21 Day Challenge

Day 21: Forgiven May

Read Ephesians 4:29-5:2

Here is my distilled version of a couple of things I heard pastor/teacher James MacDonald share on the theme of forgiveness:  “All enduring relationships require forgiveness.  We must grant one another many minor and several major “forgivenesses.’”  You can likely point to several healthy relationships where forgiveness has been humbly requested and generously extended.

Meanwhile, there may be relationships from your past that are tense or even cut off.  Why?  Because one party was hurt and forgiveness was not requested/extended.  Frankly, it seemed easier (maybe even more satisfying) to hold a grudge than to pursue forgiveness.

God desires reconciliation and restored relationships…between you and Him and between you and others.  It is no wonder, then, that Paul invites us to follow God’s example in Jesus Christ.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (v. 32)

Just as God does with us, we need to release others from the sense of obligation attached to the injury we experienced.  We must get rid of the growl attached to a painful memory of disappointment with a person.

God’s example of forgiveness is fast.

When we confess, He forgives without ponder it (1 John 1:9).

God’s example of forgiveness is thorough.

There is no sin that exceeds its limits (Romans 5:20, 21).

Today’s challenge will stretch you.

Steve Kern

Today's Challenge

Use your words to forgive.  Is there someone you have been reluctant to forgive?  Do it now. 

Begin by verbalizing it aloud to God:  “Heavenly Father, I forgive _______ for _________.”

Now, take the next step.  Intentionally, try to contact the person (Phone? Letter? E-mail?) if it is appropriate.  Perhaps your words could sound something like this:  “You know, it hurt me when ___________.  I just wanted to let you know that I forgive you.”

Day 20: Encourage! May

Read Ephesians 4:15

There I was sitting at my son’s soccer game, it was a warm, beautiful spring afternoon. The boys were playing well and it was so fun to watch them. But then it started to happen… not once but again and again and again. The ref made some boneheaded calls. No really, they were TERRIBLE! All of a sudden the warm, beautiful spring day was turning dark. OK, not really, but inside of me it sure was! I found myself SHOUTING at the ref. I let the ref know EVERY SINGLE MISTAKE he was making.

Then it hit me. It hit me hard, “Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth but only what is helpful in building others up.” I was convicted. I was deeply troubled honestly, as I wondered: “Did I lose an opportunity to share Jesus with those around me because of my response?”  Did I hurt the name of Jesus because of how I spoke?

Whoa! Let’s challenge ourselves today to watch our words. To be sure that what comes out of our mouths directs people TO Jesus and not FROM Jesus. That our words would be what the scripture says… words that BUILD OTHERS UP.

Tim Boucher

Today's Challenge

Send three Facebook messages or texts today to build others up.  Maybe one of them can be to one of your five?

This week find ways to encourage people with your words. Not just the words you say to them, but also the words they hear you say to others. What can we say this week to encourage people closer to Jesus?

Day 19: I would rather not have that conversation… May

Read Ephesians 4:15

Hard conversations. We have all been there, and if you are like me, you tend to avoid them.  Whether it is a neighbor whose words have hurt you or a family member that is acting inappropriately, it is so easy to sweep things under the rug and just move on.  Paul writes some challenging words to us in Ephesians 4:15,

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

Paul writes this chapter so that we will know how to become mature and united as a body of believers.  So often I would rather speak words of affirmation and encouragement. Paul reminds us that we need to also speak the difficult truth as we are speaking in love.

Randy Moomaw

Today's Challenge

Is there a hard conversation that you have been avoiding?

Is this a conversation that will bring someone to a more mature relationship with Jesus? Ask God for wisdom, choose your words carefully, then take a step of obedience and speak the truth wrapped up in love.

Day 18: How do you want your words remembered? May

Today's Challenge

Write a few sentences about how you want your words to be remembered.

How do you want your words to be remembered?  Decide what kind of words you want coming from your mouth. Take some time to write a few sentences about how you want your words remembered.  Dream about what could happen if you spoke with the mercy Jesus had. Read the following verses to get started thinking.

Psalm 19:14
Ephesians 4:29
Exodus 20:7
Proverbs 25:11
Colossians 3:8
Proverbs 15:23

Day 17: Apologize May

Read Numbers 5:6

I’ve messed up and said the wrong thing a handful – OK, hundreds of times. Like when I told my grandma, “That’s the best ugly Christmas sweater I’ve ever seen!” The problem was it wasn’t an “ugly” Christmas sweater. We’ve all had those moments; we’ve put our foot in our mouths. Horrified we wonder how we could have possibly let them slip. In James 3:3-6 the Bible tells us- though small, the tongue is powerful. If controlling it seems hard, that’s because it is.

