Red Letter Challenge - Day 41

October 26, 2020 by Red Letter Challenge

Whether or not your team wins, the day after the championship can be a bit of a letdown for sports fans. The hype is over. One team has the trophy and the other, a great season and a heap of disappointment. That sport is done until the next season. Ends of things we enjoy or excitedly anticipate can bring a sense of let down or emptiness, but we hope the end of our Red Letter Challenge will be different.

 

The five principles we’ve explored over the past 40 days aren’t meant to be learned and shelved. No, they’re for living the next 40 days, and all the days after that. You’re standing at the line. The starters’ shot has sounded. Be, forgive, serve, give, and go! Remember, God goes with you. May He richly bless your journey.

 

A Few Last Things to Consider

Before you go, take some time once again to be with God. Open your Bible, pray, and consider questions like these.

  1. Are there people I need to forgive? If so, who?
  2. What needs do I see around me? How can I serve?
  3. As God has blessed me by providing for my needs, I can help provide for others. What needs has God placed in front of me? What can I give to help meet those needs?
  4. Where is God calling me to go?

Share your thoughts with us by clicking here.

Red Letter Challenge - Day 40 - Going

October 25, 2020 by Red Letter Challenge

Well… praise the Lord we did it, day 40 of our Red Letter challenge! So, how was it? I hope over the past 40 days you have learned more about Jesus and what He asks of His followers. I pray you never stop learning and growing.


This challenge is meant to last a life time, because when we follow Jesus and His words, we find the life we were made for. When Jesus left His disciples with the Great Commission to reach the world, He concluded with this statement:


Matthew 28:20

“and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


Jesus promises to be with us, day in and day out, ALWAYS! I don’t know about you, but knowing that Jesus is ALWAYS with me gives me confidence to do the things He is calling me to do.
I want to encourage you continue pursuing the five main principles we studied during this Challenge:


Being – Spend time connecting with Jesus each day through prayer and Bible Study. You have made it regular practice over the last 40 days, so you know you can make this a consistent routine in your spiritual life.


Forgiving – Think back on our week of “Forgiving. Is there any unconfessed sin in your life you need to ask God to forgive? Is there someone in your life you still need to forgive? Remember, when we forgive others, we are the ones who are set free!


Serving – God wants you to be involved in His work on earth. If you haven’t already, make serving part of your life. When you serve, you get to be a part of what God is doing all around you.


Giving – Be a cheerful giver. You can’t out give God. He is the most generous giver of all and He wants you to be like him.


Going – You have a story to tell! God has placed you in the lives of others to make a lasting impact. Allow God to work through you and trust Him to give you the words to say. Someone’s life could change forever because of your willingness to share the Good News of Jesus and His love.

It’s not always easy following in the footsteps of Jesus; we will need the support, and encouragement from each other, the family of God, and the church. Most importantly, we will need the Holy Spirit. May we echo the words of Paul:


Philippians 4:13
“I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength.”

 

DAY 40 CHALLENGE

So, here is your last challenge: Pursue Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Allow God to use you to do mighty things for His kingdom. After all is said and done in this world, may you hear God say “WELL DONE MY GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT!


Let us know how God worked in you or through you! Share a testimony with us by clicking here.

 

Red Letter Challenge - Day 39 - Going

October 24, 2020 by Red Letter Challenge

As you have been going through the 40-day Challenge, I hope you’ve had some victories. But if you’re like me, you’ve struggled at times. When you follow Jesus, there will be days that you struggle. There will be days that don’t go as planned. The Christian walk is not easy by any means. But even when you fail, it doesn’t disqualify you from being a follower of Jesus! As you have spent time reading God’s word, praying and seeking Him, trust that He has a plan for your life.


Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.


Have you ever taken a trip with your kids when they were little? I remember many vacations with my wife and son. We always had a great time when we got to our destination but getting there was always an adventure! My son would start asking “are we there yet?” just a few hours into our trip! I would always laugh and say “no, Joseph, we’re not there yet. Just enjoy the trip!” That answer never seemed to satisfy him, but when we got there, it always was worth the wait. Our Christian life is a lot like that road trip. We get so focused on the destination, we don’t enjoy the journey. Heaven is our ultimate destination but Jesus wants us to enjoy the here and now!


John 10:10 AMP

“I’ve come that you may have real life, and enjoy it in abundance – to the fullest, until it overflows!” 


It’s amazing to know that through Jesus, you can live life to the fullest. Jesus didn’t say our lives would be perfect, but if we are connected to Him, we can face any situation with confidence knowing He is with us.


John 15:5

I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay connected to me . . . you’ll produce a lot of fruit. But you can’t do anything without me!


God has a plan for every area of your life. Your education, your marriage, your career – not just your church life! And he promises to lead and guide us if we trust Him with the details. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know what next year will bring, but I know God sees the road ahead so I’ll trust Him and enjoy the journey.

Red Letter Challenge - Day 38 - Going

October 23, 2020 by Red Letter Challenge

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation." Mark 16:15


As we near the end of the 40 Day Red Letter Challenge you may be thinking “I am sure glad we’re near the end because this ‘Week of Going’ requires way too much from me.” Many would say “I’ll forgive, I’ll serve, I’ll be generous, but don’t ask me to talk to anyone!”


If you are a follower of Jesus, you are given the mandate to preach the Gospel to all nations, even to every creature! Some may see this as a chore or a burden, but it is our greatest privilege as believers! Not only is the Gospel of Christ a message of hope – it’s the only message that will bring life to those who receive it.


At times, Christians can actually become ashamed of the very message that caused them to believe in Christ and be saved by Him. That’s something that should be sobering to everyone! If it weren’t for the love of God that gave boldness to those who shared the Gospel to us, we wouldn’t even be Christians today. We can learn a lot from the Apostle Paul and his personal declaration regarding the gospel message.


Romans 1:16 ESV

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.


When Paul met Jesus on the Road to Damascus, he asked the Lord “Who are you, Lord? And “What would you have me to do?” Before his conversion Paul was beating, imprisoning and murdering Christians for their faith. So it was no surprise to him that it wasn’t popular follow Jesus after his conversion, yet, Paul was not fearful of or intimidated by the opposition to the Gospel.


While there is nothing wrong with letting our lives speak to the God who lives within us, there comes a point when simply living a good life, being a good friend or a good Christian before others isn’t enough. When we don’t tell our friends what Christ did for them and what He demands for us to be saved, what’s that friendship for? 


And when we tell ourselves we’re being salt and light but we don’t tell them the source of that salt and light in us, then what good is it? Our kind acts and thoughtful deeds have limited power in themselves. Only Christ can truly save, and they should believe in Him as much as we believe in Him.


How could we be ashamed of the Gospel when the power of the Gospel is the only thing that can give hope to a dying world? Without the Gospel of Jesus Christ, there is no hope.


The Gospel is not intended to save civilization from wreckage, but to save people from the wreckage of civilization! I once had a boss that continually reminded me to “keep the main thing the main thing!” What a true statement. Spend a few moments reflecting on Jesus words regarding “the main thing.”


Luke 19:10 ESV

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

 

Mark 8:36 ESV

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

 

DAY 38 CHALLENGE

Pray and ask God to give you a boldness to share the gospel with someone when the opportunity arises. The Bible says “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” If you have never done this before, start with your story! You can use these verses as a guide: ROMANS 3:10, 5:8, 6:23, 10:9-10.


We'd love to hear your story, too! Let us know by clicking here

Red Letter Challenge - Day 37 - Going

October 22, 2020 by Red Letter Challenge

Mark 5:19 NIV

“Go to your home [oikos], to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 


When Jesus worked a miracle on someone’s behalf, like the demon possessed man in Mark 5, it was his custom to give them a simple assignment–to return home with good news. Jesus wasn’t referring to a home as a structure but as a network of relationships. You have heard me refer to this as our Oikos. Oikos is the Greek word New Testament writers used to represent those key relationships we all find at the center of our daily lives. Like everyone else, your oikos is made up of your friends and family, neighbors, coworkers and those you meet in your day to day activities. The Oikos principle is the primary way we reach out to our community with God’s love and Jesus’ expectation is that you reach your Oikos by telling them what God has done for you! 


One of the most important aspects of embracing the Oikos principle is committing ourselves to expanding our circle of friends. For some of us, that comes naturally. For me, it’s not that easy. My wife and son are extroverts and make new friends everywhere they go. It takes me a little longer. As we learned earlier this week, it really takes me being pushed out of my comfort zone.


One of my goals this past year was to get more involved in my community, meet new people and build new relationships. It is very difficult for me. I am naturally a very introverted person and the nerve-racking process of being in new situations and meeting new people is very taxing mentally and physically. Towards the end of the year, I took the plunge and joined a peer group that meets monthly. It was awkward for me at first; but now that I have been attending for almost a year, I have made several new friends and have grown spiritually through this experience.


This year I’m looking for ways to meet even more new people. I am actually very excited about expanding my community of influence even further. To help accomplish this, I have joined a local gym. As I begin my new gym routine, I have committed to ask the Lord to put people in my path and give me the boldness to make new connections that will ultimately help me point people to Him.


What does our Oikos have to do with the Red Letter Challenge? Well Jesus made a point to welcome strangers into his circle and I believe He wants us to do the same!


Luke 9:11 ESV

When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.


How can you expand your Oikos? Well, start by taking inventory of your interests. What do you enjoy doing? Consider inviting some of your friends from church and some of your unchurched friends to join you in an activity you really enjoy. As everyone gets to know each other, you would be surprised how God will open the doors for new friendships to be formed and His story shared. I want to encourage you to join me in this challenge of getting more involved and meeting new people. You never know who you will meet and how God will use you to impact their lives forever!


