Did You Know?

Fourteen men and no women have been

executed in the United States in 2017.

 

The Bible passage for meditation, prayer, and reflection for the week of October 5-11, 2014, is Acts 5:1-11.  This passage takes place shortly after Jesus Christ returned to His Father.  At the end of chapter four, some members chose to sell their land and give the profits to the church to care for others.  It was not required but voluntary.  Ananias and Sapphira also sold land, but they handled their money differently.

 

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

 

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.  (Acts 5:1-11, ESV)

 

Ananias and Sapphira, together, chose to sell a piece of property.  Together, they decided to give the money to the church.  Together, they held some of the money back.  Together, they lied about what they amount for which the land sold.  Together, they died for their sin.  What was their sin?  Many people read this passage and think their sin was not giving all the money to the church.  Ananias and Sapphira did not have to give the money to the church, they chose to do so.  They did not even have to give all the money to the church.  Their sin was lying about keeping some of the money.

 

God gives us choices in our lives.  Sometimes the right and wrong answer is obvious.  Sometimes, our choice shows our dedication or strength in our faith in the Lord.  Regardless of the choice we make, right or wrong, weak or strong, we must stand behind our choice.  Ananias and Sapphira did not stand behind their choice, they hid it.  We can hid nothing from God.  Just as He saw what Ananias and Sapphira hid, He sees what we attempt to hide.  As you meditate on, pray over, and reflect upon this week’s passage, think about the recent choices you have made in your life.  Is there a choice you are trying to hide?

 

The Bible passage for meditation, prayer, and reflection for the week of October 12-18, 2014, is Hebrews 12:1-11.  The book of Hebrews was written to a group of believers who were struggling in their faith and considering returning to Judaism because it was where their families and friends were.  Hebrews was written to encourage these believers to stay true and strong in the Lord.

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

 

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

    nor be weary when reproved by him.

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

 

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  (Hebrews 12:1-11, ESV)

 

This passage begins with an inspirational message to the reader.  We are not alone!  Jesus has already endured all that we are enduring and more!  He suffered the ultimate sacrifice.  We can always to turn to Him for strength during our trials.  Our trials should be viewed as blessings.  Who has not been disciplined as a child?  God our Father, is teaching us through these hardships.  We will be stronger for them.

 

As you mediate on, pray over, and reflect upon this week’s passage, consider any trials you are going through.  Have you sought strength from the Lord?  What is the lesson you are being taught?

 

 

The Bible passage for meditation, prayer, and reflection for the week of October 19-25, 2014, is Habakkuk 2:4-5.  Habakkuk’s book is not a traditional book of prophecy.  The book records his conversation with the Lord.  Habakkuk asks many of the same questions that we ask today.  In this week’s passage, the Lord is responding to Habakkuk’s inquire about why evil is permitted and appears to prosper.

 

“Look at the proud!

    They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked.

    But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God.

Wealth is treacherous,

    and the arrogant are never at rest.

They open their mouths as wide as the grave,

    and like death, they are never satisfied.

In their greed they have gathered up many nations

    and swallowed many peoples.

(Habakkuk 2:4-5, NLT)

  

The Lord’s response to Habakkuk is the same response he has for us today.  Nothing has changed!  The prideful, the untruthful, the wicked, the arrogant, the greedy, and the unrighteous may appear to prosper, but only on this earth.  They will be punished for eternity, while the righteous and the faithful will be rewarded.  As you meditate on, pray over, and reflect upon this week’s passage, consider the Lord’s message and if you live by faithfulness.

 

 

The Bible passage for meditation, prayer, and reflection for the week of October 26 - November 1, 2014, is James 4:1-4.  In his book, James is addressing Jewish believers who have scattered from Jerusalem, following the death of Stephan, a leading early believer.  James is concerned with how early believers are living their lives and if it is a reflection on the life of Jesus Christ.  This passage addresses prayer, and when they appear to be unanswered.

 

What leads to strife (discord and feuds) and how do conflicts (quarrels and fightings) originate among you? Do they not arise from your sensual desires that are ever warring in your bodily members?

