December 31 ~ The Letter For Gentile Believers

Rembrandt | 1606-1669 | painter, teacher, draftsman, printmaker and etcher | St. Paul at his Writing Desk | 47 x 39 cms | 18 1/2 x 15 1/4 ins | Oil on wood | Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nord | Germany

•The Letter For Gentile Believers•
Background @ Acts 15:1-21 (the council at Jerusalem)
@ Acts 15:22
Then the apostles and elders together with the whole church in Jerusalem chose delegates, and they sent them to Antioch of Syria with Paul and Barnabas to report on this decision. The men chosen were two of the church leaders – Judas and Silas. This is the letter they took with them:
Story @ Acts 15:22-35
Painting – St. Paul at His Writing Desk as an elder of the church | Rembrandt

John Singer Sargent
1856-1925
painter, draftsman,sculptor, portraitist, muralist, watercolorist and guitarist
Carolus­ Duran
116.8 x 95.9 cms | 46 x 37 3/4 ins
Oil on canvas
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Williamstown | United States

•Paul’s Second Missionary Journey•
Background @ Acts chapters 13, 14, and 15 (Paul’s 1st missionary journey)
Acts 15:36-41 (Paul and Barnabas separate)
@ Acts 16:1-3a
Paul went first to Derbe and then to Lystra, where there was a young disciple named Timothy. His mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek. Timothy was well thought of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium, so Paul wanted him to join them on their journey.
Story @ Acts 16:1-5
Painting – Portrait of Carolus ­Duran, Sargent’s art instructor, as Timothy, Paul’s literary assistant | John Singer Sargent

•Lydia of Philippi Believes in Jesus•
Background @ Acts 16:1-5 (Paul’s second missionary journey)
@ Acts 16:6-10 (a call from Macedonia)
@ Acts 16:11-12
We boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across the island of Samothrace, and the next day we landed at Neapolis. From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days.
Story @ Acts 16:11-15
Painting – Lady Agnew as Lydia, a true believer in the Lord | John Singer Sargent

•Paul and Silas in Prison•
Background @ Acts 16:1-5 (Paul’s second missionary journey)
@ Acts 16:11-15 (Lydia of Philippi)
@ Acts 16:16-17
One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a demon possessed slave girl. She was a fortune-teller who earned a lot of money for her masters. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.”
Story @ Acts 16:16-40
Poem – The Most High by Stacy Sweeney
Painting – Portrait of Edouard Pailleron, poet & playwright and close friend of Sargent,  as Silas, Paul’s literary assistant | John Singer Sargent

•Paul Preaches in Thessalonica and Berea•
Background @ Acts 16:1-5 (Paul’s second missionary journey)
@ Acts 16:16-40 (Paul & Silas in prison)
Acts 17:1-3
Paul and Silas then traveled through the towns of Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people. He explained the prophecies and proved that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead. He said, “This Jesus I am telling you about is the Messiah.”
Story @ Acts 17:1-15

Rembrandt | 1606-1669 | Dutch painter, teacher, draftsman, printmaker and etcher | Aristotle with a Bust of Homer | 1653 143.5 x 136.5 cms | 56 1/4 x 53 1/2 ins | Oil on canvas | Metropolitan Museum of Art Manhattan | United States Credit: Web Gallery of Art

•Paul Preaches in Athens•
Background @ Acts 16:1-5 (Paul’s second missionary journey)
@ Acts 17:1-15 (Paul preaches in Thessalonica and Berea)
@ Acts 17:16-17
While Paul was waiting for them (Silas & Timothy) in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city. He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and the God fearing Gentiles, and he spoke daily in the public square to all who happened to be there.
Story @ Acts 17:16-34
Painting – Aristotle with a Bust of Homer | Rembrandt

1 & 2 THESSALONIANS
Paul wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians while in Cornith, shortly after founding the church in Thessalonica (@ Acts 17:1-15). To a twenty first century reader, trained to expect story telling content, which is precisely it’s charm, I have chosen to omit Galatians, Thessalonians, Corinthians, Romans and other letters written by Paul, but I may refer to them in scripture reading.

