The Catch-All Phrase…

II Chronicles 7:14

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

I have explored this verse, II Chronicles 7:14, in five Gems over the years (I’ll list them so you can bring them up with the Search Posts option):

  • The Key – I (July 5, 2013).
  • The Key – II (July 8, 2013).
  • Is This The Finger Of God? – II (July 4 2020).
  • What God Says Matters (October 17, 2020).
  • “If…” – (August 28, 2021).

II Chronicles 7:14 has become the chief focus of our church’s early morning prayer meetings, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – from 6:30 to 8:00 AM. I made a banner of this verse on a movable frame, four feet high and twelve feet long!

     If My people, who are called by My name, will humble them-
     selves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their 
     wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will for-
     give their sin and will heal their land.

We are praying for REVIVAL! This is the answer for the restoriation and healing that our nation needs today!

I bring this banner out for display on these three early mornings, and I spend the first five minutes or so sitting, reading, and contemplating this Scripture. Lately I have discovered something new in II Chronicles 7:14!

  • I used to think that God had laid out four things He calls us to do, and then three things that He will do! But I wondered, “Why does He give us four, and He reserves three to Himself…if we do the four?” After all, in the Bible three is a number associated with God as well as man!
        He reveals Himself as the Trinitarian God! While 
         this revelation is somewhat hidden in the Old 
         Testament, the Trinity is plainly seen in the New 

         ➔   Matthew 28:19 – “Go therefore and make dis-
              ciples of all nations, baptizing them in 
              the name of the Father, and of the Son, and 
              of the Holy Spirit....”

         ➔   Luke 1:35 – “And the angel...said to [Mary]...
              ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the 
              power of the Highest will overshadow you; 
              therefore...that Holy One who is to be born 
              will be called the Son of God.’”

         ➔   Luke 3:21, 22 – “...when...Jesus...was bap-
              tized...the Holy Spirit descended in bodily 
              form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came 
              from heaven..., ‘You are My beloved Son; in 
              You I am well pleased.’”

         ➔   II Corinthians 13:14 – “The grace of the Lord 
              Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the 
              communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 
              Amen.And He created a tripartite human being!

         ➔   Luke 1:46 and 47 – “And Mary said, ‘My soul 
              magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced 
              in God my Savior.”

         ➔   I Thessalonians 5:23 – “...may...God...sancti-
              fy you completely; and may your whole spirit, 
              soul, and body be preserved blameless at the 
              coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

         ➔   Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living, 
              and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged 
              sword, piercing even to the division of soul 
              and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is 
              a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the 
  • The ‘new’ that I discovered is this: Is God only asking us, His people, called by His name, to do three things? The fourth, …and turn from their wicked ways…,would then be a catch-all covering the three before!

Let’s look closer at this idea, and see the logic in it:

  • First, as discussed above, if we are made in the image of God, and we are, according to Genesis 1:26 and 27, would not it be more logical in II Chronicles 7:14 to have both God and humans be assigned three things to do, instead of man being assigned four?
  • Second, if one humbles himself or herself, and prays, and seeks God’s face; would not they have already turned from their wicked ways?
     ✡   Just consider the third thing the LORD calls us to 
          do: “...and seek My face..., they would have al-
          ready turned from any and all wickedness, because 
          God is utterly holy!One [God] is 180 degrees away from the other 
              [wicked ways]!A human being cannot naturally look in two 
              opposite directions at the same time! 

     ✡   So to ...turn from their wicked ways...” would be 
          redundant for they would have already turned to 
          “ My face...”! 

What does it mean to seek God’s face?

  • The website Compelling Truth (web address – .html) has a good explanation of what this phrase means:
     As the old saying goes, "the eyes are the window to the 
     soul." When we look someone in the face, we are better 
     able to gauge their mood and understand their thoughts. 
     We will probably be able to tell if they are happy or 
     sad. If we are looking someone in the face, we are pre-
     pared to actively listen to whatever they have to say. 
     It is the same way with seeking God's face. When we talk 
     about seeking God's face, it means we are seeking to know 
     Him, understand His character, and hear His voice....When 
     we genuinely seek God's face, we will come to understand 
     His love and His holiness more deeply, and we will re-
     flect His character more. When we seek God's face...we 
     approach God because we truly love Him and want to get 
     to know Him better. We want to learn His character and 
     behold His presence more than anything else....
  • The Apostle Paul beautifully illustrates this seeking of God’s face in Philippians 3:7 through 12:
     But what things were gain to me, these I have counted 
     loss for Christ. But indeed I also count all things 
     loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ 
     Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of 
     all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain 
     Christ and be found in Him, not having my own right-
     eousness, which is from the law, but that which is 
     through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is 
     from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power 
     of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffer-
     ings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, 
     I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not 
     that I have already attained, or am already perfected; 
     but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which 
     Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 

Consider also how we are to seek God’s face:

  • We are told in…
     ...Colossians 2:9 (speaking of Jesus) – “For in Him 
         dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.......Hebrews 1:3 (speaking of God’s Son in verse 2) – 
         “...being the brightness of His [the Father’s] glory 
         and the express image of His person.......John 14:7 and 9  – Jesus said, If you had known 
         Me, you would have known My Father....He who has seen 
         Me has seen the Father.......John 14:30 – Jesus told the Jews,I and My Father 
         are one.
  • So to seek God’s face, we must seek Jesus’ face, that is, to get to intimately know the Father through intimately knowing Him! We do this in at least four ways:
     ✞   The Word (the Bible):

         ➔   Jesus is the living Word, according to John 1:1 
              and 14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the 
              Word was with God, and the Word was God....And 
              the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us....”

