The Bible passage for meditation, prayer, and reflection for the week of July 5-11, 2015, is Psalm 81:1-3. This psalm describes a festive atmosphere! Worship does not always have to be solomon and serious - we are encouraged to be joyful and celebrate our Lord and
Savior! Celebrate all that He has done!
Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob! Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp. Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day. (Psalm 81:1-3, ESV)
This description of joy and celebration could be describing a celebration during the Feast of Tabernacles. The Feast of Tabernacles remembers the 40 years that the Israelites spent wandering the desert after the Lord brought them out of Egypt. If you continue reading this psalm, you will read about all the Lord did for the Israelites after bringing them out of Egypt. During this time, the Lord cared for them, providing them with all that they needed. Indeed! The Lord should be celebrated! As you meditate on, pray over, and reflect upon this week’s verse, consider your approach to the Lord. Have you expressed your joy to Him and with Him?
July 6, 2015: Daily Bible Reading with Commentary for Leviticus 13-15
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Context: You know how it is: if one person gets sick, the entire household gets sick. The Israelites are in the desert, living in close quarters. Can you imagine how quickly diseases could spread! How deadly they could be?! Many of the instructions given by the Lord in today's reading parallel action we take today. The instructions provided by the Lord are meant to preserve the health of the camp. The instructions take into account the knowledge and limited resources available to treat diseases. These chapters are diagnostic, they do not offer cures. Sin is like a disease. Sin can spread. Sin can reoccur. Sin can be hidden. Sin can ooze out of us. Sin can take root in us. Just as the Israelites were instructed to cleanse themselves in water, we are to cleanse ourselves in the blood of Christ. The offerings presented by the Israelites after becoming clean once again, represent the ultimate sacrifice that was yet to come, Jesus Christ.
“America has never been united by blood or birth or soil. We are bound by ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests and teach us what it means to be citizens.” He is the only president to have completed a marathon during his life and he is the only president to have obtained a Master of Business Administration (MBA). He is one of four presidents to have been a cheerleader in high school. He was also the first president to deliver the same speech in English and Spanish. He was the first president to appoint an African-American to the position of Secretary of State. He was the 43rd President of the United States of America, George Walker Bush. George was born on July 6, 1946, in New Haven, Connecticut, making him the only president born in Connecticut. George attended public school in Texas before going to a private school in Massachusetts. He then went on to receive his bachelor's degree from Yale. During the Vietnam War, George served as a fighter pilot in the Air Force National Guard. He was honorable discharged on November 21, 1974. The following year, he earned his MBA from Harvard. George then returned to Texas and entered the oil business. In 1977, George married Laura Welch, who eventually persuaded him to give up alcohol.
In 1988, George and his family moved to Washington DC to help his father run for president. After his father won the election, George and his family returned to Texas, where he became a well-known businessman. In 1994, George followed in his father footsteps and entered politics. He was elected governor of Texas, the first child of a president to be elected as a state senator. He easily won a second term as governor in 1998, due to his popularity, making him the first governor of Texas to do so. As governor, he cut taxes and increased funding for education due to a surplus in the state treasury. He resigned as governor following his 2000 presidential election. The 2000 election, against then-vice-president Al Gore, was a close election that was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court. In 2000 George made history as only the second man to become president whose father was also a president, the other being John Quincy Adams, however, he is the only son of a president to be elected to two terms. George is also the fourth president to be elected that did not win the popular vote.
Following his election, with a budget surplus, George cut taxes to stimulate the economy, although his critics argued that these tax cuts only favored the wealthy. Months into George's first term as President, on September 11, 2001, the twin towers in New York City were struck by terrorists in hijacked airplanes. Two other planes were also highjacked. One hit the pentagon, and the fourth crashed in a Pennsylvania field after passengers tried to take back the plane from the terrorists. It has been speculated that the plane was heading for the White House. In response to this attack, George launched the War on Terror, invading Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003, respectively. He also created the Department of Homeland Security and signed several controversial bills aimed at increasing national security, most famously including the Patriot Act. George also worked at building international coalitions to seek out and destroy al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, along with their leaders. As his re-election approached in 2004, support for the wars was beginning to wane, especially as causalities and costs increased. George, in another close race, won a second term.
Following his re-election, George faced a domestic crisis, Hurricane Katrina, which devastated much of the Gulf Coast, especially Louisiana. George was heavily criticized for his handling of the national disaster, for which he accepted responsibility. In 2005, a man attempted to assassinate him by throwing a live grenade at him. In 2007, the nation entered a recession and unemployment began to rise.
George also dealt with several domestic issues during his tenure as president. He signed the No Child Left Behind Act and the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. He promoted economical, health care, education, and social security reform. He spoke out against same-sex marriage, increased prescription drug benefits for seniors, and increased funding for an AIDS relief program. He also unsuccessfully lobbied for immigration reform.