•Paul Faces Opposition in Cornith•
Scripture – @ Romans 11:11-15, one of my favorites!
Background @ Acts 16:1-5 (Paul’s second missionary journey)
Acts 17:16-34 (Paul preaches in Athens)
Acts 18:1-5
Then Paul left Athens and went to Cornith. Paul spent much of the time between AD 49 and 51, during his second missionary journey, in Cornith. There he became acquainted with a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently arrived from Italy with his wife, Priscilla. They had left Italy when Claudius Caesar deported all Jews from Rome. Paul lived and worked with them, for they were tentmakers just as he was. Each Sabbath found Paul at the synagogue, trying to convince the Jews and Greeks alike. And after Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul spent all his time preaching the Word. He testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.
Story @ Acts 18:1-17

•Paul Returns to Antioch of Syria•
Background @ Acts 16:1-5 (Paul’s second missionary journey)
@ Acts 18:1-17 (Paul faces opposition in Cornith)
@ Acts 18:18
Paul stayed in Corinth for some time after that, then said good-bye to the brothers and sisters and went to nearby Cenchrea. There he shaved his head according to Jewish custom marking the end of a vow. Then he set sail for Syria, taking Priscilla and Aquila with him.
Story @ Acts 18:18-23
Painting – Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes as Priscilla and Aquila, Paul’s lifelong friends | John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent
1856-1925
painter, draftsman, sculptor, portraitist, muralist, watercolorist and guitarist
Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes
214 x 101 cms | 84 1/4 x 39 3/4 ins Oil on canvas
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Manhattan | United States

Diego Rodriguez de Silva Velazquez | 1599-1660 | painter | Study for the head of Apollo | 36.3 x 25.2 cms | 14 1/4 x 9 3/4 ins | Oil on canvas

•Apollos Instructed at Ephesus•
Background @ Acts 16:1-5 (Paul’s second missionary journey)
@ Acts 18:1-17 (Paul faces opposition in Cornith)
@ Acts 18:18-23 (Paul returns to Antioch of Syria)
@ Acts 18:24
Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt.
Story @ Acts 18:24-28
Painting – Study for the head of Apollo as  Apollos | Diego Rodriguez de Silva Velazquez

~ §tacy §weeney

December 30 ~ The Apostle Paul

John Singer Sargent | 1856-1925
American painter, draftsman, sculptor, portraitist, muralist, watercolorist and guitarist
Self Portrait | 1906
70 x 53 cms | 27 1/2 x 20 3/4 ins
Oil on canvas | The Uffizi | Florence | Italy

•The Story of the Apostle Paul•
Psalms – 86:1-5
Background @ Acts 13:1-3 (Paul’s first missionary journey)
When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission to Jerusalem, they returned (to Antioch), taking John Mark with them. Among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria (the central city of early Christianity) were Barnabas, Simeon (called the “black man”), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (the childhood companion of King Herod Antipas), and Saul. One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way. Note: Saul, his Jewish name, and perhaps given in memory of Israel’s first king, was a member of the tribe of Benjamin, to which Saul’s family belonged; but following his conversion he was known as Paul, born a Roman citizen.
Story @ Acts 12:25 and 13:1-12
Prayer – Psalms 86:6-17
Painting – Self Portrait of John Singer Sargent

•The Story of Barnabas and Paul Thrown Out of Town•
Background @ Acts 13:1-12 (Paul’s first missionary journey)
@ Acts 13:13-15
Paul and his companions then left Paphos by ship for Pamphylia, landing at the port town of Perga. There John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem. But Paul and Barnabas traveled inland to Antioch of Pisidia. On the Sabbath day they went to the synagogue for the services. After the usual readings from the books of Moses and the prophets, those in charge of the service sent them this message, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, come and give it.”
Story @ Acts 13:13-52

