Today we are living in fearful times such as few of us have ever known. The truth is, only a personal word from the Lord can lead us through such times with the enduring hope we need. And God has always been faithful to provide a word to his people throughout history.
In the Old Testament we read this phrase again and again: “The word of the Lord came …” Scripture says of Abraham: “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram” (Genesis 15:1). We read of Joshua: “According unto the word of the Lord which He [gave] Joshua” (Joshua 8:27). And so it was with David and the prophets also.
You cannot fight the battle of faith without hearing the assuring voice of the Lord to you.When David and his warriors returned from battle and found their village raided and their families kidnapped, they cried out in agony, “How could this happen? Why would God allow it?” Then they “lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep” (1 Samuel 30:4).
This scene from David’s life shows us there is most certainly a time to weep when calamity strikes. But then he encouraged himself. “David encouraged himself in the Lord” (30:6). Instead of giving in to fear, David decided to fight his fears. I believe he did this by remembering all of God’s past deliverances in his life. Every victory had been brought about because of his unwavering faith.
“Say to those who are fearful-hearted, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you’” (Isaiah 35:4).
While the world is under vengeance — when all things seem to be spinning completely out of control — God is in the process of saving us. He is using even the chaos of world events to bring about his salvation. He is faithful to save and to keep his people, through every calamity.
As for God’s people, we have the abiding Holy Spirit to speak a word from heaven to us. I believe the challenge for every believer today is to stay in the Scriptures until the Holy Spirit makes God’s promises seem to jump off the pages to them personally. We can know when that happens because we will hear the still, small voice of the Spirit whispering: “This promise is yours. It is God’s Word given just to you, to see you through these hard times.”
Let us know which verses Gods is using to encourage you during these hard times by clicking here.
This message is for every Christian who is on the brink of exhaustion, overwhelmed by your present situation. You have been a faithful servant, feeding others, confident that God can do the impossible for His people. Yet you have lingering doubts about God’s willingness to intervene in your present struggle.
Think of those in the Body of Christ whom you have given words of faith and hope, people facing seemingly hopeless situations. You’ve urged them, “Hang on! God is a miracle worker, and His promises are true. Don’t lose hope — He is going to answer your cry.”
Jesus made a statement to believers in every generation: “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way” (Matthew 15:32). He is telling us, “I will do more for my people than heal them. I’m going to make sure they have enough bread to eat. I am concerned about everything concerning their lives.”
We all believe God can work miracles. We believe in every miracle we have read in Scripture. Yet, that is not enough. God’s question to all His people right now is, “Do you believe I can work a miracle for you?” And not just one miracle, but a miracle for every crisis, every situation we face.
Our faith in troubled times obtains for us the testimony of “a good report.” “For by [their faith] the elders obtained a good report” (Hebrews 11:2). The Greek word for “obtained” here means “to bear witness, to become a testimony.” Our ancestors in the Lord had a settled, anchored faith. And their unwavering faith became a testimony to the world of God’s faithfulness in the midst of troubled times.
As you rest in Him through storms, holding your faith position, you are obtaining a “good report.” And you are serving as a beacon of hope to those around you. Those who watch your life — at home, at work, on your block —are learning that hope is available to them.
Our God has supplied us with everything needed to sustain our faith, even as calamities increase. We have been given the witness of the Holy Spirit, who abides in us, and God’s fully revealed Word in the Scriptures. These will sustain us, obtaining for us the testimony of a good report even as the world shakes.
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Note: We will be having a Blue Christmas Online Service on Sunday, December 20 at 2pm for all who are feeling stressed, sad, grieving, lonely or depressed. Everyone is welcome.
Christmas carols fill the air; smiles and laughter are everywhere. A stroll around reveals glistening windows boasting of tasty holiday treats and shiny red ribbon. Twinkling lights dance in unexpected places and bounce off sparkling trees. Whether you appreciate lots of gold and glitter or simple candles, the blessing of our Lord’s birth is celebrated with expression!
While Christmas is full of joy and celebration, the world is not exempt from sorrow during this season. For many of us, our hurting hearts experience intensified ache as memories flood our minds. Perhaps the memory is of a loved one now in heaven. Maybe the memory haunts as part of a painful past; something we wish could be changed or undone. Pain not only exists from the past, but in the daily present. Discouragement doesn’t stop lurking. Disease doesn’t stop waging its war. Death doesn’t pause for a few days.
No matter what is causing your hurt, allow yourself the opportunity to recognize the struggle you feel during the holiday season. Think also of your friends or family who may benefit from words of encouragement for hard times. When a difficult holiday is threatening to overwhelm you or a loved one, call to mind the many uplifting Bible verses about trusting in God in hard times.
When Jesus was born, His parents didn’t plan a gender reveal party. No one ordered a baby shower cake. Oh, Mary, yes, as the mother, she prepared for the arrival of her baby. But a business trip for tax purposes was probably the last thing on her agenda. Riding a donkey most likely would have been her last wish in her ninth month of pregnancy. The point is: Jesus wasn’t born into ideal circumstances. Despite the stable which most of us would deem unsuitable accommodations, the Light of the World made His grand entrance in the form of a little baby. Human flesh held the Son of God and the glory of the night could not be contained. Angels sang their glory to God and hope, true Hope for the world was born!
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased! Luke 2:14 ESV
Sixteen years ago, my daughter, Taylor, unwrapped her Christmas gifts with exuberance. Though diagnosed with a rare terminal disease, she brought so much joy everywhere she went. Her pigtails and giggles were the perfect bubbly match. Our family has watched her gradually lose skill after skill from speaking to singing to feeding herself. Today her smiles are scant and her pain becoming more evident. She is fighting to perform daily essential activities like walking, chewing and swallowing. She can no longer unwrap gifts. This Christmas I’ll ponder whether it will be her last and that makes it a difficult season. Rather than focus on the gifts she can’t unwrap, we’re focusing on the gift she is to us. Rather than wish for better circumstances, we’re doing our best to rest in God’s plan as the best plan for her life. Rather than walk through this suffering alone, we’re hanging on to the hope that Jesus gives as He walks through this valley with us.
Regardless of the trials you face during the Christmas season, the gift you need the most is the One who longs to live in your heart. Despite the tough circumstances you’re facing, God’s plan is the best plan for your life; He loves you too much to think anything otherwise. No matter the ache or the longing, the sorrow or the suffering, the birth of Jesus brought hope and healing to the entire world. For this, we can celebrate with JOY!
