Key Passage: “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written…about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.” Luke 18:31

Big Picture Question: Why was the rich young ruler sad? He loved other things more than he loved Jesus.

Christ Connection: The rich young ruler loved his things more than he loved Jesus. Jesus wants us to be happy to give up anything to follow Him. Jesus is better than any treasure on earth. When we trust Jesus, we get eternal life.

Dear Parents,
This week, we focused on the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; and Luke 18:18-30. Jesus had set out on a journey with His disciples; they were likely heading to Jerusalem. (See Mark 10:32.) Suddenly, a man ran up to meet Jesus. The man knelt before Jesus and asked Him a question: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus reminded the rich young ruler of the commandments, but by asking him to give up his wealth, Jesus revealed the man’s failure to keep the first commandment—“Do not have other gods besides Me.” The man went away sad because his wealth was his god.

Jesus said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were surprised. Wasn’t wealth a sign of God’s favor? Wealthy people could freely give in the synagogue and make sacrifices. If a rich person could not enter God’s kingdom, who could?

Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” What was Jesus saying? Pushing a piece of thread through the eye of a needle is hard enough, but a several hundred-pound mammal? Impossible!

Being wealthy is certainly not a sin in itself; God often chooses to bless people with wealth. But as the rich young ruler shows, wealth can be a great hindrance when a person loves his wealth more than he loves the One who gave it to him. But Jesus pointed out that all things are possible with God. God has the power to change people’s hearts. Salvation comes by His grace, which enables sinners to repent and follow Jesus.

Then Peter said, “We have left everything and followed You.” The disciples sacrificed a lot to follow Jesus, but Jesus assured them that anything they left behind would pale in comparison to the fellowship of believers and the treasures that awaited them in heaven. Jesus is better than anything He asks us to give up to follow Him. Not only does He offer us Himself, He offers eternal life.

Family Activity: Hide a surprise for your children somewhere in your home. Give kids instructions to find the treasure. After kids have found the hidden item, read Matthew 19:16-30 together. Ask kids to tell you what the ruler treasured. Discuss some of the items your family treasures and remind kids that a relationship with Jesus and His gift of salvation are the greatest treasures we could ever have.

Dear FPC—
Happy Pioneer Day! I hope you enjoy some fireworks, some pie, and possibly a cold beverage—all at a safe distance from people outside your “bubble” of course! I am inspired by the pioneers—they risked everything for a new life in an uncertain country. Civil rights pioneers are similar—risking even their lives for the hope of a better, more just society. Rep. John Lewis, who passed away last week, once said: “Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.”
Our life of faith is kind of like that too. We are called to be pioneers—leaving the “safety” (illusory as it may be) of what we are used to so that we can live into a new life with Jesus. Like Lewis’ description of freedom, it is not a single, once-upon-a-time decision but a continuous choice to walk with Jesus in the current moment. This Sunday we will see the contrast between the way of death and the way of life that Jesus offers. I hope you can join us. Then in August we will be looking in more depth at this New Life In Christ, led by Paul’s little letter to the Colossians.
Blessings and courage to you as we venture out towards this new life!

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: How can we serve God? God give us special abilities to serve Him.

Christ Connection: Everyone who believes in Jesus can serve Him as Lord. God is happy when people know and love Jesus. One day, every believer will live with God in heaven and be happy with Him. People in heaven will be happy to know, worship, and be with Jesus forever.

Dear Parents,
Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Matthew and Luke both record parables from Jesus. In Matthew 25, Matthew writes about the parable of the talents. Luke 19 accounts for the parable of the minas. Though these parables are similar, they are not identical. Both parables are about a master who gives money to his servants and then goes on a trip. When the master returns, he judges the servants for their faithfulness—in their stewardship over what they possessed.

Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven will be like a man going on a journey. In this parable, the man is Jesus. Jesus was going to leave earth and return to His Father in heaven. Before the man left, he entrusted certain amounts of money to his servants. The relationship between a master and his servants would have meant that the master still owned the money they were given, and the master would own any interest they made on the money. The first two servants were faithful with the gifts, investing the talents and gaining more—not for their own profit, but for the profit of their master.

The third servant, however, knew that if he lost any of the money, the master would punish him. And if he gained any money, he wouldn’t get to keep it anyway. So he took no risk and buried the money in the ground. When the master returned, he was pleased with the actions of the first two servants, but he punished the servant who did nothing.

“Well done, good and faithful servant!” Every believer, as a servant of Christ, has the task of serving God with his or her life. We do not sit idly by, afraid of failure, but we serve joyfully for Jesus’ sake. We eagerly wait for the day we can share in the joy of our Master. Heaven is the joy of knowing, worshiping, and enjoying Jesus forever.

Family Activity: Ask kids the big picture question and lead them to respond with the answer. Provide crayons or markers for kids to draw specific ways they can serve God with their talents or abilities. As kids draw, read Matthew 25:40 aloud. Explain that we can serve God by serving others. Encourage each family member to serve God this week by serving someone in need.