John Singer Sargent | 1856-1925 | 
American painter, draftsman, sculptor, portraitist, muralist, watercolorist and guitarist | 
Perseus by Night | circa 1907 | 
54.6 x 39.3 cms | 21 1/4 x 15 1/4 ins| Watercolor on paper| 
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum| 
Madrid | Spain

•Paul and Barnabas in Lystra and Derbe•
Background @ Acts 13:1-12 (Paul’s first missionary journey)
@ Acts 13:13-52 (Paul and Barnabas preach in Antioch of Pisidia)
@ Acts 14:1-7 (Paul and Barnabas in Iconium)
@ Acts 14:8
While they were in Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting and listening as Paul preached.
Story @ Acts 14:8-20
Painting – Perseus by Night | John Singer Sargent

•Paul and Barnabas Return to Antioch of Syria•
Background @ Acts 13:1-12 (Paul’s first missionary journey)
@ Acts 14:8-20 (Paul and Barnabas in Lystra and Derbe)
@ Acts 14:21-22
After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.
Story @ Acts 14:21-28

GALATIANS
Paul probably wrote Galatians from Antioch shortly before the apostolic council in Jerusalem in AD 49. To a twenty first century reader, trained to expect story telling content, which is precisely it’s charm, I have chosen to omit Galatians and other letters of Paul and stick with Acts, maybe Revelation later.

•The Council at Jerusalem•
Background @ Acts 13:1-12 (Paul’s first missionary journey)
@ Acts 14:21-28 (Paul and Barnabus return to Antioch of Syria)
@ Acts 15:1
While Paul and Barnabus were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judah arrived and began to teach the believers: “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (What does this mean for women? God wants all our private parts.)
Story @ Acts 15:1-21

~ §tacy §weeney

December 29 ~ Barnabas the Ambassador

John Singer Sargent
1856-1925
American painter, draftsman, sculptor, portraitist, muralist, watercolorist and guitarist
Henry Lee Higginson 1903
Oil on canvas
Harvard University Portrait Collection
Cambridge | United States

•The Story of Barnabas the Ambassador•
Scripture – @ Ephesians 2:11-22
Narrate the Background
@ Acts 1:7-8 (promise of the Holy Spirit) KJV
@ Acts 2:1-12, 37-41 (the Holy Spirit comes) NLT
@ Acts 4:32-37 (the Believers share their possessions) MSG
@ Acts 8:1-4 (persecution scatters the Believers) MSG
@ Acts 11:19-22
When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
Narrate the Story – @ Acts 11:19-30 (NLT)
Painting – Henry Lee Higginson as Barnabas | John Singer Sargent

Study for the Spanish Dancer after Sargent | 2018 | 9″x12″ | Oil on canvas pad

•James is Killed•
Background @ Mark 5:37 ; 9:2 ; 14:33 (James, one of Jesus closest disciples)
@ Acts 12:1-2 About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword.
Story @ Acts 12:1-5
Painting – Study for the Spanish Dancer after John Singer Sargent

•Peter’s Miraculous Escape from Prison•
Psalms – 119:130
Narrate the Background –
@ Acts 4:1-22 (Peter and John’s first arrest)
@ Acts 5:17-20 (Peter and the apostles second arrest)
@ Acts 5:26-42 (Peter and the apostles third arrest)
@ Acts 12:1-5 (Peter’s fourth arrest)
@ Acts 12:6
The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate.
Narrate the Story – @ Acts 12:6-19
Painting – The Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice | John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent
1856-1925
American painter, draftsman, sculptor, portraitist, muralist, watercolorist and guitarist
The Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice
Watercolor on paper
Credit: WebShots – John Singer Sargent

•The Death of Herod Agrippa at Caesarea•
Background @ Acts 12:19
Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for Peter. When he couldn’t be found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while. Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they sent a delegation to make peace with him because their cities were dependent upon Herod’s country for food.
Story @ Acts 12:20-25