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16,17 ESV
Know someone who is having a difficult Christmas? Reach out to them right now with a loving message. Let them know you are praying for them, make time for that long overdue communication and maybe even send them a sweet gift or thoughtful flower arrangement. Whatever you do, be sure to encourage them with God’s pure light this holiday season.
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I know we have passed Thanksgiving here in Canada but living so close to the USA, we are reminded it will be Thanksgiving there shortly.
It might seem ironic to even talk about thanksgiving during this time of pandemic. In fact, one writer questioned whether Thanksgiving in 2020 was an oxymoron! If we concentrate on the downside of the pandemic – and there are several as we all know – then being grateful might seem somewhat foreign in such a situation. This pandemic is something which few of us, if any, have had to deal with before.
We readily acknowledge that it has caused untold misery for many people. The tragic loss of life. The inconvenience of job loss. Isolation. Loneliness. All these aspects have taken their toll and have been expressed in anxiety, stress, physical illness, damaged relationships and, very sadly for some, suicide. Such is the serious response to this nasty global pandemic. Living in a Retirement Community we personally have experienced the sense of imprisonment through a lockdown. We are well aware of the how quickly the virus can run through a Care Home. Having a wife who needs constant care and is already health compromised, I understand the seriousness of our situation. But, as they say, there are always two sides to the same coin. I like to look for the bright side, if there is one.
So looking on the lighter side I have discovered that the pandemic has actually saved me money. In the last eight months I have only had one haircut! (No comments, please!) I have only filled up the car once instead of once a month. Sadly we have missed our weekly lunch at a local coffee shop but it has saved me money. Also we have obviously shopped less. I am sure it is the same for you and you could probably add to the list. I have found that if I focus on what we have and not on what we would like, I begin to think positively about the situation. I find it helpful to concentrate on the blessings in hand rather than wishing for those things which currently may not be available.
If we look closely we can usually find some good in every situation. We are certainly grateful to have been kept virus free. We are grateful just to wake up each morning, grateful to see the sun and feel the rain, grateful for food to eat, clothes to wear, a warm bed to sleep in, and even a few dollars in the bank. There are millions in this world who would love to change places with us.
So even during the pandemic we still have reasons for gratitude and thanksgiving to be never far from our thoughts. We can be assured that God has not relinquished control yet! I recently read this quotation which I think is applicable, “Accept what is, let go of what was and have faith in what will be.”
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Sometimes I find myself in a desperate kind of wrestle to have hope.
I’m hoping for certain things to happen in my life. Certain success, certain acceptance, certain love. But they are slow in coming, and I begin to fear they will never come at all. Questions of what I can do better, regrets that things aren’t different and nagging thoughts that I just don’t have what it takes to do this flood my mind and sink my spirits.
My logical response, of course, is to wrap my arms tightly around my hopes. To bring them in nice and snug.
Next thing I know, my legs have come to the aid of my arms, and now I am fully committed to this bear hug of hope.
So here we all are. Me. My hopes. My dreams. Stuck together like glue.
Tangled up so bad none of us are going anywhere.
And that’s just it. None of us are going anywhere.
I’m too busy clinging and clutching that I don’t realize I’m squeezing the life right out of them. And they are so smothered that they have no room to grow or to take flight.
To brighten or evolve and have hope.
Hope can be a beautiful thing. But when mixed with fear, hope has the potential to twist into something ugly. It can become obsessive and possessive and controlling.
Everyone always says, “Don’t lose hope.” But what I desperately need alongside of hope, and what I cannot afford to lose, is trust.
A trust that there is something greater that rises above the roar and static of this life and all its hopes. A trust in the God I follow, that He knows well how to take care of and guide my hopes.
I need this kind of trust to mingle in with my hope because hope doesn’t always turn out the way I want it to. My hopes may not turn out at all. And I don’t want to crumble if they don’t.
Trust safely removes my hopes from the reach of my crushing fingers and takes them outside where there is plenty of room to fly.
Trust relaxes my arms so that they can instead work toward achieving instead of stifling.
Trust gives me the freedom to dream as big as I want and the security to be okay if reality turns out to be something different or something smaller.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and I’ll admit, I’m really struggling with being able to trust as I hope.
It’s so hard to do. And I want things so badly to turn out how I hope. I have hope this little blog of mine will one day be much bigger. I have hope I can learn to be confident in this being a stay-at-home mom thing. I have hope my daughter will grow up knowing and loving God. I hope we can save enough money to go on a nice, long vacation sometime soon (hopefully really soon). And eventually, I hope to actually have green grass in our backyard.
Some hopes are loftier than others.
I know it’s good to have hope. It gives us vision and motivation and something to work hard for. I also know that not all hopes come to fruition. But with trust, I won’t lose to fear all of the joy and contentment that can be had along this journey, no matter what happens.
If I can learn to let it, trust has the power to change my relationship with hope from an awkward, controlling bear hug into a sweet embrace
“…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31
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The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Proverbs 9:10
The church of Jesus Christ today has been mightily blessed by God but unless the driving force behind any ministry is total dependence upon the Holy Spirit, all efforts are futile. Great music, eloquent preaching or persuasive personalities are fine but only the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit can bring people to their knees.
Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. He was well-organized, much more educated than his father David, and he did everything bigger and better than any previous generation could have conceived. Everything about Solomon was breathtaking, extravagant, highly impressive! Yet the driving force behind Solomon was wisdom and knowledge — and he delivered a powerless message.
Let’s compare the two types of churches, Solomon’s and David’s. In Solomon’s church, a preacher merely gathers truthful, biblical information and creates a sermon out of it. Then he tells himself, “It’s the Word of God, so it must have an impact.” But no matter how persuasive it is, without the anointing of the Holy Spirit, it is a dead word.
On the other hand, David’s church is filled with godly sorrow toward sin and a deep desire to know the Father. When David was on his deathbed, he spoke to Solomon about intimacy with the Lord. “My son, I want to tell you the secret of my ministry, why God has been with me everywhere I have gone.” Listen to some of David’s last words to his son: “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2).
David was saying, “I didn’t trust in my knowledge and wisdom; in fact, I didn’t trust in any part of my flesh. I was a weak man but I depended upon the Holy Spirit! Every word I spoke was under his unction and anointing. His words filled my mouth!”
All the true treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Jesus Christ (see Colossians 2:3) and they are available to us.
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The Book of Proverbs shares important wisdom all day, every day.
We all need a little wisdom in our lives. Proverbs was written as practical wisdom for the average person. You might say they were written to get the ancient Israelites through the daily grind of life.
