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Red Letter Challenge – Day 16

September 25 – Day 16

“Forgiving”

 “Be merciful.” – Luke 6:36

The definition of mercy is, “Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm them.”  We live in a culture where we do not practice mercy very often.  Instead of showing compassion or forgiveness, we prefer to get revenge.  We crave fairness and equality. 

Fortunately for us there is endless mercy in Jesus.  He forgives time and time again, and He calls all of us to do the same.  I am thankful we have a God who is not vengeful, but instead is full of mercy.  It is only because of His mercy that we are saved from having to face the ultimate punishment in hell.  God now calls us to be like Him, to put whatever someone else deserves to the side, and instead show them mercy.  It’s through forgiveness and compassion that people come to know Jesus.  May you be a person that brings that forgiveness and compassion to others in your life today.  

Challenge: Let someone off the hook today if they owe you a favor or some money.  If you don’t have the opportunity today, be on the lookout for someone you can show mercy to at some point this week. 

God’s Blessings,
Pastor Bill


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Red Letter Challenge – Day 15

September 24 – Day 15

“Forgiving”

 “Judge not.” – Matthew 7:1

Grace is a free gift from God.  The grace of God comes to us from the cross where Jesus took our sin on Himself and died.  This gift of grace calls us to live a life like Jesus.  If grace is getting something we don’t deserve, the opposite would be getting something we do deserve, and that’s called judgment.  Sadly, the church is known for being judgmental.  It’s one of the first words non-believers use to describe the church.  As a result, many non-believers do not want to come to a church, because they are afraid of what “Christian” people might think of them.

What if, rather than judging people, the church was known for embracing people where they are in their lives?  What if we stopped trying to change people and just accepted them?  What if we remembered it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to change them, not our job?  It is not our job to judge other people.  Our job is to love people the way God loves you.

Challenge: Thank God for the opportunity to live a life without the judgment we deserve.  Then, write down the names of any individuals or groups of people you might have improperly judged in the past and ask God for forgiveness.

God’s Blessings,
Pastor Bill


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Red Letter Challenge – Day 14

Hello Everyone,

Our devotions and challenges this week will be based on the principle of “Forgiving.”

September 23 – Day 14
“Forgiving”

“Let any one of who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” – John 8:7

A woman who is caught in adultery is brought before Jesus.  The Pharisees said to Jesus: “The Law tells us this woman has to be punished.  What do you say?”  If He answers, “Yes, stone her,” that seems to go against everything He’s been teaching.  If He says, “No, don’t stone her,” He would seem to be relaxing His morals.  Finally Jesus says, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Jesus could have picked up a rock and thrown it at the woman, but He was not focused on finding a rock.  Instead, His eyes are filled with mercy and love for this woman.  Jesus didn’t begin by accusing her, and He’s not going to start by accusing you. 

God loves you for who you are and He will take you just as you are today and always.  Through Jesus’ death on the cross you are forgiven, and as forgiven people we are to emulate Jesus.  Therefore, if Jesus dropped His rock for us, we need to drop our rocks as well.  Can you forgive others?  Can you forgive yourself?  If you think your sin is too great for Him to forgive, you are actually stripping away the power of the cross.  Jesus came to seek and save those who were lost, and that includes all of us. 

Challenge: Most of us have certain sins that really bother us.  Which sins do you elevate above the rest?  Write those sins down on a piece of paper and pray that you are able to see all people, no matter what their sins might be, as candidates for the grace of Jesus. 

God’s Blessings,
Pastor Bill

Today’s devotion comes from the book “Red Letter Challenge,” by Zach Zehnder, pp. 90-94.


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Red Letter Challenge – Day 12

September 21 – Day 12

“Being”

 “The Sabbath was made for man.” – Mark 2:27

The Sabbath is one of the most misunderstood among Christians today.  Sabbath is from the Hebrew word which means “rest.”  When God rested on the seventh day, it was not because He was tired.  He rested because what He made was worth enjoying.