DAY 37 CHALLENGE

Get out and meet someone new! Join a group in your community or neighborhood doing something you enjoy. Get in a new social circle! Meet new people. If this is too much for you to do on your own, ask a friend to join you.


Let us know some of your ideas to meet new people by clicking here.

Red Letter Challenge - Day 34 - Going

Monday, October 19 By D. Wendorf

Red Letter Challenge Week 6. Day 34 of our 40-day challenge to put the words of Jesus into practice in our lives. I hope you are doing well. I hope you have kept up. We are in the home stretch of looking at the 5 principles Jesus invites His followers to practice. Can you name them?


Being, Forgiving, Serving, Giving, Going


And this last principle of going may be the toughest. Whether you realize it or not, what we’ve being doing for the last five weeks has been preparing us for this. We have been laying the foundation for GOING.


We emphasized the importance of taking time to be with God every day, building the relationship we have with Him through our daily time in His Word.

We reminded you of the importance of acknowledging that you have been forgiven by God so that you will be more willing to forgive others.

We affirmed the need for us to follow the example of service that Jesus modeled for us over and over again throughout His ministry.

You were encouraged to experience the joy that comes from giving of yourself and the blessings that God has given to you.

All of this was in preparation for you to be the ones who tell the Good News of Jesus to others.


1 Peter 4:11. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.


We have the opportunity to speak the words of God and share His love with others. When Jesus invites you to follow Him, His main concern is that you be saved. But there is more to it. After you have been brought into the fold, His intent is that you be sent. That is why our last principle is going. A life spent being with Jesus will result in a life of going. You cannot be with Jesus and stay put. That’s not the life He wants you to have. Being a child of God will result in going. He wants you to influence lives. He wants you to be His hands and feet, being generous and touching people’s lives that you may never know about. He wants you to speak and proclaim the fact that the kingdom of heaven is near for all people. He wants you to tell them that they, too, can be a part of this eternal life.


During His ministry, Jesus sent His Disciples. But then they’d come back and learn. This is the rhythm of a disciple of Jesus. Learn from Him. Be sent. Go. Teach. Tell. Proclaim. Come back to Learn more. Repeat.


Most of you know I love to fish. It is something I truly enjoy. It is not the same if I just stay home and talk about going fishing, or I watch videos and shows that talk about fishing. It is not enough to buy the rods and reels and tackle and boat. It is not enough to organize my tackle box and make sure I have the proper clothing for the weather. All those things are fine and helpful, but they are not FISHING. In order to fish, I have to GO. I have to get out there and go fishing. I need to go to the lake to go fishing.


Let’s look at how Jesus told His first disciples what to do, comparing His last recorded words in the four Gospels and the book of Acts.


Matthew 28:19-20 which is what we call the Great Commission, not the Great Suggestion, Jesus says, “19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Mark 16:15: He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

Luke 24:47: and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

John 20:21: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

Acts 1:8: And then his very last words before His ascension: 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus spends all this time with them so that they would be fully equipped and now sent. He sends them with a purpose, to go, to preach/proclaim His message and as He says in Acts, to be His witnesses in this world.


This feels like a daunting task for many of us. People will say they don’t know enough to share the Good News. “What if someone asks a question I don’t know the answer to?” Here’s the thing. All you have to do is share what you know. Jesus does not invites us into a relationship where we understand Him perfectly. He invites us into a relationship where He trust Him completely.


Romans 3:10 “There is no one righteous, not even one;


Just a few verses later it says


Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God


Three chapters later we are told


Romans 6:23 … the wages of sin is death


This means that everyone in this world is walking around with a death sentence. Before you met Jesus, you were walking around with a death sentence. No one righteous, no one good, wages of sin is death. You are a sinner, you will die for that sin.


Far too many people are walking around these days ignorant and content. They think they are good. They don’t know about the death sentence looming over them. They think all is well, but it is not. They do not realize that there is a better life. They can be set free from the sentence of death. Listen to Romans 6:23 in its entirety.


Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


The bad news is that we are all walking around with death sentences. The good news is that those who have received God’s gift of grace have their death sentence removed. We are guilty, but we are freed by Jesus and His sacrifice at the cross. o now that we are freed, we are called to free others. God has rescued us to be rescuers of others.


Last week I had to get a couple of propane bottles refilled. I discovered that it was only $15 to trade in the empties for a full bottle at Academy. All the other places around town charged $20. I found myself telling others about my good fortune. And many were happy to hear it so they could take advantage of it, too.


If we can enthusiastically share that kind of news with others, why don’t we have the same enthusiasm to share the best news anyone will ever hear? You and I know what Jesus has done for us, that He removed that death sentence from us, that He was our substitute in punishment, that He died the death our sins demanded. The Holy Spirit has led us to the faith and conviction that He is our Savior, and because of that we have the guarantee of forgiveness and life everlasting with our God. When you’ve been rescued, you want to tell others of your Rescuer. And you do that by telling your story. By sharing your testimony. By Going.


Your words that point people to Jesus can remove death sentences from people. No longer will the wages of sin mean death for them. The Spirit can and will use what you say to lead others to receive the gift of eternal life with Jesus.


At the heart of the Red Letter Challenge, you are challenged to live more like Jesus calls us to live so that we can represent Him truly and accurately. We need to do this so that people can see and meet the real Jesus. If people really met Jesus, they’d fall in love with Him. That is why y and I need to go, to proclaim, and to share our testimony. I’m praying for boldness and courage for you, that through your testimony, through your GOING, many would come to know the name of Jesus and walk in the freedom that He’s already won for them.


Let us know your thoughts and comments by clicking here.

Red Letter Challenge - Day 30

October 16, 2020 by Tim Schwan

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)


And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith---and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:6-10)


Reflections on the Readings

The website Global Rich List (globalrichlist.com) allows you to gain perspective as to how financially “rich” you are.  For example, if you make $50,000 annually in the U.S. you are in the top 0.31% of the richest people in the world by income.  It would take the average worker in Zimbabwe 49 years to earn the same amount. Visit the user-friendly website and plug in your own annual income. Then, use this information and perspective to ruminate and meditate over today’s readings.  As we compare our financial richness to the “incomparable riches” of God’s grace in our lives, consider the implications for living generously as a follower of Jesus.


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Red Letter Challenge - Day 27

October 12, 2020 by Amy Cox

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35


People who donate to a political candidate (of any party) don’t do so just so the individual can run a good race. They contribute because she or he is the “horse” they want to win. They like the candidate’s platform or public persona. They think this is the onewhose policies will help me. They give expecting something in return. This impure altruism is not the kind of giving we’ll be talking about this week in the Red Letter Challenge.


Instead, the spirit of giving Jesus talks about in the red letters of the Gospels is the kind He modeled in life – in the sacrifices He made, from being born to his death on a cross – all so we could have new life in him. God generously gave an essential, co-equal piece of himself (because Jesus is one with God and is God) to suffer and die, not for his own personal gain, but so He could be reconciled with fallible people like you and me. There’s nothing we can give to repay the favor, and nothing we can do to deserve it. That’s the kind of giver God wants us to be too. (2 Co 9:7; Ac 20:35; Lk 12:33-34)


In movies people are occasionally thrown into a volcano by a tribal shaman to appease the island gods. Beyond being a B-movie plot device, the need for humans to act or sacrifice to make peace with a deity has long been part of many belief systems, even Judaism. Thumb through the Old Testament and you’ll find instructions for sacrificing a lamb and even the story of Isaac’s near death by sacrifice. Jesus, however, shows us that sacrificial giving to the One True God to merit our salvation is no longer necessary. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (Jn 3:16-17) Jesus’s death and resurrection did away with our need to sacrifice. He is the only sacrifice sufficient for the task.


Jesus’ sacrifice, however, didn’t take away our calling to give. (Lk 12:33-34) Instead, Jesus transformed our giving from Law to Gospel. We don’t give to make things right with God. We give as our joy-filled response to Jesus, who once and for all repaired our relationship with God and showed us how to live like He did. (2 Co 8:9, 9:12)


When we live generously, as a response to Jesus’ love and sacrifice, we’ll be blessed in ways that really matter. (Pro 3:9-10) God doesn’t say we’ll have all the best stuff, rather, He tells us He’ll give us all we need and promises a future with him. (Gal 6:6-10) To this end He gives instructions for our giving:

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Mt 6:1-4)


Children sometimes wakes in the middle of the night and need  attention. Roused from our dreams it’s not always easy to want to give up the covers to see what’s wrong, but like parents everywhere, that’s what we do. We don’t get anything out of it personally, except cold toes and some big smiles when we appear at the door. Rather, parents of children of all ages sacrifice sleep to care for their children – they recognize the needs of others as being greater than their own. That’s the same way Jesus wants us to look at the people He places in our lives to wake us up so we can serve. (Mt 25:35-40)


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Red Letter Challenge - Day 24 - Serving

October 9, 2020 by Red Letter Challenge

This week, we have been learning about the things Jesus taught His disciples in the months leading up to His death. Today, we are going to see how Jesus interacted with the children. In Jesus’ day, children were seen and not heard, but when the people who were following Jesus started bringing their children to Him, Jesus demonstrated something quite different!


Mark 10:13-14

“People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’ . . . And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them”


Jesus was not only willing to welcome the children into His presence; He spent time with them and blessed them. Knowing how Jesus felt about children will help us understand and connect with God’s heart when it comes to serving others! It is our responsibility to include our children and our grandchildren in our faith journey.  The best way they can get a glimpse of who Jesus is in our lives is by watching us serve others and serving others in Jesus name along-side us.


From a very young age, children can be serving with us. Whether  setting up chairs, visiting the sick, folding bulletins or preparing meals for those who are shut-in, bring them along and allow them to serve. Of course, there were times when they can't participate due to type of task at hand, but as much as was possible, intentionally make serving others a priority for your family. It’s great to talk about Jesus with our children, but they also need to see us be the “hands and feet” of Jesus.


