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Today's Bible Passage

JAMES 5:19,20

 

Meditation

In this scripture, there is established the great differentiating characteristic of Christian truth. It is something from which a person can wander. It is not only intellectual, philosophical, and abstract; it is always moral truth.
 
This comes out very clearly when we go to the New Testament and look at the expressions that are used in connection with truth. Truth is something a person must love (2 Thessalonians 2:10); it is something that a person must obey (Galatians 5:7); it is something that a person must display in life (2 Corinthians 4:2); it is something that must be spoken in love (Ephesians 4:15); it is something that must be manifested in a life of love (1 John 3:19); it is something that liberates (John 8:32), and it is something that is the gift of the Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus Christ (John 16:13-14).
 
Clearest of all is the phrase in John 3:21: “He who DOES what is true…”. That is to say, Christian truth is something that must be done. It is not only the object of the search of the mind; it is always moral truth issuing in action. It is not only something to be studied but something to be done; not only something to which a person must submit only his mind but something to which he must submit his whole life.
 

Life Application

Ask God to help you to include truth into your whole life so that you will let the world see Godly truth. You need His daily guidance in your life.

Prayer and Praise

“Dear Father, I thank You for James and the contribution his writings have made to my life. I love to read the Bible daily because it helps me get through life. Amen.”

 

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U.S. President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to establish diplomatic ties, a development that is part of an agreement to stop Israel’s annexation of occupied land in the West Bank sought by Palestinians for their future state.
 
This announcement makes the UAE the first Gulf Arab country and the third Arab country to establish diplomatic ties with Israel. Egypt and Jordan have been the only Arab nations with active diplomatic ties with Israel.
 
Trump tweeted the joint statement between the three states, and later told reporters in the Oval Office it was “a truly historic moment.”

WATCH: President Trump announces agreement

When VOA asked Trump if he supports Israel’s annexation of Palestinian land, Trump did not respond directly, saying only, “We’re talking to Israel about that right now.”  
 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later told reporters, however, that Trump asked him to suspend his West Bank annexation plans and that they were “delayed” but “not canceled.”
 
Trump added, “Now that the ice has been broken, I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates.”
 
The joint statement said that delegations would meet in the next few weeks to discuss and sign deals concerning direct flights, security, telecommunications, energy, tourism, and health care.
 
“Opening direct ties between two of the Middle East’s most dynamic societies and advanced economics will transform the region by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation and forging closer people-to-people relations,” the statement reads.
 
The UAE and Israel also plan to “immediately expand and accelerate cooperation regarding the treatment of and development of a vaccine for the coronavirus,” the statement added.
 
UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Al Otaiba said the “announcement to fully normalize relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is a win for diplomacy and for the region that lowers tensions and creates new energy for positive change.”
 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted that the pact with the Arab country was “A historic day.”
 
The normalization of relations between the two countries is a victory and a setback for the Palestinians, who have depended on Arab support in their quest for independence.  
 
While Thursday’s agreement halts Israel’s annexation plans, the Palestinians have long urged Arab nations not to establish diplomatic relations with Israel until a deal to establish an independent Palestinian state has been reached.
 
“Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally & persistently since the beginning of the occupation,” tweeted Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official.
 
Hamas, a Palestinian militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, said the deal involving UAE is “a stabbing in the back of our people.”
 
Iran clerical leaders did not immediately react to the agreement, but the country’s Tasnim news agency said the normalization of ties between the two countries is “shameful.”  
 
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said of the deal that “this is a remarkable achievement for two of the world’s most forward leaning, technologically advanced states, and reflects their shared regional vision of an economically integrated region.”
 
The agreement gives Trump a rare diplomatic achievement ahead of the November U.S. presidential election.
 
But Netanyahu may be hedging his bets before the election by halting his annexation plans. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has said he would oppose any Israeli efforts to annex lands wanted by the Palestinians. 

Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report.

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BROOKLYN, NY, August 2, 2020 - Despite living thousands of miles away in lands far from Jamaica's shores, members of the Christian community, have for the past 15 years, annually observed a special day of prayer and fasting for their homeland in the eager hope that the island will be transformed into a haven of peace and comfort.

