Reaching Out To Jesus – I

Luke 6:6-10

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The incident is found in Luke 6:6 through 10:

     Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered 
     the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right 
     hand was withered.  So the scribes and Pharisees watched 
     Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that 
     they might find an accusation against Him.  But He knew 
     their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered 
     hand, "Arise and stand here." And he arose and stood.  
     Then Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one thing: Is 
     it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to 
     save life or to destroy?"  And when He had looked around 
     at them all, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." 
     And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the 

There is quite a story told in the artistic rendering above of this healing. Not only is there hope in the face of the afflicted man; not only is there confidence and joy on the face of Jesus, Him knowing the momentary outcome of this meeting, and the affect it will have on the man’s life and the lives of those around him; but look at the angry faces in the background – the faces of the observing Pharisees! It says in verse 11, “But they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

But first, there are some things to consider about this incident:

  • I chose Luke’s version of the man’s healing (see also Matthew 14:9-14; Mark 2:23-28) because Luke is identified in Colossians 4:15 as “…the beloved physician….” Being a doctor, only he recorded that it was the right hand of the man that was afflicted! Why is this important?
     ✡   The right hand was considered in ancient Israel 
         to be the hand of strength and power!  It is the 

         ➔   ...used with which to eat.  Hand-to-mouth 
              eating was the norm in Jesus’ Day and is 
              still practiced in many cultures.

         ➔   ...with which to greet another person.

         ➔   ...accepted for the giving and receiving of 

     ✡   The left hand is looked upon as the unclean hand!  It 
         is the hand...

         ➔   ...considered to be the weaker of the two.

         ➔   ...used for personal cleaning, such as after 
              using the toilet.

         ➔   ...upon which to recline when eating in that 

     If the man was right-handed (studies have shown that 
         about 90% of people are), then a withered right hand 
         would have greatly affected his ability to work and 
         provide for his family!  Also, in that society which 
         saw the right hand so dominant, he would have been 
         looked down upon as punished by God for sinful living!
  • This incident happened on the Sabbath.
     It is written in Exodus 20:10, “...the seventh day 
         is the Sabbath of the LORD your God.  In it you shall 
         do no work.” But the Sabbath was loaded down with man-
         made laws, most of which forbid what might be done on 
         that holy day!  For instance, according to the book, 
         Sabbath Day Of Eternity, by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, there 
         are 39 categories of Sabbath work prohibited by (man-
         made) law!  Here are just three:

         ➔   Scribal law dictated that on the Sabbath day 
              one could only carry a burden equal to...  

        equal in weight to a dried fig, 
                 enough wine for mixing in a goblet, milk 
                 enough for one swallow, honey enough to 
                 put upon a wound, oil enough to anoint a 
                 small member, water enough to moisten an 
                 eye-salve, paper enough to write a cus-
                 toms house notice upon, ink enough to 
                 write two letters of the alphabet, reed 
                 enough to make a pen” — and so on end-       
                 lessly. (

         ➔   Burning:  No lighting of a candle, lamp, or cook-
              ing fire. “Even throwing a toothpick into a fire 
              is considered a violation of the Sabbath....” 

         Today, adherence to this prohibitive category includes 
         forbidding “...such acts as striking a match or turning 
         on a stove.  It...prohibits smoking on the Sabbath....” 
         (ibid.)  Also disallowed is driving an automobile (gas-
         oline is burned), turning on an electric light (the
         filament ‘burns’), or pushing an elevator button (it   
         might cause a spark).

         ➔   Writing:...the law forbids any activity normally 
              requiring a written record....Calculations and 
              measurements are also included....” (ibid.)

     ...the scribes and the Pharisees watched Him closely, 
          whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might 
          find an accusation against Him.” (Luke 6:7).  

         ➔   They were more concerned about their own self-
              righteous interpretation of God’s holy law than 
              the welfare of another human being!

         ➔   Even though this happened relatively early in 
              Jesus’ ministry, the Jewish leadership felt 
              threatened by this Galilean Rabbi!  They were 
              looking for ways to get rid of Him!  No wonder there is such anger in those faces 
              behind Jesus and the man with the withered hand!  
  • Notice how Jesus defeated the scribes and Pharisees:
     ...He knew their thoughts...” (Luke 6:8).  

         ➔   We are told in John 2:24 and 25, “...Jesus
              ...knew all men, and had no need that anyone 
              should testify of man, for He knew what was 
              in man.”

         ➔   And in Psalm 139:1 through 4:

                 O LORD, You have searched me and known me.  
                 You know my sitting down and my rising up; 
                 You understand my thoughts afar off.  You 
                 comprehend my path and my lying down, and 
                 are acquainted with all my ways.  For there 
                 is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O 
                 LORD, You know it altogether.

     And He knew how to counteract their wicked plans!

     ✞   Jesus, pointing to a spot next to Him, and in front 
         of all those watching, “...said to the man with the 
         withered hand, ‘Arise and stand here.’” (Luke 6:8).

     He then spoke to the synagogue attendees, but espe-
         cially to the scribes and Pharisees: “I will ask you 
         one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or 
         to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9).  

     ✞   He didn’t need an answer to such an obvious question!  
         But I’m sure Jesus was disappointed that no one spoke 
         up.  In Mark’s version it says, “...He...looked around 
         at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of 
         their hearts.” (Mark 3:5).

     ✞   Then Jesus...

         ➔   “...said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’” 
              (Luke 6:10). The Lord never touched him!  And 
              touching, in the minds of the scribes and Phar-
              isees, was a necessary part of the work of 
              healing!...totally healed the man who had the withered 
              hand!  ...became the intense object of Jewish leaders’ 
              rage! (see Luke 6:11).  Their rage was so in-
              tense that Mark 3:6 tells us, “Then thePharisees 
              went out and immediately plotted with the Hero-
              dians against Him, how they might destroy Him.