         ➔    The Bible is also the living Word, according to 
               Hebrews 4:12: “...the word of God is living and 
               powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword

         ➔   Since the Bible presents Jesus Christ, (who He is, 
              what He does, how He thinks and communicates, how 
              He loves, how He will judge), is it any wonder that 
              Paul tells us in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of 
              Christ dwell in you richly....✞   Prayer is communication with God! 

         ➔   Just as ongoing communication with another person 
              results in getting to know that one better, so 
              prayer will help us to know our God better!

         ➔   Remember, prayer is a two-way communication! We 
              tell God what is on our hearts and minds, and we 
              listen to what He wants to tell us!

         ➔   Habakkuk 2:1 is a good illustration of this: “I 
              will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, 
              and watch to see what He will say to me, and what 
              I will answer....✞   Worship is actively giving praise and glory to the Lord! 
         While we can worship God by ourselves, it is of great 
         benefit to gather for worship with other believers!

     ✞   Fellowship – gathering together for sharing and enjoyment! We get to know one another through fellowship!We can better see Jesus in one another through 
              fellowship!We can be challenged to grow in Christ through 
              fellowship, as we get to know more mature Chris-

And so I believe I have learned an extra truth by meditating on II Chronicles 7:14. And this truth I have shared with you!

Put II Chronicles 7:14 into practice!
It is the answer for the need of our nation to be healed!

Personal Sin – National Disaster! Jeremiah 15:1-4

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

Above is a rendering of the final fall of Jerusalem (and the kingdom of Judah) to the Babylonians in 586 BC. Jerusalem and the LORD’s temple are burning, many Jews have been killed, and the survivors are being marched a thousand miles away to Babylon!

Why such devastation? God had warned the Israelites, even before they arrived in the Promised Land of Canaan, that they would be blessed if they obeyed the LORD, and cursed if they did not! (see Leviticus 26:1 through 39). This was carried out over the succeeding centuries!

  • The united kingdom of Israel split in 931 BC when Solomon’s son Rehoboam took the throne. The ten northern tribes formed their own kingdom, keeping the name of Israel.
     ✡   They had a total of nineteen kings, all wicked, over the 
          next 209 years!

     ✡   They were conquered by the Assyrians in 722 BC, never 
          again to be a kingdom!
  • The southern kingdom was called Judah.
Nineteen kings and one queen ruled for a total of 345 
          years, a mixture of godly, not-so-godly, and very wick-
          ed rulers!

     ✡   Three invasions by the Babylonians over nineteen years 
          (605, 597, and 586 BC) resulted in the seventy-year 
          Babylonian captivity.

The Jews did not have an independent nation again until 1948!

Let’s concentrate on Judah’s downfall! A lot of sin had built up over the centuries, iniquity that so incensed God that He cast the Israelites out of His sight! But I want to focus on just one person and the sin he so blatantly practiced – Manasseh, son of King Hezekiah.

On August 31st of last year, I wrote a Gem called A Bad King In Heaven! It concerned Manasseh, who ruled over the southern kingdom of Judah for fifty-five years (the longest reigning king in Israel/Judah’s history). Manasseh was a terribly wicked king. However we are told in II Chronicles 33:11 through 13:

     Therefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the army 
     of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound 
     him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon. Now 
     when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and 
     humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and 
     prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his suppli-
     cation, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. 
     Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God. 

Manasseh whole-heartedly repented! But it took bronze fetters on his hands, the chains of a slave, a hook through the septum of his nose, and a rough and painful thousand mile trip to Babylon! But repent he did, and God restored him to his kingdom. Back in Jerusalem, and now as a godly ruler, he tried to undo the years of his sinful reign, but the Judean Jews only responded half-heartedly (see II Chronicles 33:17). By the time fifty years had passed, during the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, this is what is recorded in II Chronicles 36:14 through 16:

     Moreover all the leaders of the priests and the people trans-
     gressed more and more, according to all the abominations of 
     the nations, and defiled the house of the LORD which He had 
     consecrated in Jerusalem. And the LORD God of their fathers 
     sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and 
     sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on 
     His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, 
     despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the 
     wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was 
     no remedy. 

For about forty-five years, Jeremiah was a prophet sent by God to the southern kindom of Judah. He is called “The Weeping Prophet because of the many tears he shed over the sins of his people! He was there at the end when Nebachunezzar, king of Babylon, finally ordered an end to Jerusalem and Judea! He lived through all the horror and destruction! This is what he wrote in Jeremiah 15:1 through 4, our featured Scripture:

     Then the LORD said to me, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood 
     before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this peo-
     ple. Cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth. And 
     it shall be, if they say to you, ‘Where should we go?’ then 
     you shall tell them, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Such as are for 
     death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; 
     and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as 
     are for the captivity, to the captivity.”’ And I will ap-
     point over them four forms of destruction,” says the LORD: 
     “the sword to slay, the dogs to drag, the birds of the hea-
     vens 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 Ju-
     dah, for what he did in Jerusalem.”