With an example like that it’s easy to figure out who owes the apology, but what about lost trust, senseless gossip, or broken promises? It’s far easier to direct the blame anywhere besides our general direction. How do we provide resolution to a relationship damaged by words? We must learn to take our foot out of our mouth, so that we can use our words to form an apology. Just like I had to with my grandma.

When we apologize we are doing two things:

  • Owning it! – We recognize our wrong doing and take responsibility for it.
  • Producing an opportunity to heal! – For all involved.

A sincere apology is always difficult. You may not be forgiven. However, if we are the wrongdoer, we have the power to begin to make right our wrong decisions.  In Numbers 5:6 the Lord says,

“Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the Lord is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed…”

If we never learn to use our words to admit when we are wrong, we’ll never have the opportunity to right them.

Carlin Tiano

Today's Challenge

Apologize, take your foot out of your mouth.

When was the last time you put your foot in your mouth?  Who in your life needs to hear an apology from you? If a name came to mind, it’s time to use your words to apologize.

Day 16: Text a Prayer May

Read Ephesians 6:18

I’ll never forget my first day full-time at Grace Church.  Emotions were running high:  excitement, insecurity… the works.  I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. My first email was from Pastor Nick, and had a solid 30 ‘tasks’ to complete that week for High School Ministry. I had just come off an internship the summer prior so how we communicated tasks was nothing new, but the types of tasks were new, and several were well beyond my comfort zone. The second email I had was from someone in our church welcoming me to the staff, but instead of the typical, “I’m praying for you!” she actually wrote out a prayer for me as I started this adventure. I wish I could explain the weight that was lifted and the encouragement that I experienced just from these simple written words.

This verse from Ephesians reminds me of her and the impact that she and her prayers have made in my life,

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18

As many of you know, the second section of Ephesians 6 talks about putting on the full armor of God, verse 18 follows the description and importance of each piece of armor.  Paul writes to us and reminds us that not only do we need to be prepared clothing ourselves with his armor but then says,

AND pray…”  Let’s not forget to pray on all occasions for all the Lord’s people today.

If we each took this seriously today and faithfully prayed for someone, can you imagine the power our words could have?  They could change somebody’s life.  They could change somebody’s outlook on the day, just like the email I received 8 years ago changed my perspective for that day and so many more in the future.  That email is still filed away in my inbox, and her words still speak powerfully to me the hope and encouragement I can find in Jesus.

Rachel Snyder

Today's Challenge

Write out a prayer for someone today!

Can you imagine the impact we could have if we all took a minute and wrote out a prayer to someone and sent it to them today?  Write a prayer out for them in an email, a postcard, a facebook message, a sticky note and give it to them this week!  I’m sure it will be saved, remembered and cherished.

Day 15: The Best Ever May

Read Colossians 1:15-28

My wife and I have different tastes in TV channels. Vicki likes HGTV and I watch with her but not with a whole lot of passion (maybe for fear something will get put on the ‘honey-do’ list). I watch sports, regardless of the season. It took me 367 days to delete the Ohio State Buckeyes national championship game win. We have finally found some common ground in TV on The Food Network.

Recently we’ve enjoyed the show featuring many the personalities of the Food Network called “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Food Network chefs describe the dishes they love to eat and make you believe it’s the best thing they’ve ever eaten. They TELL you about every detail. It’s made us wonder, “What’s the best thing we ever ate?” Cheesecake from Junior’s in New York City? Tacos from Casa Guadalajara in San Diego? Nick’s Fish & Chips in San Francisco? Giordano’s pizza from Chicago? Fillet mignon from Lanning’s in Akron? Humus from Nazareth Village in Israel? All unbelievable dishes. I could tell you all about each one of them!

That’s how we are. When we experience something awesome, we tell people about it. That’s how it is with Jesus too. He’s better than the best thing you’ve ever eaten. Jesus is better than anyone or anything anytime or anywhere. And the Apostle Paul said so in Colossians.

