Flashback Episode — Healing One Man: Luke 8:26-39

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As Jesus traveled around from town to town and village to village, crowds flocked to see Him and in probably every case, included in each crowd were dozens, if not hundreds, of people bringing themselves or friends of theirs to be healed by Jesus.

However, there was one man who needed to be healed by Jesus, but there was no way to get Him to Jesus. It is in this case that Jesus, prompted by the Holy Spirit, crosses the lake specifically to meet this one individual and heal him.

Three of the four gospels share this event, and for our podcast episode this week, we will be looking at Luke’s version of this event, which can be found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 8, and starting in verse 26. Reading from the New International Version, Luke tells us that:

26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

Some people might read or hear this story and think that Jesus doesn’t like pigs. This angle of the event completely misses the big picture. All of the pigs in that herd were destined to be killed at one point or another, and so it made little difference exactly when that would happen – that is, except for the pigs owners and those tending the pigs.

However, while the demons likely didn’t want Jesus to gain popularity in another part of that region, they preferred an exit that demonstrated how extensive in number they were – and an exit like this would certainly attract attention.

But the biggest idea of this event that I see is that Jesus made the trip across the lake for this one man. Matthew references the idea that there were two men, but regardless of the exact number, Jesus was willing to go to someone who needed help but who was unable to come to Him. Our passage begins with Jesus sailing across the lake to this man, and it concludes with Jesus being asked to leave and Him setting sail back across the lake.

This brings out another big idea: Jesus is happy to negotiate and He doesn’t want to force Himself onto others. When the demons know that they have been caught, Jesus is willing to grant their request for a different exit plan than the one they feared. Once the townspeople came out to see what the commotion was, they were scared of Jesus and asked Him to leave.

About the only person or thing in this passage that doesn’t get their request answered is the man who Jesus healed.  Luke tells us in verse 38 and 39 that “The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” I’m sure that the man was happy to witness for Jesus, but that he would have rather become a disciple like the twelve that were with Jesus.

This brings us to a third big idea: Sometimes our mission isn’t to travel with Jesus but to share what Jesus has done for us. While our lives in the 21st century are different, as our relationship with Jesus is different than literally walking with Jesus in the flesh, we don’t have to pick between leaving our world behind to follow Jesus vs. sharing what Jesus has done for us. While all of us are called to leave our past, sinful lives behind, and while many are called to travel as missionaries, with the Holy Spirit and a regular time alone in prayer with God and our Bible, we can be with Jesus wherever we are at, which leaves us with the challenge to share with others what Jesus has done for us.

Jesus was willing to cross the lake to help one individual who could not travel to Him, and He is more than willing to do the same for us. Jesus is willing to come as far as He needs to in order to reach our hearts – and after He has touched our lives, He calls us to tell others what He has done for us.

Our stories are our testimony and they are the best invitation for others to invite Jesus into their lives as well. Jesus isn’t interested in forcing His way into our hearts, but He is more than happy to enter when invited.

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

If you haven’t invited Jesus into your heart, I invite you to do so today. Ask Him to come in and change your life from the inside into being more like the person God created you to be. If you have already asked Jesus into your heart, and/or when God has done something significant for you, choose to not stay silent and share with others what He has done.

Also, while it is easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and doing ministry, be sure to take time to personally pray and study the Bible for yourself. Now that Jesus is in heaven and we have been promised the Holy Spirit, when we pause, pray, and study our Bibles, we are able to draw close to God and Jesus through the Holy Spirit and we are able to learn what He wants to teach us. If you depend on me or anyone else for your spiritual truth, you are limiting what God wants to teach you personally.

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

Flashback Episode: Season 3 – Episode 16: Cam discusses an event where Jesus travels across the lake to heal one man who was unable to travel to see Him. In this event, we can learn a number of things about God’s character and His love for sinful humanity.

