the scarlet thread: part 3 (john 3:16)

Scarlet Thread Image 1Three weeks ago we began a new series titled, “The Scarlet Thread”. In my first post here on the blog, I mentioned that I was really looking forward to this series because…

I hurt.

I hurt because I’ve lost family members I love.

I hurt because I’ve lost relationships with people I love.

I hurt because I’ve seen marriages fail for countless reasons.

I hurt.

This past week my family lost yet another loved one. That’s three funerals in two months. Indeed the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.

But this series has reminded me of a very important truth. It’s so simple, but I know I sometimes forget. It’s so magnificent, but I know I sometimes don’t always see it as clearly as I should.  Here it is…

I cannot heal myself. Nor can I restore myself. I cannot rest in myself. Nor can I give myself hope.  Instead…

The Scarlet Thread shows us that healing comes from Jesus, and Jesus alone.

Restoration comes from Jesus, and Jesus alone.

Rest comes from Jesus, and Jesus alone.

Hope comes from Jesus, and Jesus alone.

Jesus came. Jesus gave. Jesus rescued.

But that’s not all. The scriptures say:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NLT)

Because He came. Because He gave. Because He rescued, we now have an opportunity to be a part of His story. We’re not writing our own story anymore. We’re simply participating in His.

What’s most fascinating, however, is that we have an opportunity to begin participating in His story now. Right now. Today.

You see, far too often we read “eternal life” and we think to ourselves, “Oh great. When I die I’ll get to be with God and everything will be grand.” But that’s not what the Scriptures teach us. They don’t teach us that at all. Instead, the Scriptures teach that when we believe in Christ, we begin our eternal life immediately. Not later. Not when we die. Eternity starts immediately.

We can be with God and experience Him…every day.

We can live in hope and joy…every day.

We can truly love others…every day.

Perhaps you’ve taken the opportunity to profess faith in Jesus. But perhaps you, too, get caught up in day-to-day life and sometimes forget. You forget that you can’t heal yourself. You forget that you can’t rest in yourself. You forget that you can’t give yourself hope.

So, this week, I ask you to forget about forgetting.  Instead, take the opportunity to remember. Remember what it is He has done. Remember He desires to know you. Remember He desires to be with you.  Remember He desires to be your friend. Remember He desired to give His life. He desired to bear the cross. He desired to bear your shame. He desired to experience it so that you could experience eternal life…right now.

And maybe, just maybe, knowing that you are experiencing eternal life right now will lead you to think through these questions a little differently now that this series is coming to a close.

If indeed your eternity begins NOW…

  1. Where is God asking you to go?
  2. What is God asking you to give up to more fully follow Him?
  3. Are you trusting God to use you?

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Questions or comments?  Feel free let me know by leaving a comment below.

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only king forever:

Easter is nearly upon us!  It’s a day of worship! A day of celebration!  A day to acknowledge Jesus as King!

We’re having three services this weekend at SRC:

  • April 19: Saturday at 6pm
  • April 20: Sunday at 9 & 11am

Whichever service you attend, we’re planning to begin by acknowledging Jesus as our “Only King Forever”.  Watch the video below, and prepare to [loudly!] sing it out this weekend!

your will be done

I really enjoyed reading the Gospel of Matthew over the past couple of weeks.  And as I read through it, there were a number of things that stood out to me.  But there was one phrase Jesus spoke that I dwelled upon more than any other.  “Your will be done.”

When teaching the disciples how to pray, Jesus said, “Your will be done.”

When Jesus knew He was in His final hours, He prayed, “Your will be done.”

This ought to give each of us a different perspective on how we pray.  For example, when your small group or ministry team prays, are you seeking God’s will?  When your family prays, are you seeking God’s will?  When you pray, are you seeking God’s will?

Again, Jesus’ words were, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  There’s much we can learn from following His example.

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Your will be done.

In our hurts.

Your will be done.

In our struggles.

Your will be done.

In our fears.

Your will be done.

In our pleasure.

Your will be done.

In our excitement.

Your will be done.

In our tears.

Your will be done.

In our pain.

Your will be done.

In our brokenness.

Your will be done.

In our guilt.

Your will be done.

In our shame.

Your will be done.

In our confessions.

Your will be done.

In our sadness.

Your will be done.

In our freedom.

Your will be done.

In our yearning.

Your will be done.

In our kindness.

Your will be done.

In our goodness.

Your will be done.

In our faith.

Your will be done.

In our hope.

Your will be done.

In our love.

Your will be done.

In our marriages.

Your will be done.

In our lives.

Your will be done.

In our relationships.

