Mission 2014: Sharing The Love of Jesus
Knowing The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Study God’s Word: The Bible
The most important thing for a person to do in life is to know God. Seeking God provides opportunity to worship and serve Him. It allows for serving fellow man in a manner pleasing to God. But how! Study the road map to God: His Holy Word, the Bible. Did you know that God instructs every believer to study His Word?
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)
The Bible passage for meditation, prayer, and reflection for the week of March 2 – March 8, 2014, is Psalm 27:1-6. This may be a familiar passage to some. It is inspiring, encouraging, uplifting, and motivating. With God what do we have to fear? Spend some time this week meditating on, praying over, and reflecting on Psalm 27:1-6.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.
One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.
And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
(Psalm 27:1-6, ESV)
This psalm was written by David. We do not know when. David had many times in his life when he was beat down, surrounded, pursued, and in trouble. However, he never forgot that he had the Lord on his side. Through the Lord, all things are possible (Philippians 4:13). Are you like David? Do you turn to the Lord and rely on His strength during your times of trouble? Do you maintain faith that the Lord will get you through? And do you rejoice in Him when it is over?
March 3, 2014
While walking around campus at my Catholic college one Wednesday, I noticed that every other person appeared to have a black smudge on their foreheads. Even some professors! I am at a Catholic college. It must be one of those things Catholics did? Then I heard talk of giving up Facebook, chocolate, and video games for Lent. Yep. A Catholic thing! Wait! Was that my Lutheran friend with a black smudge? So much for the Catholic theory! Well, they are both liturgical churches; maybe it is a liturgical church thing? It took a few years before I understood that those liturgical church things are a way of growing and deepening my relationship with Christ.
The black smudge, as later learned, did not start as a smudge. It was given by the priest to those who attended Mass that morning. The priest dipped his thumb in ash and drew the sign of the cross on each person's forehead, as a reminder of what God said to Adam and Eve after they succumbed to sin and ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden: "for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19b, ESV) The ash mark symbolizes inner repentance. The Old Testament is littered with examples of people covering themselves with ash - 2 Samuel 13:19, Esther 4:1,3, Isaiah 61:3, Jeremiah 6:26, Ezekiel 27:30, Daniel 9:3, and Job 42:6. Jesus even alluded to the practice in Matthew 11:21! Many people leave the ashes on their foreheads all day as a witness that all are sinners and in need of Christ's forgiveness.
Ash Wednesday, this year on March 5, is the first day of the season of Lent. Although popularized by the Catholic Church, neither is just another "Catholic thing." Lent, and by extension, Ash Wednesday date back to, at least, the legalization of Christianity in AD 313. Legalization of Christianity helped formalize the practice of Lent. Following the Council of Nicea in AD 325, Lent became even more widely practiced.
Lent is the practice of fasting for the 40 days (excluding Sundays) before Resurrection Sunday. What is the first thing you think of when fasting? Food, right! In the Bible, fasting is associated with, but it is not limited to, food. Love to play video games or computer games? You can fast from them. Spend hours on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and tumblr? You can fast from them. Love all things sweet? You can fast from them. It is up to you: but remember, it is supposed to be hard! If it is easy, it would not strengthen your relationship with Christ. Lent is to remind us the sacrifice Jesus Christ made, so that we may spend eternity with Him. Through sacrifice of our own, and reliance on Him during our struggle, we can deepen and strengthen our relationship with Him.