We, too, need help to get through the daily grind—whether it’s working, going to school, taking care of kids.
The following 10 Proverbs can encourage and inspire you throughout the day.
At 6 a.m. (the alarm goes off)
My child, hold on to your wisdom and insight. Never let them get away from you.
– Proverbs 3:21
At 7:30 a.m. (getting in the car for work)
The road the righteous travel is like the sunrise, getting brighter and brighter until daylight has come.
– Proverbs 4:18
At 9 a.m. (receive an email from a friend asking for your help)
You do yourself a favor when you are kind. If you are cruel, you only hurt yourself.
– Proverbs 11:17
At 11 a.m. (tempted to gossip about the guy in the next cubicle)
It is foolish to speak scornfully of others. If you are smart, you will keep quiet.
– Proverbs 11:12
At 12 p.m. (you meet a friend for lunch)
The righteous person is a guide to his friend, but the path of the wicked leads them astray.
– Proverbs 12:26
At 3 p.m. (your coworker speaks to you in anger)
A gentle answer quiets anger, but a harsh one stirs it up.
– Proverbs 15:1
At 5:15 p.m. (stuck in traffic)
Those who are good travel a road that avoids evil; so watch where you are going—it may save your life.
– Proverbs 16:17
At 6:30 p.m. (your family volunteers in a local homeless shelter)
If you oppress poor people, you insult the God who made them; but kindness shown to the poor is an act of worship.
– Proverbs 14:31
At 8 p.m. (you feel overwhelmed by the thought of tomorrow)
Worry can rob you of happiness, but kind words will cheer you up.
– Proverbs 12:25
At 10 p.m. (getting ready for bed)
My child, hold on to your wisdom and insight. Never let them get away from you. They will provide you with life—a pleasant and happy life. You can go safely on your way and never even stumble. You will not be afraid when you go to bed, and you will sleep soundly through the night. You will not have to worry about sudden disasters, such as come on the wicked like a storm. The Lord will keep you safe. He will not let you fall into a trap.
– Proverbs 3:21-26
What are some of your favourite Proverbs? Or which Proverbs really help you through your day? Let us know by clicking here.
As we continue our series in Proverbs, we'll be focussing on Wisdom and Life versus Foolishness and Death.
The Bible compares the wise with fools. Wisdom and foolishness are among the most important Bible Opposities. We ask the question: what makes you wise? How do you avoid being a fool in God’s eyes?
In the first place, you must ask for wisdom from the right source, and that means asking God in heaven.
1 Wisdom From Above
Of course we can find plenty of wisdom from God in the Bible. If we reject God’s word we will be devoid of real wisdom. “The wise men are put to shame... Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them?” (Jeremiah 8:9).
Those who respect God’s word, and don't reject it, can also pray for wisdom. So we have two ways of seeking wisdom from above: We can seek it in the scriptures, and we can seek it through prayer...
“4 Let perseverance [through trials] finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking at all. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God. He gives generously to all without finding fault, and he will give you the wisdom you ask for. 6But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt. The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That person should expect nothing from the Lord. 8People like that are of two minds, and unstable in all their ways” (James 1:4-8).
God, in his good providence, can always find a way to help us come by the wisdom we need. We pray, and God finds a way.
Now consider this: having got wisdom from God, where are you going to keep this treasure? There's a simple answer to that, isn't there? You must keep it in your heart.
2 Wisdom in Your Heart and Life
“Wisdom resides in the heart of a person of understanding, but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools.” (Proverbs 14:33). If God’s wisdom is made known to fools, why do they remain fools? Because they do not let the wisdom into their hearts. Their hearts reject the wisdom, and instead welcome foolishness which they are pleased to call wisdom.
The following passage about wisdom shows the importance of having God’s wisdom living in your heart, and in your life...
“1My son, you should accept my words and store up my commands within you. 2You should turn your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding 3Yes, you should call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding. 4You should look for it as though it were silver. You should search for it as for a hidden treasure. 5Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1-5).
“6For the Lord gives wisdom. From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7He holds success in store for the upright. He is a shield to those who walk blamelessly. 8For the Lord guards the path of the just and protects the way of his faithful. 9So then, you will understand what is right and just and fair. [You will choose] every good path.” (Proverbs 2:6-9).
“10For wisdom shall enter your heart, and knowledge be pleasant to your soul. 11Discretion shall protect you, and understanding guard you.” (Proverbs 2:10-11).
Notice how the proverb above says, “For wisdom shall enter your heart” (Proverbs 2:10). You must let true wisdom into your heart, to fill your heart. Only then will true wisdom change you, and change your life.
Don't keep wisdom in a cardboard box.
What would be the use of getting wisdom from God, if you just wrote it down and stored it in a cardboard box —then left it to gather dust while you continued to let worldly wisdom fill your heart and guide your life?
Just as God’s wisdom belongs in your heart, of course it also belongs in your daily life. If wisdom is shut away in your heart, never to see the light of day, it might as well be in a dusty cardboard box!
One of the Bible proverbs makes this point: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who put it into practice have a good understanding. [In their way of life] his praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111:10).
Notice that wisdom from God must be put into practice. You can have wisdom in your heart, but it must be evident in your manner of life. James has a clear message about this...
“13Who among you is wise and has understanding? You should show it by your good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. It is also loves peace. It is considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit. It is impartial and sincere. ” (James 3:13-17).
The first two points we have made in this lesson are fairly obvious. However our final point may be less so, although it follows by inference from the first two points. We noticed firstly, that we must do our best to seek true wisdom from God through the scriptures and through prayer. Secondly, we noticed what follows from that: God’s wisdom must fill our hearts and be fully obeyed in our lives. It is this embrace and practice of wisdom that brings us now to consider, thirdly, the cost of wisdom.
3 Wisdom at a Cost
God’s wisdom is a precious commodity. It can be had without money, but it does come at great cost. Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. (Proverbs 23:23). Notice, that although you ask God for wisdom, there is a sense in which you buy it from him.
In fact, the price of wisdom is the practice of it —simple as that. Wisdom from God may be a gift, but it is given on condition that you devote yourself to it and give wisdom your obedience in daily life. That is wisdom’s cost. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. [In their way of life] his praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111:10).
All the treasure on earth cannot buy true wisdom, because true wisdom comes from God. He isn't interested in your wealth. “For wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her” (Proverbs 8:11).
Don't buy wisdom from the wrong shop.