Your will be done.

In our purpose.

Your will be done.

In our everything.

Your will be done.

Your will be done.

Your will be done.

 

the 28/14 challenge: day 11

Reading through Matthew over the past eleven days has been a fantastic challenge for me, personally.  I’ve observed so many interesting things about the life and teachings of Jesus.  For example:

  • I’ve noticed that Matthew writes a lot about various Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled by Jesus.  I haven’t counted how many times I’ve read, “This took place to fulfill…” — but I’ve seen that phrase a lot.
  • I’ve noticed that Jesus Himself had moments of being hungry. Tired. Angry. It’s been comforting to read that God in the flesh had moments when He wanted nothing more than to be alone and be with His Heavenly Father.
  • More than anything, I’ve noticed that Jesus cannot simply be a great teacher. Or a prophet. Or a wonderful man. No – He is either completely insane, or He truly is who says He is.  As C.S. Lewis has argued,  Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. Lewis writes:

“Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. …

Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

Here are a few things today that help me to see Jesus as Lord:

Who is God?

We once again see Jesus fulfilling prophecies of who the Messiah would be (Matthew 21:4-5)

We see Jesus have overwhelming knowledge (and authority) of the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 21:31-32; 22:2-14).

We see Jesus understanding the Scriptures differently (i.e. better) than anybody else (Matthew 22:32; 36-38; 42-46).

In other words, Jesus is someone who has complete understanding of God the Father and His purpose for each one of us.  He was able to see directly into the hearts of people, seeing prostitutes and thieves for the people they were created to be, and gently loving and encouraging them to live God’s greatest plan for their lives.  These passages (as well as many more in previous chapters) make it clear that Jesus was no fool, and He certainly wasn’t crazy.  The only logical explanation is that He was and is the Son of God.

Who am I?

I am someone who desires to regularly experience the same love and grace that Jesus showed the thieves, prostitutes, and other known sinners of His day.

What is God inviting me to do?

God is inviting me to uphold the greatest commandment:

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, “ ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40) – New Living Translation

Feel free to comment and let me know what God has been teaching you as you continue the 28/14 Challenge.

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This is part five in a series on the 28/14 Challenge.  I won’t post my thoughts each day of the challenge, but additional posts are provided at the links below.

The 28/14 Challenge: day 1 (Matthew 1-2)

The 28/14 Challenge: day 4 (Matthew 7-8)

The 28/14 Challenge: day 6 (Matthew 11-12)

The 28/14 Challenge: day 11 (Matthew 21-22)

Questions or comments?  Feel free to let me know in the comment section below.

the scarlet thread: is the old testament reliable?

Last week we began a new series called “The Scarlet Thread.”  What is “The Scarlet Thread” you ask?  Well…

It’s the story of how God has rescued us.

It’s the story of how God had a plan for us from the very beginning.

In other words, it’s THE story.  The story of God.

In the first message, Pastor Seth walked through the beginning of the Scarlet Thread in Genesis 3.  Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, and afterwards God Himself provided a sacrifice and provided clothing for Adam and Eve.

This Sunday I’m planning to walk through some other Old Testament passages to see how the Scarlet Thread continues throughout the Old Testament.  However, I know that there are some out there who are troubled by this.  There are some who would ask, “Hasn’t Science and History proven that the Bible is nothing but myths and legends?”  Short answer: no.  But for those who like to have more evidence, here are a few things discovered through archaeology affirming people and events throughout the Old Testament.

1. Hezekiah’s Tunnel (2 Kings 18-20; 2 Chronicles 29-32)

Hezekiah was king of Judah (Southern Israel) from about 715-687 B.C.  While Hezekiah was king, the Bible declares that he built a tunnel, a wall, among other achievements.  Hezekiah's TunnelWell, Hezekiah’s tunnel was discovered back in the early 1900’s, and actually remains a popular tourist attraction in Jerusalem today.  We know it’s Hezekiah’s tunnel because there was a Hebrew text written on the walls describing how it was constructed.  Due to the text, the tunnel has been accurately dated to 701 B.C., the same year the Assyrian Empire attempted to overthrow Jerusalem.

We have more from Hezekiah’s reign, too, including texts from the Assyrian Empire which affirms the Biblical account.  Hezekiah’s story is no myth or legend, and we have massive evidence from his reign to prove it.

2. King David

For years a number of scholars believed that king David wasn’t real.  Archaeological digs from the late 1800’s onward had not found anything verifying he ever existed.  If king David didn’t exist, the entire lineage of Jesus goes up in smoke!Tel Dan Stele

Then in the early 1980’s a text was discovered verifying the “house of David.”  And much more has been discovered since.  Today, you can visit the part of Jerusalem which was known long ago as the “City of David”.  King David was no myth or legend, giving additional credibility to the text of the Old Testament.

