Dear FPC—
Connection. We are made for it. Today (Thursday) Alice and I walked up near the U Hospital to watch the fly by (see my picture!). It was really fun. Fun to see others gathered (and yet spread out) to also watch. Fun to see the pilots flying by. Fun to remember all the health care workers and patients nearby being honored.
People are made for relationship. Relationships with each other and, most fundamentally, relationship with God. We are constantly trying to connect well with you. That is why we are doing our “congregational check in” –please click the link in the email you received or text DZSE to 90888 to get started.
But our most important relationship is with God. Like all relationships, communication is key. That means prayer for us. We are going to focus on prayer this coming month. Right now, I hope you will download the Hope Over Fear prayer journey and use it for the next few weeks. It trains us in three key postures of Jesus Followers—surrender to God (hands up!), generosity to others (hands open!), and mission (service to others, hands out!). Don’t miss out on this great way to connect with God.
Then on May 12 we will be having a special time of “drive by prayer” – between 5 and 7 pm you can drive by church (wearing your mask) and the pastoral staff will be available to pray with you (from a safe distance and wearing their masks).
Finally, coming up later in May we will have a special prayer emphasis called Thy Kingdom Come. Look for more information in our email blast and elsewhere soon!
I hope you will use this time of disruption to strengthen the relationships that are most important to you, and especially your relationship with God. If you’d like to talk about it, Pastor Chris and I are here for you, just call, text, or email and we will connect with you!
Grace and peace to you on this sunny day from our Lord and Savior Jesus,

Pastor Steve

Key Passage: Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Big Picture Question: Who can keep all of God’s laws? Only Jesus obeyed God perfectly.

Christ Connection: The religious leaders looked like good people, but Jesus knew what they were thinking. They were not doing good things for the right reasons. Jesus taught about doing right things for the right reasons. God changes people who know and love Jesus so they want to honor Him and do what is right.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Over the next few weeks, kids will be studying some of Jesus’ sermons and parables. During His time on earth, Jesus spent time preaching about God’s kingdom. One of Jesus’ most well-known sermons is the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is recorded across three chapters in the Gospel of Matthew. In Matthew 5–7, Jesus taught how believers should live. While Matthew 5:1-2 specifies that Jesus taught His disciples, Matthew 7:28 reveals that the crowds listened to His sermon as well.

First, Jesus began with the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes describe God’s great blessings for believers. God’s kingdom belongs to the spiritually needy, God will comfort those who are sad, and God will give mercy to those who show mercy to others. Jesus gives believers reason to be glad when life on earth is hard because great rewards await in heaven. Jesus also taught how believers should live in a world that does not honor Him. Jesus called believers “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:13-14). He said the good works of His followers should cause others to give glory to God.

Jesus taught about a righteousness that comes from the inside. God’s people had the law of Moses, but some of them—the Pharisees, in particular—were concerned mostly with the appearance of being righteous. The scribes and Pharisees looked righteous on the outside, but Jesus taught His disciples about a righteousness that comes from the inside. People who know and love Jesus have changed hearts that want to honor Jesus.

Family Activity: Prompt kids to draw a picture of something they remember from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Review Matthew 5-7 in the Bible if kids need help. Remind them that Jesus taught how believers should live. Following Jesus doesn’t mean just doing good things on the outside like the religious leaders did, people who know and love Jesus have changed hearts that want to honor Him.

Dear FPC—
I am missing you. I’m missing a lot of things, actually. But I also trust our public health leaders and can see that while we are flattening the curve, the curve is not yet going down. So we have to be patient. Being patient is hard. Trusting is hard. Waiting is hard. And all of it is overlaid with economic uncertainty and pain as well as very real health worries and fears.
So what do we do? Trust God. We all have our own opinions about what sources of information are worth trusting, but we can all agree that GOD is trustworthy. We can rest in him. We can ask him what he wants to do with us and in us during this time of disruption.
How is God shaping you during this time? How are you opening yourself up Him? Take time to pray. Read scripture. Talk with others about Scripture. If you want help, check out our Nites In page and our connect with Jesus page.
God calls us to connect with him, but also to love and connect with our neighbors. The other day our neighbors arranged for a do it yourself pizza kit to be delivered to our house. We felt so special and cared for! What can you do for your neighbors? How can God’s people turn out in love and not give in to the inward pull of selfishness and fear?
Outside flowers are blooming and trees are budding—life is moving. God is at work even now. Let’s trust Him and celebrate his care for each of us!
This Sunday we will be looking at the “so what” of Easter—how the truth of Easter shows up in our lives today. I hope you can join us!

Grace and peace to you!

Pastor Steve

Key Passage: Matthew 21:9 “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Big Picture Question: What did Jesus do after He was raised from the dead? Jesus showed many people that He was alive, and He is alive today.