~ Stacy

December 28 ~ The Ministry of Peter

John Singer Sargent |1856-1925
American painter, draftsman, sculptor, portraitist, muralist, watercolorist and guitarist
Henry James | 1913
85.1 x 67.3 cms | 33 1/2 x 26 1/4 ins | Oil on canvas
National Gallery | London | United Kingdom

•Peter Heals Aeneas and Raises Tabitha•
Scripture – Peter
Background @ Acts 9:32
Meanwhile, Peter traveled from place to place, and he came down to visit the believers in the town of Lydda.
Story @ Acts 9:32-43
Painting – Portrait of Henry James (an American-British author) | John Singer Sargent

Rembrandt | Portrait of a Man in Military Dress

•Cornelius Calls for Peter•
Scripture – Peter
Background @ Acts 10:1
In Caesarea there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment.
Story @ Acts 10:1-8
Painting – Portrait of a Man in Military Dress | Rembrandt

John Singer Sargent
Tiepolo (Mural for the Boston Public Library)
Watercolor

•Peter Visits Cornelius•
Scripture – Peter
Background @ Acts 10:1-8 (Cornelius calls for Peter)
@ Acts 10:9-10
The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray. It was about noon, and he was hungry. But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.
Story @ Acts 10:9-33
Painting – Tiepolo (Mural for the Boston Public Library) | John Singer Sargent

•The Gentiles Hear the Good News•
Scripture – Peter
Background @ Acts 10:9-33 (Peter visits Cornelius)
@ Acts 10:34-36
Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel – that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.”
Story @ Acts 10:34-48

•Peter Explains His Actions•
Scripture – Peter
Background @ Acts 10:9-33 (Peter visits Cornelius)
@ Acts 10:34-48 (the Gentiles hear the Good News)
@ Acts 11:1-3
Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him, “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!”
Story @ Acts 11:1-18

~ §tacy §weeney

December 27 ~ Persecution Scatters the Believers

•Persecution Scatters the Believers•
Background @ Acts chapters 6 & 7 (Stephen is arrested and addresses the council)
@ Acts 8:1
Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem: and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria
Story @ Acts 8:1-8

John Singer Sargent 1856-1925 painter, draftsman, sculptor, portraitist, muralist, watercolorist and guitarist Dr Pozzi at Home 202.9 x 102.2 cms | 79 3/4 x 40 ins Oil on canvas Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Centre Los Angeles | United States

•Simon the Sorcerer•
Background @ Acts 8:1-8 (persecution scatters the believers)
@ Acts 8:9
A man named Simon had been a sorcerer there for many years, amazing the people of Samaria and claiming to be someone great.
Story @ Acts 8:9-24
Painting – Dr Pozzi at Home | John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent 1856-1925 painter, draftsman, sculptor, portraitist, muralist, watercolorist and guitarist A Bedouin Arab Oil on canvas

•Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch•
Background @ Acts 8:1-3 (persecution scatters the believers)
@ Acts 8:4-25 (Philip preaches in Samaria)
@ Acts 8:26-28
As for Philip, the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah. Note: Philip presents one way to study the Bible.
Story @ Acts 8:26-40
Painting – A Bedouin Arab | John Singer Sargent

•The Conversion of Saul to Paul•
Background @ Acts chapters 6 & 7 (Stephen is arrested and addresses the council)
@ Acts 8:1-4 (persecution scatters the believers)
@ Acts 9:1a
Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.
Story @ Acts 9:1-19a

•Paul in Damascus and Jerusalem•
Background @ Acts 9:1-19a (Saul’s conversion)
@ Acts 9:19b-20
Now, after coming back from Arabia (Galatians 1:17), Paul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”
Story @ Acts 9:19b-31

~ §tacy §weeney

December 26 ~ •The Story of Stephen the Deacon: And the Eloquent History of the Israelite Nation, 2018•