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” – Colossians 1:15-20 (NIV)

In verse 18 he says Jesus should have the supremacy which literally means to hold first place. Jesus is the best ever and a personal relationship and friendship with Him is the best thing ever. When you’ve discovered the forgiveness, grace, freedom, hope, and life change available in and through Him you are forever changed. It grips you so much that you must TELL others. Look at what Paul says in verse 28,

“He is the one we proclaim” – Colossians 1:28 (NIV)

To proclaim means to announce, make known, or preach. We talk about Jesus because He is the best! If you cannot break into an immediate description about what makes Jesus the best in your life perhaps you don’t know Him personally or you’ve been settling for a lesser dish on the menu than all He offers. Jesus has changed my life and I can’t help but tell others about it.

Nick Cleveland

Today's Challenge

Know the best, and tell the rest.

Do you know the best? If so are you ready to tell the rest? Ask God for opportunities and words today to share with others about Jesus and how he’s changed your life.

Day 14: Getting a Fresh Start Again May

All of us have said something, thought something, or done something we’ve regretted. If we could do it all over again, we would. If we could take it back we would. And we’d do it different. Aren’t there times you wish you could just start over? Start with a clean slate? Take a mulligan? I know there are for me.

What if I told you that was possible? What if I said you could start again? What if it were possible to have a clear conscience?

You can. It’s called repentance. But most people don’t get what it means. The failure to repent is the greatest obstacle for growth for most Christians. We tend to be pretty good at confessing – that is, agreeing with God that we’ve done wrong – but we generally aren’t very good at repenting. But repentance is the key to moving beyond your past and charging forward to the future God has for you.

The prophet Jeremiah gives a good definition of repentance. To a people who were in desperate need to be reconciled to God, he says,

“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.”
Lamentations 3:40

That’s repentance: (1) take responsibility for your sin, (2) turn away from your sin, and (3) turn toward God and His grace.

Repentance is not rationalizing your sin. You also can’t minimize it, excuse it, or blame someone else. Repentance is not merely agreeing with God that it’s wrong. Repentance is turning from what you’ve been doing wrong and start doing what’s right. Repentance is literally a change of mind. I stop wanting to do it my way and start doing it God’s way.

David reflected a change of mind in his Psalm 51. Did you catch it? After a lengthy confession and expression of remorse over his sin, he said,

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me… grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.”
Psalm 51:10, 12b

David was asking God for a change of mind – a steadfast spirit and a willing spirit – a spirit desiring the things of God.  That’s repentance.

David Lawson

Today's Challenge

Pray (speak!) Psalm 51 out loud.

What do you need to repent of? What sinful habit or attitude have you been excusing or living with for years?  Follow the advice of Jeremiah, pray the prayer of David (you might even want to read it out loud) and move on with your faith in Jesus Christ.

Day 13: Rumor Has It… May

Read Proverbs 18:8

It’s that time of year. My husband and I will have dirt under our fingernails and aching backs… All that hard work pulling weed after weed, only to find that a couple of days pass and we are at it again. But, if we don’t keep up with it, they will choke the life out of all the beautiful flowers and plants in our yard.

Rumors. They are a lot like weeds. They invade and choke the life out of God’s desire for our day. They allow for Satan’s plan to go into action… distraction.

Here’s the reality: we all hear rumors, we’ve probably all spoken them too.

We spread rumors. We gossip. It’s easy to do. It’s sometimes even fun. We want to be ‘in the know.’ We want to enjoy the juicy information that someone knows about someone else. We are nosey! We don’t always care if its fact, we just want to be involved with the office or neighborhood chatter.

It’s harmless, right? Not so much.

The Bible says in Proverbs 18:8, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.”

Just like those weeds in my flowerbeds. Rumors multiply, invade, and cover the beauty in our hearts. Proverbs warns us that gossip is tempting, and it is. I don’t think any of us would debate that. It also warns us of the effects of gossiping. It gets to us, to our core. It gets inside and rots.  It’s sin.

Are you a rumor weed?

Heather Pasteur

Today's Challenge

Don’t spread the weeds!  We’ve got enough outside already.  

Today choose the best for your heart. You woke up this morning, you read this devotion, you prayed and now it’s time to start your day. But today is different, because today you aren’t going to leave your faith inside the Bible you just closed. Today, you are going to choose the best for you.  Today, you are going to hear a rumor. You are going to be tempted to spread that rumor. But today, you are going to change your reaction!

Make the choice to make today different.

