The Bible passage for meditation, prayer, and reflection for the week of March 19-25, 2017, is Mark 4:30-34. Have you ever heard someone describe something technical and think, or even say, “Just speak plainly!” That is exactly what Jesus is doing in this passage! Speaking plainly, through a parable.
And He said, With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use to illustrate and explain it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all seeds upon the earth; Yet after it is sown, it grows up and becomes the greatest of all garden herbs and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air are able to make nests and dwell in its shade. With many such parables [Jesus] spoke the Word to them, as they were able to hear and to comprehend and understand. He did not tell them anything without a parable; but privately to His disciples (those who were peculiarly His own) He explained everything [fully]. (Mark 4:30-34, AMP)
What must it have been like, learning that the feet of Jesus? Being part of the intimate conversations that He had with His disciples? Through the recordings in the New Testament, we are offered a glimpse of that experience. Jesus spoke in parables, stories that were easy to understand, yet required meditation, prayer, and reflection to grasp the full teaching. This week’s passage shows that the kingdom of God may start out small, tiny even, yet will grow to become the largest and greatest of all the seeds planted in the garden. What a kingdom of which we are a part! As you meditate on, pray over, and reflect upon this weeks verse, consider your part in God’s kingdom.
March 25, 2017: Daily Bible Reading Commentary for Mark 3-4
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Commentary: Jesus is accused of working on the Sabbath when He heals a man. The Pharisees were so caught up in their rules that they refused to acknowledge that human needs trumps religious laws. Jesus begins to draw a crowd no matter where He goes. He appoints the 12 Apostles, so that they may assist and also go out to teach and heal. In an attempt to discredit Jesus, the Pharisees first say He is Satan and when Jesus refutes that claim, they continue to say that Jesus is possessed by an evil spirit. Jesus uses the parable of the Sower to describe the condition of the receiver of God's word. Read an in-depth study on this parable here. Jesus is to be a light within us that shines so bright other people can recognize it. Through the parable of the growing seed, Jesus explains that after we sow the seed of God's word and move on, He will continue to work and the seed will continue to grow. God can use anyone for His purpose, not matter how small or insignificant the person may think they are. While Jesus is sleeping in the boat, a storm rises up and the disciples, fearful, awaken Jesus. Jesus calmed the storm and questioned the faith of the disciples. Interestingly, Mark is the only Gospel to record that there were other boats around during the storm. Mark's recording of the other boats only further demonstrates the greatness of Jesus' faith in His Father and the miracle.
Focus Verses: 3:1-5 What is the disagreement between the Pharisees and Jesus (this time)? What lesson does Jesus teach? How is applicable today? How is it applicable in your own life?
On Christmas Day, 2015, Concussion, starring Will Smith, was released. As you might have guessed from the title, the movie looked at the effects of concussions, specifically on football players who endure repeated concussions throughout their time playing the game. The movie, while not exactly presenting any new information, did get football fans, and others, to engage in discussions about brain damage. It caused some parents to question at what age a child should start participating in sports such as football, boxing, and wrestling, that are known for potentially causing brain damage - through concussions and/or repeated blows to the head. Unfortunately, the conversation faded away all too fast.
March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month. While Concussion raised concerns about brain damage in a particular sport, the Brain Injury Association of America seeks to educate the general public about brain injuries in general. Over 3.5 million children and adults sustain an acquired brain injury every year. The exact total is unknown, as not all incidents are reported. Acquired brain injuries can be caused by lack of oxygen to the brain, diseases, seizures, strokes, substance abuse, tumors, and/or exposure to toxic chemicals.
Traumatic brain injuries, like concussions, are caused by trauma from an external force, such as being in a car accident, falling off a bicycle, or suddenly having your head slammed to the ground by an opposing player after catching the football. A traumatic brain injury occurs every 13 seconds and 50,000 die every year from the injury. The Brain Injury Association of America estimates that one out of every 60 individuals live with a disability related to a traumatic brain injury.
Our brains - the way they function, operate, and their importance - are extremely complex. Scientists may study them for their entire lives and still only understand a fraction of their operations! Therefore, brain injuries present a problem for scientists because the long-term effects are relatively unknown and treatment for brain injuries are limited to what we know.
This March, raise your awareness about brain injuries. Know what they are and how to recognize symptoms. Talk to your children and increase their awareness. You never know when your knowledge could help another.
Updated: March 20, 2017
Please pray for these men and women. Pray for salvation if unsaved, peace if saved, and that the innocent shall be revealed before they are executed. "The Lord is slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:9 ESV).
March 24, 2017
IDPN 2017 Issue 12
Belarus: Thirty-two-year-old Aliaksei Mikhalenya has become the first individual sentenced to death in the nation in 2017. Belarus is the only member of the European Union to still retain capital punishment, despite repeated calls to abolish it. Aliaksei was sentenced to death on March 17, for murdering two individuals with particular cruelty.
Ethiopia: In June 2014, Andargachew “Andy” Tsege was kidnapped while transitioning in an international airport and taken to a death row prison in Ethiopia. Andy was an outspoken critic of the Ethiopian government who lived in London, England with his partner and their three children. The death sentence was handed down in absentia while Andy resided in London. So far, British diplomats have been unable to secure Andy’s release, although they have secured a promise that Andy will now have regular access to a lawyer. The Ethiopian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, however, have both confirmed that Andy has no appeal options.
India: A bill has been introduced that would ensure all defendants convicted and sentenced to death would have the “natural and unrestricted right appeal in the Supreme Court in all cases.” Currently, there are stipulations on an appeal to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court can dismiss death penalty cases without consideration. Nearly 30 years ago a similar bill was introduced and then withdrawn when the Minister of Law promised to take the bill into consideration. The bill was not brought forward again until recently.
Japan: Forty-two-year-old Tatsuhiko Hirano has been sentenced to death for the murder of five individuals on Awaji Island in 2015. Hirano’s lawyers allege that Hirano is mentally incompetent and cannot be held responsible for his crime. They are appealing his conviction. Hirano had previously spent five years in a psychiatric institution due to him being judged a danger to the public due to mental illness. Since his release, he has continued to taking psychotropic drugs.
Malaysia: Courts will no longer be required to give mandatory death sentences to those convicted on drug charges. Judges may now give those convicted of drug related charges jail time. The death penalty remains an option for other serious crimes. There are approximately 800 prisons on death row for drug trafficking crimes.
What does receiving a personal letter mean to you? How does it make you feel? When we look at a return address and realize that the letter is from a friend, we feel loved. We cannot wait cherish every word in the message held inside! In today’s fast-paced world, letter writing is quickly becoming a thing of the past, yet for some, the men and women on death row, it is the only way they can communicate with the world. Since March 8, 2005, The Forgiveness Foundation Christian Ministries has strived to give the over 3,000 men and women on death row the same feeling that you have when you receive a letter; loved. Our letters carry more than just the love of every member of The Forgiveness Foundation Christian Ministries’ team, which include the individuals (like you!) who help finance the letter writing ministry. Our letters also, and more importantly, carry the love of Jesus Christ! In each letter, we share how much Jesus loves them. He has already paid the debt of their sin, the debt of the murders for which they are convicted. We share with them that Jesus has freely paid that price, and that they are forgiven! They must only accept Jesus Christ’s forgiveness, making Him Lord of their lives! The Forgiveness Foundation Christian Ministries works toward honoring the “Great Commission,” with our mail ministry to the men and women on death row. View our donations page to discover how you can help The Forgiveness Foundation Christian Ministries minister to the men and women on death row.