For those Jamaicans who might still be critical about the practical significance of such an exercise, or for others who are supportive of the initiative but might still be desirous of knowing more about it, we find it necessary to provide a brief history of its origin and development.

Background and Rationale

Rev. Newton Gabbidon, IPMI'S Founder and President Rev. Newton Gabbidon, IPMI'S Founder and President Many Biblical and historical accounts exist of nations whose destinies have been influenced by the power of prayer and fasting. The United States of America is an example of a society whose history has been influenced by the power of prayer and fasting, as a reading of President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Proclamation implies.

Dr. Derek Prince, in his book, Shaping History through Prayer and Fasting, noted the following essential principle from Lincoln's 1863 Proclamation of relevance to the Jamaica Diaspora day of prayer and fasting (JDOP:

"This Proclamation unequivocally acknowledges the overruling power of God in the affairs of men and nations. It indicates that behind the political, economic, and military forces of history, there are divine spiritual laws at work; and that by acknowledging and submitting to these laws, a nation may change its destiny, averting threatened disaster and regaining true peace and prosperity. In particular, the Proclamation sets forth one specific, practical way in which a nation may invoke on its own behalf the overruling power of God – by united prayer and fasting."

This principle has, for more than five decades, set the tone for the National Day of Prayer, which is hosted annually by the Evangelical Christian community in the United States since President Truman in 1952 declared and signed it into law, based on a joint resolution of the United States Congress.

But how would such a proclamation for a national day of prayer and fasting for Jamaica relate to the Christian community in the Jamaican Diaspora thousands of miles away? Perhaps, the best reference to which we can turn is Jewish history during the 5th Century BC, following the 536 BC declaration by Cyrus, King of Persia. The declaration by King Cyrus called for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem that was destroyed during the time of King Nebuchadnezzar's invasion of Judah and the carrying off of the people into captivity in Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC (Ezra 1:1).

This declaration by King Cyrus in 536 BC effectively set the stage for the end of the Jewish captivity in the Persian Empire, and paving the way for the first migration of Jews to Judah to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, the center of Jewish worship. But in the early 5th Century BC, things were not going well morally, socially, politically, or economically in Judah, and the bad news concerning the great distress of the Jewish population in Judah would travel back to the Jewish Diaspora in Persia. One of these Persian Jews was Nehemiah, a public official, employed in the Palace of the King of Persia (Neh 1: 1 – 10 ).

In response to the depressing news, which he had heard from those returning from Judah to Persia, Nehemiah was led to fast and pray for the Jewish State. This period of prayer and fasting set the stage for a period of spiritual revival in the Jewish State, climaxing in the restoration of Jerusalem politically and economically. It is from this particular case from Jewish history that the Proclamation for an annual day of prayer and fasting for Jamaica in the Diaspora is based.

Origin, History & Development

The Jamaica Diaspora Day of Prayer and Fasting proclamation was conceived, as a unique project, in March 2004 at a meeting in Bronx, New York, by Rev. Newton Gabbidon (IPMI President), Rev. Dr. H. Dennis Campbell, (Senior Pastor of Rehoboth Open Bible Church and IPMI Advisory Board Member) and Rev. Dr. Samuel Vassel (Senior Pastor of Bronx Bethany Church of the Nazarene).

The vision for the Proclamation was born out of a concern commonly shared among Jamaicans in the Diaspora about the growing moral declension on the island of Jamaica, marked by an escalating murder rate, which places Jamaica amongst the nations with the highest murder rates in the world. Currently, Jamaica has the second-highest murder rate per capita in the world, led by El Salvador). The following statistics reveal the number of recorded murders on the island for one decade beginning in 1994. In 1994 there were 690 murders; 780 in 1995; 925 in 1996, 1038 in 1997; 953 in 1998; 949 in 1999; 887 in 2000; 1138 in 2001; 1045 in 2002; 975 in 2003 and approximately 1500 in 2004.

It was against this background of moral and spiritual declension on the island, marked by an escalating murder rate that the Proclamation came from this small group of concerned Jamaican clergy. The Proclamation called on all Christians within the Jamaica Diaspora in the Tri-state area to observe August 6, 2004, as "a day of prayer, fasting and humble collective petitioning to God to liberate Jamaica from this spiritual enslavement, marked by a vicious spirit of death that has taken hold of our people."

