Key Passage: John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Big Picture Question: How do you know God loves you? God sent Jesus to save us.

Christ Connection: Jesus taught Nicodemus about God’s kingdom. God loves the world, and He sent Jesus to earth to rescue people from sin. Jesus said that people who believe in Him will be with God forever.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Over the next four weeks, kids are going to learn about Jesus’ early ministry. In today’s Bible story, Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin—a Jewish governing body—visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus was part of an exclusive group of religious elite. Nicodemus believed that if a person was a law-abiding Jew, then he would be accepted by God. Jesus turned this belief system on its head.

Jesus’ words perplexed Nicodemus: “Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). For a moment, Nicodemus actually wondered if Jesus was saying that someone must crawl back into the womb! Jesus explained that spiritual birth is not unlike physical birth: a person cannot do it himself. It is something that happens to him.

Jesus reminded Nicodemus of the Old Testament account of the disobedient Israelites and the bronze snake. The Israelites could not help themselves, but when they trusted in God and looked to the bronze snake lifted up on the pole, they were healed. (Num. 21:4-9)

Every person is born a sinner. It is by God’s Spirit—not our own effort—that we are born again. Without Jesus, we are spiritually dead. Sin separates us from God. When people believe in Christ and are “born again,” they receive new life and become God’s children. Jesus offers new life to those who trust in Him for salvation.

Family Activity: Share with each of your children a baby book or other keepsakes you have of his or her birth. Tell your testimony—how you became a Christian and how your life has changed. Jesus told Nicodemus he needed to be “born again.” Explain that people need to be “born again” because sin makes us spiritually dead, but Jesus give us new life.

Dear FPC—
What an impactful beginning to our Faith and Social Justice series! I am glad that so many of you could join us on Tuesday evening to hear from a knowledgeable panel (with experts from the legislature, the academy and the legal system speaking) about the challenges of mass incarceration. Thank you to Pastor Chris for organizing this and following God’s nudges. I was stunned to learn of the dramatic expansion of the prison system during my adult lifetime (there are about 7x more prisoners now than 40 years ago) and the changes in the law that make moving past a conviction almost impossible.
I was even more struck by Jesus’ call to us to visit those in prison. Just visiting is enough to turn a stranger into a friend, an “other” into an “us.” I wonder if others are interested in trying to organize visiting people who are incarcerated?
I also want to encourage each of us to try to continue to learn. Alice and I are doing that by going to see the new movie Just Mercy, and we are bringing tissues! What is something you can do to learn more about how we as a nation treat people of color and the poor?
This Sunday we are looking at how God’s people Israel got their name and what it means for us as we follow Jesus. I hope you can join us for worship and stay for our Annual Meeting after the 11 am service (it’s a potluck lunch!)
Blessings to you this week –and stay open to how God might be using you to bless others!

Pastor Steve

Key Passage: John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father.”

Big Picture Question: What did Jesus tell His disciples to do? Jesus said, “Follow Me.”

Christ Connection: Jesus told His friends to tell people about Him. Jesus came to save people from their sin. This is very good news! Everyone in the world needs to hear about Jesus.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. In today’s Bible story, kids will learn how Jesus called His disciples. In the first century, Jewish students would seek out a rabbi—an expert of the law of Moses—and ask to follow him. A rabbi would choose only a few highly-promising students to be his disciples. If a student was not accepted by the rabbi, he likely returned home to learn a trade. Those chosen to be a rabbi’s disciples followed him everywhere. They learned from the rabbi how to think and how to act. They trusted the rabbi, and attempted to become just like him.

When Jesus chose His disciples, His strategy was unusual. Rather than waiting for students to come to Him, Jesus sought out His disciples among the people who followed Him. He found them working—fishing and repairing nets. Some of Jesus’ disciples were introduced to Him by their friends. He approached these ordinary men and said, “Follow Me.” Their response? “Immediately they left … and followed Him” (Matt. 4:20,22).

The Twelve—Peter; James, son of Zebedee; John; Andrew; Philip; Bartholomew; Matthew; Thomas; James, son of Alphaeus; Thaddaeus; Simon; and Judas—spent time with Jesus during His ministry. Jesus taught His disciples to teach others about Him. The good news about Jesus is too great to not share with the entire world! Jesus came to save people from their sin.

Family Activity: Talk about the difference between those who follow Jesus and those who don’t follow Jesus. Ask each family member to share the name of one person who doesn’t follow Jesus. Commit to pray for them.

