Jesus the True Vine

true vine

John 15:1-17 is another teaching that Jesus shared with his disciples during the famous Farewell Discourse, the last series of teachings that Jesus gave his disciples. This time of teaching began after the Passover meal as Jesus washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-5) and continues until Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32, John 17). The Farewell Discourse includes many noteworthy instructions, one of which is the seventh of Jesus’ I Am statements, “I am the true vine” (John 15:1).

The word picture of a vine for the people of God was not new. In the Old Testament, God compares Israel to a vine and a vineyard on several occasions. The idea is that God the Father chose, planted, and tended to Israel just like a gardener chooses, plants, and tends to a seed as it grows into a vine. God chose Israel from among the nations (Deut 14:2), planted them in the Holy Land (Deut 1:8), and provided for all their needs in many ways, both physical (rain, water, food, etc.) and spiritual (Law, priests, prophets, etc.). Unfortunately, the Israelites of as a whole proved to be unfruitful branches and required much “pruning” through exile to Assyria and Babylon.

However, a small remnant of faithful Israelites was enough for a future hope of the nation. Further, out of this remnant, the Father brought the Son, Jesus, into the world as a human baby. Jesus, the true vine, is the fulfillment of the word picture of the vine used to describe God’s people. And now the identity of God’s people has expanded to include Gentiles (non-Jews) who trust in Jesus Christ. Gentiles are the wild branches grafted into the true vine (Jesus Christ). So the church (all the branches) includes both Jews and Gentiles, whoever believes in Jesus.

If you believe in Jesus, then the Holy Spirit lives within you alongside your spirit (Eph 1). The Holy Spirit illuminates our minds and refreshing hearts tot help us grow, just like the water and the sun that helps the branches grow (Gal 5). And the Bible, God’s Word, is our spiritual food that helps us grow (Luke 4:4), just like plants need food from the soil to grow. And as we grow in Christ, our lives start to show the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). This is what it means to abide, or remain, in Christ, our true vine.

To download the full kids lesson resource guide for free, including suggestions for videos and crafts, click here: Seven I AMs 7 The True Vine

Jesus the Way, the Truth, and the Life

A one way sign over a sky background pointing to the right.

John 13:33-14:14 occurs in the famous Farewell Discourse, the last series of teachings that Jesus gave his disciples. This time of teaching began after the Passover meal as Jesus washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-5) and continues until Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32, John 17). The Farewell Discourse includes many noteworthy instructions, one of which is the sixth of Jesus’ I Am statements, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

Jesus was explaining to the disciples that he was returning to God the Father. Thomas asked Jesus how to follow him to the Father, and Jesus replied, “I am the way.” One of the ideas that John emphasizes strongly is that Jesus is the express image of the Father and that, through Jesus, the Father gives us access to Himself (John 1:14-18). Indeed, the invitation to become God’s children has been given to everyone; but it may be received freely only by believing in Jesus Christ (John 1:12-13, 3:16).

Jesus, by claiming to be “the way” to the Father, acknowledges these truths. As Jesus lived “the way” of the Law, fulfilling its righteous demands, he became our “way” to the Father. Because while conviction comes through the Law (John 1:17, Psalm 19:7), salvation comes through believing in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). And in the moment of believing in Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to live in our hearts alongside our own spirit, sealing us as children of the Father (Ephesians 1:13-14) and, over time, making us more like God the Son, as we yield to the leading of the Spirit in our lives (Romans 8:12-29, 12:1-2).

To download the full kids lesson resource guide for free, including suggestions for videos and crafts, click here: Seven I AMs 6 The Way, the Truth and the Life

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

resurrection and life

Although final spiritual resurrection to eternity was not clearly stated in the Old Testament, the idea that the deceased who loved God continued to live on spiritually and would see a future time of glory traces back to the Psalms and the Prophets. A future resurrection hope for believing Israel is especially meaningful in the Prophets and Poetic books (Job 19; Pss 16, 49; Isa 16; Ezek 37). The New Testament quite clearly teaches spiritual resurrection in many places, with Jesus being the firstfruits and that of believers’ being similarly promised (1 Cor 15).

Here in John 11, Jesus’ power over death and life is on full display. At the beginning of the chapter, when Jesus receives the news of that Lazarus is sick, he delays. This seems like an unkind thing to do for a dear friend and out of character for Jesus—until we remember that Jesus’ primary mission wasn’t healing people but preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14). So, when Jesus says in John 11:4, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it,” he is not speaking to the causal link between the sickness and Lazarus’ death, but to the physical restoration miracle that brings Lazarus back to life and offers further confirmation that Jesus is God the Son, the express image of the Father made flesh who came to accomplish God’s plan of salvation for humankind (John 1:18).