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Ready for His Return: Matthew 24:36-51

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In response to a question several of the disciples have regarding the time of the end and Jesus’ return, Jesus challenges all His followers throughout time by including an interesting parallel. Mixed within this parallel is the topic of date setting and predicting the end of the world, and this seems to be a favorite activitiy of various groups of people throughout history. However, it’s strange in my mind that a startling percentage of these predictions come from people who should know Jesus’ words at the opening of our passage because many of these end-of-the-world theorists have a Christian background and they are clearly predicting Jesus’ return.

Our passage is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 24, and we’ll be reading it from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 36, Jesus continues by telling His disciples:

36 No one knows the day or hour. The angels in heaven don’t know, and the Son himself doesn’t know. Only the Father knows. 37 When the Son of Man appears, things will be just as they were when Noah lived. 38 People were eating, drinking, and getting married right up to the day that the flood came and Noah went into the big boat. 39 They didn’t know anything was happening until the flood came and swept them all away. That is how it will be when the Son of Man appears.

Let’s pause here for a moment to focus attention onto an interesting piece of information: If Jesus doesn’t know when He will return, it makes no sense to think that a clever, or even an “inspired” human would be able to figure it out. Also along these same lines, it is illogical to believe that God would tell a sinful human His plan before telling His own Son!

However, what if Jesus now knows when the end will be while He didn’t when on earth with his disciples? It is definitely possible that at some point between Jesus’ return to heaven and now, Jesus has asked and received the definitive answer regarding His return and the end of our world. However, Jesus makes no indication of wanting to ask or know specifically when, which leaves us with our illogical problem: If Jesus doesn’t know when He will return, it seems like wasted energy for us to try to figure it out.

Following this statement, Jesus makes an interesting comparison to the time leading up to the flood. Prior to the flood, people were going about their lives as normal, and the end of their world happened without them being prepared. However, in Noah’s world, plenty of signs and warnings were present that should have prompted the people to pay attention. While it might be easy to tune out a preacher carpenter after a number of years of preaching and building, when the boat was finished, and animals started miraculously coming to take their place on the boat, that should have at least turned some heads. The only way those in Noah’s generation missed the boat was because they were ignoring the signs and warnings around them.

The parallel in our world is that we can be easily distracted away from paying attention to the warnings that our world is ending soon. Jesus continues in verse 40 by describing how His return will be both subtle and a surprise:

40 Two men will be in the same field, but only one will be taken. The other will be left. 41 Two women will be together grinding grain, but only one will be taken. The other will be left. 42 So be on your guard! You don’t know when your Lord will come. 43 Homeowners never know when a thief is coming, and they are always on guard to keep one from breaking in. 44 Always be ready! You don’t know when the Son of Man will come.

Let’s pause reading again. Many people believe what we just read relates to a secret rapture, but the context of this passage and verse tell us this is Jesus’ return. However, why then do these verses seem to describe a subtle return while other passages describe a return where there is so much turmoil that the earth feels like it will fall apart?

I believe the answer lies in the focus of these verses, and specifically what Jesus is describing and what He is not.

Nothing in these verses describes what takes place the minute Jesus returns. Instead, all it tells us is what people are caught doing when He appears. This passage basically tells us that the day Jesus returns will start like pretty much any other day. People will be getting up, going to work, and His return will be a surprise.

This passage doesn’t focus on the trauma of the world breaking apart at His arrival, but to the important truth that being ready for His return is an internal thing. Being ready for Jesus is a matter of where our hearts and lives are focused, and on our relationship with God. While our outward lives might not look significantly different, God knows our hearts, our minds, and our focus, and these things play an important role in our salvation.

Jesus challenges us again with the clear statement that we don’t know when He will return. While it doesn’t say that we will never know, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that we won’t know it until it happens. Jesus describes His return like a thief trying to catch a homeowner off guard. While Jesus isn’t going to come secretly to steal His people away, His return will catch everyone who isn’t paying attention to the warnings around them off guard.