The group was inviting Jamaican Christians within the Tri-State area to fast and pray during the day on August 6 from 6:00 AM- 6:00 PM and to join together at various designated prayer centers throughout the Tri-State for a prayer service for Jamaica, scheduled from 6:00 PM-8:30 PM. In 2004, culminating prayer services were held at Rehoboth Open Bible Church in Brooklyn and Bronx Bethany Church of the Nazarene in the Bronx. In 2005, the event was expanded to include many congregations in the tri-state, which also held prayer services for Jamaica.

At the first meeting of the planning committee in 2005, The committee extended an invitation to Rev. Andrew Bennett of Elim Missionary Church in Patterson, New Jersey, and Ms. Lilly Porter Webb of Bronx Bethany Church of the Nazarene to join the group. The committee also decided to change the date of the event from August 6 to August 1, Jamaica's Emancipation Day, given its historical and spiritual significance. The committee saw the need to change to date to avoid a conflict with the various activities which are generally celebrated on August 6 to mark Jamaica's independence.

The committee also decided to have the day of prayer and fasting initiative, hosted under the auspices of the Intercessory Prayer Ministry International (IPMI), a 501 © (3) religious organization, which has been in operation in New York City since 1996. The committee made this decision to facilitate the growth and development of the time of prayer globally as an inter-denominational affair.   Over the past fifteen years, hundreds of Christians of various denominations throughout the tri-state participated in the event each year.

In 2008 the Jamaica Diaspora Day of Prayer and Fasting was officially recognized as a vital Diaspora initiative by the Consulate General of Jamaica, New York. Since then, it has been included annually among the activities promoted by the Jamaican Consulate to commemorate Jamaica's independence here in the North East.

In 2008 the committee decided to henceforth host the event on the first Monday of August.

In 2009, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Governor-General endorsed the effort,  and during that year, the Jamaica Diaspora Day of Prayer and Fasting was expanded beyond the New York Metropolitan Tri-state Area to Florida, Canada, and the United Kingdom. This expansion of the event to Canada and the United Kingdom has paved the way for thousands of Jamaicans across the Diaspora to become involved in this annual prayer and fasting initiative for Jamaica.

In reflecting on the history of nations whose destinies have been positively shaped by the practice of prayer and fasting, many Christians in the Diaspora who participate in the Jamaica Diaspora Day of Prayer and Fasting appear hopeful that one day, their beloved Jamaica will truly be transformed to achieve its sustainable goal of being the place of choice to livework, raise families and do business.

 

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Today's Bible Passage

 

JAMES 1:16-18

Meditation

Once again James stresses the great truth that every gift that God sends is good. Verse 17 could be translated, “All giving is good.” That is to say, there is nothing that comes from God that is not good. There is a strange phenomenon here in Greek. The phrase that has been translated, “Every good and perfect gift,” is, in fact, a line of poetry. James may have had a rhythmic ear.
 
What he is stressing is the unchangeableness of God. God is the creator of the lights of heaven—sun, moon, and stars. The Jewish morning prayer says, “Blessed be the Lord God who hath formed the lights.” The lights change but He who created them never changes.
 
God’s greatest gift to us is regeneration. By the exercise of His own will He brought us forth into newness of life. God’s purpose was to present believers as a kind of first fruits. James and the other Christians of his generation were a foretaste of a great host of believers to come. The phrase of His creatures may indicate that believers are the first stage of the ultimate redemption of all creation, which is now under the divine plan since the fall.
 
James insists that, so far from ever tempting man, God’s gifts are invariably good. In all the chances and changes of a changing world, they never vary or change.  God’s supreme object is to re-create life through the truth of the gospel so that people should know that they belong to Him.
 

Life Application

Keep in mind that God does not change but He expects all of His creation of humans to change from being a sinner to accepting the new life He gives. God’s new life never comes to an end.

Praise and Prayer

“Dear God, I want to belong to You for time and eternity. I don’t want to be deceived by the tricks of the devil. Heaven in my desire. Amen!”

 

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GENEVA - A COVID-19-induced hunger pandemic in Latin America and the Caribbean could threaten the stability of countries in the region, the World Food Program said. 

