Skip to content


Before you read this encounter, I want to tell you this is not your normal pleasant Christmas tale. This is a piece of the Christmas story we don't hear often. But as I read Matthew 2:18, I was moved by the horror that accompanied Christ's birth and childhood. As Isaiah foretold, the bright and shining light would come into gross darkness. Christ's world was a world of darkness which He penetrated with unmatched brilliance.

By Angelo Visconti (1829 - 1861) (Italian) (painter, Details of artist on Google Art Project) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Matthew 2:18

Captain of the King’s Secret Police

Herod is a cruel man. I’ve never thought of myself that way. I just do as I’m told. But these days—I can’t look in the mirror—he has turned me into a monster.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve done my share of killing in the king service. I’ve turned a blind eye to indiscretions. More than once I’ve lied for him before the temple authorities. They love Herod’s results, but just don’t have the stomach for his methods. When it comes to tactics, Herod figures the less they know the better.

About eight years ago, Ovidius, the king’s right hand, recruited me out of the Roman garrison here in Jerusalem. He had heard of my reputation as a brawler among the ranks. In the past my foul temper cost me many a promotion, but in Herod’s service, my brutality is rewarded handsomely.

I moved through the ranks of the kings secret service, until about a year ago I was placed at the head of his primary unit. Ovidius gives us the dirty jobs, where silence is required and conscience forbidden.

About six weeks ago some foreigners came through Jerusalem asking about a child born nearby they thought might be the king of the Jews. They started asking around at the temple, but soon ended up in King Herod’s court.

My station, when the king receives visitors in his Jerusalem palace, is behind him and slightly to his left. I’m alway armed and ready to deal with any threat to the king’s life.

Three of these strangers in there garish costumes were admitted to the throne room. There were probably twenty more in their party. By the look of them, they had been traveling for some time. They looked road worn and tired. They traveled with more than a dozen camels and other live stock as well. It made a spectacle on the streets of Jerusalem.

The spokesman for this band of travelers told a fantastic tale about following a star, and their search for this special child—this king of the Jews. They had apparently read some ancient prophecies about a Jewish deliverer coming to set His people free from oppression.

At the words “king of the Jews” I saw Herod twitch. I knew even without seeing his face that he was formulating a plan.

These visitors asked the king if he had heard of such a child.

Herod sent a runner and summoned the temple scribes. The scribes spent their days in the ancient writings. They transcribed them letter for letter and them proofed them repetedly to ensure their accuracy. If anyone would know the details of those Hebrew fairy tales it would be those scroll lovers.

As soon as the spokesman for the Babylonian star-gazer posed his question, the scribes huddled together and started muttering about this scripture and that. One turned to the runner and instructed him to bring back a few volumes from the archives.

In short order they were pouring over the writings four or five of the old prophets from centuries gone by. They spread these scrolls over the kings tables and pour through passage after passage.

After most of the afternoon had passed they seemed to come to a consensus. The chief scribe looked up and announced, “Bethlehem.” The one to his left read:

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”

When Herod heard this he said,

“That’s it, Bethlehem. I must go and worship this king too.” Turning to me he continued, “When these men have found their king, bring them back to me. We’ll see to it that all Jerusalem worships this young Messiah.”

He had no intention of worshiping a child. He had no intention of giving up his throne to anyone. I heard his voice slide into the tone he used so his words would lull the listener into trust as he prepared his betrayal. These wisemen were about to learn a lesson they would not forget. We would let them find this baby king and then kill the lot of them, and that was just fine with me. I had no use for these outsiders.

That was ten days ago, and they never returned. The next thing I knew the king called me into this private chamber.

“Why didn’t you have them followed?” Herod’s tone was threatening. “We’ve lost them, and the baby king lives on.”

I knew the look in his eye, and the tone of his voice. He was about to kill, and for the first time, I thought it might be me. “How are you going to fix this? How will you find this king? I want the body of this child in my chamber tonight.”

“How can I know who this king is? If I brought you the body of every boy in Bethlehem you still couldn’t be sure you killed the right boy!”

“Perfect—do it—do it today!” he screamed.

“Do what?” I asked, but I was afraid I knew.

“Kill them all! How long did they say they were following that star? Was it two years? Kill every boy, two and under, in Bethlehem—in the whole county. Take whomever you need. I want it done today. If you miss one of them it will be your head.”