Consider the last verse: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.Although Manasseh repented, his sin marred the people of his nation! When they did not sincerely repent, the LORD said He willCast them out of My sight….” (Jeremiah 15:1).

Personal Sin – National Disaster!

Let us pray that the sins of our leaders do not give such license to thecommon folkof our nation that God will cast US out of His sight!

Pray The ‘Hannah’ Way!

I Samuel 1:9-16

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

We will get to our featured Scripture in a moment. First we need some back-story to understand what happened:

  • Hannah was one of two wives of the Ephraimite Elkanah. The other wife was Peninnah.
     ✡   I Samuel 1:2 – “Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no 
          children.” To be childless in Bible times, the woman was 
          considered under God’s curse!

     ✡   I Samuel 1:6 and 7:

             Peninnah ...also provoked her severely, to make her 
             miserable, because the LORD had closed her womb. So 
             it was, year by year, when [Hannah]...went up to the 
             house of the LORD [with her husband and the other wife, 
             to worship and offer sacrifices], that [Peninnah]...
             provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.
  • One particular year, after the sacrifices were offered in Shiloh, and the family feast was eaten, Hannah went to the holy tabernacle in the same town.

And now our featured Scripture of I Samuel 1:9 through 18 (yes, it is rather long, but necessary):

     Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of 
     the tabernacle of the LORD. And [Hannah]...was in bitterness 
     of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish. Then she 
     made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look 
     on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not 
     forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male 
     child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his 
     life, and no razor shall come upon his head.” And it happened, 
     as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli watched her 
     mouth. Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but 
     her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 
     So Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine 
     away from you!” And Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I 
     am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor 
     intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the 
     LORD. Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for 
     out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken 
     until now.”

Eli thought Hannah was drunk! But she was silently pouring out her heart to God! However when she explained to the priest why she was so heartbroken as she silently but intensely prayed…

  • I Samuel 1:17 – “…Eli answered and said, ‘Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.’
  • I Samuel 1:18 – “And she said, ‘Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.’ So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

God eventually answered her prayer!…it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son,, and called his name Samuel, saying, ‘Because I have asked for him from the LORD.’ ” (I Samuel 1:20).

  • Samuel became a great man of God! He was the last of the judges of Israel, and the first (after Moses) of the long line of Old Testament prophets!
He was a Nazarite for his entire life! A Nazarite, accord-
          ing to Numbers chapter 6, was a man totally dedicated to 
          God. Signs of his dedication, according to Numbers 6:3 
          through 9, were...

         ➔   ...he was not to drink any alcoholic beverages.

         ➔   ...he could not eat any product that came from 

         ➔   ...he could not cut his hair.

         ➔   ...he was not to go near a dead body.

     ✡   He anointed and guided the first two kings of Israel! Saul (see I Samuel chapters 9-28).

         ➔   David (see I Samuel chapters 16-19).

     ✡   According to the Jewish historian Josephus, Samuel’s 
          judgeship lasted 30 years!

How does this tie into Pray The ‘Hannah’ Way! I have been very impressed with what is written in two verses quoted above, I Samuel 1:17 and 18:

     ...Eli answered and said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel 
     grant your petition which you have asked of Him.” And she said, 
     “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman 
     went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
  • Before Hannah had actual proof that God had answered her prayer, up to a couple of months passed. How is it that Hannah, who, …in bitterness of soul…prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish…out of the abundance of [her]…complaint and grief…; in a matter of moments, was so changed that…the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad…?

It was faith! Faith in God’s assurance through Eli the priest that …the God of Israel [was going to] grant your petition which you have asked of Him…!

Do you believe that God really hears your prayers and is going to answer them?

  • Hannah did! And it immediately changed her outlook!
  • The Apostle John did! For he wrote in I John 5:14 and 15:
     And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we 
     ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we 
     know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have 
     the petitions that we asked of Him.
  • Jesus taught us to believe that!
      Luke 11:9 and 10:

	 ...I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, 
         and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 
         For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, 
         and to him who knocks it will be opened. 

     John 14:13 and 14 – “...whatever you ask in My name, 
         that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in 
         the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.	 John 15:7 – “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in 
         you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done 
         for you.John 16:23 and 24 – “Most assuredly I say to you, what-
         ever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. 
         Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and 
         you will receive, that your joy may be full.
  • The Capernaum nobleman did! It is recorded in John 4:47 and 50:
     When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, 
     he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his 
     son, for he was at the point of death....Jesus said to him, 
     “Go your way; your son lives.” ...So the man believed the 
     word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. 	 

…and the boy was healed! So…

Pray The ‘Hannah’ Way!
It will revolutionize your prayer life!

Jesus In The Middle…!

Revelation 22:13 (Jubilee Bible)

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

There is only one verse in the Bible where Jesus says He is Alpha and Omega and two other related titles! It is Revelation 22:13, and I am quoting from the Jubilee Bible : “I AM the Alpha and the Omega, beginning and end, the first and the last.” Why this version? I have a Bible study application on my computer called e-Sword, which has on it seventeen different versions of the Holy Bible. But the Jubilee Bible is the only version that has what I believe to be the correct translation!

Notice that the second word of this verse is capitalized – ‘I AM! Why is that? I think it is because this vision called The Revelation of Jesus Christ was written down by the Apostle John! And it is in The Gospel According to John that Jesus applies eleven times ‘I AM’ to Himself! (Again, it is only the Jubilee Bible that capitalizes ‘I AM’ in these eleven cases).

