Tag Archives: Paul

Lessons from Lent: Day 32

26 Mar

creation swap lessons from lent coffee cup Kelly Sikkema 22940

An Explanation of Lessons from Lent

In the next 40 days (9 now because you have already accomplished thirty-one), the weeks leading up to Easter, the posts on Glimpsed Glory will be different. I am reading through the New Testament during this time and I am hoping the Holy Spirit will lead me to a fresh revelation each and every day. I’m going into it with a prayerful heart and an expectant spirit but I will fully confess to you that my soul feels sluggish.

I have been in a place of exhaustion over these last months. My mind has been clouded, my body has ached and insomnia has been my companion since late December. The enemy has been and is still whispering in my ear that my Jesus has forgotten me . . . that He has finally tired of my imperfections and left me behind.

I’m not giving in to it! I am going to fight the good fight of faith and follow the example of my Nehemiah Man. I am going to stand firm in my faith because if I do not, I will not stand at all. I’m praising God for bringing me to a place of emptiness so that I can look to Him to fill my cup.

I’m coming before the Lord and I’m asking Him to do a new thing in me. To rouse my heart to His side and to draw me near in real and tangible ways. To plow through the fog that has settled over me in the form of health issues, physical stress, and emotional upheaval and lay a level path before me. I’m entering the throne room and I’m humbly reminding Him that He has invited me to come in my time of need. O Lord – be near to me. Love me where I am. Take me where I need to be.

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That’s the cry of my heart Sweet Sister and I’m thinking that if I am in this place that perhaps you are too. It might be that different life situations have brought us here but here we are. If that’s the case, I want you to know that you are not alone and that you have a faith sister to walk through it with. We can do this together – you and I. It’s why God gave us to one another. We can join our hearts and we can offer up the next 40 days to the Beautiful One and trust Him to do the beautiful thing in us.

So here’s what I’ll do. I’ll post the daily reading on the blog (except for Sundays) and if you read the Scriptures not only will you have read through the entire New Testament by Easter but God promises that He’ll show you deep and unsearchable things you do not know. He promises that His word is alive and active and will transform your heart. I could use some transformation. What about you?

At the end of the daily passage, I’m going to share my “Lesson from Lent” – nothing long or drawn out just something that God uses to speak straight to my heart from the Scripture that day. I’m putting it at the end because if your time runs short on a particular day – I want you to skip reading my words, not His.

I’m hoping that you’ll start your own running record of what God is showing you. Maybe you’ll even be moved to leave a comment so your Sisters can glean from what you’re learning. No matter how you choose to keep track of all He shares with you . . . treasure it up in your heart Sweet One, meditate on it, mull it over, consider the whisper of the Lover of your soul. The God of the Universe is the only Voice we need to revive our tired souls. So, let’s you and I lean in close, pray for ears to hear and hearts to respond. Let’s dig in to the riches He has given us and prepare to be amazed by what He will reveal to our expectant hearts. O Sister, let’s boldly ask Him for a lesson from Lent and then brace ourselves for a glimpse of Glory!

Day Thirty-two

March 26, 2015 ~~ 1 and 2 Timothy

Amplified Bible

Footnotes: I’ve left the footnotes in place if you would like to track down sources in word study and language. Please follow the link to each chapter and scroll to the bottom of the passage.

1 Timothy 1

Paul, an apostle (special messenger) of Christ Jesus by appointment and command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus (the Messiah), our Hope,

To Timothy, my true son in the faith: Grace (spiritual blessing and favor), mercy, and [heart] peace [be yours] from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. As I urged you when I was on my way to Macedonia, stay on where you are at Ephesus in order that you may warn and admonish and charge certain individuals not to teach any different doctrine, Nor to give importance to or occupy themselves with legends (fables, myths) and endless genealogies, which foster and promote useless speculations and questionings rather than acceptance in faith of God’s administration and the divine training that is in faith ([a]in that leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence)—Whereas the object and purpose of our instruction and charge is love, which springs from a pure heart and a good (clear) conscience and sincere (unfeigned) faith.

But certain individuals have missed the mark on this very matter [and] have wandered away into vain arguments and discussions and purposeless talk. They are ambitious to be doctors of the Law (teachers of the Mosaic ritual), but they have no understanding either of the words and terms they use or of the subjects about which they make [such] dogmatic assertions. Now we recognize and know that the Law is good if anyone uses it lawfully [for the purpose for which it was designed], Knowing and understanding this: that the Law is not enacted for the righteous (the upright and just, who are in right standing with God), but for the lawless and unruly, for the ungodly and sinful, for the irreverent and profane, for those who strike and beat and [even] murder fathers and strike and beat and [even] murder mothers, for manslayers, 10 [For] impure and immoral persons, those who abuse themselves with men, kidnapers, liars, perjurers—and whatever else is opposed to wholesome teaching and sound doctrine 11 As laid down by the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

12 I give thanks to Him Who has granted me [the needed] strength and made me able [for this], Christ Jesus our Lord, because He has judged and counted me faithful and trustworthy, appointing me to [this stewardship of] the ministry. 13 Though I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and was shamefully and outrageously and aggressively insulting [to Him], nevertheless, I obtained mercy because I had acted out of ignorance in unbelief. 14 And the grace (unmerited favor and blessing) of our Lord [actually] flowed out superabundantly and beyond measure for me, accompanied by faith and love that are [to be realized] in Christ Jesus.

15 The saying is sure and true and worthy of full and universal acceptance, that Christ Jesus (the Messiah) came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost. 16 But I obtained mercy for the reason that in me, as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might show forth and display all His perfect long-suffering and patience for an example to [encourage] those who would thereafter believe on Him for [the gaining of] eternal life.

17 Now to the King of eternity, incorruptible and immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever (to the ages of ages). Amen (so be it).

18 This charge and admonition I commit in trust to you, Timothy, my son, [b]in accordance with prophetic intimations which I formerly received concerning you, so that inspired and aided by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 Holding fast to faith ([c]that leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence) and having a good (clear) conscience. By rejecting and thrusting from them [their conscience], some individuals have made shipwreck of their faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan in order that they may be disciplined [by punishment and learn] not to blaspheme.

1 Timothy 2

First of all, then, I admonish and urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be offered on behalf of all men, For kings and all who are in positions of authority or high responsibility, that [outwardly] we may pass a quiet and undisturbed life [and inwardly] a peaceable one in all godliness and reverence and seriousness in every way. For such [praying] is good and right, and [it is] pleasing and acceptable to God our Savior, Who wishes all men to be saved and [increasingly] to perceive and recognize and discern and know precisely and correctly the [divine] Truth.

For there [is only] one God, and [only] one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself as a ransom for all [people, a fact that was] attested to at the right and proper time. And of this matter I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (special messenger)—I am speaking the truth in Christ, I do not falsify [when I say this]—a teacher of the Gentiles in [the realm of] faith and truth. I desire therefore that in every place men should pray, without anger or quarreling or resentment or doubt [in their minds], lifting up holy hands.

Also [I desire] that women should adorn themselves modestly and appropriately and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with [elaborate] hair arrangement or gold or pearls or expensive clothing, 10 But by doing good deeds (deeds in themselves good and for the good and advantage of those contacted by them), as befits women who profess reverential fear for and devotion to God. 11 Let a woman learn in quietness, in entire submissiveness. 12 I allow no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to remain in quietness and keep silence [in religious assemblies].

13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve; 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but [the] woman who was deceived and deluded and fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless [the sentence put upon women of pain in motherhood does not hinder their souls’ salvation, and] they will be saved [eternally] if they continue in faith and love and holiness with self-control, [saved indeed] [a]through the Childbearing or by the birth of the divine Child.

1 Timothy 3

The saying is true and irrefutable: If any man [eagerly] seeks the office of bishop (superintendent, overseer), he desires an excellent task (work).

Now a bishop (superintendent, overseer) must give no grounds for accusation but must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, circumspect and temperate and self-controlled; [he must be] sensible and well behaved and dignified and lead an orderly (disciplined) life; [he must be] hospitable [showing love for and being a friend to the believers, especially strangers or foreigners, and be] a capable and qualified teacher, Not given to wine, not combative but gentle and considerate, not quarrelsome but forbearing and peaceable, and not a lover of money [insatiable for wealth and ready to obtain it by questionable means]. He must rule his own household well, keeping his children under control, with true dignity, commanding their respect in every way and keeping them respectful. For if a man does not know how to rule his own household, how is he to take care of the church of God? He must not be a new convert, or he may [develop a beclouded and stupid state of mind] as the result of pride [be blinded by conceit, and] fall into the condemnation that the devil [once] did. Furthermore, he must have a good reputation and be well thought of by those outside [the church], lest he become involved in slander and incur reproach and fall into the devil’s trap.

In like manner the deacons [must be] worthy of respect, not shifty and double-talkers but sincere in what they say, not given to much wine, not greedy for base gain [craving wealth and resorting to ignoble and dishonest methods of getting it]. They must possess the mystic secret of the faith [Christian truth as hidden from ungodly men] with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tried and investigated and proved first; then, if they turn out to be above reproach, let them serve [as deacons]. 11 [a][The] women likewise must be worthy of respect and serious, not gossipers, but temperate and self-controlled, [thoroughly] trustworthy in all things. 12 Let deacons be the husbands of but one wife, and let them manage [their] children and their own households well. 13 For those who perform well as deacons acquire a good standing for themselves and also gain much confidence and freedom and boldness in the faith which is [founded on and centers] in Christ Jesus.

14 Although I hope to come to you before long, I am writing these instructions to you so that, 15 If I am detained, you may know how people ought to conduct themselves in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and stay (the prop and support) of the Truth. 16 And great and important and weighty, we confess, is the hidden truth (the mystic secret) of godliness. He [[b]God] was made visible in human flesh, justified and vindicated in the [Holy] Spirit, was seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, [and] taken up in glory.

1 Timothy 4

But the [Holy] Spirit distinctly and expressly declares that in latter times some will turn away from the faith, giving attention to deluding and seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach, Through the hypocrisy and pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared (cauterized), Who forbid people to marry and [teach them] to abstain from [certain kinds of] foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and have [an increasingly clear] knowledge of the truth.

For everything God has created is good, and nothing is to be thrown away or refused if it is received with thanksgiving. For it is hallowed and consecrated by the Word of God and by prayer.

If you lay all these instructions before the brethren, you will be a worthy steward and a good minister of Christ Jesus, ever nourishing your own self on the truths of the faith and of the good [Christian] instruction which you have closely followed. But refuse and avoid irreverent legends (profane and impure and godless fictions, mere grandmothers’ tales) and silly myths, and express your disapproval of them. Train yourself toward godliness (piety), [keeping yourself spiritually fit]. For physical training is of some value (useful for a little), but godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also for the life which is to come. This saying is reliable and worthy of complete acceptance by everybody.

10 With a view to this we toil and strive, [yes and] [a]suffer reproach, because we have [fixed our] hope on the living God, Who is the Savior (Preserver, Maintainer, Deliverer) of all men, especially of those who believe (trust in, rely on, and adhere to Him).

11 Continue to command these things and to teach them. 12 Let no one despise or think less of you because of your youth, but be an example (pattern) for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.