Latin America is the region with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases globally, accounting for more than a quarter of the more than 17 million cases reported by Johns Hopkins University. The disease is driving hunger and food insecurity in a region already facing economic, social and political instability, as well as drought and the start of the hurricane season, WFP said.   

The agency projects the number of people in Latin America and the Caribbean facing severe food shortages in coming months will rise to 16 million.

WFP Executive Director David Beasley recently visited a farming project run by the WFP in Ibarra, in Ecuador's Imbabura Province.   

In a video from the site, Beasley addressed the economic devastation created in Latin American countries by COVID-19. He said many farmers are barely eking out a living because of the pandemic, which is preventing them from selling their crops.   

“Just in the areas where WFP [is] in this region alone, we have seen a substantial increase in over 11 million people that are marching toward the brink of starvation," he said. "So, it is devastating, and it is why we must act, and we must act now so that we can bring some hope to people. Otherwise you will have political destabilization, mass migration, economic deterioration, supply chain disruption and many people will starve, in addition to COVID itself.”   

The World Food Program said people in Haiti, countries along Central America’s Pacific coast — especially Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — as well as Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are most at risk of starvation and death.    

The COVID and hunger pandemics must be tackled together, Beasley said, because they feed upon each other. The WFP is calling for $328 million to provide crucial aid in the region.   

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Today's Bible Passage

 Meditation

Paul has embarked upon his last journey. Two things must have lifted his heart. One was the kindness of a stranger, for all through the voyage Julius, the Roman centurion, treated Paul with kindness and consideration that were more than mere courtesy. He is said to have belonged to the Augustan Cohort. That may have been a special corps acting as liaison officers between the Emperor and the provinces. Julius must have been a man of long experience and with an excellent military record. It may well be that when Paul and Julius stood face-to-face, one brave man recognized another. The other uplifting thing was the devotion of Aristarchus. It has been suggested that there was only one way in which Aristarchus could have accompanied Paul on his last journey and that was by enrolling himself as Paul’s slave. 
 
It is considered probable that Aristarchus chose to act as the slave of Paul rather than be separated from him—and loyalty can go no further than that.
 

Life Application

Are you willing to be like Aristarchus in someone’s life? Only you can decide that. Look around you and you will find more than one, no doubt.
 

Praise and Prayer

“Dear God, how thankful I am that I know You will go with me where ever I may have to go. Make me a personal friend like Aristarchus to others. Thank You for Your love. Amen!”

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NEW YORK - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic is profoundly affecting peace and security worldwide.
 
“Collective security and our shared well-being are under assault on many fronts, led by a relentless disease and abetted by global fragilities,” Guterres said. “Our challenge is to save lives today while buttressing the pillars of security for tomorrow.”
 
The U.N. chief addressed a virtual high-level meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the effect of the pandemic on peace and security. More than 10.5 million people worldwide have been confirmed to have COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

“The consequences can be seen even in a number of countries traditionally seen as “stable,” he said. “But the impacts are particularly apparent in countries already experiencing conflict or emerging from it and may soon engulf others.”
   
Guterres said tensions are rising as a result of the severe socioeconomic fallout of the health crisis and the erosion of public trust in countries where the people feel the response has been ineffective or lacked transparency.
 
With some 100 armed conflicts raging around the world, peace processes are at risk, particularly if the international community is not fully engaged.
 
“In other places, conflict actors — including terrorist and violent extremist groups — see the uncertainty created by the pandemic as a tactical advantage,” Guterres said.
 
He noted that in many places, health care workers and humanitarians who are aiding the sick and those impacted by the virus have been targeted for attack.
 
Guterres warned of growing signs of authoritarianism, including restrictions on the media, civic space, and freedom of expression, as well a rise in hate speech and an “epidemic” of online misinformation.
 
“Populists, nationalists, and others who were already seeking to roll back human rights are finding in the pandemic a pretext for repressive measures unrelated to the disease,” he cautioned.
 
Guterres said these wide-ranging risks require an urgent and united response, including from the Security Council, and he welcomed their endorsement Wednesday of his call for a global cease-fire to support the coronavirus response.