I can’t even tell you how much threatening it took to get my men to carry out this atrocity. Many men deserted, and a I had to kill two of them just to get the others to follow my orders. I took three units, and we surrounded the area. We blocked every road leading in or out of the region. Then we invaded, house by house. No explanations were giving—no reason for our presence. In every house where we found a male child we left a weeping mother. These Jews believe in big families. Hardly a home was without one sacrifice to the kings wrath, and in many there were two and even three. Soon the sound of the wailing filled the streets as the blood ran and the horror spread.

While we did it, while we—I killed these untainted little ones, I felt like I was not in my own body. I couldn’t kill like this. I wouldn’t do it. My own code would never allow for such action. And yet, here I was, not only doing it, but demanding that my men carry out this horrific campaign against a peaceable nations children.

I can no longer sleep. My hands are covered in the blood of hundreds of innocents . When I reported to Herod what we had done, he actually chuckled. That was when I realized he had turned me into a monster. I can’t live with this any longer. I must find a way to get away from this guilt—this shame.


To read the original story, see Matthew 2:13-18 and Micah 5:2.


If you appreciate these first person accounts from the gospels, you can find forty more in my book Encounters With Jesus. There are a few others in the Encounters tab as well.

I pray you have a great advent season and that you allow the light that Herod tried to extinguish to shine in and through your life.


Keep shining.


Pieter de With ~ Paul and Silas in Philippi drive the devil out of a woman possessed of a spirit of divination

My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is perfected in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9


“Silas, do you think she’ll be back tomorrow?” I said.

“Please Lord, make it stop,” was his reply.

We had arrived in Philippi two days earlier. As we made our way down to the river, to join a prayer meeting, a young woman—a girl really—met up with us. At first it seemed like the Lord was giving us great favor, because she started calling out that we were men of God who came to proclaim the way of salvation. She actually gathered us quite a crowd on that first day. Her declarations made me stand up just a bit straighter. I was feeling pretty good about this new city—this new harvest we were about to work. It seemed ripe for the gospel.

But as the day wore on, she never stopped her proclamations. Over and over she called out:

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

The distraction grew until I couldn’t keep my mind on my message. As I preached, or tried to preach, at the riverside, she stood at the top of the path and called out. It rattled me. I couldn’t even get my testimony out. Finally I called for a time of silent prayer, and just sat down.

She was back the next day too. All day she followed us around. All day she called out. By the end of the second day these cries disheartened us.

I spent the night asking the Lord what to do about this woman. Her words pierced like a thorn in my side. She stifled ministry. She drove seekers away. She got under my skin. I asked the Lord to send her way, to keep her from returning. This vexation had to stop, or we would just have to move on.

I felt foolish even asking the Lord about this. After all, look how far I’ve come. I’ve seen the Lord do so much. We’ve seen hundreds, thousands perhaps, enter the kingdom. I can’t count those we’ve seen healed from all manner of disease and malady. Besides the visible ministry, there’s all the amazing revelation. I’ve seen things in the heavenlies that I’m not even permitted to share.

It vexed me. I prayed all night. How could something so simple, just a girl, have such a devastating effect on ministry, and on my own peace.

As dawn broke, I heard the voice of Jesus.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

I had no idea I was so weak—so vulnerable—to satan’s ploys. After all I’ve seen and done in the Spirit of Christ, this messenger of satan was battering me. My weakness became so plain to me, and I saw how everything I had—everything I was—came by His wonderful grace.

That night I slept little, but I rose refreshed. I knew today held great promise. We would see the grace of Jesus in action today.

Breakfast was light and our plan was to head back to the river midmorning. I was planning on preaching until midday, and then Silas would baptize those the Lord called.

As we left the home of Lydia, where we were lodging while in Philippi, we met the young girl again. At first my heart sank. I really did not want another day of distraction.

Before I could say a word to her, she began her proclamations again.

"These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation."

As she said the words “Most High God,” it all clicked into place. I saw it. Satan exploited my weakness. He pecked away at my patience. But, by the grace of God, now I could see his—satan’s—fingerprints all over this girl.

Thank God for His abundant grace. The grace that saved me. The grace that called me out of darkness and into His marvelous light. His all-sufficient grace rose up inside of me, and I saw it.

She started to speak,

“These men…”

I put my finger to her lips to stop her. With the full authority of the Holy Spirit I said,

“I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.”

