Key Passage: Matthew 13:11 “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you.”

Big Picture Question: What should we always be ready for? We should be ready for Jesus to come back.

Christ Connection: Jesus wants people who believe in Him to take care of his world and to tell others about Him. No one knows when Jesus will come back to earth. We must always be ready. When Jesus comes back, He will reward those who worked hard for Him.

Dear Parents,
Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. In today’s Bible story, Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives when His disciples came to Him with a question. The disciples had been puzzled when Jesus told them that the temple would be destroyed. (Matt. 24:2) They asked, “What is the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3).

Matthew 24 records Jesus’ response. He told of persecution and tribulation. The chapter ends with a parable about faithful service to Jesus. The parable of the faithful servant serves as a warning to believers, urging them to be prepared for Jesus’ return.

Jesus described what the day will be like when He returns. He begins with a question: “Who then is a faithful and sensible slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give them food at the proper time?” (Matt. 24:45). Jesus told about a faithful servant whose master finds him working hard when he returns. The faithful servant will be put in charge of the master’s possessions. But if the servant is wicked—assuming he can do as he wants while his master is away—he will be punished when the master returns.

In the parable, the master is Jesus. He gave His disciples the specific task of teaching and preaching, of feeding His sheep. (See Matt. 28:18-20; John 21:17.) Jesus’ parable implores the faithfulness of everyone so that when the chief Shepherd appears, they “will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Pet. 5:4). The parable also serves as a warning to those—like the scribes and Pharisees—who take advantage of their position for their own gain.

Jesus gives believers the responsibility of caring for His world and sharing the gospel. No one knows the exact time Jesus will return to earth. We must always be ready. When Jesus returns, those who faithfully work for Him will be rewarded, but those who do not will be punished.

Family Activity: Invite kids to write or draw a picture of what they do to get ready to go somewhere. Talk about what happens if it’s time to go and someone isn’t ready. Prompt kids to explain the difference between a faithful servant and a lazy servant. Read the Christ connection and talk about ways your family can live that would make Jesus happy if He were to come back right at any moment.

Dear FPC—
Happy July! That means that the first half of 2020 is over! Frankly, I’m ready to move on to something new . But, of course actual events—pandemics, systemic racism, economic turmoil, political disputes, etc. – don’t care about our turning over the page on a calendar. So our lives today look a lot like our lives last week for most of us.
I am encouraged by your broad engagement with our book study on Race Talk. We had over 50 people involved and everyone was very open and honest in their reflections, which I really respect. I am hopeful that we will all learn some new things about ourselves and about how our society has embedded racism in some surprising ways that most of us are unaware of. My prayer for this time is that each of us will learn something about ourselves and become more open to listening and learning from others, especially others from differing backgrounds.
Of course, many of you are not able or inspired to join an 8 week book group. That is of course fine! But, we have gathered some resources that any of us could find helpful. They are on the Resources for Anti-Racism page on our website. http://fpcslc.org/anti-racism-resources/
Some of these were shared by some members of the congregation! If you have other resources you think would be helpful, please feel free to let Pastor Chris and I know about them.
Have a safe and happy Fourth of July. For all of our challenges, it is good to celebrate our country and the aspirations of freedom, equal justice for all, and opportunities for life, liberty and happiness that it still points us towards.

This Sunday we will be looking at the surprising power of forgiveness and mercy. That kind of power is sorely needed today. As Abe Lincoln once said—do I not destroy my enemies by making them my friends? If you really want change in our world, we need to start making friends, one person at a time.

God bless you!

Pastor Steve

Key Passage: Matthew 13:11 “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you.”

Big Picture Question: Who is invited to the kingdom of heaven? Everyone is invited to the kingdom of heaven.

Christ Connection: Heaven is like a great wedding feast, and Jesus invites everyone to come. Jesus makes a place for people who say yes to His invitation, and they can be with Him forever.

Dear Parents,
This week in The Gospel Project® for Kids, kids will learn about the parable of the wedding feast. Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast is more than a simple story about a king’s rude guests. The parable reveals the King (God the Father) who seeks to honor His Son (Jesus) with a banquet. Though many people are invited to the kingdom of heaven, few will choose to come.

When Jesus told this parable, He had been teaching for three years. Many people who heard Jesus opposed Him, including the religious leaders. It was to this audience that Jesus told such a shocking story in which the attitudes and actions of the people who rejected the king’s invitation clearly paralleled the religious leaders.

In the parable, the religious leaders are represented by the guests who refused to come to the wedding banquet. They had been invited, but when the king’s servants told them the feast was ready, they did not want to come. Instead, they went about their lives—to their farms and businesses. Some of them even killed the king’s messengers!