Christ Connection: God made Jesus alive again! Jesus visited many, many people so they would know He is alive. Jesus is still alive today.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. After Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus graciously appeared to the disciples, proving that He was alive. Even though Jesus had told His disciples that He would die and rise again, they believed by seeing.

Talk about how the disciples must have felt when Jesus appeared in the locked room with them. Jesus told them not to be afraid! To prove that He had a real, physical body, Jesus let them touch His hands. He even ate some fish! Jesus gave the disciples the Holy Spirit and equipped them to proclaim the gospel.

The resurrection is essential to the gospel. If Christ remained dead, His death would have meant nothing more than any other human being’s. God gives us victory over death through Jesus. Emphasize to your kids that Christians have a special purpose: to tell others that Jesus is alive!

Family Activity: Set up a fun crime scene. Consider the case of the missing cookies. Decide who the culprit is going to be. Spill a little flour on the kitchen floor. Take the culprit’s shoe and make a partial print in the floor. Then place crumbs in the culprit’s room and a piece of clothing that will match the bandit’s description. After everything is set up, invite the family to join you. Explain that someone in the family has taken a plate of cookies. Give a loose description of the article of clothing and invite family members to look at the crime scene in the kitchen. Explain that evidence can be found in other rooms of the house, but no one needs to open any drawers or closets to find it. Talk about how cases are solved using evidence. Read 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. Talk about the evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.

Dear FPC—
Thursday morning found us with (yet another) aftershock AND some snow flurries! But the lovely flowers keep blooming and the trees are beautiful. That seems like a great image of our world too—hard things, scary things, beautiful things all keep happening. Thankfully, we do NOT have to live in fear! The good news of Easter is that Christ has won the victory! All the things that drag you down, that isolate you, even death—none of those things can separate us from God’s love for you in Jesus!
This is a time for renewed patience, prayer and trust. I encourage you to reach out to others today! Here are some great ways to show God’s love during this time:
• Greet people. Say hello as you walk along your block or work in your yard.
• Go out front. Be intentional about spending time in the more public parts of your yard or building. Rather than sitting on your back patio, put chairs in front of your house.
• Go first. Often people are just waiting for someone else to take the initiative. They may be open to connecting but just haven’t gotten around to starting the connection. Go first by introducing yourself, sharing information, and asking questions.
• Gather contact information. Collect names, phone numbers, and email addresses for those on your block or the floor of your apartment building. Express how you want to help people be connected to each other in times of need. Ask people their permission to share the list on the block.
• Give and receive. Be the neighbor who offers to give help to others, whether it’s loaning out a tool or a cup of sugar for a neighbor’s baking project. Also be willing to receive. Ask for help when you need it, as that can break down barriers.
• Get creative. Consider what makes your neighborhood unique and how you can love and serve your neighbors. Your own actions in your neighborhood may be different from what works in another setting.
• Go before God in prayer for your neighbors. Pray specific prayers when you know neighbors well enough to know their situations. Observe and pray for those you don’t know as well. For example, a house with toys scattered out front is home to a family—even if you don’t know them, pray for God’s grace on their family relationships.

Another way to connect is to start reading the Bible with some friends. Look at our “Nites In” page for resources, and my Facebook posts about Nites In.
I hope you can join us in worship on Sunday. We are starting a series on Following the Risen Jesus, where we’ll be guided by Peter— who was both the leader of the apostles and a repeated example of how NOT to follow Jesus. But over time Jesus shaped him into a remarkable person of faith—just like he wants to do with each of us! See you Sunday!

Pastor Steve

Key Passage: Matthew 21:9 “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Big Picture Question: What did Jesus do for sinners? Jesus died on the cross and is alive.

Christ Connection: The most important thing that ever happened is that Jesus died and was raised from the dead. Jesus never did anything wrong, but He was punished because we sinned. God forgives us for sin because Jesus died for us. God raised Jesus from the dead to be King over everything.

Dear Parents,

Jesus is alive! Thank you for entrusting your child to us throughout this year. We celebrate with you and your family the joy of Easter. This week’s story in The Gospel Project for Kids® is all about Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection three days later.

Why did Jesus have to die? God is holy and just, and He requires due payment for sin. To simply forgive without receiving a payment would be unjust. The wages of sin is death. (Rom. 6:23) Jesus came to earth was to save us from our sin (Matt. 1:21), to show God’s love to us (Rom. 5:7-8), and to give those who believe in Him eternal life (John 3:16). Jesus came to die so that we would be forgiven (Eph. 1:7), and to bring us to God. (1 Pet. 3:18)

Jesus’ resurrection proved that God accepted Jesus’ death as payment for our sins. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are not the end of the story, but the climax. Pray with your family, thanking God for sending His Son, Jesus, to be the Savior of the world.