Daily Bible Reading for March 8, 2014: Matthew 26-28
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Context: The final reading for Matthew is rather packed. If we were watching a movie, we would be approaching the final act, where all the action takes place. We begin with the religious leaders planning an attack on Jesus and swiftly shift scenes to the disciples and Jesus. A discussion was occurring between Jesus and his disciples while Jesus is getting his feet perfumed. The disciples considered such an act a waste, as the perfume was quite expensive, worth nearly a year in wages. Such a bottle could go a long way to helping the poor. What the disciples failed to realized is that Jesus is only on earth for a limited time, while the poor will remain and can be helped. Honoring the Lord is never a waste. We are not given much information on Judas, only that he is willing to betray the Son of God, for unknown reasons. The final supper combines an old tradition (Passover) with a new tradition (communion). Jesus also predicts His betrayal and Peter's denial. Following the supper, the disciples go to pray. Through Jesus' prayer, we learn that we are to pray honestly. Honestly reveal what we want. Jesus did not want to be separated from His Father, yet He grew in resolve to follow His Father's will. Three times Jesus caught the disciples sleeping instead of praying. He knew what was to come; they did not. They did not realize that without prayer, their strength would fail them, which it did following Jesus' arrest. They fled in fear. Think about it. They had seen Jesus raise the dead, heal the permanently sick, best demons, and control weather, and now Jesus was simply giving up?! After Jesus was arrested, they took Him to defend Himself before religious leaders. When He refused to testify, they forced Him to testify (I charge you under oath by the living God, 26:63). Jesus turned their words on themselves, admitting it is as they say. Peter, relying on himself instead of on the Lord, fulfilled Jesus' prophecy and denied knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. Judas regretted his betrayal and attempted to return the money, which was rejected, before he killed himself. Jesus was taken before Pilate. Pilate was weak. He refused to do his job, instead catering to the people, in the hopes of keeping order. Since Pilate deferred his responsibility to the people, was Jesus sentenced to be crucified. After being on the cross for six hours, the moment Jesus feared most came to pass: He was separated from His Father. Upon His death, Joseph of Arimathea asked for His body to bury Him. Mary of Magdalene and another Mary witnessed His burial and knew where the tomb was located. They knew which tomb to which to return. Instead of a body, they discovered an angel, which told them that Jesus had risen. The guards, prompted by the chief priests spread the story that Jesus' body was stolen. Jesus met with the disciples in Galilee, giving them the great commission.
World History: A legion of soldiers (mentioned by Jesus during His arrest) is six thousand men. Of course, Jesus was talking of angels, one of which could wipe out an army of men. After Judas returned the money, they refused to allow it back into the temple treasury since it was blood money. The priests cared more about following the rules in relation to money than about putting an innocent man to death. A crucifixion was reserved for the worst of the worst. It was an extremely painful and often long way to die. While hanging on the cross, those passing by would hurl insults at the condemned. Following Jesus' death, the curtain in the temple split from top to bottom, an important notation. The split indicates that it was initiated by God. Furthermore, the curtain separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple. The Holy of Holies was believed to have been where the presence of God resided within the Temple, with only the high priest being able to enter once a year. The destruction of the curtain symbolized that God could now be approached by anyone. Joseph of Arimathea was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin, the group who had Jesus killed. Likely he was a secret follower of Christ, until His death. The penalty for the 16 guards at the tomb of Jesus failing to stop anybody from stealing His body would be their deaths.
Daily Bible Reading for March 7, 2014: Isaiah 51-55
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Context: The end of chapter 50 can be rather sobering, especially if you do not read on! But combined with chapter 51, we see that God has a future plan for Israel. Chapter 51 begins with a description of Israel's past (1-3) and moves into a narrative on the outlook of Israel's future (4-16). Chapter 51 ends with a warning to Israel to "Awake!" Although the Lord has rebuked Israel and poured out His wrath upon it, the day is coming when Israel will once again experience God's blessing and those that have stood against Israel will be punished. Chapter 52 speaks of when Israel is redeemed. Everyone will know it was the Lord. When Jesus returns everyone will know it is Him, unlike the last time He walked the earth. The final three verses of chapter 52, introduce chapter 53, which describes the suffering of Christ, which allowed us to all be saved. Jesus willing sacrificed Himself for us. Many refused to believe Isaiah when he foretold of the Savior, just as many today refuse to believe in the death and resurrection of Christ, which grants them salvation. Chapter 54 is a song of joy. Israel will once again reclaim the entirety of the land promised to them by the Lord, through His covenant with Abraham. They will reclaim the land without fear, for the Lord will be with them and none can stand against the Lord. In chapter 55, God extends an invitation to all of mankind; the invitation is salvation. Of course, one must accept the invitation. Isaiah also explains that God's ways are not our ways. He may do things that do not make sense to us, but all is in accordance with His divine plan.
