66 in 52 Challenge

Revelation – Week 52 {66 in 52 Challenge}

This is the final part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, we focused in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Click here to see the other 51 weeks.

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Week 52 - Revelation

The Big Picture of Revelation:

This final book in our Bible was written by John near the end of his life while a prisoner between 85-95 AD. In the first few chapters John depict a vision given by an angel that he was instructed to write down. These included messages for seven churches. Chapters 4-20 describe things he saw in the visions about God’s kingdom and heaven, especially describing Christ as the lamb who was slain for us but now reigns over all. We also hear of the devil being cast into the Lake of Fire and descriptions of hell.  In the final chapters 21-22 he describes the beauty of the new heaven and new earth, a place without pain or tears, a place Christ invites us to come and enjoy.

Tips for Reading Revelation:

Revelation is one of the books people are most hesitant to read. It all just seems so “weird”. Here are some things that may help as you read it:

  • Watch the Bible Project Videos linked below. They always do a great job of outlining books and helping understand key elements.
  • Understand the type of literature you’re reading. We read and comprehend poetry different than we would a science textbook. If we read Revelation similar to one of the letters we recently studied we’ll probably get confused. Revelation is considered apocalyptic literature which means it is filled with symbols. Some scenes can seem strange to us, but if you read closely, many clues are given for what the symbols stand for. While symbols and numbers aren’t necessarily meant to be literal, they do still convey literal truth and describe literal events. Dig to discover those truths.
  • Numbers are another key symbol in Revelation. For example the number seven is used over 50 times. The number seven represents wholeness or completeness. Other common numbers are 12 and 3 or multiples of these numbers.
  • As with all of Scripture let it interpret itself. Consider all that you’ve read up to this point and let that help you understand what you’re reading now. (e.g. People try to use this book to say that they can predict the end times, but God told us many other times in Scripture that it will come as a surprise. Yes, the signs are there, but we still will not know.) Also, consider what the message would have been to the original readers. Yes, it has relevance to us, but we only really discover that when we understand what it meant for the first Christians.

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book or books each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse per book. This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verse, pick any section of the book you want! These are just some ideas.

  • “When I saw {Jesus}, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living One. I died, but look–I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.” (Revelation 1:17-18)
    REFLECTION: How are these verses encouraging for you?
  • “They triumphed over {the accuser} by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Revelation 12:11)
    REFLECTION: How have you seen the story of God’s work in lives lead to triumph over Satan’s accusations? How can you encourage someone this week with your story?
  • “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. And the One sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’…” (Revelation 21:4-5a)
    REFLECTION: Just take a few minutes to smile and dream about that beautiful, beautiful day. Praise God for His sacrifice that makes it possible for us to experience that some day!

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!

66 in 52 Challenge

1,2,3 John and Jude – Week 51 {66 in 52 Challenge}

This is part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, I will focus in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will be posting a summary page with some thought about that week’s book(s) of the Bible along with some links that may help our reflection. Click here to sign up if you want to join us at any point along the journey!

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Week 51 - 1, 2, 3 John, Jude

The Big Picture of 1, 2, and 3 John:

These three books, written by John may be short but are packed full of truth and encouragement just as relevant today as it was for the original readers.  If I had to describe the first letter in three words they would be: life, light, and love. These concepts and themes weave their way through out the five chapters that make up the book. John longed for His readers to live in the new life of Jesus, shine that light in the dark world, and understand God’s great love for them. The second and third letters are much shorter, only one chapter each. John’s second letter emphasizes the longing that God’s children wold walk in the truth and let God’s truth and love abide in them. The last letter was written to Gaius encouraging him and others to continue in their faithful service to God and His servants.

The Big Picture of Jude:

Jude is another short book, only one chapter long, written by Jude (James’ brother and Jesus’ half-brother). There are two main points he speaks too: the danger of some false teachers that were present and an encouragement to remain faithful in the midst of trials. This was likely written about 10 years before 1-3 John around 75 A.D. We also hear Jude echoing other writers in reminding believers that our salvation is secure in Christ not because of anything we do but because of what Christ has done! He alone is able to present us holy before God (vs 24)!

Common Words in 1 John:

As I mentioned above, John is very repetitive in his themes in this first letter. Here are some common words or phrases and how many times they are found in the book (based on the New Living Translation):

  • Light (6) and Darkness (6)
  • Life/Living/Lives (49)
  • Truth/truly/true (19)
  • Love/loves (46)
  • God’s children/Child(ren) of God/dear children (20)

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book or books each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse per book. This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verse, pick any section of the book you want! These are just some ideas.

