June 30, 2016

Jeremiah 31-32 - 
This is the way God put it:
“They found grace out in the desert, these people who survived the killing. Israel, out looking for a place to rest, met God out looking for them!” God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will.  Expect love, love, and more love!  And so now I’ll start over with you and build you up again, dear virgin Israel.  You’ll resume your singing, grabbing tambourines and joining the dance. You’ll go back to your old work of planting vineyards on the Samaritan hillsides, and sit back and enjoy the fruit—oh, how you’ll enjoy those harvests!...
“Shout for joy at the top of your lungs for Jacob!  Announce the good news to the number-one nation!  Raise cheers! Sing praises. Say, ‘God has saved his people, saved the core of Israel.’...“Watch them come! They’ll come weeping for joy as I take their hands and lead them, lead them to fresh flowing brooks, lead them along smooth, uncluttered paths. Yes, it’s because I’m Israel’s Father and Ephraim’s my firstborn son!....

“I’ve heard the contrition of Ephraim. Yes, I’ve heard it clearly, saying, ‘You trained me well.  You broke me, a wild yearling horse, to the saddle.  Now put me, trained and obedient, to use.  You are my God.  After those years of running loose, I repented. after you trained me to obedience, I was ashamed of my past, my wild, unruly past. Humiliated, I beat on my chest.  Will I ever live this down?’...

A Message from Israel’s God-of-the-Angel-Armies: “When I’ve turned everything around and brought my people back, the old expressions will be heard on the streets: ‘God bless you!’ . . . ‘O True Home!’ . . . ‘O Holy Mountain!’ All Judah’s people, whether in town or country, will get along just fine with each other.  I’ll refresh tired bodies;  I’ll restore tired souls.... “When that time comes you won’t hear the old proverb anymore, Parents ate the green apples, their children got the stomachache. No, each person will pay for his own sin. You eat green apples, you’re the one who gets sick.
“That’s right. The time is coming when I will make a brand-new covenant with Israel and Judah. It won’t be a repeat of the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. 

“This is the brand-new covenant that I will make with Israel when the time comes. I will put my law within them—write it on their hearts!—and be their God. And they will be my people. They will no longer go around setting up schools to teach each other about God. They’ll know me firsthand, the dull and the bright, the smart and the slow. I’ll wipe the slate clean for each of them. I’ll forget they ever sinned!” ...

The Message Jeremiah received from God in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah. It was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was holding Jerusalem under siege. Jeremiah was shut up in jail in the royal palace. Zedekiah, king of Judah, had locked him up, complaining, “How dare you preach, saying, ‘God says, I’m warning you: I will hand this city over to the king of Babylon and he will take it over. Zedekiah king of Judah will be handed over to the Chaldeans right along with the city. He will be handed over to the king of Babylon and forced to face the music. He’ll be hauled off to Babylon where he’ll stay until I deal with him. God’s Decree. Fight against the Babylonians all you want—it won’t get you anywhere.’”...

Then God’s Message came again to Jeremiah: “Stay alert! I am God, the God of everything living. Is there anything I can’t do? So listen to God’s Message: No doubt about it, I’m handing this city over to the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon....  It isn’t as if this were the first time they had provoked me. The people of Israel and Judah have been doing this for a long time—doing what I hate, making me angry by the way they live.” ...

But there is also this Message from me, the God of Israel,... I will collect them from all the countries to which I will have driven them in my anger and rage and indignation. Yes, I’ll bring them all back to this place and let them live here in peace. They will be my people, I will be their God. I’ll make them of one mind and heart, always honoring me, so that they can live good and whole lives, they and their children after them.  What’s more, I’ll make a covenant with them that will last forever, a covenant to stick with them no matter what, and work for their good. I’ll fill their hearts with a deep respect for me so they’ll not even think of turning away from me. “‘Oh how I’ll rejoice in them! Oh how I’ll delight in doing good things for them! Heart and soul, I’ll plant them in this country and keep them here!’...
                                        
Acts 6 - 
During this time...hard feelings developed among the Greek-speaking believers toward the Hebrew-speaking believers because their widows were being discriminated against in the daily food lines.  So the 12 called a meeting of the disciples. They said, It wouldn’t be right for us to abandon our responsibilities for preaching & teaching the Word of God to help with the care of the poor.  So, friends, choose 7 men from among you whom everyone trusts, men full of the Holy Spirit and good sense and we’ll assign them this task. Meanwhile, we’ll stick to our assigned tasks of prayer and speaking God’s Word.” The congregation thought this was a great idea.  

They went ahead and chose—Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, Nicolas, a convert from Antioch.

The Word of God prospered. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased dramatically. Not least, a great many priests submitted themselves to the faith.

Stephen, brimming with God’s grace & energy was doing wonderful things among the people, unmistakeable signs that God was among them. Some men went up against him,... trying to argue him down.  But they were no match for his wisdom and spirit when he spoke.  So in secret, they bribed men to lie: We’ve heard him cursing Moses and God.”...

They grabbed Stephen and took him before the High council.  They put forward their bribed witnesses to testify...  As all those who sat on the High Council looked at Stephen, they found they couldn’t take their eyes off him...his face was like the face of an angel!