Burghes of Calais sculpture by Auguste Rodin

•The Story of Stephen the Deacon:
And the Eloquent History Lesson of the Israelite Nation, 2018•

Friday Night Prelude  Joy (Living Room Session) – Page CXVI [The Autumn Film]

WELCOME and happy Sabbath. I am here to interrupt this program to bring you late-breaking news, the first recorded believer in Jesus to be killed because of his faith. For our worship experience this evening, I will use Biblical storying, an inductive method of orally communicating Bible stories directly from scripture memorization with minimal explanation. We will walk slowly with purpose through general Biblical, historical, cultural, and symbolic clues revealing the incredible significance and vastness of God’s mighty creativity. It is so interesting, that it should be told now! In a frenzy of deep sorrow, we will shake Myrtle, Palm and Willow branches toward the altar, as if to remind God of his promises.

CAFE QUESTIONS: Did you come here to see an angel? Did you come here for forgiveness? Do we still have Jesus or have we lost him? What’s the worst name you’ve ever been called? Have you ever been in a rock fight? Can you hit a target? Are you big on free speech, censorship, or a strong press? Have you ever been questioned about your faith and the actions you take? When was the last time you needed to take a firm and uncompromising stand for Jesus?

MUSIC & HYMNS: “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine” lyrics by Fanny Crosby.

PSALM RESPONSIVE READING @ Psalm 80:14-19, and Psalm 2:1-7, (NLT)

SCRIPTURE @ Matthew 24:27-31, and @ John 1:51, (NLT)

NARRATE the BACKGROUND @ Exodus 2:11-15a and 3:1-10, and @ Acts 5:12,17-20,41-42, and @ Acts 6:1-7 (NLT)

In those days after Pentecost, God’s message of life continued to spread, and the number of believers continued to grow in Jerusalem. As the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek speaking believers complained about the Hebrew speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the distribution of food. Sounds like a legitimate concern to me. So, Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, was chosen as a deacon of the early church for the purpose of tending to the physical needs of widows.

You may have heard part of Stephen’s speech of how the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, how God raised up Moses, and how the people rejected Moses and God, intended to illustrate their ingratitude and disobedience at Acts 7:23-43. But by Acts 7:51-53, Stephen is no longer the defendant on trial, but God’s prophetic attorney presenting God’s covenant lawsuit against the Sanhedrin.

NARRATE the STORY @ Acts 6:8-15 and @ Acts 7:1-3,30,33-35,37,39,48-60 (NLT), twice.

This is the story we have, and that’s the way the story goes. Let us spend some time to WONDER and DIALOGUE about this story, and bring any questions or observations we have to the table. Questions may not necessarily be answered, but will be voiced and raise interest. Note: stoning was the penalty for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:14). Note: Pentecost is the Greek name for the Jewish Feast of Weeks  (Exodus 34:22), and is also known as the Feast of Firstfruits (Numbers 28:26).  The feast then became a fitting symbol for the first spiritual harvest of the Christian Church (Acts 2:1-4), when the Holy Spirit was poured out, and 3,000 people were baptized on a single day (Acts 2:41).  Note: the founding of the Hebrew nation occurred in Mesopotamia, not Jerusalem (Acts 7:2-5). God’s liberation of His people occurred at locations outside Palestine – in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the Sinai wilderness – not in Jerusalem (Acts 7:9-36). The Law was given in the desert, not Jerusalem (Acts 7:38). God doesn’t only live in a Temple (Acts 7:39-50).  Stephen’s explicit condemnation of the Sanhedrin for the idolatrous reverence of the temple (Acts 7:48) reveals that he understood that Jesus’ death signified the end of the entire temple order and that Israel’s theocracy was coming to an end, meaning that the world’s salvation would no longer be mediated through national Israel as promised to Abraham (Genesis 12:3, 18:18, 12:18), but through the followers of Jesus, Jew and Gentile, who were now expected to leave Jerusalem and witness to the world (Acts 1:8).