In the next Gem we will see how all this applies to our experience today.

Drumsticks Or Wings?

Isaiah 40:28-31

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Of the 858 Gems I have published since 2013, eight have been based (some partially) on Isaiah 40:28 through 31. But this is such a powerful Scripture, and so ideal for a Thanksgiving Gem, here it is again:

     Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The everlast-
     ing God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, 
     neither faints nor is weary. There is no searching of 
     His understanding.  He gives power to the weak, and to 
     those who have no might He increases strength.  Even 
     the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men 
     shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD shall 
     renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings 
     like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall 
     walk and not faint.

Drumsticks or wings? Well, that is two choices you can take from a Thanksgiving turkey! My favorite is neither. I prefer the thigh. I like dark meat, and the thigh does not have the ligaments that a turkey leg does. Some folks like the lighter breast meat. My mother always chose the wing – closer to the breast, and so a lighter meat, but still some of the flavor of dark meat.

But concerning Isaiah 40:28 through 31, it isdrumsticks or wingsthat describe the choice given us!

Turkeys don’t look like graceful walkers! They waddle, which adds to their jerky motions when walking. But domestic turkeys (those usually destined for the oven) are not good fliers either! They are bred and fed for human consumption and, being heavier than wild turkeys, their wings do not readily sustain their weight for flying. Wild turkeys, on the other hand, are good at flight – short flights up to about 100 yards. But still…the Thanksgiving turkey is a great illustration of choosing between drumsticks or wings!

Why choose drumsticks? Drumsticks are what turkey’s waddle on. What happens when WE choose drumsticks (and I emphasize WE, as in my own choice)? We waddle!

  • We can waddle on with a walk! But what does Isaiah 40:30 tell us? “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall….Walking, even waddling along, can move you along…for awhile! But then you fall, that is, you reach a point where you cannot walk further!

That happened to me back in 1988 when I decided to walk across the state of Pennsylvania to raise money for Baptist missions. My partner in the walk was my twelve year old mixed breed dog named Kinky! Her name referred more to her hair than to her personality! About the fifth or sixth day, I pulled a muscle above my right knee going down a steep mountain road. The next day I walked about 15 miles before the pain got so great I could hardly walk. After two or three steps, I had to stop and massage the hurting muscle. I thought I could not take another step! I was done with the mission project! At a gas station/garage, I accepted a ride of about nine miles in the back of a pickup truck to my next overnight stay (the only cheatingon the whole walk!) Once there, I was told by my hosts to take a potassium tablet or two, and that helped so much I completed my 260 mile walk in twelve days!

So waddle walking is about the best we can do on our own!

  • Or we can try flying!
King Bladud, according to legend, received instruc-
          tions from the dead concerning human flight in about 
          850 BC.  He build a pair of wings that attached to 
          his arms.  He tried the wings out at the temple of 
          Apollo.......and fell to his death!Leonardo da Vinci, in 1505, drew up intricate plans 
          for his ornithopter – a sort of helicopter with 
          flapping wings.  But one of his associates, Carda-
          nus, wrote that he could not get the ornithopter 
          off of the ground!

     ➔   French brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne 
          Montgolfier demonstrated the first hot-air balloon 
          flight with living beings on board (a sheep, a duck, 
          and a rooster) on September 19th, 1783.  They launch-
          ed from the royal palace at Versailles, and flew the 
          animals to a safe landing two miles away, after a-  
          chieving a height of 1,500 feet.

     ➔   Just two months later, on November 21st, 1783, 
          Pilâtre de Rozier and the marquis d'Arlandes made 
          the first untethered human balloon flight.  They 
          rose to an altitude of about 3,000 feet and flew 
          just over 5 and a half miles over Paris.

     ➔   Orville and Wilbur Wright are credited with the 
          first manned flight controlled by mechanical means.  
          At Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, December 17th, 1903, 
          Wilbur Wright piloted the Flyer in four flights on 
          the beach of Kill Devil Hills, about six miles south 
          of the town of Kitty Hawk.  The fourth flight lasted 
          59 seconds, covering 852 feet at a height of about 
          ten feet. 

     ➔   Today, man can travel in aircrafts that can exceed 
          Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound, or about 
          2, 300 miles per hour)!  But we still can’t fly 
          without a lot of mechanical help!

But what happens if we heed and follow what is written in Isaiah 4:31?

     ...but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their 
     strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, 
     they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and 
     not faint.

We find ourselves with increased strength – strength to accomplish whatever the Lord lay out before us to do!

  • If it is ‘drumsticks’ (that is walking or running), we shall walk or run as far as needed with His imparted strength! As God revealed to Isaiah, “…they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
  • If it is ‘wings’ (the sense of flying high above our challenges), God will give us that height to be victorious in what we are facing! According to the prophet, “…they shall mount up with wings like eagles….

I like the idea of God’s strength to walk, run, or even fly as He directs! But what does it mean to “…wait on the LORD…” to acquire such strength?

  • We come before Him as helpless sinners, offering nothing to God but ourselves, needing His forgiveness and cleansing.
  • We accept what Jesus Christ has done for us, paying the price for our sin and rebellion against the Father by laying down His own life on the cross in our place.
  • We then offer ourselves daily to God, vessels that can glorify Him only when we are filled with His Holy Spirit!
  • We read His Word, the Bible, and pray daily, communing with our Heavenly Father.
  • We find a Bible-believing church, and we get involved – regularly attending, serving, financially supporting.