The religious systems of the world teach many kinds of afterlives, referring to paradise, nirvana, etc. Other people claim not to believe in any afterlife at all. But the Bible teaches that everyone dies, and after that comes the day of judgment (Heb 9:27). However, believers need not fear the day of judgment, because Jesus covers us with his perfect love (1 John 4:17). So, when the day of judgment comes, everyone who believes in Jesus has their works of sin crossed out because we are covered by the righteous works of Jesus (Rev 20:11-14).

To download the full kids lesson resource guide for free, including suggestions for videos and crafts, click here: Seven I AMs 5 The Resurrection and the Life

Blueberry Banana Bread

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Shout out to Two Peas & Their Pod for their Classic Banana Bread Recipe, which served as a foundation for my recipe. You can check out their recipe here: https://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/banana-bread/

Blueberry Banana Bread

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup mashed banana
  • 3/4 cup finely shredded zucchini
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted stick butter, cooled slightly
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg at room temperature, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp (imitation) vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the mashed banana, shredded zucchini, and melted butter.
  3. Add the brown sugar and mix well.
  4. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix well.
  5. Add the remaining dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Then gently fold in blueberries.
  6. Spray a 9×5 glass loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Then pour in bread batter.
  7. Cook at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool at least an hour before slicing and serving.
Roughly 72 calories per serving. Great for breakfast, snacks, and shared meals with family, friends, and church potlucks!

Jesus the Good Shepherd

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Shepherding is one of the oldest professions, going back to Abel, a son of Adam and Eve (Gen 4:2). In ancient times, political and spiritual leaders were sometimes compared to shepherds because of their position of authority over the lives of people. There are two kinds of shepherds: hirelings, who shepherd other people’s sheep for pay, and true shepherds, who shepherd their own sheep (and others’) with their lives.

The Bible compares God to a shepherd (Pss. 23:1, 80:1), as well as Moses (Isa 63:11) and the Persian king Cyrus (Isa 44:28). The Bible also promises punishment for the bad shepherds of Israel (bad spiritual leaders) and that God, the Good Shepherd, will one day bring his flock Israel back to the land inheritance he promised them (Ezek 34).

When Jesus referred to himself as the Good Shepherd, the Jews who heard him were reminded about God’s promises of punishment on Israel’s bad shepherds and God’s promise to be the Good Shepherd to Israel. And when Jesus explains later how he gives his sheep eternal life and how he is one with God the Father, it was clear that Jesus was revealing his own identity as God the Son Incarnate while predicting his own blood sacrifice on the cross that would provide final atonement for sin.

Psalm 23 provides a beautifully detailed picture about how God, the Good Shepherd, cares for us, His sheep. In light of Jesus’ self-revelation that he is the Good Shepherd, we can see how Psalm 23 isn’t merely a wonderful song of comfort, but a clear declaration about the greatness of Jesus’ love for us. His love toward us is immeasurable and unfailing, so great that he gave his own life as a perfect sacrifice to save sinners, to everyone willing to receive the invitation to believe in him.

To download the full kids lesson resource guide for free, including suggestions for videos and crafts, click here: Seven I AMs 4 The Good Shepherd

Managing Songs in OpenLP

One of the primary features in OpenLP is the ability to add, import, edit, and project song lyrics. Here’s a brief overview of how you can manage songs in OpenLP.

The Song Library

After running the First Time Wizard, the application window pops up. On the left side of the screen you’ll see the Library with several tabs labeled Songs, Bible, Images, and so forth. These tabs expand when you click them so you can see the contents. This post is about Songs, so click the songs tab. If you added the sample songs in the First Time Wizard, all the sample song titles will appear. If no, this section will be blank.

Creating a Song

Before you can project a song, you have to have it saved in OpenLP. There are several options for importing and creating songs. If you don’t already have any song resources from any other software, you’ll need to create your own songs.

At the top of the Songs Library tab you’ll see a row of icons. These will help you manage your songs. To create a song, click the sheet of paper with the green + symbol. The song editor window pops up with several blank fields. The most basic required fields are as follows, listed by their tab:

  • Title & Lyrics: title, lyrics, verse order
  • Author, Topics, & Songbooks: authors

In order to comply with copyright licensing laws, I recommend being sure to get an account with CCLI and adding the Copyright info & CCLI number for each song as well.

