It was paradise. There was more than enough fresh fruits and vegetables to go around, with no worry of rain or storms coming to destroy their crops. (In fact, the very idea of storms and rains were not even in the residents’ vocabulary!) The numerous animals roamed free with no fences to constrain them. Young wolves played with the young lambs, and the lions rested beside cows. There was no conflict. The sun shined bright and warm. Peace radiated throughout the land.
Even snakes were majestic creatures. One approached the female human in this paradise. It approached without notice, coming around the trees and between the other animals. It came to rest beside the women, drawing her attention when it opened its mouth and began to speak.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” … But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1b, 4-5, ESV)
The woman lived in paradise, wanted for nothing, yet the snake came and persuaded her that there was more she could have, something that would make her life even better.
Words are not always truth. They can be twisted and tied together to mean something entirely new. Of course in this case, the words were partially true. This is perhaps, when words can be most effective - they tell the truth, but only partially. The words spoken are true, but do not tell the whole story, do not tell what the consequences of the actions will be.
February 20, 2018: Daily Bible Reading Commentary for Judges 12-16
Click here for the reading
Commentary: Not all judges continued in their mission of uniting Israel. Jephthah was coming off a great victory, but wound up dividing the nation and taking personal revenge for a slight that he perceived. The references to minor judges serve to remind the reader that this book is not a comprehensive list of all judges, but only a partial. Samson is one of the more famous judges, but consider why he is so well known. He had great potential that he squandered, often rejecting the Lord and suffering for it.
Focus Verses: 16:23-31 What lessons can be learned from Samson’s life and death? What is your opinion of Samson? Why? Was he a good and/or successful judge of Israel?
“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” He had dentures made of wood. He threw a silver dollar across the Potomac. He chopped down his father’s cherry tree. Although attributed to our first president, they are all false. George Washington’s dentures were made from a combination of ivory, his own teeth, and teeth he had paid slaves for. At Washington’s first inauguration, he had only one of his own teeth left. The Potomac River was over a mile wide and as strong as Washington was, even he could not throw that far! As for the story of the cherry tree, it originated in a book about him after his death.
George Washington had no middle name. He was born on February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Little is known about George’s childhood, leading to the many of the stories we remember today. He was educated at home until the age of 15, when he began working as a surveyor. At the age of 20, with his father and brother dead, George became owner of Mount Vernon, one of Virginia’s most prominent estates. Over his life, he greatly expanded the holdings. He also inherited slaves. His views on slavery evolved throughout his life, eventually coming to believe that they should all be freed.
Following his brother’s death, George was appointed to the rank of Major in the Virginia militia. His natural leadership was quickly noticed. George was involved in the start of the French and Indian War, as he was a part of the troops that attacked the French at Fort Duquesne. Although he was captured, he was soon released and joined the British with an honorary rank of colonel. In 1755, at the age of 23, he was made commander of all Virginia troops. In 1758, after victoriously capturing Fort Duquesne from the French with the help of the British, George retired, frustrated with the poorly trained recruits and slow decisions. One month later, he married his wife, Martha Dandridge Custis, who was a widow with two children. George was thrilled with the children and treated them with extreme affection.
George opposed the Stamp Act of 1765, and was irritated at the British Proclamation Act of 1763, which prohibited settling beyond the Alleghenies. But it was not until the Townshend Acts in 1767, that George began to take an active role in the resistance. Initially, George opposed the colonies declaring independence, however, his views on the subject began to change as England began violating what he thought were basic rights.
In 1769, George introduced a resolution into the House of Burgesses, which would boycott all British goods until the Acts were repealed. After the Intolerable Acts of 1774, George was selected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in March of 1775. George also went toe h Second Continental Congress dressed in his military uniform, indicating that he was ready for war. He was appointed Major General and Commander-in-Chief of the colonial forces. It was not an office he sought, but he had little competition.
George experienced victories at many battles, including in Boston, Trenton, Princeton, and eventually, trapping British forces in New York, allowing them to defeat British General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia, with the help of the French. Cornwallis surrendered his troops, essentially ending the war. George retired again on December 23, 1783, and returned to a quiet life of farming, repairing lands that had been neglected and damaged during the war.