And as we…wait on the LORD…,God will give us the strength to walk, run, even fly – whatever you need! As Paul wrote in Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

So this is our choice, Drumsticks or Wings?living it out in our strength or God’s! Choose Him every day – whatever He calls you to do, whether it is to walk, run, or fly!

A Serendipitous Christmas Celebration!

Luke 2:10, 11, 14

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Yes, although it is a bit hard to make out, that photo is of a sewage pumper truck all decked out with Christmas lights, and with ‘Seasons Greetings’ on the side! I was surprised I even found such a photo, but the internet is an amazing thing!

This is going to be a fun Gem, but with a Scriptural point. Here is Luke 2:10, 11, and 14, part of the well-known Christmas story:

     Then the angel said to [the shepherds]... “Do not be 
     afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great 
     joy which will be to all people.  For there is born 
     to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is 
     Christ the Lord....Glory to God in the highest, and 
     on earth peace, good will toward men,” 

What has this got to do with a decorated sewage truck?

It all began about 25 years ago. My wife and I owned a cottage in Patterson Grove, an old Methodist camp meeting in northeastern Pennsylvania. Through a friend, Edie, I learned that Walter, a man I had met a few years before, was in charge of cleaning out an old barn that had been sold a couple of weeks before. Since I love antiques, I was interested in what might be found in that barn. Walter invited me to have a look.

  • In the back of the upper story, the hay mow of the barn, I found two old Star automobile engines, one dated 1924, and the other 1925.
  • In the lower level of the barn was a wagon, the wooden body of which was falling apart. But the two wheels on it were Packard wheels from the 1920’s.

Both the Star engines and the Packard wheels I knew had value to antique automobile collectors. So, with Walter’s permission, I loaded them up in my trailer and brought them home. Walter and I agreed to split whatever I could sell them for. The two engines sold for $600, and the Packard wheels for $50! So I had $650 to split with Walter.

But somehow I lost track of Walter, and I even forgot his name! Every once in awhile over the years, I would think of this debt I owed, and wonder how I could ever get to pay it.

Last summer, during the annual 15 day camp meeting at Patterson Grove, Edie mentioned Walter’s name. “That’s it! He’s the one!” And I told Edie about what happened 25 years before. She told me Walter was now in a local nursing home, up in years and rather forgetful. But, talk about forgetful, I forgot Walter’s name again! …until I called Edie two weeks ago.

Supplied anew with Walter’s name, I called the nursing home where he resided and talked with Katie, the nursing coordinator. After relating the story, I asked if it might be possible to send the $350 to be applied to Walter’s account. But she told me that might mess up his other lines of funding. So I asked, “What if you used that money to bless the staff and/or residents in some way in honor of Walter?” She liked the idea, and connected me to Brenda, who was in charge of such things.

I found out I knew Brenda! As a matter of fact, having moved from Pennsylvania to Georgia 16 months ago, we sold our cottage at Patterson Grove, but rented one for next year’s fifteen day camp meeting. Brenda asked which cottage we had rented. “The old Van Fossen cottage,” I replied. “They were my grandparents! I grew up in that cottage!” she practically shouted. And we shared some of our memories of the grove.

Then we got down to business. I told her about Walter and my debt to him. “What do you think is the best way to handle this? ” Brenda became excited: “We are planning a Christmas party for the residents on December 5th.” A local septic/sewage company wanted to bless the residents. So they suggested bringing all three of their sewage pumper trucks for a parade, each decorated with Christmas lights, and one hosting Santa Clause! And we can use that $350 to buy pizza and milk shakes for the residents!” Brenda excitedly told me. “It is all coming together! This is wonderful!” I teased, “Yeah, just don’t serve chocolate milkshakes!We both laughed! I told her I wanted it all done in Walter’s name, but leave my name out of it. She could tell Walter where the $350 came from, but I said, “I doubt he will even remember me.

So it was settled. I wrote the check a few days ago and sent it off.

But only God could put together something like this!

  • A way to discharge my 25 year old debt of $350 I owed to Walter!
  • A Christmas parade for the residents of three sewage trucks strung with lights, and one carrying Santa!
  • A special pizza and milkshake party for all the residents!
  • A joyous serendipitous Christmas celebration to lighten the hearts of about a hundred nursing home residents…and mine too!

Thank You, Lord!

Viewing a Condensed Time Line! Genesis 12:4; 25:7

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The picture above is of the patriarch Abram (whose name was later changed to Abraham). I chose for the featured Scripture depicting this man two verses from Genesis – chapter 12, verse 4; and chapter 25, verse 7:

     So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot 
     [Abram’s nephew] went with him.  And Abram was seventy-
     five years old when he departed from Haran....This is the 
     sum of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived: one 
     hundred and seventy-five years.

These two verses bracket Abraham’s life, from age 75 to age 175 – 100 years! And those 100 years are crammed into 14 chapters in the book of Genesis! A lot happened in those 100 years:

  • At an undisclosed age of the patriarch…
     ...the LORD God had said to Abram, “Get you our of your 
     country, from your kindred and your father’s house, to 
     a land that I will show you. And I will make you a great 
     nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and 
     you shall be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless 
     you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all 
     the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

It is called the Abrahamic Covenant, one of the greatest covenants pro-claimed in the Bible! In it God promises to…

     ✡   ...give him a land in which he will father a great 

     ✡   ...give the patriarch a great name!

     ✡   ...make Abram a great blessing, even to all the fam-
         ilies of the earth!

     ...bless those who bless him!