Dear FPC—
Gratitude. There is no habit or attitude more healthy or good for you than gratitude. I was glad for the moisture of the snow on Tuesday afternoon, and grateful that I avoided any accidents on this ice!
I hope that you take time to appreciate the blessings God gives us—life, breath, love, hope, beauty, joy. As I reflect I am especially grateful for the gifts God gives us through First Pres. An amazing staff. Dedicated leaders. A legacy of giving, serving and leading which makes a difference in our community. A stunning place to worship. A friendly, open, generous fellowship of believers. Music ministry, small groups, Nites Out groups, service teams, mission support, financial stability. Amazing! Thank you God! And thank you all. I am particularly thankful for the hard work, wonderful ministry and vision of Pastor Chris. She is a terrific colleague in ministry to me and a great pastor. We are truly blessed.
Next week is a busy week—don’t forget the Faith and Social Justice discussion on Tuesday at 7 in the Sanctuary, the Family Hockey night on Friday and the Annual Meeting on Sunday Feb 26 (and potluck!) at noon!
Here is a prayer of thanksgiving I’ve found helpful, from the Book of Common Prayer:

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.
We furthermore thank you for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence upon your mercies alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

Blessings to you this week!

Pastor Steve

Key Passage: John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father.”

Big Picture Question: How did Jesus keep from sinning? Jesus remembered God’s words from the Bible.

Christ Connection: Satan tried to get Jesus to sin, but Jesus did not sin. Jesus always did the right thing. Jesus died on the cross to rescue us from sin. When we are tempted to sin, we can ask Jesus to help us say no to sin.

Dear Parents,
Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Today’s Bible story takes place immediately after Jesus’ baptism. After Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness. Jesus fasted for 40 days, and He was hungry. The Devil (the agent of temptation and the father of lies) said to Jesus, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

If You are the Son of God? The Devil knew who Jesus was. He challenged Jesus to prove it. The Devil wanted to ruin God’s plan of redemption which was set in motion in Genesis 3. In the garden of Eden, Satan used a seemingly innocent question to arouse doubt in Eve: “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1). Adam and Eve ate the fruit God had forbidden them to eat, and sin entered the world. Jesus came to reverse the curse, to succeed where Adam failed. The Devil’s aim was to get Jesus to sin, to disqualify Him from the role of sinless Savior.

Jesus did not give in to temptation. Each time Jesus was tempted, He remembered God’s Word. The Bible includes several verses about temptation. For example, God does not tempt anyone. (Jas. 1:13) We can pray to resist temptation. (Matt. 26:41) When we resist the Devil, he will flee from us. (Jas. 4:7) But what happens when we do give in to temptation? We can boldly approach God’s throne to receive grace to help us through temptation, and mercy and forgiveness when we sin. (See Heb. 4:14-16.)

The writer of Hebrews said that our high priest—Jesus—can sympathize with our weaknesses because He was tested in every way we are, yet He never sinned. Jesus was tempted, but He never sinned. Jesus is perfect and righteous. A perfect sacrifice was required to take away sin. Jesus was that perfect sacrifice. He died on the cross to free us from sin and to give us the power to say no to temptation.

Family Activity: Research how to make a solar oven using stones, aluminum foil, black paper, and plastic wrap. Use it to bake bread and talk about Jesus’ being tempted to make stones into bread.

Go further: Choose a day to fast as a family. Another option is to buy each family member a favorite snack food, and challenge each person not to eat any of it for one week. Talk about how hard it is to resist temptation. Share some ways Jesus dealt with temptation.

Dear FPC—
Happy Epiphany! Epiphany is traditionally observed on January 6.  We use it to remember the Magi coming to worship the baby Jesus.  In many areas people celebrate with special cakes called King Cakes what have a plastic baby toy baked in them.  The person who gets the piece with the baby is special.  I guess.  I love the cake, but don’t really get how a baby in a cake can ever represent something good!  Eww.  Certainly by January 6 the last thing we all need is more sweets! 😊
But the point of Epiphany is to celebrate the light of Christ coming into the world—to practice recognizing God’s appearances (epiphanies) in our lives.  It is a very healthy practice to remember how God has been faithful to you and to repeat those stories to yourself and your friends.  Then when times come when God seems absent (and they will), you can be reassured by those memories.  Think about a time when you felt God particularly present to you.  I had a little epiphany myself on Monday, the day of Epiphany.   I was coming home from work and saw the sun setting against the mountains.  Amazing!  Just like a painting.


I feel like God is often doing remarkable stuff—just creating beauty or joy or peace without drawing attention to it.  Our job is to notice.  And to praise him for it.  Practicing gratitude makes us happier, healthier, and generally more fun to be around.  Maybe as you start 2020 you can practice looking for those “God-sightings” and saying thank you for them!
I hope you can join us in worship on Sunday.  This week we’ll talk about where everything went wrong—in the world and in each of our lives.  And we’ll point ahead to the hope of rescue that God gives us!

I am thankful for you!

Pastor Steve

 

 

Key Passage: John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father.”

Big Picture Question: Who baptized Jesus? John baptized Jesus.