13 Till I come, devote yourself to [public and private] reading, to exhortation (preaching and personal appeals), and to teaching and instilling doctrine. 14 Do not neglect the gift which is in you, [that special inward endowment] which was directly imparted to you [by the Holy Spirit] by prophetic utterance when the elders laid their hands upon you [at your ordination]. 15 Practice and cultivate and meditate upon these duties; throw yourself wholly into them [as your ministry], so that your progress may be evident to everybody. 16 Look well to yourself [to your own personality] and to [your] teaching; persevere in these things [hold to them], for by so doing you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

1 Timothy 5

5 Do not sharply censure or rebuke an older man, but entreat and plead with him as [you would with] a father. Treat younger men like brothers; [Treat] older women like mothers [and] younger women like sisters, in all purity.

[Always] treat with great consideration and give aid to those who are truly widowed (solitary and without support). But if a widow has children or grandchildren, see to it that these are first made to understand that it is their religious duty [to defray their natural obligation to those] at home, and make return to their parents or grandparents [for all their care by contributing to their maintenance], for this is acceptable in the sight of God. Now [a woman] who is a real widow and is left entirely alone and desolate has fixed her hope on God and perseveres in supplications and prayers night and day, Whereas she who lives in pleasure and self-gratification [giving herself up to luxury and self-indulgence] is dead even while she [still] lives.

Charge [the people] thus, so that they may be without reproach and blameless. If anyone fails to provide for his relatives, and especially for those of his own family, he has disowned the faith [by failing to accompany it with fruits] and is worse than an unbeliever [who performs his obligation in these matters]. Let no one be put on the roll of widows [who are to receive church support] who is under sixty years of age or who has been the wife of more than one man; 10 And she must have a reputation for good deeds, as one who has brought up children, who has practiced hospitality to strangers [of the brotherhood], washed the feet of the saints, helped to relieve the distressed, [and] devoted herself diligently to doing good in every way.

11 But refuse [to enroll on this list the] younger widows, for when they become restive and their natural desires grow strong, they withdraw themselves against Christ [and] wish to marry [again]. 12 And so they incur condemnation for having set aside and slighted their previous pledge. 13 Moreover, as they go about from house to house, they learn to be idlers, and not only idlers, but gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not say and talking of things they should not mention. 14 So I would have younger [widows] marry, bear children, guide the household, [and] not give opponents of the faith occasion for slander or reproach. 15 For already some [widows] have turned aside after Satan. 16 If any believing woman or believing man has [relatives or persons in the household who are] widows, let him relieve them; let the church not be burdened [with them], so that it may [be free to] assist those who are truly widows (those who are all alone and are dependent).

17 Let the elders who perform the duties of their office well be considered doubly worthy of honor [and of adequate [a]financial support], especially those who labor faithfully in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain, and again, The laborer is worthy of his hire. 19 Listen to no accusation [presented before a judge] against an elder unless it is confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who are guilty and persist in sin, rebuke and admonish them in the presence of all, so that the rest may be warned and stand in wholesome awe and fear.

21 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the chosen angels that you guard and keep [these rules] without personal prejudice or favor, doing nothing from partiality. 22 Do not be in a hurry in the laying on of hands [giving the sanction of the church too hastily in reinstating expelled offenders or in ordination in questionable cases], nor share or participate in another man’s sins; keep yourself pure. 23 Drink water no longer exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.

24 The sins of some men are conspicuous (openly evident to all eyes), going before them to the judgment [seat] and proclaiming their sentence in advance; but the sins of others appear later [following the offender to the bar of judgment and coming into view there]. 25 So also, good deeds are evident and conspicuous, and even when they are not, they cannot remain hidden [indefinitely].

1 Timothy 6

Let all who are under the yoke as bond servants esteem their own [personal] masters worthy of honor and fullest respect, so that the name of God and the teaching [about Him] may not be brought into disrepute and blasphemed. Let those who have believing masters not be disrespectful or scornful [to them] on the grounds that they are brothers [in Christ]; rather, they should serve [them all the better] because those who benefit by their kindly service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these duties. But if anyone teaches otherwise and does not [a]assent to the sound and wholesome messages of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and the teaching which is in agreement with godliness (piety toward God), He is puffed up with pride and stupefied with conceit, [although he is] woefully ignorant. He has a [b]morbid fondness for controversy and disputes and strife about words, which result in (produce) envy and jealousy, quarrels and dissension, abuse and insults and slander, and base suspicions, And protracted wrangling and wearing discussion and perpetual friction among men who are corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, who imagine that godliness or righteousness is a [c]source of profit [a moneymaking business, a means of livelihood]. From such withdraw.

[And it is, indeed, a source of immense profit, for] godliness accompanied with contentment (that contentment which is a sense of [d]inward sufficiency) is great and abundant gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and obviously we cannot take anything out of the world; But if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content (satisfied).

But those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish (useless, godless) and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction and miserable perishing. 10 For the love of money is a root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have been led astray and have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many [e]acute [mental] pangs.

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee from all these things; aim at and pursue righteousness (right standing with God and true goodness), godliness (which is the loving fear of God and being Christlike), faith, love, steadfastness (patience), and gentleness of heart. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith; lay hold of the eternal life to which you were summoned and [for which] you confessed the good confession [of faith] before many witnesses.

13 In the presence of God, Who preserves alive all living things, and of Christ Jesus, Who in His testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I [solemnly] charge you 14 To keep all His precepts unsullied and flawless, irreproachable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Anointed One), 15 Which [appearing] will be shown forth in His own proper time by the blessed, only Sovereign (Ruler), the King of kings and the Lord of lords. 16 Who alone has immortality [in the sense of exemption from every kind of death] and lives in unapproachable light, Whom no man has ever seen or can see. Unto Him be honor and everlasting power and dominion. Amen (so be it).

17 As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be proud and arrogant and contemptuous of others, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches, but on God, Who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for [our] enjoyment. 18 [Charge them] to do good, to be rich in good works, to be liberal and generous of heart, ready to share [with others], 19 In this way laying up for themselves [the riches that endure forever as] a good foundation for the future, so that they may grasp that which is life indeed.

20 O Timothy, guard and keep the deposit entrusted [to you]! Turn away from the irreverent babble and godless chatter, with the vain and empty and worldly phrases, and the subtleties and the contradictions in what is falsely called knowledge and spiritual illumination. 21 [For] by making such profession some have erred (missed the mark) as regards the faith. Grace (divine favor and blessing) be with you all! Amen (so be it).

2 Timothy 1

Paul, an apostle (special messenger) of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,

To Timothy, [my] beloved child: Grace (favor and spiritual blessing), mercy, and [heart] peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord! I thank God Whom I worship with a pure conscience, [a]in the spirit of my fathers, when without ceasing I remember you night and day in my prayers, And when, as I recall your tears, I yearn to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am calling up memories of your sincere and unqualified faith (the [b]leaning of your entire personality on God in Christ in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness), [a faith] that first lived permanently in [the heart of] your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am [fully] persuaded, [dwells] in you also.

That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands [[c]with those of the elders at your ordination]. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. Do not blush or be ashamed then, to testify to and for our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for His sake, but [[d]with me] take your share of the suffering [to which the preaching] of the Gospel [may expose you, and do it] in the power of God.

[For it is He] Who delivered and saved us and called us with a calling in itself holy and leading to holiness [to a life of consecration, a vocation of holiness]; [He did it] not because of anything of merit that we have done, but because of and to further His own purpose and grace (unmerited favor) which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began [eternal ages ago]. 10 [It is that purpose and grace] which He now has made known and has fully disclosed and made real [to us] through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, Who annulled death and made it of no effect and brought life and immortality (immunity from eternal death) to light through the Gospel.

11 For [the proclaiming of] this [Gospel] I was appointed a herald (preacher) and an apostle (special messenger) and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 And this is why I am suffering as I do. Still I am not ashamed, for I know (perceive, have knowledge of, and am acquainted with) Him Whom I have believed (adhered to and trusted in and relied on), and I am [positively] persuaded that He is able to guard and keep that which has been entrusted to me and which [e]I have committed [to Him] until that day.

13 Hold fast and follow the pattern of wholesome and sound teaching which you have heard from me, in [all] the faith and love which are [for us] in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard and keep [with the greatest care] the precious and excellently adapted [Truth] which has been entrusted [to you], by the [help of the] Holy Spirit Who makes His home in us.

15 You already know that all who are in Asia turned away and forsook me, Phygelus and Hermogenes among them. 16 May the Lord grant [His] mercy to the family of Onesiphorus, for he often showed me kindness and ministered to my needs [comforting and reviving and bracing me like fresh air]! He was not ashamed of my chains and imprisonment [for Christ’s sake]. 17 No, rather when he reached Rome, he searched diligently and eagerly for me and found me. 18 May the Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord on that [great] day! And you know how many things he did for me and what a help he was at Ephesus [you know better than I can tell you].

2 Timothy 2

So you, my son, be strong (strengthened inwardly) in the grace (spiritual blessing) that is [to be found only] in Christ Jesus.

And the [instructions] which you have heard from me along with many witnesses, transmit and entrust [as a deposit] to reliable and faithful men who will be competent and qualified to teach others also. Take [with me] your share of the hardships and suffering [which you are called to endure] as a good (first-class) soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier when in service gets entangled in the enterprises of [civilian] life; his aim is to satisfy and please the one who enlisted him. And if anyone enters competitive games, he is not crowned unless he competes lawfully (fairly, according to the rules laid down). [It is] the hard-working farmer [who labors to produce] who must be the first partaker of the fruits.

Think over these things I am saying [understand them and grasp their application], for the Lord will grant you full insight and understanding in everything. Constantly keep in mind Jesus Christ (the Messiah) [as] risen from the dead, [as the prophesied King] descended from David, according to the good news (the Gospel) that I preach. For that [Gospel] I am suffering affliction and even wearing chains like a criminal. But the Word of God is not chained or imprisoned!

10 Therefore I [am ready to] persevere and stand my ground with patience and endure everything for the sake of the elect [God’s chosen], so that they too may obtain [the] salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with [the reward of] eternal glory. 11 The saying is sure and worthy of confidence: If we have died with Him, we shall also live with Him. 12 If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny and disown and reject Him, He will also deny and disown and reject us. 13 If we are faithless [do not believe and are untrue to Him], He remains true (faithful to His Word and His righteous character), for He cannot deny Himself.

14 Remind [the people] of these facts and [solemnly] charge them in the presence of the Lord to avoid petty controversy over words, which does no good but upsets and undermines the faith of the hearers. 15 Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth. 16 But avoid all empty (vain, useless, idle) talk, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness. 17 And their teaching [will devour; it] will eat its way like cancer or spread like gangrene. So it is with Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 Who have missed the mark and swerved from the truth by arguing that the resurrection has already taken place. They are undermining the faith of some.

19 But the firm foundation of (laid by) God stands, sure and unshaken, bearing this seal (inscription): The Lord knows those who are His, and, Let everyone who names [himself by] the name of the Lord give up all iniquity and stand aloof from it.

20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also [utensils] of wood and earthenware, and some for honorable and noble [use] and some for menial and ignoble [use]. 21 So whoever cleanses himself [from what is ignoble and unclean, who separates himself from contact with contaminating and corrupting influences] will [then himself] be a vessel set apart and useful for honorable and noble purposes, consecrated and profitable to the Master, fit and ready for any good work.

