November 23 – Red Letters – “Let your light shine.”

Read Matthew 5:14-16

You are the light of the world – like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Light is fascinating!

  • Light can be seen in many different colors when it bends.
  • Light can be used to cut things when used as a laser.
  • Light can be mesmerizing when viewing the aurora borealis across the northern sky.
  • Light can also be used to explain the distance from one place to another. For instance, it takes one second for light to travel 186,000 miles.

Astounding!

Light is the first thing God spoke into existence. When there was nothing but darkness and a formless void, God said, “Let there be light.” In the New Testament, Jesus declared that He is the Light of the world. If we follow Him, we can have His light to guide our lives and the lives of others. Light works to reveal what exists and to lead us out of darkness.

Light reveals what exists. Light can be used to see in the darkness. Have you ever been without power? Recently, our electric was out for a few hours and it became dark in our house. I was home alone and I felt the darkness closing in around me as the sun began to sink. I felt myself get a little anxious as I couldn’t see what was around me either inside the house or out. I quickly lit several candles and placed them throughout the house. The tiny flickering flames brought me comfort. The light revealed that I was safe. God’s light is like that. It can unveil the truth of a situation. It can help you see that you are in danger and need to re-evaluate where you are at, or it can confirm that you are right where you need to be. Your light can affect others too. The light you shine through your loving deeds and obedience to God’s will helps others find their way to God. In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us to let our lights shine so that others will see the truth and praise our heavenly Father.

Light leads us in the right way. In Psalm 119, the familiar verse says, “You are a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” In life we may encounter dark moments or seasons and we need to reach for God’s light. His truth will reveal what is going on around us. It will also guide us to our next steps. It may not reveal what is at the end of the path, but it will illuminate our next step. Knowing God’s Word and memorizing verses will help us as we encounter tough moments in life. It will also allow us to help direct others in their journey. When our light shines and reflects God’s love to others, we are helping them see the truth.

Will you let your light shine? Will you shine brightly so that others will see Christ through you? Maybe you can sing the familiar children’s tune and focus on shining your light today.

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,

Let is shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

Tammy Finney

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November 22 – Red Letters – “I didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.”

Read Matthew 5:17-20

Do you value the Old Testament? In the red letters you read today, it is clear that Jesus did.

On the one hand, it is true that Jesus and His teaching were like new wine that could not be poured into old wineskins (Mk. 2:18-22). He is also the One, who instituted the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34). Still, His ministry and teaching did not replace or invalidate the instruction of the Old Testament.

In fact, in this passage, Jesus endorsed the Old Testament. He had absolutely no plans of doing away with it. In fact, He often cited it and even intentionally did things to fulfill it. In referring to the Law and the Prophets, He, in broad strokes, points to the validity of all of the Old Testament from Genesis through Malachi. In fact, He underscores the accuracy of each, every, and all the words of those 39 books. He makes it clear to us that the Father will see that every prophecy from the smallest to the largest is accomplished.

His endorsement of the Old Testament even reaches so far that He threatens punishment for those who disobey it or don’t teach it accurately. At the same time, He promises blessing to those who obey and properly communicate it. The scribes and Pharisees seem to illustrate this latter point. Although they honored God with their lips, their hearts were far from God. They had added requirements that reached far beyond the Law. They had expectations of others that they did not practice themselves (Matt. 23).

Keep this in mind. In pointing out the need for righteousness above that of the scribes and Pharisees, however, Jesus was not directing us to a performance-based approach to God. Your righteousness must not only exceed that of the Pharisees. You must attain perfection (Matt. 5:48). Not one of us is able to keep the demands of the Old Testament Law. No one but Jesus alone reflects that kind of perfection. Instead, the Law serves us as a reminder of God’s unattainable perfect standard, thus pointing us to the grace of God found in Jesus (Gal. 3:23-26).

These red letters, then, enable you to approach the Old Testament with confidence and with a better understanding of its purpose.

Steve Kern

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November 21 – Red Letters – “Don’t worry about tomorrow.”

