Archive for April 2012

Following Jesus – Transactional Give and Take

This week is Family Sunday (watch for the kids worship packet on Sunday) & we will be starting a new Family Challenge that leads to Beulah on the Road. Get it here FC – Following Jesus 5:12

Let me tell you about our good intentions tonight. We planned on a great family night time of dinner together, devotions, sharing stories from the day then a good board game. Some one did not want pizza so we had to go to Subway also. Then a spilled cup cleared the table for us 5 minutes in to the meal. We rallied enough to have good sharing time about our day while eating and listening to the family devotion Tim prepared about “Why do we Pray at mealtimes?” Just then, I remember that this was the night Aaron had karate! Shuffling him off, I dropped Justin off to play basketball. We were all planning to reconvene at 8:30 pm for a board game before bed. During karate, I got a call that Justin had sprained or broken his ankle. Family night over. Our intentions were God-honoring and yet the night was not a success.

Is there a benefit in being intentional to following Jesus as a family? Pastor Mike started out this sermon series on Matthew 5-7 discussing the Beatitudes. He referred to them as the transactional give and take that happens when we follow Jesus. We follow and get something tangible for this life and the life to come. They are investments from which we receive dividends for our life on earth now and our eternal life.

Take the Family Challenge & learn how following Jesus can change your home. Pick up a packet at the welcome table on Sunday or linked to the blog as a pdf next week.

Worshipful: materials to help your family focus on studying and memorizing the Lord’s prayer together from Matthew 6:5-15

  • How have God’s words changed or impacted your family life?  How do you apply it in family community?
  • When you follow Jesus, value is redefined.  What do we value most as a family? What defines us?

Relational: materials to assess and  handle heart issues behind family conflict based on Matthew 5:21-48.

  • Will we want to leave behind a life of sin? (anger, lust, lying, religiosity, pride, revenge, anxiety, hypocrisy)
  • When the word of God grabs your heart you will feel a tension with this world.  How does that look in our everyday life?

Missional: materials to build your home on a firm foundation and share it with your community at Beulah on the Road June 12-15

  • The gospel is a threat to the world. How is it a threat in your family? Do people look at you and say, “Why would you do that?”
  • Where is it in your lives that you do not want to be disrupted?
  • The Word of God, which changes our families, is not necessarily for our personal good but for His corporate good, His kingdom.  How does that sit with you?  Do you understand that?



Intentional Celebration

From the First Sunday of Lent blog:

“It is always so comforting to know that even if our best laid plans go awry, God honors our intentional focus on Him. As you move through the next 40 days as a family, how will you intentionally prepare for Resurrection Sunday? What will be the family devotion success stories and the failures? How will God meet each member of your family with a small shift in focus here, small changes in perspective there, and all of the laughter in between?

Pastor Mike has asked Vista to press in during this season: press into new habits, press into new perspectives, press into intentional devotion. “We hope to help you, encourage you, and laugh with you as every member of the family presses into that intentional devotion together.”

So how did it go? Was your intentional Lent focus everything your family hoped it would be? How did your efforts to develop new habits and new perspectives help you press in for 40 days? Did the Holy Spirit reveal God in a new way to your family?

Our family had some successes and some failures. We made it through about 20 Lent devotionals together and engaged in some good discussions. We attempted to fast from screen time for a couple weeks with various levels of success. We talked about some service opportunities but never really executed them. I am still hoping our “Alleluia Eggs” will be in the same places we hid them come Sunday morning. We have a seder feast planned for Thursday night with friends. We plan on attending the Dublin Crosswalk on Friday. We will serve together on Resurrection Sunday morning, and celebrate the empty tomb with “Resurrection biscuits“. All in all, our intentions have reaped some good results that we hope will continue.

As we have shared from the beginning, God honors our intentional focus on Him. Pastor Mike has been pushing us to look for the work of the Holy Spirit around us this Lenten season. Francis Chan encourages us in this manner:

“Even as the Spirit works in us to make us more like Christ, to transform us, His is also patient. This work will not be complete until His Kingdom comes in full, though this does not deter Him from working now.” p. 146 Forgotten God

We have tried not to focus on the success of the Lent journey, but on the small victories of obedience along the way. We made goals and asked the Holy Spirit to cover the rest. We are praying that He will continue to guide us forward for our family’s “common good.” We will read Ephesians 1 & 2 this week to celebrate why we intentionally engage in this life and what we can expect from God for our intentions. We are not called to be perfect or perform perfectly, yet we are able to offer what we can through His Spirit.