Some people don't buy wisdom from God. They shop elsewhere, because God requires a deep and full commitment to the wisdom he gives. Some people will prefer the cheap alternative, namely the wisdom of this world.
But Paul warns us against such foolishness...
“20Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1Corinthians 1:20).
“6We impart wisdom among the mature —but not a wisdom of this age or its rulers. They are doomed to pass away.” (1Corinthians 2:6).
“18Don't deceive yourselves, any of you. If any of you thinks that you are wise in this age, you should become a fool [in the eyes of the world] so that you may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this age is folly with God. For it is written, 'He catches the wise in their craftiness' 20 and again, 'The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.'” (1Corinthians 3:18-20).
The wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. Yet, when we buy wisdom from God, people of the world will think we are foolish! Well, we will just have to put up with that, won't we?.
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As we start our new series in Proverbs, are you searching for God's wisdom?
“The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42).
The queen of Sheba was greatly troubled in her soul by all the big questions of life — about God, the future, death — and she longed for answers. Yet no amount of wealth, fame or counsel could answer her soul’s cries. And then she heard of King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived.
“Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions … she spoke with him about all that was in her heart. So Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing so difficult for the king that he could not explain it to her” (1 Kings 10:1).
Getting to Solomon was not an easy task for the queen, as she and her caravan traveled through a hot desert for up to seventy-five days to reach him — a long, difficult journey. Yet nothing could stop the queen from gaining an audience with Solomon. And she was not disappointed! Solomon answered her questions with awesome, illuminating truths.
Here in Matthew the Lord is saying to us, “If you profess to be a follower of mine, do you seek for wisdom as passionately as the queen sought Solomon’s wisdom? I am right here with you to answer all your questions and fulfill all your longings!”
The queen might say to us, “I saw and heard the wisdom of a man who lived in my time and His words changed my life. But the time came when I had to leave His presence. But not for you! You have One who lives in your midst who is infinitely greater than Solomon. You have access to all His wisdom, His righteousness and holiness.”
When was the last time you had an awe-inspiring experience with Jesus? When were you so enthralled by His peace-giving wisdom that it took your breath away? When did you last say, “Nothing I’ve been taught about Christ prepared me for this experience with Him. He has solved my doubts and brought me utter joy”?
Christ wants to reveal himself to those who pursue Him at any cost and hunger for God’s Word.
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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.
- Are there people I need to forgive? If so, who?
- What needs do I see around me? How can I serve?
- 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?
- Where is God calling me to go?
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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:
“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:
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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“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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“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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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!
“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.
- Over the few days, do something to serve a child in your life.
- 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.
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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!
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.
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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.
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..
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!
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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!
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org for some encouragement and free online resources that will help you as you begin your faith journey.
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?
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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:
- 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.
“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.
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!
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Throughout the Bible, we are encouraged to express our praise to God for who He is and what He has done for us
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:
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.
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
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.
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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.
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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!
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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!
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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.
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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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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.
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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.
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.
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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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!
Of all people, God’s saints should be shining examples of what it means to live in peace and triumph in these fearful days. He has given us an ironclad promise for life on this earth, especially when the enemy of our soul tries to walk over us. “My people shall know My name; therefore they shall know in that day that I am He who speaks: ‘Behold, it is I’” (Isaiah 52:6).
In other words, God is saying, “When you’re in your darkest trial, I will come and speak a word to you. You’ll hear me say, ‘It is I, don’t be afraid.’”
In the New Testament, Jesus reiterated this promise on many occasions, one of the most familiar instances being when he spoke to the disciples who were out on the boat in an awful storm. As the boat was being tossed about by wind and waves, the panicked men saw Jesus walking toward them on the water. Scripture says, “When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’” (Matthew 14:26).
Jesus immediately spoke to them, eager to ease their fears: “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid” (14:27). The word cheer means to be happy, relieved. And here, in the disciples’ time of distress, Jesus tied the word to his identity. Remember, these men knew him personally and he expected them to act on his word by faith. He was saying, “The Father has promised that I’ll come to you in your storm, and now I’ve come. Yes, it’s me, Jesus, here with you in the midst of it all. So, cheer up!”
The Lord expects the same faith reaction from us in our distressing times. Think about it. Our Lord has never once failed his people. He urges us to look back and remember how he has delivered us time after time, in every instance. He has never allowed the enemy to destroy those who trust him.
The Lord longs for us to find our fulfillment in him and trust him completely. King David said, “All my springs are in you” (Psalm 87:7), meaning, “All my satisfaction is found in you, Lord. You alone are the wellspring of my fulfillment and you are all I need to be complete, joyful, happy and at peace.”
Let us know your thoughts or send us a comment by clicking here.
There are lots of unknowns about the continuing Covid pandemic, but doing these 6 things each day will benefit body, soul, and spirit.
1. Recite these 8 statements each day.
These truths adjust our perspective and strengthen our faith.
💙 Click the highlighted words to see the statements.
2. Spend time with the Lord in prayer and Bible reading.
Be deliberate and firm about this commitment.
💙 See the Quiet Time Encouragement collection for lots of practical ideas and inspiration.
3. Care for your body.
Our bodies are "the temples of the Holy Spirit." Healthy eating and exercise decrease stress, fear, and anger.
💙 See Eat, Rest, Cry and What's Your Addiction?
4. Deliberately think of others.
Dwelling on our problems causes discouragement. But "those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed" (Proverbs 11:25).
6. Before bedtime, do a Philippians 4:8 detox.
If we don't regularly remind ourselves of the good things in our lives, the bad things will bring us down.
Let us know some other things you do daily to benefit your body, soul and spirit and we may add them to the list. Send Comment.
"‘Don't be afraid,' the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.'" 2 Kings 6:16 (NIV)
One phone call, and my life crumbled into a pile of dust easily blown away by shock and unbelief. In a moment, my trust in God was tested as never before. Could I trust Him with this?
Trusting God would certainly be easier if we could see Him and His angel armies face to face. But even though we can't see the physical realm, we can trust they're in the spiritual realm - a realm more powerful that anything we could ever imagine. Even when we don't see God working, we can be sure He is.
God shows us a powerful glimpse into that spiritual realm in 2 Kings 6:8-18. Ancient Aram (modern-day Syria) was fighting the Israelites, and God used His prophet Elisha to predict how the Arameans would attack, to warn the Israelite army.
The Bible explains that this enraged the king of Aram, so he began plotting to attack the city and cut off Elisha from helping Israel.
But God stepped in and protected Elisha and his servant and even changed what they were allowed to see.