What an insult to the king! These people had turned down an invitation to the most wonderful and joyous event they could imagine. The king would have given His best to honor his son, and the king reacted justly. He punished those who rejected him and invited others instead—those not in the city, both the good and the bad.

Likewise, God invites Gentiles into His kingdom. No one is refused based on his or her economic or social standing. The King Himself provides the required attire—robes of righteousness, like those given to Joshua the high priest. (See Zech. 3:3-4.) The King rejects those who try to come by their own merit—in their own clothes—as the man without wedding clothes did.

Salvation is a free gift. We can’t earn our way into heaven. Jesus did all the work when He died for our sins on the cross. This story reminds us that we need to be clothed in Christ’s righteousness. Jesus invites us to join Him in heaven—the great wedding feast. When we receive His invitation, Jesus gets us ready by clothing us in His righteousness.

Family Activity: Invite kids to list names of friends or family members they would like to invite to a party. Review the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22:1-14. Ask kids how they would feel if their guests refused to come to the party. Remind kids of the big picture question and answer. Pray that they, their friends, and family members would receive Jesus’ invitation to the kingdom of heaven.

Dear FPC:
Last Sunday we saw God’s expansive welcome—sending us out into the streets, the alleys, the highways and the hedges to invite all kinds of people to his banquet. Do you think of being with God as a party? The Bible often describes it as a great party—a banquet or a wedding feast. Our future is not an unending pew sitting, it is a rich, sumptuous celebration! I hope that none of us miss out!
This Sunday we are talking about how far God will go to bring each one of us home. I think you might be surprised! One of the big questions our society is facing today is who is included in the “us.” We are wired to look for differences and to treat people who are different from ourselves as “the other.” As not part of “us.” My question for you is where do you think Jesus would draw the line between us and them? Who is our neighbor that we are called to love?
Do those questions make you uncomfortable? I have to admit that they often unsettle me. Let’s walk together as we let Jesus disrupt us!
Grace and peace to you this week!

Pastor Steve

Key Passage: Matthew 13:11 “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you.”

Big Picture Question: What does God give us? God gives us good gifts.

Christ Connection: Jesus told a story to teach people about God. God loves us and gives us good gifts. No one can earn a gift. Everyone sins, or disobeys God, so everyone deserves to be punished. But God gave a good gift: His Son, Jesus. People who trust in Jesus will live with God forever.

Dear Parents,
Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Over the next five weeks, kids will be learning five parables that Jesus taught about God’s kingdom. The religious leaders who listened to and watched Jesus had some problems with the things He said and did. He taught about a righteousness that comes by faith rather than works, and He was friends with tax collectors and sinners. So Jesus told a parable to make clear that entering God’s kingdom was not a matter of merit but of grace.

The parable of the vineyard workers is about a landowner who hired workers to work in his vineyard. The first group agreed to work for a denarius, a fair wage for a day’s work. Throughout the day, the landowner hired more groups of workers. At the end of the day, the landowner paid every worker one denarius. The workers who had put in 12 hours did not think it was fair that those who worked just 1 hour were paid the same.

In Jesus’ parable, the second, third, fourth, and fifth groups of workers represent people who are not a part of the nation of Israel. The Israelites had been following God for generations. They faced trials, paralleling the men who worked through the heat of the day. God promised blessings to Abraham’s family, Israel. (See Gen. 12:2-3.) God kept His promise, yet He also poured out blessings on tax collectors, sinners, Gentiles.

Like the landowner and his wealth, God is free to share His grace as He desires. Jesus gave salvation to the criminal who was crucified next to Him and to Saul, who persecuted believers. Does God act fairly in saving people who have not followed Him their entire lives? The reward—eternal life—is God’s grace to those who believe, whether they believe at the first or at the last.

God does not owe us anything, yet He pours out blessings on us. He makes salvation possible for us, regardless of our abilities or efforts. The last will be first, and the first last. Jesus’ parable teaches about God’s grace. God is generous, and He loves us. We deserve to die for our sins, but God gives us what we don’t deserve—salvation through His Son, Jesus.

Family Activity: Give kids grapes to eat as a snack. Explain that grapes grow on vines in a vineyard. Review the Bible story. The landowner hired men to work his fields. At the end of the day, the landowner paid all the workers what was fair or more than they deserved. Ask the big picture question and lead kids to respond with the answer. List ways God has been generous to your family.