Day 12: Use Words of Grace May

Read Ecclesiastes 10:12

The wisdom of Proverbs is striking and challenging. The contrast in this verse is between several things. You can be a fool or someone who is wise. You can use gracious words or get swallowed by your own foolish words.

The words you use reveal who you are. They either mark you as a fool or they radiantly shine with wisdom.

It’s easy to be foolish with your words. Like when we speak nonsense or talk about things we know nothing about. Sometimes we even go aimlessly on-and-on about one topic to another rambling into a discursive digression.

The wise person, however, uses gracious words. It’s the difference between someone saying too many things in a foolish manner to someone speaking truth with love and grace. When you catch yourself going aimlessly along with your lips flapping, then stop. Take a deep breath and use gracious words.

Words of grace are simple, courteous, positive and polite.  Say, “Thank you.”  “You’re welcome.” “My pleasure.” “Good job.” “Wonderful!” “You’re getting it now.” “Keep up the good work.” Being impolite is foolish. Being polite is wise.

Don’t use words of disgrace, but use words of grace.  Then, you will no longer look foolish, but wise.

Daron Butler

Today's Challenge

Today let’s use words full of grace.

80 words of grace to use for children, but anyone can use these words of grace for anyone. You can either use words to disgrace to be foolish or offer words of grace to be wise. 

Day 11: Safeguard Your Heart May

Read Psalm 19:7-14

When I bought my first car I spent a ton of time getting people’s thoughts about what I should get. Their reviews mattered to me. I knew if I heard enough positive reviews, saying a particular car was the “go-to” car, super trustworthy and the perfect driving experience, I’d land on the best investment.

So far my car has met and exceeded the reviews I was given.  Wouldn’t it be great if there were trustworthy customer reviews for all of life? Even for the tough stuff, like guidance, direction and purpose in life?  Good news, there is.

You can be certain that the bible is your perfect, “go-to” tool for guidance and direction AND when you invest time into understanding, thinking, trusting and remembering it, your life will change. Take a look at this customer review from one of the authors of Psalms:

“The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.”
Psalm 19:7-8

The Bible works. All the time and every time. Take the challenge today to immerse your life with scripture. It will safeguard your heart. It will change the way you speak (to yourself and others).

Ben Framstad

Today's Challenge

Fill your heart with the right stuff.

If you currently have a plan for reading the bible, read today until you find a verse that challenges you. If you don’t have a plan, begin by reading Psalm 19:7-14. Write a verse or two on a sticky note and stick it in your regular path at home or at work. Read it every time you walk past.

Day 10: Sticks and Stones May

Read Proverbs 12:18

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That phrase is one of the biggest lies ever told. I can vividly remember mean things that were said to me when I was 12 years old in the 7th grade. Twelve years later I still remember.  Words stick and words can hurt.

“Reckless words pierce like a sword.”
Proverbs 12:18

When we speak without thinking, our words often times become reckless and reckless words have the power to hurt. They become a dangerous weapon. We have, at one time or another, experienced both ends of this, either hurting with reckless words or we are the one being hurt by words. What if went from reckless to intentional?

The second part of that same verse explains that “the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Intentionality with your speech can bring healing. Stop and think about who you can encourage today. Maybe you need to bring healing to a relationship by apologizing to that person whether that’s a family member, co-worker, or friend.

Even more than the words that hurt me when I was younger, I remember the encouragement I got from a coach or that time when I felt drained at work and my boss told me he was proud to have me on staff.

You have the opportunity to make an impact on someone’s day by speaking life and encouragement to them.

Corey Rehm

Today's Challenge

Speak life

Start by writing the name of someone you want to encourage. Pray for them and go intentionally speak life and healing into their life.

Day 9: Confess May

Read 1 John 1:9

If there is one thing I don’t appreciate about being human, it is the issue of sin. Sin is one of the least popular teachings of the Christian faith. We like to pick and choose what to believe and can end up not choosing to believe in the reality of sin. Wouldn’t it be great if we could always pick and choose what we wanted and get the same end result? Regarding exercise, there are people who hate cardio and love to lift and vice versa. What if we could just lift and be completely physically fit? What if we could pick and choose whatever we want to eat and call it healthy? It is the same way with faith. We want to take all the good things about Christianity (heaven, encouragement, answers to prayer) and leave out the harder issues like sin and the daily struggle we have with it.