22 Shun youthful lusts and flee from them, and aim at and pursue righteousness (all that is virtuous and good, right living, conformity to the will of God in thought, word, and deed); [and aim at and pursue] faith, love, [and] peace (harmony and concord with others) in fellowship with all [Christians], who call upon the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But refuse (shut your mind against, have nothing to do with) trifling (ill-informed, unedifying, stupid) controversies over ignorant questionings, for you know that they foster strife and breed quarrels. 24 And the servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome (fighting and contending). Instead, he must be kindly to everyone and mild-tempered [preserving the bond of peace]; he must be a skilled and suitable teacher, patient and forbearing and willing to suffer wrong. 25 He must correct his opponents with courtesy and gentleness, in the hope that God may grant that they will repent and come to know the Truth [that they will perceive and recognize and become accurately acquainted with and acknowledge it], 26 And that they may come to their senses [and] escape out of the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him, [henceforth] to do His [God’s] will.

2 Timothy 3

But understand this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great stress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear]. For people will be lovers of self and [utterly] self-centered, lovers of money and aroused by an inordinate [greedy] desire for wealth, proud and arrogant and contemptuous boasters. They will be abusive (blasphemous, scoffing), disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane. [They will be] without natural [human] affection (callous and inhuman), relentless (admitting of no truce or appeasement); [they will be] slanderers (false accusers, troublemakers), intemperate and loose in morals and conduct, uncontrolled and fierce, haters of good. [They will be] treacherous [betrayers], rash, [and] inflated with self-conceit. [They will be] lovers of sensual pleasures and vain amusements more than and rather than lovers of God. For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion), they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it [their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession]. Avoid [all] such people [turn away from them]. For among them are those who worm their way into homes and captivate silly and weak-natured and spiritually dwarfed women, loaded down with [the burden of their] sins [and easily] swayed and led away by various evil desires and seductive impulses. [These weak women will listen to anybody who will teach them]; they are forever inquiring and getting information, but are never able to arrive at a recognition and knowledge of the Truth.

Now just as [a]Jannes and Jambres were hostile to and resisted Moses, so these men also are hostile to and oppose the Truth. They have depraved and distorted minds, and are reprobate and counterfeit and to be rejected as far as the faith is concerned. But they will not get very far, for their rash folly will become obvious to everybody, as was that of those [magicians mentioned].

10 Now you have closely observed and diligently followed my teaching, conduct, purpose in life, faith, patience, love, steadfastness, 11 Persecutions, sufferings—such as occurred to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra, persecutions I endured, but out of them all the Lord delivered me.

12 Indeed all who delight in piety and are determined to live a devoted and godly life in Christ Jesus will meet with persecution [will be made to suffer because of their religious stand]. 13 But wicked men and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and leading astray others and being deceived and led astray themselves.

14 But as for you, continue to hold to the things that you have learned and of which you are convinced, knowing from whom you learned [them], 15 And how from your childhood you have had a knowledge of and been acquainted with the sacred Writings, which are able to instruct you and give you the understanding for salvation which comes through faith in Christ Jesus [through the [b]leaning of the entire human personality on God in Christ Jesus in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness]. 16 Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action), 17 So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 4

I charge [you] in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, Who is to judge the living and the dead, and by (in the light of) His coming and His kingdom: Herald and preach the Word! Keep your sense of urgency [stand by, be at hand and ready], whether the opportunity seems to be favorable or unfavorable. [Whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether it is welcome or unwelcome, you as preacher of the Word are to show people in what way their lives are wrong.] And convince them, rebuking and correcting, warning and urging and encouraging them, being unflagging and inexhaustible in patience and teaching.

For the time is coming when [people] will not tolerate (endure) sound and wholesome instruction, but, having ears itching [for something pleasing and gratifying], they will gather to themselves one teacher after another to a considerable number, chosen to satisfy their own liking and to foster the errors they hold, And will turn aside from hearing the truth and wander off into myths and man-made fictions. As for you, be calm and cool and steady, accept and suffer unflinchingly every hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fully perform all the duties of your ministry.

For I am already about to be sacrificed [my life is about to be poured out as a drink offering]; the time of my [spirit’s] release [from the body] is at hand and I will soon go free. I have fought the good (worthy, honorable, and noble) fight, I have finished the race, I have kept (firmly held) the faith. [As to what remains] henceforth there is laid up for me the [victor’s] crown of righteousness [for being right with God and doing right], which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me and recompense me on that [great] day—and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved and yearned for and welcomed His appearing (His return).

Make every effort to come to me soon. 10 For Demas has deserted me for love of this present world and has gone to Thessalonica; Crescens [has gone] to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.

11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very helpful to me for the ministry. 12 Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.

13 [When] you come, bring the cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, also the books, especially the parchments.

14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great wrongs. The Lord will pay him back for his actions. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he opposed and resisted our message very strongly and exceedingly.

16 At my first trial no one acted in my defense [as my advocate] or took my part or [even] stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them!

17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the [Gospel] message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was delivered out of the jaws of the lion. 18 [And indeed] the Lord will certainly deliver and [a]draw me to Himself from every assault of evil. He will preserve and bring me safe unto His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen (so be it).

19 Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila and to the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus stayed on at Corinth, but Trophimus I left ill at Miletus.

21 Do hasten and try your best to come to me before winter. Eubulus wishes to be remembered to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren.

22 The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace (God’s favor and blessing) be with you. Amen (so be it).

And the tear-filled Amen is raised

#lessonsfromlent

Full confession . . . I have for most of my Christian walk had an attitude about Paul. He’s brash and blunt and he seems to belabor things for a long time, hence the gentleman falling out the window. I especially have felt myself bristle at the teachings we find in the writings of Paul on the role of women in the church. But through this reading over Lent, I have absolutely seen him in a different light and I find myself desiring to be like him in gentleness, love, and tender affection. Those are words that I would never have used previously to describe Paul.

I praise God that He has opened up my heart to see the protector in Paul . . . the humility in Paul . . .the love in Paul. Love he exercised at all cost. He suffered rejection for the Truth, he suffered humiliation for the Gospel, he suffered through loneliness, separation, loss of everything. He looked at death through the lenses of freedom and life, but he didn’t flinch in letting us know . . .this was difficult.

For I am already about to be sacrificed [my life is about to be poured out as a drink offering]; the time of my [spirit’s] release [from the body] is at hand and I will soon go free. I have fought the good (worthy, honorable, and noble) fight, I have finished the race, I have kept (firmly held) the faith. 2 Timothy 4:6

There were times reading these letters to his dear son Timothy that I found myself wanting to turn away because it seemed so personal. The tears flowed openly down my face as I let myself imagine how much he desired to look Timothy in the face one more time and how much he would have preferred to give him all this wisdom with a fatherly hand laid across his shoulders. In the last chapter of 2 Timothy, interspersed with the news of who is where and who is doing what, we’re giving little glimpses of Paul’s heart and his human want to see his dear child in the faith one more time . . .

Make every effort to come to me soon. 2 Timothy 4:9

Did your heart not break for him when he wrote about standing alone at trial? Did his loneliness not reach across the page and grab your heart for him?

16 At my first trial no one acted in my defense [as my advocate] or took my part or [even] stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them!

There is something about giving voice to a situation that makes the pain of it so much more real to me. I’m not talking about rash sharing designed to make people choose sides and simply vent my own displeasure. I’m talking about sharing a true offense that has been committed against you after you’ve had some time to process through it. It’s almost as if it increases the intensity of the hurt and it wounds you all over again. Rash sharing and venting isn’t what we see of Paul here either. He doesn’t even name names –and neither should I—he uses the vague “all forsook me.” He’s thought the thing through and as an imitator of Christ Jesus, he wants the offenders to be forgiven.

So Paul’s willingness to put that out there—to be vulnerable that way—speaks volumes to me, and maybe to you, about the desire to hide the difficult situations. I’m not advocating exposing our every scar just for exposure’s sake but maybe the vulnerability and readiness to share the things that have hurt our hearts will give us opportunities to spread the fame of the One who heals them . . .

17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the [Gospel] message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was delivered out of the jaws of the lion. 18 [And indeed] the Lord will certainly deliver and [a]draw me to Himself from every assault of evil. He will preserve and bring me safe unto His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen (so be it).

Paul’s anchored in his Ever-Present Jesus. He’s certain that the Messiah will draw him near at every turn and will provide for him in every way. His desire to see Timothy is not because he feels God is falling short or not filling him to the full, he just loves him. Plain and simple. He loves him and he wants to say a proper goodbye in person.

21 Do hasten and try your best to come to me before winter. 2 Timothy 4:21

Paul doesn’t get to do that and though we don’t have written record of it, I’m pretty sure, based on his gratefulness for the fruit of his hardships here on earth, that when he got to heaven and God laid out all the ways He was planning to use his farewell letters to Timothy – Paul rejoiced.  And soon after, he rejoiced again . . . with Timothy. Let yourself picture that sweet reunion and the eternal hellos they shared with the impact of their temporal goodbyes as the backdrop. Isn’t God good?

And as I wrote earlier, I am praising God for opening Paul’s life up to me in a new way and even leading me to pray . . .

Lord, I want to live like that—when Paul wrote model yourself after me—let me do that very thing. Let me relate not only to his baggage and the sin he carried into his faith but the life he lived in love after the scales fell—I want that.

But moreover, what I am praising my Father for is the unequivocal reminder that these are not Paul’s words—they are His. See that changes things for me because when I take them from Paul’s pen to God’s heart then I begin to more fully appreciate the authority they have over me and I realize the sin I indulge in when I set myself up to judge rather they are right or wrong.

I don’t understand everything God shares through Paul’s writings and I won’t fully understand them this side of Glory. And here’s the flat out truth:

My understanding of a boundary God has set is not required but my obedience is.

Adam and Eve proved that . . . God set the boundary, they stepped across the line and they left God’s blessing behind. For today, my eyes are open to that deception, and I’m not falling for the serpent’s trick. I’m going to be obedient and boldly proclaim the Gospel and the goodness of my God all throughout the territory He stamped with my name, but I will stay within the boundaries He has given me and I will not leave His blessing behind.

My new friend Paul was called to do a lot of things that may not have made sense to him. He was called to stay put and teach right where he was when he wanted to go and strengthen more believers. He was imprisoned and the borders around his goodbye to Timothy were set by the chains he wore. He may not have understood but he knew the One who did. Paul knew that the One who hemmed him in, the One who put his boundary lines in place . . . he knew He was faithful.

You and I need to follow the example of trust and reliance in all circumstance—in all hardship—that Paul put out there. We need to embrace that obedience flows from faith and that the One who blesses has thoughts far higher than ours. We need to hold fast to the One who laid down our boundary lines and trust Him to do the beautiful thing. We need to know that He who promises is Faithful to Himself and that means our boundaries were set in love. See, Paul might not have understood the why of his boundaries, but he understood the Who of his Blessing – I want that.

CREATIon SWAP FREE vineyard Matt Gruber 5883

Leaving my boundaries behind means leaving my blessing behind . . . #lessonsfromlent

Lessons from Lent: Day 22

14 Mar

 

creation swap lessons from lent coffee cup Kelly Sikkema 22940

An Explanation of Lessons from Lent

In the next 40 days (19 now because you have already accomplished twenty-one), the weeks leading up to Easter, the posts on Glimpsed Glory will be different. I am reading through the New Testament during this time and I am hoping the Holy Spirit will lead me to a fresh revelation each and every day. I’m going into it with a prayerful heart and an expectant spirit but I will fully confess to you that my soul feels sluggish.

I have been in a place of exhaustion over these last months. My mind has been clouded, my body has ached and insomnia has been my companion since late December. The enemy has been and is still whispering in my ear that my Jesus has forgotten me . . . that He has finally tired of my imperfections and left me behind.