Family Activity: Look at a cross on a necklace or other item found in your home. Ask kids to tell you in their own words why the cross is used as a decoration today. Remind kids that the cross is a reminder of what Jesus did for us dying on the cross and rising again three days later. Review Matthew 26:36-28:10. We deserve to die for our sin, but Jesus died in our place so that our sins might be forgiven, and we may have new life through His power to conquer sin and death.

Go further: Ask a pastor or church secretary for the name and address of a family on your church directory. Make a care package with snacks or even a small gift. Deliver the gift as a family.

Dear FPC—
Holy Week. What does that mean to you? Is it a time of reflection and quietness? A time of preparation for a big party on Sunday? Another name for Spring Break? Whatever your experience of Holy Week usually is, this year it is different. This year we are at home. We are out of sync with our normal rhythms and activities.

Maybe that is a good thing. Maybe this is a good chance for each of us to focus on Jesus and on what his life, death and resurrection mean for us, personally. How is your life different because of Jesus? This is a great time to read the passion (Holy Week) story in one of the gospels. Look at Matthew 21-28, or Mark 11-15, or Luke 19-24.
Don’t miss our special times of worship this week—our Maundy Thursday Service at 7 pm, our ecumenical Good Friday service at noon on Friday, and, most of all, our Easter Celebration at 11 am on Sunday! Feel free to invite a friend to “join” you on Facebook to participate with you. This is a great time to include friends in things that provide meaning and support to you.

Finally, don’t miss the beautiful weather outside! Spring is really arriving. That is not a coincidence—Jesus’ resurrection is the start of God’s new creation project—a project that we have a part to play in! We celebrate the new creation as new life blooms all around us. Nature is reminding us of the truth of new life and rebirth! I hope you can spend some time outdoors and reflect on the new life springing up all around us. My prayer is that new life is springing up IN you during this time as well!

May you feel God’s grace, peace and love today!

Pastor Steve

Key Passage: Matthew 21:9 “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Big Picture Question: How did the people act when they saw Jesus? People welcomed Jesus as their King.

Christ Connection: The people were happy to see Jesus. They knew He was their King. Jesus came riding on a donkey, just as the prophet Zechariah said He would. (Zechariah 9:9)

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. We’d like to take a break from the chronological study of the Bible to tell the stories of Easter. Today’s Bible story describes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem during Passover week, riding on a donkey like the prophet Zechariah foretold. (Zech. 9:9) Waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna,” the people welcomed Jesus as King. They believed He would overthrow Roman oppression. Jesus sent a different message when He arrived in Jerusalem.

Jesus entered the temple complex. He turned over the tables of the money changers and those selling doves. Jesus said the temple was supposed to be a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:6-7), declaring His kingship would be over all people. Jesus healed the blind and the lame. Jesus wasn’t just an earthly king, He was God! (Isa. 35:4-6)

Help your kids connect the dots between God’s promises of a Messiah and Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. How did the people act when they saw Jesus? The people welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem as their King. Celebrate why Jesus came: to save people from their sin!

Family Activity: Conduct a parade through your home. Allow one child to march around while other family members wave their arms and show excitement as he marches by. Read Luke 19:28-44 and remind kids that people welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem as King! Talk about ways that others can see Jesus is the King in your life.

Go further: Take a look through an online store catalogue as a family and go to the department with Easter supplies. Invite family members to search for items that connect with the real Easter message. Talk about how easy it is to get distracted from the true story of Easter.

Dear FPC—
As I write this it is a beautiful, sunny day and we have the windows open. Spring is happening! Easter is coming! And yet. Still we are at home. Still we are staying safe, showing our love by staying home. I am praying for all of you as we go through these uncharted times. I am confident that we will get through them and that when we come out the other side we will be stronger—more connected, more caring, more appreciative of being together than ever before! N.T. Wright compares this time to the season of Lent—at time when we give up some things for a while—but with COVID 19 we don’t know when this period of “Lent” will end! We DO know when our church season of Lent ends—next week! It is time to get ready to celebrate the best news of all time! And it is news that we need today more than ever.

Sunday is Palm Sunday—the great celebration of the arrival of the king at last—the king who is coming to save us. Do you need saving? Do you believe you are worth saving? The truth is yes to both questions. As Pastor Tim Keller puts it, the gospel says that you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, but more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope. We need the king, and he is on your side. Come celebrate with us!

As we get ready for Easter, here is a wonderful daily inspiration for the nine days leading up to Easter. Just sign up and they’ll send you a daily email for 9 days. This is a great way to focus on Jesus’ last week and why it is important to your life today.

May God shower you with joy and hope as we wait—

Pastor Steve