Flashback Episode — Remembering His Life and His Death: Luke 22:14-20


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On the night Jesus was betrayed, He shares a supper with the disciples and while this supper was officially the Passover meal for Jesus and His disciples that year, Jesus takes this special, yearly meal, and He gives it new significance. This special meal, called the Last Supper, is one of the most symbolic and significant traditions Christianity has kept while moving forward through history.

Let’s read what Jesus does and how He turns this Passover celebration, and points it to His mission. While we could read this event from several of the gospels, let’s read it from Luke’s gospel. Our passage is found Luke, chapter 22, and we will be reading from the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 14, Luke tells us that:

14 When the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table with the apostles. 15 He said to them, “I have wanted so much to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer! 16 For I tell you, I will never eat it until it is given its full meaning in the Kingdom of God.”

17 Then Jesus took a cup, gave thanks to God, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. 18 I tell you that from now on I will not drink this wine until the Kingdom of God comes.”

19 Then he took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.” 20 In the same way, he gave them the cup after the supper, saying, “This cup is God’s new covenant sealed with my blood, which is poured out for you.”

What Luke has just described is the foundation of the Last Supper that is celebrated at various times depending on the church. I’ve visited churches that celebrate this as a part of their weekly meeting, and I have visited churches that celebrate the Last Supper only once a year.

There are churches who celebrate this meal with little tiny wafer crackers and half-an-ounce glasses of grape juice, while other churches celebrate this with a larger meal and/or different forms of wine. When the Bible speaks of wine, it simply means that it is juice from grapes, and it makes no distinction here whether this juice was fermented or not. In other places in the Bible, new wine likely refers to fresh grape juice, while old wine likely refers to grape juice that has fermented.

However, what is it about the bread and the wine that makes it special?

Well, first, Jesus tells the disciples that He will not drink this wine again until the Kingdom of God comes. This is an interesting thing to say, because it tells us that Jesus is waiting in Heaven for His return before drinking this drink again. This points us forward to the second coming as being something we should look forward to, and it tells us that Jesus is looking forward to sharing this special drink, and probably this very special meal that will go with it, when He returns the second time.

Between today and when that special meal will happen, we have symbols in both the bread and the wine that we can remember.

The first symbol Luke tells us is the bread, which Jesus gave thanks for, broke it, and gave it to the disciples. Jesus’ body was given as a sacrifice for others; Jesus’ body was given as a sacrifice for you and for me. When we eat the special bread that is prepared for this occasion, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice that took our place. We deserved death while Jesus didn’t. He died our death so that we could live His life.

The second symbol is the symbol of the cup with the wine in it. This wine represents Jesus’ blood, which is poured out for us. On the surface, this second symbol sounds very redundant to the first, because both symbols point to the death of Jesus. However, I believe when we look at what Jesus’ blood represents, we see a greater picture of what He did for us.

In the Old Testament, the blood represented the life of a person or an animal. It was partially for this reason that Jews were instructed to not eat or drink an animal’s blood. When we take this symbolic meaning and see that Jesus poured out His blood for us, we could just as easily say that Jesus poured out His life for us. This is significant because the symbol of the wine draws together both Jesus’ life and His death, and it leads us to the clear conclusion that everything Jesus did, said, or gave was for others. Jesus gave Himself both while He was alive as well as through His death for you and for me!

While the bread symbolized Jesus’ body and Jesus paying the price for our sins, the wine symbolizes the life Jesus lived and the life that He offers to each of us when we accept Him into our lives and our hearts! Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life, and He offers to give us His perfect life and His perfect record in exchange for ours. Jesus also offers us a new life with Him in a new heaven and a new earth when sin and death have been destroyed!

This is definitely something I am looking forward to, and I imagine you are looking forward with me to the day Jesus returns and we share the first “Last Supper” together with Him for eternity!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As always, be sure to seek God first and always intentionally place Him first in your life. Be sure to remember what Jesus has done for you, through His sacrifice, through the life that He gave, and through the life that He offers to each of us. Remember that our reward will last longer than any trial or challenge we face today and that is one reason we keep moving forward with God!

Also, as I always challenge you to do, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn first-hand what God wants to teach you. Pastors, authors, speakers, podcasters, or anyone else for that matter can have ideas worth thinking about. However, with all the conflicting ideas present in the world today, test everything with what you read and study in the Bible. The Bible is the safest foundation to have when times, cultures, and traditions seem to change with each generation.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or drift away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 24: With bread and wine, Jesus takes and symbolizes what He has done for us, and what He offers us in replace for our sinful lives. Discover how the Last Supper communion ceremony points us to remember what Jesus has done for us, and what He offers us as a reward for accepting His gift.