  • Seven times are metaphorical:
     John 6:35 – “Jesus said unto them, I AM the bread of life; 
         he that comes to Me shall never hunger, and he that believes 
         in Me shall never thirst.” (see also verses 41, 48, and 51).

     John 8:12 – “Then Jesus spoke again unto them, saying, I 
         AM the light of the world; he that follows me shall not 
         walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.” (see 
         also John 9:5).

     John 10:7 and 9 – “Then said Jesus unto them..., Verily, 
         verily, I say unto you, I AM the door of the sheep....who-
         soever enters in by Me shall be saved and shall go in and 
         out and find pasture.John 10:11 – “I AM the good shepherd; the good shepherd 
         gives his life for the sheep.” (see also verse 14).

     John 11:25 and 26 – “Jesus said unto [Martha]..., I AM the 
         resurrection and the life; he that believes in Me, though 
         he is dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever lives and be-
         lieves in Me shall never die.John 14:6 – “Jesus said unto [Thomas]..., I AM the way, 
         the truth, and the life; no one comes unto the Father, 
         but by Me.John 15:1 and 5 – “I AM the true are the bran-
         ches: he that abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings 
         forth much fruit; for without Me ye can do nothing.
  • Four times are declarations of God’s name:
     John 8:24 – Jesus said to the Jews who were opposing Him, 
         “ shall die in your sins, for if ye do not believe 
         that I AM, ye shall die in your sins.John 6:28 – “When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then 
         ye shall know that I AM and that I do nothing of Myself, 
         but as My Father has taught Me, I speak these things.John 8:58 – “Jesus said unto [the Jews]..., Verily, verily, 
         I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM.John 18:4 and 5 – “Jesus...went forth, and said unto them 
         [who came to arrest Him], Whom seek ye? They answered Him, 
         Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus said unto them, I AM.

How are these last four the declaration of God’s name? In Exodus 3:13, Moses questioned God concerning sending him back to Egypt to lead the Hebrews out of slavery and into the Promised Land of Canaan: “…when…they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?’” In Exodus 3:14 and 15 God answered, “I AM WHO I AM….Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me’….This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.

So in John’s gospel, and in Revelation 22:13, Jesus is stating that He is the very God of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and forever!

This is the explanation of the capitalized “I AM….” We have not yet touched on Jesus In The Middle…! Let’s look at His three statements in Revelation 22:13:

  • I AM the Alpha and the Omega….Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and Omega is the last. They are written thus: A and Ω.

The second two need no explanation:

  • I AM the…beginning and end….
  • I AM…the first and the last.

But all three imply there is a MIDDLE! As in the case of Alpha and Omega, there are twenty- three more letters in in the MIDDLE of the Greek alphabet! And it is in the MIDDLE of life that we find ourselves facing our many highs and lows of life! How often do we hear someone say…

  • I’m in the middle of cooking dinner…
  • We were caught in the middle of a traffic jam.
  • In the middle of a conversation, [so and so] butted in!
  • We are in the middle of negotiations.

All of in the middleusage implies a beginning and an end…and vice versa! So if we are in the MIDDLE of life, and Jesus is the beginning and the end, He is also in the MIDDLE of it all with us!

  • The Bible starts with “In the beginning God…” (Genesis 1:1).
  • In I Thessalonians 4:17 we who are believers are told, “And thus we shall always be with the Lord.This implies the end! Of course, there is no end to eternity with Jesus! For in Luke 1:33 the angel told Mary, “…and of His kingdom there will be no end.
  • In the MIDDLE Jesus tells us… Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake Matthew 28:20, “...I am with you always, even to the 
         end of the age.
  • In the Old Testament also God gives encouragement in many Scriptures. Here are six such passages:
     ✡   Deuteronomy 31:8 – “...the LORD, He is the One who goes 
          before you. He will be with you. He will not leave you 
          nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”

     ✡   Psalm 139:7 through 10:

             Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I 
             flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, 
             You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, 
             You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, 
             and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even 
             there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand 
             shall hold me. 

     ✡   Isaiah 7:14 (with Matthew 1:23) – “Behold, the virgin shall 
         conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel...
         which is translated, ‘God with us.’”

     ✡   Isaiah 9:6 and 7:

             For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son 
             is given; and the government will be upon His 
             shoulder. And His name will be called Wonder-
             ful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, 
             Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His govern-
             ment and peace there will be no end, upon the 
             throne of David and over His kingdom, to order 
             it and establish it with judgment and justice 
             from that time forward, even forever. The zeal 
             of the Lord of hosts will perform this.  

     ✡   Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dis-
          mayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I 
          will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right 

     ✡   Isaiah 43:1 through 3:

             But now, thus says the LORD who created you...
             and He who formed you...“Fear not, for I have 
             redeemed you; I have called you by your name; 
             you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, 
             I will be with you; and through the rivers, 
             they shall not overflow you. When you walk 
             through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor 
             shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD 
             your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior

So if you are in the MIDDLE of life, and the MIDDLE is difficult and lonely, remember…

He is the Alpha and the Omega!
The beginning and end
The first and the last
Jesus is with you in the MIDDLE!

“There’s no time to consult the LORD!”

