A Corporate Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there was a promising start-up company. The CEO of this company was looking for investors, and a few people came forward who were willing to buy in. Nine months later the CEO asked for more investors, and several new people responded.

A year and a half later the company’s market value had skyrocketed, and the CEO wanted to expand again and asked for another round of investors. This time the CEO raised the needed capital so easily he actually had to turn some potential investors away.

Ten years later, the CEO called a business meeting of all the company’s investors. A couple hundred men and women from all across the country traveled to their common destination, wondering what this meeting was all about.

“This will come as quite a shock to many of you, but in three weeks our company will be absorbed into a large multi-corporation,” the CEO shared with the room of investors. “We are selling the company. We accomplished what we set out to do from the beginning, and our top analysts agree that in a few years there will be much less demand for the services we provide. In addition to that, our current market value has never been higher, and the board has decided it’s the right time to sell.”

“I want to thank you all for believing in us, some of you from the very outset, and I am extremely excited to tell you what I have decided to do when the board sells off our stocks: each and every investor will receive one billion dollars.”

Gasps and murmurs rippled through the crowd. There were mixed reactions. Most were speechless; their investment had not been that large, and they never imagined they could be billionaires. Others seemed confused, and a handful seemed upset.

One man stood up and addressed the CEO: “Hold on a second, I was one of your first investors. The risk I took was way bigger than those investors in the third wave. It’s not fair that they get the same as me. I deserve more.”

A woman near the man also stood and said, “With all due respect, I know I was one of your biggest backers. Why, I gave one-thousand percent more than some of these people! To only be getting one billion after twelve years of waiting… it’s not ethical. And I’m fairly certain it’s not legal. You’ll be hearing from my lawyers.”

“Please wait just a minute,” the CEO calmly said. “This might not seem ethical, but I assure you it is legal. The papers each of you signed when you made your investment had a clause clearly stating that I alone would have full discretion as to the parameters of paying back my investors. The only stipulation was you would receive back at least double your original investment, and I assure you that is the case for each of you.”

“It is fair. Who are you to say you deserve more and another deserves less? Do not forget, this has always been my company. The money you are receiving is due to my hard work, my ideas, my risks; there would be no payday if it was not for me.”

And so, many who felt like they themselves had given so much, were disappointed to only get back what they deemed little; while those who knew they had only given little, were overwhelmed with joy to be receiving so much.

(Based off of Jesus’ Parable of the Vineyard Workers, Matthew 20:1-16)

What do you think is the point of the story?

Do you ever find yourself comparing your Christian service and devotion to others’ and looking down on them?

Do you ever catch yourself acting like you deserve the blessings and grace of God?
Why do you think we can be like that?

What does Jesus mean when he says, “those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last”?

The CALL of the Cross

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Read Matthew 7:13-14 as a family. Discuss what you think these verses mean.

So what did you come up with? Are things as black and white as Jesus is painting them?

If we take Jesus’ words simply at face value, what are the implications for our lives? How do we respond appropriately to this?

The Christian life is more than just believing the right things, memorizing the right things, and following Jesus “in your heart.” The Christian life is a LIFE that is lived for Christ!

The CALL of the Cross is “to come and die.” To daily kill off your sinful self, and live for Christ. To love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul.

Do you agree with the above statements? If so, discuss as a family some practical steps to take as you journey together on the narrow road to Christ.

The CURE of the Cross

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This video is a promotional piece for a book by Kary Oberbrunner. The title of the book, Your Secret Name, is based on Revelation 2:17, in which Jesus is promising a new name to those who are victorious in him.

The imagery in the video is something that resonates with all of us. Because we live in a sinful world and because we are sinful people, as we go through life we find ourselves dirty and even dragged through the mud. Life beats us up and breaks us down.

But in Christ our story (and our name) is changed. In Christ, we are forgiven, faultless, and free. This is the cure of the cross.

On the cross, Jesus became everything that is bad about us, so that we could become everything that is good about him! That’s good news. 1 John 1:9, Jude 1:24, and Romans 8:1-2 are passages that clearly show our new standing in Christ.

As a family discuss these questions:

1) What does it mean to be forgiven? Faultless? Free?

2) Many times we don’t feel forgiven, faultless, or free. It takes faith to trust that what God has said about who we are in Christ is true. Why do you think we doubt our new standing in Christ?