...curse those who curse him!
  • At age 75, and after his father Terah had died, Abram left the city of Haran where his father had settled with his family (see Genesis 11:31), and taking Lot with him, he traveled to the land God had promised him – Canaan! (See Genesis 12:5).
  • After a brief stay in Egypt (see Genesis 12:10-13:1), he, Lot, and their families, came back into Canaan where they then separated, having too many livestock to support their herds if they stayed in one place together (see Genesis 13:6-12).
  • Genesis 14 is the record of Abram’s rescue of Lot and his family, and all the other inhabitants of Sodom who were taken as war prisoners by four area kings.
  • After God promised the patriarch a son and heir in chapter 15, he and his wife Sarai went about to self-fulfill what the LORD had said. Their efforts produced Ishmael, from Sarai’s maid Hagar (see Genesis chapter 16). By the way, Ishmael fathered the Arab nations, the Muslims, who have harassed and tried to exterminate the Israelites, fathered by Isaac, God’s promised and miracle-born son!
  • In Genesis 17 there was a double name change! (See verses 1-15).
     Verse 5 – God changed the patriarch’s name from 
         Abram (meaning exalted father) to Abraham (mean-
         ing father of a mulitude).

     Verse 15 – Sarai (meaning my princess, dominative) 
         would now be known as Sarah (meaning princess, no-
         ble woman).  According to the Website, https://www.  
         shKgdU, we are told, “Possibly, the name-change 
         indicates a step from local to global, or specific 
         to general.
  • Also in Genesis 17:10 through 14, circumcision was made the covenant sign for God’s Old Testament people.
  • In Genesis 21:1 through 5, God made Isaac, that miracle-born son appear! How was he miracle-born? Abraham was 100 years old, and Sarah was 90 at Isaac’s birth!
  • Chapter 22 of Genesis is the story of Abraham’s great trial, when God told him to offer up his son Isaac as a burnt offering! It was a test of Abraham’s loyalty. And the father would have gone through with it had not an angel stopped him at the last moment!
  • Chapter 23 records the death and burial of Sarah, who died at the age of 127.
  • In chapter 24, Abraham sent his servant Eleazar (see Genesis 15:2) to procure a bride for his son Isaac. The servant, led by God, succeeded, and brought back Rebekah, a great-niece of Abraham.
  • Chapter 25 I find very interesting! It records Abraham’s death and burial in verses 7 through 10. But in the first four verses, it tells of the patriarch’s second marriage, to Katurah, when Abraham was well past 137 years old! Not only that, but he fathered by her six more sons! (See verse 2). I guess when God rejuvenates a man to father a child born when he was 100 years old (see Genesis 21:5), the LORD does such a great work that six more sons are born to him around age 140!

Why have I gone over the highlights of Abraham’s life? Because, while it only takes maybe an hour to read 14 chapters in Genesis, we often miss the fact that these 14 chapters span 100 years!

Years ago when I pastored my first church, we were having a Bible study at friends’ house. Their youngest son, in his early 20’s, had just begun his Christian experience, having recently opened his heart to Jesus as his Savior. Around the dining room table we, who had been in the Christian faith for awhile, were sharing some of the highlights we had experienced. After listening to the sharing for awhile, the son spoke up: “How come I haven’t had all these great Christian experiences? It sounds like everyone but me has something wonderful to tell! What’s wrong with me?

I pondered his remarks for a bit, and then it hit me. I said, “We have been Christians for awhile now, and we are sharing our mountain top experiences. But there are some long and deep valleys between these mountain tops.

I then brought up the example of Abraham. “How many times did God speak to this man when he actually heard the voice of God or His angel?In the 14 chapters that record Abraham’s life, I counted nine times that the patriarch received supernatural instruction from heaven! And how many years did that cover? One hundred years! So I explained to the young man, “Although it sounds like Abraham was in almost constant communication with God, if these nine times occurred at regular intervals, eleven years of silence persisted between each one!

So be careful, you who have been Christians for awhile! Be careful when you share your mountain top highlights of your walk with the LORD, making them sound like an everyday occurrence. Sometimes the valleys between the mountains take a long time to traverse!

The Tipping Point

II Kings 23:26, 27

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

After the kingdom of Israel split into north and south, the southern kingdom of Judah had 19 kings and one queen. Eight rulers were godly (six throughout their rule, two in their younger days), and twelve who were wicked. Manasseh, good king Hezekiah’s son, was the worst! He was the 14th ruler of Judah, and he ruled the longest, 55 years! He was so evil that he became the tipping point of the whole kingdom! Here is what is written in II Kings 23:26 and 27:

     Nevertheless the Lord did not turn from the fierceness 
     of His great wrath, with which His anger was aroused 
     against Judah, because of all the provocations with 
     which Manasseh had provoked Him.  And the Lord said, 
     “I will also remove Judah from My sight, as I have re-
     moved Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem 
     which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, 
     ‘My name shall be there.’”

What do I mean by Manasseh becoming the tipping point of the kingdom of Judah? Consider how evil this king was (the most thorough record is in II Chronicles 33:

  • verse 2 – “…he did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.” God directed Joshua to totally wipe out the inhabitants of Canaan because they were so wicked.
  • verse 3 – “…he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down; he raised up altars for the Baals [Canaanite false gods]…and he worshiped all host of heaven and served them.
  • verses 4 and 5 – “He also built altars…for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.
  • verse 6 (Lexham English Bible) – “…he himself burned his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben-Hinnom. And he practiced sorcery and divination, and he engaged in witch-craft and dealt with mediums and spiritists. And he did much evil in the eyes of [God] …to provoke Him to anger.” (see Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:9-12; Jeremiah 19:5).”
  • verse 7 – “He even set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God….
  • verse 9 – “…Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel.
  • verse 10 – “And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen.

Add to this II Kings 21:16 – “Moreover Manasseh shed very much blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another….