I’m not giving in to it! I am going to fight the good fight of faith and follow the example of my Nehemiah Man. I am going to stand firm in my faith because if I do not, I will not stand at all. I’m praising God for bringing me to a place of emptiness so that I can look to Him to fill my cup.

I’m coming before the Lord and I’m asking Him to do a new thing in me. To rouse my heart to His side and to draw me near in real and tangible ways. To plow through the fog that has settled over me in the form of health issues, physical stress, and emotional upheaval and lay a level path before me. I’m entering the throne room and I’m humbly reminding Him that He has invited me to come in my time of need. O Lord – be near to me. Love me where I am. Take me where I need to be.

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That’s the cry of my heart Sweet Sister and I’m thinking that if I am in this place that perhaps you are too. It might be that different life situations have brought us here but here we are. If that’s the case, I want you to know that you are not alone and that you have a faith sister to walk through it with. We can do this together – you and I. It’s why God gave us to one another. We can join our hearts and we can offer up the next 40 days to the Beautiful One and trust Him to do the beautiful thing in us.

So here’s what I’ll do. I’ll post the daily reading on the blog (except for Sundays) and if you read the Scriptures not only will you have read through the entire New Testament by Easter but God promises that He’ll show you deep and unsearchable things you do not know. He promises that His word is alive and active and will transform your heart. I could use some transformation. What about you?

At the end of the daily passage, I’m going to share my “Lesson from Lent” – nothing long or drawn out just something that God uses to speak straight to my heart from the Scripture that day. I’m putting it at the end because if your time runs short on a particular day – I want you to skip reading my words, not His.

I’m hoping that you’ll start your own running record of what God is showing you. Maybe you’ll even be moved to leave a comment so your Sisters can glean from what you’re learning. No matter how you choose to keep track of all He shares with you . . . treasure it up in your heart Sweet One, meditate on it, mull it over, consider the whisper of the Lover of your soul. The God of the Universe is the only Voice we need to revive our tired souls. So, let’s you and I lean in close, pray for ears to hear and hearts to respond. Let’s dig in to the riches He has given us and prepare to be amazed by what He will reveal to our expectant hearts. O Sister, let’s boldly ask Him for a lesson from Lent and then brace ourselves for a glimpse of Glory!

Day Twenty-two

March 14, 2015 ~~ Acts 24-28

Amplified Bible

Footnotes: I’ve left the footnotes in place if you would like to track down sources in word study and language. Please follow the link to each chapter and scroll to the bottom of the passage.

Acts 24

Five days later, the high priest Ananias came down [from Jerusalem to Caesarea] with some elders and a certain forensic advocate Tertullus [acting as spokesman and counsel]. They presented to the governor their evidence against Paul. And when he was called, Tertullus began the complaint [against him] by saying: Since through you we obtain and enjoy much peace, and since by your foresight and provision wonderful reforms (amendments and improvements) are introduced and effected on behalf of this nation, In every way and in every place, most excellent Felix, we accept and acknowledge this with deep appreciation and with all gratitude. But not to hinder or detain you too long, I beg you in your clemency and courtesy and kindness to grant us a brief and [a]concise hearing. For we have found this man a perfect pest (a real plague), an agitator and source of disturbance to all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the [heretical, [b]division-producing] sect of the Nazarenes. He also [even] tried to desecrate and defile the temple, but we laid hands on him [c]and would have sentenced him by our Law, But the commandant Lysias came and took him from us with violence and force, And ordered his accusers to present themselves to you. By examining and cross-questioning him yourself, you will be able to ascertain the truth from him about all these things with which we charge him.

The Jews also agreed and joined in the accusation, declaring that all these things were exactly so. 10 And when the governor had beckoned to Paul to speak, he answered: Because I know that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I find it easier to make my defense and do it cheerfully and with good courage. 11 As you can readily verify, it is not more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship; 12 And neither in the temple nor in the synagogues nor in the city did they find me disputing with anybody or bringing together a seditious crowd. 13 Neither can they present argument or evidence to prove to you what they now bring against me.

14 But this I confess to you, however, that in accordance with the Way [of the Lord], which they call a [heretical, division-producing] sect, I worship (serve) the God of our fathers, still persuaded of the truth of and believing in and placing full confidence in everything laid down in the Law [of Moses] or written in the prophets; 15 Having [the same] hope in God which these themselves hold and look for, that there is to be a resurrection both of the righteous and the unrighteous (the just and the unjust). 16 Therefore I always exercise and discipline myself [mortifying my body, deadening my carnal affections, bodily appetites, and worldly desires, endeavoring in all respects] to have a clear (unshaken, blameless) conscience, void of offense toward God and toward men. 17 Now after several years I came up [to Jerusalem] to bring to my people contributions of charity and offerings. 18 While I was engaged in presenting these, they found me [occupied in the rites of purification] in the temple, without any crowd or uproar. But some Jews from [the province of] Asia [were there], 19 Who ought to be here before you and to present their charges, if they have anything against me. 20 Or else let these men themselves tell of what crime or wrongdoing they found me guilty when I appeared before the council (Sanhedrin), 21 Unless it be this one sentence which I cried out as I stood among them, In regard to the resurrection of the dead I am indicted and on trial before you this day!

22 But Felix, having a rather accurate understanding of the Way [of the Lord], put them off and adjourned the trial, saying, When Lysias the commandant comes down, I will determine your case more fully. 23 Then he ordered the centurion to keep [Paul] in custody, but to treat him with indulgence [giving him some liberty] and not to hinder his friends from ministering to his needs and serving him.

24 Some days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess; and he sent for Paul and listened to him [talk] about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 But as he continued to argue about uprightness, purity of life (the control of the passions), and the judgment to come, Felix became alarmed and terrified and said, Go away for the present; when I have a convenient opportunity, I will send for you.

26 At the same time he hoped to get money from Paul, for which reason he continued to send for him and was in his company and conversed with him often. 27 But when two years had gone by, Felix was succeeded in office by Porcius Festus; and wishing to gain favor with the Jews, Felix left Paul still a prisoner in chains.

Acts 25

Now when Festus had entered into his own province, after three days he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem. And [there] the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid charges before him against Paul, and they kept begging and urging him, Asking as a favor that he would have him brought to Jerusalem; [meanwhile] they were planning an ambush to slay him on the way.

Festus answered that Paul was in custody in Caesarea and that he himself planned to leave for there soon. So, said he, let those who are in a position of authority and are influential among you go down with me, and if there is anything amiss or criminal about the man, let them so charge him.

So when Festus had remained among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea, took his seat the next day on the judgment bench, and ordered Paul to be brought before him. And when he arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood all around him, bringing many grave accusations against him which they were not able to prove.

Paul declared in [his own] defense, Neither against the Law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in any way. But Festus, wishing to ingratiate himself with the Jews, answered Paul, Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be put on trial [[a]before the Jewish Sanhedrin] in my presence concerning these charges?

10 But Paul replied, I am standing before Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you know [b]better [than your question implies]. 11 If then I am a wrongdoer and a criminal and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not beg off and seek to escape death; but if there is no ground for their accusations against me, no one can give me up and make a present of me [[c]give me up freely] to them. I appeal to Caesar. 12 Then Festus, when he had consulted with the [[d]men who formed his] council, answered, You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you shall go.

13 Now after an interval of some days, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus [to welcome him and wish him well]. 14 And while they remained there for many days, Festus acquainted the king with Paul’s case, telling him, There is a man left a prisoner in chains by Felix; 15 And when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me about him, petitioning for a judicial hearing and condemnation of him. 16 But I replied to them that it was not the custom of the Romans to [e]give up freely any man for punishment before the accused had met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to defend himself concerning the charge brought against him.

17 So when they came here together, I did not delay, but on the morrow took my place on the judgment seat and ordered that the man be brought before me. 18 [But] when the accusers stood up, they brought forward no accusation [in his case] of any such misconduct as I was expecting. 19 Instead they had some points of controversy with him about their own religion or superstition and concerning one Jesus, Who had died but Whom Paul kept asserting [over and over] to be alive. 20 And I, being puzzled to know how to make inquiries into such questions, asked whether he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and there be tried regarding them. 21 But when Paul had appealed to have his case retained for examination and decision by the emperor, I ordered that he be detained until I could send him to Caesar. 22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, I also desire to hear the man myself. Tomorrow, [Festus] replied, you shall hear him.

23 So the next day Agrippa and Bernice approached with great display, and they went into the audience hall accompanied by the military commandants and the prominent citizens of the city. At the order of Festus Paul was brought in. 24 Then Festus said, King Agrippa and all the men present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish people came to me and complained, both at Jerusalem and here, insisting and shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 But I found nothing that he had done deserving of death. Still, as he himself appealed to the emperor, I determined to send him to Rome. 26 [However] I have nothing in particular and definite to write to my lord concerning him. So I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after [further] examination has been made, I may have something to put in writing. 27 For it seems to me senseless and absurd to send a prisoner and not state the accusations against him.

Acts 26

Then Agrippa said to Paul, You are permitted to speak on your own behalf. At that Paul stretched forth his hand and made his defense [as follows]:

I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that it is before you that I am to make my defense today in regard to all the charges brought against me by [the] Jews, [Especially] because you are so fully and unusually conversant with all the Jewish customs and controversies; therefore, I beg you to hear me patiently. My behavior and manner of living from my youth up is known by all the Jews; [they are aware] that from [its] commencement my youth was spent among my own race in Jerusalem. They have had knowledge of me for a long time, if they are willing to testify to it, that in accordance with the strictest sect of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial [to be judged on the ground] of the hope of that promise made to our forefathers by God, Which hope [of the Messiah and the resurrection] our twelve tribes confidently expect to realize as they fervently worship [without ceasing] night and day. And for that hope, O king, I am accused by Jews and considered a criminal! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead? I myself indeed was [once] persuaded that it was my duty to do many things contrary to and in defiance of the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is what I did in Jerusalem; I [not only] locked up many of the [faithful] saints (holy ones) in prison by virtue of authority received from the chief priests, but when they were being condemned to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 And frequently I punished them in all the synagogues to make them blaspheme; and in my bitter fury against them, I harassed (troubled, molested, persecuted) and pursued them even to foreign cities.

12 Thus engaged I proceeded to Damascus with the authority and orders of the chief priests, 13 When on the road at midday, O king, I saw a light from heaven surpassing the brightness of the sun, flashing about me and those who were traveling with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice in the Hebrew tongue saying to me, Saul, Saul, why do you continue to persecute Me [to harass and trouble and molest Me]? It is dangerous and turns out badly for you to keep kicking against the goads [to keep offering vain and perilous resistance].

15 And I said, Who are You, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting. 16 But arise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, that I might appoint you to serve as [My] minister and to bear witness both to what you have seen of Me and to that in which I will appear to you, 17 [a]Choosing you out [selecting you for Myself] and [b]delivering you from among this [Jewish] people and the Gentiles to whom I am sending you— 18 To open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may thus receive forgiveness and release from their sins and a place and portion among those who are consecrated and purified by faith in Me.

19 Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision, 20 But made known openly first of all to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout the whole land of Judea, and also among the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works and live lives consistent with and worthy of their repentance. 21 Because of these things the Jews seized me in the temple [[c]enclosure] and tried to do away with me. 22 [But] to this day I have had the help which comes from God [as my [d]ally], and so I stand here testifying to small and great alike, asserting nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses declared would come to pass— 23 That the Christ (the Anointed One) must suffer and that He, by being the first to rise from the dead, would declare and show light both to the [Jewish] people and to the Gentiles.