Let us get into CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. Look for Jesus in everyone. Discover Jesus in their story.

What do we know about the Council or Sanhedrin? (It was the highest ruling body and supreme court of the Jews made up of 71 members, including priests, elders, and scribes. Allowed by Rome to oversee religious, civil, and criminal issues in Judea. Politically could appoint kings and high priests. Judicially could judge traitorous priests, false prophets, rebel leaders, and rebellious tribes. Religiously could ordain certain services and had it’s own police force. Prevented by Rome from exercising capital punishment.) What was the Sanhedrin seeing as they starred at Stephen? How might the Sanhedrin feel to see the face of an angel? How might the priests and rulers feel to be called, “stiff necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears, you are just like your fathers?” Hit him hard. I got him, I got him. I’m highly suspect of feelings.

What do we know about Stephen? Stephen has turned the tables on the council, in effect putting them on trial for rejecting Jesus. It is heart breaking to see leaders far from eternity. What else might Stephen be thinking? He’s in the fight of his life, walking through the valley of death. I wish I hadn’t seen that. Stephen breaks away from his narrative, his body language is changing as he gazes up, standing serene and collected, losing himself in Christ. God is with him there in spirit. How might Stephen feel to see heaven open? What was the meaning of Stephen’s vision?

Burghes of Calais sculpture by Auguste Rodin

Burghes of Calais sculpture by Auguste Rodin

SCULPTURE
Burghes of Calais sculpture by Auguste Rodin

What did we learn about GOD in this story?
He is omnipresent. God is light, is clothed in light and dispels darkness. God desires his people to be holy, consuming the dross, scattering the darkness. We worship only one God who will lead us into heaven. There is only one mediator between God and man. God has given dominion, a kingdom, to the Son of Man that will never cease. In Jesus dwells all the fullness of God who abides with me, who strengthens me. I belong to God and I am special in his sight.

What aspects of this story or character, foreshadow the GOOD NEWS, especially in relation to what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross and through his resurrection. Look for negative things being lifted and positive things being given, then merge the two ideas into one thought when possible.
• This is what God offers. God comes to me with a good gift, a wonderful new relationship. He waits on me to receive. He throws his arms around me, saying, “I love you, and I can’t let you go.”
• The spiritual principle of forgiveness frees me into a better place.
• For Jesus to die for many and the enemy, he fell to the ground and died (outside the Holy City.)
• Jesus carried human nature into heaven.

CLOSING PRAYER by Stephen @ Acts 7:60, New Living Translation (NLT)
Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Storying EVALUATION: 1.Inductive teaching present 2.Biblical answers validated 3.Did we see Jesus 4.Clear questions 5.Logical flow of story 6.Affirmations given 7.Low participants encouraged 8.Who did most of the talking?

Our goal is to seriously APPLY this story to our life. Our CHALLENGE is to write a prayer, a poem, a song, short story, or create and photograph something that EXPRESSes our response and share. You get to hear what God has placed on my heart. Some lines of light and verse as you embark on this night.

Gamaliel’s Poem
Take care of what you are planning to do
sometime ago there was a fellow
who pretended to be someone great
but he was killed and all his followers
went their various ways
the whole movement came to nothing
and after him came another at the time of the census
he got people to follow him
but he was killed, too
and all his followers were scattered
so my advice is, to leave them alone
let them go
if they are planning these things on their own
it will soon be overthrown
but if it’s from God, you will not overthrow
you may find yourself fighting against God

– Acts 5:33-39

DRAWING
“Burghers of Calais,” with black litho crayon on 11×14 Rives by Arches lightweight creme paper, after Auguste Rodin.