It’s never too early to teach our kids what true servant-hood looks like! They need to see us model generosity, kindness and compassion before them if they are going to grow up to be devoted Christ-followers. They need to witness servant behavior in their world and it starts with us! 


If you are wondering how to help the children in your life develop a servant’s heart, start small!  Teach them to see others the way Jesus would see them. Whether He was performing a marvelous miracle or holding a child, He did everything with great compassion. While big service projects are great, it’s the every day acts of kindness and compassion that our children and grandchildren see that will help them understand what it means to serve others. There are so many opportunities to serve others that God places in our path each day.  Let’s teach our little ones to recognize them and serve God in some small way every day! If you don’t have children or grandchildren of your own, consider investing in the lives of the children in our church! As Steve Williams says “It takes a village!” You can make a difference in a child’s life forever by a simple act of kindness. A smile, a hug, or a kind word can go a long way!


DAY 24 CHALLENGE

As you continue in your week of serving, there are two challenges for today.

  1. Over the few days, do something to serve a child in your life.
  2. If you have children who still live in your home, or grandchildren who you see regularly, involve them in serving the people God places in your path. It could be something as simple as teaching them to hold the door open for someone or offering to help someone with a chore around the house.

Let us know your thoughts by sending us a comment here.

Red Letter Challenge - Day 21 - Serving

October 6, 2020 by Red Letter Challenge

In the final months before His death, Jesus spent time teaching the disciples some very important life lessons. These lessons were meant to teach them how they were to carry on after His death and resurrection. The disciples had a limited amount of time with Jesus and He wanted to prepare them for the difficulties He knew they would face when He was no longer with them.  The disciples had walked with Jesus, witnessed Him perform many miracles and now, as He was pouring out His heart and investing in them, they were focused completely on themselves! It’s no surprise while Jesus was teaching them about serving others, the disciples were arguing about “who was the greatest among them.”


Mark 9:30-37 GW

30 They left that place and were passing through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where he was 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He taught them, “The Son of Man will be betrayed and handed over to people. They will kill him, but on the third day he will come back to life.” 32 The disciples didn’t understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him.33 Then they came to Capernaum. While Jesus was at home, he asked the disciples, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 They were silent. On the road they had argued about who was the greatest. 35 He sat down and called the twelve apostles. He told them, “Whoever wants to be the most important person must take the last place and be a servant to everyone else.” 36 Then he took a little child and had him stand among them. He put his arms around the child and said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes a child like this in my name welcomes me. Whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”


I love how the disciples gave Jesus the silent treatment when He asked them what they had been discussing along the road.  Of course, Jesus already knew what they had discussed and what was truly in their hearts; yet, He patiently and lovingly addressed what was on their minds. I can only imagine how Jesus’ words must have blown their minds. To think the King of the universe came to not to be served, but to serve, and was inviting them to do the same. Jesus wanted them to know there was no greater calling than to think of others above themselves.  He wanted them to understand the highest virtue they could emulate was humility rather than pride.  Humility is not viewed as a virtue in our culture today, and it wasn’t viewed as a virtue in the disciple’s day either.  It is our nature to be dominated by pride and to be consumed with ourselves more than others. We are taught at a very early age to be first, be the best, and to be number one.  We are taught to promote ourselves and to put our needs first.  But Jesus tells us the exact opposite! In Jesus’ counter-cultural Kingdom, the ones who are blessed are the ones who serve others and put others before themselves.


This reminds me of a great friend of mine who recently passed away. I met him at a youth camp several years ago. He was sitting with a group of college interns, cutting up and having a great time with them before the long week began. Later on in the week, he was speaking to over 1000 teenagers and I will never forget my shock when I learned that he was the step-brother of Elvis Presley. Later, I learned all that he had accomplished in ministry.  He had preached in Billy Graham crusades all over the world. He was interviewed by all of the television talk show greats and was friends with all kinds of famous people! But, rather than letting success get the best of him, he always pointed others to Jesus.  More than anything, he enjoyed spending time with young people and investing in their lives. He loved pouring into the next generation of ministry leaders and teaching them value of love, compassion, kindness and selflessness.  I learned more from watching him than any theology book I have ever read, and believe me, I have read a lot! My friend had been seen as the best, and had seen all this world had to offer. He knew how empty this world on its own can be, and how quickly life comes and goes. He didn’t want to entertain others, he wanted to serve others and give his life away on behalf of his King, Jesus. He invested in me, my wife, and my son, and for that I will be eternally grateful. Because of his investment in me, I will continue what was started so long ago.


You will be asked to do a lot of serving this week! As you go, remember Jesus’ teaching and the blessing that is ours when we put others above ourselves.


DAY 21 CHALLENGE

FIND A WAY TO PUT SOMEONE ELSE’S NEED ABOVE YOUR OWN TODAY!

Red Letter Challenge - Day 17 - Forgive

October 2, 2020 by David Bahn

Pray this way…forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.  Matthew 6:12

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” – Matthew 18:21-22



I have always considered myself as one who easily forgives others. I don’t hold grudges. So I thought. Turns out that maybe I do…or used to at least. 

I was at Camp Lone Star near La Grange, Texas. It was a time of retreat for me, a time of spiritual searching and prayer. I spent time reading the Bible and praying. And I would journal. That evening as I wrote in my journal, I wrote something like this:


Dear Lord, I don’t have an unforgiving heart. I forgive those who have sinned against me. I don’t seek retribution. But it occurs to me in this moment, that I am holding a grudge against you! I don’t want to forgive you for doing some of the things you have done to me, or allowing some things to happen to me. Forgive me Lord! I repent. I should never accuse you! Please forgive me.


I wish I could say that handled the issue for me. But it seems that the spirit of unforgiveness bubbles up all too frequently and easily from the dark reaches of my heart. I see a colleague who was unkind and judgmental toward me and I have to will myself to be respectful to him. Maybe I’ve forgiven him. Maybe there’s still work to be done. I encounter someone who is demeaning the Christian faith or causing someone I love to doubt or be harmed, I’m not quick to offer a kind hand.


I am thankful that is not how God treats me. Jesus’ blood flowed freely for my sin and pardon. It flowed for you as well. May that forgiveness overflow into the lives of others who have sinned against us, giving them a taste of the kindness, mercy, and grace of Jesus which is forgiveness!


Let us know if God put anyone on your heart you need to forgive, by clicking here.




Red Letter Challenge - Day 16 - Mercy

October 1, 2020 by David Bahn

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.– Luke 6:32-36


“Lord, have mercy!” This is my three word prayer. So often the situation is so dire, the pain so grave, all I can say is, “Lord, have mercy!” Perhaps others will offer more words and express more fully the needs and concerns that bring this prayer to my mind. But when I cannot fathom the pain or disappointment others have experienced I am reduced to this three word prayer: “Lord, have mercy!”


I hear of a Christian pastor being beheaded in a Muslim country and I cry, “Lord, have mercy!”


I learn the story of a survivor of an abortion who years later was reunited with her birth mom who had given her up for adoption. She was the twin of the sister whose life was taken. When reunited they wept in each others’ arms and I cry, “Lord, have mercy!”


I read about a group of Christians who are chased from their homes and must watch their daughters being abused, and I pray, “Lord, have mercy!”


Grace is God’s undeserved kindness, love, and gift of life and salvation for the sake of Christ. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. Mercy is not getting the punishment we do deserve. Mercy is relenting and withdrawing punishment.

But there is another facet to mercy that I love. It has to do with God’s heart of kindness and compassion toward us in response to our pain. So when I awake in the middle of the night, and I cannot sleep, I cry, “Lord, have mercy!”


When my hip or knee is causing pain, I cry, “Lord, have mercy!”


When I see a friend who is suffering, or learn of an injustice that touches my heart, I cry, “Lord, have mercy!”


God has had mercy on us. His heart is moved toward us in kindness and love. He sees our suffering. And just as he heard the cries of the children of Israel when they were slaves in Egypt, he hears our call now. Jesus is the perfect embodiment of that.


I want to reflect that kindness of heart toward others and give tender love and care to any who need it. That is, after all, Jesus’ calling for us.


Let us  know your thoughts by sending us a comment by clicking here.

Red Letter Challenge - Day 15 - Grace

September 30, 2020 - Red Letter Challenge Joe Frejosky

If you ask me to describe God, I think of grace. Grace is a free gift from God. The grace of God comes to us from the cross where Jesus took our sin on Himself. This gift of grace calls us to live a life like Jesus.  Grace by definition is the unmerited favor of God toward man. We didn’t do anything to deserve it, but God offers it freely to all who will believe and receive it. 


Have you ever been around someone that criticized everyone and everything around them? We all have!  I have never met anyone that loves to be around someone who is negative or critical all of the time. Have you ever noticed that a person who is judgmental almost never says anything negative about themselves? I am reminded of the passage in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus was addressing how we are to treat others. Jesus gave a very clear warning about passing judgement on others. 


Matthew 7:3-5 NIV

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.


Pam and I have been married for 28 years. I would like to say every day of marriage has been pure bliss, but that just would not be true. Early on in our marriage, when the newness had worn off and reality set in, we hit a very rough patch.  I look back on this time in our lives and realize things could have been very different if I had taken seriously Jesus command in Matthew 7. At the time, my pride and judgmental attitude blinded me to my own faults. When something didn’t go my way, it was much easier to think the worst of Pam or question her motives. I found it very difficult to put myself in her shoes and it was much easier to point out her faults rather than my own. Somewhere in the midst of the struggle, God got a hold of my heart and I began to see things differently. I realized I had received God’s grace and mercy when I didn’t deserve it and I needed to extend the same to my wife and everyone else in my life. I began to focus daily on myself and being a better husband and father. It completely changed my marriage and my life! When I treated Pam the way Jesus would, she in turn did the same.  From that point on, our marriage has never been the same. 


