Did You Know?

Twenty-one men and no women have

been executed in the United States in 2017.

The Bible passage for mediation, prayer, and reflection for the week of May 28-June 3, 2017, is Galatians 1:15-2:2.  Galatians was written by Paul.  Today, Paul is remembered as a man who wrote a large portion of the New Testament, a man who was one of the first missionaries, and a man who helped establish much of the early church outside of Jerusalem.  But during the time in which Galatians was written, Paul was also remembered for his persecution of Christians.  In this week’s passage, Paul defends the person he has become.

 

But when He, Who had chosen and set me apart [even] before I was born and had called me by His grace (His undeserved favor and blessing), saw fit and was pleased to reveal (unveil, disclose) His Son within me so that I might proclaim Him among the Gentiles (the non-Jewish world) as the glad tidings (Gospel), immediately I did not confer with flesh and blood [did not consult or counsel with any frail human being or communicate with anyone].  Nor did I [even] go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles (special messengers of Christ) before I was, but I went away and retired into Arabia, and afterward I came back again to Damascus.  Then three years later, I did go up to Jerusalem to become [personally] acquainted with Cephas (Peter), and remained with him for fifteen days.  But I did not see any of the other apostles (the special messengers of Christ) except James the brother of our Lord.  Now [note carefully what I am telling you, for it is the truth], I write this as if I were standing before the bar of God; I do not lie.  Then I went into the districts (countries, regions) of Syria and Cilicia.  And so far I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Christ in Judea (the country surrounding Jerusalem).  They were only hearing it said, He who used to persecute us is now proclaiming the very faith he once reviled and which he set out to ruin and tried with all his might to destroy.  And they glorified God [as the Author and Source of what had taken place] in me.  Then after [an interval] of fourteen years I again went up to Jerusalem. [This time I went] with Barnabas, taking Titus along with [me] also.  I went because it was specially and divinely revealed to me that I should go, and I put before them the Gospel [declaring to them that] which I preach among the Gentiles.  However, [I presented the matter] privately before those of repute, [for I wanted to make certain, by thus at first confining my communication to this private conference] that I was not running or had not run in vain [guarding against being discredited either in what I was planning to do or had already done].  (Galatians 1:15-2:2, AMP)

  

Paul’s transformation did not occur overnight!  Neither will ours!  Often when we become Christians, we expect that our lives will immediate reflect the new person we have become: trials will disappear, we will always be joyful, everyone we meet will see this change in us and want to know what happened, we will be able to share God’s word and make a difference in everyone’s life.  Unfortunately, that is not the way it works.  Paul spent three years studying before he even approached the disciples of Jesus Christ!  And he spent 14 more years studying before he began his mission work with the Gentiles!  Paul spent more years studying the Word of God than some of us went to school!  As you meditate on, pray over, and reflect upon this weeks passage, consider your daily habits.  How much time do you spend everyday dedicated to learning the Word of God?  How much time do you spend everyday in prayer and fellowship with Him?

The Bible passage for prayer, meditation, and reflection for the week of May 21-27, 2017, is Luke 6:27-31.  This week’s passage gives instructions for how we are to live our lives everyday, yet Christians everywhere will agree, it is one of the most difficult passages in the Bible to follow.

 

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”  (Luke 6:27-31, ESV)

 

In elementary school, they were called our playground rivals.  In middle school and high school, the lines became more defined - they were not part of our group and we looked at and spoke of one another with contempt.  In college they were easy to ignore, although a few harmless pranks played on them was always fun.  But as adults, things changed.  Those we disliked could no longer be ignored and we had to learn to work and tolerate them.  As we grew from childhood into adulthood, we learned various ways of dealing with those we considered our enemies, our rivals, or simply those we disliked.

 

But those methods are the way of the world, not the way of Christ.  In this week’s passage, Christ tells us His way.  We are to show them love and kindness.  We are to pray for blessings upon them.  We are to smile when they insult us.  We are to kill them with kindness - so to speak.  But this passage does not mean that we are to allow ourselves to become complacent in abusive situations!  We are to forgive, be kind, and not stoop to their actions, yet we are not required to stay and subject ourselves to harmful behavior!

 

As you prayer over, meditate on, and reflect upon this week’s passage, consider your actions.  Do you show love to your enemies?  Ask for the Lord to help you change your attitude and actions, then pay attention to the opportunities He provides!  How are you responding?

The Bible passage for prayer, meditation, and reflection for this week, the week of May 14-20, 2017, is II Corinthians 9:6-9.  Paul is proud of the attitude previously displayed by the Corinthians when giving.  He was encouraging them to continue giving with such a joyful attitude.