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Seeking His Kingdom: Matthew 13:44-52


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Jumping ahead in Matthew’s gospel, we come to a series of parables Jesus shares while He was alone with His disciples that together show us a powerful picture of God’s character and love for us. While often we might think of the first two parables in this set as referring to us doing the majority of the work, when we look at this set as a whole, we get a completely different picture.

Let’s read what Jesus shared and what we can learn from this set of parables. Our passage is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 13, and we will read it from the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 44, Jesus continued sharing with the disciples, saying:

44 “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man happens to find a treasure hidden in a field. He covers it up again, and is so happy that he goes and sells everything he has, and then goes back and buys that field.

45 “Also, the Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man is looking for fine pearls, 46 and when he finds one that is unusually fine, he goes and sells everything he has, and buys that pearl.

47 “Also, the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Some fishermen throw their net out in the lake and catch all kinds of fish. 48 When the net is full, they pull it to shore and sit down to divide the fish: the good ones go into the buckets, the worthless ones are thrown away. 49 It will be like this at the end of the age: the angels will go out and gather up the evil people from among the good 50 and will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will cry and gnash their teeth.

51 “Do you understand these things?” Jesus asked them.

“Yes,” they answered.

52 So he replied, “This means, then, that every teacher of the Law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of heaven is like a homeowner who takes new and old things out of his storage room.”

In our passage, we find a set of three parables, with a bonus, one-verse, fourth parable right at the end. In the bonus parable, we find Jesus making room for those who are teachers of the Law to become disciples in the Kingdom of heaven. From this bonus parable, it seems that the teachers of the law who become disciples have an advantage over the teachers who don’t become disciples, and over the disciples who were not teachers, because only the teachers of the law who become disciples can bring out and blend both old and new truths.

However, the real focus of our passage is the first three parables that together make a neat set. What is unfortunate is that too often the parables are split apart and shared separately, or the first two parables are shared without the third.

I can understand why the first two parables get more attention and while the third parable is a little more concerning. The third parable focuses on the judgment and it includes people being thrown away. The third parable calls those who were thrown away as worthless fish.

However, Jesus shares these three parables in a set, and all three of these parables build on each other to give us a picture of what God’s Kingdom of heaven is like. In the first parable, the Kingdom of heaven is described as a treasure hidden in a field. This treasure is so valuable that when a man finds this treasure, He sells everything so that He can buy the field that contains this treasure.

While the first parable is often shared with the focus placed on you and me finding the Kingdom of heaven and valuing it like a treasure, since this is a parable about the Kingdom of heaven, God is present in it. In this parable, God could be the treasure, or He could be the man who sold everything.

The context of this parable allows for either interpretation. God gave up everything to purchase the field called the earth, and this is because this field had treasure in it. Also, we are called to give up everything for God, because God’s treasure is more valuable than anything we currently own or have.

The second parable is similar, however, this time, the Kingdom of heaven is compared with a merchant, who finds a pearl of great value, and he sells everything he owns to buy this pearl. Again, since this is a Kingdom of heaven parable, we should look for God represented in this parable, and again, this parable only gives us two options. God is either the merchant, or the pearl of great value.

Similar to the first parable, both interpretations work. God as the merchant sold everything He had to purchase the pearl of great value, which He did through Jesus. God valued us so much that He gave everything He had to redeem us from sin. God is also a pearl of great value and we are called to give up everything we think is valuable in order to gain God and His unusually fine pearl-treasure.

Before jumping into the third parable, it is interesting that these two parables are similar but also opposites. The first parable of the treasure in the field has the Kingdom of heaven being represented as the treasure while the second parable of the pearl has the Kingdom of heaven being represented as the merchant. I think both the interpretations for both parables work because each parable has a slightly different focus. The first parable is likely focused on us seeking God as our treasure, while the second parable is likely focused on God seeking us as His pearl of great value.

The third parable seems different, but it shares the same theme of looking for things of value. However, Jesus shares the interpretation of the third parable and He attributes this third parable to the end of the age. When Jesus returns at the end of the age, the angels will separate the evil people from the good and they will throw the evil people away – specifically into the fiery furnace.

As a side note: reading this reminds me of Daniel’s three friends facing the fiery furnace because they chose to only bow and worship God, not the king’s statue. In an interesting twist, those who are evil, who have chosen anything and everything but God will ultimately face God’s “fiery furnace”.

However, the big focus of this third parable is God collecting His people at the end of the age and saving them from this sinful world. This third parable leaves no vagueness because Jesus clearly shares what the parable means.

