DAY 20 RED LETTER CHALLENGE

How many times did you hear “Because I say so!” when you were growing up? As a kid, these were not my favorite words.  As parents, we love saying those words because there is no great comeback for it.  When our son was little, he talked A LOT and asked A LOT of questions.  Sometimes Pam and I enjoyed answering all of his questions but there were times when the questions never ended and finally we had to tell him to do something simply “Because we said so!”

We have spent the first two weeks of the Red Letter Challenge learning the importance of BEING with Christ and understanding how Christ has forgiven us and we are to forgive others. This week, we will take a turn and embark on a week of SERVING together. This week there will be a lot of “DOING” so it’s important that we understand why we serve. We don’t just do these things “because God said so,” or to make us feel good about ourselves or to look good in front of others.  Our motivation for serving others should flow out of our relationship with Jesus.  When we understand the grace, love and forgiveness we have received, we can’t help but want to do what God is asking us to do!  

John 13:4-10, 12, 14-15 NIV

“so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Jesus humbled Himself to take the form of the lowest of servants, all to teach His disciples a lesson. He turned the idea of a servant upside-down by taking on this dirty task, even though He was the most honored guest in the Upper Room. Jesus didn’t do this because He expected some form of payback. He didn’t expect anything in return at all. His entire earthly life was spent serving others. He could have stayed in heaven with the Father and the Holy Spirt. But, He didn’t. He could have controlled every aspect of life on Earth. But, He didn’t do that either. Instead, He established a ministry, fed the hungry, healed the sick, and even raised the dead.

Jesus showed us how to serve and make a difference in the lives of others.  I pray this week we will find the more we do what He is asking us to do, the more we find the abundant life we were made for.

 DAY 20 CHALLENGE

Leave sticky notes all over the house today with the acronym “BYSSIW” to remember our motivation for our challenges this week!



DAY 19 RED LETTER CHALLENGE

This week we looked at Jesus’ words regarding forgiveness. We have had to look deep within ourselves and allow God to speak to us and help us. Help us to to forgive others, drop our rocks of judgment, and understand the importance of forgiving ourselves, and even pray for our enemy. Today, we’ll see what it looks like to put the words of Jesus into practice! “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:11

Luke‬ ‭19:1-10‬ ‭
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
 

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

As a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus was responsible for a large tax district, and many other tax collectors worked for him. Tax collectors weren’t known to be the nicest guys in town, they were known as thieves and traders to their own people. They collected more then was due from the taxpayers and kept the excess for themselves! Even though they held positions of authority, they were thought of as low-lifes.    

However we see in this account Zacchaeus had an encounter with Jesus tht changed his life forever in an instant! Zaccheaus went from stealing from the people to giving back to the people all because of the change that occured when he met Jesus. ‭‭You see, genuine repentance involves more than simply saying we are sorry for our actions towards God and others. The fruit of repentance is that we have a desire to put right our actions. Now, it must be said that there are some wrongs that cannot be made right in an instant, but that is not an excuse to take no action at all. We should be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and put into practice what we know to be true in scripure in our lives.  

The fruit of action from repentance is clearly seen in the life of Zacchaeus. He repented of his sins and made restitution for his wrong actions. True repentance says “I won’t be prisoners, but now I tenderly care for those wounds. True repentance says, “I used to be deceptive in my business dealings, but now I live with integrity.” True repentance says “I haven’t taken my marriage vows seriously, but now I will demonstrate devotion and sacrificial love to my spouse.”  True repentance says “I once cheated people financially and now I will pay them back with interest.” Zacchaeus demonstrated this by committing to make things right, in front of Jesus and the crowd. 

God loves you more than you will ever know. And His desire is for you to turn from the things that keep you from growing closer to God. If you are willing to receive His forgiveness and make the effort to walk in the path of righteouness, He will use you to help others just as He used Zacchaeus.  You see… once Zacchaeus responded to Jesus, he was never the same again.

I know how great the feeling is when I get something that’s totally unexpected. I’ve often wondered how the same people that Zaccheaus cheated felt when he returned to their homes and gave them back all the money he had stolen from them and more! What an unexpected surprise that must have been. 
 
DAY 19 CHALLENGE

When we spend time with Jesus, He reveals to us the sin in our lives. Ask God to show you the areas in your life that you need to “LEAVE BEHIND.” Write down things that God reveals to you. After you ask Him to forgive you and give you the strength to truly turn awaY from these things. Beside each thing you have written down, write an action you can take to make things right or resist the temptation the return to your old ways again. 



DAY 18 RED LETTER CHALLENGE

Well, today is a tough one. Have you ever had a double-take moment or one of those awkward moments when someone says something that, when you first hear it, causes you to laugh, only to realize that it was in fact a serious comment?