“Burghes of Calais”after Rodin | 2014 | 11″x14” | black litho crayon on Arches cream paper

BODY PRAYER:
All my pain is valuable.
I couldn’t skip a beating.
I honor every breath given,
and every breath extended.
When death closes my eyes
in the absence of my mortal body
I will lay wait for the presence
of my glorified body.

I wait.
I wait for peace.
I wait for what Jesus promised.
I wait in my schedules, in my agendas, in my life’s routine.
I wait and I extend my hope to believe
that God will deliver me
and I will be made new.
And all creation will be renewed.

POEM
“Stephen”
Home is on my mind today
coming home is on my mind
men we can climb a high ladder
but when we come down windshield shatters
back to back stone faced and silent
been deceived and bitten by the serpent
clothed in skin and banished from the garden
goat’s blood doesn’t clean our conscience
not a drop of blood of the lamb for it
not a word, no, not even a nod
that lets me know that we don’t know God

don’t abuse when I refuse
if in the course of using force
I should break a technicality
brings about brutality
on urban thug mentality
heavy dreads
anger fed
body bled
you can tread me over
as much as you feel led
standing on my head still

all my funky feelings
funneling into Stephen
speaking to Sanhedrin
satanic in their fury
grief too intense for me
peace too far, too far to see
sticks and stones may break my bones
strangled in a choke hold

“I can’t breathe”
seven times, seven times
seven times seventy

short sighted mortals
Jesus is mine, Jesus is yours
Jesus still ours
I got visual confirmation standing in the clouds
He is the Son that belongs to man
ivory palaces and many mansions
may mercy triumph bala

~ §tacy §weeney
(Poem Published on WordPress, 2015/03/13)

Prayer on Property

“For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord “plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Dear Father,
You saw my life before I was born,
and you see my future.

God, you are faithful,
and I patiently wait on you.
Please, don’t put my efforts on hold.

I come to you because you know exactly what I need,
and you alone have the power and the wisdom
to execute our common plans.

Without you I can do nothing.
My growth in grace, my joy, my usefulness,
all depend on my union with Christ.

God I am yours. Step in mightily
and quickly, and make it so obviously clear
that this property is yours.

God, I keep you ever before me,
allowing my heart to go out
in thanksgiving and praise. Amen

“Immortal, invisible, God only wise
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes
most blessed, most glorious, Ancient of Days
almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise”
~ Stacy

December 25 ~ Peter & John

­ •Peter Heals a Crippled Beggar•
Background @ Acts 2:43-47 (the believers meet together)
@ Acts 3:1
Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service.
Story @ Acts 3:1-11

•Peter Preaches in the Temple•
Background @ Acts 3:1-11 (Peter heals a crippled beggar)
@ Acts 3:12
Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd, “People of Israel,” he said, “what is so surprising about this? And why stare at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or godliness?”
Story @ Acts 3:12-26

•Peter and John Before the Council (The First Arrest)•
Background @ Acts 3:1-11 (Peter heals a crippled beggar)
@ Acts 3:12-26 (Peter preaches in the Temple)
@ Acts 4:1
While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees.
Story @ Acts 4:1-22

John Singer Sargent | 1856-1925 | American painter | Albanian Olive Pickers | 1909 | 94 x 113 cms | 37 x 44 1/2 ins | Oil on canvas | Manchester City Art Galleries | Manchester | United Kingdom Credit: WebShots – John Singer Sargent

•The Believers Pray for Courage•
Background @ Acts 3:1-11 (Peter heals a crippled beggar)
@ Acts 3:12-26 (Peter preaches in the Temple)
@ Acts 4:1-22 (Peter and John before the Council)
@ Acts 4:23
As soon as they were freed, Peter and John returned to the other believers and told them what the leading priests and elders had said.
Story @ Acts 4:23-31
Prayer @ Acts 4:24-30
Painting – Albanian Olive Pickers | John Singer Sargent

•The Believers Share Their Possessions•
Background @ Acts 2:1-13 (the HS comes)
@ Acts 2:43-47 (the believers meet together)
@ Acts 4:23-31 (the believers pray for courage)
@ Acts 32
All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had.
Story @ Acts 4:32-37