All three of these parables together form a big truth that we are to seek and give up everything for God’s treasure, God gave up everything for us because we are His treasure, and at the end of the age, God is going to return and rescue His treasure from this world of sin.

This is one of the only places in the gospels where the disciples respond saying they understand Jesus, and I really believe they did. After Jesus returned to heaven, every one of the remaining disciples gave up everything, including their lives, for the gospel message. The disciples’ lives are an example for us what it means to see God’s kingdom as our treasure!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life and value God like the man valued the treasure in the field. Understand that what God offers us is more valuable than anything we could ever hope to earn or acquire on our own, but we must give up ourselves in order to gain what God has promised us.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn how much God values you and me. God gave up more than we possibly could imagine purchasing us out of sin because He values us like the merchant valued the pearl of great value. Praying and studying the Bible helps us discover just how much God really loves us and how much He gave to redeem us!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or be discouraged away from walking with God to where He wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Matthew – Episode 23: In a set of three short parables, Jesus expands our view of God’s Kingdom of heaven, how valuable God’s kingdom is compared to this world, and how valuable we are in God’s eyes that prompt Him to do something incredible for each of us!

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Flashback Episode — The Fateful Choice: John 13:18-30


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On the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested, He shared a supper with His followers. During this supper, Jesus tells His followers that one of them would betray Him, and He singles that person out. However, in spite of how clear this all is described, we discover that the disciples still did not understand what was happening until it was too late.

Let’s read what happened when Jesus singles out the betrayer, and see what we can discover. Our passage picks up right where our last episode’s passage ended, and it’s found in John’s gospel, chapter 13, and we will be reading from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 18, Jesus continues speaking to the disciples while eating supper, saying:

18 “I am not talking about all of you. I know those I have chosen. But this is to bring about what the Scripture said: ‘The man who ate at my table has turned against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now before it happens so that when it happens, you will believe that I am he. 20 I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send also accepts me. And whoever accepts me also accepts the One who sent me.”

Let’s pause reading here because I want to draw our attention onto two big ideas. First is that Jesus knows He will be betrayed, and He is clearly aware of who the betrayer is. Jesus states clearly that He knows who He has chosen, and this statement implies that Judas Iscariot may have been brought into the twelve disciples through an invitation Jesus gave, but something was missing after the three years that kept Judas from being “chosen”.

However, we can get a clue about Judas Iscariot in the second big idea. Jesus finished this section off by saying that whoever accepts Him also accepts the One who sent Him. Earlier in John’s gospel, we discover in one of the most famous verses, that God – and this refers to God the Father – loved humanity so much that He gave us His Son, so that those who chose to believe in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. By accepting Jesus into our hearts and lives, we are also accepting the One who sent Jesus, and this is God the Father, and His Holy Spirit.

However, did Judas Iscariot accept Jesus?

Let’s continue reading to see if John tells us the answer. Continuing in verse 21, John tells us that:

21 After Jesus said this, he was very troubled. He said openly, “I tell you the truth, one of you will turn against me.”

22 The followers all looked at each other, because they did not know whom Jesus was talking about. 23 One of the followers sitting next to Jesus was the follower Jesus loved. 24 Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus whom he was talking about.

25 That follower leaned closer to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus answered, “I will dip this bread into the dish. The man I give it to is the man who will turn against me.” So Jesus took a piece of bread, dipped it, and gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered him. Jesus said to him, “The thing that you will do—do it quickly.” 28 No one at the table understood why Jesus said this to Judas. 29 Since he was the one who kept the money box, some of the followers thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the feast or to give something to the poor.

30 Judas took the bread Jesus gave him and immediately went out. It was night.

In this last portion of our passage, a number of things stood out in my mind as we read it. However, the first big thing is the answer to the question I asked earlier. Verse 27 started by telling us that “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered him.

This verse gives us the key piece of the puzzle when asking the question about whether Judas had accepted Jesus or not. If Judas had accepted Jesus into His heart, God would have been present there, and if God was present there, Satan could not have entered Judas. Instead, we discover that even after three or more years being a disciple of Jesus, Judas Iscariot was well aware of Jesus’ miraculous support from God, but he had not taken the step towards letting his belief rest on Jesus and He had not spiritually let Jesus into His heart.

In last week’s passage, John told us about Peter and his response to Jesus’ foot washing. I believe that John is subtly contrasting Peter with Judas here, because Peter was all in. While Peter initially wasn’t willing to accept Jesus’ gift of foot washing, when Jesus explained the necessity of it, Peter wants Jesus to wash more of him than just his feet. While Peter stumbled in many ways, we can see from his actions that He was passionate about Jesus.