A comment like: Love your enemies! Turn the other cheek! Give them the shirt off your back and your coat?

You have got to be kidding, Jesus! Well, Jesus wasn’t kidding. So today, we are going to look at what Jesus actually said about loving our enemies! One of the hardest things we’ll ever do. 

Matthew 5:43-47 NLT

You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.

I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t want to love my enemies. In my worst moments, I want to hurt them, gossip about them, undermine them, and generally make them pay. In my better moments, I simply want to ignore them, sideline them and ostracize them. If I am not in a position to retaliate, I can at least wait until someone or something else makes sure my enemy gets what they deserve! Then, I can sit back and gloat. I can enjoy the warm satisfaction of knowing that they finally got what was coming to them.

But Jesus says my enemy is the person I am suppose to pray for! In Christ, we are not to be people of vengeance and bitterness. We are to be people of forgiveness. As hard as it is, Jesus’ command is that we love our enemies. We simply cannot follow Jesus and hate others — even “others” who hate us. Time and time again, Jesus prayed for His enemies. Even in the midst of death and betrayal, Jesus still prayed “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” You may think this is an impossible command to follow and one that only Jesus could, but in Acts chapters 6 and 7, we find a story that let’s us know we can love and pray for our enemies too! This is the story of the Apostle Stephen.  

Acts 7:54-60 NIV

When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Stephen was facing death because he testified about Jesus’ love and grace for the world, and even as the crowd was stoning him, he fell to his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Praying for our enemies is hard, but notice in the passage above, Stephen was not alone. Scripture says “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit,” He couldn’t do it on his own, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, Stephen was able to pray for his enemies even as he died at their hand. If we are going to pray for our enemies, we will need the power of the Holy Spirit living inside us to give us strength to do the same. 
 
DAY 18 CHALLENGE

PRAY FOR THOSE WHO HAVE HURT YOU, ABUSED YOU, OR BECOME YOUR ENEMIES. THIS ISN’T EASY TO DO, BUT GOD WILL USE IT TO TRANSFORM YOUR HEART! WHAT DOES THIS LOOK LIKE? Pray that they might come to know Christ. Pray that God would bless their lives and help them. Ask God to soften your heart toward them. Pray that God might give you the strength to forgive them for any offense.



DAY 17 RED LETTER CHALLENGE

Yesterday, we learned we can never forgive someone enough. Jesus never said forgiving would be easy, but He did say we are to forgive over and over again. Even though this can be awfully difficult, it is for our benefit. Jesus never asks us to do something He would not do! This reminds me of the account of Jesus forgiving Peter his denial.

On the very day Jesus arose, the angel outside the empty tomb told the women to go tell Jesus disciples and Peter that He had risen and they would see Him again, just as He said. Peter may have thought the Lord would reject Him because of his failures, but instead, Jesus offered Peter forgiveness and restoration.

John 21:15-19 New International Version (NIV)

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Luke 24 tells us that Jesus met with Peter personally, reassuring him of His love for him. He could have written Peter off and chosen to use one of the other disciples for the mission He had planned for Peter. Instead, Jesus forgave Peter and put him back to work with the most important job ever: leading the first church!  Jesus forgave Peter completely and trusted him, not because he deserved it; but because He loved him.

You may be thinking, “Joe doesn’t know what’s been done to me! How can I just forgive and forget?” You’re right. I don’t know the hurt you have experienced at the hands of others.  Sometimes, these hurts go deep and require healing and a re-building of trust that was broken.

 I love the way Pastor Rick Warren explains this in his book The Purpose Driven Life.

Many people are reluctant to show mercy because they don’t understand the difference between trust and forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past. Trust has to do with future behavior. Forgiveness must be immediate, whether or not a person asks for it. Trust must be rebuilt over time. Trust requires a track record. If someone hurts you repeatedly, you are commanded by God to forgive them instantly, but you are not expected to trust them immediately, and you are not expected to continue allowing them to hurt you.”

Jesus loved Peter and no doubt experienced hurt and disappointment when Peter denied knowing Him three times. Jesus not only forgave Peter, He forgave those who condemned Him to die and nailed Him to a cross. What an example for us to follow! Now He calls us to be like Him!  There’s nothing that can be done to us or against us that we cannot forgive!   

DAY 17 CHALLENGE

If you’ve still been withholding forgiveness from someone who has done you wrong. Pray to God about forgiving that person. As a way of showing God you are letting go, raise your arms outstretched towards God with your palms facing up. In your own words, tell the Lord, you are ready to Let it Go!