3. The Text Itself

One of the highest criticisms of the Old Testament is the text itself.  In fact, a number of secular scholars believed that there was no possible way any text of the Old Testament could have been written prior to the 400-500’s B.C.  Then in 1979,Birkat_kohanim_22 an archaeologist found a small piece of jewelry that contained a tiny silver scroll on the inside.  After carefully removing the scroll, they discovered it contained Biblical passages from four different books, including Exodus, Deuteronomy, Daniel and Nehemiah.  Not only that, but the text was easily dated to the 600’s B.C.  This tells us two things.  One is that the Old Testament was written earlier than some scholars presumed.  And second, the Old Testament was widely distributed, as it was inscribed and included in small pieces of jewelry.

4. The “Nation” of Israel

Merneptah_Israel_Stele_CairoAnother great criticism of the Old Testament is that there is no mention of the “nation” or “people” or Israel until more recent history.  However, the discovery of the Merneptah Stone shows this just isn’t the case.

This discovery in Egypt dates to the 1200’s B.C. and clearly mentions the “nation” or “people” of Israel, identifying them as their own ethnicity.

There’s a lot more out there…a lot more!  But it’s my hope this helps you to see that the Old Testament can easily be seen as a reliable source.  And if it’s reliable, we can then continue to see how the Scarlet Thread continues.

the 28/14 challenge: day 6

Seven years ago today I began working at SRC full-time.  That’s right, I began working at SRC on April Fool’s Day.  Pretty crazy, huh?

But it’s been an amazing seven years.  When I first came on staff, SRC had just a little over 200 people in attendance any given weekend.  As the church has continued to grow, so have I.  I’ve grown to love a whole bunch of people I never would have known outside of SRC.  I’ve grown to see that God works in very different ways than I do.  I’ve grown in my desire to minister to others and in the ways God has made me to do so.

I’ve grown.

And I’m not sure about you, but I have found the first six days of the 28/14 challenge to be very good for me.  Even in these six days, I have grown.

Here’s a little bit about what I learned today, on day six of the challenge.

Who is God?

God is someone who has the desire to see His kingdom advance, and the message of His kingdom is a message under attack (Matthew 11:12).

God and God alone is judge (Matthew 11:21-24).

Jesus declares Himself LORD even over the Sabbath.  By doing so He declares that everything in our lives, even our rest, should be in Him (Matthew 12:8).

Jesus speaks on the importance of repentance, criticizing all who refuse to listen to His teaching (Matthew 12:39-45).

These passages show that God/Jesus isn’t the typical soft-spoken person we often make Him out to be.  He’s strongly worded.  Calling people to repentance.  Calling people to actively spread the advance of His kingdom.  When people in His day chose not to do so, He was quick to reprove them and tell them how badly their judgment would be.  His words in these two chapters are not at all mild and meek.  They are strong.  Powerful.  Purposeful.  Yet all were spoken in love.

Who am I?

These chapters say very little about me, personally.  However, it is obvious that the authority Jesus speaks with is godly authority.  And I am someone who ought to listen to His words.

What is God inviting me to do?

There is so much in this passage God is inviting me to do.

God is inviting me to use wisdom so that wisdom may be shown right by its actions (Matthew 11:19).

God is inviting me to regularly show mercy, not simply provide a sacrifice (Matthew 12:7).

God is inviting me to be “good” and not “evil”, and how much of this may be attributed to the words I speak.  As His word says, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” (Matthew 12:35-37)

If you haven’t yet done so, take an opportunity to read Matthew 11-12.  What is it God is inviting you to do?

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This is day 6 in a series on the 28/14 Challenge.  I won’t post my thoughts each day of the challenge, but additional posts are provided at the links below.

The 28/14 Challenge: intro

The 28/14 Challenge: day 1 (Matthew 1-2)

The 28/14 Challenge: day 4 (Matthew 7-8)

The 28/14 Challenge: day 6 (Matthew 11-12)

The 28/14 Challenge: day 11 (Matthew 21-22)

 

Questions or comments?  Feel free to let me know in the comment section below.

finding your gifts:

Over the past several weeks, we at SRC have been discussing the possibility of beginning a third service. I say possibility because the staff know that we can’t make this service happen on our own.  In fact, one of the core values of Great Commission Churches is Every member a minister.

Did you catch that?

Every. Member. A Minister.