Read Matthew 6:31-34

If you were to ask someone on the street, “What worries you?”, you could likely hear some of the following responses, if they were completely honest:

From the teenager: “I’m not sure I will make the grade or ever find someone to date!”

From the college grad: “I’m not sure I will ever get a job.”

From the new parents: “We aren’t sure how we will take care of this new life we were entrusted with.”

From the retiree: “Did I do enough to leave a lasting impact on my family and friends?”

You might just receive a common response that seems to be weighing on most people’s minds: “I just don’t know who is right to lead our country.” or “What will happen if myself or someone I know becomes sick?”.

There is not a lack of options for things that keep us up at night and occupy our thoughts. Some as minor as “Are the Browns ever going to be good?” to “I’m not sure if my business will ever recover from 2020”.

Telling yourself or someone else ‘Don’t worry’ is easier said than done.  The practice of turning off worry and turning on trust in Him takes time and dedication.  Anxiety and worry are the soul’s warning signal that it’s time to pray.  Whenever you start to feel a sense of panic that the situation is out of your control, stop, pray, and talk with Jesus…give Him all of your worries because He loves and wants to hear about what concerns us.

In today’s text, Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.” The writer encourages us to daily reach out in prayer to Jesus and give Him those ‘troubles’ that seem to derail our thoughts and cause us to stress and worry.  The key to reducing our worry and changing our thoughts toward Him is trust.  Trust that He cares for you, trust that He wants what’s best for you, and trust that even when we feel like there isn’t an out, He will make a way.

Will we always get what we pray for? No, but pray for an open mind and talk honestly with God.  Ask for Him to give you understanding of His will.  When we ask for God to teach us, He will mold our mindset through the difficult times that could set us up to help that teenager, college grad, new parent, or retiree to get through that difficult circumstance or situation.  Look for those opportunities today to help someone in that worrisome stage of life you persevered through with Jesus’ help and offer to pray for and encourage that person.

Drew Hilty

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November 20 – Red Letters – “Love the Lord your God.”

Read Matthew 22:37-40

There is love, truth and hope in the red letters.

What if we learned to love God and one another with nothing in return?

A musician named Noel Regney walked through the streets of Manhattan. He had just seen hopelessness and pain on the faces of the people that he passed on the street. It was 1962. There was a war of words and government operations called The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War was approaching the nuclear boiling point! The Soviet Union had missiles in Cuba, capable of striking the USA, just 90 miles away. It was the Cuban Missile Crisis. There were underground bunkers and tunnels that were built in both countries for protection. It was a place to hide.

Regney came home from his walk and, along with his wife, Shayne, wrote the carol “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Together. It is now a Christmas favorite. This carol’s lyrics are about the baby Jesus, loving God and praying for peace.

“Listen to what I say, pray for peace people everywhere.”

To love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength is to love God with everything you have to give.

WITH ALL OF YOUR HEART

The heart is the seat of affections in the Bible (Psalms 62:10b). It is also the seat of intellect (Genesis 6:5b) and of the will (Psalms 119:2b).  The heart is a muscular organ which pumps blood through the blood vessels of our circulatory system. Jesus is talking about loving God with all your heart, all your affection, all your intellect and all your will. Are you “all in?”

WITH ALL OF YOUR SOUL

With praise:

“Praise the Lord, oh my soul.” (Ps 101:1)

With priorities:

“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matt 26a)

Without fear:

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” (Matt 10:28)

WITH ALL OF YOUR MIND

Fix your eyes on Jesus (Heb 3:1). Be thankful.  Keep Jesus Christ in the front of your mind! Spend time in the scriptures every day.

LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF

Do you pray for your neighbor? Can you bring goodness and light to your neighbor?

There is love in the red letters.

There is truth in the red letters.

There is hope for the hopeless,

peace and forgiveness!

There is life in the red letters.