I find it amazing and yet encouraging what is recorded in II Chronicles 33:11-16:

     ...the captains of the army of the king of Assyria...
     took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fet-
     ters, and carried him off to Babylon. Now when he was 
     in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and hum-
     bled himself greatly before...God...and prayed to Him; 
     and He...heard his supplication, and brought him back 
     to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that 
     the Lord was God.  After this he...took away the for-
     eign gods and the idol from the house of the LORD, 
     and all the altars that he had Jerusalem; 
     and he cast them out of the city.  He also repaired 
     the altar of the Lord, sacrificed peace offerings and 
     thank offerings on it, and commanded Judah to serve 
     the Lord God of Israel.

Manasseh repented and became a dedicated follower of the God of Israel. And the LORD forgave his sins! My encouragement comes from this – If God can forgive and accept the likes of Manasseh, He will certainly forgive and accept me! Why? Because Jesus paid for all my sins – all our sins, of every one, even Manasseh!

But the damage had been done! Led by King Manasseh and his wicked ways for so long, the Judean populace never turned wholeheartedly back to God, even when the repentant king directed them to return. By Jeremiah’s time (his ministry began only 15 years after Manasseh died), they had forsaken the LORD and returned to their pagan ways! In Jeremiah 11:9, 10 God told His prophet,

     A conspiracy has been found among the men of Judah and 
     among the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  They have turned 
     back to the iniquities of their forefathers who refused 
     to hear My words.  And they have gone after other gods 
     to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of 
     Judah have broken My covenant which I made with their 

So Manasseh was the tipping point for Judah! In Jeremiah 15:3 and 4 God reveals to Jeremiah that judgment is about to arrive!

     “And I will appoint over them [the kingdom of Judah] 
     four forms of destruction,” says the Lord: “the sword 
     to slay, the dogs to drag, the birds of the heavens 
     and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy.  I 
     will hand them over to trouble, to all kingdoms of 
     the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, 
     king of Judah, for what he did in Jerusalem.”

The tipping point occurred when God could no longer take the wickedness of the people who had been led into sin by their king!

What is the tipping point for America – for any nation who increasingly abandons God? Let us look at just one of the sins we have continued to commit. Why just one? Because, according to the Bible and before God, it is one of the major reasons God brought judgment on the kingdom of Judah:

Mentioned above is the pagan Canaanite practice of child sacrifice, which Israel and Judah imitated! When the inhabitants of Canaan were driven out by the advancing Israelites, they established settlements along the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. According to the website,, (search Carthage, child sacrifice):

     Most notable among these [settlements] was the colony 
     of Carthage in modern-day Tunisia. That city-state 
     became so powerful it at one time rivaled the Roman
     republic. Carthaginians spoke the Canaanite language 
     and importantly, practiced Canaanite religion. They 
     also seemed to have brought with them their cruel 
     predilection for child sacrifice.

     In 1921, French archeologists excavated some of...
     ancient Carthage. One site appeared to be an ancient 
     graveyard. The site had hundreds of grave markers.
     Underneath each one was a clay urn containing the 
     cremated remains of human infants....The archeolo-
     gists dubbed this place a “Tophet”, which is the 
     Hebrew word for the place of child sacrifice near 
     Jerusalem in Jeremiah 7:31. In time, many more To-
     phet cemeteries were discovered. The largest con-
     tained the remains of approximately 20,000 infants 
     in urns....

Twenty thousand in one cemetery! How many more were in themany more Tophet cemeteries…”? No wonder God judged the Canaanite nations! No wonder He also judged Israel and Judah for imitating the Canaanites and participating in child sacrifice! As God told His prophet in Jeremiah 7:31 (God’s Word to the Nations), “They have built worship sites at Topheth in the valley of Ben Hinnom…to burn their sons and daughters as sacrifices. I did not ask for this. It never entered my mind .” (See also Jeremiah 19:5; 32:35).

How many infant lives have we sacrificed in the United States? It is estimated that almost 62 million babies’ lives have ended through legal abortion since Roe vs. Wade in 1973! Worldwide, the number is around 56 million…each year!

Where, before God, is the tipping point?

Even though King Manasseh’s grandson Josiah led a revival among his people, and did what else he could to return the nation of Judah back to God (see II Chronicles 34:1-35:19), the LORD in II Chronicles 34:27 and 28, still told him:

     “...because your heart was tender, and you humbled your-
     self before God when you heard the words against this 
     place and against its inhabitants...I also have heard 
     you,” says the LORD.  “Surely I will gather you to...
     your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all 
     the calamity on this place and its inhabitants.”

The tipping point for Judah had been reached! Nothing in that nation, done by either king or people, could now turn away divine judgment from being poured out!

I pray that we have not reached the tipping point, even though we are experiencing a pandemic, economic and personal stress, riots, upheaval in politics, etc. I hope this is not the beginning of judgment poured out because we are past the tipping point! I still pray that we will turn to God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength! (See Mark 12:30). I pray that this will happen now, or very soon…

…before we reach God’s tipping point!

The Greatest Soldier Of Them All! Isaiah 25:7-9

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Pictured above are the military awards (from the United States, France, and Belgium) given to Audie Murphy, the World War II hero who is often referred to as America’s most decorated soldier. Wikipedia’s article on the man says, “Murphy received every U.S. military combat award for valor available from the U.S. Army for his World War II service.