The reality of sin is never changing. From the very beginning of time, sin has ravaged our race and has caused wars, genocides, immorality and other horrendous acts. Denying the existence of sin and our need for a Savior is futile. Sin is the reason Jesus came to earth in the first place. If we claim to be without sin, the death of Jesus would be pointless because His death forgives and purifies believers from their sin and unrighteousness.

John is writing to a church with some members claiming to be without sin. He is telling them of the reality of sin but that forgiveness is real! He begins by stating that all we need to do is confess. This involves us laying aside our pride, knowing full well that we struggle with sin and knowing that Jesus alone holds the key of reconciliation.

What do you need to confess? Are you too prideful to admit that you have fallen short? Romans 3:23 is simple, “ALL have sinned”. “All” is a 100% word, it includes everybody. The only way you find fulfillment and reconciliation is confessing where you have been wrong.

Jake Lawson

Today's Challenge

Use your words to confess to God.

Start the process of reconciliation.  We have to stop denying the existence of sin in our lives. Lay aside your pride today and confess.

Day 8: Heart Check May

Read Luke 6:45

My grandfather died of a heart attack when I was just a little boy. Two of my uncles also died from the same problem.  It’s not a secret to say that we have a family history of heart disease. And I’m trying to prevent a heart problem as much as I can. I exercise regularly, try to eat healthy food, don’t smoke, take certain minerals and even track my blood pressure. In fact, you could say I do those things “religiously.”

I wish I could tell you that I’ve always paid the same attention to my spiritual “heart.” Truth is… I haven’t. One sure sign that I’ve neglected my spiritual heart is the words I use.

At this point in my life, I’m usually not tempted by profanity.  Spiritual heart disease more often shows up in me through impatient or thoughtless words. It’s no wonder Jesus reminded us to pay attention to the condition of our spiritual hearts since,

“…what you say flows from what is in your heart.”

Luke 6:45b NLT

Furthermore, if the second greatest command is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), shouldn’t I be concerned that spiritual heart disease will impact the words I use with my neighbor that I’m supposed to love?

Could I challenge you to do something? Take your blood pressure.  Use the blood pressure machine in your house or at your doctor’s office or drugstore to determine what your physical blood pressure is. Use that little exercise as a reminder to assess the condition of your spiritual heart.

Pastor Bob

Today's Challenge

How is the condition of your spiritual heart?

Ask yourself, “What have my words said today about the condition of my spiritual heart?” Then, ask God to give you the grace and insight to write a note from your heart to someone who might need to hear a word of encouragement today.

Day 7: Take a stand, a friend, a pastor, a hike. April

Read Matthew 18:15-20

“Take a stand, take a friend, take a pastor, take a hike.”

I heard this line in high school many times as I sat in mission trip training. This particular principle came from Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:15-20, where he speaks about resolving conflict and it’s stuck with me ever since!

If your life is like mine, conflict is something that can come around often. So what do you do about it? I believe God has given us a pattern here to use our words to seek reconciliation with another person. Check it out:

Step 1 – Take a stand (v. 15)

First, go to the other person and talk to them about the conflict. Humbly point out where they have wronged you and seek resolution. Notice here that Jesus says to do this privately – that means that you shouldn’t post about it on Facebook.

Step 2 – Take a friend (v. 16)

If step one doesn’t work, take a friend or two along and have them speak into the conflict. Remember, we’re seeking reconciliation – no ganging up!

Step 3 – Take a pastor (v. 17a)

At this point, if nothing else has worked, it may be appropriate to talk to a pastor who knows the both of you and ask him to mediate. He can help the two of you see one another’s side and to ultimately find the resolution God desires.

Step 4 – Take a hike (v. 17b)

If all else fails, it’s time to drop it! Give up the fight and pray for the person instead. Ask God to help you interact with that person with love and to bring about reconciliation in his time.

Billy Starkey

Today's Challenge

Deal with conflict.

Is there a relationship that came to mind while reading this? Make today the day that you start dealing with conflict according to Matthew 18. Your words can be used to bring resolution out of conflict.

Day 6: Expect the Best! April

Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-13

We live in uncertain times. The events around the world cause us to live in a constant state of mistrust. Ever noticed? Have you noticed how cynical we are? We tend to assume the worst in people. When we see a homeless person asking for money we jump straight to the conclusion that they are too lazy to find a job. When we walk in a parking lot late at night and we see a man that looks different than us we speed up our walk in fear of danger. The sad truth is we are living our lives expecting the worst from the people around us, which according to these verses is the absence of love.