Tom Weckesser

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November 19 – Red Letters – “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s”

Read Mark 12:17

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching we start to think about the things we are thankful for. You might have even joined a Thanksgiving challenge on social media where each day in November you post one thing that you are thankful for. Your list might include names of friends, family members, maybe even your crazy Uncle Joe who you only see once a year at Thanksgiving.  Your extended list might include your pets, your school, your job, your home, and your health.

The Pilgrims on that first Thanksgiving were thankful just to be alive.  They had come through a really rough year of uncertainty when many of their friends and family had died through sickness.

Sound familiar?

Why don’t you take a minute and make your own list of things you are thankful for, if you haven’t done so already. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Now, go back over your list and put a check mark beside all the things on your list that were given to you by God.  There might be things on there that you obtained through hard work, but who gave you the ability to know what to do or the strength to get up each day to go to work?

Does your list include unseen things like your talents and abilities? How many of those talents are you giving back to God? Are you really good at explaining things?  So, are you using that to tell people about the love of God?  Are you good at talking to new people and making them feel welcome?  So, are you inviting people to church or serving as a greeter?  Are you good at music? Do you sing God’s praises in the choir or praise team?  The list of your talents could go on and on, but the question is:” What are you doing with them?”

Are you giving them back to God?

One thing that I am pretty sure is NOT on your list is paying taxes.  Nobody likes to pay taxes.  That was true back in Jesus’ time and is pretty much true today too.  Jesus looked at a coin and asked whose face was on it.  When the religious leaders replied “Caesar,” that is when He said, “Give onto Caesar what is Caesars!” In other words, pay your taxes.

Our money is similar in that on it there are pictures of Presidents and important people, but there is one thing different about our currency.  On the back is our country’s motto, “In God We Trust.” How often have you noticed it?  How much do you believe it?  Do you trust God with your life, your money and with all of the things on your list?  If not, why not?  Why not take a few minutes right now to give all of the people and things on your list back to God?  Ask Him to show you how you can start to trust Him fully with all you have including your money, your time, your talents and your life!

Then you will truly be giving unto God what is God’s!

Pat Arnold

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November 18 – Red Letters – “I have overcome the world!”

Read John 16:33

What better verse to be reminded of at a time like this in our country and the world!

In order to understand verse 33, you have to read the entire chapter and I challenge you to do so.

“…Yes, I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning…” (vs.4)

Whether it has been in the last few weeks or sometime in your life, I bet there was a point where hope may have been lost, or the next steps or future unclear. Well, that was certainly the case for the followers and disciples of Jesus.

In all of chapter 16, He spends the time not only warning them of what is to come, but also encouraging them with the power and strength that they will have in the help that is to come after Jesus has ascended into Heaven. What they can overcome because He has already overcome. He is encouraging them that the suffering which may come to them is only for a while.

He is reminding them that, even though darkness rises, He rises higher.

He is our hope because He has overcome the world.

When I think of this world, here are just a few things that come to my mind:  fear, anxiety, depression, miscarrying our second child, addiction, sadness, hurt people hurting people, unfairness… I mean, that’s just a few.  I am sure there are more that you can think of. May I remind you though, if you are a follower of Jesus, this is not your true home. We are more than conquerors!

When the time comes for us to ascend to be with Jesus forever, everything that we have on this earth disappears, and, with that, so will be the hurt and suffering we have experienced or will experience.

Jesus has overcome this world.

I don’t know about you, but with what is going on or has gone on in our country alone, this is a great encouragement. Listening to Jesus’ words, that this is not forever, is something I am constantly reminding myself of as well as my friends and family.

God is not surprised by anything that happens, though it isn’t His best for us. It’s because of this broken world we go through it, and, just as John 16 says, He has gifted us with His spirit to cling to in order for us to conquer through.

So, as John 16 says, remember the warning. Remember the power that Jesus has for overcoming this world and that you are a child of God. Remember that this is not your true home and remember that, no matter what is to come, God is not surprised because Jesus has overcome it and He is with us through it.

Kelly Lawson

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November 17 – Red Letters – “It’s not the healthy that need a doctor but the sick.”