While believing in Jesus and trusting in His sacrifice leads to salvation, Jesus finishes our passage by telling us what we should instead focus on. Up to this point, we have seen how it isn’t worth our time or energy to predict or speculate regarding the date or time He will return. Instead, let’s finish our passage and discover what He wants us to focus on instead. Continuing in verse 45, Jesus asks:

45 Who are faithful and wise servants? Who are the ones the master will put in charge of giving the other servants their food supplies at the proper time? 46 Servants are fortunate if their master comes and finds them doing their job. 47 You may be sure that a servant who is always faithful will be put in charge of everything the master owns. 48 But suppose one of the servants thinks that the master won’t return until late. 49 Suppose that evil servant starts beating the other servants and eats and drinks with people who are drunk. 50 If that happens, the master will surely come on a day and at a time when the servant least expects him. 51 That servant will then be punished and thrown out with the ones who only pretended to serve their master. There they will cry and grit their teeth in pain.

The conclusion to our passage describes in a broad way what we should be focusing on. Those who Jesus calls faithful and wise servants are the ones who are doing their job when the master checks in on them. Faithful and wise servants are responsible regardless of whether the master is present or absent, and regardless of whether the master is only gone for minutes or whether he is gone for millennia. It’s possible that Jesus’ return will be after we have died in this life.

However, we are called to focus on something different. It is not up to us whether we will be alive when Jesus returns, or resurrected when He appears. Instead, God brought us into the world at the time He did because He has a task for us to accomplish. While our role in the world might look different from everyone else’s, the ultimate task God has given each of His servants is to lead people to Jesus. In everything we focus our attention on, we should focus on the ultimate task of a faithful, wise servant, and that task is modeling Jesus’ love for others while leading people to Jesus.

All of God’s wise and faithful servants will be saved when Jesus returns, and this includes both those who are living at the time, and those who have been awaiting resurrection.

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

As I often begin each set of challenges by saying, be sure to seek God first and be sure to focus on the highest calling a faithful and wise servant of God can have, which is leading others to Jesus. When Jesus returns, the only thing that will matter is whether we have given our heart and our lives to Him and the only relationships that will survive are with those who have also placed God first. This is why it’s important we share Jesus with everyone. If we want to see someone in heaven, we need to help them grow a relationship with Jesus!

Also, always be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself, because a personal relationship with Jesus is the only thing that matters when He returns. While pastors, speakers, authors, or even the occasional podcaster can give you some interesting thing to think about, always take what you hear or read and test it with what the Bible says. When we test words and ideas through the Bible’s teaching, we discover God’s truth.

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

Year of the Cross – Episode 16: When Jesus describes His return as catching people off guard, how should we understand this in light of how earth-shattering His return will be? Discover what we should focus on doing, and what is not worth our time in this challenging and often misunderstood passage from the gospel of Matthew.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Flashback Episode — Like the Sun or Like the Son: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

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Tucked at the heart of Matthew’s gospel is a chapter filled with parables. Included in this set of parables is one that seemed to bother the disciples a little more than the others, and we can be thankful for this, because the disciples wanted clarification and asked Jesus to explain this parable to them. We can also thank Matthew for including both the parable and Jesus’ explanation in his gospel.

Before beginning our discussion on this parable, and on Jesus’ explanation, let’s read the parable for ourselves and refresh our minds about the details that Jesus shares. This parable is found in Matthew’s gospel, in chapter 13, and we will be reading from the New International Reader’s Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 24:

24 Jesus told the crowd another story. “Here is what the kingdom of heaven is like,” he said. “A man planted good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came. The enemy planted weeds among the wheat and then went away. 26 The wheat began to grow and form grain. At the same time, weeds appeared.

27 “The owner’s slaves came to him. They said, ‘Sir, didn’t you plant good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?’

28 ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The slaves asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’

29 ‘No,’ the owner answered. ‘While you are pulling up the weeds, you might pull up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the workers what to do. Here is what I will say to them. First collect the weeds. Tie them in bundles to be burned. Then gather the wheat. Bring it into my storeroom.’