•Ananias and Sapphira•
Background @ Acts 4:32-37 (the believers share their possessions)
Acts 5:1
But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property.
Story @ Acts 5:1-11

John Singer Sargent | 1856-1925 American painter | Hospital at Granada | 1912 | 52.1 x 69.9 cms | 20 1/2 x 27 1/4 ins | Oil on canvas | National Gallery of Victoria | Melbourne | Australia

•The Apostles Heal Many•
Background @ Acts 5:12
The apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers were meeting regularly at the Temple in the area known as Solomon’s Colonnade.
Story @ Acts 5:12-16
Painting – Hospital at Granada | John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent |1856-1925 | American painter | Bridge of Sighs (that connects the Palace of the Doge’s and the former Venetian state prison)| circa 1904 | 25.4 x 35.6 cms | 10 x 14 ins | Watercolor on paper
The Brooklyn Museum | United States

•Peter and John Get Out of Jail (The Second Arrest)•
Background @ Acts 4:1-22 (Peter and John before the Council)
@ Acts 5:12-16 (the apostles heal many)
@ Acts 5:17-20
The high priest and his officials, who were Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in public jail. But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!”
Story @ Acts 5:17-42 (Acts 5:17-20,22-23,25,27-42 for storying)
Painting – Bridge of Sighs (that connects the Palace of the Doge’s and the former Venetian state prison) | John Singer Sargent

~ §tacy §weeney

December 24 ~ Another Christmas Letter From Luke

John Singer Sargent | 1856-1925 | American painter, draftsman, sculptor, portraitist, muralist, watercolorist and guitarist | Padre Sebastiano | circa 1904 | 56.5 x 71.1 cms | 22 1/4 x 28 ins Watercolor on paper | Metropolitan Museum of Art | Manhattan | United States

•Another Christmas Letter From Luke•
“In my first book, (Luke), I told you about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. During the 40 days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.” ~ Luke  (Acts 1:1-3)

•The Promise of the Holy Spirit•
Background @ Luke 24:49
@ Acts 1:4
The events in Acts span roughly thirty years, beginning after Jesus’ resurrection in AD 30/33 and ending with Paul in Rome in AD 59. Most of Paul’s letters were also written during this time. Once when Jesus was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before…”
Story @ Acts 1:4-8

•The Ascension of Jesus Retold•
Background @ Mark 16:19-20 | | @ Luke 24:50-53
@ Acts 1:4-8 (the promise of the HS)
@ Acts 1:9
After saying this, he was taken up in a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him.
Story @ Acts 1:9-11

•Waiting For the Holy Spirit•
Background @ Mark 16:14-18 | | Luke 24:44-49 (final instructions)
Acts 1:6-11 (the ascension of Jesus retold)
@ Acts 1:12
Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a distance of half a mile.
Story @ Acts 1:12-26

•The Holy Spirit Comes•
Background @ Acts 1:4-8 (the promise of the HS)
Acts 2:1
On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.
Note: The Festival of Pentecost came 50 days after Passover (when Jesus was crucified)
Story @ Acts 2:1-13

•Peter Preaches to a Crowd•
Background @ Acts 2:1-13 (the HS comes)
@ Acts 2:14
Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this.”
Story @ Acts 2:14-42

John Singer Sargent | 1856-1925 | American painter | Venetian Wineshop | circa 1898 | 53.3 x 69.9 cms | 21 x 27 1/4 ins | Oil on canvas | Credit: WebShots – John Singer Sargent

•The Believers Meet Together•
Background @ Acts 2:1-13 (the HS comes)
@ Acts 2:14-42 (Peter preaches to a crowd)
@ Acts 2:43
A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.
Story @ Acts 2:43-47
Painting – Venetian Wineshop | John Singer Sargent

~ §tacy §weeney