Dear FPC—
Do you find yourself grateful or grousing more often these days? I was struck by a quote a son of FPC posted today on Facebook—happiness does not make us grateful, gratitude makes us happy. I remember James Baird as a kid, and here he is teaching me! Developing a practice of gratitude is a very powerful way to reshape your experience of life. Thank you Pastor James!
Dallas Willard was one of the spiritual giants of the last 70 years. While he was a professional philosopher, his spiritual advice was often very pithy. Pastor John Ortberg once asked Willard how to become more spiritually healthy. Willard paused a long time and then eventually said: “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” Great, Ortberg said, got it, what’s next? “There is nothing else,” Willard responded. “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” I wonder if we have been able to eliminate at least some hurry during this time of pandemic.
Today I heard another story about Willard’s advice. Todd Hunter once was complaining to Willard about various circumstances of his life. You know—the way that we all do—”I’ve got too many meetings, I’m overwhelmed, these people are driving me crazy,” etc. Dallas responded by saying “You have got to discover the love of God in your actual life.”
We have to discover the love of God in our actual life. The place we encounter God’s life changing love is right here—in our everyday life right now. What is happening in your life today? Worried about COVID? Maybe you can be grateful for a day of health and strong lungs. Anxious about tomorrow? Maybe you can be grateful for provision for today. Exhausted from an endless stream of Zoom meetings? Maybe you can find someone to bless in those meetings. Irritated by someone close to you? Maybe you can surprise them by being helpful to them or by sharing your gratitude for them.
Look for the ways God’s love is showing up in your life right now. And look for the ways you can share His Love today. We don’t have to waste our time griping, we can join in God’s amazing plan for our lives! Just turn your focus out from yourself and onto what God is doing and the needs He’s put around you for you to help with!
May you be blest to be a blessing 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 is heaven? Heaven is the place where God is.

Christ Connection: People who know and trust in Jesus love Him more than anything else. Going to heaven is not about who you know, what kind of clothes you wear, or what you do. People who trust in Jesus, God’s Son, will be with Him forever.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. In Luke 16, Jesus taught His disciples about money. The Pharisees listened, and they did not like what they heard. The Pharisees loved money. (See Luke 16:14.) Then Jesus told them a parable about two men. The first man was rich, wearing expensive clothes and feasting daily. The second man, whose name was Lazarus, was poor and sick. He sat outside the rich man’s gate. Lazarus suffered greatly, and he died. Then the rich man died too.

Nothing the rich man had on earth helped him in eternity. The parable reveals that the rich man went to Hades. Hades is a Greek word that translates to “hell,” the place of the dead. Luke says that the rich man was in torment there. (Luke 16:23) He looked up and saw Abraham, the father of the Jewish faith. At Abraham’s side was the poor man, Lazarus.

Lazarus was comforted in heaven while the rich man suffered in hell. There is a great chasm between heaven and hell, and no one can cross it. No one can change his mind and trust in Jesus after he has died. Lazarus was saved by faith, but the rich man was consumed by his wealth. He devoted his life to living in luxury, and he did not love God or other people. In his suffering, he asked Abraham to warn his brothers.

Abraham refused. Sending Lazarus would not help. The rich man’s brothers had access to God’s Word, and Scripture is clear about salvation. Even a miracle would not convince the brothers, as Jesus raised His friend Lazarus from the dead and the religious leaders still plotted to kill Him. (See John 11:43-53.)

Those who receive salvation from Jesus have changed hearts; they treasure Jesus above any earthly treasure. Getting into heaven has nothing to do with who you know, what you wear, or what you do. Entering into heaven requires faith in Jesus, the Son of God.

Family Activity: Allow kids to retell the Bible story. Talk about the rich man’s love for himself and his money. Challenge kids to list thing they would be willing to give up for Jesus. Prompt them to consider their favorite toys, their allowance, or even friendships. Encourage kids by explaining that these things are good gifts from God but emphasize that Jesus is greater than anything we have on earth.

Dear FPC—
How are you doing? We all are tired of the pandemic, and yet the risk of catching COVID 19 in our community is much higher than ever before. That is discouraging. All of us are sick of having our lives disrupted, worried about jobs and the economy, and anxious about getting sick ourselves. Then there is social injustice and unrest and political fights. It is crummy! It is ok to say that! You can say it to God too! About 40% of the psalms in the Bible are laments—lifting up our sorrowful situation to almighty God. Lament is our natural response to asking “Why” and getting no clear answer. I invite you to pray some lament psalms to expand your vocabulary of what feels ok to say to God. Try Psalm 10 (“Why do you stand so far off, O Lord, and hide your face in the time of need and trouble?”), Psalm 13 (“How long will you utterly forget me, O Lord?”), and Psalm 22 (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
Then I encourage you to close your prayer time with Psalm 19. It reminds us of God’s amazing work in nature, in His Word, and our response to our loving God—ending with “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Amen! We can bring our fears, our sorrows, our anxiety to our rock solid redeemer God and we can re-center ourselves in the reality of God’s love and power and faithfulness.

Lord—we praise you—the one who enters into our sorrow and our pain, who bears the hurt of the world on your shoulders. Give us patience. Give us hope. Give us energy. Help us to move through and beyond our shut in feelings and reach out in love to those you have put around us. Help us to pick up the phone and to reach out in love. In Jesus’ name we ask it. Amen.

I am praying for you all and am thanking God for the blessing you are—to me, to one another, and to the world. Let’s unleash the power of God’s love in our neighborhoods!

Grace and Peace to 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: 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.
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