"When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. ‘Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?' the servant asked. ‘Don't be afraid,' the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.' And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.' Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha" (2 Kings 6:15-17, NIV).
I've felt like this before. Haven't you? Difficult circumstances press in from every side. "This is too much for me!" I cry, "I can't do this anymore. I don't even want to go out of my house. Where are You, God? You promised You would never leave me or forsake me, but I don't sense Your presence. Why aren't You doing something? I want out of this story!"
Honest. Raw. Somewhat embarrassing to admit. Sensing the enemies all around, we're surrounded by problems we cannot solve and people we cannot control.
Elisha's servant probably felt the same way.
His faith was as flimsy as the tent flaps he stood behind. Elisha's was as strong as the tent peg anchoring the canvas in place.
"‘Don't be afraid,' the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them'" (2 Kings 6:16).
Did you catch that? Do not be afraid. God is greater.
How can we better trust God during trying times? By remembering, "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (v. 16b). Elisha knew there was more power and strength in the unseen reality of the heavenly host than the seen reality of the enemy's army.
Elisha didn't pray for God to send an army, because the warring angels on chariots of fire were already there. Elisha simply prayed his servant would be allowed to see them at work.
I always pictured the angel armies and Arameans on opposite hillsides, looking down and squaring off. But that's not what the Bible says. In reality, the enemies surrounded Elisha in a circle. At the same time, the warring angels were surrounding the enemies - a circle around a circle.
Friend, God is surrounding whatever difficult situation is surrounding you. Jesus painted this same picture in John 14:20 when He said, "I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you" (NIV).
God most likely won't pull back the curtain separating the physical realm from the spiritual realm for us to see, but we can be assured: We're surrounded by a heavenly host of angels, ready to protect us in our deepest struggles.
Lord, open my eyes so I might see what is already there. Open my heart so I might believe what is already there. Strengthen my faith so I might trust that You are surrounding what is surrounding me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 5:17, "But Jesus replied, ‘My Father is always working, and so am I.'" (NLT)
Let us know what we can pray with you or for you by clicking here.
God did not give us a spirit that makes us afraid but a spirit of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7, NCV).
Friend to Friend
We all battle fear. Fear constantly tries to elbow faith aside, hoping to derail God's plan and purpose in our lives. Fear keeps many of us from dreaming God-sized dreams, persuading us to settle for safety and comfort instead of riding the waves of possibilities. When faith yanks our hideous fears out of the darkness and into the light, we can see them for what they really are – powerless.
Faith is a three-letter word.
Faith says "yes" to peace and “no” to fear.
It may be one tiny step or one puny choice.
It may be a whispered prayer or a desperate cry.
But God always honors the choice to walk straight ahead through fear. Fear trains us to anticipate the worst while faith teaches us to expect the best – even when that “best” looks a lot different than we thought it would.
I have always hated wearing glasses. They get lost, slide down my nose, are always dirty, constantly have to be adjusted, and are a major nuisance. During a routine eye exam, I informed the doctor that I needed contacts instead of glasses. He did not look hopeful.
“Mary, you have a couple of problems that might make contacts difficult for you to wear.” Since I didn’t hear the word “impossible,” I still wanted those contacts.
The doctor continued, “You not only have astigmatism, but your vision needs to be corrected for both distance and close vision.” I am a little slow, I guess. So … why would contacts be a problem?
Seeing the confusion on my face, he explained that I would have to wear a contact in my left eye that allowed me to see up close and a different strength contact in the right eye for distance.
“We would essentially be tricking the brain and going against the way it was created,” he said. “Your brain will be confused for several months. You will step off curbs that are not there or reach for something only to knock it over. At first, you will only be able to read for short periods because your eyes will be at war over which one gets to do the job. When your brain is finally retrained, the confusion will fade, and your vision will improve greatly.” I assured the doctor that both my brain and I were up for the task.
I got my contacts. The first few months were just as frustrating as the doctor said they would be. But the confusion did fade … and I was eventually thrilled with my improved vision and retrained brain.
The apostle Paul understood that training the mind is not only a physical possibility, but also a vital spiritual principle when fear attacks.
We fight with weapons that are different from those the world uses. Our weapons have power from God that can destroy the enemy's strong places. We destroy people's arguments and every proud thing that raises itself against the knowledge of God. We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, ICB).
In their darkest hour, waves crashing around them, trapped on a small fishing boat, the disciples were terrified. In fact, their fear blinded them to the reality of Jesus coming to them in the midst of that storm. I love the simple but powerful response of Jesus to their fearful cries when He said, "Have courage! It is I. Do not be afraid."
The message was stunning in its simplicity. When He is with us, we do not have to be afraid. We usually get that part. But what Jesus also said was that His very presence brought courage into the mix – an audacious choice to discount the fearful circumstances simply because He was there.
Jesus did not rebuke His disciples in their fear.
He didn’t turn away from them because their faith was weak.
I probably would have. After all, they had seen Jesus perform miracles.
Water turned into wine.
Thousands fed with five loaves of bread and two small fish.
Men, women, and children healed.
And still they were afraid. Still they doubted. I can relate, can’t you?
Jesus “quickly” assured them of His comforting presence and His available power. Evidently, Peter was the only one who really believed Jesus. How do I know? True faith generates action. Peter was the only one willing to get out of the boat and walk through his fear. I am fairly certain Peter was just as terrified as the other disciples – but Peter chose to take Jesus at His word. When he took that first step, Peter’s fear was swallowed up in faith.
Father God, I want to become a woman or man of faith, but I am so weak. I constantly battle fear and my faith seems so small. Please give me a new thirst for Your Word. I choose to focus on You, Father, instead of focusing on my circumstances. Help me find faith and learn to be a faith-builder each day. I now turn to You, Lord.
In Jesus’ Name I pray,
Now It’s Your Turn
What kind of storm are you facing? Don’t wait until you understand the storm. Don’t rely on your own strength. Choose right now to believe and see what God does.
How can we pray for or with you today? Please let us know by clicking here.
We are celebrating with the angels today! One of the children at SKC trusted in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour this morning!
We recently heard in our sermon series in Luke, two parables Jesus told, first about a sheep that was lost, and then about a coin that was lost. (You can read them in Luke 15:3-10). In both instances, something very valuable had been lost, and their owners searched diligently until they found it. And when they did, they not only rejoiced, but their friends and neighbours rejoiced also.