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JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - Amid a global pandemic, a glimmer of hope: The Democratic Republic of Congo has officially beaten its tenth Ebola outbreak, which raged for two years in the nation’s volatile east. As top international health officials welcomed the news, they noted lessons learned in the Ebola battle that can be used to fight the coronavirus, which they say is surging on the continent.

The tenth Ebola outbreak in The Democratic Republic of Congo has ended after two years and the 2,300 deaths in the country’s east, the head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced Thursday. 

“Today is a joyous occasion. I'm delighted to celebrate the end of the Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. ... The Ebola response was a victory for science. The rapid rollout of a highly effective vaccine saved lives and slowed the spread of Ebola. For the first time, the world now has a licensed Ebola vaccine and effective treatments were identified that dramatically lower death rates when patients are treated early.”

But, he and other experts noted, other threats menace that country and the African continent.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, noted that as this epidemic has ended, the coronavirus pandemic is growing in Africa. Congo has more than 6,000 coronavirus cases. The continent’s coronavirus epicenter, South Africa, this week surged past 100,000 cases.

And, Moeti noted, Congo still has an Ebola outbreak, just in a different place; and other diseases are also menacing the population.

“The new Ebola outbreak in Mbandaka, in Equateur province, in the DRC; along with measles outbreaks in the Central African Republic, in Chad, in the DRC as well, in South Sudan and other countries; and an increase in malaria in some countries in Southern Africa compared to last year; are all reminders of the need to ensure continuity of essential health services for other life-threatening conditions while at the same time-fighting Covid-19," said Moeti.

She noted there are now more than 332,000 COVID-19 cases on the African continent and 8,700 people have lost their lives.

But, she added, this difficult path has been paved with important lessons that could be applied to the new pandemic.

“One of the most important lessons that have been learned is the need to engage with, work with, enable communities to be knowledgeable, to be empowered, to play their role in different ways. I think that was one of the most important lessons to come out of the Ebola outbreak and it's extremely relevant for the Covid-19," said Moeti.

"Secondly, we've learned great lessons about how to innovate in the middle of a pandemic, how to learn, how to develop new technologies. The professor referred to the fact that at the same time as the response was going on there was work to discover new therapeutics, a new vaccine. ... And then thirdly, we have seen the importance of the resilience of health systems. So one of the lessons that I take away is that we must invest in health systems when we do not have outbreaks going on,” she added.

Moeti said that if Ebola can end, there is hope that other infectious diseases can also be vanquished. But, she stressed, the most important players are ordinary people. She urged everyone, in Africa and beyond: wear a mask, wash your hands, and take care.

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Today's Bible Passage 

Meditation

Beyond doubt, Ananias is one of the forgotten heroes of the Christian Church. If it is true that the Church owes Paul to the prayer of Stephen, it is also true that the Church owes Paul to the brotherliness of Ananias.
 
To Ananias came a message from God that he must go and help Paul; he is directed to the street called “Straight.” This was a great street that ran straight from the east to the west of Damascus. When the message came to Ananias, it must have sounded mad to him. He might well have approached Paul with suspicion, as one doing an unpleasant task; he might well have begun with recriminations; but no; his first words were, “Brother Saul.”
 
What a welcome was there! It is one of the sublimest examples of Christian love. That is what Jesus can produce. In Christ, Paul and Ananias, the men who had been the bitterest enemies, came together as brothers.

Life Application

If God had chosen you, do you think you could have acted like Ananias when he greeted Saul? Is there a Saul in your life? Learn from Ananias.

Praise and Prayer

My dear Father, I am so thankful for Your love that is shown in so many different ways. 
 
But the love that is shown from Ananias to Paul is so wonderful. It brought them together and it shows me that it is Your desire for Your children.
 
Father, I am so thankful for this scripture that tells me how much You love Your children and how You protect us. Please forgive me for any wrong choices I may have made and guide me for the rest of my life. I want to please You by doing what You ask of me.
Amen!”
 
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Thousands of Jews around the world are considering making what's called Aliyah. It's Hebrew for immigrating to Israel, partly to find shelter in a place that, as of Wednesday, has suffered few coronavirus deaths compared to other countries. While Israel has banned tourists from entering, it is allowing new immigrants. Linda Gradstein reports for VOA from Jerusalem

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