I Samuel 14:15-19 (Good News Bible)

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

The featured Scripture is I Samuel 14:15 through 19 from the Good News Bible:

     All the Philistines in the countryside were terrified; the 
     raiders and the soldiers in the camp trembled with fear; the 
     earth shook, and there was great panic. Saul's men on watch 
     at Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin saw the Philistines 
     running in confusion. So Saul said to his men, “Count the 
     soldiers and find out who is missing.” They did so and found 
     that Jonathan and the young man who carried his weapons were 
     missing. “Bring the ephod here,” Saul said to Ahijah the 
     priest. (On that day Ahijah was carrying it in front of the 
     people of Israel.) As Saul was speaking to the priest, the 
     confusion in the Philistine camp kept getting worse, so Saul 
     said to him, “There's no time to consult the LORD!”

I chose this version because I am currently reading through the Good News for Modern Man Bible. I read through different versions, one every six months (or less), and this is one hundred thirteenth time! I started this discipline years ago when I learned about a man who read through the Bible once for every year he lived. But I was already in my mid twenties, and that meant I had a lot of catching up to do if I was going to read from cover to cover for every year I lived. So I decided to read through a version of the Bible every six months. And I have done this for over 50 years! It is really not that difficult. It takes me about half an hour a day to read some in the Old Testament, one of Psalms and then Proverbs (a total of 181 chapters, which means in six months they are covered), and some in the New Testament. You ought to try it! The benefits are amazing!

But back to our Scripture: Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin, was anointed as the first king of Israel. He was not really God’s choice because the LORD was to be the Israelites’ King! But the people wanted a human king! In I Samuel 8:19 and 20, this is what they told Samuel the prophet: “…we will have a king over us that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.They wanted to be like all the nations! But God had called then unto Himself…

  • …so they would be different from all the nations, whose people practiced idolatry, witchcraft, child sacrifice, and a host of other sins!
  • …so they would reflect to the whole world the holiness, justice, and righteousness of the living God!

But Israel only added to their sins resulting from following their own will and way (read the sorry record in the book of Judges), by insisting on having a king so they could be like all the other nations! So God gave them Saul! And Saul turned out to be a sorry king…….so sorry we are told in I Samuel 15:11 that the LORD said, “Saul has stopped following Me, so I am sorry that I made him king. He is not doing what I tell him.” (Easy-to-Read Version).

It should come as no surprise then what King Saul did when Israel was at war with the Philistines. This enemy tribe had subjugated the Hebrews who, in this particular instance, were greatly outnumbered.

  • I Samuel 13:5 – “…the Philistines gathered together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen, and people [foot soldiers] as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude.
  • I Samuel 13:15 – “Saul numbered the people [soldiers] who were present with him, about six hundred men.Because…
  • I Samuel 13:6 and 7 –
       ...When the men of Israel saw that they were in danger...
       then the people hid in caves, in thickets, in holes, and 
       in pits. And some of the Hebrews crossed over the Jordan 
       to the land of Gad and Gilgal....

But God stepped in!

  • Saul’s son Jonathan, along with his armor-bearer (just the two of them), challenged and defeated an entire 20-man contingent of Philistine soldiers!
  • The LORD then caused the earth to tremble, and the whole Philistine army panicked and started running away!

It was then that King Saul did another foolish thing!

  • Saul ordered that the priest Ahijah, who was with the army, to come to him at once, bearing the priestly ephod.
       ✡   Several versions say it was the ark, the covenant 
            box containing the Ten Commandments. But the Sep-
            tuagint, the second-century BC Greek translation 
            of the Old Testament, has the more probable trans-
            lation – the ephod.

       ✡   It was the ephod that contained the two ‘stones’ 
            called “...the Urim and the Thummim...” (Exodus 
            28:20), by which the will of God could be deter-
  • But the moments ticked away as the priest reached for the Urim and the Thummim, and as the panic increased among the Philistine army, Saul barked at the priest, “There’s no time to consult the LORD!And the king went after the fleeing Philistine army!

There’s no time to consult the LORD!That is dangerous! If There’s no time to consult the LORD…,something is truly wrong with the management of our time!

Scripture tells us what to do:

  • Psalm 77:1 and 2 (English Standard Version) – “I cry…to God…and He will hear me.
  • Proverbs 3:5 and 6 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.
  • Isaiah 55:6 – “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.
  • Jeremiah 33:3 – “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things which you do not know.
  • Philippians 4:6 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God….
  • I Thessalonians 5:17 and 18 – “…pray without ceasing…for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
  • Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us…come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

…and many other Scriptures!

May it never be,
in your life nor in mine, that
“There’s no time to consult the LORD…”!

The Greatest Sin!

I Corinthians 10:12-14

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

The featured Scripture I chose for this Gem is I Corinthians 10:12 through 14:

     ...let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No 
     temptation has overtaken you except such is common to man; 
     but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted 
     beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also 
     make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 
     Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

The first two verses were suggested as a memory exercise when I was in Seminary. So I memorized them many years ago. But I remember reading this I Corinthian passage and thinking “Why is this verse 14 about idolatry tacked on? What has it got to do with all the temptations which we face?” But as I contemplated it, I saw how important was the idea Paul was conveying! The apostle is writing about that which is a factor in ALL temptations – idolatry!

