The Bible passage for mediation, prayer, and reflection for the week of August 23-29, 2015, is Proverbs 20:11. Proverbs, of which most of the book is attributed to King Solomon who was renowned for his wisdom, encourages individuals to know right from wrong, moral for immoral. It is filled with warnings against being dishonest and unwise. In this week’s verse, children are also warned to be aware of their actions.
Even a child is known by his acts, whether [or not] what he does is pure and right. (Proverbs 20:11, AMP)
“Kids these days,” says a white-haired man sitting on a park bench shaking his head. “Am I right?” he asks with a small grin, remembering back to the days of his youth, knowing he never behaved the way he now observed children behaving. As adults, we all know that our actions are often being judged by someone, somewhere. Children and their actions are also being judged. It is a parents’ responsibility to set a good example for their children. And if you don't have children? It is still your responsibility to set a good example! You never know when you are being observed, who is watching, and who is learning from your actions. As you meditate on, pray over, and reflect upon this week’s verse, consider the example you set. What can you do to set a good example? Is there someone with whom you can share this verse?
August 29, 2015: Daily Bible Reading with Commentary for John 10-12
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Context: Jesus spoke to the people of His day in a way that they could easily understand. Individually, we may not know much about shepherding, but we have resources available at our fingertips which can help us understand the message Jesus was trying to get across to His listeners. Jesus came to lead people to Him, not force them to go the direction He wanted. Jesus is the shepherd. He knows each sheep in His flock. He looks out for them. He is willing to risk His life to save them from danger. Jesus message, and His divine claims, divided people’s opinions of Him, with some believing and some ready to kill Him. The death of Lazarus was another teaching opportunity. Jesus could have saved Lazarus as soon as He heard he was sick. Jesus could have immediately traveled to save him. Yet Jesus waited and arrived four days after Lazarus’ death. Four days! According to Jewish tradition, they continued to check the body for three days after death to ensure the person really was dead and not comatose. Jesus ensured everyone knew Lazarus was dead before he was raised again. The dinner hosted in Bethany did not occur immediately following the revival of Lazarus. It was at this dinner that Mary cleaned Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and her hair. Here, Judas is shown as a selfish thief, although he attempts to disguise his selfishness as concern for the poor. Jesus rebukes him, as their will always be the poor to care for but He will be on this earth for only a short time. The perfume used by Mary cost on year’s wages. Today, people will spend that on a new car or house for themselves, but how many would spend it to honor a friend? Interestingly, Judah would go and betray Jesus for less than half the amount the perfume was worth. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is not nearly as detailed as the other Gospels. The author, John, makes it clear that at the time, he and the other disciples did not understand the importance or significance of the event or Jesus’ predictions of His death. Despite all that Jesus had done, all the miracles He had performed, many still doubted. The Pharisees refused to believe in order to protect themselves and their positions.
World History: Are you a shepherd? No? Neither am I, but in order to understand chapter 10, it is important to understand being a shepherd. Several shepherds would often put their sheep together in a cave or pen at night. Yet, the shepherds could look at all the flocks together and know which sheep belonged to them. The sheep also knew their shepherd. They knew his voice and, come morning, would follow their shepherd when he called to them. Instead of being herded by dogs, the sheep were led by the voice of their shepherd. It was a loving relationship between the sheep and their shepherd.
August 26, 2015
Jerry Hartfield was raised in Altus, Oklahoma. He dropped out of school in the fifth grade and was illiterate, knowing nothing about the way the American justice system works. Jerry had worked as a construction worker at a nuclear power plant near Bay City, Texas, until he was arrested in 1976.
In 1976, 55-year-old Eunice Joy Lowe was murdered at a bus stop in Bay City, Texas. At the time, Jerry was just 21 years of age. The evidence against Jerry was circumstantial. Additionally, Jerry claimed, and continues to claim that he is innocent.
At his trial, a jury found him guilty after three and one half hours of deliberation, based on circumstantial evidence. An acquaintance testified that Jerry had talked to him about needing $3,000. Nearly $3,000 had been stolen from Eunice, along with her car. An unused bus ticket was found with Jerry’s fingerprint on it at the crime scene. Jerry also made a confession to police after his arrest, a confession which he calls “a bogus statement they had written against me.” It took a jury 20 minutes to decide that Jerry should be executed.
Three years later in 1980, Jerry’s case took an unusual turn. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Jerry’s conviction. Jerry, and his family, thought that he would be getting a new trial! The state of Texas appealed the decision of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals twice. Neither appeal was successful. In 1983, 11 days after the court rejected the state’s second appeal, Jerry was removed from death row and placed in a general population prison because Governor Mark White commuted his sentence to life in prison. It was then that Jerry became lost in the system.
Due to the ruling of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Jerry had no sentence for the Governor to commute. He was supposed to receive a new trial. Jerry, with an IQ of 51, did not understand what the ruling of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals meant. And his lawyer, Robert Scardino, believed that he no longer had an obligation to represent Jerry, as his sentence had been commuted.
Since the overturning of Jerry’s sentence and his subsequent commutation of a sentence he no longer had, Jerry has been living in prison, waiting for his day in court, not realizing he had been lost in the system. It has been over 32 years for Jerry. Thirty-two years in prison without having a conviction.