January 31, 2014
Ray Jasper III’s execution is scheduled for 6 pm CDT, on Thursday, March 19, 2014, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. Thirty-three-year-old Ray has been convicted of murdering 33-year-old David Alejandro in his music recording studio in San Antonio, Texas. Ray has spent the last 14 on Texas’ death row.
Ray dropped out of school during the 8th grade, following the death of a friend. At the age of 15, Ray began his criminal life with actions such as stealing a bicycle, possession of drugs, attempted burglary, and an incident of violence against an off-duty police officer.
On November 29, 1998, rapper Ray Jasper and friends Steve Russell and Doug Williams, went to a recording studio owned by David Alejandro to record some music. The trio had decided to kill David and steal some of the recording equipment to sell it for cash. Jasper and one of his friends carried concealed knives. After recording music for approximately two hours, it was decided that it was time to kill David. Jasper approached David from behind and cut his throat from ear to ear, but the injury was not fatal. Jasper and one of the accomplices continued to stab David until he died. David was stabbed approximately 25 times. Then David’s body was covered with sheet as the trio loaded the equipment into the vans they had brought. Jasper fled the scene when an armed police officer approached. He was apprehended days later outside of his house.
Jasper confessed to police on December 2, 1998. Jasper admitted to planning the robbery/murder and to recruiting the two accomplices. He described what happened in detail, which was later corroborated by his girlfriend, police officers, security guards, and physical evidence. Although Jasper admits to cutting David’s throat, he denies killing him.
Jasper convicted by a jury and given a death sentence. Jasper’s two accomplices, Steve and Doug, each received a life sentence.
Please pray for peace for the family of David Alejandro. Please pray for strength for the family Ray Jasper. Please pray that Jasper may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.
Lisa, Kelly, and Jane had been best friends since childhood. They did everything together and still get together a few times a week, although now it is for play dates for their kids instead of looking for dates. Lately though, Jane has been going through some personal struggles. While she still talks to Lisa, she has been avoiding Kelly. She loves both of her friends, but right now she needs support. Whenever she starts to talk around Kelly, Kelly takes over the conversation, "one upping" Jane's experience with one of her own, and offering advice from both sides of the spectrum. Sure, Kelly heard what Jane was saying, but she was not listening.
Raise your hand if you have ever been Jane's position. Keep it up if you have ever behaved like Kelly.
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Proverbs 8:13, ESV)
How many times have you heard someone say "You have two ears and one mouth, use them accordingly!"? March is Listening Awareness Month, a good time to put that saying into practice. Kelly heard what Jane was saying, but she did not listen. The first rule of listening: shut up! You do not always need to have a response prepared. Listening is not simply hearing the words others are saying, but the emotions and meaning behind the words. A response is not always necessary.
"Whoever is of God hears the words of God.
The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” (John 8:47, ESV)
The Lord God is always willing to listen to us, when we have had a bad day, a good day, experienced a tragedy, or experienced joy. Do you return the favor? Do you listen for Him?
This month make a conscious effort to listen more, and talk less! Listen for the Lord and what He is trying to tell you. Listen to your friends. Do not just hear what they are saying to respond, but really listen. Who knows? You might just learn something.
March 7, 2014
IDPN 2014 Issue 10
Brunei: Sultan and Prime Minister Hassanal Bolkiah has warned online critics of Sharia Law that once the new penal code takes effect next month, they will be subject to prosecution if they continue to mock Sharia Law. Currently Sharai Law only affects personal and family issues. Beginning April 1, 2014, Sharia Law will be expanded to the national level and include executions by stoning. Brunei has not carried out an execution since 1957. Brunei will be the first East Asian country to implement Sharia Law on the national level.