Dear FPC—
The other day Alice looked outside and said “what a beautiful fall day!” I think we will be back to summer by the weekend, but how strange that we have had this run of cooler weather (and how about that rain the other day!?).
All of this reminds me—even though it is still June, Fall is coming. We are making plans—not just for VBS and youth service projects, but for our fall programing, the Scottish Festival, and more. Of course all of those plans are impacted by the continued uncertainty of the coronavirus. Pastor Chris, the Session and I all appreciate your prayers as we navigate these uncharted waters.
A great thing about our faith is that even when our times are uncertain (as they really always are!), we can trust that our lives are held tightly by our loving Savior Jesus. We are not doing any of this alone, and we are in good hands. That is a powerful and encouraging truth. I hope you feel its impact. Pastor Chris and I (and your deacons!) are available to visit with you and talk through the challenges you are facing.
But, we are constantly reminded that we are not just recipients of good news, we are supposed to be conduits of it! We are blessed to be a blessing. One way you can do that is to let your neighbors know that you are there for them. Walk to your neighbors and drop off a note (or one of our Neighbors Helping Neighbors door hangers) with your name and phone number (or email if you prefer) and let them know that you are there—willing to listen, to pray, to help if you can.
I’ve heard from many people how good they feel when our calling tree checks in with them. All of us love to be remembered and included. So—pass that blessing of remembering and including on to your neighbors!
Let’s transform our neighborhoods by being the helping neighbors!
This Sunday we will be looking in worship at God’s extravagant invitation and what it means for us. Don’t let the busy-ness of life distract you from the meaning of life!

Grace, peace and joy to you from our Lord Jesus!

Pastor Steve

Key Passage: John 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”

Big Picture Question: Who raised people from the dead? Jesus raised people from the dead.

Christ Connection: Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. He showed that He has power over death. Jesus died on the cross for our sin and rose from the dead. Those who trust in Jesus will live forever with Him.

Dear Parents,
Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. In today’s Bible story, Jesus received word that His friend Lazarus was sick. Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha. They lived in the town of Bethany, about two miles away from Jerusalem. Mary and Martha sent a message to Jesus, likely expecting Him to come right away.

Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. (John 11:5) Yet He stayed where He was, and Lazarus died. Why would Jesus do such a thing? Jesus said that Lazarus’ sickness was “for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). He said that He was glad He wasn’t there when Lazarus died so that the disciples may believe. (John 11:15) Jesus’ timing is always perfect, and He acts or doesn’t act so that God will be glorified.

By the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. Decay had set in, and Mary and Martha were grieving. Martha went to meet Jesus. She said to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” Jesus had shown His power to heal people who were sick. Even still, she believed He could do a miracle.

Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). Jesus is the source of life—eternal life that cannot be destroyed by death. Believers do not need to fear death because physical death is not the end. (See John 11:25-26.) Jesus endured death for us so that when we die and are absent from our physical bodies, our souls are with the Lord. (See 2 Cor. 5:8.)

Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus interrupted Lazarus’s funeral knowing His would soon follow. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He showed that He has power over death. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus died on the cross for our sin and rose from the dead. He gives eternal life to those who trust in Him.

Family Activity: Build a “tomb” by draping blankets over chairs and tables. Use couch cushions or large pillows to block the entrance. Take turns sitting in the tomb until someone moves the pillows and says, “Come out!”

Dear FPC—

Suddenly racism is on everyone’s mind.  Many people’s reaction is “Racism?  Not my problem!”  With respect, it really is our problem.  People of color are the victims of the racism of white people—both conscious and unconscious racism.  Our brothers and sisters have been mistreated and even killed for years and we are mostly ignoring it.  That is a serious problem.  

The starting place is for us to listen and to learn.  Here are two videos that I highly recommend you watch and one very short thing to read: 
Deconstructing White Privilege by Dr. Robin DiAngelo.  This is a very accessible 22 minute talk that could change how you look at the world.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=DwIx3KQer54
Racism and Corporate Evil:  A White Guy’s Perspective—a sermon by Tim Keller.  In 26 minutes Rev Keller shows how we should care about group (corporate) and systemic evil, how we are sometimes unwittingly part of it, and how we can change. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhJJcTKTVGo  
Here is some advice from a black pastor: To all of my non-Black friends who are sincerely asking “what do I do?” While there are so many answers to that question, the best starting place is to draw near and “mourn with those who mourn.” It is PROXIMITY that moves us from apathy to EMPATHY. Our Empathy moves us to ENGAGEMENT and the aim of quality ENGAGEMENT is always EQUITY! #kingdomleaders #georgefloyd
 
Pastor Chris will be introducing a great opportunity for all of us to learn on Sunday as well, so don’t miss that.   Finally, Intervarsity Press is making a number of books about Justice available for FREE https://www.ivpress.com/pages/resources-for-faithful-justice  I particularly recommend “Disunity in Christ” 

Thanks for listening and for risking connecting about this important issue.  
 