I wear contacts to give me clearer physical vision. Without them, I am basically blind to what’s right in front of me. I use wetting solution daily to wash physical debris from my eye. I know how important having clear sight is, I make sure my contacts are clean. The same is true in my spiritual life, when I  become judgmental or critical, I can become easily blinded to the sin in my own life. That sin can be a speck or a plank, in either case, I need to ask Jesus, the Living Water to wash my spiritual eyes clean. So after asking for my own forgiveness, it’s much easier to forgive others. Why? Because “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” And I know I need more mercy than  judgment in every area  of my life.


James 2:13 NIV

Because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 


Rather than seeing everything wrong with everyone else, God is giving us an opportunity to love people. He has removed your plank by the precious blood of Jesus and He gives you an opportunity to share that Good News with everyone else. 


 

DAY 15 CHALLENGE

Ask God to Help you in this area by praying this prayer: 

Jesus, wash the plank of judging others from my spiritual eyes. Please forgive me for being quick to judge others when I carry so many faults myself. Remind me on a daily basis that “Mercy triumphs over judgment” every time. In Your Precious Name, Amen.


Get an index card or piece of note paper and write on the paper, “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” Now tape the paper in a prominent spot as a reminder to yourself to show mercy, not judgement, to others. 


Let us know your thoughts in the comments by clicking here.

Be Patient and Stand Firm

September 30, 2020 by Jennifer Friesen

We often joke with other Christians that it’s dangerous to pray for patience. It seems that we always end up having to go through some very trying times in order to gain the patience we asked for. Well, someone must have been praying for patience last year! We all need every bit of patience we can find right now: in the long line-ups at stores, in the anticipation of seeing family and friends, in the hoping for a vaccine or cure for this virus, not to mention in the waiting for surgeries and social events and other appointments that have been postponed. We are all doing a lot more waiting than usual. So I thought it would be appropriate to share with you a little wisdom from the Bible about patience. 


James 5:7-11 - “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!


Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”


Three things stand out to me in this passage:


1) The Lord is coming! James mentions this 3 times in just a few verses. This situation will not last forever. That gives us hope! Even if we never get rid of this virus, the world as we know it will not last forever. “The Judge is standing at the door!” If you know the Judge, this is a great comfort. This is the same Judge who put humanity on trial for our sins, declared us guilty, and then came down off the judge’s bench to pay our fine himself. Jesus sacrificed himself so that we could be forgiven. If we have accepted that forgiveness and love and repented of our selfish ways, then we have nothing to fear from God our Judge. We can rejoice in his coming to set the world right! If we don’t know him, it is a reminder to make peace with him now, before it’s too late, because he will come to punish those who have rejected his gracious offer of forgiveness.


2) Don’t give in to complaining! The waiting is long, and the temptation to grumble and criticize will sometimes feel overpowering. But don’t do it! Psalm 141:3 says, “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” After everything that God has given us: unfailing love, eternal life, a listening ear, the Holy Spirit, and every breath and blink and heartbeat, not to mention friends and family and work and beauty and wonder and joy, etc…we have no right to complain. The Israelites complained a lot during their desert wanderings, and they were judged by God for it (1 Cor. 10:10-13). Let’s thank God for what we have, rather than complain about what we don’t have.


3) Be inspired by the heroes of our faith! Read the Old Testament, especially the prophets. Think of Jeremiah and Daniel, and all that they had to survive in order to stay faithful to the message God gave them (lions! attempted murder! threats and slander!). Think of Job and how he suffered. Yet even he realized that we as God’s creations have no right to question our Creator. Think of all the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11. Some had great successes, while others experienced persecution and martyrdom. Whatever hand we are dealt, God has permitted, and he can use it for our good. He is compassionate and merciful, and reading the stories in Scripture that demonstrate that will help us to be patient in the midst of our own trials.


So, this week when you find yourself feeling impatient, go and read these verses in James 5. Remind yourself that the Lord is coming soon, that we have no right to complain, and that those who have gone before us have also had to persevere through hard times. This is not the first pandemic in history; there have been many others, and eventually they were resolved. We are going to get through this! As helpless as we may feel right now, we certainly have a great opportunity to learn patience. So let’s encourage each other and remind each other of all the blessings we have been given! Share your tips for being patient in the comments, by clicking here..

Red Letter Challenge - Day 14 - Forgiveness

September 29, 2020 by Red Letter Challenge

Have you ever wondered why we need forgiveness?


If we truly understand what sin is, we will understand why we need forgiveness.


We are sinners—by birth, by nature, by choice, by practice. We have morally struck and offended an infinitely holy God. He must punish sin, and we deserve punishment. Yet at the same time God loves us. So if God could have a problem, this would present Him with one: How can He love and forgive the sinner and at the same time punish sin?


The answer is: with a substitutionary sacrifice. Someone who takes that punishment on our behalf. A person who has known no sin Himself, righteous enough, holy enough, good enough, to become our substitute. Someone who can suffer in our stead. The only one who could do that was the Son of God. He is God’s substitutionary sacrifice—and our Savior.


He died not merely for us, He died instead of us. The Bible says that “He who knew no sin, God hath made to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus died for all the sins of every man and woman who has ever lived, is living and will ever live.


John 8:9-11 NIV

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”


Today we looked at the story of the woman who was caught in adultery. Jesus could have picked up a rock and condemned her for her sin, but instead, offered her mercy, love and a new life. Like the woman, we are all in need of forgiveness. Jesus took our place on the cross so that we too could experience new life.


Sometimes we find it hard to accept God’s forgiveness and we hold on to things in our past. We think our sin is too great for Him to forgive. Are you still holding onto things you’ve done?


When we think our sin is too great for Jesus to forgive, we are stripping away the power of the cross. Jesus sacrifice on the cross paid for our sins once and for all! If you really understood what you have in the Lord Jesus Christ, your salvation by grace and what Christ did upon that cross, you would never stop praising God for saving you!

 

DAY 14 CHALLENGE

THIS IS THE DAY TO DROP OUR ROCKS! Most of us have certain sins that really bother us. Sins that we hold onto. We’ll learn this week that you can’t forgive others until you have received God’s forgiveness and forgiven yourself. Pray and ask God to reveal to you any sin you are holding onto. Write it down on and ask God to forgive you. Ask God to help you forgive yourself. Ask God for strength to turn from that sin in the future! 


Let us know your comments by clicking here.

Red Letter Challenge - Day 11 - Celebrate!

September 26, 2020 by Red Letter Challenge

And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. – Luke 15:21-24


I love this passage! We all know the story of the prodigal son who asked his father to give him his inheritance early, moved away and squandered every bit of it! He found himself penniless and alone, and decided it was time to go home! While his brother was not so enthusiastic about his return, his father was so excited, he ran to greet him and instructed his servants to prepare for a long awaited celebration in honor of the son’s return. The father had a choice to condemn his son for what he did or forgive him, and he chose to forgive! 


If you are like me, you can identify with the prodigal son. There are times when we may fail and disappoint ourselves or those around us. When we realize the damage we have done or the sadness we have caused and come to our senses, we have heavenly Father waiting for our return with open arms. The prodigal son felt much regret and shame and even prepared an apology speech he would give to his father when he returned, but his father was so happy he had returned, he didn’t even have time to finish his apology! The father had already forgiven him and was more concerned with celebrating his return! Isn’t it amazing how long we keep ourselves trapped in our own minds reliving pain and regret when all the Father wants to do is welcome us home and celebrate with us! 


One of Rembrandt’s final paintings believed to have been painted in the final two years of his life is entitled “Return of the Prodigal Son.”  The description that accompanies this famous painting describes the scene this way. “Arriving at last at sickness and poverty, he returns to his father’s house. The old man is blinded by tears as he forgives his son, just as God forgives all those who repent. This whole work is dominated by the idea of the victory of love, goodness and charity. The event is treated as the highest act of human wisdom and spiritual nobility, and it takes place in absolute silence and stillness. The drama and depth of feeling are expressed in the figures of both father and son, with all the emotional precision with which Rembrandt was endowed. This parable in Rembrandt’s treatment is addressed to the heart of everyone: “We should be glad: for this son was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” There is no better reason to celebrate than the love and forgiveness we experience when we trust our lives to the father.  We are not promised that life will always be easy but even in difficult times, we can have a hope, joy, and peace that those who don’t know Christ don’t have. That is a reason to celebrate! 

 

DAY 11 CHALLENGE

Have some fun with this one today. Start the day by celebrating and thanking God for what He has done for you. Think about how you can celebrate God’s goodness and share it with others. One thing the world needs to hear is the goodness of God! Before the day is over, share God’s goodness verbally with a co-worker, friend or family member and / or by posting to your social media platforms. Let’s celebrate Jesus with the world! Follow your post with #REDLETTERCHALLENGE   ARE YOU READY TO ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE?


Come celebrate Jesus with us every Sunday! Let us know your comments by clicking here.

Red Letter Challenge - Day 13 - Forgiveness

September 27, 2020 by Red Letter Challenge

Matthew 26:27-29 NIV

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

 

A reporter once asked the Reverend Billy Graham “How big does a sin have to be before God won’t forgive it? I’m afraid I’ve probably crossed the line (wherever it is), because I’ve done some terrible things and have hurt a lot of people.” Reverend Graham responded that there was only one sin that could not be forgiven, which was “the sin of refusing His forgiveness.” He continued by telling the reporter “No matter who we are or what we’ve done, God still loves us, and He promises to forgive us – totally and completely – if we will only turn to Him in repentance and faith,”


Mark 3:28-29 NIV

Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”


Like the reporter, often times we feel our sins are too big for God! But God takes our forgiveness so seriously that He sent His Son into the world to die for our sins.  Why do we need forgiveness? Paul tells us in Romans that “There is no one righteous, not even one.” That means we are all guilty.  Since the fall of Adam and Eve, we were born with sin nature and as a result, our sin separates us from God.  Oswald Chambers put it this way “Forgiveness is the divine miracle of grace. The cost to God was the Cross of Christ. To forgive sin, while remaining a holy God, this price had to be paid. The only ground on which God can forgive our sin and reinstate us to His favor is through the Cross of Christ!”