There are a number of key details that we should pay attention to in this parable. The owner of this field planted only good seed, and while we might simply blame nature for helping weeds get mixed into the gardens that we plant, the description Jesus gives of this field is that there were too many weeds to have occurred naturally. The owner attributes the weeds to one of his enemies. We’ll come back to this point in a moment.

When it has been discovered what happened, the workers ask if they are to go pull the weeds early to let the grain grow better and have better access to the soil nutrients and sunlight. But the owner responds that he is worried that they might pull or damage some of the grain in the process. This is a key point to remember as well.

Lastly, when the harvest time is ready, the workers will first pull the weeds and bundle them before harvesting the grain and bringing it into the owner’s storeroom. This is a third key point for us to remember.

Let’s now read Jesus’ explanation of this parable a few verses later. Jumping back in at verse 36, Matthew continues by saying:

36 Then Jesus left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him. They said, “Explain to us the story of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who planted the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world. The good seed stands for the people who belong to the kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. 39 The enemy who plants them is the devil. The harvest is judgment day. And the workers are angels.

40 “The weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire. That is how it will be on judgment day. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels. They will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin. They will also get rid of all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace. There people will weep and grind their teeth. 43 Then God’s people will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Whoever has ears should listen.

Jesus doesn’t sugarcoat His description. Each detail of the original parable represents something. The enemy who planted the weeds is the devil, and specifically the field is the world. When reading this parable, we may be tempted to see the field as the Church, but this would be inaccurate – except to say that the more like the world the church becomes, the ratio between wheat and weeds in the church will more closely reflect ratio in the world.

The weeds are simply described as those who belong to the evil one, and this is a nice contrast with those who belong to the kingdom. Closer to the end of the parable, another description is given of the weeds. The last statement in verse 41, which describes God sending out His angels, describes their actions as weeding outeverything that causes sin” and getting “rid of all who do evil”. The actions of the weeds are evil actions. Nothing is said about the weeds intentions.

We could assume that an evil action will always have an evil intention behind it, but this is not always the case. The devil is a master of lies and it is possible that there are weeds that believe their intentions to be good while doing evil things.

However, one point in the parable that Jesus skips over explaining is the response the owner gives to the workers when they want to go clean up the field of weeds before the harvest. The response the owner gives is profound. Verse 29 and the first part of verse 30 tell us that the owner responds by saying, “No. While you are pulling up the weeds, you might pull up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.

Perhaps the weeds that were planted would look similar to wheat while both were young or maybe the owner doesn’t trust that his servants would be careful, diligent, or observant enough to protect every stalk of wheat. The clear message, which is a very profound idea when we look closely at it, is that God does not want to risk harming any of His chosen people from an eternity-wide perspective. This might mean that His people will be injured or irritated by “weeds” in their own lives, but in the biggest picture that matters, we are able to see that even though we don’t have life easy now, God is more concerned with saving us for eternity. This parable tells us that the alternate, which isn’t an option, is risking losing some of His people with weeds that are pulled up early.

Applying this to the world today, those who are paying attention can see a growing divide between people who are growing, developing, and displaying a Christ-like character, and those who are developing and displaying characters that are not like Christ. The biggest distinction between these two groups is where the role of self is placed. While this wasn’t as obvious in the past as it is now, when we look for this distinction today, it is becoming easier and easier to see, and it will get more obvious as we move towards the final judgment. Our role as wheat in God’s field is simple: reflect Jesus.

The last point for us to pay attention to is that while the weeds are described as those who do evil, the wheat are not contrasted by doing good. Instead, verse 43 describes God’s people as shining “like the sun in their Father’s kingdom”. While the spelling of sun in this passage is s-u-n, in God the Father’s kingdom, no s-u-n will shine as brightly as the S-o-n Son. God’s people are destined to let their lives reflect and display Jesus. This is the contrasting description, and it is a lot more significant than simply doing something good or avoiding doing evil.

