Dear FPC– Lent is here! I hope you’ll join in doing something special to connect with God during these weeks leading up to Easter. Like any relationship, the more we put into our relationship with God, the deeper and more meaningful it can grow. I shared a few ideas and apps in the “What is Lent” flyer Or, come join us on Tuesdays at 6 pm for a short (~30 minute) time of prayer and praise. Just pause in the midst of your week to reconnect with God!
Last Sunday we finished our “30,000 foot” overview of the Bible. I hope it left you with both a whisper of the AMAZING future God has for us in his Kingdom as well as practical steps to live into that future now as we live out our purpose of being outposts of his Kingdom in our world today.
On Ash Wednesday Lent begins and we are marking that with our Ash Wednesday Supper at 6 and Service at 6:30. Come as you are and reflect on how Jesus saves us, just as we are.
During Lent in worship we will be looking at the core of our faith in a series called We Believe. We’ll be using the ancient summary of the faith known as the Apostles’ Creed. This Sunday we will be celebrating Communion and learning about how God doesn’t just love us, he embodies love in the community of the Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “God is Love” is not just a slogan, it is a fact! And he calls us into that community to live out his love right here in Utah.
I hope you can join us!

Pastor Steve

Key Passage: John 20:30-31 “Jesus performed many other signs…which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.”

Big Picture Question: Who can heal sick people? Jesus can heal sick people.

Christ Connection: Jesus saved a boy from dying. Then the boy’s father knew who Jesus is: the Savior God promised. Jesus said that the boy was healed, and the father believed Him. Jesus showed that He is powerful. Jesus is God’s Son.

Dear Parents,
Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Over the next six weeks, kids will learn about some of Jesus’ miracles that helped people believe that Jesus is God’s Son, the Messiah.

Today’s Bible story took place in Cana, where Jesus had performed His first miracle of turning water into wine. News spread of Jesus’ whereabouts, and an official hurried to find Him. The official’s son was sick in Capernaum, about 20 miles away. The boy was so sick, he would die if he didn’t get help. Imagine the urgency in the official’s voice when he pleaded for Jesus to come heal his son. But Jesus didn’t rush away to Capernaum. Instead, He challenged the official and the Galileans: “You people must see miracles and signs before you believe in Me.”

It was true, many people who saw Jesus’ miracles followed Him and believed in Him. (See John 2:11,23; 3:2; 6:2,14; 12:11,18.) Jesus was willing to help people, but He didn’t want them to miss the point. The miracles were signs that pointed to who Jesus is: the Son of God who offers eternal life. The official pleaded again, “Sir, come down before my boy dies!” Jesus answered, “Go. Your son will live.” The official believed what Jesus said. He headed home, and his servants confirmed the truth: His son was well. The fever had left him at the same time Jesus said, “Your son will live.” So the official and everyone in his household believed in Jesus.

Jesus’ miracles are one of the main ways God brought people to faith in Him. The official wanted Jesus to save his son from death, and it was not until Jesus did so that he understood who Jesus is: the promised Messiah. It took faith for the official to believe Jesus’ words—that his son was healed. In healing the official’s son, Jesus showed His authority and power as God’s Son. John concludes his Gospel by explaining that Jesus did more miracles than what are written but “these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).

Family Activity: Make a list of sick family members and friends. Allow each family member to add names to the list during the week. Post the list on the refrigerator, and encourage each family member to pray every day for those on the list. Toward the end of the week, pray together and prepare a get-well card for each person. Let each person know you are praying for them to get well.

Dear FPC,
Suddenly it is starting to feel like Spring! Some friends were over the other night and brought some tulips, which really underlined that feeling for me. I’m sure winter will have some swings left, but the trend is clear—spring is coming! And that means Lent. Lent actually comes from the old English word for Spring. It is a time to pay attention to God. To let go of something so you hold onto God more closely. I hope that during Lent this year you will choose to take some proactive steps to connect with God as we journey towards Easter. One year in college my exams for the fall semester ended on December 23. I literally got home on Christmas Eve! I was not ready for Christmas! I needed time to adjust my head from the rush of term papers and tests and studying to family and presents and Jesus’ birth. We all need times of preparation. If we want to really be ready for Easter, we need to take time to get ready. That is what Lent is for. You can start by coming to our Ash Wednesday soup supper and service Wednesday at 6.
Next Thursday is an important day in our congregation—we’ll be getting an interpretation of our congregational survey from our consultants. The Mission Study Team, the Session, the Deacons and other interested folks are all invited to join us on Thursday, Feb 27 from 5:30 to 7:30. Please feel free to join us and please be in prayer for us as we listen, learn and apply the results of our survey.
This Sunday in worship we will be finishing our fly over of the Bible—we’ll get to see how the whole story ends and what that means for us, both today and for always. I hope you can join us!
Blessings to you as Spring (and Lent) draw near!

