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Resurrection Rolls – Celebrate the Resurrection

I’m sure you will share the joy with your children today as you hide and hunt Easter eggs all over the beautiful Tyler landscape, but in addition to engaging in this time honored Easter pastime, why not also remind your children the real meaning of this most-important Christian holiday? Here is a fun way to remind your family why we celebrate Easter!

Absolutely delightful, Resurrection Rolls are buttery, cinnamon sugary crescent rolls. Does it get much better than that? In addition to tasting wonderful, the making of these Easter treats also tells the historical account of the Resurrection, making the story come to life for your family. Though many families use this activity on Easter Sunday, my family spent one night this week baking and getting ready for the big day! Even my teenagers (and soon-to-be teenagers), thoroughly enjoyed this activity!

Here is what you will need:

1 Can of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
1 Bag Marshmallows
Cinnamon-Sugar Mix
Melted Butter (a few tablespoons)

You’ll also need these baking items:

Cookie Sheet to Bake Resurrection Rolls
Large Cutting Board to Assemble Rolls
A Wooden Spoon to Mark Nail Prints

Directions

This is where the art of baking and reading will combine into a powerful resurrection history for your kids, and really your entire family! So often we call it “The Easter Story” but truly, the Resurrection is not merely a story. Keep in mind: these events really happened! So, help make these real events come to life for your family. If you really want to make this experience meaningful, read through both the directions on making Resurrection Rolls and the entire scriptures. This will give you and your family an idea of what you are doing and how it fits with the biblical account of Jesus’ Resurrection. If you can think of additional scriptures, by all means, use them as well.

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We began by preheating the oven to 375 degrees. As the oven was warming, we had plenty of time to read John 19 together and begin to assemble the Resurrection Rolls. Here are the steps we followed:

Assemble everything you need: food ingredients, cookie sheet, and Bible. Lay these items out on the counter; you will need all of them. And I have learned something over the years of cooking with my children—it is best to have everything laid out beforehand, because when the action begins, it gets really CHAOTIC!
Gather the family around and read John 19 just after you turn the oven on.
Break open the can of crescent rolls, and as you slam it against the side of the counter, remind everyone that Jesus was beaten for our sins.

Unroll the crescent rolls, and divide them into four different triangles. Remind everyone that Jesus’ clothing was divided into four.
Examine the dough, and remind everyone that Jesus was wrapped in a cloth. Separate it into eight rectangles.
Give each family member a marshmallow, and explain that the marshmallow represents Jesus—white and pure because He had no sin.
Roll each marshmallow in melted butter, which symbolizes the embalming oils.
Roll each marshmallow in cinnamon and sugar mixture, which are like the spices used to prepare His body for burial. Make seven, leaving one crescent roll plain.

Place each buttered/cinnamon-sugared marshmallow in the center of a crescent roll triangle. Roll dough around the marshmallow, smoothing and pinching it completely together. If you do not do this well, the marshmallow will ooze out while cooking (I’m speaking from experience!).

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Take one crescent roll wrapped in marshmallow, and dip it into the butter. Then, dip it into the cinnamon sugary mixture. This represents the stone that was rolled away.

Put the rolls into the “tomb” oven and bake them for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.
While the rolls were baking, we read John 20:1–18. This was a great occasion to remember how each cooking element represented another part of the story.

Open the tomb and remove the rolls. Note how the stone has rolled away from the rolls. (It really will look this way!) When cool enough to handle, break one open and discover what happened to the pure, white marshmallow. Jesus is gone; He is risen!
Now, read I Thessalonians 4:16–18 and share that Jesus is coming again!

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I hope your family has a great time baking, reading, and remembering the story of Easter together. I know some families who get the rolls ready to cook the night before Easter, put them in the oven, turn the oven on early in the morning before the children wake up, and experience the “Resurrection” on Easter morning. We made ours a bit early. Either way, this is a great and fun way to help your family concentrate on the real meaning of Easter…and it doesn’t hurt that you get to eat some really tasty treats!

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I Will Wait – Holy Saturday Reflections

I Will Wait

The memory of my suffering and homelessness is bitterness and poison. I can’t help but remember and am depressed. I call all this to mind—therefore, I will wait. Certainly the faithful love of the LORD hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through! They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness. I think: The LORD is my portion! Therefore, I’ll wait for him.
—Lamentations 3:19–24

Certainly the faithful love of the LORD hasn’t ended!