Read Luke 5:31-32

I have volunteered at a local hospital emergency room for the past 10 years. People that come in are often very sick. Sometimes they’re on the verge of death. The Emergency Squad brought in a man one day who had a heart attack downtown near an ATM machine. I worked along with a nurse and gave the man CPR.

I have seen people sick with pertussis, emphysema, diabetes, epilepsy, stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease, influenza, pneumonia, heart disease, cancer and more. These people really need a doctor. People come into the ER who have been beaten up. You just never know what type of sickness the next person who comes into the ER might be experiencing.

Other times people come in and doctors can’t figure out why they came into the Emergency Room. They have a hangnail or need a band aid. Some people come in looking for illegal drugs because they are drug addicts and they make up a story that their back hurts. Some people come in who are not sick. They do not need a doctor.

I have seen people who are spiritually sick at the ER. They have had a difficult or even traumatic experience and they do not know what to do or where to turn. This is what Jesus meant when He said that healthy people do not need a doctor, but the sick do. Unbelievers are “spiritually sick” because they are separated from the Lord and stand in need of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

He is the cure!

They need a doctor. They may be someone who knows nothing about Jesus Christ. Just like I know nothing about birds. The cure is to build their life on the timeless truth of the teaching of Jesus. You know – the red letters of Jesus’ words. The cure is the knowledge that all scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).

Jesus said, “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt 9:12–13). Jesus compares Himself to a doctor who had come to help those who are sick. Matthew was a patient in need of healing. The sickness was sin, and Jesus was the doctor.

Regarding people who are spiritually sick, the Bible says they are more than sick – they are dead.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” -Ephesians 2:1

Believers may also be spiritually sick in that they are living in unconfessed sin or do not pursue Christian spiritual growth. Do you need a doctor?

Tom Weckesser

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November 16 – Red Letters – “…deny themselves, pick up their cross and follow Me.”

Read Mark 8:34-37

Large crowds were following Jesus.  He was healing the sick, bringing life to the dead.  Even at the touch of His clothes, a woman had been healed.  He had fed over 5,000 men miraculously and shortly after had miraculously fed over 4,000 men.  I’m sure it would have been amazing to witness these miracles or to have food in your stomach and be part of this crowd.  But Jesus was about to separate those who were fans from those who were His followers.  The fans wanted to witness and experience.  If you wanted to be a disciple, a true follower of Jesus, there was a cost involved.

In today’s reading, Jesus calls the crowd, along with the disciples, to Himself and drops a total game changer on everyone.  In Mark 8:34, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

It was more than being part of the crowd of spectators.  It was more than partaking in His miraculous feast.  It was more than simply hearing His amazing sermons.  It was total and complete life transformation.  First, He says to deny yourself.  Cease to put yourself as the object of your life and your actions and make following Him your priority.  And that is not all.  “Take up your cross”.  The Romans made the condemned criminals carry their own cross piece, on which they would be nailed, to the place in which they would be put to death.

Taking up your cross included being willing to suffer and possibly die for the sake of following Jesus.  Here in the United States, we do not face much, if any, persecution for our faith. However, all over the world, people have faced beatings and martyrdom since the very beginning of Christianity.  Following Jesus may result in costing us our very lives.  And there is one more thing:  Jesus says, “Follow me.”

Think for a moment about being somewhere you have never been.  There is just one guide, one person who can lead you where you need to go.  You cannot take your eyes off of them as they lead you on the path to where you are going.  You have no idea what you may pass on your journey to where you are headed, but, if you don’t follow closely, you can easily get distracted or even lost along the way.  Follow Jesus in such a manner that you don’t let Him out of your sight.

The great pastor Billy Graham once said, “Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost you everything.”  German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was killed right before the end of World War II, wrote in his powerful book, The Cost of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die”.  These things may seem harsh but, as Jesus tells us in today’s reading, “whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it (their life)”.

Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him.

Nate Mills

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November 15 – Red Letters – “Whoever drinks from the water I give them will never thirst again.”