Pastor Steve

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: What does the word gospel mean? Gospel means “good news.”

Christ Connection: Long before Jesus was born, Isaiah the prophet talked about God’s plan to send Jesus to earth. Jesus would bring good news and help people who were hurting. Jesus read Isaiah’s words. Jesus said that He is the One God promised to send.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Today’s Bible story takes us to Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. Jesus was about thirty years old when He began His ministry.

Jesus began teaching in the synagogues. On the Sabbath day, Jesus went into the synagogue in Nazareth. He read aloud the words of the prophet Isaiah. (See Isa. 61:1-2.) Jesus sat down. Everyone’s eyes were on Him as He explained, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.” What was Jesus saying? Jesus was saying, It’s Me. The words Jesus read were coming true. Some of the people might have remembered Jesus from His youth. They asked, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”

Jesus knew their thoughts; Jesus had performed miracles in Capernaum, and the people wanted Jesus to do miracles in His hometown too. Jesus reminded them of two Old Testament accounts. Many widows lived in Israel when the prophet Elijah was there, but God sent Elijah to help a widow in another country. And Elisha likely encountered Israelites who had leprosy, but he healed Naaman the Syrian. Jesus wanted the people to understand that His miracles were an act of grace—a gift. No one deserves God’s grace, so God may show grace to whomever He pleases. The people were angry. They drove Jesus away, intending to kill Him, but Jesus escaped through the crowd.

Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah wrote about God’s plan to send a Messiah. He would bring good news and redeem people who were broken and hurting. Jesus read Isaiah’s words and told everyone who was listening that He is the promised Messiah.

Family Activity: Invite kids to draw a picture showing a time they were left out and how they felt. Open your Bible to Luke 4:16-30 and remind your kids that Jesus was rejected in His hometown of Nazareth. Lead kids to read John 6:37 aloud. Explain that people may reject us on earth, but when we go to Jesus for salvation, He will never reject us.

Dear FPC—
We are called to be reconciled people—people put right with God and with each other. That is the miracle of forgiveness and the blessing of grace. We are even called —as far as it depends on us—to live in peace with everyone. (see Romans 12:18) This includes the very challenging, sometimes impossible-seeming command from Jesus to love even our enemies (see Matthew 5:44).
As followers of Jesus we are not just supposed to nod our heads and agree with those statements, we are supposed to live them out. They should show up in our lives! How do we do that? I think it starts with asking for help. Prayer! Something like: “Dear Jesus— X (whatever person or group you are thinking of) really bothers me! I don’t understand them. But I know I am called to love them and to live in peace with them. I can’t do this on my own Lord. Help! Help me to see them as your beloved child. Warm my heart towards them. Help me to pray FOR them—for their good, for their success, for their prospering. Lord, help me to love them in spite of myself—warm my heart towards them and help me to show your love to them, even when I don’t feel like it. Come into my heart and change me so I can love better. In your name I ask it, Amen.”
If you are like me, you may need to pray this often and repeatedly!
In our society we are encouraged to view people we disagree with as enemies, as the “other.” In real life, they are just people we disagree with about something (and probably agree with about many other things). We need to stop lining up in teams and start putting Jesus first. I found this article very helpful about loving our enemies.
Here is an excerpt:

At that moment, my thoughts went to … Seattle. That’s my hometown. While my own politics are conservative, Seattle is arguably the most politically liberal place in the United States. My father was a college professor; my mother was an artist. Professors and artists in Seattle … what do you think their politics were?
That lady after my speech wasn’t trying to hurt me. But when she said that liberals are stupid and evil, she was talking about my parents. I may have disagreed with my parents politically, but I can tell you they were neither stupid nor evil. They were good, Christian people, who raised me to follow Jesus. They also taught me to think for myself — which I did, at great inconvenience to them.
Political polarization was personal for me that day, and I want to be personal to you, too. So let me ask you a question: How many of you love someone with whom you disagree politically?

Friends—all of us love people we disagree with. How can we love them better?

Lord Jesus- Help us show your love in this hurting world! Amen!

Blessings to you this week!

Pastor Steve

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: Whom does Jesus love? Jesus loves everyone.