Certainly God’s compassion isn’t through!

I will wait.

Lamentations 3:19–24 is one of the scripture readings for Holy Saturday, or Easter Eve. Four years ago this spring, I felt the despair and hope of these words. Sitting on our back porch in Belton, Texas, I explained to Daphne that I knew God was with me in my suffering. I didn’t know how. I didn’t know what God was doing. I didn’t know how God would bring light out of my darkness. But I trusted God.

A day or two before, I was at a leadership conference in Dallas. This is where my world fell apart. I sat in Abuelo’s, a Mexican restaurant, with several friends and colleagues when panic consumed me. For no apparent reason, my heart and mind began racing, my adrenaline spiked, and my body was paralyzed with fear. I wanted to escape, but where? The terror was not external. It was internal. There was no escape. I was seized with an overwhelming feeling of doom. The world around me was just fine. It was the world within that was disintegrating.

This was the day my panic attacks started. It would take many months before they gradually subsided. Days, weeks, and months passed with no relief. I tried one medication after another. A couple of them made me lethargic. I could hardly get out of bed. One of them had the opposite effect. It increased my anxiety so much that I couldn’t sleep, even with sleeping pills. I would lie awake at night with panic coursing through my mind and body. It was a nightmare. At least, I desperately wanted it to be a nightmare. I wanted to wake up, but I couldn’t.

If I was not already depressed, I was definitely depressed now. Everything was darkness. Would I ever be able to function like I used to? Would I eventually have to quit work? It seemed like I missed at least one or two days a week, either because of the side effects of the medication or the depression and anxiety or both. What would this do to my family? Our income? How could I be a good husband? How could I be the parent I longed to be when I couldn’t enjoy my children or be fully present to them?

In the middle of it all, I still trusted God. I was terrified. But I trusted. Even if I never returned to normal, whatever normal is, I knew God was in the darkness with me. God would eventually turn my mourning into dancing—if not in this life, then in the next.

Why did I trust God?

I trusted God because this is what God does: God brings light out of darkness. God brings peace out of chaos. God transforms death into new life.

Eventually, I found a medication that helped me rise out of the darkness. Life is not the same as it was. It never will be. And that’s OK. It’s OK because God’s faithful love has not ended. God’s compassion isn’t through with me yet. So, I wait.

Certainly the faithful love of the LORD hasn’t ended!
Certainly God’s compassion isn’t through!
I will wait.

Today is Holy Saturday. Easter Eve. This is the day Jesus’ body rested in the grave. This is the day when Jesus’ family and friends sat together in darkness. On that Saturday, there must have been a lot of pain, confusion, fear, and sadness.

Jesus—a son, a brother, a friend, the Messiah—had been killed in a gruesome way.

I can’t begin to imagine Mary’s grief. She witnessed her own people maliciously reject her firstborn. She watched Roman soldiers taunt and torture her child. She stood at the foot of the cross as her son died in agony.

Now, he is gone. His body—empty, lifeless—rests in a tomb. Darkness.

I wonder what it was like for the disciples. Most of them fled when Jesus was arrested. They hid. One of them, a dear friend, had lied about ever knowing Jesus. Did he wallow in remorse that Saturday?

Another one, a disciple named Judas, hanged himself. Guilt and despair overtook him.

The Savior died. A son crucified. Hopes crumbled. Friends scattered. A Messiah failed—or, did God fail the Messiah?

I can’t imagine their darkness.

But we know the rest of the story, don’t we?

Sunday is coming. Easter is near.

If you find yourself in darkness, I hope you will remember this:

The faithful love of the LORD hasn’t ended. God’s compassion isn’t through.

So, I encourage you to wait.

Easter is coming!

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The Day Death Died – A Good Friday Family Devo

My oldest daughter is excited about missing school on Good Friday. In the car on the way to school she asked. “What is Good Friday?” I took the opportunity to briefly explain the significance of Good Friday and what it means for us as Christians, but I wasn’t satisfied with my short explanation. So I decided to do it right and plan a special Good Friday family devotional to further explain to both my children. Please feel free to take what I have prepared here and share it with your children.