Think of it this way.  You may not enjoy cutting your grass, but afterwards when you take a shower, grab a drink, and then just look at your lawn, you are probably proud of your work.  This is what the Sabbath is like – you are resting and enjoying something you created.  This is why God made the Sabbath.  We were made to work, but also to rest.

Unfortunately, we sometimes miss the big idea of the Sabbath.  We work all the time because we like the things we get from it – money, possessions, or status.  We look to our work to give us some things God promises to give. 

Challenge: Take a day off.  Use this day to enjoy what God has given you.  It could be your faith, your family, or your house.  Enjoy the day and also spend some time reading your Bible and praying.

God’s Blessings,
Pastor Bill


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Red Letter Challenge – Day 11

September 20 – Day 11

“Being”

 “Let us eat and celebrate.” – Luke 15:23

People from the outside often view Christianity as a set of rules that say we must live a certain way and we can’t have much fun.  Why is that?  Jesus talked a lot about food and celebrating.  This was a constant theme for Him.  Celebration and thanksgiving for all that God has done ought to be a part of our lives each day.  While Jesus said that we would experience difficulties, hardships, and trials of all kinds, that doesn’t mean we should walk around with fake smiles.  But it’s also important that we change the world’s perception of Jesus and His followers. 

The reality is Jesus came to free us to live a life of excitement, adventure, and fulfillment.  In Jesus, we have received all of the grace, mercy, and peace that we could ever want or need.  Therefore, why aren’t Christians constantly demonstrating that a life with Jesus is joyful, celebratory, and just overall awesome?  We ought to attract people to the church quite literally by the fun there is in being a Christian.

Challenge: Start the day by celebrating and thanking God for five things He has done for you.  If you want to keep the good times rolling, call together some friends or neighbors, eat, and celebrate with them.

God’s Blessings,
Pastor Bill


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Red Letter Challenge – Day 10

September 19 – Day 10

“Being”

“And when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face.” – Matthew 6:17

To truly fast you ought to abstain from something important in your life, something you think you can’t go without, something that you will miss.  It’s in those moments of craving or missing that you can go to God with your thoughts and also thank Him that He does provide for your needs.

It is very easy to get caught up in this world with all of its distractions.  There are days when you may come home and realize, “I don’t think I spent any time with God today.”  Even if you were busy with important things, the fact is there were probably moments in the day that were wasted or moments when you could have included God.

Challenge: Go on a fast today.  Make sure you abstain from 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 social media, your cell phone, sports, television, etc.  As you are fasting, use those moments to pray to God and thank Him for His care in your life.

God’s Blessings,
Pastor Bill

 

Today’s devotion comes from the book “Red Letter Challenge,” by Zach Zehnder, pp. 64-69.


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Red Letter Challenge – Day 9

September 18 – Day 9

“Being”

 “Come with me by yourself to a quiet place and get some rest.” – Mark 6:31

Jesus wants to be our top priority.  We fill our lives with interesting and even important things, but fail to create time for Jesus, the most important thing!  We need to say “No” to many good things, so we can say “Yes” to the best thing.  What’s amazing is that we spend time, money, and energy on things that will let us down, but Jesus will never fail us.  He will never leave us or forsake us.  Many times we are focused on the wrong things.

We need to get more serious about spending quality time with God, even in times of solitude.  Jesus even modeled this for us.  Before He made difficult decisions, Jesus would often find a place to pray and rest, and He would pray all through the night.  If Jesus needed this time, how much more do we!

Challenge: Spend some time in solitude today.  Take your Bible with you and get away from all the distractions.  Try it for 30 minutes and if you are able, do it even longer.

 

Today’s devotion comes from the book, “Red Letter Challenge” by Zach Zehnder, pp.59-63.


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Red Letter Challenge – Day 8

Good Morning:

We continue our Red Letter Challenge (RLC) today on the topic of “Being.”