John 8 tells the story of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery.  The scribes and Pharisees wanted to stone her because of her sin. They brought her before Jesus to see how He would respond and Jesus’ response was not what they expected at all! 


John 8:6

Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”


This is a picture of God’s grace for us. In the hands of the religious leaders, the women faced certain condemnation. In the hands of the Savior, she received compassion, grace and forgiveness. Jesus told the woman to “Go, and sin no more.”


DAY 13 CHALLENGE

Mark 1:15 ESV

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  As we start our week of forgiveness we want to follow Jesus’ exact words: Repent and Believe in the Gospel. To repent means we are truly sorry and ready to turn away from our sins. As we repent and acknowledge that we are sinners, we also receive the good news that Jesus Christ has grace for us! Repentance is not a one-time prayer. It’s an every day practice. If you are ready to repent and be forgiven, say this prayer: 


Dear Lord Jesus. I know that I am a sinner, and ask for your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I trust you now and follow you as my Lord and Savior. In your name. Amen. 


If you prayed this prayer first time, it’s important to let someone know. You can email prayer@whiterockbaptist.ca for some encouragement and free online resources that will help you as you begin your faith journey.  

Red Letter Challenge - Day 10 - Fasting

September 25, 2020 by David Bahn & Red Letter Challenge

Ultimately God wants our hearts. When we fast, we are giving Him our hearts. 


And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. – Matthew 6:16-18


I’ve fasted twice that I can remember. Having said that, I’ve perhaps undone the doing of it. But I learned something in the process. I learned that by fasting I could be more focused and intense in my prayers. I focused my prayers on the Christmas Eve service at the church I served at that time. My prayers were specific. We had about 120 in worship on a Sunday, and I prayed for 200 to be in worship on Christmas Eve that year. All day I fasted and prayed.


As I recall, there were 198 of us in worship that Christmas Eve evening! Big deal, you say? It was to me and the people of that congregation. Perhaps I should have prayed for 400 (though the church would seat at most 250)! Fasting focused my prayers.


Another time I fasted for a time of prayer and sermon planning. I went away and spent time reading the Bible, praying, and listening for God. I spent the day drinking only juice and water. Nothing happened during that time. It was as though I was focused only on fasting and not on hearing and listening to God.

As the time of fasting ended, however, something interesting happened. There is a suggested manner in which one ends a food fast. You introduce food slowly. It’s not like eating a farmer’s breakfast after sleeping all night. So as I came out of the fast new insights, ideas, and thoughts came to mind. 

I had spent the day in what seemed to be unfruitful study and prayer. But those hours proved to be very fruitful. God was working in my heart in ways unknown to me during the fast. And it is as though he was teaching me that fasting isn’t the deal. His work in me is. 


Maybe we expect too little. If we think that fasting is a transactional process we’re wrong. We don’t gain Jesus Points by fasting. God doesn’t have certain deliverables due on completion of our fast. Fasting is a transformational process, because we learn truly that “man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:5).



If you’ve attended church for awhile you’ve probably heard the word “fasting.” But, what exactly is fasting? Why do we do it? How do we do it? And, what are some Biblical examples of fasting?


Fasting is essentially giving up food or something that’s meaningful to you for a period of time in order to focus your thoughts and attention on God.  Fasting brings you closer to God and helps you realize just how much God provides for you!


Fasting is not commanded in scripture and there aren’t a lot of rules and regulations concerning fasting. It will not make you more acceptable in God’s eyes. It’s not another number on the list of things you have to do to be acceptable. Even though scripture does not command we fast, it is mentioned over fifty times in the Bible. Jesus Himself demonstrated His total reliance on God the Father by fasting. As He prepared to face Satan in the wilderness, Jesus fasted for 40 days.  John the Baptist taught his disciples to fast, Paul and Barnabas fasted and the early church practiced the spiritual discipline of fasting. While teaching His disciples to fast, Jesus made it clear when we fast, we are to be authentic, transparent and leave pride at the door.

In Matthew 6:16


“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.”


Jesus was saying fasting is a spiritual exercise, not a public demonstration, and it should be between you and God. As I mentioned, fasting is not commanded but it is interesting that Jesus says “When you fast.”


Here a few reasons for fasting:  

  1. Fasting is a means of personal cleansing. 

Daniel 9:2-5 NLT

“During the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, learned from reading the word of the Lord, as revealed to Jeremiah the prophet, that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I also wore rough burlap and sprinkled myself with ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: “O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands. But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations.”


No matter how much we attempt to avoid the impact of living in a fallen world, the influence it has on us is obvious. There are times in our lives where we need to separate ourselves from the influence of the world so we can truly hear from God.


2. Fasting prepares us for God’s work in our lives.

Acts 13:1-3 NLT

Among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria were Barnabas, Simeon Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (the childhood companion of King Herod Antipas ), and Saul. One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Appoint Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way.

As we prepare for what God calls us to, fasting puts us in the right frame of mind for God to conform us to that purpose and to His image and also His will. 

3. In the most trying moments of life, fasting helps us to intensify our focus and prayers for others. 


Nehemiah 1:3-4

“They said to me, ‘Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.’ When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.”


Through deep prayer we can combat spiritual opposition and satanic strongholds. When Satan gains a foothold in our lives, we tend to try everything but fasting. When difficulties arise, as followers of Christ, we have the ability to harness the potential of the Holy Spirit through fasting and prayer. When Satan did his best to tempt Jesus, a fasting Messiah triumphed over the evil one. How many times have we cheated ourselves out of victory by not heeding the truth of scripture in fasting against strongholds. 


Psalms 34:8 NLT

“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” 



DAY 10 CHALLENGE

GO ON A FAST TODAY

Choose something to abstain from for 24 hours. Choose something that’s meaningful to you and will make a noticeable difference in your life not having it. Most people will choose to fast from food, but you could also give up television, social media, your cell phone, your daily intake of caffeine etc.  As you are fasting, and you think about what it is you are giving up, use those moments to pray to God and thank Him for His provision in your life.     


Have you fasted before? Let us know how God worked in your life by clicking here.

Red Letter Challenge - Day 9 - Spending Time with Jesus

September 24, 2020 by David Bahn & Red Letter Challenge

I used to be able to go long stretches of time without rest or solitude. I would withdraw to watch a hockey game on TV, or play a round of golf. I’d go for long drives to meet with other pastors. But I’d have the radio on. Before the advent of political talk radio I would listen to Bruce Williams or Art Bell or a News Radio station from California! I’d be alone but not really withdraw to a place and time of solitude. To my loss, and most likely to the loss of the people I served and the ministry of the church I led. Lord, have mercy!


Right now, as I write this, I am listening to praise music. I’m enjoying the sonic solitude as well as the space and time of no agenda or yet another meeting to attend or deadline to make. This moment of solitude is refreshing. I am at peace. 


I need these moments. I needed them years ago, but the fresh energy of a younger man and the ambition of a driven man, and the need to make something of myself kept me going. 


How does it go with you? Do you have a place and time of solitude? Do you take moments, minutes, hours or longer to be with God without agenda and in silent reflection of who God is, and what he has said? How it is between you and God?


In the quiet moments we may learn something about ourselves and God that we would never otherwise appreciate. As I’ve said before, “Walk a little slower. Be a little quieter. Stay a little longer. For the world is loud and God often whispers.” That’s good advice for me. How about you?


Have you ever gone through an entire day and realized you didn’t have time to pray or read your Bible? We live in such a busy world, the day to day stress of working and making ends meet can tempt us to cut time with Jesus out of our lives completely.  Jesus understood the demands of life and wanted His followers to know the importance worrying less, slowing down and spending time with Him. 

   

It’s not easy, but if we trust Him and give Him first place in our hearts and lives, Jesus promises that he will provide for all our needs.


Read Matt 6:25-34

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.


While it can be so easy to get caught up in making it through the day; we can’t lose sight of the fact that God is in control and He knows exactly what we need. It’s our job to seek His kingdom first and trust Him with the details of our lives. Jesus wants to be the most important thing in our lives and he wants us to trust him with the cares of life. You may think, “That all sounds good, but it’s easier said than done.” You’re right! To put God first, you have to spend quality time with Him. That only happens when we intentionally make Him a priority. We fill our lives with so many things, but fail to make time for Jesus, the most important thing!


DAY 9 CHALLENGE

As we focus on BEING with Jesus, we may need to say “No” to many good things, so we can say “Yes” to the best thing. Take your Bible and get away from all of the distractions.  Try to spend 30 minutes getting to know Jesus by reading His word and praying.


Re-read Matthew 6:25-34, write down the things in this passage that you find yourself worrying about continually.  Pray and ask God to give you confidence to trust Him to handle these things. Ask God for strength to trust Him with the details of your life, big and small!   


Let us know how you are doing, your thoughts and comments by clicking here.

Red Letter Challenge - Day 8 - Worship

September 23, 2020 by Red Letter Challenge

Throughout the Bible, we are encouraged to express our praise to God for who He is and what He has done for us


Psalm 63:3-4  

Because Your loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.


For many, when they think about worship, they immediately look toward specific songs or musical styles. Or, they may think about that 25 minute time slot at church each week when we sing to the Lord together.  While these are all forms of worship, God is not confined to a building or a time-frame, and neither is our worship. We can worship God every minute of every day! 

  

This is what Jesus said about worship:


John 4:23

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.