There are many other highly decorated great soldiers in the history of America, as well as heros from other countries around the world and throughout history. But who is the greatest soldier of them all? I believe it is Jesus Christ! Here is a prophesy concerning Him from Isaiah 25:7 through 9 (terms in the quoted Scriptures concerning Jesus Christ that can be applied to the military are underlined in this Gem):

     And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of 
     the covering cast over all people, and the veil that 
     is spread over all nations.  He will swallow up death 
     forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from 
     all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away 
     from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken.  And it 
     will be said in that day:  “Behold, this is our God; 
     we have waited for Him, and He will save us.  This is 
     the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and 
     rejoice in His salvation.”   

How can it be said of Jesus Christ that He is the greatest Soldier ever?

  • First, we must realize we are in a great spiritual war! Scripture uses military language to describe this war:
     I Corinthians 15:26 – “The last enemy that will be 
         destroyed is death.II Corinthians 10:3-5 – “For though we walk in the 
         flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.  For 
         the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty 
         in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down 
         arguments and every high thing that exalts itself 
         against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought 
         into captivity to the obedience of Christ....   Ephesians 6:12 (Good News Bible) – “For we are not 
         fighting against human beings but against the wicked 
         spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, 
         authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age.I Peter 5:8 (Easy-to-Read Version) – “Control your-
         selves and be careful!  The devil is your enemy, and 
         he goes around like a roaring lion looking for some-
         one to attack....
  • The Lord’s purpose for coming to earth is spelled out militarily in I John 3:8: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
     ✞   Satan had taken captive all human beings!  For we 
         are told in...

     John 8:34 – “Whoever commits sin is the 
              slave of sin.Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned, and 
              fall short of the glory of God.Romans 6:20, 21 – “ were slaves of 
              sin....the end of those things is death.John 8:36 – “...if the Son makes you free, you shall 
         be free indeed.By destroying the works of the devil, 
         we are set free!    
  • To win the victory, it cost the Savior dearly!
     Isaiah 53:5, 6 – “He was wounded for our transgres-
         sions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chas-
         tisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His 
         stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone 
         astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; 
         and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.I John 3:16 – “...He laid down His life for us....
  • But win He did!
     Hebrews 2:14 – “[human beings] have partaken 
         of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the 
         same, that through death He might destroy him who had 
         the power of death, that is, the devil, and release 
         those who through fear of death were all their life-
         time subject to bondage.I Corinthians 15:57 – “...thanks be to God, who has 
         given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ok, Jesus Christ is the greatest soldier of them all! But, considering all the medals and ribbons Audie Murphy received, is the Lord also a decorated veteran for the service He has rendered? Consider these Scriptures:

  • John 20:27, 28 – “Then…[Jesus] said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’

Jesus proudly bears the marks of the cross! And as Thomas did, we also honor those scars, for those wounds were inflicted on our behalf!

  • Revelation 19:11-16 – “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

How do we honor Jesus as the greatest Soldier of them all?

  • Psalm 116:12-14, 16, 17 – “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord now in the presence of all His people….O Lord, truly I am Your servant…You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.
  • Revelation 7:12 – “And all…fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen! Blessings and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.
  • Mark 12:29-31 – “Jesus answered…, ‘…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength….And…you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
  • John 14:15 – Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.

Being a veteran myself, thank you, all you veterans and your families, for your service! And Jesus being the greatest Soldier of them all…

Thank You, Lord Jesus…for Your service on our behalf!

Be A Retem Tree!

I Kings 19:1-4

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

What in the world is a retem tree? Well, it is called by other names in the Bible. I have a program on my computer I loaded from a CD called e-Sword the Sword of the LORD with an electronic edge. I highly recommend it for its use as a study tool. On my 10.4 edition, there are 17 complete versions of the Bible.

  • Six of them identify the retem tree as a juniper tree.
  • Seven name it a broom tree or a broom plant.
  • Three others just identify it as a bush or a tree.
  • Only one, 1898 Young’s Literal Translation says it is a retem-tree.

Although there are two other Scriptures that mention a juniper/bush tree (see Job 30:4; Psalm 120:4), the Scripture that is most identified with such a tree is I Kings 19:1 through 4:

     And Ahab told Jezebel...that Elijah... had executed all 
     the [false] prophets with the sword.  Then Jezebel sent
     a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to 
     me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the 
     life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And 
     ...he...ran for his life, and went...a day's journey 
     into the wilderness, and...sat down under a broom tree. 
     And he prayed that he might die....

Pictured above is the type of tree under which Elijah sought refuge in the Judean desert. It really isn’t much of a shade tree, as the photo shows. But it does offer some shade and comfort in a place where little is found! It was there that the prophet despondently lay for about a full day! According to verses 5 through 7, an angel came twice to serve Elijah meal cake and water, and to encourage him. Verse 8 says, “So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.

So how are we to be like a juniper/broom/retem tree?

  • We are to supply shade, rest, and refreshment for ourselves and others!
     It is as David wrote in Psalm 63:1 – “God, You are 
         my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for 
         You, my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty 
         land where there is no water.In Psalm 121:5 and 6 – “The LORD is your keeper; 
         the LORD is your shade at your right hand.  The 
         sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by 

Wait a minute! These two passages refer to God, not us! Why would I state that we are to supply shade, rest and refreshment for ourselves and others?

  • Is it not written in…
     ...I Corinthians 12:27 that we ...are the body 
         of Christ, and members individually.?  

     ...Colossians 1:18 that Jesus the 
         head of the body, the church...?
  • What does this mean? (I laid it out in five Gems entitled The Body Of Christ, starting on July 12, 2013). It means that we are only the body!
     The individual members of the body are to be only 
         controlled by the direction of the brain, and not 
         on their own.  

     The head houses the brain.  So the head is to be 
         in control of the body!  

     Since Jesus is “...the head of the body...,He is 
         to be in total control of the members of His body, 
         you and me!