George was a divisive president. The world changed while he was President, and it will be years before history can truly judge his actions, for better or worse.
George was one of the most openly presidents of faith in recent years, often referencing his faith in God in speeches. George is known to have credited his faith in the Lord in enabling him to give up alcohol and restore peace in his family. He is known to have invited other world leaders to pray with him and spent time each morning doing devotions. George has been outspoken in his belief that the only way into Heaven is to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
After leaving the White House, George and his wife moved back to Texas, where they currently reside. He has largely remained out of the public spotlight, making few appearances.
Happy Birthday Mr. President!
On Monday, June 29, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled, by a vote of 5-4, that the use of midazolam in executions was permissible. The case was brought before the Supreme Court by four Oklahoma death row inmates. Read more about the history of the case and the ruling here. Since the Supreme Court has released their decision, numerous states have issued statements regarding how or if the ruling will affect future executions in the state.
In Alabama, which uses midazolam as a sedative in executions, executions have been on hold since July of 2013, due to drug shortages and legal challenges. The recent Supreme Court ruling has lifted one obstacle for the state to resume executions, although death row inmates are also challenging the methods used by the state to conduct executions. According to one lawsuit, inmate Thomas Arthur is alleging that the staff is inconsistent in the way it carries out executions, specifically the administration of a consciousness test to the inmates following the administration of the sedative.
Following the approval of the use of midazolam in executions by the Supreme Court, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has directed the Department of Corrections to begin searching for execution drugs. Governor Hutchinson has stated that he is “ready to do my responsibility” if given execution orders to sign. However, the state currently lacks a finished execution protocol, which is necessary to carry out executions. There is also a lawsuit against the state’s lethal injection law, which allows for a three drug execution process, which could included midazolam.
In Arizona, the Supreme Courts ruling approving midazolam does not end litigation in the state. Executions are currently on hold in the state due to a lawsuit challenging the state’s secrecy of execution protocols, pending the investigation into the nearly two hour execution of Joseph Wood last year. No executions will be scheduled until this lawsuit is resolved. One of the three drugs used in Joseph’s execution was midazolam. So far, the state has not announced that it plans to abandon the use of midazolam, although it is considering using only midazolam, if they are unable to obtain the other two drugs.
With the Supreme Court ruling on midazolam, California now has 120 days to propose a new, single-drug execution method, due to an agreement the state has reached with families of murdered victims. The agreement was in response to a lawsuit filed by family members of victims who had been murdered and their perpetrators sentenced to death. Once the method has been proposed, it will likely face appeals before it can be implemented.
Florida has been using midazolam in executions since October of 2013. Since that time, the state has carried out 11 executions, all without apparent problems. In a statement issued by the Office of Communications for the Florida Department of Corrections, they stated in response to the ruling, “Our Department respects the court’s decision and will continue to follow the law.” Additionally, Attorney General Pam Bondi has asked the Florida Supreme Court to lift the stay of execution for Jerry Correll, who had been granted a stay in February of this year, pending the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States regarding the use of midazolam in executions. Attorney General Bondi also stated that the ruling should allow the state to move forward with executions.
Several death row inmates in Mississippi have sued the state over the drugs used in its executions, which includes midazolam. However, attorneys for the inmates argue that the lawsuit is different from the one on which the Supreme Court ruled. The attorneys note that the drugs used in Mississippi’s executions are “made from unknown and unregulated substances,” causing a greater risk of harm. Additionally, the attorneys allege that there is a viable, more humane drug available to use in executions in Mississippi.
Earlier this year, Ohio announced that due to other legal problems, all executions for the year would be cancelled. Executions are scheduled to resume in 2016, with an execution scheduled for every month except December. There are also two executions scheduled for 2017, and three scheduled for 2018.
Numerous attempts to contact the Oklahoma Department of Corrections have been unsuccessful, nor has the department issued a statement on their website. However, the Attorney General of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt has released a statement in which he states, “The Court’s ruling preserves the ability of the Department of Corrections to proceed with carrying out the punishment of death. The state appreciates the justices’ thoughtful consideration of these important issues.” Attorney General Pruitt goes on to say that with the Supreme Court upholding the use of midazolam, he will ask that execution dates be set for three inmates who have completed their appeals. These three inmates, Richard Glossip, John Marion Grant, and Benjamin Robert Cole, were participants in the lawsuit brought before the Supreme Court. The fourth inmate involved in the lawsuit, Charles Warner, was executed last year, prior to the Court agreeing to hear the case.