Pastor Steve

Key Passage: John 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”

Big Picture Question: Who is most powerful? Jesus is more powerful than everyone.

Christ Connection: Jesus used His power to help the man, and then Jesus told the man to tell others what He had done. Jesus came to earth to free people from the power of sin. He was going to die on the cross to defeat evil once and for all. We can trust in Jesus to rescue us from sin, and we can tell others what Jesus has done for us.

Dear Parents,
Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. In today’s Bible story, Jesus displayed His power over evil. In the midst of His public ministry, the Jewish religious leaders began plotting to kill Jesus. (See Mark 3:6.) So one day, Jesus went to a land on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, where Gentiles lived. In that land was a man who needed help. (Note: The Gospel of Matthew describes two men.) An evil spirit was inside the man, and he suffered greatly. The people had tried to control the man by tying him up with chains, but the man broke free. So he lived alone in the tombs, crying out day and night.

When Jesus stepped ashore, the man ran to Him and kneeled down. Jesus commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man, and the evil spirit spoke: “What do You have to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You before God, don’t torment me!” (Mark 5:7). Many evil spirits were in the man, and Jesus gave the evil spirits permission to go into a herd of pigs. They did, and the man was healed.

The healed man wanted to follow Jesus, but Jesus told the man to go home to his own people and tell what the Lord had done for him. The man obeyed Jesus. He testified to the cities in that area about the Lord’s mercy, and the Gentile people were amazed.

In His teaching, Jesus said, “If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you” (Matt. 12:28). Jesus—as well as the Bible—is clear that Satan exists, and he and the demons work against God and His purposes. Jesus has power over evil. Only Jesus had the strength to control the man with the evil spirits. Jesus used His power to free the man. He has power over everything. Jesus came to earth to destroy the Devil by dying on the cross. One day, Jesus will end evil forever.

Family Activity: Provide strips of paper and glue sticks. Demonstrate how to make a paper chain. As kids work review the Bible story in Luke 8:26-39. Point out that the man was controlled by the evil spirit inside him. Jesus used His power to free the man. Encourage kids to break apart the paper chain. Remind kids that Jesus frees us from the power of sin.

Dear FPC—
            A Time To Pray.  
It feels like the world is going crazy.  COVID, senseless killings of black men, huge protests, a spirit of lawlessness leading to rioting and violence and destruction, a spirit of division driving us apart, many businesses still closed down (and some will not reopen), and now surging numbers of new cases of COVID 19 here in Utah.  Lord have Mercy! 
It is time to pray.  Let us take special time over the next week (through Friday, June 12) to pray and to fast for our country, our state, and our community.  Praying isn’t the only thing we should do, but it is the first thing—the foundation of any wise course of action.  
“If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7:14 
As you pray ask God’s Holy Spirit to lead you and listen for His nudges.  Here are some requests to consider:
Show me my own sin; reveal to me the darkness of my own heart (Ps.139:24)
Reveal to me the repentance I need in my own life.
The ending of the lawlessness and violence.
Justice for those who have had their lives taken from them, especially George Floyd, and comfort for their families.
Comfort for the family and friends of the thousands of people who have lost their lives because of Covid-19.
Help for the millions who find themselves suddenly without a job.
Provision for all those business owners who have lost their business because of rioting, for those who have insurance and those who do not.
Strength for the health care workers, nurses, doctors, technicians in hospitals and medical facilities who continue to work fearlessly to save lives.
Wisdom for our government and civil leaders as they seek to keep us safe both from the virus and from the violence in our cities.
Food and provision for those who are hungry and in need.
Fresh anointing for the Church of Jesus Christ to faithfully proclaim the Gospel and reach people who are hurting, suffering, alone, and in need.
Specific acts of grace and mercy that You want me to carry out in this time.
Here is a prayer for our country that I borrowed from the Book of Common Prayer (slightly edited):
Almighty God, you have given us this good land, we humbly beg that we may always be a people mindful of your favor and glad to do your will.  Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure conduct.  
Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. 
Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes who came here from many kindreds and tongues.  
Lord, send your spirit of wisdom to those to whom, in your Name, we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to your law, we may show forth your praise among the nations of the earth.  
In a time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble don’t let our trust in you fail—all of this we ask in through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  
 
Remember, Jesus said:  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”  Luke 11:9-10.  
Let’s start knocking!  
 
Grace and peace to you,
 
Pastor Steve