Overview:

The action of Jesus dying on the cross is very complex. Sometimes I feel it is too complex for us humans (or at least myself) to fully understand everything that is going on at the cross. Instead of trying to explain it all in this family devotional—and thus lose my children in the process—I decided to focus on Jesus’ defeat of evil, powers and authorities (Colossians 2:15).

Most of us, including Jesus’ disciples, believe the way to defeat your enemies is to kill them before they can kill you. This is traditionally how battles are won. Jesus, however, didn’t do it that way. He taught the opposite telling us to love our enemies and pray for them. Jesus put this into action on the cross and submitted himself to death at the hands of his enemies. At the time, Jesus disciples (who thought a lot like we do) saw this as His, and their, own defeat. It was so backward to what they knew and understood that they couldn’t see until later how it was actually the defeat of evil and death itself.

Activity:

To explain this to your children lead them through this simple activity. Have everyone in your family take turns trying to trace the shape of a cross while only looking in a mirror. Place a picture of a cross on a table in front of a mirror. Ask one member of your family to trace the picture, while another member holds a folder above their hands so they can’t peek.

Supplies you will need:

  • A Mirror (We used a small decorative mirror that we propped up on our kitchen table. You can probably use your bathroom mirror and trace on top the bathroom counter.)
  • Markers
  • A folder or piece of cardboard about the size of a sheet of paper.
  • A print out of a cross Download one here
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    It is very difficult to trace the shape of the cross while only looking in the mirror. I asked both my girls to try while the other held the folder above their work. As they traced I heard my daughters saying things like “Am I going up or down?” and “I’m trying to think because the mirror is in reverse.” After they traced the cross in the mirror I gave them a different colored marker and asked them to trace the same cross without the folder blocking their view.

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    Lesson:

    After both my children had tried their best I began to explain Jesus’ actions on the cross.

    I Asked:

    What was hard about tracing the cross in the mirror?

    Which felt more natural, looking in the mirror, or looking directly at the paper?

    How do you win a battle against an enemy army?

    I then explained, the best I could, how what Jesus did on the cross was a lot like tracing in the mirror. It is backward from the way we think it should be. Typically battles are won by outlasting, or surviving longer than the enemy. If you want to win you have to kill them before they kill you. Jesus did it backwards, instead of killing his enemy, he allowed them to kill him first. The only difference is Jesus didn’t stay dead.

    I then asked:

    How hard do you think it would be to defeat an enemy that won’t stay dead?

    I explained that is how Jesus “disarmed” all the power in the world. Bad guys only have power over people because they can threaten to hurt or kill them. Through the cross and resurrection, Jesus took away their greatest weapon—the ability to kill. He even promised his followers would one day be resurrected just as he has been (1 Corinthians 15:12–32). This was the ultimate victory. How can you defeat an army that won’t stay dead?

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Remembering – Family Communion Devotional

The other day my wife and I were sorting through old family photos. We were mostly flipping though, hardly acknowledging any one photo. Everyone once in a while one or two photos would catch our eye demanding more attention. We would see a picture of our children many years younger, or the emotion of a major life event perfectly captured in an image, and we would stop. Held captive by something so powerful it made everything else fade to the background. In those moments, holding those pictures, we would do something very holy and sacred. We would remember.

C.S. Lewis has said “A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered.” Remembering is more than just recalling. Remembering is an emotional event joyous and sad all at the same time. Remembering does something to the people who partake in it, and can even affect those who were not present at the original moment. This is most evident when you get around a bunch of friends and begin remembering together. Telling stories laughing, crying… remembering.

The night Jesus was betrayed he sat down to engage in this holy and sacred event with his closest friends. He and his disciples went into the upper room to celebrate Passover. For Jesus and his disciples it was more than just a meal and certainly more than a ritual. It was the equivalent to a box of old photos. Everything they ate and drank had memories associated with it. The Passover Feast was specifically designed by God to help the Israelites remember everything He had done for the them in the Exodus. It pointed back but, it also pointed forward to a time when God would deliver his people again from a far greater slave master—sin itself.

Activity

To illustrate this to your children and teenagers take them through a miniature Lord’s Supper. Purchase some grape juice and Matzo crackers from your local grocery store (both should be easy to find during the Passover season).