Jesus said we are to worship Him in “spirit and truth.” To worship in “truth,” we must have a right understanding of who God is, who Jesus is and what He accomplished for us on the cross. We worship Him in “spirit” when we are alive to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to be active in lives. Jesus wanted us to know true worship is not just an external expression of our love for God; it is a reflection of what is happening in our hearts and minds internally. Our worship is defined by the priority we place on who God is in our lives and where God is on our list of priorities. True worship is a matter of the heart expressed through a lifestyle of holiness. Jesus warned against worship that does not come from the heart.  

 

Matthew 15:8

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.


For Jesus, this type of worship meant nothing. We will worship God when we truly value Him above everything else. You can do good deeds and attends as many church services as you want and never be truly worshiping if it’s all external and nothing is happening in your heart toward God. True worship is in essence a matter of the heart. It is more, but it is not less. Our entire lives are an act of worship. 


Paul gives us a picture of this in

Romans 12:1

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.


Everything we do, every minute of every day can be an act of worship when we truly set our hearts and minds on Him.   


DAY 8 CHALLENGE: 

Music can help usher us into God’s presence and feel things in ways that otherwise we would not. Your challenge for today is to listen to worship music. Here are a few ways you could do this: 

–  Rather than listening to politics, sports, or the top 40 today, tune into your local Christian radio station during your daily drive.  

–  Go for a walk and listen to praise/worship music. 

–  Read Psalms 96 with background music playing.


Let us know your thoughts by clicking here

Red Letter Challenge - Day 7 - Prayer

September 22, 2020 by Red Letter Challenge

This week we are learning about “BEING” with Jesus. Yesterday we looked at the importance of spending time with Him daily by reading His word. Today, we will look at the spiritual discipline of prayer. Jesus modeled the kind of prayer life we are to have. He frequently withdrew from the crowds to spend time with His Father in prayer. In the days leading up to His death, Jesus went to a garden to pray and asked His disciples to “watch” and “pray” with Him. You can read the full story in Matthew 26:26-46, but here is what transpired. Jesus asked his disciples to “watch” and “pray” while he went further into the garden to pray, and three times he returned to find them sleeping. For all of us who have fallen asleep or easily became easily distracted when we tried to pray, you are not alone! Even the disciples, (Jesus closest followers), struggled to do as Jesus asked. Jesus wanted the disciples to join Him in prayer so they would be prepared for what they would face in the days ahead. It’s interesting to me that Jesus spoke personally to Peter three times, AND HE MISSED IT. Jesus said “Pray” so you don’t “FALL” into temptation, and that’s exactly what happened to him. Peter fell asleep three times and ultimately denied knowing Jesus three times. Check out what Jesus said to Peter:   


Matthew 26:40 ESV

40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 


I’ve often wondered if things may have gone differently if Peter had been able to stay awake and spent time “watching” and “praying” as Jesus had asked. Like a father to a son, Jesus’ desire for Peter and the other disciples was for them to go to the Father in prayer for strength, equipping and empowerment. Like Peter, we will fall every time if we depend upon our own strength.


Jesus wants us to stay focused and locked into prayer so when the struggles of life occur, we are not found battling life alone and powerless. Moving forward, Peter never forgot this lesson. Live God’s purpose, in God’s presence, through God’s power. How? Prayer!

 

DAY 7 CHALLENGE

SPEND SOME TIME TODAY IN PRAYER. HERE’S A GREAT MODEL: 

Adoration (Tell God what you love about Him)

Confession (Tell God about the sins in your life and how you plan to turn/repent from them)

Thanksgiving (Thank Him for His forgiveness and for all the blessings in your life)

Supplication (Ask Him to supply the specific things that you need in your life)


Ask God to give you the strength to make it through this Challenge. Boldly ask Him to Strengthen your faith.


What do you need prayer for today? Let us know by clicking here

Red Letter Challenge - Day 6 - The Week of Being

September 21, 2020 by Red Letter Challenge

Lifeway Research surveyed more than 2900 Protestant churchgoers and found that while 90 percent “desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do,” only 19 percent personally read the Bible every day. How can we truly know Jesus if we don’t spend time with Him in His word each day? Jesus told His disciples how they could “BE” with Him. 


John 8:31-32 ESV

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”


The word “abide” is a verb. It is active. Abiding is not a feeling or a belief, but something we do. It means to “remain” or “stay” and entails far more than the idea of just continued belief in the Savior. If we are to “abide” in His word, we must make it a part of our lives. It should guide our decisions and our actions.  Why? The Bible is the one true story of life!


In the Old Testament, we see just how important God’s word is.  


Ezekiel 3:3 ESV

3 And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.


God told Ezekiel His word was so important that he should “eat it.” He went on to say Ezekiel should not only “eat” His word, but “fill” his stomach with it. This means we are to consume God’s word, taking it into our very lives, making it a part of who we are. Remember the old School House Rock song “We are what we eat, from our head down to our feet?” Well you may not remember it, but believe me, it’s so true regarding our physical bodies and our spiritual lives as well. It reminds me of Thanksgiving Dinner! My favorite meal of the year. I know the food I am going to eat tastes so good, I am not satisfied with eating a few bites and leaving the table.  I eat until I am absolutely FULL! Even after I leave the table on Thanksgiving, I remember how good the food tasted and return to the kitchen several times over the next few days until every last bit of the greatest meal of the year has been consumed.  As we consume the word of God, the more we take on the principles found in His word. The more we make His word a part of our lives, the more we take on the characteristics of Jesus and become His hands and feet to the world.  


Today, we are focusing on the spiritual discipline of Bible Reading.  If we are going to “abide” in the word and “consume” it, we must read it every day.  

 

DAY 6 CHALLENGE: Make Reading God’s word a priority every day. 

Read John 1:1-5

What do you learn about the word in this passage? 

How is God described in this passage?

Verse 5 tells us “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This means if you have a personal relationship with Jesus, you are a “light” in the darkness and become an extension of Jesus to the world.  Think about how you can be a “light” to those around you.  

  

Spend time reading God’s word each day this week. If you are unsure where to start, the Book of John is a great place to start so continue reading where you left off today!


If you have any questions or comments, please let us know by clicking here. 

Red Letter Challenge - Day 5 - Going

September 18, 2020 by Red Letter Challenge

Some of Jesus last words on earth to his disciples were to “GO.” We know this as the Great Commission. Many think the Great Commission is for preachers or missionaries, but it’s for everyone. 


Matthew 28:18-20 NIV

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


Jesus wanted you and me to tell His story.  He wanted us to live in such a way that others would want to experience the Christian life. The final week of the challenge may be tough. You’re going to be asked to “GO” and God may call you to be stretched out of your comfort zone. On those days you may be tempted to to quit before you complete the challenge but I want to encourage you to hang in there and finish! Here’s a story that will help you understand why.


Several years ago, a church was going on a mission trip to Russia. A friend of a congregant, named Richard, was in his early twenties and had never been out of the country, but he felt God was calling him to go. He excitedly began making preparations for the trip, but as the trip grew closer, Richard began to think about the journey to Russia. He had never flown before and he grew increasingly fearful of the plane ride that would take him to the place He knew God wanted him to go.


I wish I could tell you that Richard realized when God calls you to go somewhere, you are never alone, and made the journey to Russia, but he didn’t. He let his fear keep him from going and missed out on all of the adventure and excitement the other team members were so excited to share when they returned. He missed the blessing of serving along-side other believers and sharing the beautiful story of Jesus. He never got to meet the Russian believers the other team members grew to love while they were there.


I have often wondered what Richard’s story would have been like if he had overcome his fears and gone on that trip. I think of him often when God is calling me do things that take me out of my comfort zone.  


“Going” into the world and sharing the story of Jesus can be scary, but when God says “GO,” we are never alone! He promises He will never leave us or forsake us. Jesus offers us a way of life filled with adventure, mission, and purpose. Are you ready to get started? 

 

BUCKLE UP, THE CHALLENGE STARTS NOW! 


Let us know your thoughts and comments by clicking here.


Red Letter Challenge - Day 4 - Giving

September 17, 2020 by Red Letter Challenge

Jesus talked a lot about giving and having a spirit of generosity. Generosity at its’ core is a lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle in which we share all that we have, are, or ever will become. We live a life of generosity as a demonstration of God’s love and a response to His grace. We give because God so generously gave to us. We see this clearly in John 3:16.


John 3:16 (ESV)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.


God gave us His only Son and Jesus gave us everything (His life), so we could be reconciled to the Father through a relationship with Him. When I think about generosity, I can think of no greater example than this! 

In the fourth full week of the Red Letter Challenge, we will see that Jesus challenged his followers to make generosity a way of life. You may not know that Jesus talked about money more than even heaven or hell. He wanted us to understand that God is more important than money or any material possession we could ever have. You may be thinking “I’m not rich, I don’t have anything to give,” but we all have been given so much.  


 

Matthew 6:19-21 (NCV)

Don’t store treasures for yourselves here on earth where moths and rust will destroy them and thieves can break in and steal them. 20 But store your treasures in heaven where they cannot be destroyed by moths or rust and where thieves cannot break in and steal them. 21 Your heart will be where your treasure is.


We spend most of our lives trying to “get” things. A better job, a bigger house, a nicer car.  “Wanting” and “getting” come natural to us.  On the other hand, “giving” is much harder. Why is that? If we learn to give like Jesus, our giving will be a result of our loving.  I remember one of the very first gifts I was able to give my wife. We were dating at the time and I was working an entry level job in food service,  making minimum wage. I didn’t own a car and bummed rides from friends or walked to work most days.