These verses are packed with so much, but I want to focus on one key phrase in this passage. [Love] always hopes (v. 7). Hope is the one characteristic of love that can change cynicism into tender heartedness. Jesus is the perfect example of always believing the best about us even though we have only given him reason to believe the worst. Look at this verse from the book of Romans:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

Love sees the best in other people. Jesus saw through our broken sin filled lives and focused on the amazing potential we have in Him. In the same way we are challenged to see the best in the people around us. We are called as followers of Christ to always have hope for the future. To always hope for the best in each other. Love, just like Jesus’ love for us, is the only way for us to break through the barrier of our cynical hearts and allow us to see the best in other people.

Taylor Fike

Today's Challenge

Expect the best!

What if today you decided that you were going to look at every person exactly like Jesus looks at you with hope for the best? Try that today with your family, your friends, and your co-workers. Looking at people the way Jesus sees them can drastically change your words towards them.  Instead of tearing people down today because of what you assume, see the best in them and love them with your words.

Day 5: Just a few words can make all the difference! April

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:11 & Hebrews 10:24

A number of months ago I was getting coffee at the drive thru of one of our favorite local coffee shops, the person in front of me purchased my coffee and instructed the barista to let me know how they appreciated what I do at Grace Church and that it makes a difference. I didn’t recognize the vehicle nor the person inside and they quickly drove off before I could say thanks. Their words were timely for a rough season in life and they gave me renewed hope and encouragement to press on.

Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians were also timely as the church was experiencing discouragement. He was calling them to be encouragers, to find ways to “build up” one another. We are called to do the same, and far beyond any temporal reason or circumstances, we have all the reason to “build up” one another because of the great hope we have in Christ!

I have been challenged to be more intentional about looking for ways to encourage and build up others. Hebrews 10:24 instructs us to “consider” how to stir up one another to love and good deeds.

I think the first steps in being good encouragers is to make time to prayerfully consider how we can  really build someone up, ask God to make us aware of opportunities and act upon them.

I have too often felt the “nudge” and didn’t act on an opportunity. Then, there are times I acted and saw God do some really cool things from a few words of encouragement! Make time today to put this into practice and see what God can do!

Brad Frederici

Today's Challenge

Be an encourager today. 

Just a few words can make all the difference. Don’t miss the opportunities that God puts along your path to build someone up.  Just a few words can change somebody’s day.  Think of 3 people you can encourage today and ask God to show you more opportunities throughout your day.

Day 4: Survey Your Words (Part II) April

Read James 3:3-12

It’s all too easy to do and say things online that we might never in person.  When we sit at our computers or hold our phones in our hands, we feel more safe and empowered.  It gives us the ability to say whatever is on our minds, whenever we want for ANYONE to see!  We tend to remove the filters we’ve installed for face to face interactions.  You know, those little mental safety nets that keep us from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time… well sometimes.  Yet, when we get online, it’s like that all goes away and whatever is in our mind spills out onto the page or the post.

James tells us that the tongue is a small, but holds great power.  Words are powerful… and dangerous.  They can have great effect on the person they came from, the people they’re directed at, or even innocent bystanders!  Why do we act like its different online?  Words out of our mouth or words online are both coming from the same heart. James challenges us as believers to be consistent with our words.

“…blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!”
James 3:10 NLT

It’s taken me a while to learn this lesson… that who I am online matters just as much as in person.  I know all too well that urge to spew out whatever I’m feeling.  I would be lying if I said I’ve never complained about the checkout line at Walmart or spouted off something out of sheer emotion in response to a post I took offense to. Social media is an easy outlet, but we can be better than that and so much more! In order to keep my words in check on social media, I’ve had to learn to ask myself some questions before I post or comment. Take a few minutes today to take a survey of your words online.

Matt Carter

Today's Challenge

Would you commit to asking these questions before you post or comment on social media this week?

  1. Is this encouraging or tearing down?
  1. Is this displaying gratitude or complaining?
  1. Is this offering hope or promoting fear?
  1. Is this striving for connection or seeking attention?
  1. Is this practicing contentment or feeding insecurities?
Day 3: Survey Your Words April

Read James 3:3-12

I’m guilty. I don’t always think before I speak. I’ve used my words to hurt. I like to throw the last punch, have the last word. I say things I don’t mean. I’ve broken promises to people that I care about. I have to fight for control of my tongue. I’ve let life get the best of me and muttered unkind words, even yelled profane words.