24 And as he thus proceeded with his defense, Festus called out loudly, Paul, you are mad! Your great learning is driving you insane! 25 But Paul replied, I am not mad, most noble Festus, but I am uttering the straight, sound truth. 26 For the king understands about these things well enough, and [therefore] to him I speak with bold frankness and confidence. I am convinced that not one of these things has escaped his notice, for all this did not take place in a corner [in secret]. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? [Do you give credence to God’s messengers and their words?] I perceive and know that you do believe.

28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, You think it a small task to make a Christian of me [just offhand to induce me with little ado and persuasion, at very short notice]. 29 And Paul replied, Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you, but also all who are listening to me today, might become such as I am, except for these chains.

30 Then the king arose, and the governor and Bernice and all those who were seated with them; 31 And after they had gone out, they said to one another, This man is doing nothing deserving of death or [even] of imprisonment. 32 And Agrippa said to Festus, This man could have been set at liberty if he had not appealed to Caesar.

Acts 27

Now when it was determined that we [including Luke] should sail for Italy, they turned Paul and some other prisoners over to a centurion of the imperial regiment named Julius. And going aboard a ship from Adramyttium which was about to sail for the ports along the coast of [the province of] Asia, we put out to sea; and Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, accompanied us.

The following day we landed at Sidon, and Julius treated Paul in a loving way, with much consideration (kindness and care), permitting him to go to his friends [there] and be refreshed and be cared for.

After putting to sea from there we passed to the leeward (south side) of Cyprus [for protection], for the winds were contrary to us.

And when we had sailed over [the whole length] of sea which lies off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we reached Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship bound for Italy, and he transferred us to it.

For a number of days we made slow progress and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus; then, as the wind did not permit us to proceed, we went under the lee (shelter) of Crete off Salmone, And coasting along it with difficulty, we arrived at a place called Fair Havens, near which is located the town of Lasea.

But as [the season was well advanced, for] much time had been lost and navigation was already dangerous, for the time for the Fast [the Day of Atonement, about the beginning of October] had already gone by, Paul warned and advised them, 10 Saying, Sirs, I perceive [after careful observation] that this voyage will be attended with disaster and much heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship but of our lives also. 11 However, the centurion paid greater attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And as the harbor was not well situated and so unsuitable to winter in, the majority favored the plan of putting to sea again from there, hoping somehow to reach Phoenice, a harbor of Crete facing southwest and northwest, and winter there.

13 So when the south wind blew softly, supposing they were gaining their object, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, hugging the coast. 14 But soon afterward a violent wind [of the character of a typhoon], called a northeaster, came bursting down from the island. 15 And when the ship was caught and was unable to head against the wind, we gave up and, letting her drift, were borne along.

16 We ran under the shelter of a small island called Cauda, where we managed with [much] difficulty to draw the [ship’s small] boat on deck and secure it. 17 After hoisting it on board, they used supports with ropes to undergird and brace the ship; then afraid that they would be driven into the Syrtis [quicksands off the north coast of Africa], they lowered the gear (sails and ropes) and so were driven along.

18 As we were being dangerously tossed about by the violence of the storm, the next day they began to throw the freight overboard; 19 And the third day they threw out with their own hands the ship’s equipment (the tackle and the furniture). 20 And when neither sun nor stars were visible for many days and no small tempest kept raging about us, all hope of our being saved was finally abandoned.

21 Then as they had eaten nothing for a long time, Paul came forward into their midst and said, Men, you should have listened to me, and should not have put to sea from Crete and brought on this disaster and harm and misery and loss. 22 But [even] now I beg you to be in good spirits and take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you but only of the ship. 23 For this [very] night there stood by my side an angel of the God to Whom I belong and Whom I serve and worship, 24 And he said, Do not be frightened, Paul! It is necessary for you to stand before Caesar; and behold, God has given you all those who are sailing with you. 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith (complete confidence) in God that it will be exactly as it was told me; 26 But we shall have to be stranded on some island.

27 The fourteenth night had come and we were drifting and being driven about in the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors began to suspect that they were drawing near to some land. 28 So they took soundings and found twenty fathoms, and a little farther on they sounded again and found fifteen fathoms. 29 Then fearing that we might fall off [our course] onto rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and kept wishing for daybreak to come. 30 And as the sailors were trying to escape [secretly] from the ship and were lowering the small boat into the sea, pretending that they were going to lay out anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, Unless these men remain in the ship, you cannot be saved. 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes that held the small boat, and let it fall and drift away.

33 While they waited until it should become day, Paul entreated them all to take some food, saying, This is the fourteenth day that you have been continually in suspense and on the alert without food, having eaten nothing. 34 So I urge (warn, exhort, encourage, advise) you to take some food [for your safety]—it will give you strength; for not a hair is to perish from the head of any one of you.

35 Having said these words, he took bread and, giving thanks to God before them all, he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then they all became more cheerful and were encouraged and took food themselves. 37 All told there were 276 souls of us in the ship.

38 And after they had eaten sufficiently, [they proceeded] to lighten the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea. 39 Now when it was day [and they saw the land], they did not recognize it, but they noticed a bay with a beach on which they [taking counsel] purposed to run the ship ashore if they possibly could.

40 So they cut the cables and severed the anchors and left them in the sea; at the same time unlashing the ropes that held the rudders and hoisting the foresail to the wind, they headed for the beach. 41 But striking a crosscurrent (a place open to two seas) they ran the ship aground. The prow stuck fast and remained immovable, and the stern began to break up under the violent force of the waves.

42 It was the counsel of the soldiers to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim to land and escape; 43 But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, prevented their carrying out their purpose. He commanded those who could swim to throw themselves overboard first and make for the shore, 44 And the rest on heavy boards or pieces of the vessel. And so it was that all escaped safely to land.

Acts 28

After we were safe on the island, we knew and recognized that it was called Malta.

And the natives showed us unusual and remarkable kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed and received us all, since it had begun to rain and was cold.

Now Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and he was laying them on the fire when a viper crawled out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. When the natives saw the little animal hanging from his hand, they said to one another, Doubtless this man is a murderer, for though he has been saved from the sea, Justice [[a]the goddess of avenging] has not permitted that he should live. Then [Paul simply] shook off the small creature into the fire and suffered no evil effects. However, they were waiting, expecting him to swell up or suddenly drop dead; but when they had watched him a long time and saw nothing fatal or harmful come to him, they changed their minds and kept saying over and over that he was a god.

In the vicinity of that place there were estates belonging to the head man of the island, named Publius, who accepted and welcomed and entertained us with hearty hospitality for three days. And it happened that the father of Publius was sick in bed with recurring attacks of fever and dysentery; and Paul went to see him, and after praying and laying his hands on him, he healed him. After this had occurred, the other people on the island who had diseases also kept coming and were cured.

10 They showed us every respect and presented many gifts to us, honoring us with many honors; and when we sailed, they provided and put on [board our ship] everything we needed.

11 It was after three months’ stay there that we set sail in a ship which had wintered in the island, an Alexandrian ship with the Twin Brothers [Castor and Pollux] as its figurehead. 12 We landed at Syracuse and remained there three days,

13 And from there we made a circuit [following the coast] and reached Rhegium; and one day later a south wind sprang up, and the next day we arrived at Puteoli. 14 There we found some [Christian] brethren and were entreated to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. 15 And the [Christian] brethren there, having had news of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and received new courage.

16 When we arrived at Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard, but Paul was permitted to live by himself with the soldier who guarded him.

17 Three days after [our arrival], he called together the leading local Jews; and when they had gathered, he said to them, Brethren, though I have done nothing against the people or against the customs of our forefathers, yet I was turned over as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 After they had examined me, they were ready to release me because I was innocent of any offense deserving the death penalty. 19 But when the Jews protested, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, though it was not because I had any charge to make against my nation. 20 This is the reason therefore why I have begged to see you and to talk with you, since it is because of the Hope of Israel (the Messiah) that I am bound with this chain.

21 And they answered him, We have not received any letters about you from Judea, and none of the [Jewish] brethren coming here has reported or spoken anything evil about you. 22 But we think it fitting and are eager to hear from you what it is that you have in mind and believe and what your opinion is, for with regard to this sect it is known to all of us that it is everywhere denounced.

23 So when they had set a day with him, they came in large numbers to his lodging. And he fully set forth and explained the matter to them from morning until night, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced and believed what he said, and others did not believe.

25 And as they disagreed among themselves, they began to leave, [but not before] Paul had added one statement [more]: The Holy Spirit was right in saying through Isaiah the prophet to your forefathers: 26 Go to this people and say to them, You will indeed hear and hear with your ears but will not understand, and you will indeed look and look with your eyes but will not see [not perceive, have knowledge of or become acquainted with what you look at, at all]. 27 For the heart (the understanding, the soul) of this people has grown dull (stupid, hardened, and calloused), and their ears are heavy and hard of hearing and they have shut tight their eyes, so that they may not perceive and have knowledge and become acquainted with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their souls and turn [to Me and be converted], that I may heal them. 28 So let it be understood by you then that [this message of] the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen [to it]!

29 [b]And when he had said these things, the Jews went away, arguing and disputing among themselves.

30 After this Paul lived there for two entire years [at his own expense] in his own rented lodging, and he welcomed all who came to him, 31 Preaching to them the kingdom of God and teaching them about the Lord Jesus Christ with boldness and quite openly, and without being molested or hindered.

With unshackled hands raised, all the Sisters shout in freedom, “Amen”

#lessonsfromlent

Thus concludes the Book of Acts. Paul rejected by the very people he may have emulated as a young man studying at the feet of Gamaliel. Paul, a Pharisee among Pharisees excelling past many of his peers, now an outsider. Paul, zealous for who he imagined God to be, now passionate for a Messiah greater than he could ever have conceived.

Isn’t it odd that when we are first introduced to Paul – Saul standing and guarding the clothes of the murderers attacking Stephen, giving his consent and approval— he most likely would have described himself as a free man? He would have considered himself to be unbound to serve the God of his fathers with no knowledge or recognition of the chains shackling him.

And now we have a transformed Saul . . . Paul under house arrest, imprisoned and rejected by the ones he loved, held at arm’s length by the ones he wanted to grow up and be . . . more free than he had ever been.

The yoke of sin has been removed from his neck and the weight of the Law has been lifted by the work of Jesus. The Messiah, the Sinless One, fulfilled the Law —keeping every commandment by His unflinching commitment to the first . . .

 You shall have no other gods before or besides Me. Exodus 20:3

Word of caution to my own heart and maybe yours as well . . . Don’t think for a minute that you or I keeping God in His proper place as the One, True God does a thing for Him. He does not need us to validate that He is The One and Only God. He fully knows Who He is. He does not need us to seat Him on the throne of our world to feel validated in His Godness. The Great I AM was firmly positioned and securely enthroned before He even spoke our world into being. Like we are learning over and over again on this New Testament journey . . . the blessing is ours. Having no other gods before or besides Him is not a commandment that sprang forth from a universe-sized ego; it’s a boundary that was commanded from a universe-sized LOVE.

Paul, held captive in Rome, was freer than he had ever been because his soul had been liberated from the Law by Grace. The Messiah, the One who became sin, had paid for every transgression Paul had committed – even the approval of the death of Stephen. Even the destruction of the homes he had dragged the saints from to imprison them. Sweet One, we have to raise the hallelujah because the same is true for us. No matter how huge we believe our sin to be . .