It concerns “…the great commandment…” (Matthew 22:38) found in Mark 12:29 and 30 (see also Matthew 22:36-38; Luke 10:27). Jesus said…

     “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the 
     LORD our God, the LORD is one. And 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 in John 14:15, He also said,If you love Me, keep My commandments.” So…

  • …if we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, then…
  • …we are to obey the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength!

If we do not obey Him in everything, who are we following? We are following our own inclinations (thoughts, desires, wants, needs), exacerbated by Satan planting his ideas in our minds! Does that sound far-fetched? Here are Scriptures which support this:

  • Matthew 13:19 (Good News Bible) – “Those who hear the message about the Kingdom but do not understand it are like the seeds that fell along the path. The Evil One comes and snatches away what was sown in them.
  • Matthew 16:9 – Jesus “…said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan, You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.
  • Acts 5:3 – “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?
  • II Corinthians 4:4 – “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded….
  • 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 ar-
     guments and every high thing that exalts itself against the 
     knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity 
     to the obedience of Christ.... 
  • II Corinthians 11:3 – “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

It has been said that there is a throne in our hearts (in our lives)! That throne is designed to be occupied by Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit!

  • When we love and obey God heart, soul, mind, and strength, we keep Him enthroned as King over our lives!
  • When we disobey God and concern ourselves with what we want, we are dethroning the Lord, and are enthroning ourselves in the place where only He belongs!

Now, what would you call it when we set something up in place of God to lead our lives? That is idolatry – following anything else than the leading of our Lord!

  • In Luke 22:42, Jesus prayed in the garden, asking His Father, “…if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me.” It was the cup of suffering that He was soon to go through, being beaten, mocked, whipped, and crucified! It was horrible suffering!
     ✞   From Jesus’ humanity (He was perfect God and perfect man) 
         He did not want to suffer to such extremes!

     ✞   From His perfect sinlessness, He recoiled from bearing every 
         sin of every human being from Adam until the end of time!

But after expressing His reluctance, Jesus immediately said, “…nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”

…nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.I have maintained that this is the most important prayer a Christian can pray! And we should pray this prayer every time we are tempted, every time we are making a decision! This is enthroning Jesus Christ in our hearts and lives in everything!

Go back to our featured Scripture: God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape….” What is that way of escape? It is “…nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” And if we do not follow that way of escape, we are, in effect, saying,Not Your will, but MINE be done! We are then putting ourselves in the place of God (our own will in the place of His)! That is idolatry!

So if what Jesus said in Mark 12:29 is the greatest commandment, then breaking that commandment is the greatest sin! And it is the sin most often committed by human beings, Christians included!

It is no wonder that Paul said concerning all temptations, “Flee from idolatry!

One more thing: The apostle John,wrote a very practical letter concerning loving and obeying God, and loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is called I John in our Bibles. In that letter, the very last thing he emphasized, I John 5:21, is this: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

So, dear Christian…

…keep youselves from idols
…flee from idolatry”!

What Is Your Legacy? – IV

II Timothy 1:2-5

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

We are considering our legacy:

  • …that which we pass on to those whom we influence
  • …that which we inherit from influencial people in our lives.

It is the second meaning of our legacy that I want to examine in this Gem. And the appropriate Scripture is II Timothy 1:2 through 5:

     I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my 
     forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my 
     prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being 
     mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when 
     I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, 
     which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother 
     Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.

The apostle Paul was writing to Timothy in this second letter written not too long before Paul died. Tradition has it that Paul was condemned by Emperor Nero, and beheaded in Rome around the year 67 AD.

Who was Timothy?

  • In I Timothy 1:2 Paul identifies this young man as “…my son in the faith….” This means that Paul had led Timothy to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord!
  • In Acts 16:1 through 3 we learn that Paul, on his second missionary trip, was ministering in Asia Minor.
     Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain 
     disciple was there named Timothy, the son of a certain 
     woman who believed, but his father was Greek. He was well 
     spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 
     Paul wanted to have him go on with him [on this second 
     missionary journey] and circumcised him because of the 
     Jews who were in that region. For they all knew that his 
     father was Greek.
  • Young Timothy became a disciple of Paul, and assisted the apostle in his future missionary endeavors.
  • Timothy is mentioned by name in Acts and the epistles a total of twenty-eight times!
     Six times in the book of Acts.

     Once in Romans.

     Twice in I Corinthians.

     Twice in II Corinthians.

Twice in Philippians.

     Once in Colossians.

     Three times in I Thessalonians.

     Once in II Thessalonians.

     Three times in I Timothy.

     Once in II Timothy. 

     Once in Philemon.

     Once in Hebrews.

     Four times in the epistle annotations (these 
         are not considered Scripture but were added 
         later as explanatory notes).

         ➔    Once at the end of I Corinthians 16:24.

         ➔   Once at the end of I Timothy 6:21.

         ➔   Once at the end of II Timothy 4:22

         ➔   Once at the end of Hebrews 13:25.
  • In I Timothy 1:3 and 4, Paul wrote the following to his young disciple (I Timothy 4:12 alludes to his youth):
     As I urged you when I went into Macedoniaremain 
     in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach 
     no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and end-
     less genealogies, which cause disputes rather than 
     godly edification which is in faith. 