As we conclude another podcast episode, here are the challenges that I want to leave you with:

Don’t limit yourself by simply doing good while avoiding doing evil. Instead, focus your life on the destiny of God’s people, and don’t wait until eternity to begin reflecting Jesus. Begin reflecting Jesus today, regardless of what the weeds in your life might think.

The best way to learn how to reflect Jesus is by growing closer to Him and by learning what He is like. This is best done through prayer and studying the Bible for yourself. If you let all your Bible information filter to you through me or someone else, you are limiting yourself based on what others have learned. While learning from each other is nowhere near bad, choosing to depend on others for your spiritual life is one of the worst things you could do. Reflect Jesus by learning about Him directly from God’s Word.

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

Flashback Episode: Season 3 – Episode 15: Cam discusses the parable of the wheat and the weeds, and he draws our attention to some key ideas included in the parable and explanation, including a description of God’s chosen people.

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Enduring to the End: Mark 13:1-31

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During the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, we read about a point where Jesus’ three closest disciples have some questions, and they pull Jesus aside to get some answers. To set the stage for this event, and for Jesus’ response, we read about a brief prediction Jesus shares as He and the disciples were leaving the temple.

Our passage is found in several of the gospels, but for our time together in this episode, we will look at Mark’s gospel, chapter 13, and we will read from the New American Standard Bible translation. Starting in verse 1, Mark tells us that:

1 As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

Pausing our reading briefly here, I wonder if the disciples, and perhaps the unnamed disciple who made the original statement, were bothered by Jesus’ prediction that the temple would be destroyed.

Because this was on their minds as the afternoon passed and evening came, we discover that some of the disciples want a little more information.

Picking back up reading in verse 3, Mark tells us that:

3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?” 5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 6 Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. 8 For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

9 “But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. 10 The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. 13 You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 15 The one who is on the housetop must not go down, or go in to get anything out of his house; 16 and the one who is in the field must not turn back to get his coat. 17 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 18 But pray that it may not happen in the winter. 19 For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will. 20 Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him; 22 for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.

28 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

In this long passage, Jesus shares a broad look at the future of the world. While there are plenty of specific parts we could focus on within Jesus’ response, the part I want to focus in on for the rest of our time together is the last few verses. Jesus concludes this teaching by telling the disciples that they should pay attention to what is happening around them in the world and know that when we hear and see things happening, such as wars and rumors of wars, that we can be reminded that Jesus is coming soon.

While Jesus promises that the current generation of people would not pass away until all these things took place – which is something that is perplexing in itself and something that would take too much time than we have left to dig into – the closing words in Jesus’ message is one of the biggest promises we can find in the entire Bible. Jesus tells these disciples in verse 31 that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

This promise is powerful, because it reminds us that whatever happens in this life, and whatever Satan tries to throw at us to take our focus off of God, in the end, Jesus’ words and His message will survive. Jesus’ words last forever. Jesus’ words last longer than sin. Jesus’ words bring eternal life.

We are reminded and challenged with the truth that we will be hated and abused by people in this world because we follow Jesus, but those who endure to the end will be saved. We are challenged to endure to the end of our lives or until Jesus returns, and the reward for our endurance is eternity – specifically an eternity in a sinless, perfect, recreated world.

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

Be sure to always place God first and to stay loyal to Him. Choose to endure and ignore those who try to challenge our faith because we know from Jesus’ promise that those who endure to the end find salvation.

Also, as I always challenge you to do, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow your personal relationship with God each and every day. While pastors, podcasters, authors, or speakers can give you great ideas to think about, only through personal study can you grow a personal relationship, and a personal relationship with God is one key part of being saved!

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

Year of the Cross – Episode 15: Discover what we can learn when three of Jesus’ closest disciples ask Him about what will happen leading up to the end of the world.

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