September 17 – Day 8

“Being”

 “Worship the Lord your God.” – Luke 4:8

Many people think of worship as something we only do on Sunday morning, but worship is much more than just being in church.  God is not confined to a building or a time frame, and neither is our worship.  Worship describes who we are 24/7.  Paul said in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.”  Paul is saying that our whole lives are worship.  Whenever we reflect the love of God, we are worshiping Him.

Worship should happen at church with others, but it should also happen at home on your own.  Therefore, everything you do could be an act of worship.  If you look at your life this way, it will start affecting the decisions you make on a daily basis.

Challenge: Worship God by listening to worship music.  Here are a few ways you can do this today:

  1. Listen to the music from our worship services on our website or the Holy Cross app.
       2.      Read through some of the Psalms.  Many of them have been put to music.
       3.      Tune into your local Christian radio station.

God’s Blessings,
Pastor Bill


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Red Letter Challenge: Day 7

Hello Everyone:

Our devotions this week will focus on the principle of “being” – spending time being with Jesus.  Every day our devotions will contain words spoken by Jesus and a “challenge” for the day on how you can put those words into action.

September 16 – Day 7

“Being”

“Pray Earnestly to the Lord…” – Matthew 9:38

Prayer is about being in a relationship with God, and God wants you to be who you are, with all your imperfections.  Prayer is not about coming to God with all the right words.  It’s not about saying everything perfectly.  It’s about talking, listening, and spending time with Him so you can grow closer to Him.  He wants you to tell Him what’s on your mind.

Prayer is the most powerful tool we have on this earth, yet for so many of us it is not a part of our regular daily routine.  It’s okay if you don’t know exactly how to pray or what to pray.  Even Jesus’ disciples had to ask Jesus to teach them how to pray.  God is glad when you come to Him in prayer.  Praying earnestly is the Challenge we are taking up today, but this discipline is truly meant to be a part of our daily lives.

Challenge: Spend some time today in prayer.  If you don’t know what to say, here is a model:

A – Adoration (Tell God what you love about Him.)

C – Confession (Tell God about the sins in your life.)

T – Thanksgiving (Thank God for His forgiveness and the blessings in your life.)

S – Supplication (Ask God for specific things that you need.)

God’s Blessings,
Pastor Bill


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Red Letter Challenge – Day 5

September 14 – Day 5

 “Going”

Scripture: (Jesus said,) “’Go back home and tell everyone how much God has done for you.’  The man then went all over town telling everything that Jesus had done for him.” – Luke 8:39

Many of us want to follow Jesus only when it’s easy and safe.  The moment it gets hard, we tend to lose faith and question God.  But safe and easy does not always make for a very exciting story.  If you recognized your life was telling a bad story, would you change it?”  As we start this Challenge, remember you are telling a story.  You have the opportunity to tell the story of Jesus by what you do and say during this 40-day Challenge.

The final week of the Challenge may be tough.  God will call you to stretch outside of your comfort zone.  On those days, the easy and safe thing would be leaving the Challenge without finishing.  However, when God calls you to go somewhere, you never go alone.  Jesus offers us a way of life filled with adventure, mission, and purpose.  Are you ready for the Challenge?  Let’s go, the Challenge is about to begin.

God’s Blessings,
Pastor Bill


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Red Letter Challenge – Day 4

Good Morning,

Today’s devotion is on the fourth principle of giving.

“Giving”

Scripture: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

The self-storage industry appears to be booming today.  We love our stuff!  We are rich, and yet we experience financial problems and stress like never before.  Our priorities have gotten out of whack.  When we care more about the stuff we’ve accumulated than helping those in need, when we care more about the money we’re making than spending time with our family, and when we look to the money in our bank accounts instead of looking to God for our security, we need to totally change our relationship to money.

In the fourth week of this Challenge, we will see that Jesus challenges His followers to be generous.  Just as we serve out of a response to God, we give because God first gave to us.  God showed His love for us by giving His Son.  Jesus showed His love for us by giving up His life.  When we give, we reflect the heart and character of our God.

God’s Blessings,
Pastor Bill


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Red Letter Challenge – Day 3

Good Morning!