Four years after the war, the young republic was at odds with each other, as the states fought amongst themselves. George was dismayed by the state of affairs but did not want to be called upon to serve again. Following Shay’s rebellion in Massachusetts, George attended the Constitution Convention, at which he was elected president. George served as President of the United States from April 30, 1789, until March 4, 1797.
He was the only president to be unanimously elected, and twice at that! At the time, there was no popular vote, only members of the Electoral College voted. If the Constitution is the foundation of the nation, then George built the supporting structure for the nation, including the city that bears his name. He never lived there, nor at the White House which was completed after his death. During his presidency, he established the Supreme Court, the Attorney General’s office, the United States Navy, the Department of Foreign Affairs (now the State Department), and the official currency for the nation. Many of his decisions were made keeping in mind that his actions would set the precedent for any who came after him. George also delivered the shortest inaugural address: 135 words.
George wanted to avoid similarities to the royal court, so he preferred the title of Mr. President instead of something more formal and imposing. George originally did not want to accept a salary for the position, but did so in order to avoid leaving the impression that only a wealthy man could serve. While president, George personally led local militias to put down the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania! Throughout his presidency, George was known to act in honesty and with integrity. He was able to balance exercising power with restraint in a manner that few presidents have been able to imitate.
George remained distant in foreign affairs, realizing that the young nation could not afford to enter into any European conflicts. George also opposed the development of political parties, believing that political parties restrain free and honest debate, as members are bound to their parties ideologies. George chose not to serve a third term , despite pressure, for several reasons: he desired to set a precedent for a peaceful transfer of power, he desired to return to Mount Vernon, and he was beginning to feel the limitations that come with age. His final official act was to pardon all the members of the Whiskey Rebellion. George wanted to leave the nation with a message of hope, composing a farewell address. He returned to Mount Vernon in the spring of 1797.
Washington remained a private individual throughout his life, in particular about his religious beliefs. It is well known Washington was a member of the Anglican Church. In his personal spiritual life, Washington regularly had private prayer sessions and considered personal prayer a large part of his life. His nephew once noted that he witnessed Washington kneeling with an open Bible doing personal devotions, both in the morning and evening. His relationship with God was between them.
On a cold day in December of 1799, George spent the day outside riding and tending to farm business in snow, hail, and freezing rain, before returning home and eating in his wet clothes and retiring to bed. The following day, George awakened with a sore throat, although he insisted upon riding out again. The next day, George awoke early, hardly able to speak or swallow. His personal physicians were summoned. The three doctors disagreed about how he should be treated. George Washington, First President of the United States of America died around 10 pm on Saturday, December 14, 1799, at the age of 67. His final words were “Tis well.” To this day, scholars disagree over George’s exact cause of death. The world mourned his death. First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte of France ordered 10 days mourning and the British fleet paid tribute to his memory. In America, many cities held mock funerals and presented eulogies. George, and later his wife, were eventually entombed in Mount Vernon, with the inner vault’s door closed and the key thrown in the Potomac.
It is hard to imagine what the United States would be like today if a man other than George Washington had been our first President. He helped establish the United States that we live in today. On George Washington’s birthday, take a moment and be thankful for all that has gone into to making this nation great.
Happy Birthday Mr. President!
Updated: Monday, February 19, 2018 11:23 am EST
Eric Scott Branch is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm EST, on Thursday, February 22, 2018, at the Florida State Prison in Raiford, Florida. Forty-seven-year-old Eric is convicted of the sexual battery and murder of Susan Morris on January 11, 1993, in Pensacola, Florida. He has spent the last 24 years on Florida’s death row.
Eric allegedly had a difficult and unstable childhood growing up. At the time of the murder, Eric was wanted for sexually assaulting a girl in Panama City on New Year’s Eve. He was also in violation of his parole in Indiana, where he had been convicted of sexually battery and beating a 14-year-old girl.
Eric Branch knew he was wanted by the police for a parole violation and that his vehicle could be traced back to him. In an attempt to avoid arrest by the police, he decided to steal a vehicle from the University of West Florida in Pensacola. He targeted Susan Morris as she walked to her vehicle after an evening class on January 11, 1993. He took off with her in her car.
Her nude body was later discovered in nearby woods. She had been severely beaten and stomped. She had also been sexually assaulted and strangled to death. She had numerous bruises and lacerations throughout her body.