I know what some of you may be thinking.  “Wait a minute!  I’m not a ‘minister’!”  Oh yes. Yes you are.

2 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.”

It’s right there.  Right there in the Bible.  You are a chosen people. You are royal priests.  Every member is a minister, indeed.

The question is, are you using the gifts God has given you to serve and minister to others?

I ask this question, because I’ve been challenged with this question myself recently.  Only I’ve been challenged with it in the form of leadership — how are you influencing others?

This is a challenging question for a pastor. I’ve thought about it for days.  And I’ve now come to realize that the question isn’t nearly as complex as I’ve made it to be.  The best way for me to influence others is simply to use the gifts God has given me.  That’s it.  It’s not hard.  It’s not complicated.  I simply have to understand how God has gifted me and put those gifts into action.  I simply need to recognize my role in the body of Christ and serve accordingly.  Here’s what the Apostle Paul writes about this:

Ephesians 4:11-13 – Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:14-22 – So the body is not one part but many. If the foot should say, “Because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,” in spite of this it still belongs to the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,” in spite of this it still belongs to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted. And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? Now there are many parts, yet one body.
So the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” But even more, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary.

I love that last verse.  “Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary.”

You may feel you have little to nothing to provide. You may feel that others can do what you’re good at even better. But your service is essential.  You are a royal priesthood.  Every member is a minister.  And God has called you to minister to others, and has gifted you to do so.

There’s more I could write on this subject.  Much more.  But for now, simply consider the following questions:

  1. Have you come to recognize how God has gifted you to serve?
  2. If not, what steps will you take to begin to recognize the gifts God has provided you?
  3. “You are a royal priest.”  In what ways does this change how you think about serving others?

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Questions or comments?  Feel free to let me know in the comment section below.

the 28/14 challenge: day 4

Friday afternoon I had an opportunity to meet somebody for the first time.  He is of retirement age.  The best career he’s ever had is being a handyman.  He cannot read or write.  But…

…he’s brilliant.

This man has spent more time listening to the Bible than most have spent reading it.  He’s spent more years thinking through the hard questions in life than most people have spent in a church.  We talked about evolution. The Big Bang.  Jesus.  His death.  His resurrection.  Is the Bible reliable?  Why so many religions?  You name it, we talked about it.

The thing is, I know he’s not alone in having hard questions.  You probably have some yourself.  Maybe more than a few.

What’s fascinating is how many of these questions may be answered by diving into God’s Word.  Not all of your questions may be answered in one sitting.  But continued study will answer life’s most complicated questions.

This brings me back to the 28/14 study.  Today is day 4 of the 28/14 challenge.  And this challenge asks three of the most complex questions in life.

  1. Who is God?
  2. Who am I?
  3. What is God inviting me to do?

Here are some of the thoughts I have after reading Matthew 7-8 and answering these questions.

Who is God?

As seen earlier in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is Immanuel – God with us.  Therefore, we can learn a great deal about who God is from what Jesus has to say in these chapters.

God is a teacher – “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.” (Matthew 7:24)

God is a healer – Jesus heals a number of people in Matthew 7-8.  But one sticks out a bit more than the others (Matthew 8:5-12).  A Roman Centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant.  This is important because to the Jews, the Romans were the bad guys. The Jews were expecting a Messiah in the line of king David to free them from Roman rule!  And here’s Jesus, God in the flesh, telling the Roman Centurion – “I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!”  If that didn’t unsettle the crowd, I’m not sure what could!

God is (or at least was) homeless – “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)

When thinking about God, the first of these points makes a lot of sense.  But the other two?  Wow!  Those give a much different perspective on the character of God.

Who am I?

Jesus says, “Don’t judge others.” And…

“Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?”  And…

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.”  (Matthew 7:2, 3, 12).

I’m one who does the opposite of these things on a regular basis.

What is God inviting me to do?

God is inviting me to radically rethink my concept of who he is.  He’s inviting me to be a true disciple, all the while requirement me to rethink what true discipleship looks like (Matthew 7:21-23).  He’s inviting me to listen to his teaching (7:24) and continually be amazed by it (7:28).

How about you?  What are you learning about God?  Yourself?  And what he’s inviting you to do?

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This is day 4 in a series on the 28/14 Challenge.  I won’t post my thoughts each day of the challenge, but additional posts are provided at the links below.

The 28/14 Challenge: intro

The 28/14 Challenge: day 1 (Matthew 1-2)

The 28/14 Challenge: day 4 (Matthew 7-8)

The 28/14 Challenge: day 6 (Matthew 11-12)

The 28/14 Challenge: day 11 (Matthew 21-22)

 

Questions or comments?  Feel free to let me know in the comment section below.

the 28/14 challenge: day 1

Have you ever found it difficult to converse with someone you’re in conflict with?  Yeah, me too.