Communion-elements

Explain:

Jesus and his disciples ate and drank something very similar. Everything they ate and drank had meaning and helped them remember something specific about what God had done.

The Bread:

Ask your children if they notice anything different about the Matzo? How is it different from other bread we eat?

Explain how the Matzo is made without yeast. God commanded the Israelites to make bread without yeast because they were in a hurry. That night God would free them from slavery in Egypt and there was no time to allow traditional bread to rise. It was also symbolic. It was the last meal they would eat as slaves, and the first they would eat as free people.

As Jesus sat down with his disciples he broke the bread (Matzo), which signaled the beginning of the Passover celebration. He told his disciples, “This is my body that is broken for you.” Just like the Israelites, the breaking of Jesus’ body on the cross signaled the freedom from slavery to sin for all who believe.

In addition, the bread would have reminded the disciples of how God provided food for them in the wilderness, sending manna from heaven. The manna in the wilderness was more than just another meal. It was life saving—keeping the Israelites alive in the wilderness. God has provided for us in the same way by sending his Son from heaven to earth. Jesus even called himself the bread from heaven, linking himself to the manna. Just like the manna, Jesus saves our life and keeps us alive

The Cup:

Later in the Passover service Jesus took a cup of wine and blessed it. It was customary to pour out small amounts of wine on a plate remembering the 10 plagues. The plagues were a demonstration of God’s unparalleled power over all things. The disciples would have poured out a small amount of wine 10 times, remembering each of the 10 plagues. Jesus took that same cup of wine and said, “This is my blood that is poured out for many.” With this statement the cup was taking on a similar, yet new, meaning. God was, once again, showing his unparalleled power—this time over sin and death. It was the pouring out of Christ’s blood that ultimately defeated death and freed from the power of sin all who believe.

passover-children

Remembering:

The Passover meal was a meal designed for remembering. As Jesus and his disciples were remembering God’s saving actions from the Exodus, Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” That night Judas would betray Jesus, setting in motion the new Exodus, God’s freeing of his people bound in slavery to sin.

Have your children eat the bread and drink the cup, and as they do ask them to remember the things God has done and is still doing for them. Encourage them to remember these things every time they take communion or see the bread and cup passed at church.

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Love Your Enemy – Family Activity and Devotional

Take a few minutes at breakfast, dinner or bedtime to focus the family on one of the key principles from the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Read Matthew 22:47-54

 

While Jesus was still speaking, a crowd came up. They were led by Judas, one of the twelve apostles. He went over to Jesus and greeted him with a kiss. Jesus asked Judas, “Are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” When Jesus’ disciples saw what was about to happen, they asked, “Lord, should we attack them with a sword?” One of the disciples even struck at the high priest’s servant with his sword and cut off the servant’s right ear. “Enough of that!” Jesus said. Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed it.

Jesus spoke to the chief priests, the temple police, and the leaders who had come to arrest him. He said, “Why do you come out with swords and clubs and treat me like a criminal? I was with you every day in the temple, and you didn’t arrest me. But this is your time, and darkness is in control.” Jesus was arrested and led away to the house of the high priest, while Peter followed at a distance.

Jesus had every right to oppose His own arrest. He had done nothing wrong. On the contrary, He had healed the sick, raised the dead, loved the unlovable, and ushered in the kingdom of heaven. Those are very good things. When the disciple attacks the high priest’s servant we think he is acting completely normal for the circumstances. Jesus is the one who acts very abnormally by first healing the servant and then succumbing to the unlawful arrest. Even when Jesus is being treated wrongfully He continues to love, heal, and act in obedience with God’s will.

Discuss

Have you ever wanted to lash out at someone who was treating you wrongfully?

Have you ever followed through with your feelings?

Many times we believe that if we are wronged, we have the “right” to wrong that person back. That is not the way Jesus acted, however. He, in fact, acted in the exact opposite way that we would expect.

Why is it so hard for us to “be Jesus” to someone who has treated us badly?