You see, we had been dating for a while and I wanted to buy a Christmas gift that would show Pam how much I loved her. I had my heart on a ring I had picked out at one of the famous jewelry stores in the mall! It was beautiful and it was more than I could afford. I was determined to get it, and worked as much as I could, saving every penny until I finally had enough. When it came time to exchange gifts, it didn’t matter what I would get from her. I was so excited to give her the gift I had worked so hard for. I was giving her this gift as a result of my love for her. Yes, she loved it, and it wasn’t until much later after we were married that I told her how much it had cost and how hard and long I had worked to purchase it! Here is a little fact I conveniently left out. I was sixteen at the time and this was the first time I had purchased anything of real value. It didn’t matter to me that I had to work all year after school while others my age were playing sports or having fun; I was motivated to give Pam something of value, by love. As followers of Jesus, our giving should not be a result of “having to,” but out of the knowledge that we “get to!” 

 

DAY 4 CHALLENGE: 

Sometimes it’s hard to give when we are holding on too tightly to things. Think about what these things might be in your life. Before we go deeper in week four, ask God to prepare your heart for what He would have you give and give up. Ask Him to give you a heart of generosity.  


Let us know your thoughts and comments by clicking here.


Red Letter Challenge - Day 3 - Serving

September 16, 2020 by Red Letter Challenge

Jesus lived a life of humility. He never put himself above others. He spent time with those no-one wanted to spend time with, He healed the sick, raised the dead and fed thousands. Everywhere He went, Jesus demonstrated a heart of service. Before going to the cross, Jesus challenged His disciples to follow His example and serve others. 


John 13:12-15 (NLT)

After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.


As we spend more time with Jesus, our gratitude for what God has done leads us to serve Him. We don’t serve because we have to, we serve because we get to! When we serve out of the overflow of what God is doing within us, we get to experience the joy of serving others. I am reminded of the joy of serving by the example many in our church family set on Football Sunday. Cooking, preparing, cleaning, setting up and tearing down were all part of the task of serving and I saw each of you serve without being asked and with smiles on your faces. Why did we do all of this? Paul gives us an answer to this question.   

 

Galatians 5:13 (NLT)

13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

 

When we serve others, we become the hands and feet of Jesus to the world around us. When we understand the freedom we have in Christ, we realize we don’t have to serve, we get to serve! When you realize how Good God is and what He has done for you, you want to serve. 

 

DAY 3 CHALLENGE

As you head into your day, be sensitive to God’s prompting and leading. You’ll be surprised to find the number of opportunities God gives us to serve others and share His love when we are looking for them. A big part of the 40-day Challenge is demonstrating Jesus love by serving those around us. During the 3rd full week of this challenge, you will begin to serve. You will learn who God calls you to serve and how He calls you to serve. Remember, while serving others won’t save you, it may help save someone else!


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Red Letter Challenge - Day 2 - Forgiveness

September 15, 2020 - Red Letter Challenge

Have you ever had found out you were having company unexpectedly? I sure have. If you are like me, in the rush to make sure your home was presentable when your guests arrived, you quickly put things into any closet or drawer you could find! And some even may have found their way under the bed! Your guests arrived and were welcomed into a clean and tidy home.  After they left, you were relieved you were able to “clean things up” in time.  Everything looked great on the outside, but if they only had opened a closet door or two, they would have discovered an absolute mess inside. 


Our lives are alot like this! We can create the appearance that everything is perfect when in reality, in may ways we are broken inside, full of regrets, hurts and pain. 


This reminds me of the two thieves who were crucified on either side of Jesus.  They both were a mess, but only one was willing to expose who he really was to Jesus and saw Jesus for who He was. 


Luke 23:39-43 (NLT)

One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.


Why would Jesus pardon one who in all probability never said grace much less do anything to deserve it? The only thing more outlandish than the request that was given that day by the repentant criminal was that it was granted. Maybe this criminal heard Jesus speak. Maybe he had witnessed him love the lowly. Maybe not. Maybe the only thing he knew about Jesus was what he saw, a beaten, battered and bruised suspended preacher. His face crimson with blood, His bones peeking through torn flesh, his lungs gasping for air. He must have realized in the midst of all that was happening that he was in the company of the One who could forgive his sins and grant him eternal life. I can imagine the repentant criminal asking Jesus “Any chance you can put in a good word for me?” and Jesus response “Consider it done!” 


We can spend many years regretting sins from our past and reliving hurts and regrets. With all he had done wrong to put him on that cross next to Jesus, the criminal had the courage to ask for forgiveness and Jesus granted it. The greatest act of love we can experience is the grace and forgiveness Jesus offers. We must be willing to open the closet doors of our lives and show Jesus the mess that we have hidden inside. This all sounds good, but for many, it means having an honest conversation with the Lord and opening up the doors and drawers and exposing everything we try to so hard to hide. 

 

DAY 2 CHALLENGE

Read John 8: 1-11.  Jesus extended grace and kindness to the woman who was caught in adultery. Have you received the forgiveness that Jesus offers? Have you realized there is no sin too big that God did not die for on the cross? All of us are in desperate need of God’s grace. The second full week of our 40 day challenge will focus on receiving God’s forgiveness and learning how to forgive other people.


Let us know your thoughts and comments by clicking here.


Red Letter Challenge - Day 1 - Being

September 14, 2020 - Red Letter Challenge

It’s Day 1 of the Red Letter Challenge!


We pray you are excited about learning and putting Jesus’ words into practice over the next 40 days. 


Our lives are so busy, we often struggle to find time to spend in God’s word. To be successful in this challenge, you will have to make a conscious effort to allow room for God to work in your life.

John 15:1-5


I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.(ESV)

 

Jesus is telling us something very important here. He compared our relationship with Him to a vine in a vineyard. He described His Father as the vinedresser. Under the watchful eye of the Father, Jesus is continually pruning and shaping us so we can bear fruit. He said if we “abide” in Him, we will grow and bear much fruit. So what does it look like to “abide” in Him? It means we welcome Jesus into our lives. Not as a silent guest without opinions or commands, but as The authoritative voice whose opinions matter more to us than anyone else’s and whose commands are the very laws of life.


To put it simply, we have to continually come to Him and we can’t stop coming to Him!


So, here on day one, you have a choice to make! Abiding in Jesus will require some effort on your part. You may have to change your schedule or give up something to make time with Him each day a reality. I can promise you if you put forth the effort, you won’t regret it.


This week we will look at 5 key principles Jesus taught His followers. The following weeks, we will spend the entire week on each principle and the RED LETTERS that go with it. As we commit together to read His words and put them into practice, we will discover what we find ourselves doing will flow out of who we are and who we become as we spend time with Christ. Remember……..apart from Jesus, we can do nothing!

 

DAY 1 CHALLENGE

Pray and invite Jesus into your Red Letter Challenge Experience. Think about your schedule and commit to spending time with Jesus every day. What you gain from this experience will ultimately be determined by what you put in to this experience.


Are you joining us? Are you excited to see what God will do in our lives and in our community? Let us know your comments by clicking here.

Obedience Always Brings Blessing

September 10, 2020 from thenivbible.com

As we look forward to starting the Red Letter Challenge, and focusing on obeying God's word, we thought it would be  good to remind ourselves of the blessings that come from obedience. If you're interested in joining us as we go through the Red Letter Challenge, please click here for more info and to register. You won't want to miss the amazing things God will do as we step forward in obedience to Him.


He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” — Luke 11:28


The Lord’s simple requests often serve as stepping stones to life’s most wonderful blessings. Simon Peter illustrates what can happen when we say yes to God.


One day a large crowd pressed around Jesus while he preached (Luke 5:1–11). The Lord wanted to use Peter’s boat as a floating platform from which to address the multitude, so he asked the future apostle to push the vessel out a little way from shore (verse 3)—not in itself a particularly remarkable request. But Peter’s compliance to his request paved the way for a life-changing blessing. From his example, we also learn how essential it is to obey God in even the smallest matters.


The noisy crowd received the first blessing of Peter’s obedience; the people could now clearly hear Jesus’ words. At the conclusion of the lesson, the Lord said to Peter, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch” (5:4)—a second opportunity to say yes or no. But this time, Peter may have felt tempted to decline. After all, he was a seasoned fisherman. He had worked the entire night for a catch but had returned empty- handed. Now this young teacher—a carpenter, by the way, not a fisherman—was asking him to go fishing again?


Peter’s reply demonstrates the beginning of a lifetime of faith in God. He said, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (5:5, emphasis added). The soon-to-be disciple chose to obey the Lord and to leave the consequences of his decision to him.


But notice what happened as a result of Peter’s obedience—Jesus demonstrated his power and sovereignty. Peter and his partners may have started the day off thinking their efforts had yielded nothing. But they ended it in complete amazement because they pulled in not one but two overflowing boatloads of fish (5:7). Saying yes to the Lord’s request resulted in a miracle that trans-formed not only one fisherman’s life, but the lives of the entire group.


Consider three reasons why obedience is critical to the successful Christian life:


1. Obeying God in small matters is an essential step in receiving God’s greatest blessings.


Suppose Peter had said, “Look, I’m busy cleaning my nets right now. I can’t help you because I’m going fishing again tonight.” Or he could have said, “Why don’t you ask to use that other boat, over there?” Or, “I’ve already been fishing today; it would be a waste of time to go again.” If Peter had said anything other than yes, he would have missed the greatest fishing experience of his life. But because of Peter’s obedience, the Lord arranged a miracle that he would never forget.


Often, God’s greatest blessings come as a result of our willingness to do something that appears very insignificant. So ask yourself, “Has God been challenging me to do something seemingly unimportant that I have not yet made an effort to accomplish? Is there anything I have rationalized by saying, ‘It’s too difficult,’ ‘I don’t want to’ or ‘I have to pray about it first’”?