No offense is beyond the blood of Jesus.

But the saving work begins long before the shackles drop, does it not begin with a glimmer of recognition that you and I are walking about in chains? Does it not begin with a flicker of our need to be set free?

Remember Paul on the road to Damascus with the light shining all around him, hearing the voice of Jesus say I am the One. This is what I wonder . . . is that the moment Saul knew he was in bondage? His eyes were blinded but did his soul see? Did the Light of World shine so clearly on the chains holding Saul’s heart that for the first time he realized he was a captive? A slave to sin, held in bondage by the Law and yoked to his own inability to be righteous.

I believe the transformed Saul, the one God allowed to pen Galatians 5:1 was very aware of his freedom and it seems to me that you don’t come to appreciate something that way, to the very depth of your soul, unless you know what it is to be without it.

In [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off]. Galatians 5:1

The Law was powerless to keep Saul from sinning. It had all the force of God behind it to point to ungodliness and unrighteousness but the Law shackled Saul with sin and death. But God would not leave him bound and chained. He sent the Spirit of Life to set him free.

Is that not the testimony of every believer? We may have worn it differently than Paul in our dispensation of time, but when our Damascus Road moment came and the Living Christ shone about us . . .we saw our chains. We saw our slavery to sin and recognized the shackles of death that entangled us. We thought we were free but when the scales fell from our eyes – we saw our captivity.

But God– (don’t you love those two words, those two life-giving, spirit quickening, soul saving words )–But God . . . sent the Spirit of Life to set us free and Girlfriend, the one the Son sets free is free indeed!

No offense is beyond the blood of JesusNo offense is beyond the blood of Jesus . . . #lessonsfromlent

Lessons from Lent: Day Nineteen

11 Mar

creation swap lessons from lent coffee cup Kelly Sikkema 22940

An Explanation of Lessons from Lent

In the next 40 days (22 now because you have already accomplished eighteen), the weeks leading up to Easter, the posts on Glimpsed Glory will be different. I am reading through the New Testament during this time and I am hoping the Holy Spirit will lead me to a fresh revelation each and every day. I’m going into it with a prayerful heart and an expectant spirit but I will fully confess to you that my soul feels sluggish.

I have been in a place of exhaustion over these last months. My mind has been clouded, my body has ached and insomnia has been my companion since late December. The enemy has been and is still whispering in my ear that my Jesus has forgotten me . . . that He has finally tired of my imperfections and left me behind.

I’m not giving in to it! I am going to fight the good fight of faith and follow the example of my Nehemiah Man. I am going to stand firm in my faith because if I do not, I will not stand at all. I’m praising God for bringing me to a place of emptiness so that I can look to Him to fill my cup.

I’m coming before the Lord and I’m asking Him to do a new thing in me. To rouse my heart to His side and to draw me near in real and tangible ways. To plow through the fog that has settled over me in the form of health issues, physical stress, and emotional upheaval and lay a level path before me. I’m entering the throne room and I’m humbly reminding Him that He has invited me to come in my time of need. O Lord – be near to me. Love me where I am. Take me where I need to be.

creation swap love me one flower 206081_Flower_Background

That’s the cry of my heart Sweet Sister and I’m thinking that if I am in this place that perhaps you are too. It might be that different life situations have brought us here but here we are. If that’s the case, I want you to know that you are not alone and that you have a faith sister to walk through it with. We can do this together – you and I. It’s why God gave us to one another. We can join our hearts and we can offer up the next 40 days to the Beautiful One and trust Him to do the beautiful thing in us.

So here’s what I’ll do. I’ll post the daily reading on the blog (except for Sundays) and if you read the Scriptures not only will you have read through the entire New Testament by Easter but God promises that He’ll show you deep and unsearchable things you do not know. He promises that His word is alive and active and will transform your heart. I could use some transformation. What about you?

At the end of the daily passage, I’m going to share my “Lesson from Lent” – nothing long or drawn out just something that God uses to speak straight to my heart from the Scripture that day. I’m putting it at the end because if your time runs short on a particular day – I want you to skip reading my words, not His.

I’m hoping that you’ll start your own running record of what God is showing you. Maybe you’ll even be moved to leave a comment so your Sisters can glean from what you’re learning. No matter how you choose to keep track of all He shares with you . . . treasure it up in your heart Sweet One, meditate on it, mull it over, consider the whisper of the Lover of your soul. The God of the Universe is the only Voice we need to revive our tired souls. So, let’s you and I lean in close, pray for ears to hear and hearts to respond. Let’s dig in to the riches He has given us and prepare to be amazed by what He will reveal to our expectant hearts. O Sister, let’s boldly ask Him for a lesson from Lent and then brace ourselves for a glimpse of Glory!

Day Nineteen

March 11, 2015 ~~ Acts 7-11

Amplified Bible

Footnotes: I’ve left the footnotes in place if you would like to track down sources in word study and language. Please follow the link to each chapter and scroll to the bottom of the passage.

Acts 7

And the high priest asked [Stephen], Are these charges true?

And he answered, Brethren and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our forefather Abraham when he was still in Mesopotamia, before he [went to] live in Haran,

And He said to him, Leave your own country and your relatives and come into the land (region) that I will point out to you. So then he went forth from the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. And from there, after his father died, [God] transferred him to this country in which you are now dwelling. Yet He gave him no inheritable property in it, [no] not even enough ground to set his foot on; but He promised that He would give it to Him for a [a]permanent possession and to his descendants after him, even though [as yet] he had no child.

And this is [in effect] what God told him: That his descendants would be aliens (strangers) in a land belonging to other people, who would bring them into bondage and ill-treat them 400 years. But I will judge the nation to whom they will be slaves, said God, and after that they will escape and come forth and worship Me in this [very] place. And [God] made with Abraham a covenant (an agreement to be religiously observed) [b]of which circumcision was the seal. And under these circumstances [Abraham] became the father of Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac [did so] when he became the father of Jacob, and Jacob [when each of his sons was born], the twelve patriarchs.

And the patriarchs [Jacob’s sons], boiling with envy and hatred and anger, sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt; but God was with him, 10 And delivered him from all his distressing afflictions and won him goodwill and favor and wisdom and understanding in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him governor over Egypt and all his house. 11 Then there came a famine over all of Egypt and Canaan, with great distress, and our forefathers could find no fodder [for the cattle] or vegetable sustenance [for their households]. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent forth our forefathers [to go there on their] first trip. 13 And on their second visit Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, and the family of Joseph became known to Pharaoh and his origin and race.

14 And Joseph sent an invitation calling to himself Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. 15 And Jacob went down into Egypt, where he himself died, as did [also] our forefathers; 16 And their [c]bodies [Jacob’s and Joseph’s] were taken back to Shechem and laid in the tomb which Abraham had purchased for a sum of [silver] money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.

17 But as the time for the fulfillment of the promise drew near which God had made to Abraham, the [Hebrew] people increased and multiplied in Egypt, 18 Until [the time when] there arose over Egypt another and a different king who did not know Joseph [neither knowing his history and services nor recognizing his merits]. 19 He dealt treacherously with and defrauded our race; he abused and oppressed our forefathers, forcing them to expose their babies so that they might not be kept alive.

20 At this juncture Moses was born, and was exceedingly beautiful in God’s sight. For three months he was nurtured in his father’s house; 21 Then when he was exposed [to perish], the daughter of Pharaoh rescued him and took him and reared him as her own son. 22 So Moses was educated in all the wisdom and culture of the Egyptians, and he was mighty (powerful) in his speech and deeds.

23 And when he was in his fortieth year, it came into his heart to visit his kinsmen the children of Israel [[d]to help them and to care for them]. 24 And on seeing one of them being unjustly treated, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian and slaying [him]. 25 He expected his brethren to understand that God was granting them deliverance by his hand [taking it for granted that they would accept him]; but they did not understand.

26 Then on the next day he [e]suddenly appeared to some who were quarreling and fighting among themselves, and he urged them to make peace and become reconciled, saying, Men, you are brethren; why do you abuse and wrong one another? 27 Whereupon the man who was abusing his neighbor pushed [Moses] aside, saying, Who appointed you a ruler (umpire) and a judge over us? 28 Do you intend to slay me as you slew the Egyptian yesterday?

29 At that reply Moses sought safety by flight and he was an exile and an alien in the country of Midian, where he became the father of two sons. 30 And when forty years had gone by, there appeared to him in the wilderness (desert) of Mount Sinai an angel, in the flame of a burning bramblebush.

31 When Moses saw it, he was astonished and marveled at the sight; but when he went close to investigate, there came to him the voice of the Lord, saying, 32 I am the God of your forefathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob. And Moses trembled and was so terrified that he did not venture to look. 33 Then the Lord said to him, Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground and worthy of veneration. 34 Because I have most assuredly seen the abuse and oppression of My people in Egypt and have heard their sighing and groaning, I have come down to rescue them. So, now come! I will send you back to Egypt [as My messenger].

35 It was this very Moses whom they had denied (disowned and rejected), saying, Who made you our ruler (referee) and judge? whom God sent to be a ruler and deliverer and redeemer, by and with the [protecting and helping] hand of the Angel that appeared to him in the bramblebush. 36 He it was who led them forth, having worked wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and during the forty years in the wilderness (desert).

37 It was this [very] Moses who said to the children of Israel, God will raise up for you a Prophet from among your brethren as He raised me up. 38 This is he who in the assembly in the wilderness (desert) was the go-between for the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai and our forefathers, and he received living oracles (words that still live) to be handed down to us.

39 [And yet] our forefathers determined not to be subject to him [refusing to listen to or obey him]; but thrusting him aside they rejected him, and in their hearts yearned for and turned back to Egypt. 40 And they said to Aaron, Make us gods who shall [be our leaders and] go before us; as for this Moses who led us forth from the land of Egypt—we have no knowledge of what has happened to him. 41 And they [even] made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice to the idol and made merry and exulted in the work of their [own] hands.

42 But God turned [away from them] and delivered them up to worship and serve the host (stars) of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: Did you [really] offer to Me slain beasts and sacrifices for forty years in the wilderness (desert), O house of Israel? 43 [No!] You took up the tent (the portable temple) of Moloch and carried it [with you], and the star of the god Rephan, the images which you [yourselves] made that you might worship them; and I will remove you [carrying you away into exile] beyond Babylon.

44 Our forefathers had the tent (tabernacle) of witness in the wilderness, even as He Who directed Moses to make it had ordered, according to the pattern and model he had seen. 45 Our forefathers in turn brought it [this tent of witness] in [with them into the land] with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations which God drove out before the face of our forefathers. [So it remained here] until the time of David, 46 Who found grace (favor and spiritual blessing) in the sight of God and prayed that he might be allowed to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.

47 But it was Solomon who built a house for Him. 48 However, the Most High does not dwell in houses and temples made with hands; as the prophet says, 49 Heaven [is] My throne, and earth the footstool for My feet. What [kind of] house can you build for Me, says the Lord, or what is the place in which I can rest? 50 Was it not My hand that made all these things?

51 You stubborn and stiff-necked people, still heathen and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always [f]actively resisting the Holy Spirit. As your forefathers [were], so you [are and so you do]! 52 Which of the prophets did your forefathers not persecute? And they slew those who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, Whom you now have betrayed and murdered—53 You who received the Law as it was ordained and set in order and delivered by angels, and [yet] you did not obey it!

54 Now upon hearing these things, they [the Jews] were cut to the heart and infuriated, and they ground their teeth against [Stephen].