Read John 4:13-14

“I’m dying of thirst!”  are the words we cry out as we wipe the sweat from our brow on a sweltering, summer day. Nothing quenches our thirst like a drink of water. Cool. Refreshing. Rejuvenating. Life giving. But temporary. We would be foolish to think that one drink will satisfy and sustain us for the rest of life. Absolutely not. It’s a daily necessity. We know that and she knew that. As she repeated the daily task of drawing water from the well, I can picture her confused and astonished face when Jesus told her that He had living water to give her so she would never thirst again.

With Jewish roots, she probably was familiar with the story of Moses and the miraculous way God provided water for the parched Israelites. Exodus 17 says that God stood before Moses on the rock, instructed him to strike the rock and water came out for the people to drink. She didn’t understand that the One who stood before her was both the Rock and the Living Water.

The source and the sustenance.

Come to the source, the Rock, the spiritual rock who is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4) who was struck and afflicted on the cross. Out of that Rock flows rivers of living water for you and me. Spiritual life-giving water that quenches the thirst our soul longs for. He is the Living Water that sustains us because He becomes in us a well of water springing up to eternal life.

Once we come to the source of the Living Water and receive our life-giving sustenance, He wants us to joyously draw water from the springs of salvation (Isaiah 12:3) and be an evergreen. As Jeremiah says, we do not need to fear when heat comes because we will never dry up. Our life is like a tree planted close to the water with roots that extend into the stream. Our leaves will be green and we will not cease to bear fruit. We are a river to others, always flowing from the source of our salvation, the Living Water, Jesus Christ.

Are you thirsty for more than this life here on earth has to offer? Jesus pleads for you to ask Him, and He will give you Living Water. Are your roots deep in the stream of His living water? Are you an evergreen or are you looking more like a dry and brittle bush? Come to the water, the Living Water. He is the source and sustenance of life and we never have to die of thirst again!

 Charline Engle

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November 14 – Red Letters – Leaving the 99 for the 1

Read Matthew 18:12-14

“Where is George?”

That is what I found myself saying several times a day a couple of years ago in my kindergarten classroom.  You see, I had a very sweet little boy in my class named George, who had a tendency to, as they say, “march to his own drummer.”  Consequently, every time I lined up my class and counted heads to make sure I had everyone in line, I would come up one person short, and I would say,” Where is George?” Since my goal at that time was for EVERYONE to get to where we were going, I would have to leave the class in line and go find George. Sometimes I found him singing to himself while he was swinging on a swing. Other times he might be examining a weed growing in a crack in the sidewalk.  Once, he was sitting cross legged yoga style under a Jungle Gym with his eyes closed and humming.  When I inquired what he was doing, his reply was, “I’m thinking!”  Though exasperating, George never failed to put a smile on my face, and I was so happy when he was found and back in line with his classmates.

My goal was for all of us to get to our destination.   I think that is the main goal of anyone who is in charge of others. That includes teachers, firemen, parents, soldiers, etc. We can’t leave anyone behind.  What mother or father has not stayed awake at night, praying for a wayward child?  What soldier doesn’t risk their own lives to save their brother and sister in uniform who might find themselves in danger?  Police or fire men and women literally climb through burning buildings or a hail of bullets to rescue complete strangers!

I am sure the shepherd in this story loved all his sheep but he, too, couldn’t leave even one lamb behind to fall prey to wolves or starve to death.

God is like that shepherd.  God’s will is for all of us to be with Him in heaven.  No man, woman, or child left behind! That is why He sent Jesus to rescue us from our sins and to show us the way to Him. That is Jesus’ mission still today.  The question is whether or not you will join Him in that mission.

Will you look around you and see the one “lost lamb” and bring him or her back to the fold?  Will you introduce the one who has never heard the gospel to Jesus?  Will you face the possibility of your own rejection from friends and co-workers for reaching out to someone who is wandering and in peril of falling prey to the people and things that want to destroy and devour him/her?

It might take some of your time. It might be risky! But someone, sometime, someplace took that risk for you! Now it is your turn.

It is time for you to join the mission, pass God’s love on, and not let anyone be left behind!

 Pat Arnold

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