One too many times I’ve ended a family kitchen conversation with words I wish never came out of my mouth. Usually with a joke and a smirk, but never really understanding in the moment how deep those words can cut. And since I’m being honest, the basketball court used to have complete control of my tongue. I used to put my jersey in my mouth just to keep my mouth shut.  Sometimes today I wish I still had that jersey to force me to be quiet.

In a matter of seconds, I’ve given away a secrets I swore I’d keep, I’ve said unkind words that pierce deeper than intended, and even let words out of my mouth that never had a place in my mouth to begin with. And until I force myself to sit down and evaluate, my words come and go as they please. I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) that I’m not doomed, but that I have to be intentional about my words.

Are you the one in control of your tongue?  Take a quick survey of your words today.

Rachel Snyder

Today's Challenge

Take a minute to survey your words and start taking control today!

  1. Who/what is in control of my tongue?
  2. My words are powerful, have I been thoughtful or careless with them?
Day 2: Allow for a “l o n g e r   p a u s e” April

Read James 1:19-21

I am not proud of it, but it is true about me. It seems that as I get older, the length of my fuse gets shorter.  My impatience seems more pronounced. After all, things obvious to me ought to be obvious to others, right?  Other people should think the way I do, right?  I know… as I mature in Christ, the whole age/fuse ratio should be working in the opposite direction.  But it doesn’t seem to be.  As a result, this is an area where I have to be very intentionally sensitive to the instruction God gives.

Talk about practical instruction!  Look at verse 19 again:  “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  God’s plan for my increasing age and decreasing fuse length is simple.  His plan for how you process and use words is clear:

Do lots of listening – We need to listen; I mean, really listen! We dare not start to formulate our response while the other person is still talking.  We must be attentive to what others are saying.

Allow for a “l o n g e r p a u s e” – We have to watch that we don’t react so quickly.  Take time to process.  Think before you speak.

Give a Spirit-filled response – After weighing what was said and contemplating how to respond, we are to speak words that please Jesus, not ones filled with impatience or anger.

Steve Kern

Today's Challenge

Allow for a “l o n g e r   p a u s e”

So, today’s challenge is simple but difficult at the same time.  It sounds easy enough, but it will be challenging to change our natural patterns of selective listening and quick, perhaps even unfiltered talking.   Here it is:  Pause and listen! Think before you speak. All day, allow time before you reply to others!

Day 1: Praise God with Your Words April

Read Luke 19:40

I love Sundays!  I can’t wait to get to church every week and celebrate the work of Jesus in my life and in the lives of others.  Even though I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, I love singing at the top of my lungs, expressing the gratitude and love and admiration and appreciation I have for God and the transformational love He’s extended to me in the person of Jesus Christ.  And I love praising Him with all of you.

But for me, it’s not just Sunday, and it’s not just worship music.  Julie and I have learned to praise God with our words at other times.  Like when we see Him moving in the life of someone we love.  Like when He brings us through a challenging time of ministry.  Like when we see life change in someone through salvation.  Like when He reveals something “just for us” in our regular time in the Word.  Like when we sit down at our meal, recognizing that He is so faithful to graciously provide us with all we need… in great abundance!

Praise is necessary.  We were built for it.  Being created in His image, we have been uniquely wired to praise God. Unashamedly. Unreservedly. Unrelentingly. But for praise to be praise, it has to be expressed.  It has to make its way from our hearts past our lips.

In today’s verse Dr. Luke tells of a time when Jesus’ followers “began joyfully to praise God in loud voices…”  The religious elite decided that was too raucous a celebration, so they told Jesus to shut it down.  Jesus would have none of it.  He said, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

That’s one thing you don’t want on your spiritual record when you face Jesus: the stones praised God better than [insert your name here].  God’s going to be praised.  He deserves it. Only He is worthy of it.

So which will it be for you?  Stones or you?  Someone else or you? Let’s be a church that praises God every chance we get… and let’s make it loud.  Let’s make some joyful noise and make our Heavenly Father smile! And then let’s get together Sunday and “raise the roof!”

Dave Lawson

Today's Challenge

Read – or shout – a verse in Psalms out loud every day this week. Here are some to get you started.  

Psalm 96:4

Psalm 145:3

Revelation 4:11

Psalm 34:1

Psalm 63:3-4

Psalm 113 1-3

Psalm 106:1