The Supreme Court’s ruling is not likely to have an affect on executions in Tennessee, as the state uses a massive dose of pentobarbital to cause death. Executions in Tennessee are currently on hold due to legal challenges to the state’s execution protocol.
A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has stated that the recent ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States will have no impact on executions in Texas, as the state does not use the drug midazolam. Texas only uses pentobarbital in executions, however the state does have a supply of midazolam available. It is uncertain as to the use of the drug.
July 3, 2015
IDPN 2015 Issue 27
Ghana: In celebration of the nation’s 55th Republic Day, President John Mahama has freed over 900 prisoners, many of whom were first time offenders who had demonstrated good behavior. In addition, President Mahama reduced the sentence of 14 death row inmates to life in prison.
Iran: Soheil Arabi, a cyber activist, had had his death sentence overturned by the Iranian Supreme Court, pending a retrial. Soheil was convicted and sentenced to death for “insulting the Prophet of Islam.” If convicted once again, Soheil could be sentenced to death again.
In the first half of 2015, at least 570 individuals have been executed by hanging, including 10 women and one juvenile offender. The majority of those executed were for drug related crimes.
Iraq: Four men, accused of being gay, have been killed by being thrown off the tops of high buildings. The killings were carried out by Islamic extremists, allegedly in retaliation for the passage of marriage equality in the United States.
North Korea: In a report released by the Korea Institute for National Unification, it has been reported that approximately 1,400 individuals were executed by Kim Jong-un from 2008 to 2014. That number is based upon testimony of hundreds of individuals who have defected from North Korea.
Saudi Arabia: An unnamed man has been sentenced to death for the murder of his wife and four children in Sharurah, in 2013. Allegedly the man suffered from mental health problems. He called the police, informing them of the murders and confessing, after committing the murders.
From the day we are born, we build relationships with those around us. The first relationship a child builds is with their mother and father. As an infant, they care for you completely - they feed you, clothe you, bathe you, burp you, and answer your every cry, even if they don’t know why you are crying! A relationship of trust and love is built. As you grow, you begin to develop other relationships, while continuing to build and expand upon those already developed relationships, first with siblings, then other family members, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins, then, finally, with family friends and neighbors. As you continue to grow, your relationships continue to grow and expand - you now have school mates with whom you become friends, and school mates with whom you don't get along. You become involved in sports and other extracurricular activities, ever expanding those with whom you build relationships. You go off to college, move away from home to start a new job, and again expand your circle of relationships. Until the day you die, you will continue to build relationships, for better or worse, never knowing the relationships that will last a lifetime. And, hopefully, sometime during your life, you will begin the greatest, the most important relationship of your life - a relationship with your Lord and Savior.
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” … So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man [Adam], and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:18, 21-22, ESV)
God created us to be social and interact with others around us. After creating Adam, He realized that none of the animals were suitable companions, so He created Eve. We were not meant to be alone, but to develop relationships! Studies have shown that those with strong social relationships are better at dealing with stress, healthier, and more likely to live longer. July is Social Wellness Month! It is a time to examine the relationships in our lives and focus on nurturing and growing them.
The most important relationship one can develop is with their Lord and Savior. In Deuteronomy 6:5, we are instructed to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (ESV) This instruction is repeated numerous times in the Old Testament, as well as by Jesus in the Gospels. Through a relationship with Him, we are never alone. We always have someone to whom we can talk and turn to in difficult times. Jesus demonstrated this numerous times. He would often step away from the crowds, and even His disciples, to spend time with His Father. The time spent with His Father gave Him strength and peace. Jesus didn’t need scientific studies to prove to Him the benefits of a relationship with the Lord! Do you follow His example?
Jesus states that loving the Lord is the most important commandment, followed by loving our neighbors. When questioned by those crowded around Him as to whom constitutes a neighbor, Jesus told them the parable of the Good Samaritan. Everyone is our neighbor! We are not to restrict with whom we build relationships! Sometimes the relationships we build may be short lasting, however, God can use even the briefest of interactions for His glory. Studies have shown that helping others has a positive affect on the lives of the both the giver and receiver! This Social Wellness Month, make it a goal to help others more and see how such actions affect your life and attitude!
As you contemplate the relationships in your lives this Social Wellness Month, also take time to pray for those who are not free to explore social relationships. Can you imagine spending 23 hours a day, locked in a small room all by yourself, year in and year out? Can you imagine never hugging someone, or giving a simple handshake? Can you imagine the only touch you receive, being one to restrain you? Can you imagine having no one to talk to for those 23 hours? And spending that other, single hour of the day, with limited contact, perhaps through a fence? This is the life of death row inmates. Often attorneys for death row inmates will argue that their time on death row, in isolation has driven them insane. Could it have? Pray for these men and women. Pray for their relationship, and yours, with Christ and with others.