55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit and controlled by Him, gazed into heaven and saw the glory (the splendor and majesty) of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand; 56 And he said, Look! I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at God’s right hand!

57 But they raised a great shout and put their hands over their ears and rushed together upon him. 58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him, and the witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And while they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, Lord Jesus, receive and accept and welcome my spirit! 60 And falling on his knees, he cried out loudly, Lord, fix not this sin upon them [lay it not to their charge]! And when he had said this, he fell asleep [g][in death].

Acts 8

And Saul was [not only] consenting to [Stephen’s] death [he was [a]pleased and [b]entirely approving]. On that day a great and severe persecution broke out against the church which was in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles (special messengers).

[A party of] devout men [c]with others helped to carry out and bury Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul shamefully treated and laid waste the church continuously [with cruelty and violence]; and entering house after house, he dragged out men and women and committed them to prison.

Now those who were scattered abroad went about [through the land from place to place] preaching the glad tidings, the Word [[d]the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God]. Philip [the deacon, not the apostle] went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ (the Messiah) to them [the people]; And great crowds of people with one accord listened to and heeded what was said by Philip, as they heard him and watched the miracles and wonders which he kept performing [from time to time]. For foul spirits came out of many who were possessed by them, screaming and shouting with a loud voice, and many who were suffering from palsy or were crippled were restored to health. And there was great rejoicing in that city.

But there was a man named Simon, who had formerly practiced magic arts in the city to the utter amazement of the Samaritan nation, claiming that he himself was an extraordinary and distinguished person. 10 They all paid earnest attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is that exhibition of the power of God which is called great (intense). 11 And they were attentive and made much of him, because for a long time he had amazed and bewildered and dazzled them with his skill in magic arts.

12 But when they believed the good news (the Gospel) about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (the Messiah) as Philip preached it, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed [he adhered to, trusted in, and relied on the teaching of Philip], and after being baptized, devoted himself constantly to him. And seeing signs and miracles of great power which were being performed, he was utterly amazed.

14 Now when the apostles (special messengers) at Jerusalem heard that [the country of] Samaria had accepted and welcomed the Word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 And they came down and prayed for them that the Samaritans might receive the Holy Spirit; 16 For He had not yet fallen upon any of them, but they had only been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then [the apostles] laid their hands on them one by one, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 However, when Simon saw that the [Holy] Spirit was imparted through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he brought money and offered it to them, 19 Saying, Grant me also this power and authority, in order that anyone on whom I place my hands may receive the Holy Spirit. 20 But Peter said to him, Destruction overtake your money and you, because you imagined you could obtain the [free] gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is all wrong in God’s sight [it is not straightforward or right or true before God]. 22 So repent of this depravity and wickedness of yours and pray to the Lord that, if possible, this [e]contriving thought and purpose of your heart may be removed and disregarded and forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in [f]a bond forged by iniquity [to fetter souls]. 24 And Simon answered, Pray for me [beseech the Lord, both of you], that nothing of what you have said may befall me!

25 Now when [the apostles] had borne their testimony and preached the message of the Lord, they went back to Jerusalem, proclaiming the glad tidings (Gospel) to many villages of the Samaritans [on the way].

26 But an angel of the Lord said to Philip, Rise and proceed southward or at midday on the road that runs from Jerusalem down to Gaza. This is the desert [[g]route]. 27 So he got up and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship. 28 And he was [now] returning, and sitting in his chariot he was reading the book of the prophet Isaiah.

29 Then the [Holy] Spirit said to Philip, Go forward and join yourself to this chariot. 30 Accordingly Philip, running up to him, heard [the man] reading the prophet Isaiah and asked, Do you really understand what you are reading? 31 And he said, How is it possible for me to do so unless someone explains it to me and guides me [in the right way]? And he earnestly requested Philip to come up and sit beside him.

32 Now this was the passage of Scripture which he was reading: Like a sheep He was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is dumb, so He opens not His mouth. 33 In His humiliation [h] He was taken away by distressing and oppressive judgment and justice was denied Him [caused to cease]. Who can describe or relate in full [i]the wickedness of His contemporaries (generation)? For His life is taken from the earth and [j]a bloody death inflicted upon Him.

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, I beg of you, tell me about whom does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else? 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this portion of Scripture he announced to him the glad tidings (Gospel) of Jesus and about Him. 36 And as they continued along on the way, they came to some water, and the eunuch exclaimed, See, [here is] water! What is to hinder my being baptized? 37 [k]And Philip said, If you believe with all your heart [if you have [l]a conviction, full of joyful trust, that Jesus is the Messiah and accept Him as the Author of your salvation in the kingdom of God, giving Him your obedience, then] you may. And he replied, I do believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

38 And he ordered that the chariot be stopped; and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and [Philip] baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord [[m]suddenly] caught away Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, and he went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at Azotus, and passing on he preached the good news (Gospel) to all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Acts 9

Meanwhile Saul, [a]still drawing his breath hard from threatening and murderous desire against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest And requested of him letters to the synagogues at Damascus [authorizing him], so that if he found any men or women belonging to the Way [of life as determined by faith in Jesus Christ], he might bring them bound [with chains] to Jerusalem.

Now as he traveled on, he came near to Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him, And he fell to the ground. Then he heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me [harassing, troubling, and molesting Me]? And Saul said, Who are You, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting. [b]It is dangerous and it will turn out badly for you to keep kicking against the goad [to offer vain and perilous resistance]. Trembling and astonished he asked, Lord, what do You desire me to do? The Lord said to him, But arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.

The men who were accompanying him were unable to speak [for terror], hearing the voice but seeing no one. Then Saul got up from the ground, but though his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was unable to see for three days, and he neither ate nor drank [anything].

10 Now there was in Damascus a disciple named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias. And he answered, Here am I, Lord. 11 And the Lord said to him, Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying [there]. 12 And he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias enter and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight. 13 But Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard many people tell about this man, especially how much evil and what great suffering he has brought on Your saints at Jerusalem; 14 Now he is here and has authority from the high priests to put in chains all who call upon Your name.

15 But the Lord said to him, Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the descendants of Israel; 16 For I will make clear to him how much he will be afflicted and must endure and suffer for My name’s sake.

17 So Ananias left and went into the house. And he laid his hands on Saul and said, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, Who appeared to you along the way by which you came here, has sent me that you may recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. 18 And instantly something like scales fell from [Saul’s] eyes, and he recovered his sight. Then he arose and was baptized,

19 And after he took some food, he was strengthened. For several days [afterward] he remained with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately in the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus, saying, He is the Son of God! 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, Is not this the very man who harassed and overthrew and destroyed in Jerusalem those who called upon this Name? And he has come here for the express purpose of arresting them and bringing them in chains before the chief priests. 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and continued to confound and put to confusion the Jews who lived in Damascus by comparing and examining evidence and proving that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah).

23 After considerable time had elapsed, the Jews conspired to put Saul out of the way by slaying him, 24 But [the knowledge of] their plot was made known to Saul. They were guarding the [city’s] gates day and night to kill him, 25 But his disciples took him at night and let him down through the [city’s] wall, lowering him in a basket or hamper.

26 And when he had arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to associate himself with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe he really was a disciple. 27 However, Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles, and he explained to them how along the way he had seen the Lord, Who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached freely and confidently and courageously in the name of Jesus.

28 So he went in and out [as one] among them at Jerusalem, 29 Preaching freely and confidently and boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and discussed with and disputed against the Hellenists (the Grecian Jews), but they were seeking to slay him. 30 And when the brethren found it out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus [his home town].

31 So the church throughout the whole of Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was edified [growing in wisdom, virtue, and piety] and walking in the respect and reverential fear of the Lord and in the consolation and exhortation of the Holy Spirit, continued to increase and was multiplied.

32 Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he went down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedfast for eight years and was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ (the Messiah) [now] makes you whole. Get up and make your bed! And immediately [Aeneas] stood up. 35 Then all the inhabitants of Lydda and the plain of Sharon saw [what had happened to] him and they turned to the Lord.

36 Now there was at Joppa a disciple [a woman] named [in Aramaic] Tabitha, which [in Greek] means Dorcas. She was abounding in good deeds and acts of charity. 37 About that time she fell sick and died, and when they had cleansed her, they laid [her] in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa [however], the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him begging him, Do come to us without delay.

39 So Peter [immediately] rose and accompanied them. And when he had arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood around him, crying and displaying undershirts (tunics) and [other] garments such as Dorcas was accustomed to make while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all out [of the room] and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, Tabitha, get up! And she opened her eyes; and when she saw Peter, she raised herself and sat upright. 41 And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then calling in God’s people and the widows, he presented her to them alive. 42 And this became known throughout all Joppa, and many came to believe on the Lord [to adhere to and trust in and rely on Him as the Christ and as their Savior]. 43 And Peter remained in Joppa for considerable time with a certain Simon a tanner.

Acts 10

Now [living] at Caesarea there was a man whose name was Cornelius, a centurion (captain) of what was known as the Italian Regiment, A devout man who venerated God and treated Him with reverential obedience, as did all his household; and he gave much alms to the people and prayed continually to God.

About the ninth hour (about 3:00 p.m.) of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God entering and saying to him, Cornelius! And he, gazing intently at him, became frightened and said, What is it, Lord? And the angel said to him, Your prayers and your [generous] gifts to the poor have come up [as a sacrifice] to God and have been remembered by Him. And now send men to Joppa and have them call for and invite here a certain Simon whose surname is Peter; He is lodging with Simon a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.

When the angel who spoke to him had left, Cornelius called two of his servants and a God-fearing soldier from among his own personal attendants. And having rehearsed everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

The next day as they were still on their way and were approaching the town, Peter went up to the roof of the house to pray, about the sixth hour (noon). 10 But he became very hungry, and wanted something to eat; and while the meal was being prepared a trance came over him, 11 And he saw the sky opened and something like a great sheet lowered by the four corners, descending to the earth. 12 It contained all kinds of quadrupeds and wild beasts and creeping things of the earth and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him, saying, Rise up, Peter, kill and eat.

14 But Peter said, No, by no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common and unhallowed or [ceremonially] unclean. 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, What God has cleansed and pronounced clean, do not you defile and profane by regarding and calling common and unhallowed or unclean. 16 This occurred three times; then immediately the sheet was taken up to heaven.

17 Now Peter was still inwardly perplexed and doubted as to what the vision which he had seen could mean, when [just then] behold the messengers that were sent by Cornelius, who had made inquiry for Simon’s house, stopped and stood before the gate. 18 And they called out to inquire whether Simon who was surnamed Peter was staying there.

19 And while Peter was [a]earnestly revolving the vision in his mind and meditating on it, the [Holy] Spirit said to him, Behold, three men are looking for you! 20 Get up and go below and accompany them without any doubt [about its legality] or any discrimination or hesitation, for I have sent them. 21 Then Peter went down to the men and said, I am the man you seek; what is the purpose of your coming?

22 And they said, Cornelius, a centurion (captain) who is just and upright and in right standing with God, being God-fearing and obedient and well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, has been instructed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house; and he [b]has received in answer [to prayer] a warning to listen to and act upon what you have to say. 23 So Peter invited them in to be his guests [for the night]. The next day he arose and went away with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him.

24 And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was waiting for and expecting them, and he had invited together his relatives and his intimate friends. 25 As Peter arrived, Cornelius met him, and falling down at his feet he made obeisance and paid worshipful reverence to him. 26 But Peter raised him up, saying, Get up; I myself am also a man.