Branch was arrested a few days later in Indiana, where Susan’s car was also discovered. Branch had also been seen on the campus of the University of West Florida on the night Susan disappeared. Susan’s blood was found in the recovered vehicle and on clothing belonging to Branch. He was convicted and sentenced to death on May 3, 1994.
Ahead of his execution, Eric Branch requested that his execution be halted. He appealed to Circuit Judge Edward P. Nickinson, arguing on two points that he should not be executed. First, Eric claims that his young age at the time of the murder, 21, should have prevented him from ever being sentenced to death, as he was emotionally immature and his brain was not fully developed. Second, he is arguing that the 24 years he has already spent on death row is cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of his 8th Amendment rights. Judge Nickinson rejected both requests. Eric has appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, which has rejected his appeal.
Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Susan Morris. Please pray for strength for the family of Eric. Please pray that tif Eric is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason that evidence will be provided prior to the execution. Please pray that Eric may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.
Updated: Monday, February 19, 2018 11:41 am EST
Doyle Lee Hamm's execution is scheduled to occur at 6 pm CST, on Thursday, February 22, 2018, at the Holeman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama. His stay of execution was overturned. Sixty-year-old Doyle is convicted of murdering Patrick Cunningham on January 24, 1987, in Cullman, Alabama. Doyle has spent the last 30 years of his life on death row in Alabama.
Doyle was granted a stay of execution by US District Judge Karon Bowdre. The stay was granted after Doyles lawyers successfully argued that he is too sick to be executed. Doyle perviously had cancer before going into remission. He has recently complained of having lumps and the current state of his health is uncertain. Doyle's lawyers also argue that in addition to being sick, his previous drug use will make it difficult, if not impossible, to locate a suitable vein to be used for lethal injection. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the stay the execution, however, they also ordered that a medical examine be performed on Doyle by no later than Tuesday, February 20, 2018.
As a child, Doyle had to repeat first grade. He ended up dropping out of school in the ninth grade. He began drinking at an early age and also sniffed glue and took drugs. According to his sister, his father encouraged the children to steal and Doyle was arrested throughout the years on charges of burglary, assault, and grand larceny. He was also involved in a shooting in Mississippi.
On January 24, 1987, Kathy Flannagan approached Patrick Cunningham, who was working as a desk clerk at Anderson’s Motel in Cullman, Alabama, to check into her room. During that time, she observed a male enter the motel and ask about a room for three. He was informed that he needed a reservation. He left. As Kathy was leaving, she observed the same man re-enter the motel, with a second male. Patrick noted that it looked like there was going to be trouble and hurriedly pointed Kathy to her room.
Kathy exited the hotel and re-entered her vehicle. When she again looked into the motel lobby, she saw the second man pointing a gun at Patrick. The first man appeared to be standing watch by the doorway. Additionally, a car was left with its engine running just outside the door. Kathy thought their could be a third person in the vehicle. She pretended as if she had not seen anything and left the motel, driving to a phone to call the police.
Updated: Monday, February 19, 2018 11:44 am EST
Thomas Bartlett “Bart” Whitaker is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CST, on Thursday, February 22, 2018, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. Thirty-eight-year-old Thomas is convicted of arranging the murder of his mother, 53-year-old Patricia Whitaker, and his brother, 19-year-old Kevin Whitaker on December 10, 2003, in Sugar Land, Texas. Thomas has spent the last 11 years of his life on Texas’ death row.
Thomas Whitaker had graduated from high school and led his family to believe that he was attending college. On December 10, 2003, Kent, his father, Patricia, his mother, and Kevin, his brother, were taking him out to dinner to celebrate, what they believed to be, his impending graduation from college. Thomas was not attending college. Instead, he had conspired with his roommate Christopher Brashear, to murder his family in order to inherit the estimated $1.5 million family estate.
After arriving home from dinner, Kent, Patricia, and Kevin entered their home where Brashear was waiting for them. Thomas knew that Brashear was in the home. Kent, Patricia, and Kevin were all shot. Thomas was also shot in the arm, in an effort to hide his involvement. Patricia and Kevin did from their injures, while Kent survived. Thomas fled to Mexico in June 2004, as the police investigation focused on him.