  According to tradition, Paul ordained Timothy Bishop of 
  Ephesus in AD 65, where he served for 15 years. In AD 80 
  [some traditons say AD 97], Timothy tried to halt a pagan 
  procession of idols, ceremonies, and songs. In response to 
  his preaching of the Gospel, the angry pagans beat him, 
  dragged him through the streets, and stoned him to death.
  ( _Timothy).              
  • Timothy is thought to have a timid and shy personality:
     This characteristic is based on what Paul reminded 
         his disciple of in II Timothy 1:7, “...God has not 
         given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love 
         and of a sound mind.Paul also wrote to the church in Corinth, and in 
         I Corinthians 16:10 and 11, he prepared them for 
         Timothy’s visit, possibly in light of his intro-
         verted personality:

            Now if Timothy comes, see that he may be with 
            you without fear; for he does the work of the 
            Lord, as I also do. Therefore let no one des-
            pise him. But send him on his journey in peace, 
            that he may come to me; for I am waiting for 
            him with the brethren.
  • According to I Timothy 5:23 the young disciple apparently was prone to sickness. He had trouble especially with his digestive system. So Paul advised him, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.

The summation of all this is that Timothy was a man who was greatly used by God, even though he was an introvert with some health issues. He had been led to Jesus and instructed by Paul, then with much hands-on experience the apostle further taught him concerning the Lord’s work.

But let’s look at Timothy’s legacy, what he inherited, and then what he passed on to others!

  • Paul said in II Timothy I Timothy 1:5, “I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois….” Apparently, Grandmother Lois was a strong influence in her grandson’s life! She was leaving him a great legacy!
  • He went on in that same verse, “I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt…in your…mother Eunice…. Mom, most likely Lois’ daughter, received her mother’s legacy, and passed it on to her son!
  • And, by the way, Paul, and others, also poured a marvelous and godly legacy into Timothy!
  • In turn, Timothy’s life and ministry has been a positive legacy left to a multitude of Christians over the centuries!

Timothy inherited quite a legacy!
And he left quite a legacy for others,
even for us today!

In last Tuesday’s Gem, What Is Your Legacy? – III, the featured Scripture was Exodus 20:3 through 6. It tells us:

Never have any other god. Never make your own carved 
     idols or statues that represent any creature in the sky, 
     on the earth, or in the water. Never worship them or serve 
     them, because...
  • …I, the LORD your God, am a God who does not tolerate rivals. I punish children for their parents’ sins to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me.
     This is the negative legacy that can be left for future 
  • But I show mercy to thousands of generations of those who love me and obey my commandments.
     This is the positive legacy (and MUCH longer lasting) – 
     the one that Lois and Eunice left for Timothy, and the 
     legacy he left for those coming after him!

Even though I received a negative legacy from my father (see the last Gem), by God’s grace I am doing my best to leave a positive legacy for my progeny!

What are you leaving for your legacy?

What Is Your Legacy? – III

Exodus 20:3-6

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

Exodus 20:3 through 6 is our featured Scripture (from God’s Word to the nations version):

     “Never have any other god. Never make your own carved idols 
     or statues that represent any creature in the sky, on the 
     earth, or in the water. Never worship them or serve them, 
     because I, the LORD your God, am a God who does not toler-
     ate rivals. I punish children for their parents' sins to 
     the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me. But 
     I show mercy to thousands of generations of those who love 
     Me and obey My commandments.”

But what does this Old Testament Scripture have to do with our legacy? Quite a lot! Because a legacy (an inheritance) is not only what we acquire from those who have gone before us, it is also what we leave for those who come after us! And according to Exodus 20:3 through 6, our legacy we receive or pass on to others can be either good or bad!

Let me give you a personal illustration: My father left a legacy that has affected his three sons and generations beyond! Although he was married to my mother for 29 years, he was not faithful! He had numerous girl friends over the years, and he abandoned my mother and three sons, ages 14, 12, and 10 (I was the youngest). He fled our family with a woman he had been engaged to about 30 years past, before he met my mother! We had to sell the 208 acre Connecticut dairy farm on Sharon Mountain because he had illegally obtained a double-mortgage on it, and we had no money to satisfy the debts.

Let me enlarge on the legacy I received from my father:

  • Of the three Norton boys, I was the one who wanted to grow up and be a dairy farmer, taking over the family farm. I loved that farm!
     ✞   I knew every nook and cranny of that 208 acres! I 
         loved the farm house, the barn, the out-buildings, 
         the apple orchard, the tree house we boys had built 
         in the orchard, and all the other features of the 
         land, to the farthest pastures and crop fields.

     ✞   I loved the animals (cows, chickens, farm dog, barn 
         cats, chickens). I even had a favorite Holstien cow 
         named Curly that I had raised from a newborn calf. 
         When waiting for the school bus on cold mornings, and 
         if the cows were pasturing in the western field across 
         the street from the house and barn, Curly would come 
         and stick her head through the barbed-wire fence, and 
         gently moofor me to come over and scratch her curls 
         between her horns!

     ✞   I loved the history of the farm! Originally it was 
         just over 300 acres. But over the years my father 
         had sold some of it off.

         ➔   The house was built probably around 1920, 
              according to its architectual features. 
              Apparently the original farmhouse had been 

         ➔   The barn served the farm since about 1825. 
              It’s beams and posts were squared off by 
              broad ax, and held together by wooden pins.

         ➔   The Apallachian Trail ran through the east-
              ern back side of the land.

         ➔   We boys had discovered Indian markings chis-
              eled into rocks in a couple of places on the 

         ➔   There were ruins of an old mill on the south 
              end of the original 300 acres, that dated to 
              the late 1700's.