 

[Remember] this: he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings.  Let each one [give] as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, “prompt to do it”) giver [whose heart is in his giving].  And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation].  As it is written, He [the benevolent person] scatters abroad; He gives to the poor; His deeds of justice and goodness and kindness and benevolence will go on and endure forever!  (II Corinthians 9:6-9, AMP)

 

In a small city, there is a large church with many members and several different community outreach projects.  One Sunday, this large church had a guest speaker.  The speaker spoke from this week’s passage, with a message about cheerful giving.  Many speakers and pastors seek to inspire change through their messages, but this particular speaker sparked a visible change within a church, a lasting change.  Can you guess the change?  Following that speaker’s message, every time an offering plate was passed in that church, the congregation applauded!  They clapped not for the amount of money the church received, or to make those who gave feel good about themselves; they clapped as a reminder, a reminder to themselves, and to each other that when they give, they are to give cheerfully and willingly!  Each church member knows why they clap, even if they were not at the sermon that particular Sunday and, when a guest to the church asks why they are applauding, they are able to respond accordingly.

  

As you meditate on, pray over, and reflect upon this week’s verse, ask yourself if you are applauding when you give?  Are you applauding for the right reasons?

The Bible passage for mediation, prayer, and reflection for the week of May 7-13, 2017, is Job 38:1-18.  Job finally hears the Lord speak!  Job has been suffering through physical pain and emotional pain.  He is tired from defending himself to his friends who will not believe that he did nothing to incite God’s wrath against him.  The Lord speaking to him, answering him!  It is what he has been waiting for, asking for, wishing for, praying for.

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Gird up now your loins like a man, and I will demand of you, and you declare to Me.  Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Declare to Me, if you have and know understanding.  Who determined the measures of the earth, if you know? Or who stretched the measuring line upon it?  Upon what were the foundations of it fastened, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?  Or who shut up the sea with doors when it broke forth and issued out of the womb?—When I made the clouds the garment of it, and thick darkness a swaddling band for it, and marked for it My appointed boundary and set bars and doors, and said, Thus far shall you come and no farther; and here shall your proud waves be stayed?  Have you commanded the morning since your days began and caused the dawn to know its place, so that [light] may get hold of the corners of the earth and shake the wickedness [of night] out of it?  It is changed like clay into which a seal is pressed; and things stand out like a many-colored garment.  From the wicked their light is withheld, and their uplifted arm is broken.  Have you explored the springs of the sea? Or have you walked in the recesses of the deep?  Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Or have you seen the doors of deep darkness?  Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell Me, if you know it all.  (Job 38:1-18, AMP)

 

Who hasn’t, at some point in their life, questioned God’s actions in their life?  It is not always easy to understand God’s work in our life.  Rarely does God work the way we expect, the way we plan, the way we want.  Job thought that when he finally confronted the Lord, he would be told that he was blameless and given the reason for his torment.  He did not expect to be chastised by the Lord!  This passage is a reminder to all Christians in difficult times: we are not God!  We do not see all!  We do not know all!  We are not all powerful!  God, and God alone, is in control of everything!  We need to stop trying to take control of our lives from God.  As you meditate on, pray over, and reflect upon this week’s verse, consider who is in charge of your life?

The Bible passage for meditation, prayer, and reflection for the week of April 30 - May 6, 2017, is Psalm 53:1-6.  This psalm was written by David and is nearly identical to an earlier Psalm, Psalm 14.  In it, David reflects upon those who do not believe in the Lord and rejoices at the future promised salvation of Israel!

 

The [empty-headed] fool has said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt and evil are they, and doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.

 

God looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any who understood, who sought (inquired after and desperately required) God.

 

Every one of them has gone back [backslidden and fallen away]; they have altogether become filthy and corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.

 

Have those who work evil no knowledge (no understanding)? They eat up My people as they eat bread; they do not call upon God.

 

There they are, in terror and dread, where there was [and had been] no terror and dread! For God has scattered the bones of him who encamps against you; you have put them to shame, because God has rejected them.

 

Oh, that the salvation and deliverance of Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of His people, then will Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad.  (Psalm 53:1-6, AMP)

 

With whom do you surround yourself?  Do you consider them fools?  Fools will lead you away from God, away from knowledge.  They will lead you into temptations, into the rejection of the Lord.  As you mediate on, pray over, and reflect upon this week’s verse, consider, are you surrounding yourself with fools?

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