2. Our Obedience always benefits others.


Think of how many people were blessed by Peter’s obedience. Not only could the crowd see the Lord and hear his lesson, but Jesus himself also benefited—preaching from the boat enabled him to sit down in comfort while he spoke (5:3). Then, of course, Peter’s friends had a very profitable day—they took in two vessels so full of fish that both began to sink. More importantly, they had the opportunity to witness the Lord’s supernatural provision.


God often rewards others—in particular, those closest to us—as a result of our obedience. For example, when a parent obeys the Lord, the entire family reaps the reward of God’s blessings. Likewise, a child’s obedience will bless his or her parents. This does not mean that those who choose to disobey the Lord will escape his discipline because of someone else’s godly walk. His call to obedience always demands our response.


However, when we live obedient lives, those who know and love us will sense the peace and joy he has given us. Instead of conflict, there will be contentment—and that is just one part of experiencing God’s goodness.


3. When we obey God, we will never be disappointed.


Peter no doubt assumed that Jesus’ fishing instructions would amount to a waste of time. But when he complied with the Lord’s simple request, Christ brought about a miracle that gripped the disciple with amazement. Jesus turned an empty boat into a full one. We, like Peter, must recognize that obeying God is always the wisest course of action. He can also take our emptiness—whether related to finances, relationships or career—and change it into something splendid.


Perhaps you have hesitated to obey God because you fear the consequences of your decision. But the Lord’s command is for you to fear him above all else. The same sovereign, omnipotent God who keeps your heart beating and the planets orbiting is more than able to handle the results of your obedience. When he tells you to do something and you know without a doubt it is his will, then you need to obey based solely on who is doing the talking.

When you choose to obey the Lord, he will bless you. This is because obedience always leads to blessing. I have always told people who say they do not understand why God is asking them to do a certain thing that if they will obey him, he will reward them with a sense of peace and joy that compares to nothing this world has to offer. Therefore, set a goal to obey the Lord and watch him work in your life.

Article drawn from The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NIV Edition


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Coping with Separation

September 3, 2020 by Jennifer Friesen

I guess we’re all pretty tired of dealing with COVID-19 now. We’re all ready for things to go back to “normal” – especially when it comes to gathering together for church! While church online is a good and helpful thing, it really can’t compare to the experience of worshipping together with our church family in person.


It occurred to me recently that the Apostle Paul must have missed the experience of corporate worship, too. He was imprisoned multiple times, separated from his churches and from the work God had given him: to “preach the gospel where Christ was not known” (Rom 15:20). So at times, he must have been frustrated with his situation, and he must have longed to be together with God’s people again. How did he handle his forced isolation? It’s worth considering, because Paul was confident that he was following Jesus closely enough that others could follow his example in all things (1 Cor. 11:1).

So in no particular order, here are seven things that I notice about how Paul handled his separation from the churches he loved and served:


1) He did his best to stay connected, using all the methods of communication available to him.


The letters to the Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon were all written from prison, and they were certainly not the only letters he wrote (see Col. 4:16). He received visitors as allowed (Phil. 2:25), and he sent his friends to visit the churches on his behalf (Phil. 2:19, Eph. 6:21-22, Col. 4:7-9). By sending messages back and forth through others, he was able to stay informed about the successes and challenges of the various churches, and pray for their needs.              


These days we have many more options for communication, but sometimes I wonder if we lack the motivation to stay connected on a deeper level. We have cell phones, texting, email, Zoom and Facetime, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and all kinds of social media through which we can find out how others are doing. But do we actually use these methods the way Paul did – to check in on the spiritual health of others, find out their needs, encourage them and pray for them? Are we willing to learn or even purchase some new technology so that we can stay close to our friends and family? Are we making it a priority to stay connected, or have we accepted isolation without a fight?


2) He depended on others who had more freedom.


Paul unapologetically used his co-workers in Christ as messengers, and depended upon them to provide for his needs (Acts 27:3, Phil. 4:10, 14-18). Those who currently need to stay in isolation due to poor health and vulnerability to illness should have no hesitation in calling on other members of the church for help. And those of us who can still go out freely should be considering how we can encourage and provide for those who cannot. Even more broadly speaking, if our country or region is relatively less affected by the virus, how can we help and encourage those in other places who are affected more severely and under stricter regulations?


3) He obeyed those in authority, while defending himself respectfully.


It is worth noticing that Paul never resisted arrest. He pointed out his status as a Roman citizen, and advocated for fair treatment, but he neither slandered nor disobeyed those in authority. Consider how respectfully he addressed the Roman commander who arrested him in Jerusalem, in Acts 21:37-22:1 and 22:25-29.


Being asked to stay at home and to wear masks in public is nothing like the suffering that Paul endured, and yet even in situations of clear injustice, he showed appropriate submission to those in authority. Shouldn’t we do the same? Both individually and corporately, Jesus’ followers should be model citizens, as Paul commands in Romans 13:1-7. If the government says we can’t meet in person, then we shouldn’t meet. What can we do instead?


4) He prayed and worshipped on his own, and with any other Christians available.


When Paul and Silas were thrown in prison, they held their own worship service of two (Acts 16:25). But whenever he was in prison, whether alone or with others, he did not rest but spent his time praying fervently for the churches, as he says to the Colossians: “…I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally”(Col.2:1). Some of the most beautiful prayers in Scripture were written by Paul in prison (Phil. 1:9-11, Col.1:9-14, Eph. 1:17-23, 3:14-21). How is your prayer life lately? Are you growing closer to God, or drifting away? Is your family worshipping together?


5) He viewed his hardship as an opportunity.


In Philippians 1:12-14, Paul wrote, “…what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”


Our situation is very different, but the principle still stands: how can we view our hardship as an opportunity? How might God use our current situation for our good and his glory? Are we isolated with family members that need some special attention and care? Can we use the extra time alone to learn something, create something, repent of something, or heal from something? This pandemic as a whole offers many opportunities for spiritual growth: We are being trained to think of other people’s health before our own, by wearing a mask in public. We are starting to think more in terms of community safety and community impact than solely in terms of “what’s best for me.” We are realizing more and more that we need to depend on each other and help out our neighbours.


We are learning to slow down and be less busy, to appreciate quiet moments, to cherish visits with our family and friends, and to make each day count because we are not guaranteed tomorrow. We are being forced to re-evaluate: have I been living the kind of life I want to live, or do I need to make some changes? We are being forced to increase our trust in God in the face of anxiety, uncertainty, and upheaval. These are all good things, with potential to “advance the gospel!”


6) He shifted gears in ministry.        

              

Paul was called by God to be a missionary and an evangelist, sharing the gospel with both Gentiles and Jews (Acts 9:15). In prison, he could not travel to new cities to preach in the synagogues and public meeting places and make new converts for Christ. Yet we do not have any evidence that Paul wrote letters for the purpose of sharing the good news with unbelievers. Instead, he shifted his ministry to encouraging, correcting and equipping those who had already accepted the gospel, so that they would be able to carry on the ministry of evangelism. He shifted his ministry to one of building up the churches rather than planting new churches.


How do our ministries need to adapt in this current crisis? Many have gone online and seen great results. Online Alpha programs grew exponentially in the first few months of the pandemic. Most churches began offering some form of virtual worship services. But as the virus drags on, we need to consider how we can also provide pastoral care, Bible study, Christian fellowship, and service to the poor and needy in new ways. How will we be the church in this context?


7) He stayed positive and hopeful.


In prison, Paul did not just “hope” things would be ok; he eagerly expected to be released from prison. He wrote to Philemon, “Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.” He made plans for when his crisis would be over, and he trusted in God to bring those plans to fruition.


Are we making plans for ministry in the aftermath of COVID-19? Are we looking to the future, or are we consumed by the challenges of the present? Someday, I expect that COVID-19 will be a thing of the past, a part of history just like polio or smallpox. Will the church be prepared to adapt again? Are we losing hope, or are we eagerly anticipating what God is going to do?


I hope that these seven observations will challenge and encourage you that it is possible to stay strong in the faith and have an effective ministry, even when isolated or limited in our church gatherings. Do you have any other advice from Scripture on how we should cope with our separation? How have you seen God at work during this pandemic? Share with us in the comments, by clicking here

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

September 2, 2020 by Mark Spence & Phil Ware

Why do bad things happen to good people? The biblical answer is there are no “good” people. In Mark 10:18, Jesus said that only God is good. Because God is good, He will see to it that justice is done on the Day of Judgment. If He gave each of us justice right now, every one of us would end up in a terrible place called Hell, and we would deserve it. God is the standard of righteousness, and all of us have fallen short of that standard, so there really aren’t “good” people that “bad” things happen to.


A better question is this: “Why does God allow good things to happen to bad people?” With reasons known only to God, He demonstrated His own love for us in that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In spite of our evil, wicked, sinful nature, God still loves us. He loved us enough to die to take the penalty for our sins when He was crucified on the cross.


Often things happen to us that we simply cannot understand. Instead of doubting God’s goodness in times of suffering, we should trust Him. We should echo the words of Job: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” The book of Job shows us that God is trustworthy, even when we don’t understand the suffering around us.


Why do bad things happen to good people? That only happened once…and He volunteered.


Yes, only God is good. But then that is the point, isn't it? Jesus is "God is with us" (Matthew 1:23), and we must put our faith in him and listen to him and obey just as we must with God. If the man who asked the question in the previous verse (Mark 10:17) can't see that Jesus has God's authority as well as God's goodness, he will never relinquish complete control of his heart, his life, and his future. Come to think of it, neither will we. Only God is good! So then, Lord Jesus, you have our attention as God speaking to us!


Today's Prayer

O Father in heaven, hallowed is Your mighty name. I recognize that Your Son, Jesus, is God come in the flesh — Your very presence with us. Thank You for becoming one of us. Thank You for sending Your Son to pay the penalty our sins deserve, that we may be saved by repenting and believing that Good News. In Jesus' name. Amen.


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