Activity

Take this challenge as we continue to think about Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem, and the example that He sets for us by His actions. Think of someone who has treated you wrongly in the past days, weeks, or even months. Write their name on a piece of paper, along with the injury you suffered at their hands (“he lied to me about_________”, or “she said ___________ and that hurt me”, etc.). If you are doing this as a family or with some other Christians, share your hurts if you can. You don’t have to share because some hurts are just between you and God, but sharing helps you cleanse your heart of the hurt.

When you have done this, pray that God will allow you to forgive this person, cleanse your heart of resentment, and be able to move beyond the hurt.

Pray

God my Father, I have been hurt by , and I want to forgive. Please cleanse me of resentment, anger, and hate. Create in me a new heart. Help me to remember that is your child, and I should forgive like You do. Ease my pain. Help me to remember not to hurt others as I have been hurt. Thank You, Father, for forgiving me. Help me to be more like You.

Note: This has nothing to do with what the person did. It is all about your attitude and heart. You cannot change what happened. You cannot change the other person’s heart, actions, or attitude. You can only change yourself with God’s help.

Activity

After you have written this on the paper and prayed for this person, burn the paper. Put it in a safe container (preferably outside) and light it with a match. As the paper burns, imagine that hurt and resentment in your life burning with it. When the paper burns, it is gone forever. Ask God to take your resentment and hurt and anger out of your heart forever.

Note: If you are uncomfortable with burning, tear the paper into tiny pieces and flush it down the toilet. Don’t just throw it in the trash where it will remain as a reminder of your hurt. Get rid of it forever. (Don’t litter, however.)

Jesus did not stand up to, fight back against, or resist the evil that overcame the crowd in the garden. He healed those that would see Him killed. It is a difficult thing to be more like Jesus, yet God calls us to a life of peace and love even for our enemies.

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Praying for Unity – Family Activity and Devotional

Take a few minutes at breakfast, dinner or bedtime to focus the family on one of the key events from the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

OVERVIEW

Jesus actually prayed for those of us who would believe in Him in the future. He asked His father to help us show unity by loving each other.

READ

John 17:20–23

I’m not praying only for them but also for those who believe in me because of their word. I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me. (John 17:20–23 CEB)

ACTIVITY

Have each member of your family put the tips of both of their index fingers under the hula hoop (one finger tip if group is large). Lower the hoop to the floor without anyone’s finger tip breaking contact. All finger tips MUST be in contact with the hoop at all times. If anyone’s finger tip breaks contact, start over.

Hula Hoop Finger Lift
All you will need for this family activity is a hula hoop.

DISCUSS

What did it take to lower the hula hoop to the floor together without anyone breaking contact? (Possible answers: everyone working together, communication, listening, focusing on others, being unselfish, loving each other)
How can your family show love to each other in a way that pictures God’s love?
What does showing unity through love teach others about the nature of God?
(Couples: Read Ephesians 5:31–33 to reinforce how marriage is intended to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church.)

PRAY

“Lord Jesus, help our family to reflect the kind of selfless love you prayed for us. May the world believe in you because of the love they see in us. Amen.”

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Washing Feet – Family Activity and Devotional

The account of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet is such a beautiful picture. May this lesson fully encourage you, parents and children. As a leader, Christ calls us to serve the least of these, and children need to see what humility looks like in adults.

The lesson that you are about to teach is very solemn. It would be helpful for the children to be calm before entering into the activity and reading. Also, the lesson itself does not need to be overly long; the activity speaks well without too much discussion.

Preparation:

Allow John 13:3–17 to wash over your heart; read it many times. Put yourself in the place of the disciples. Remember that Jesus is the Messiah, and he has come to love people. He came to give his life for us. He came to demonstrate his love for us through acts like washing feet, a servant’s job.

Bible Passage: John 13:3–5, 12-17
Target Age Group: all children
Memory Verse: Matthew 20:28—“

…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Lesson:

Say to the children something like this, preferably in your words:

Jesus came to show us how we should live. One of the lessons that Jesus wanted us to learn was how to be a servant to others. A servant is a person who does the work for another. When your mom or dad cooks you something to eat, they are being a loving servant for you; they don’t expect anything in return. Jesus likewise said to his disciples who desired to be great, “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28 NIV).  [Jesus calls himself the Son of Man; his favorite title.]