Today’s devotion is about the third principle of serving.

“Serving”

 Scripture: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10

When you have received God’s grace (as was mentioned in yesterday’s devotion) you can’t help but want to do good.  However, we don’t serve God in order to get more from Him.  We already have Jesus.  He is the greatest gift.  We serve God because of everything He’s done for us.

While we cannot earn our way into heaven by serving others, God can use us to help save someone else.  Only the Holy Spirit can save someone, but the Holy Spirit lives inside all those who believe in Him.  That means He can use someone like you to help save someone else.  Therefore, you are more powerful than you probably realize.

Jesus had a heart for service.  When we serve, we reflect who our God is, and people will notice and be drawn to us.  During the third 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.

God’s Blessings,
Pastor Bill


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Red Letter Challenge – Day 2

Hello Everyone!

Today’s devotion is on Principle #2: “Forgiveness.”

“Forgiving”

 Scripture: “For it is by grace that 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.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

 Many times your couch can look really nice on the outside, but if you lift up the cushions you may find some things that shock you – money, potato chips, legos, and jewelry.  Our lives are like this.  On the surface many of us look great, but on the inside we may be a mess.  We carry around a lot of hurt and pain, and many of us feel like we are held captive to the past. 

 God doesn’t want you stuck in the past, because if you can’t let go of the past you’ll never be able to move into the future.  He has taken your mess and nailed it to the cross so you don’t have to keep beating yourself up about it.  He wants you to experience His grace.  God’s grace assures us that we are forgiven, as there is no sin too big that God did not die for on the cross.  The second week of our 40-day Challenge will focus on receiving God’s forgiveness and learning how to forgive others.

God’s Blessings,
Pastor Bill


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Red Letter Challenge

Hello Everyone!

Today we begin the “Red Letter Challenge,” a 40-day journey where we will seek to put the words of Jesus (the ones printed in red letters in your Bibles) into practice.  Each day this week I will be sending you a devotion based on 5 principles: Being, Forgiving, Serving, Giving, and Going.  The devotions this week will simply introduce the 5 principles.  Next week, the devotions will contain words spoken by Jesus and a challenge for the day to put the words into practice.  Today’s devotion is on the principle of “Being.”  I pray that our lives will be changed and our faith will be strengthened over the next 40 days. 

“Being”

 Scripture: “Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

Many of us are very good at doing things, but we often don’t know how to just be.  Before we do what Jesus asks us to do, we need to be with Him.  The first week of the challenge will be about spending time with God and we will consider different spiritual disciplines that will enable you to connect more closely to Jesus Christ.

A good way to follow Christ and to seek Him first is for our doing to flow out of our being.  Our doing flows out of who we are and who we become when we spend time with Christ. 

I pray that as you spend time with Christ that you will be anxious to start doing what He says and will experience a sense of peace in your life.  Over the first full week of the Challenge you will learn different ways in which you can be with Jesus.

God’s Blessings,
Pastor Bill


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Carol Aitken Called Home

Dear Family,

Carol Aitken was called home last Friday to live with God in His heavenly kingdom.  Carol struggled with some health issues recently, but we take comfort in the fact that since Jesus rose from the dead and lives today, Carol lives as well.  There will be a memorial service to celebrate Carol’s life this Sunday afternoon, September 8, at the church at 3:00pm.  Everyone is invited to attend.  Please remember her husband, Doug, and his family in your prayers.  I also invite you to pray the following prayer with me:

 

Heavenly Father, we give thanks for all the mercies You granted to Carol during her earthly life, especially for calling her to faith in Jesus.  Comfort her family and friends as they mourn her death with the hope of the glorious resurrection and a happy reunion in heaven.  Amen.

 

There will be a dinner reception after the memorial service at “Brick and Mortar” restaurant, located at 217 E. Main Street, in Clayton.  If you would like to attend, please contact Doug at FAC@nc.rr.com so he can let the restaurant know how many people will be attending. 

In God’s Service,
Pastor Bill


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