In a far greater way, Jesus said, we are infinitely valuable to God, and when we are lost and separated from Him, He searches for us and does everything He possibly can to rescue us. And when we finally realize just how lost we are and turn to Him in repentance and faith, He rejoices -- and all heaven with Him. Jesus said, "I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10).
Why do they rejoice? Not because they're surprised, but because a great victory has been won! Someone has been snatched from the jaws of Satan and death and hel, so why wouldn't all heaven rejoice? Jesus' words remind us of just how valuable we are to God, and how much He yearns for us to be with Him in heaven forever.
But Jesus' words also remind us of what it cost God to make our salvation possible: the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Don't delay, but turn to Christ in repentance and faith today. The Bible says, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13).
If you would like to know more about salvation or if you just called on the name of the Lord, please let us know by clicking here. We'd love to hear from you!
What a joy to watch believers be baptized as they follow in the footsteps of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Baptism is an act that Jesus commands His followers to participate in.
(Matthew 28:19 NKJV) “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Tthose who follow Jesus commands are showing their love for Him and are always blessed!
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. John 14:15
He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” — Luke 11:28
Baptism is a symbolic act by which we share in the death and life of Jesus Christ. Jesus died and was buried for the sake of our sins. The process of being submerged in the water represents the death and burial of our old life. But Jesus was also raised from the dead in order to give us eternal life. As we’re raised out of the water, it represents our newfound life in Christ. By being baptized we’re essentially saying that we identify with what Jesus went through for us.
In a way, baptism is a funeral and a birthday celebration rolled into one. As we go down into the water, we recognize the death of the old us, and as we come up, we celebrate the birth of the new us. God gave us this rite as a physical reminder of the spiritual decision that we’ve made. Baptism is also a way for us to practically put our faith into action and demonstrate to the world that we’ve died to our old selves and desires, and have received a new resurrection life in Christ. It keeps us accountable and mindful that the world is watching us and expects to see some sort of change in our lives.
(2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
We pray that we will continue to see people being baptized at WRBC and declaring their love and commitment to Jesus Christ until He comes again…..The Lord bless you and keep you!
If you would like more info about baptism, please click here.
If you're a believer and have not been baptized, now is the perfect time! If you are interested in baptism, please email the office at email@example.com.
If you would like to watch the videos of a couple baptisms, please join us this Sunday at www.whiterockbaptist.ca!
“It is wonderful to be grateful and to sing your praises, LORD Most High! It is wonderful each morning to tell about your love and at night to announce how faithful you are.”
Psalm 92:1-2 (CEV)
God loves to give second chances. Consider Jonah. God gave him a mission to tell the people of Nineveh to repent. But Jonah didn’t like Nineveh and wanted the people to experience God’s judgment.
So Jonah ran away from God and ended up in the belly of a fish.
Still, God gave him a second chance!
He’ll give you one, too. What do you do when he does?
That’s how Jonah responded, at least at first. In fact, he thanked God before he had even been rescued: “As for me, I will sacrifice to you with a voice of thanksgiving” (Jonah 2:9 CSB).
When God gives you a second chance, do what Jonah did. Wake up every day with a profound gratitude for the opportunity God has given you.
The Bible says, “It is wonderful to be grateful and to sing your praises, Lord Most High! It is wonderful each morning to tell about your love and at night to announce how faithful you are” (Psalm 92:1-2 CEV).
It’s not just a one-time prayer. It’s a lifestyle of gratitude. The psalmist sang God’s praises every morning and every night.
If you’re alive and have blood flowing through your veins, your mission is still in front of you. No matter what has happened in the past, you can thank God for a second chance to fulfill his plan for your life.
It’s worth singing about!
PLAY the audio teaching from Pastor Rick >>
Talk It Over
What is a specific second chance you can be thankful for today?
What would it look like if you lived more gratefully? What would you do differently? What habits would become part of your life?
Do you need a second chance now? Repent, and talk to God about it. Then choose to wake up every day with a profound gratitude for the opportunity God has given you.
The weapons I fight with are not the weapons the world uses. In fact, it is just the opposite. My weapons have the power of God to destroy the camps of the enemy.
-2 Corinthians 10:4 (NIrV)
"Focus on Giants—You Stumble. Focus on God—Your Giants Tumble" - Max Lucado
This is the final part of our study. Inn this session, Max will help us learn what it means to use “The Stone of Persistence” to face our giants.
When I think of a model of persistence and perseverance, I think of the Apostle Paul. Paul was thrown in prison yet still sang hymns and trusted God. Paul was shipwrecked, but still healed all the sick on the island. Paul was judged and questioned by his fellow Christians, but he kept doing the work God called him to do. Paul had a lot of setbacks that could have stopped him from following God’s call. What about you? Are you facing any setbacks in your life?
In today’s study, Max tells us how we can be inspired by David to use the stone of persistence. Even though David faced a lot of giants in his life that could have thwarted his call, he kept his focus on God and persisted.
Are you ready to face your giants?
2 Samuel 5:6-9
6 And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who spoke to David, saying, “You shall not come in here; but the blind and the lame will repel you,” thinking, “David cannot come in here.” 7 Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David).
8 Now David said on that day, “Whoever climbs up by way of the water shaft and defeats the Jebusites (the lame and the blind, who are hated by David’s soul), he shall be chief and captain.” Therefore they say, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.”
9 Then David dwelt in the stronghold, and called it the City of David. And David built all around from [a]the Millo and inward.
2 Corinthians 10:4
For the weapons of our warfare are not [a]carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,
Gracious God, who fought David’s battles, knocked down his strongholds, and gave David the courage to persist while facing his giants, we ask that you give us this same courage. As we prepare to look our Goliaths in the eye, we ask for the gifts of the past, priority, prayer, passion, and persistence so that we are ready to defeat our giants. Help us remember that we cannot do anything without your strength. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
If you have any questions or comments, please click here.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
In today's reading, the apostle Paul says he has learned the secret of experiencing contentment in all circumstances, good or bad. Does it surprise you that he wrote this when he was in prison, unsure of his future?
We're often discontent even when all is going well. Consequently, we wonder how it's possible to be truly content during our most difficult trials, especially when there's no end in sight. So what is genuine contentment? Paul is speaking of a freedom from worry and frustration about everything in life--even unfulfilled desires.
It's usually when we cannot control or change our situation that we feel discontentment. As long as our satisfaction depends on whether certain things actually work out, we'll allow circumstances to cheat us out of peace. I'm not saying there's some spiritual stage where you will never again experience anxiety or frustration. But what matters is how we respond when those feelings grip us.