August 28, 2015
IDPN 2015 Issue 35
India: Following the execution of Yakub Memon, convicted of the Mumbai attacks, many have protested the nation’s use of the death penalty, claiming it is inhuman and barbaric. The nation’s Supreme Court has ruled that the death sentence is not inhuman or barbaric and does not violate the right of life and liberty in heinous crimes. The Supreme Court’s decision comes as Vikram Singh, convicted of abducting and killing a 16-year-old in 2005, and subsequently given the death penalty, appealed his case. Vikram argued that the death penalty is only applicable to terrorists, an argument with which the Supreme Court disagreed.
Iran: On Sunday, August 23, 2015, two inmates, identified by initials only, were executed by hanging in Rasht’s Lakan Prison. Both prisoners were executed on charges of murder. Also executed on Sunday, was one prisoner in Ardebil Central Prison. That inmate was executed on drug related charges.
On Monday, August 24, 2015, 25-year-old Hossein Karimi was executed by hanging in Bandar Abbas Prison in southern Iran. Hossein was executed on drug related charges.
On Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 30-year-old Behrouz Alkhani was executed by hanging. Behrouz, who is of Kurdish descent, was considered a political prisoner. He was convicted of participating in the assassination of a local Iranian Prosecutor and for collaborating with the Party of Free Life in Kurdistan. Executed along with Behrouz at Orumieh Prison, was five other political prisoners.
On Thursday, August 27, 2015, Jamal Jaafari was executed by hanging at the central prison in Sanadaj in western Iran. Jamal was convicted of murder in 2011.
Iraq: On Monday, August 24, 2015, a Kurdish man and his two wives were executed for the kidnapping and murder of two 11-year-old schoolgirls, Aban Haji and Havin Hasan. One was kidnapped in November of 2011, while the other was kidnapped in March of 2012. The two wives were executed “for complicity” and “because of the gravity of the crime.” Iraq has had a semi-moratorium on executions in the nation since 2008. With the exception of terrorism cases, the Iraqi president has refused to sign execution orders. The president made an exception in this case due to the gravity of the crime.
Are you smiling or growling? SMILE!!! That was Alyssa. Always smiling, always finding the silver lining. Whenever her friends were having a bad day or looked down, Alyssa was there to cheer them up! But Dani? GRRRRR!!! Dani was the opposite. Dani could find the bad on the best of days. Constantly growling about something. And, whether Dani was aware or not, her negativity would bring down her friends when they were happy. Do you have a friend like Alyssa? Do you have a friend like Dani? Which one do you emulate in your life?
Happiness is a choice. It has been said many times and will be said many more times throughout your life, we cannot choose the circumstances and situations in our lives, but we can choose how we react to what life may bring. August is Happiness Happens Month! It is a month to recognize that in the midst of everything, happiness still happens, sometimes you just have to look for it!
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (Philippians 4:4, ESV)
Christians always have a reason to be happy - Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior! He is always with us, ever in our darkest hours! We are never alone! It is a joy that we should strive to share with others, for all should know true happiness that can only come through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, the world is not perfect and that joy that we should exude from knowing our Savior can often be overwhelmed by everyday problems. Happiness in our lives, and showing that happiness to others, is a choice we must make several times everyday.
What are you happy about? What joy to want to share with the world? With those around you?
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Just five more minutes… BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Arrgg!!! Alright, alright! Slowly the household starts to come awake. Mom putters out to the kitchen to start the coffee, while Dad hops in for a quick shower. BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! The kids take a bit longer to wake up, but dad’s mouthwatering pancakes are waiting for them, with real maple syrup. Everyone hustles around getting ready for the day, with Mom shouts out reminders about various activities relating to the person she is currently passing. Before you know it, everyone heads off in their own direction for the day. The day flies by, everyone involved in their own life. In the evening everyone starts to slowly trickle back to the house, all arriving in time for dinner: Mom’s famous spaghetti! During dinner, they exchange brief stories about their days before agains wandering off, each in pursuit of their own leisure activities. Too soon, it is time for bed. And then, BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!, the pattern begins again.
Can you recognize your family in the above story? Many families have their own similar story to tell. Is that all there is to being a family? Having a routine? Living in the same house? Sharing meals? Briefly talking about your day? Separating for your own leisure activities? No! Family is not simply a group of people with whom you live! Family is a gift from God and should be treasured!
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4, ESV)
Paul provides instructions for each member of the family, instructions which are based on the commandments given in the Old Testament, during the time of Moses. Children are to obey their parents. In return, parents are to raise up their children in the way of the Lord, teaching them right from wrong. They are to discipline their children when they misbehave, but it should be done out of love, not anger. Family is work!
In our hectic lives, family is not always given the attention it deserves. Tempers can flare after a long and trying day, causing harsh words. Often, it is family who can receive the brunt of the temper. After all, many reason, they are family; they will forgive, they have to forgive. Should we not strive to treat our family better?
August is National Family Fun Month! While family may be work, just like everything else in life, it should also be fun. This month, the final month before school starts once more, take time out from life and focus on the family. Focus on having fun with your family! Plan a special outing or adventure! Let the kids help plan - or let them plan a fun activity and discover something new about them! Teaching does not always have to be a serious affair! This month, pray for your family. Pray that you may grow closer as family and discover, or rediscover the joy in family!