1 John

  • “This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.” (1 John 1:5)
    REFLECTION: Where have you seen the light of Christ invade your darkness lately?
  • “See how much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.”  (1 John 3:1)
    REFLECTION: Take some time and just repeat this truth until it sinks into your soul: I am a beloved child of God! He lavishes his love on me!

2 John

  • “Grace, mercy, and peace, which comes from God the Father and from Jesus Christ–the Son of the Father–will continue to be with us who live in truth and love.” (2 John 1:3)
    REFLECTION:Where are you looking for grace, mercy, or peace apart from God? How has that not worked out?
  • “I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one that we have had from the beginning.” (2 John 1:5)
    REFLECTION:How can you love someone intentionally this week?

3 John

  • “I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.” (3 John 1:4)
    REFLECTION:Who can you celebrate with this week who is following the truth? Tell them that you notice their often unseen faithfulness.

Jude

  • “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you to eternal life. In this way you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.” (Jude 1:20-21)
    REFLECTION:Who can you build up in the faith this week as we wait for eternal life?

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!

Uncategorized

Never Travel Alone

When I stood at the end of 2017 and looked forward, the way I found myself describing 2018 was: a year of travel.

I started off the year in our nation’s capital with thousands of college students at the Passion Conference. Later that month I attended a learning event in Chicago. A few weeks later almost our entire team from work went to the Best Practices for Ministry Conference in Phoenix. March provided a few weeks of staying put before heading out to California in April for my cousin’s wedding. May and June kept me close to home but July made up for it with trips to Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Guatemala all in less than 4 weeks. My exchange daughter from two years ago also visited America that month and I headed off to spend two weeks at her home in the Faroe Islands this October with a couple days in Iceland as well. I’ll spend the last day of 2018 traveling to Florida for another young adult mission trip.

Yes, 2018 was indeed a year of travel. But God took me to new places that aren’t so easily plotted on a map as well. For the first five months I traveled a road of uncertainty waiting to find out whether or not I had cancer. Following surgery at the end of May, I didn’t move much at all physically but explored a new space of rest and recovery. Healing from surgery went very well but in these months wrapping up the year I’ve explored the mountainous regions of depression and a chronic illness brought on by the removal of this crucial body part.

A lot of INCREDIBLE things happened this year (and I’ll focus on them in another post soon!), but to be honest, the roads of 2018 were hard. I don’t feel I traveled them very well. At best, I was the annoying kid in the back calling out to God, “ARE WE THERE YET?!?,” frustrated by how long some journeys were taking. At the same time there were plenty of days I wanted to just stop moving all together, but that’s not an option.  One foot in front of the other is the only way through and so one foot in front of the other is what I did.

Yes, it was hard, but in it all, this truth made it all okay:

I didn’t ever travel alone…

not one single step.

At the conference I mentioned from February a speaker shared some things she learned while traveling a hard road as well the year before. One tip that stuck out to me was this:

“Don’t go it alone, even when you feel alone.”

There were definitely moments in this year that FELT lonely, like no one could understand, but it was those moments when I had to refuse to actually do life alone. My travel buddies remained faithful and my Guide, Jesus, the most faithful of them all.

Who knows what adventures 2019 will bring, but in this Advent season I find myself beyond thankful for our Savior, Immanuel … GOD WITH US. Because He showed up, I never travel alone!

SOME OF MY 2018 DESTINATIONS AND TRAVEL BUDDIES:

66 in 52 Challenge

1 and 2 Peter – Week 50 {66 in 52 Challenge}

This is part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, I will focus in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will be posting a summary page with some thought about that week’s book(s) of the Bible along with some links that may help our reflection. Click here to sign up if you want to join us at any point along the journey!

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Week 50 - 1, 2 Peter

The Big Picture of 1 Peter:

Peter wrote two letters to the early church. The first of these, 1 Peter, was likely written around A.D. 60 as an encouragement to Christians in the midst of persecution. He reminds them often in the letter of how God has chosen them, loves them, and calls them to live in relationship with Him (1:2, 20, 2:9-10, 5:10). Peter speaks at length to what life as a Christian looks like, that, as Paul put it earlier, we are a new creation. Even in the face of suffering we can live in ways that honor God and serve others. A neat section in chapter 2 (vs 21-25) gives a beautiful picture of who Jesus is and the gifts that are ours because of His suffering.

The Big Picture of 2 Peter:

Peter’s second letter was likely sent 3-4 years after the first, again, to believers in general verses in a specific location like we’ve seen with some of Paul’s letters. He repeats a little of his encouragement to live holy lives despite struggles, though the focus of this letter seems to be more of warning. He raises up especially the issue of false teachers and encourages the believers to pay attention to scripture as a way to distinguish what is true and what is false. The last chapter also speaks to the last day, specifically that we won’t know when that day will come. Despite that fact, we look forward to that day.