3) Faith could be defined as living as if what we hope is true… IS TRUE! How can we as a family encourage each other and strengthen each other’s faith?

The COST of the Cross

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Sin is not a topic that comes up in the typical conversation. It’s more a topic we avoid than one we embrace. And yet the reality of sin and the negative effects of sin constantly weigh us down. Our sin has put us in a hole that we can’t get out of.

This past Sunday we took a look at sin by first looking at what sin is not: If we are following God’s rules, we’re probably not sinning. Jesus condensed all of God’s Law down into two commands: Love God with all that we are and love people in the same ways we care for ourselves.

By understanding what sin is not, we get a clearer picture of what sin is and how often we sin. How much of a typical day are we loving God and other people correctly in our thoughts, our words, and our actions? We probably can’t go more than four or five minutes without being selfish, jealous, greedy, prideful, angry, or lustful… just to name a few!

The other thing we discussed is how God’s Law is pro-relationships, while sin is anti-relationships. We’ve all been hurt by others’ sin, but we’re also all guilty of hurting others by our sin. Sin always damages relationships and brings separation between us and others and between us and God.

The Bible even says that sin leads to death, which is the ultimate separation. The Good News, of course, is that God chose not to leave us in that hole, but from the very beginning was putting into motion his plan to spring us free.

An innocent sacrifice is the required cost to cover over a person’s sin. Jesus, being the perfect man, fit the bill. And being God, the effects of Jesus’s sacrificial death were limitless and boundless.

His blood extends to the entire human race, to all those who have ever lived or are yet to be born. It covers every sin ever committed and those not yet committed. The blood of Jesus brings us forgiveness, cleansing, and new life.

As a family discuss these questions:

1) Why is it so hard to talk about sin? Even when we know that we’re all in the same boat, why is it so hard to admit to another person that we struggle with sin?

2) In the video, several people came and tried to give the man advice on how to save himself. Why do we constantly try to fix ourselves rather than initially turning to God for help?

3) Is it a sin to not turn to God for help?

4) Another tendency we have as Christians is to obsess about our sins. What if, as a family, we challenge ourselves this week to focus on loving God and loving each other and work on what we can do rather than what we shouldn’t do?

5) A third tendency we have is to constantly feel anxious or ashamed about our sins. Do you think this stems from not really believing that we’re forgiveable? If so, why is it so hard to accept that Jesus died for me? How can we work on that this week?

Sabbath and Silence

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For most of us in the church, Sabbath is probably the command we take least seriously. But we do so at the expense of our own souls. Keeping the Sabbath is what feeds our souls and fortifies our relationship with Christ.

A recent parenting article in TIME magazine examines the benefits for families choosing to slow down the pace of life and even embrace “boredom.” Author Carl Honoré writes “(Children) need that space not to be entertained or distracted. What boredom does is take away the noise … and leave them with space to think deeply.”

Ironically there is a connection between silence and hearing God speak to us. And as our world gets louder and louder with technology that never leaves our side, I believe we need times of extended silence even more than we used to.

Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, writes about keeping the Sabbath in his book Working the Angles:

Sabbath means quit. Stop. Take a break. Cool it… Quieting the internal noise so we hear the still small voice of our Lord… The two biblical reasons for sabbath-keeping develop into parallel sabbath activities of praying and playing.

As a family, discuss these questions:

1) Can we commit as a family to try this for a month (i.e. four Sundays) and then discuss how we feel about it, what’s working, and what’s not working?

2) Which day of the week and for how long will we keep the Sabbath together?

3) What will be some nonnegotiables for us? What are some things we will do? What are some things we won’t do?

4) How can we creatively incorporate praying and playing into our Sabbath?

The Backwards Life

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This week in youth group we talked about The Backwards Life that Christ calls us to in Mark 8:34-37. We discussed how much about the Christian life is counterintuitive, that at first glance it doesn’t seem to be very smart or safe. In fact, Jesus is literally saying, “What you’ve thought all along is up is actually down, and what you think is down is actually up!”

After watching the video, discuss these questions:

1) Can you identify with the illustration of clinging to the balance beam of life?

2) Do you think a person can be truly happy if they are not using the balance beam for its designed purpose (or if they are not living their life according to its designed purpose)?

3) What are some characteristics of the life Christ calls us to in the Gospels?

4) How is taking risks on a balance beam counterintuitive or backwards?

5) What kinds of risks do you think God might be calling you to as a person? As a family?