This is something that the apostle had to learn. Paul endured amazing suffering, from shipwrecks and hunger to unjust imprisonment and beatings (2 Cor. 11:24-30). He had gone through countless situations that were uncertain, extraordinarily painful, and seemingly hopeless. But he finally discovered that contentment could not be dependent upon his circumstances.
How do you respond when circumstances are out of your control? Do you get angry? Do you try to escape? Does despair make you want to give up? Paul chose to give his anxieties to Jesus in exchange for peace that "surpasses all comprehension" (Phil. 4:7). That same peace is available to you!
How can we pray for you today? Please click here to let us know.
What, if anything, might you say when you stand for the first time before the throne of God?
In that moment, you might say, “Woe is me!” as the prophet did when he saw a vision of God on his throne (Isaiah 6:5). It wouldn’t be inappropriate for us to sense our utter unworthiness and inadequacy, to freshly perceive the chasm between us, as creatures, and our Creator — and not just as creatures, but as sinners. We have rebelled against the one who made us, the one to whom we owe all honor and allegiance. We cannot stand before him, on our own two feet, as deserving of anything more than his righteous wrath and judgment.
When Words Fail
Yet, in that moment, before God himself, however much woe we might own, it would not be right to focus much on ourselves. Surely, in the immediate presence of God Almighty, we would lift our eyes beyond our inadequacy and failings, and behold his glory, and declare his praise. And as we open our mouths to speak, to try to ascribe to our Lord the glory due his name, what might we say?
“God’s value and worth not only fill up our human categories but far surpass them.”
Would not human language fail us? What do you say, in finite human words, when standing before the infinite God? Can any word or statement match such a moment? Will not any language we reach for prove trivial and inadequate? Perhaps we won’t even be able to muster a word, but just stand in awe and silence.
But if, here, in the presence of God, we are able to utter one word of praise, we do have something to say. And say again, and again.
Holy, holy, holy.
Cry Out, Sing Holy
When the prophet Isaiah caught a glimpse of God in heaven, seated on his throne, he saw in God’s presence the six-winged celestial creatures, called seraphim, crying out to one another in praise of God, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3). Before the prophet felt the weight and tarnish of his own sin, and declared woe on himself, he first heard, and was caught up into, the angelic praise of heaven — not just holy, but holy, holy, holy.
So also the apostle John, centuries later, when he peeked into heaven, saw “four living creatures, each of them with six wings . . . and day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” (Revelation 4:8).
God has given us a word that is especially fit for declaring his praise when all other language fails us. We often praise him in ways we can understand, borrowed from our finite and limited human experience. We praise his strength, his love, his justice, his mercy. But we also grow to realize, in fits and bursts, that God’s value and worth not only fill up our human categories but far surpass them. He is even more strong than we know. Even more loving. Even more just. Even more merciful.
In those moments, when we sense we have exhausted the comparisons to our world and experience, we have a word to reach for: holy. When we’re aware of his uniqueness, that he is in a class by himself, utterly set apart from us, higher than us and gloriously other, we cry holy. When we catch but a glimpse of his infinite intrinsic value — and wonder in worship, Who else is like this? — we bow and cry holy, holy, holy.
Who Else? What Other?
No one else wields the authority of our God. No one else commands the hosts of heaven. No one else makes kings — not just some kings, but one day soon all kings — bow down. No one else can make darkness itself tremble with a whisper.
“No one else wields the authority of our God. No one else commands the hosts of heaven.”
No other glory is like his. No other deserves such praise. No other splendor outshines the sun. No other beauty, no other power, no other name is like his, consuming like fire, raising the dead, unshakably triumphant — and all the more after those brief moments when it has looked to human eyes like defeat.
What more can we possibly say? Holy, holy, holy.
Come and Call Him Father
How, then, in the face of such authority, such glory, such power, do we not cower? How can we hear his summons and come with anything but dread? Why do we not flee, futile as it would be, from such majesty when we, in ourselves, are deserving of no more than woe?
Because the holy God is not only awesome in authority and power, but also in grace and mercy. Who else is like him? Who else is holy? Who else, as the capstone of his glory, rescues sinners like us from our failings? Who demonstrates his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us?
This holy God sent his own Son. He offered him up for our sins. And he raised him from the dead, seated him at his right hand, and now, through faith in him, extends to us all the rights and privileges of divine sonship. Only the holy God.
Have you believed the gospel and received forgiveness for your sins?
If so, we'd love to hear your testimony. If not, we'd love to start a conversation on how you can receive God's free gift of salvation, forgiveness for sins, peace and joy!
Click "Send Comments" below to let us know!
During these difficult times, It is so important to anchor ourselves in God's promises! God is our refuge and strength through all life's trials.
Click here to watch a video where Max Lucado shares some of God's promises we can cling to, be encouraged and receive hope.
1 Samuel 21:1-22:1
David went to Nob, to Ahimelek the priest. Ahimelek trembled when he met him, and asked, “Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?”
David answered Ahimelek the priest, “The king sent me on a mission and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about the mission I am sending you on.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.”
But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here—provided the men have keptthemselves from women.”
David replied, “Indeed women have been kept from us, as usualwhenever[b] I set out. The men’s bodies are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!” So the priest gave him the consecrated bread,since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.
Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the Lord; he was Doeg the Edomite,Saul’s chief shepherd.
David asked Ahimelek, “Don’t you have a spear or a sword here? I haven’t brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king’s mission was urgent.”
The priest replied, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one.”
David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.”
That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances:
“‘Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands’?”
David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?”
David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there.
Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me,
for in you I take refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
until the disaster has passed.
• What excuses are you holding onto that are stopping you from facing your giant?
• When life beats you down, where are you finding your refuge and strength?
Heavenly Father, who became a refuge for David and who becomes a refuge for us, we pray that when we face tiresome circumstances, we would find our rest in you. When we feel like the consequences of sin are too heavy to bear, we pray that you would carry our burden. When life is unfair and unkind, help us to rely on your strength for the passion to face our giants. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
I am learning that even when you “feel” quite sure it is time to give up and retire from missions work it is not up to us. It is up to us to ask God daily, “What do You have planned for me today?” For, if we relied on our “feelings” we will lose out on seeing what God does through us and even what He does without us. When God calls us to service it is not up to us to determine when we quit. I do not think we are ever supposed to “quit”. No matter our circumstances, there is always something God requires of us to do.
Last August, both Frank and I were not sure if we were going to live another day. We were both in hospital; me in Abbotsford and Frank in White Rock. We relied on God.