The Use of Other Scripture in His Letter:

One key characteristic of Peter’s writing is the use of other Scriptures–either quoting them directly or referencing them. Here are some of the ones he referenced:

  • 1 Peter 1:16  –  “You must be holy because I am holy.”  –  Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:2, 20:7
  • 1 Peter 1:24-25  –  “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.”  –  Isaiah 40:6-8
  • 1 Peter 2:6  –  “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”  –  Isaiah 28:16, Philippians 4:18
  • 1 Peter 2:7  –  “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.”  –  Psalm 118:22
  • 1 Peter 2:8  –  “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.”  –  Isaiah 8:14
  • 1 Peter 2:22  –  “He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone.”  –  Isaiah 53:9
  • 1 Peter 2:24  –  “… by his wounds you are healed.”  –  Isaiah 53:5
  • 1 Peter 3:10-12  –  “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.” –  Psalm 34:12-16
  • 1 Peter 4:18  –  “If the righteous are barely saved, what will happen to godless sinners?”  –  Proverbs 11:31
  • 1 Peter 5:5  –  “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  –  Proverbs 3:34
  • 2 Peter 1:17  –  “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”  –  Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:35
  • 2 Peter 2:22  –  “A dog returns to its vomit.”  –  Proverbs 26:11
  • 2 Peter 3:13  –  “But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised…”  –  Isaiah 65:17

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book or books each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse per book. This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verse, pick any section of the book you want! These are just some ideas.

1 Peter

  • “… you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)
    REFLECTION: What darkness has God called you out of? How does it compare to the light? How can you show others that goodness this week?
  • “Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:25)
    REFLECTION: How does it make you feel to think of God as the Guardian of your soul?
  • “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.” (1 Peter 5:10)
    REFLECTION: How might it help to know that any current suffering is temporary? How can you hold out hope for the restoration, support, and strength He promises? Do you see glimpses of it even now?

2 Peter

  • “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3)
    REFLECTION: How have you seen these statements to be true in your life?
  • “But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:13)
    REFLECTION:What are you most looking forward to about the new heavens and new earth promised?

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!

66 in 52 Challenge

James – Week 49 {66 in 52 Challenge}

This is part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, I will focus in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will be posting a summary page with some thought about that week’s book(s) of the Bible along with some links that may help our reflection.

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Week 49 - James

The Big Picture of James:

James is a letter written to Jewish believers by a man named James who also happened to be Jesus’ half-brother. It is possibly the first New Testament letter to be written and the purpose was to encourage the Christians at that time. “Endurance” is a key word and theme throughout the book as James calls the believers to live our their faith in bold ways. It talks about everything from doing the word not just hearing it, to how faith and good works go together, to resisting the devil. It’s a great summary of what it looks like to seek the wisdom of God and live as a Christian. It almost feels a little bit like the New Testament version of Proverbs.

Key Themes in James:

  • Endurance/Patience (1:2-3, 12, 5:7-11)
  • Wisdom (1:5-8, 3:13-18)
  • Temptation (1:12-15, 4:1-3, 4:7-8)
  • Faith and Works (2:14-26)
  • Speech/Our Tongue (3:2-21, 4:11-12)
  • The Importance of Scripture (1:22-25)
  • Wealth/Poverty/Caring for Poor (1:9-10, 27, 2:2-9, 5:1-6)

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book or books each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse per book. This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verse, pick any section of the book you want! These are just some ideas.

  • “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow…” (James 1:2-4a)
    REFLECTION: How can you let your current hard times be spaces for growth and joy?
  • “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19)
    REFLECTION: How have you seen these three things in Jesus? What helps you be listen more than we speak?
  • “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come close to God will come close to you…” (James 4:7-8a)
    REFLECTION: We need both defense (resist the devil) and offense (coming near to God) to stand firm in our faith. How can you cultivate both this week?

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!

66 in 52 Challenge

Hebrews – Week 48 {66 in 52 Challenge}

This is part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, I will focus in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will be posting a summary page with some thought about that week’s book(s) of the Bible along with some links that may help our reflection. Click here to sign up if you want to join us at any point along the journey!

