Bible School. I’ve been spending a week of my summer at VBS for more than five decades now and it is one of my favorite weeks of the year. I want everyone to join in! Don’t want anyone to miss out on what God has in store for us.

I’ve watched friends come to know Christ during that week, seen little ones come to a greater understanding of who God is, been revived personally, and watched God work in the lives of those who serve—in addition to working in the lives of the little ones.

And those little ones . . . they just love it! I can’t get enough of seeing them run into the church, excited to be there, belting out the songs and dancing with delight. I love watching the teachers pour truth and love into them and catching glimpses of God opening their eyes to the wonder of who He is. Nothing better.

Why does it matter to set aside a week like this? Why spend the money, time, and energy? Some of those who served made significant sacrifices to be able to be there every night, some came early and stayed late. A few were working on this event months before it actually occurred. Why does it matter?

Because the little ones matter. And because we’re called to serve. And because this is one way we can spread God’s glory.

Jesus Loves the Little Children . . .

The scene of Jesus loving on the little ones is often at the forefront of my mind. I think it’s important for us to cultivate His heart for the “least of these.” He is passionate about children, so much so, that a very strong word is used in reference to His emotions toward those who demean or hinder children from receiving spiritual blessing.

Watch for the word: “indignant” in this passage and see who is experiencing that emotion:

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. (Mark 10:13–16)

Did you catch that?

I’m no Greek scholar, but as best as I can tell through study and research, this is the only time this particular word is used in reference to Jesus experiencing it. “When Jesus saw it, he was indignant . . .” (emphasis mine). This one little word is packed with intensity. It means to be incensed, angry, to be so emotionally distressed that it actually causes pain. This word is never used in reference to Jesus again.

It’s the same descriptive word used to convey the reaction of the Jewish leaders when the children recognized Jesus as the Savior of the world:

And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?”

And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,

“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” (Matthew 21:14–16)

The “children” are mentioned in both passages. In the first, they are seeking out the Savior and being pushed away, and Jesus is indignant. In the second passage, the religious crowd are witnessing God at work in their midst, and they are “indignant” over it. The children, though, they knew. They were more in tune with the work of God than the haughty religious elite.

Those with indignant hearts were demeaning the children’s recognition of the Savior.

For me, setting aside a week to work in Vacation Bible School is living out Jesus’ heart for these little ones. I’m so grateful for those in our church family who served in every capacity, from building sets, transforming classrooms into vast realms of outer space, making snacks, to teaching the Word. Each worker brought God glory through inviting these little ones to draw close to the Savior, to come up close and listen to His Word, to enjoy Him as they played, sang, jumped and ran!

What is your heart toward the little ones in your church?

Do you bend low to have a conversation and let them experience the fragrance of Christ through your interaction? Do you invite them to experience Him by spending time serving in a class? Do you pour out love from Him as you kneel to offer a hug or share a piece of candy (with mom’s permission, of course!)?

I hope you are demonstrating Jesus’ heart as you interact with the children in your church. Yes, they may be rambunctious and rowdy, they may leave some wear and tear on the carpet, they may make you a bit uncomfortable or seem “inferior” to you (they’re not, by the way)—but, if you haven’t already, I hope you’ll cultivate Jesus’ heart for them.

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