Christ Connection: Jesus was different from other people on earth. He was kind to the woman at the well even though she didn’t have many friends. Jesus loves everyone, and He came to give people a free gift: salvation from sin.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. In today’s Bible story, Jesus sat down at a well in Samaria and did the unthinkable: He talked with a Samaritan woman! At the time Jesus was on earth, the social food chain went like this: Jews don’t talk to Samaritans. The strife between the two groups stretched back hundreds of years, to the Babylonian exile.

When the Babylonians attacked Judah, they moved a large group of God’s people away from their homes. But some of the people—the poorest, sickest, least able to work—were left behind in the region that became known as Samaria. During the 70-year exile, those left in Samaria intermarried with their northern neighbors and practiced foreign customs. While the Samaritans still believed in God, they adapted their beliefs. They set up their own place of worship on Mount Gerizim. (See 2 Kings 17:29-41; Ezra 9:1-2.)

The Jews who returned home from Babylon to rebuild God’s temple in Jerusalem were dedicated to obeying and worshiping God, and they didn’t agree with the Samaritans’ practices. The Samaritans opposed the Jews’ efforts to reestablish their nation. In time, the Jews’ hate for the Samaritans grew—so much so, that a Jew traveling from Judea to Galilee would take a longer route to travel around Samaria rather than through it.

Jesus broke down social barriers when He traveled to Galilee by way of Samaria and asked a Samaritan woman for a drink. Jewish men did not speak to women in public. But Jesus was kind to the woman, and He offered a gift. Jesus offered the woman something no one else could give her—living water. She wasn’t quite sure what Jesus meant. But Jesus wasn’t talking about water that she could physically drink; Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit who would satisfy her spiritual thirst. Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to those who come to Him by faith.

Family Activity: Give your kids a glass of water. Prompt them to talk about what is good about water. Talk about how water satisfies us when we are thirsty. Explain that deep down, everyone has a thirst for God. Jesus said He gives living water so people will never be thirsty again. Sin separates people from God, but Jesus died for our sins so we can be with God forever.

Dear FPC—
Snow! It sure feels like winter this week, doesn’t it? I am grateful for the water in the mountains and praying that all of you are staying safe on slippery surfaces. One thing that seems especially important right now is listening to and learning from people who are different from us. We are called to love our neighbors, and a starting place is actually expressing an interest in them. The Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable is hosting a series of interfaith events over the next month. You can see information about the events on our bulletin board, in our weekly email blast or at their website, I encourage you to find an event or two and go exploring!
This Sunday we are celebrating God’s Kingdom arriving in Jesus—this is the climax of the Bible story, so I hope you can join us. Also, we will be welcoming one of our missionaries, Daniel Salinas, to share about his work with a seminary in Columbia.
Blessings to you this snowy week!

Pastor Steve

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: Where did Jesus come from? Jesus came from heaven.

Christ Connection: God gave John the Baptist a special job. John told people, “Get ready for Jesus! Jesus is coming!” God sent Jesus to earth from heaven. When Jesus was older, He went out to teach people about God. Jesus was here, and John’s job was finished.

Dear Parents,

This week in The Gospel Project® for Kids, our journey continues in John 3. John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Savior, had a special calling to prepare people for Jesus. When Jesus’ ministry began, some of John’s disciples came to John, concerned about Jesus’ disciples baptizing those who believed.

Perhaps they felt the need to defend John’s ministry, but John understood who he was and who Jesus is. Consider these comparisons as John explained that Jesus was greater than John.

First, who were they? John was clear: “I am not the Messiah” (John 3:28). Using a metaphor of a Jewish wedding, John stated that he was not the bridegroom, but the groom’s friend. Jesus is the bridegroom. (John 3:29) Where did they come from? John was from the earth, and he belonged to the earth. Jesus comes from above and is above all. (John 3:31) Next, what did they do? John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” As the predecessor, John was a witness to the Light. (John 1:7-8) He was a voice in the wilderness, and Jesus is the Word. (John 1:14,23) John baptized with water, but Jesus baptized with the Spirit. (John 1:33)

Finally, why were they here? John went before Jesus and rejoiced with Him. (John 3:28-29) Jesus came to give eternal life. (John 3:36)

John the Baptist had told people to get ready for Jesus, the promised Messiah. Now that Jesus was there, John’s mission was complete. John the Baptist joyfully stepped aside as Jesus began His earthly ministry. Jesus’ earthly ministry had begun, and He would obediently do God’s will to bring salvation to sinners.

Family Activity: Review the Bible story in John 3:22-26. Point out that when Jesus began His ministry, John’s mission was complete. John stepped aside because he knew Jesus is important. Talk about the importance of obeying God’s plan instead of following our own plans. Make a list of ways your family can put Jesus first.