What’s interesting, however, is that God chooses to converse with us all the time.  And he chooses to do so in multiple ways. We simply have to provide a listening ear.

As I wrote about before, we’re beginning a new series this Sunday that focuses on The Scarlet Thread all throughout the scriptures.  And Genesis 3 paints a pretty stark picture.

Sin entered the world.

Sin carried down through every person.

Every person inherits conflict with God.

Not a pretty picture, is it?

But this ties in perfectly with the 28/14 challenge I presented yesterday as well.  It’s a great challenge, but while I know some of you may have agreed to the challenge, you’re unsure what answering these questions should look like?  Well, I’m certain it will look a little bit different for everybody.  But here’s a small sample of what I gleaned from day 1.

Reading: Matthew 1-2

Thoughts that entered my mind as I read:

  • Who in the world is Jahoiachin?  And does it really matter? (Matt. 1:11)
  • On a more serious note: There’s some text here about the Messiah. What exactly does that even mean?
  • I see several passages that say, “the prophet wrote…”.  Interesting.

And then I began to think through the three questions:

Who is God?

Jesus is called Immanuel, which means God with us.  So, God, the creator of everything decided to leave everything and be with us — the very people in conflict with him.  That’s pretty incredible.

I also note some things about how God has chosen to communicate with us who are in conflict with him.

  1. He gave us his word (the Bible) as one form of communication.
  2. He has spoken through the prophets (5 times in these two chapters, Matthew mentions something from a prophet being fulfilled in Jesus!)
  3. He even spoke to people through an angel!

Who am I?

Matthew 1-2 says nothing about me, personally.  Nothing at all.  But a couple of things still come to light.

  1. Despite being in conflict with him, he speaks to me (and with me).
  2. I’m guessing, just guessing God may be speaking in a variety of ways in order to show that he is trustworthy.

What is God inviting me to do?

Based on what I’ve read, he’s inviting me to trust him at his word.

Those are just a few of the thoughts I had from day 1.  I’m not planning to blog something all 14 days of this challenge, but I’m sure I’ll give some additional insights I’m learning sometime next week.  Until then:

You’ve now read Matthew 1-2.  What did you learn about God, yourself, and what God may be inviting you to do?  Feel free to let me know in the comments below.

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This is part two in a series on the 28/14 Challenge.  I won’t post my thoughts each day of the challenge, but additional posts are provided at the links below.

The 28/14 Challenge: day 1 (Matthew 1-2)

The 28/14 Challenge: day 4 (Matthew 7-8)

The 28/14 Challenge: day 6 (Matthew 11-12)

The 28/14 Challenge: day 11 (Matthew 21-22)

 

the 28/14 challenge:

It was colder than I wanted it to be this morning.  Much colder.  As I walked into McD’s to meet a group of friends one of them asked, “How are you doing?”  In one breath I said, “It’s a bit chilly this morning.”  In the next I ordered a large ICED coffee.  When will I learn?

But I’m not writing today to discuss the weather.  Not at all.

As I met with this group of friends one thing seemed apparent.  We all realized our lives are hectic.  We all realized our lives are complex.  We all realized we need to spend more time with God.

So, today I want to present you with a challenge.  It’s something that will better prepare you for your hectic life.  It’s something that will help you deal with the complexities in life.  It’s something that will help you spend more time with God.

Here’s the challenge: Over the next two weeks, read the gospel of Matthew.  That’s twenty-eight chapters in just fourteen days.  So let’s just call it the 28/14 challenge.  But this is only part of the challenge, there’s a little more to it.

Take the opportunity as you read a couple of chapters each day to ask yourself three important questions.  Answering these three questions will help the text sink in.  Answering these three questions will help you better know God and His will for your life.

  1. What does the text say about God?
  2. What does the text say about me?
  3. What is God inviting me to do?

That’s the 28/14 challenge.

Two chapters a day.

Three questions a day.

Fourteen days.

Will you join me in the challenge?

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This is part one in a series on the 28/14 Challenge.  I won’t post my thoughts each day of the challenge, but additional posts are provided at the links below.

The 28/14 Challenge: day 1 (Matthew 1-2)

The 28/14 Challenge: day 4 (Matthew 7-8)

The 28/14 Challenge: day 6 (Matthew 11-12)

The 28/14 Challenge: day 11 (Matthew 21-22)

Questions or comments?  Feel free to let me know in the comment section below.