On the other hand, we don’t discover much about Judas Iscariot, except that most of the gospel writers tell us repeatedly that He would be the one who betrayed Jesus. John tells us that Judas was a thief, and that Jesus challenged Judas’ condescending remarks towards Mary about her gift.

But another interesting observation I had when reading this is that Judas had the choice whether or not to accept the bread from Jesus. While Judas was on the path of betrayal, he could have refused the bread Jesus was handing him. While the other disciples seem clueless that Jesus is exposing the traitor, Judas would have clearly understood what accepting the bread meant.

If God had been in Judas’ heart, Judas would have politely refused, and we would not have the first part of verse 27 in our Bibles. Verse 27 begins by telling us: “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered him.

If we remove the first conditional statement in this sentence, the second one disappears. If Judas refused the bread, Satan would not have entered Him, and it is possible this would be the beginning of Judas letting Jesus into His heart. Judas had the choice whether to accept the bread from Jesus, and Judas accepted both the bread and the role of betrayer in one instant. After Judas had accepted this role, Satan entered him and the last stages leading up to the cross begin.

Judas Iscariot was not forced to accept the role of betrayer. God did not predestine him to this role. Jesus did not invite him to be a disciple on the condition that three years later, he would betray Him. Judas chose the role of his own free will, and simply because God saw this happen, and because it was predicted before the events took place, everything hinges on Judas’ choice to accept the bread.

This means for you and I that even though God knows us so well that He knows what we will choose, we still have the freedom to choose when the moment comes. When we face temptation, regardless of our past, we can choose a new path moving forward. While our past lives might be full of sinful decisions, Jesus came to take care of our past when we choose to accept Him into our lives, accept the One who sent Him, and to turn away from the sin in our past. Jesus came to give us a new life with God, and God is inviting us to grow with Him for eternity.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As always, be sure to seek God first and when faced with the choice, always choose to do God’s will, to make the decision that will please God, and/or to choose to love and help others. Trust Jesus that our past has been dealt with when we make the choice to accept Jesus into our lives, and to move forward with Him.

Also, as I always challenge you to do, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself and grow closer to God each and every day. Intentionally strengthen your personal relationship with God and let Him lead you into the truth He wants to teach you through His Word.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, or drift away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 23: When Jesus offered Judas a piece of bread at the last supper, did Judas have to accept it? If Judas had refused this gift, would that have changed His life? Discover what we can learn from Judas Iscariot and his fateful choice.

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Forgiven or Unforgivable: Matthew 12:22-37


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As we continue moving through Matthew’s gospel, we come to another miracle Jesus did that led into Jesus teaching and challenging those present. From one simple miracle, we find a powerful teaching that forces us over 2,000 years later to make a choice.

Let’s read what happened and discover what we can learn from this event. Our passage is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 12, and we will read it from the Contemporary English Version. Starting in verse 22, Matthew tells us that:

22 Some people brought to Jesus a man who was blind and could not talk because he had a demon in him. Jesus healed the man, and then he was able to talk and see. 23 The crowds were so amazed that they asked, “Could Jesus be the Son of David?”

24 When the Pharisees heard this, they said, “He forces out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons!”

25 Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said to them:

Any kingdom where people fight each other will end up ruined. And a town or family that fights will soon destroy itself. 26 So if Satan fights against himself, how can his kingdom last? 27 If I use the power of Beelzebul to force out demons, whose power do your own followers use to force them out? Your followers are the ones who will judge you. 28 But when I force out demons by the power of God’s Spirit, it proves that God’s kingdom has already come to you. 29 How can anyone break into a strong man’s house and steal his things, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can take everything.

30 If you are not on my side, you are against me. If you don’t gather in the harvest with me, you scatter it. 31-32 I tell you that any sinful thing you do or say can be forgiven. Even if you speak against the Son of Man, you can be forgiven. But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven, either in this life or in the life to come.

33 A good tree produces only good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. You can tell what a tree is like by the fruit it produces. 34 You are a bunch of evil snakes, so how can you say anything good? Your words show what is in your hearts. 35 Good people bring good things out of their hearts, but evil people bring evil things out of their hearts. 36 I promise you that on the day of judgment, everyone will have to account for every careless word they have spoken. 37 On that day they will be told that they are either innocent or guilty because of the things they have said.

In this passage, we find what is often referred to as the unpardonable sin, and we find a challenge for us that we will have to account for every careless word we have spoken. Unlike other passages where people are judged based on their actions, this passage challenges us with the truth that we are also judged innocent or guilty because of our words.

This passage is challenging on a number of levels and in a number of ways, but that shouldn’t stop us from digging in and seeing what we can learn.