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Week 48 - Hebrews

The Big Picture of Hebrews:

While not much is known about the context of Hebrews including the author, it was likely written sometime between AD 64 and 69 (before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70). The purpose though is clear: to encourage Christians in a time of trial. I once heard a Pastor talk about how this reads someone more like a sermon than a letter and encouraged everyone to read it out loud or listen to it in one sitting to sense more what it was like to hear it the first time. A key focus in this book is Christ as Priest, showing that Jesus was not only completely human but also 100% God. He was the High Priest, but also the sacrifice. This was likely written to Jewish Christian community due to all the references to Old Testament practices and the sacrificial system. As these Christians in Rome were suffering under Nero’s persecution, the message of these words helped them persevere.

Tips for Enduring Hard Times from Hebrews:

  • Pay attention and listen to the truth (2:1-4)
  • Don’t let your hearts get hard (3:7-4:16)
  • Don’t stop growing and maturing (6:1-12)
  • Patiently endure, hold tight to hope, don’t turn away (10:19-39)
  • Follow the example of those before you (11:1-12:1)
  • Keep running the race (12:1-29)
  • Love each other (13:1-7)
  • Remember that Christ never changes (13:8-9)

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book or books each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse per book. This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verse, pick any section of the book you want! These are just some ideas.

  • “This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. (Hebrews 6:19)  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)
    REFLECTION: Where in your life do you need to hold tight on to hope this week and let it anchor you? How can you do that?
  • “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” (Hebrews 12:15)
    REFLECTION: Where is bitterness threatening to take root in your life or you family or your church? What can you do to ruthlessly destroy that weed?

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!

66 in 52 Challenge

Titus and Philemon – Week 47 {66 in 52 Challenge}

This is part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, I will focus in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will be posting a summary page with some thought about that week’s book(s) of the Bible along with some links that may help our reflection. Click here to sign up if you want to join us at any point along the journey!

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Week 47 - Titus, Philemon

The Big Picture of Titus:

This three chapter letter was written by Paul to Titus as an encouragement to him. Paul wanted to offer some insights into the opposition that Titus was facing. This was likely written about AD 66 and in it we see some guidelines to help Titus in finding leaders in the church and how to teach quality doctrine no matter what others around him were saying.

The Big Picture of Philemon:

This letter from Paul to Philemon is short but fascinating. Onesimus was Philemon’s slave and at some point along the way had stolen from Philemon and ran away. Later Onesimus met Paul and became a Christian. This letter is a personal plea from Paul on behalf of Onesimus to welcome him back and treat him as a brother rather than a slave. Paul even offers to pay any debt that Onesimus might have owed to Philemon.

Incarnation in Titus:

One key theme we see in the book of Titus is the incarnation, which is the concept of Christ coming to earth to live among us. Titus 1:1-4, 2:11-14, and 3:4-7 all show that Christ coming as God in the flesh at a specific time in history is an crucial part of our faith. The section in chapter two shows that salvation comes through Christ and chapter three echos this adding that this was not because of anything we have done but because of God’s mercy and grace. The Holy Spirit is also mentioned in 3:5.

God’s Personal Nature in Philemon:

There are a lot of cool themes in this tiny book, but I once read about how its inclusion is a reminder of God’s personal nature, that he cares about each individual person. I love this reminder. He cares about ME! He cares about YOU! Here’s how Chuck Swindoll said it in a summary on the book:

“The letter to Philemon reminds us that God’s revelation to humanity is intensely personal. In more formal biblical works such as the Gospels or the epistle to the Romans or even Paul’s letters to churches at Philippi or Colossae, it might be easy to get the impression that God does not care or have time for the trials and tribulations in a single household. Philemon stands as one piece of strong evidence to the contrary, revealing that lofty doctrines such as the love of God, forgiveness in Christ, or the inherent dignity of humanity have real and pertinent impact in everyday life.

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book or books each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse per book. This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verse, pick any section of the book you want! These are just some ideas.

Titus

  • I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began.” (Titus 1:2b-3)
    REFLECTION: Some people spend time wondering if they have eternal life. Here we see we can be confident in this gift God had in store from before the world began. What makes you confident to trust this promise?
  • He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.” (Titus 2:14)
    REFLECTION: Where do you need to live in Christ’s freedom right now?
  • “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy…”
    REFLECTION: In what ways do you ever try to earn God’s salvation that he offered as a free gift?

Philemon

  • “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints…” (Philemon 1:4-5)
    REFLECTION: In this Thanksgiving week, who is someone you are thankful for? Who around you has deep love and faith and how can you show them your gratitude this week?
  • “.. though I am bold enough in Christ to command you…. yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you…” (Philemon 1:8-9)
    REFLECTION: Think about your job, your family, your relationships… where is a place where you have authority and could “command” obedience but might get a better response to appeal for love’s sake?

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!