When we got home, we both agreed it was time stop work in Zimbabwe. One of the reasons was there are no reliable hospitals at hand in Zimbabwe. Another reason was our age: 72 and 78. A third reason was with my heart issues and Frank's cancer, travel insurance was exorbitant. So, we discussed how to go about shutting down the society.
The very next morning I had a call from a donor. “Are you planning on going back to Zimbabwe? If so, I will pay your travel insurance which I am sure has gone up after your hospital stay.” So, we decided one more trip. We had to! Was that not an answer to prayer?
The very next day we had a call from Dr. Jerome Harvey in Thunder Bay MEMO saying, “ We have goods for a container for you. We plan to send it in February, will that fit in with your trip?” We had planned to fly out on April 15th before airports were closed. “Wow”, I said, "We usually travel January to April. We have just changed the date and it will fit in perfectly.” Two days later Jerome called again. "We have another container, so you can expect 2." Then it changed to 4. Wow, God was really telling us something. But Frank still had cancer in 3 major organs! We decided, in faith, to make the plans and travel regardless and to carry on. What more evidence did we need that we were meant to go?
In February, this year, Frank underwent more treatment for cancer. This time it was lung, liver, and bladder. Doctor’s had not wanted to give him any more treatment but, seeing as he survived in August, decided to go ahead with radiation and ablation. Last chance! He recovered well, so we purchased our tickets to Zimbabwe. Now in July, he has been told that right now, and for the first time in 12 years, he has no major organ cancer to be seen! He was told not to come back for six months. Friends have called him the miracle man, but now the doctors are saying it. Praise the Lord!
Also, my heart seems to have settled down as to some of the adverse reactions to the medicine I am taking.
But, due to Covid19, we were not able to travel. This was another learning curve for me. We now had 6 shipping containers arriving in Zimbabwe; 2 from CRW and 4 from MEMO and I was “stuck” in Canada. Reluctantly, I released the opening of the containers to God’s control. Erick, our manager at the Rasper project, was given the responsibility. Once I had released the container from my control things went well without me, although I was involved as I was the only one who knew where goods were supposed to go. So, one photo at a time and working with the packing list, we were able to distribute all goods to where they were intended. I learnt a lot about myself with this process and learnt a lot about letting go and letting God.
This year we were unable to fundraise with talks and garage sale, etc., but we had donations made from the most unexpected people and places. Frank and I laughed and said we are either going out with a big bang or God's not finished with us yet.
Frank and I now talk about God’s sense of humor. We are never in control, nor should we be. We just need to live day to day and see where we are led by the Holy Spirit. We now plan ahead ,but with open hearts for change of any kind.
God loves you so much He sent His only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross to pay the penalty all of our sins deserve.
God created everything and is in control and in charge of everything. He wrote a book (the Bible) to show us how to live and how we can have a relationship with Him and be saved.
We ALL have sinned. We all choose to disobey God every single day. That is sin. Sin separates us from God.
"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23
The penalty of sin is death.
The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23
Just as in a court, we wouldn't think a judge is fair if he just let's guilty people go free, God isn't fair if he just let's us go free. A payment must be made for the offence.
If someone is guilty of a crime and is given a million dollar fine or jail, and someone steps up and pays that fine, the guilty person is set free.
Jesus paid our fine, but at a much higher price, death. Something we could never do.
He died on the cross in your place so you could be free. Even when He knew you were a sinner.
Jesus paid the penalty for our sins
God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Jesus rose again proving that His death was accepted by the Father. Because Jesus gave up His life for us, we can be welcomed into God's family for eternity when we trust in Him.
It is a free gift that must be received by faith.
Believe on the the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Acts 16:31
He that hears my word, and believes on Him that sent me HAS everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation. John 5:24
Call upon Jesus today!
If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you WILL be saved. Romans 10:9
None of us know when our last breath will be.
Today is the day of salvation. What are you waiting for? It is the best and most important thing you will ever do in your life.
Just pray whatever is in your heart right now.
Ask God to forgive you for your sins. Tell Him you're sorry. Thank Him for sending Jesus to die for you and ask Him to save you.
God knows your heart. You can't fool Him.
If you truly want to be saved - and call out to Him right now - He will save you!
When I was
growing up, we often took a summer holiday as a family. Either we would travel
to Calgary to visit my grandparents, or we would have a family vacation
somewhere for a week or two. We saw Niagara Falls, went to Disneyland (twice!),
visited Las Vegas, and did a road trip through the northern States. I know now
that I was spoiled. But because of my upbringing, I’ve always viewed summertime
as the time for adventures and travel.
With four kids and graduate degrees constantly in the works, my husband and I have not had the means to take our kids on many adventures of that kind. This August, my husband and I had finally planned the trip of a lifetime – a 20th anniversary trip to Peru! But due to COVID-19, that won’t be happening now. It is too sad to think about, so I’ve been compensating by trying to find fun things for us to do closer to home.
I have been brainstorming possible outings for my family within southern BC, things that we can all do together that will appeal to both our youngest child and our oldest. It’s not as easy as you might think! I want to avoid crowds, and I don’t want to spend a fortune. There are a few family camps happening, but the kids aren’t interested. I feel restless and frustrated, especially when the kids remind me that they are perfectly happy to stay at home all summer doing nothing. (Nothing means mostly video games.) If I do manage to plan a few outings, I will probably have to bribe/threaten them just to get them to join me!
I have started to suspect that the lack of a summer adventure is a “me” issue, not an actual problem. Why am I so discontented with staying home? I have everything I need here. Why do I think that we can’t make good family memories at home, or that we have to go somewhere special to have fun together? How much of my discontentment is actually greed?
1 Timothy 6:6-7 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
I am realizing that I haven’t been content with just food and clothing for a long time, and I have so much more than that! I have a comfortable home, all kinds of entertainment options, extended family nearby, a job I love, and a beautiful coastal city to explore. I have absolutely no reason to feel discontented, even if I never leave this city again. Adventures with God are not defined in terms of location, anyways. Every single day is supposed to be an adventure of trusting him, getting to know him better, and learning to love one another more.
I am praying that God will help me to find the extraordinary moments in the ordinary days of this summer. I want to be content with what I have been given this year, and not constantly wishing things were different. It seems that our society has condoned, and even encouraged, a culture of complaining about 2020. As followers of Christ, let’s be known instead for our contentment, our optimism, and our ability to make the best of things. Let’s commit ourselves to finding joy this summer in the extraordinary ordinary moments at home with our families. God is here, now, with us – what more could we want?
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