     On earth, Christ lived as a human being, totally 
         filled with, and empowered by the Holy Spirit 
         (see John 3:34; 8:28) – the same resource that 
         is open to every Christian! (See Ephesians 5:18).

As it says of Jesus that He is God, come in the flesh (see John 1:1, 14; 14:9; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 1:3), we are now His representation of God in the flesh – the only such human representation on earth!

What did Elijah need that day under the retem tree?

  • He was threatened by Queen Jezebel, and he was taking her threat very seriously:
     So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not 
     make your life [Elijah] as the life of one of [the 
     prophets of Baal and the prophets of the groves]...
     by tomorrow about this time. 

So he ran for his life! Elijah needed rest and refreshment, and he needed someone to come alongside and give him assurance that God was overseeing his life.

     ✡   The retem tree provided a place to rest and be 

     ✡   An angel was sent to him, and by giving him bread 
         and water – twice, the prophet was given reassur-
         ance that God was aware and there!

I wonder how many people feel threatened today, even facing the very real possibility of death from Covid 19? They need someone to come alongside and…

     ✞   ...feed them with God’s Word! (See Job 23:13; Jere-
         miah 15:16).

     ✞   ...give them the rest and refreshment (encouragement) they need! (See Jesus’ encouragement for His disciples in John 14:1-3; 14:16; 15:11; 16:33).
  • The prophet was mentally and emotionally drained and very low! Having battled clinical depression myself, I can understand some of what Elijah was going through.
     ✡   He had just been through a tremendous high on Mount 
         Carmel when he defeated 850 false prophets and turned 
         the hearts of the Judeans back to God!  But he was 
         drained physically, and that led to being drained 
         mentally and emotionally.  

     Not only did an angel minister to Elijah, but when 
         he got to Mount Horeb, God Himself spoke to Him! 
         (See I Kings 19:9-18).  God’s words must have min-
         istered strength and peace, lifting the prophet 
         from the depths of despair!  It must have been 
         something like Daniel experienced in Daniel 10:19 
         when the angel Gabriel touched him and spoke:  

              And he said, “O man greatly beloved, fear 
              not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be 
              strong!”  So when he spoke to me I was 
              strengthened, and said, “Let my lord speak, 
              for you have strengthened me.”  

     I remember watching the movie The Passion of 
         the Christ, directed by Mel Gibson.  The church 
         I was pastoring sponsored it on a Sunday evening.  
         It was graphic – too graphic for me, since I was 
         coming out of a serious bought of depression!  I 
         crashed!  That next Thursday I knew I wasn’t up 
         to leading the Sunday service.  I called my area 
         minister, Dave, a busy guy with a lot of commit-
         ments.  I told him my dilemma.  He promptly came 
         back with, “Don’t worry about Sunday.  I will 
         handle it for you.And he preached for me (or 
         provided speakers) for the next six Sundays while 
         I healed enough to preach again!  Dave was the 
         retem tree for me!

     How many people are down emotionally and mentally 
         as they try to survive through this pandemic? Sta-
         tistics tell us that suicides are increasing, mar-
         ital and child abuse are on the rise, crisis hot-
         lines are busy – people need help!  They need the 
         shade, comfort, and refreshment of the retem tree! 
         You can be the one who helps lift then up!
  • Elijah thought that not only might his life be soon over, but also his ministry, his life’s work, was of no use, and coming to a swift end! He cried out when he first arrived at the retem tree,It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (I Kings 19:4).
     ✡   He had worked so hard for God for years!  Miracles 
         had happened at his command!  There were many high 
         points in his ministry, but now it all seemed to 
         be crashing down!  However, the LORD was not done 
         with Elijah!  The angel fed him and strengthened 
         him, and God let him know he still had a ministry 
         of importance in the days ahead! (See I Kings 19:15
         -17).  And as important as his own ministry still 
         was, he was told in verse 18, “Yet I [the LORD] 
         have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose 
         knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that 
         has not kissed him.”  The prophet was not alone!

     In many cases across the country, businesses are 
         failing.  The life’s work of many people are crumb-
         ling to an end!  They need encouragement that life 
         is not over, that God still has plans for them!  
         This is part of being a retem tree.

So to any ‘Elijah’ that needs it, we are to be shade, rest, and refreshment for others, as well as for ourselves! Although the interpretation of Isaiah 32 is for the millennial kingdom, it can be applied to God’s people now:

     A man will be as a hiding place from the wind, and a 
     cover from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry 
     place, as the shadow of a great rock [or juniper/broom
     /retem tree] in a weary land. (Isaiah 32:2).

Now go be a retem tree!

“I Did Not Know, Brethren…”

Acts 23:1-5

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

After Paul’s arrest (on false charges of taking non-Jews into the temple), he was taken by the Roman Commander Claudius Lysias to appear before the Jewish Sanhedrin, headed by the high priest. Here is what happened in the first five verses of Acts 23:

     Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, “Men 
     and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before 
     God until this day.”  And the high priest Ananias com-
     manded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth.  
     Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you white-
     washed wall!  For you sit to judge me according to the 
     law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the 
     law?”  And those who stood by said, “Do you revile God’s 
     high priest?”  Then Paul said, “I did not know, breth-
     ren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, 
     “You shall not speak evil of the ruler of your people.”

This Scripture has always caught my attention because Paul did not recognize the high priest Ananias because of his ungodly actions against the accused apostle! Let’s pull some things out of Acts 23:1 through 5:

  • Why did the high priest get so angry at what Paul said for his opening statement; “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.
     ✡   The Sanhedrin (composed of the high priest and 70 
         leading Sadducees and Pharisees) had opposed Jesus 
         almost from the beginning of His ministry!