My prayer for you is that you celebrate Sunday as a family in the common good brought by the Spirit. Paul in Ephesians portrays the peace, rest and assurance we can have because we have the Spirit of the risen Lord in us.

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spiritf of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.                                           Ephesians 1:14-23


Click here to view One of our favorite Easter traditions

Intentional Recognition

As we near the end of the Lent journey, we celebrate Palm Sunday. Do you recognize this story? Do you recognize the Jesus in this story? Church tradition dictates in this celebration. Some of my favorite church hymns were sung on Palm Sunday. We have given palm branches to Vista kids for Palm Sunday before. To be honest, it often became nothing but a carnage of Palm branch sword fights. I don’t know if I ever understood why it was recognized as a celebration, but I loved it because it was one of those rare church traditions were children took a significant role.

How does our recognition change if we actually read about it from the Bible? Matthew 21:1-10, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-18 all give accounts of this Triumphal entry.

  • Who: These people were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. They quoted from Psalm 118:25 so they knew the Jewish scriptures.
  • What: Jesus asked his disciples to make preparations for Passover in Jerusalem. He had been anointed by Mary as for burial just before this. A crowd gathered as he entered singing in Hebrew “save us” or translated into Greek “Hosanna”. The crowd rejoiced, the Jewish leaders were angry and Jesus cried when He saw the city.
  • Why: They had heard  that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem for Feast of Unleavened Bread referred to as Passover (Deuteronomy 16: 1-8). Their plan was to honor an amazing Jewish rabbi in great Jewish Tradition who might save them from trouble and Roman occupation. They laid their coats before him  (2 King 9:13) . They waved palm branches (Leviticus 23:40). Yet God’s plan was to fulfill prophecy in His way and point toward the cross (Zechariah 9:9 & Revelation 7:9).

So it seems like children may or may not have been involved. What is clear is that these people were recognizing this entry as a big deal. It made them join together and celebrate. Yet it is traditionally understood that Jesus was entering Jerusalem at or near the time when the Paschal lambs were being slaughtered for Passover (14th of Nisan on the Jewish calendar). His recognition of this event was different from theirs.

Events and feelings from Passion Week are hard for us to understand and even more difficult to help children understand –  so much suffering, brutality and hate. It is easier to focus on the fun Palm Sunday celebration to protect our children. Often times we desire to protect our children from their own suffering and the suffering of others. The recognition that God chooses to let events like passion week happen is too hard, too uncomfortable and too messy.

Questions families can discuss and think about regarding Palm Sunday & Passion Week:

  • Why was it easy for these people to celebrate?
  • Do you think they understood what was going on here?
  • Why was Jesus crying?
  • Why is it important to work, talk and think through the tough times of life?
  • What kind of savior do we recognize  – one that we want to see or one that He really is?
  • Do I want God to do things my way and in my timing or do I trust His way and his timing?
  • Do we trust that the Holy Spirit works in us through hard, scary or confusing Bible stories as well as the fun ones?
  • Are we quick to join popular bandwagons or do take time to think about what they really mean?
  • Are we faithful to the things, people, issues God has put on our hearts everyday or only when it’s easy?
  • How does faith become something deep and meaningful instead of something trite? Can it be simple without being easy?
  • Does our family embrace or ignore hard questions about life and faith? Why? Why not?
Passion Weeks activities:
  1. Family Lent Challenge: A Passover Haggadah Use this activity with family, life-group or with neighbors and adapt it to your needs or time frame.
  2. Stations of the cross: a traditional Roman Catholic Church tradition focusing on the journey of Christ to the cross. Some of the stations used are traditional in nature and not part of the text found in the Bible. Sometimes it is used to focus on our own actions not the grace and mercy of God, but we have found it to be a powerful discussion starter in our home. Stations-of-the-Cross-for-Teens is a PDF especially for Teens.
  3. A helpful video from youtube that maybe be helpful for understanding significance of Palm Sunday
  4. Music for Palm Sunday and Passion week: song 1, song 2, song 3