 

You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your desires go unfulfilled; [so] you become murderers. [To hate is to murder as far as your hearts are concerned.] You burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain [the gratification, the contentment, and the happiness that you seek], so you fight and war. You do not have, because you do not ask.

 

[Or] you do ask [God for them] and yet fail to receive, because you ask with wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives. Your intention is [when you get what you desire] to spend it in sensual pleasures.

 

You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world and breaking your marriage vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s friend is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God. (James 4:1-4, AMP)

  

God is not a genie.  He does not grant wishes. Just because we pray for something does not mean that we are going to get it.  And that should not cause us to rebel or turn away from Him!  James encourages us to examine our hearts when we pray.  Are we seeking God’s will for our lives or our will?  We are free to ask the Lord for whatever we want, so long as we are content with whatever answer He provides, even if it “No!”  As you meditate on, pray over, and reflect upon this weeks passage, consider the heart of your pray life.

 

The Bible passage for mediation, prayer, and reflection for the week of November 2-8, 2014, is 1 Peter 3:1-7.  Some of these verses are frequently taken out of context and used in ways that do not promote a life that is pleasing to the Lord.  It is important to carefully study God’s word for its true meaning.

 

In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.

 

Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They put their trust in God and accepted the authority of their husbands. For instance, Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do.

 

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.  (1 Peter 3:1-7, NLT)

  

To some women, the idea of being submissive to anyone, including a husband, is a repulsive thought.  They think women should be just as independent as men.  Yes, in today’s world, women can hold equal jobs as men and do nearly everything that a man can do. Unfortunately, this type of thinking leads to a power struggle within the marriage, which under God’s plan, is a harmonious relationship.  God placed the husband in charge of the family and to honor the Lord, the wives must also honor the husband.  What is often left out when quoting this verse, is the husband’s responsibility to his wife.  The wife, although submissive, is to be an “equal partner.”  A husband is to honor his wife, just as his wife honors him.  As you mediate on, pray over, and reflect upon this week’s verse, consider your attitude.  Do you engage in power struggles or do you honor the Lord?

 

The Bible passage for meditation, prayer, and reflection for the week of November 9-15, 2014, is Acts 15:5-11.  Peter, Paul, and Barnabas had returned to Jerusalem from their missionary journeys.  In is approximately 20 years since Jesus had returned to heaven and a debate is brewing in the early Christian church over the requirements for a Gentile to be saved.

 

But some who believed [who acknowledged Jesus as their Savior and devoted themselves to Him] belonged to the sect of the Pharisees, and they rose up and said, It is necessary to circumcise [the Gentile converts] and to charge them to obey the Law of Moses.

 

The apostles and the elders were assembled together to look into and consider this matter.

 

And after there had been a long debate, Peter got up and said to them, Brethren, you know that quite a while ago God made a choice or selection from among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the message of the Gospel [concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God] and believe (credit and place their confidence in it).

 

And God, Who is acquainted with and understands the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit as He also did to us;

 

And He made no difference between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith (by a strong and welcome conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God).

 

Now then, why do you try to test God by putting a yoke on the necks of the disciples, such as neither our forefathers nor we [ourselves] were able to endure?

 

But we believe that we are saved through the grace (the undeserved favor and mercy) of the Lord Jesus, just as they [are].  (Acts 15:5-11, AMP)

 

Peter was present at this debate, not as a church leader or administrator, but as a missionary.  He shared his experience, which, in his mind, settled the issue.  The Gentiles had been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, just as the Jews had!  There was no need for the Gentiles to be circumcised or follow the laws of Moses.  The Gentiles were saved through grace!  Additionally, Peter points out that the Jews - past and present - had never been able to fully uphold the laws of Moses.  How could they require the Gentiles to do that which they themselves were unable to do?

  

For generations, Gentiles who wished to be saved had to convert to Judaism and follow all of its laws.  Some Jewish leaders were resistant to this change (indeed this issue is addressed several times throughout the New Testament).  Peter’s experience was given by the Lord.  It was time for change.  Even today, we are often resistant to change, even that brought by the Lord.  As you meditate on, pray over, and reflect upon this week’s verse, consider your life.  Is the Lord guiding you towards change?  Are you resisting?

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