Adding Title & Lyrics

Filling in the title is self-explanatory. However, the lyrics can be a bit tricky at first. You’ll type each stanza (Verse, Chorus, etc.) of the song on its own slide and then add a typical verse order.

To add a slide, on the right find and click Add. A new window pops up where you can type in the stanza, line by line, and give the stanza a name. How many lines and how long are entirely up to you. The visuals will be handled by the themes, so for now you’ll just want to get the song typed in. Once you get the stanza typed, click OK. Once all your stanzas are typed in, you can fill in the verse order.

To fill in the verse order, type the 2-digit Letter-Number abbreviation next to the stanza. So if you have 2 verses, a chorus, and a bridge, your verse order might be V1 C1 V2 B1 C1 C1. Notice that every stanza has a letter and number, so even if there’s only one Chorus or Bridge slide, it’ll have a number.

Adding Authors

To add an author, simply type the name in the Author field. If you have other songs by that author, their name will pop up. If not, you’ll be asked if you want to create a new author. Then you’ll click the Add to Song button to add the author to the song.

Copyright Info and CCLI

This information can be found many places. I prefer to go straight to the CCLI website, but many other sites like PraiseCharts and MultiTracks have this information as well. One note, if you want the copyright symbol before the year, click the © beside the Copyright Information field… it’s actually a button that adds the symbol to the field.

Saving the Song

Once you have the Title, Lyrics, Authors, and Copyright information stored, you’ve got everything you need for your song. Songs have several other advanced options as well, but these are the basics you’ll need for every song. Click Save and the song is now listed in your song library.

Editing a Song

To edit a song, click the icon of a sheet of paper with a pencil at the top of the Song Library. This will pull up the same song editor window you use to create the song with all the song information ready for editing.

Projecting Song Lyrics

There are a couple different ways to project the song. One way is to project the song live from the Song Library. This is useful if, for example, the song leader changes songs on the fly to something not in the service. To project a song live from the Song Library, click the projector icon at the top of the Song Library.

You can also add the song to a service. To add a song to a service, single-click the title of the song in the Song Library. Then click the + icon at the top of the Song Library. The song title will show up in the Service Manage tab on the right side of the screen. (I’ll cover services in a later post.)

More Information and Assistance

For more information about creating, importing, and managing songs, including importing songs from other services, check out the OpenLP manual on their website, http://manual.openlp.org/songs.html. If you run into any particular issues or need more assistance, feel free to send me a message and I’ll be happy to try to help 🙂

Getting Started with OpenLP

OpenLP is an open source, feature-rich lyric presentation application. In layman’s terms, it’s free projection software with it has all the basic features as well as plenty of extras. It was designed especially for churches to present song lyrics and message slides. This makes it a great option for smaller churches with limited budgets that desire a way to project song lyrics and other kinds of images, messages, notes, etc. for services.

Getting up and running with Open LP is pretty straight-forward, but it can be a bit intimidating for the first-time user. So if you’re looking for some help getting started with Open LP, please keep reading.

Download and Installation

It’s usually best to download software from the company’s own website when possible. This is typically the most secure and up-to-date option. The OpenLP installer packages can be downloaded directly from their website, http://www.openlp.org.

On the website, click “Download” from the top menu. Then download the installer for your computer system. I recommend using the Direct Download option.

To install the application, find the downloaded file. There are several ways to do this, but the two most common are either double-click the downloaded file when it shows up as complete at the bottom of your browser or use your Finder/Explorer to find the file in your Downloads folder and double-click it. Then proceed with the instructions.

Setup with the First Time Wizard

To run the program, find and double-click the application icon on your desktop, in your start menu, or in your applications folder. This will launch the First Time Wizard. First, select the translation (I recommend Autodetect). Then read the directions and click Next through the wizard.

You’ll be presented with options for Plugins (leave these alone), Sample Songs (skip), Sample Bibles (skip), and Sample Themes (skip). As for the remainder of the settings, I suggest just leaving them as they are for now. When you get to the last page of the wizard, click Finish, let OpenLP do its thing. The application window will appear and you’re ready to use OpenLP.

OpenLP Manual and Assistance

If you’re looking for a more in-depth guide with visuals, head over to the OpenLP Manual at their website, which you can find at http://manual.openlp.org/. If you run into any particular issues or need more assistance, feel free to send me a message and I’ll be happy to try to help 🙂