Jesus wanted the disciples to know that being a servant is more important than gaining wealth, power, or position. A servant does not receive a lot of praise or credit; they work solely for the lives of others. Let us read how Jesus, who is a king, became a servant to show his love for his disciples and for us:

3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

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12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Jesus, like a servant, put on a towel to show the reason why he had come. Christ wanted his followers to know the importance of putting others above yourself. Likewise we are to do the same.

Washing Feet

There are two ways to practice the activity. One, only the parents wash feet. Two, if the children are old enough and mature, then they can wash each other’s feet. I highly recommend the first in most cases, unless you are confident in the ability of your children.

Purpose

The act of washing other people’s feet is an act of humility. There is nothing mystical about washing another’s feet, but it is a picture that can easily be stuck in the minds of those who participate. Hopefully, it will be a good picture that will forever be with them. Ultimately, there is a two-fold message (purpose) to be learned from this act: One, an example of humility for the children, and two, actual humility for the one washing. It is a lesson that speaks to the whole group.

Items needed:

Bucket
Wash cloth or sponge
Towel

Directions

Again, this is not a playful time; the design is to be reflective. Have the children, if possible, in chairs. It will be easier to wash if their feet are easily accessible. Remind your family why this is happening. Start washing the feet of those in your family and say to them while you dry their feet, “Jesus taught us to love one another by being a servant; ‘Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them’” (Matt. 13:17). [Of course, it does not have to be this statement verbatim]. Another method is to wash one person’s feet, then they wash the next person’s feet, and so on…

Concluding Questions

What has Jesus taught us in today’s activity?
Why should we follow what Jesus did?
Why do you think Jesus came to serve?
Is it better to have wealth, power, and position, or to be a servant? Why?

Gospel Connection

Why do you think that Jesus said that he came to “give his life as a ransom for many”? What do you think that means?

Jesus came to give his life as a sacrifice to save others: us. Jesus set an example for us to follow; he showed us to be a servant for others. He also came that we may have eternal life. We must believe his message and believe God who sent Jesus.

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Family Discussion Resources

Welcome Peace – Palm Sunday Family Discussion

To celebrate Palm Sunday read through these thoughts below and then discuss the questions at the end with your Children.

Cat Stevens recorded these very famous words in 1971:

I’ve been happy lately
Thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be
Something good has begun
Oh, I’ve been smiling lately
Dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be
Someday it’s going to come
‘Cause out on the edge of darkness
There rides a peace train
Peace train take this country
Come take me home again

This song, “Peace Train” has become one of the most famous so-called “peace songs” in American music history. Stevens obviously wrote this song in the context of the Vietnam conflict in the early 1970s. But it has subsequently been used in many other contexts. The film Remember the Titans used this song as a call for peace amidst the turbulent racial conflicts that transpired during school desegregation in America. The song was sung during the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize presentation, by Cat Stevens himself. The song has also been recorded by other artists, including the American ROCK band, 10,000 Maniacs and COUNTRY singer, Dolly Parton.

Why do you believe a song like this has endured for more than two generations in America? And why have so many others like it endured? Calls for peace resonate with us, don’t they? Perhaps that is because our world seen so little peace. Since that dreadful day in the Garden of Eden, our world has been without, yet searching for, peace.

So, cries for peace are nothing new, really…

There were at least a couple of times, however, when those cries became louder…more pronounced. As God entered this world as an infant child in the shadow of a Bethlehem Inn, angels sang this song for all the world to hear:

Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace to men,
On whom His favor rests. (Luke 9:14)

You see those angels had been watching for some time. They recognized then what you’ve recognized in your time here. Earth is a place without peace! Their beautiful peace song that evening had to compete with a lot of other noise. Some Jews were anticipating a great war with Rome! Herod was hatching a plan to send his troops from door to door in the Jewish ghettos, killing all the baby boys. There was a lot of noise that night! But still they sang for peace!

And Peace did arrive that evening.

But He was hardly recognized. As He was born, the “No Vacancy” sign still shined brightly in the Bethlehem Inn parking lot. And aside from a few shepherds, this “king” of peace entered the world without much fanfare.

The second time the cries for peace became more pronounced that infant had grown to be an adult. Here is how it happened:

The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!”

Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:

“Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!” (John 12:12-19)

The calls for peace were there, but you have to dig a bit to hear them. John alludes to a text here from Zechariah 9.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
Righteous and having salvation is he,
Humble and mounted on a donkey,
On a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
And the war horse from Jerusalem;
And the battle bow shall be cut off,
And he shall speak peace to the nations;
His rule shall be from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.

When the crowds saw Jesus enter the city on the colt that day. They called Him “king” for a reason. Because they longed believe that:

When the Messiah arrived…

When the “king” arrived…

He would finally bring the peace that Zechariah talked about!

They had a big parade to welcome “Peace” into town! Did you know that at about the same time, there was another parade heading into town? Pontius Pilate was arriving from Caesarea, the capital of Judea—the Province over which he was governor. The governor of Judea came to town every year around the time of the Jewish Passover. You see, times of religious festivals were ripe for revolt! So, the governor traveled to town every year, just in case…

And he always arrived with pomp and circumstance: A long parade of horses, regality, nobility, power! The symbol of Rome…the protector of peace! You see, even the Romans wanted “peace”!

But across town, the small band of Jesus’ disciples welcomed their “king.” He didn’t have a parade of horses…only one colt. No symbols of power or regality…only a rag tag band of poor, homeless apostles. And all of these disciples, calling for “peace”.

You do understand, don’t you, that by “peace” most of them meant war! In calling Jesus “king,” and by spreading palm branches on the ground, many of these disciples thought their warrior king had finally arrived in the city! Now, there would be peace…because he would lead them to victory in war!

As all of creation calls for peace…

The Romans seek peace with the arrival of Pilate.

These disciples seek peace with the arrival of their “King.”

How ironic!

As all of creation calls for peace…

Here is Peace riding into town on a colt.

And still, so very few people see him, or even take notice.

Peace was right in front of their eyes, but they couldn’t see it! They couldn’t see it, because their own visions of what peace should look like were blinding their eyes.

On this Palm Sunday, I wonder, have our eyes been opened to see true Peace?

The choruses crying for peace have continued. They were there at the moment of Jesus’ birth. They cried out as Jesus rode into Jerusalem a week before his death. And people continued to cry out for peach through 20th century peace songs! Even today, I imagine that many of us are searching for peace. Maybe you’re looking for it today…

Why is it that peace seems to elude us? I think the answer to that universal, timeless question comes to us in a wonderful passage from Luke. Jesus said the reason they could not find peace is because they did not recognize the time of God’s visitation to them (Luke 9:51). They couldn’t find Peace because they couldn’t see God. They were looking for peace…but in all the wrong places…

Rome was looking for peace through the Roman government and military. The Jews were looking for peace through their military Messiah. In short, they were looking for peace through their own human power.

I can’t help but wonder if that is why peace so often eludes us as well. We seek peace…all of us at some points in our lives. And we wonder why we can’t find it! Maybe we are looking for peace through our own human power.

“I want peace with my children, but I don’t need God to raise my children.”

“I want peace with my money, but I don’t need God to help me manage my money.”

“I want peace with my business, but I don’t need God in my workplace.”

“I want peace in my school, but I don’t need God to follow me into the classroom.”

“I want peace in my marriage, but I can handle that without any help from God.”

“I want peace as I grow older and prepare to die, but I don’t need God’s help with that.”

Where is the peace? It comes from only one place. And here He comes riding into town on a colt. On this Palm Sunday, we are reminded that the Palm Branches were laid down before the King. Are we ready to do more than lay palm branches down?

Family Discussion:

As you begin to celebrate Easter week, consider these questions with your family.

Are you, as a family, ready to swear your allegiance to King Jesus?

Are you ready to trust this King?

Are we ready to rely on this King for everything…including our peace?

In what way(s) is your family not experiencing peace right now?

How can your relationship with the King of Peace help you find the peace you are looking for?

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Easter at Home

Throughout Church history, families have joined together to commemorate and celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. No holiday season is more central to our faith or more important to emphasize with the next generation. Too often, however, we forget to create and capture moments at home that could make the holiday more impactful.

Over the course of the next several days STAND@Home will be sending out resources for your family with easy-to-implement ideas for each day from Palm Sunday to Easter. Be sure to sign up for our e-mail list and try one or more to help your family focus on the true meaning of Holy Week together.