27 And as [Peter] spoke with him, he entered the house and found a large group of persons assembled; 28 And he said to them, You yourselves are aware how it is not lawful or permissible for a Jew to keep company with or to visit or [even] to come near or to speak first to anyone of another nationality, but God has shown and taught me by words that I should not call any human being common or unhallowed or [ceremonially] unclean. 29 Therefore when I was sent for, I came without hesitation or objection or misgivings. So now I ask for what reason you sent for me.

30 And Cornelius said, This is now the fourth day since about this time I was observing the ninth hour (three o’clock in the afternoon) of prayer in my lodging place; [suddenly] a man stood before me in dazzling apparel, 31 And he said, Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and harkened to, and your donations to the poor have been known and [c]preserved before God [so that He heeds and is about to help you]. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is surnamed Peter; he is staying in the house of Simon the tanner by the seaside. 33 So at once I sent for you, and you [being a Jew] have done a kind and [d]courteous and handsome thing in coming. Now then, we are all present in the sight of God to listen to all that you have been instructed by the Lord to say.

34 And Peter opened his mouth and said: Most certainly and thoroughly I now perceive and understand that God shows no partiality and is no respecter of persons, 35 But in every nation he who venerates and has a reverential fear for God, treating Him with worshipful obedience and living uprightly, is acceptable to Him and [e]sure of being received and welcomed [by Him]. 36 You know the contents of the message which He sent to Israel, announcing the good news (Gospel) of peace by Jesus Christ, Who is Lord of all—37 The [same] message which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee after the baptism preached by John— 38 How God anointed and consecrated Jesus of Nazareth with the [Holy] Spirit and with strength and ability and power; how He went about doing good and, [f]in particular, curing all who were harassed and oppressed by [the power of] the devil, for God was with Him. 39 And we are [eye and ear] witnesses of everything that He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. And [yet] they put Him out of the way (murdered Him) by hanging Him on a tree; 40 But God raised Him to life on the third day and caused Him to be manifest (to be plainly seen), 41 Not by all the people but to us who were chosen (designated) beforehand by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 And He charged us to preach to the people and to bear solemn testimony that He is the God-appointed and God-ordained Judge of the living and the dead. 43 To Him all the prophets testify (bear witness) that everyone who believes in Him [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him, giving himself up to Him] receives forgiveness of sins through His name.

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all who were listening to the message. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised [the Jews] who came with Peter were surprised and amazed, because the free gift of the Holy Spirit had been bestowed and poured out largely even on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them talking in [unknown] tongues (languages) and extolling and magnifying God. Then Peter asked, 47 Can anyone forbid or refuse water for baptizing these people, seeing that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? 48 And he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (the Messiah). Then they begged him to stay on there for some days.

Acts 11

Now the apostles (special messengers) and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard [with astonishment] that the Gentiles (heathen) also had received and accepted and welcomed the Word of God [the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God].

So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party [certain Jewish Christians] found fault with him [separating themselves from him in a hostile spirit, opposing and disputing and contending with him], Saying, Why did you go to uncircumcised men and [even] eat with them?

But Peter began [at the beginning] and narrated and explained to them step by step [the whole list of events]. He said: I was in the town of Joppa praying, and [falling] in a trance I saw a vision of something coming down from heaven, like a huge sheet lowered by the four corners; and it descended until it came to me. Gazing intently and closely at it, I observed in it [a variety of] four-footed animals and wild beasts and reptiles of the earth and birds of the air, And I heard a voice saying to me, Get up, Peter; kill and eat. But I said, No, by no means, Lord; for nothing common or unhallowed or [ceremonially] unclean has ever entered my mouth.

But the voice answered a second time from heaven, What God has cleansed and pronounced clean, do not you defile and profane by regarding or calling it common or unhallowed or unclean. 10 This occurred three times, and then all was drawn up again into heaven. 11 And right then the three men sent to me from Caesarea arrived at the house in which we were. 12 And the [Holy] Spirit instructed me to accompany them without [the least] hesitation or misgivings or discrimination.

So these six brethren accompanied me also, and we went into the man’s house. 13 And he related to us how he had seen the angel in his house which stood and said to him, Send men to Joppa and bring Simon who is surnamed Peter; 14 He will give and explain to you a message by means of which you and all your household [as well] will be saved [[a]from eternal death]. 15 When I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as He did on us at the beginning. 16 Then I recalled the declaration of the Lord, how He said, John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with ([b]be placed in, introduced into) the Holy Spirit. 17 If then God gave to them the same Gift [equally] as He gave to us when we believed in (adhered to, trusted in, and relied on) the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I and what power or authority had I to interfere or hinder or forbid or withstand God? 18 When they heard this, they were quieted and made no further objection. And they glorified God, saying, Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance [c]unto [real] life [after resurrection].

19 Meanwhile those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose in connection with Stephen had traveled as far away as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, without delivering the message [concerning [d] the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God] to anyone except Jews.

20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on returning to Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, proclaiming [to them] the good news (the Gospel) about the Lord Jesus. 21 And the presence of the Lord was with them with power, so that a great number [learned] to believe (to adhere to and trust in and rely on the Lord) and turned and surrendered themselves to Him.

22 The rumors of this came to the ears of the church (assembly) in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what grace (favor) God was bestowing upon them, he was full of joy; and he continuously exhorted (warned, urged, and encouraged) them all to cleave unto and remain faithful to and devoted to the Lord with [resolute and steady] purpose of heart. 24 For he was a good man [[e]good in himself and also at once for the good and the advantage of other people], full of and controlled by the Holy Spirit and full of faith (of his [f]belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom we obtain eternal salvation). And a large company was added to the Lord.

25 [Barnabas] went on to Tarsus to hunt for Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him back to Antioch. For a whole year they assembled together with and [g]were guests of the church and instructed a large number of people; and in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

27 And during these days prophets (inspired teachers and interpreters of the divine will and purpose) came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and prophesied through the [Holy] Spirit that a great and severe famine would come upon the whole world. And this did occur during the reign of Claudius.

29 So the disciples resolved to send relief, each according to his individual ability [in proportion as he had prospered], to the brethren who lived in Judea. 30 And so they did, sending [their contributions] to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

And we join our voices, lift our eyes, and declare the Amen

#lessonsfromlent

The words of Joseph, sold by his brothers and used by God to rescue His chosen people, echo through my mind as I come to the conclusion of these passages . . .

As for you, you thought evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are this day. Genesis 50:20 AMP

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[a] should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:20 ESV

You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people. Genesis 50:20 HCSB

As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day. Genesis 50:20 NET

No matter what translation of the Bible we look at the words that fell from the lips of Joseph ring out the eternal truth: God is always doing the good thing. And it seems to be just as true that no matter how many times I see that reality wear skin . . . I need the reminder, I need to hear the voice of Joseph in my head, when I face the tough stuff.

God going to so much trouble to line up one bleak circumstance after another that results in the beyond-my-wildest-imagination-beauty-from-the-ashes good thing in these Scriptures, tells me I might not be the only one who needs the reminder.

This group of passages starts off with the horrific death of Stephen – stoned by the very people he desired to serve. What good can come of that?

57 But they raised a great shout and put their hands over their ears and rushed together upon him. 58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him, and the witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. Acts 7:57-58

Saul used the anger and indignation the speech of Stephen aroused in the Sanhedrin to intensify his persecution of the church. What beauty could be found there?

But Saul shamefully treated and laid waste the church continuously [with cruelty and violence]; and entering house after house, he dragged out men and women and committed them to prison. Acts 8:3

Death and destruction – the acts of sinful man – look at first glance beyond redemption. Don’t you praise the Holy One that He is not limited by what we see.

The stoning of Stephen and the cruelty of Saul certainly served to chase the disciples of Jesus from Jerusalem . . .

On that day a great and severe persecution broke out against the church which was in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles (special messengers). Acts 8:1

But rather than become smaller in number the Body of Christ, broken into pieces was multiplied and the Gospel message of Jesus continued to spread . . . Can you hear Joseph? What you intended for harm God has used to save many lives.

The Scripture doesn’t tell us this but it makes sense to me that news of the spreading fame of Jesus Christ and the increasing numbers of those who belonged to the Way reached the ears of the priests and elders in Jerusalem. And it might have been that very news that prompted Saul, who had looked on with approval at the death of Stephen, to petition the council to go beyond Jerusalem in his attempts to put the Gospel in chains.

Meanwhile Saul, [a]still drawing his breath hard from threatening and murderous desire against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest And requested of him letters to the synagogues at Damascus [authorizing him], so that if he found any men or women belonging to the Way [of life as determined by faith in Jesus Christ], he might bring them bound [with chains] to Jerusalem. Acts 9:1

Certainly the reputation of Saul would have preceded him. The disciples would have dreaded his coming and while they may have determined in their spirits to stand firm we know that they were well aware of the pain he had inflicted. From the mouth of Ananias springs forth voice to what the lovers of Christ must have been thinking . . .

But Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard many people tell about this man, especially how much evil and what great suffering he has brought on Your saints at Jerusalem; 14 Now he is here and has authority from the high priests to put in chains all who call upon Your name. Acts 9:13

Surely, the Faithful in Jesus had to wonder what glory would come from the evil pursuit of the persecutor? What noble purpose would be redeemed from the suffering he had inflicted?

And we see the Holy Answer flood across the pages and the pain take on purpose as the life of Saul is transformed from murderer to messenger . . .

20 And immediately in the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus, saying, He is the Son of God! 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, Is not this the very man who harassed and overthrew and destroyed in Jerusalem those who called upon this Name? And he has come here for the express purpose of arresting them and bringing them in chains before the chief priests. 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and continued to confound and put to confusion the Jews who lived in Damascus by comparing and examining evidence and proving that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah). Acts 9:20-22

From our vantage point in time, we know that Saul, renamed Paul, was appointed and heralded as the teacher of the Gentiles and that the words God penned through his hand have reached far beyond his time. But might it be that in the present time, the followers of the Way, were still uncertain? It’s difficult when we’re in the midst of pain and suffering to see the beauty of any of it. Hindsight may lend us a clearer view, but ultimately, in the moment—the hot intensity of it all—we simply have to trust God that the good thing is firmly in His Hand.  He will reveal it in His time.

23 They were only hearing it said, He who used to persecute us is now proclaiming the very faith he once reviled and which he set out to ruin and tried with all his might to destroy. 24 And they glorified God [as the Author and Source of what had taken place] in me. Galatians 1:23-24

I firmly believe that in every situation, despite the immediacy of the suffering, God works for the good of those who love Him. And rather it is here or in Glory, if I lean in close, if you lean in close Beloved, we will hear the voice of Joseph–

As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day. Genesis 50:20 NET

And if you’re straining with everything you have and your ears fail to hear then, Girlfriend you lift your eyes to the Heavenlies and see your Savior. The One who endured the death, the destruction, the evil, and the suffering and brought the VERY GOOD THING to us.   He is our guarantee that God is always at work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. The Messiah is our proof that we don’t simply make ourselves feel better by believing that there is purpose – noble, holy, good, eternal purpose—in our pain, in our suffering, in our despair.

Sister, our God does not change and our Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God has always been, will always be, and is today doing the good thing. Bringing the beauty from the ashes. Bringing life from death. Bringing purpose from pain. Hear the voice of Joseph . . .

creation swap lessons from lent 26663_Crossing_Nails ribbet God does the very good thing . . . #lessonsfromlent

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