         Most of the members of the Sanhedrin were 
              Sadducees who, according to Acts 23:8, “…say 
              there is no resurrection — and no angel or 
              spirit….         Obviously, Jesus and His followers taught 
              all three, and the crucified Christ rose 
              from the dead after three days!

         ➔   Paul greatly emphasized the resurrection of 
              the Lord (see I Corinthians 15:20)as well 
              as the resurrection of all human beings –
              the righteous to eternal life (see I Corin-
              thians 15:21-23), and the lost to eternal 
              damnation (see Acts 24:14, 15).

     Until his conversion on the Damascus Road (see Acts 
         9:1-18) Saul of Tarsus (Paul the Apostle – see Acts 
         13:9) was the main persecutor of Christians, trying 
         to stamp out every manifestation of faith in Jesus 
         Christ!  So his conversion was a big blemish on the 
         Sanhedrin, and a sharp thorn in their side.

     For him to say, “...I have lived in all good con-
         science before God until this day...must have gal-
         led the high priest, as well as many of the other 70 
  • Where in the Jewish law does it prohibit striking a defendant as was done to Paul?
     Deuteronomy 25:1, 2 – “If...come unto judgment,...the 
         judges...shall justify the righteous, and condemn the 
         wicked.  And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy 
         to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him 
         beaten....”  By this Old Testament law...

          ...the facts of the case must be heard and 

         ➔  ...the judge (in Paul’s case, the high priest) 
             must make his decision on those facts! 

          ...only then can punishment be delivered!

     John 7:50, 51 – “Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by 
         night (see John 3:1-21), being one of...[the Sande-
         drin]), and said to them, ‘Does our law judge a man 
         before it hears him and knows what he is doing?’  Nicodemus was a respected member of that high 
              Jewish court! 

           Jesus said of him in John 3:10, “Are you the 
              teacher of Israel, and do not know these things 
              [concerning being born againsee John 3:3-5]
              ...? ” “...the teacher...implies that Nicode-
              mus may have been the leading teacher of the 
              law in Israel! 

         Nicodemus’ interpretation of the law was that 
              punishment cannot be administered before the 
              case is fully heard and a decision is handed 
  • Was not the high priest distinguishable from the other Sanhedrin members by the very clothes he wore (see Exodus 28:1-29)? But by the New Testament time, many Biblical laws were being ignored or over-ridden by man-made interpretations (see Matthew 23:1-36).
So it is hard to say just what clothing the high 
         priest Ananias was wearing that day of Paul’s hear-

     According to what Jesus said (see Matthew 23:5; 
         Mark 12:38; Luke 20:46), other members of the San-
         hedrin emphasized their own fine priestly clothing, 
         and might not have been readily distinguishable 
         from the high priest! 

     This judicial hearing against Paul was about 25 
         years after his conversion.  Paul may have never 
         seen the person of Ananias before!  He was appoin-
         ed high priest in about 47 AD by Herod of Chalcis, 
         grandson of Herod the Great.  By that time, Paul 
         was most likely on his first missionary journey 
         (47-48 AD)! 
  • Apparently, Paul’s assumption that Ananias was not the high priest was based on the man’s unlawful and ungodly actions!
     ✡   So he called out the man:God will strike you, 
         you whitewashed wall!  For you sit to judge me 
         according to the law, and do you command me to 
         be struck contrary to the law?” (Acts 23:3).
 whitewashed wall!” This may have 
              been a reference to what Jesus was speaking 
              about in Matthew 23:27 and 28: 

                 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, 
                 hypocrites! For you are like white-
                 washed tombs which indeed appear 
                 beautiful outwardly, but inside are 
                 full of dead men’s bones and all un-
                 cleanness. Even so you also outwardly
                 appear righteous to men, but inside
                 you are full of hypocrisy and law-

         In Paul’s thinking, “How can such ungodly be-
              havior come from this member of the Jewish 
              high council?” (Acts 23:4). Never mind from 
              a high priest! 

           By the way, the apostle’s statement, “God will 
              strike you...was a prophesy of what was to 
              come for Ananias! (from https://www.gotquestions 

                 Many of the Jews hated Ananias because 
                 of his ruthlessness and corruption, but 
                 he was protected by Rome even after he 
                 was deposed as high priest. In AD 66, 
                 at the start of the first great Jewish 
                 Revolt, Ananias was assassinated by an 
                 angry mob of anti-Roman revolutionaries.

     But when he was called on it by “...those who 
         stood by...‘Do you revile God’s high priest?...Paul clinched it by saying, I did not know, 
         brethren, that he was the high priest....” (Acts 

What can we learn from this incident? The high priest Ananias was acting as a hypocrite – professing by his office to be a man appointed by God and obedient to His Word! Yet his actions betrayed his hypocrisy!

  • Hypocrite (as Jesus used the plural of the word seven times in Matthew 23 to describe scribes and Pharisees – Sadducees included by not mentioned) in the Greek is υʽποκριτής (pronounced hoop-ok-ree-tace’). It means, according to Strong’s Greek Dicitonary, “…an actor under an assumed character (stage player), that is, (figuratively) a dissembler (hypocrite)….”
  • Are we sometimes hypocrites – wearing the mask of a Christian, but too often not acting like our Master Jesus Christ?
     ✞   We are, after all, to be...transformed into the 
         same image [of Jesus] glory to glory, just as by 
         the Sprit of the Lord.” (II Corinthians 3:18).

     ✞   God’s stated purpose for His children is that they 
         would be...conformed to the image of His Son, that 
         He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” 
         (Romans 8:29).
  • Take off the mask of hypocrisy! Do not be like Ananias! Be readily identifiable as a follower, a disciple of Jesus Christ! – a Christain!