Christ Connection: Jesus never did anything wrong, but He was baptized like sinners are baptized. Baptism reminds us that Jesus died and came back to life. People who know and love Jesus should be baptized too.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Today’s Bible story focuses on Jesus’ baptism by John. John the Baptist grew up in the wilderness. John’s ministry began when God’s word came to him, and he began preaching near the Jordan River. John got people ready for Jesus’ ministry, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy, “A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness” (Isa. 40:3). John called the people to repent of their sins, and he baptized them in the Jordan River.

Jesus came from Galilee to be baptized by John in the Jordan River. Wait a second. John was calling people to a baptism of repentance. Sinners need repentance, but Jesus never sinned. (See Heb. 4:15; 2 Cor. 5:21.) So why did Jesus come to be baptized? John was right when he said, “I need to be baptized by You, and yet You come to me?” (Matt. 3:14). Jesus answered John, “Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). Jesus never sinned, but He was baptized like sinners are baptized. Baptism reminds us of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It reminds us that when we trust in Jesus, we turn from sin and start a new life—a life lived for Jesus.

Family Activity: Remember your baptism, but don’t just remember the day or the act—remember the gospel of Jesus Christ, which gives purpose to baptism. Remember that God called you to Himself, and He chose you by name—not by any merit of your own but by His free gift. Remember that you were nothing and God made you new. You were without hope, but He called you His own. He has adopted you as His child and heir. Remember the sin that caused the world to fall, understand the consequence of sin for every human being, and realize your need for the Savior who lived and died and rose again for all who would believe.

Dear FPC—
Happy New Year! It is exciting to step into a new year, I can’t wait to see what our adventure with Jesus will bring in the coming months. Like anything important in life, intentionality about your relationship with God is key. I want to encourage each of us to set some goals about connecting with God in the new year.
We have provided some suggestions and resources at www.fpcslc.org/exploringjesus . Especially check out the “connecting with God” resources as you consider new habits of prayer and engagement with Scripture in 2020.
If you’d like a daily email (or two, your choice) with prayer and scripture, Redeemer Presbyterian has a good one and you can sign up at https://www.redeemer.com/r/public_discipleship_devotional

Finally, here is a prayer that I’ve found helpful called “A Morning Resolve:”
I will try this day to live a simple, sincere and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking; cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of holy silence; exercising economy in expenditure, generosity in giving, carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust, and a childlike faith in God.

In particular I will try to be faithful in those habits of prayer, work, study, physical exercise, eating, and sleep which I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me to be right.

And as I cannot in my own strength do this, nor even with a hope of success attempt it, I look to thee, O Lord God my Father, in Jesus my Savior, and ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Give it a try!

Blessings to you in this new year!

Pastor Steve

Key Passage: John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father.”

Big Picture Question: Why did Jesus go to the temple? Jesus went to the temple to worship God.

Christ Connection: Jesus went to the temple to worship God. Jesus is God’s Son. He taught people about God. Jesus lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the dead so that we can worship God too.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. The Book of Luke records just two narratives about Jesus’ childhood: His dedication (Luke 2:21-40) and His time at the temple when He was 12 years old (Luke 2:41-52). Both stories set the stage for Jesus’ ministry on earth as an adult. Today, our Bible story is about Jesus’ trip to the temple as a 12-year-old.

Mary and Joseph were faithful Jews. They had dedicated the baby Jesus according to the law of Moses, and they traveled to Jerusalem each year to celebrate Passover. God had commanded the men to appear before Him three times a year to observe certain festivals. (See Deut. 16:16.) Once a year, those who followed God’s law would travel to Jerusalem, often in large groups.

In Bible times, a Jewish boy became a man around age 12. His father would train him to take on all the responsibilities of adulthood, social and spiritual. Joseph was a carpenter, and he likely trained Jesus in his trade. When Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem, Joseph might have taken Jesus around the city to teach Him the significance of the temple and explain the purpose of the Passover feast.

Jesus’ parents started the journey back home after the feast. They assumed Jesus was among their traveling companions, but He wasn’t. Jesus had stayed behind at the temple. Mary and Joseph traveled for a day before they noticed Jesus was missing. They went back to Jerusalem and found Him at the temple. Mary—a frantic mother—asked her preteen son why He would treat them that way. Didn’t Jesus know they were worried sick?

Jesus answered Mary’s question with a question: “Didn’t you know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” Mary and Joseph did not understand Jesus’ answer. In all this, Jesus did not sin. Jesus went to the temple to worship. He is God’s Son, and He came to do God’s work. Jesus taught people, suffered, died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the dead so that we too can worship God.

Family Activity: Establish boundaries and play a family game of hide-and-seek. Keep track of how long it takes to find each family member. Talk about Jesus’ time at the temple and His family’s search for Him.