At the start of this passage, when Jesus casts the demon out and heals the man, the people wonder out loud if Jesus could be the “Son of David”. This reference is clearly Messianic because the Jews believed at that time that the Messiah would be a descendant of David.

However, the Pharisees heard what they were saying and were quick to challenge this idea. They show their prejudice by not looking at what Jesus was doing, but by attributing Jesus’ good works to Satan.

This is where I am amazed at Jesus’ response. First, Jesus challenges the logic of the Pharisees. If Satan has somehow decided to fight himself, then he is his own worst enemy and his kingdom won’t last. Also, Jesus wasn’t the only one in the first century casting demons out of people. There were even Pharisees in other parts of the country who healed people in this way. Jesus challenges the logic of the Pharisees that some people used God’s power, but other people used Satan’s power. This doesn’t make much sense when brought to light.

Then Jesus gets even more challenging. Jesus polarizes the conversation by saying that either you are on His side, gathering in the harvest with Him, or you are against Him and scattering the harvest. There is no middle ground.

However, Jesus then promises forgiveness, but He does so in an interesting way. He tells those present in verses 31 and 32 that “any sinful thing you do or say can be forgiven. Even if you speak against the Son of Man, you can be forgiven. But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven, either in this life or in the life to come.

We can be forgiven if we decide to come to Christ after being against Him. However, if we ally ourselves against the Holy Spirit, we will never be forgiven according to Jesus’ teaching. This is what is often known as the unpardonable sin. I’ve heard many different ideas regarding this verse over the years, but the biggest challenge I see included here relates to where we choose to place our focus.

For many of God’s people who are paying attention to the world’s events, we can see glimpses of how God is moving in the world today in order to bring everything towards a conclusion. This moving of God is another way of saying that we see evidence of His Holy Spirit moving in the world around us. When we see spiritual things happening and are openly skeptical about it, our skepticism pushes God away. If we continually push God further and further away, we have alienated our only hope of salvation.

Another way to say this is that by pushing the Holy Spirit out of our lives, we are also pushing away the only Source that can lead us to forgiveness and repentance. Speaking against the Holy Spirit pushes Him away and by pushing the Holy Spirit away, we reject God and His offer of Salvation. Salvation is found through believing in Jesus and placing our faith, hope, trust, and belief in Him. This can only be done when we ally ourselves with the Holy Spirit and let Him lead our lives and our focus. Without the Holy Spirit, we are lost in our sin and destined to pay the penalty for our rejection of God.

Jesus finishes off by challenging us to pay attention to the actions, words, and attitudes of those in the world around us. Someone who is good is going to produce positive things, while someone who is bad is going to produce negative things. “Good people bring good things out of their hearts, but evil people bring evil things out of their hearts.” (v. 35)

While life appears to be a lot more complicated than Jesus tells us in this passage, this truth is intuitively understood. When Jesus returns and the world is judged, our only hope is Jesus. While this passage doesn’t share how God can change people’s hearts, their minds, or their attitudes, when we let the Holy Spirit into our lives, we let God transform us into the people He created us to be. With the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will have placed our faith, hope, belief, and trust in Jesus.

If you are worried or concerned about having committed the unpardonable sin, let me put your mind at ease by saying that your worry or concern is the Holy Spirit trying to draw you into a relationship with God. Someone who commits the unpardonable sin is unlikely to ever care about committing it.

However, it is also worth noting that Jesus did not share this message to people who were on the fence about believing in Him or not. Jesus spoke this challenge to a group of Pharisees who were already prejudiced in their opposition of Jesus, and who were trying to tell others that the Holy Spirit’s power that Jesus used to heal and help others was really the power of Satan. If you haven’t told others that Jesus came from Satan and used Satan’s power to heal people, then you shouldn’t be concerned about breaking this unpardonable sin.

Instead, let right now be an opportunity to return to God if you are on the fence, ask Him for forgiveness for your past sins, and choose intentionally to step into a new life with Him!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life and place your faith, hope, trust, and belief in Jesus. If you are concerned about having sinned, take time right now to ask God for forgiveness. If God has been challenging you about a part of your life that He doesn’t like, choose to repent and to turn away from whatever that thing is. God wants the best for you, and sin is never a blessing.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. Through prayer and study, discover what God wants to teach you from His Word and grow your personal relationship with God closer and stronger with every minute spent together.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or worry yourself away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Matthew – Episode 22: After healing a demon-possessed man, Jesus is challenged by a group of Pharisees over where He gets His power to heal and help people. You may be surprised at the strong language Jesus challenges this group of Pharisees with, and how this message is relevant for our lives today!

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.