Indonesia: Parole of Australian Schapelle Corby could be revoked following the airing of a documentary about her release, in which her sister was interviewed and footage was shown of her leaving jail and reuniting with her family. Schaepelle was warned that any interviews could result in parole being revoked. Schapelle was found with approximately nine pounds of marijuana stashed in her surfing gear, which she claims was not hers. Schapelle was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2005, and later projected release in 2016 due to good behavior. Her sentence was cut by five years following an appeal for clemency to the Indonesian president. Schapelle has struggled with mental problems while in prison and since her release.
Iran: On Wednesday, February 19, 2014, two unidentified men were executed by hanging at the prison of Salmas in northwestern Iran. They were convicted of unrelated murders. Also in the prison of Salma, a 35-year-old man was executed by hanging on Thursday, February 27, 2014. He was convicted of murdering a 50-year-old man in 2008.
On Tuesday, February 25, 2104, three men were publically hanged in Islamabad. The men's identities have not been released.
On Sunday, March 2, 2014, four prisoners, identified by initials only, were executed by hanging in Bandar Abbas in southern Iran. The four were executed after having been convicted of armed trafficking of opium.
A 34-year-old Iranian, Rouhollah Tavana was arrested in October of 2011, after a private video was found on his computer, in which he, under the influence of alcohol, made a joke with insulted the Prophet of Islam according to a judge. According to Islamic law, if a person is found to have made an insult about the Prophet while under the influence of alcohol, that person can be executed. According to Rouhollah's mother, the evidence in the case was taken off of his personal computer by Moshhad Intelligence officers who raided his home.
The highest court has approved the sentence of Jamshid, a young man, in which he is to have his eyes gouged and his right ear and nose cutoff. Jamshid is convicted of deliberately pouring acid on the face of girl, which resulted in her loss of eyesight and right ear.
Twenty-six-year-old Farzaneh Moradi was executed by hanging on Tuesday, March 4, 2014, at the prison of Isfahan. Farzaneh was convicted of murdering her husband, whom she married at the age of 15 and had a daughter with one year later. The murder occurred six years ago. The daughter is now 10 years of age and has not seen her mother since she was arrested. Farzaneh originally confessed to the murder but later recanted, pointing to another individual as the one who committed the murder.
Japan: The Supreme Court has upheld a ruling in which 52-year-old Kazuhiro Ogawa has been sentenced to die for setting a fire in a video viewing parlor which led to the death of 16 people and injured four in 2008. Allegedly, it was a suicide attempt. Kazuhiro claims he did not start the fire.
Libya: Two politicians, Ali Tekbali and Fathi Saguer of the Libyan National Party, who were facing the death penalty, have had the charges that could have resulted in death dismissed. The two men were accused of the "promotion and possession of drawings insulting to Islam and the prophet." They had used a cartoon, which had been originally published in a satirical weekly, on posters during the 2012 campaign. One of the cartoon characters was the prophet Mohammed, of which Ali and Fathi were unaware.
Nigeria: Four men, convicted of having homosexual relations, have been publically whipped in northern Nigeria. Allegedly the men confessed, after having been beaten. In addition to being publically whipped, the men face one year in jail or a fine of $120. The judge chose to be lenient and not sentence the men to death because the men promised they had changed.
Singapore: Thirty-one-year-old Dinesh Pillai Raja Retnam is the third person to have had his sentence of death overturned under the revised Misuse of Drugs Act. Additionally Dinesh is the first person to have a death sentence overturned on grounds of mental disability. Dinesh was determined to have only been a courier of the drugs and to have an "abnormality of mind" which "substantially impaired his mental responsibility for his acts."
Papua New Guinea: Papua New Guinea has selected lethal injection as the primary method of capital punishment. Previously hanging was the only option.
United States of America: The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole board has denied clemency for Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner, two inmates scheduled to be executed later this month. Each inmate was denied by a vote of 4-1. Together, they also have a lawsuit pending against the state of Oklahoma asking that information regarding the execution drugs be released.
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