         ➔   Another barn had stood on the property, a 
              mile from the house and standing barn. The 
              foundation, filled with the collapsed struc-
              ture, was all that was left. My father had 
              pulled the decaying barn down with a team 
              of horses after a cow had strayed into the 
              barn and falled through the rotted floor.

But I was only ten when Pop left, too young to take over the farm! My mother was 54 and in declining health, and my two older brothers didn’t have much interest in farming. So everything was sold off. My brother George told me not too long ago that he realized how much I loved the farm when, at the auction, he turned and saw me crying as others took possession of the things I loved!

  • The foundation of my world was ripped from under me! But I had thought for years that it didn’t matter that much because I couldn’t recall any negative feelings concerning losing the farm. Finally, thirty years after, and with the help of a psychologist, I discovered that my feelings were so intense I pushed them down within me, very deep in my mind and heart, so I wouldn’t have to deal with them! I still can’t remember those feelings, but I know they must have been intense!
  • We moved four times in the next eight years, and I felt like I had no roots – no place of my own to call MY home! Hence, my confidence to face life suffered, and my self-esteem was in the dumps. I hung out with the wrong crowd, got into trouble in school and with the police, and drank heavily when I could get my hands on alcohol – because that was what I thought I deserved from life!. By age fifteen, I was an alcoholic!
     After graduating from high school, I served four 
         years in the Air Force as a radar repairman. But I 
         didn’t excel in either case!

         ➔   But during my first year in the Air Force, 
              I made a great discovery! I discovered Jesus, 
              and fell in love with Him! I didn’t know much 
              about Christianity and the Bible, but I knew 
              three things:Jesus was real!He was alive! And...He loved me!

                     ...and I fell head over heels in 
                     love with Him!My life slowly (very slowly) began to change! 

         ➔   From what I know of my ancestors, I was the 
              first Christain in generations of the Norton 

     ✞   Just eight days after my military discharge, I married 
         a wonderful woman! Hope is my beautiful wife of more 
         than 53 years! 

     ✞   God called me to be a minister – a Baptist minister! 
         And for the next twenty two years we lived in apart-
         ments and then church parsonages after I was called 
         to my first church. I was thankful for the places to 
         live that the Lord provided for us, but I still felt 
         rootless, nowhere to call my very own!

     ✞   The first roots I put down since losing the farm; the 
         first roots of owning my own dwelling came in 1982 when 
         we purchased a four-room cottage in Patterson Grove, an 
         old Methodist campmeeting in the mountains of eastern 
         Pennsylvania. Our cottage was one of 110 cottages in 
         the Grove, all centered around an open-sided tabernacle. 
         I remodeled this 1894 cottage inside, and painted the 
         outside. I could actually drive a nail in the wall with-
         out first getting permission from the church board! That 
         cottage made me feel that I had roots – a place to call 
         my own!

     In 1990, the Lord gave us another root-strengthening 
         blessing! We purchased our first house in Van Meter, 
         Pennsylvania which we rented out since we were living 
         in the church parsonage two miles away. And, over the 
         years, I put down roots by rebuilding that 1904 house, 
         adding a five-car garage and an apartment above it!

     We sold that Van Meter house almost three years ago, 
         and bought a home in Newnan, Georgia. Now our roots 
         are growing deeper in the red clay soil of Georgia! 
  • My father could not keep his eyes and hands off of women! How my mother put up with his philandering ways to me is amazing! But she was a martyr!
     ✡   Consider verse 5 of Exodus 20, the second of the Ten 
          Commandments that God gave to Moses. He said, “I, 
          the LORD your God, am a God who does not tolerate 
          rivals. I punish children for their parents' sins to 
          the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” 
          Somehow I was bequeathed my father’s fascination with 

     I was fourteen and in Boy Scouts of America, when an 
         assistant scoutmaster pulled three of us older boys 
         off to the side and showed us a pornographic book. 
         That was my first exposer to pornography. The assis-
         tant scoutmaster thought it was great fun! But I 
         struggled with pornography for the next several 

     ✞   ...until God, by His grace and mercy, delivered me 
         from that sin! He has also broken the chains of 
         other compulsive addictions – overeating, gambling, 
         and nicotine.

        I was told by a family friend who knew my paternal 
         grandfather (he died before I was born) that he was 
         a ladies' man in a big way! He passed it on to my 
         father, who passed it on to me! I suspect my grand-
         father was not the first generation to be sexually 

My two brothers also stuggled with compulsive/addictive behavior inherited from our father!

  • The eldest, George, had to overcome a reckless early life of alcohol and drugs.
  • The middle brother, Neil, could never shake his addiction to nicotine and prescription drugs. He was court-ordered to a lock-down drug and alcohol treatment center, but turned back to drugs as soon as he was released. He died nine years ago at age 69.

Thank God both of my brothers became Christians later in life! I have one in heaven now, and I and my brother George are on our way!

My father left a deep mark on his children, as his family of origin so marked him! Yes, truly, “…the iniquity of the fathers [is visited]…upon the children to the third and fourth generation…” (Exodus 20:5). But God can break that chain of generational iniquity! Our daughters, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren have a better chance at life because Hope and I have devoted our lives to Jesus Christ!

The final Gem of this series will be posted on this coming Saturday.