The spirit started to speak again,

“These men are…”

“Come out!” I nearly shouted.

At that I could see her change. There was a brief shaking, she rose up to her full height, on the tips of her toes, as though she was going to float away. Then she fell into the dust.

Her collapse alarmed me at first. I wondered if she was dead. But in a moment she was crying.

“Thank you,” she said through her tears.

We watched as her new-found freedom dawned. The spirit that ruled her life vacated. Everything she knew was about to change. The first change was to introduce her to a new Master, Jesus, the Messiah. No longer would she be under the mastery of the demonic. From that moment she joined the service of the King of kings.

What strikes me as I look back at this encounter with Jesus is how easily satan disrupted my ministry. The moment I began to move on my own, instead of allowing the Spirit to lead, I was undone. God’s grace truly is the answer to every one of life’s needs. The only hope for this dark world is Christ in me—Christ in us—we who call upon His name. When I feel strong in my abilities or in my accomplishments, my weakness is exposed. When I see my weakness, He comes in like a flood and demonstrates His strength.

What a glorious salvation.


To read the original story, see Acts 16:16-18 and 2 Corinthians 12 1-10

I hope you have enjoyed this story. It's part of my upcoming book, Encounters With the Holy Spirit.

To read more first person encounters check out my new book Encounters With Jesus. It's a collection of forty stories from the life of Jesus through the eyes of those He touched. Available now in paperback or kindle editions or for your nook.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by,

See you again soon,



photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)
photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)

Because of its length, I've decided to split this story over three days. You can find Part 1 on Monday's post and Part 2 on yesterday's post. Today we have the conclusion. Thanks for coming back for day three.



As I approached Paul looked at me. His shoulder’s slumped a bit as I approached. Then, I think he noticed I was limping, favoring the leg that had not been pummeled.

I started my torturous chant.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

He looked at me. He looked into me. There was a flash in his eyes and a wave of recognition washed across his face.

As I started to speak,

“These men…”

He put his finger to my lips to hush me. In a stern and powerful voice he said,

“I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.”

The spirit in me started to speak again,

“These men are…”

“Come out!” he repeated.

Then my mind—my heart—flew into turmoil. I felt anger, fear, frustration, humiliation, shame, and then fear again. All of this raging within as the voice wanted to scream. But for the first time since my mother gave me her ‘gift’ I was able to keep quiet when it wanted to talk.

And then it was gone. It was over. The spirits obeyed this stranger. I felt them run up my spine and out the top of my head. Gone. Completely gone.

I crumbled to the floor in front of him.

“Thank you.” I was crying again, but this time they were tears of relief.

Then I thought about my master.

Silas, who was standing near by, saw my expression change, and said,

“What is it, daughter?”

“My master will kill me when he learns that I’ve lost the gift. You can see the way he beat me for the two days I’ve been with you. Now that my seeing is gone, he’ll just kill me.”

“Let me introduce you to a new master,” he said with the compassion of a father. “His name is Jesus Christ, the Messiah. He’s the one who set you free today, and He'll save you. If you will open your heart to Him, He will come in and fill the void left by the evil He drove out.

“As to your old master, we’ll go with you to tell him about your freedom. Don’t be afraid of him. Once the Lord is on your side, there is nothing man can do to enslave you. Every slave in Christ, is a free man. The bonds may remain, but they know freedom on the inside.

“I’m sure Lydia will let you stay here in her home, while you figure out what comes next.”

From the door where she’d been standing, Lydia came to my side and surrounded me with her arms. I felt like a little girl in my momma’s embrace, free and safe.

I prayed, “Lord Jesus, if you will have me, I want to be Yours. You've freed me from the master that held me. Will you come in and be my Master now?”

As I said these words a new freedom swept over me. The shame that haunted me lifted. The fear left too. I was crying again, but this time it was joy streaming down my face. I heard the laughter of others around me. Lydia helped me to my feet, and the women swarmed me with a great hug as the men stood back and clapped their hands, and shouted praise to Jesus.

They taught me a song of praise, and we sang together. Then Paul and Silas took me by the hand and we headed back to my master’s home.

When he saw me with these two men, his face darkened with anger.

“These had better be paying customers, or last night will seem like a stroll through the market,” he threatened. He reached for me, but Paul wedged himself between the master and me.

“Sir,” Paul started, “Jesus Christ delivered this young girl from the demonic oppression that has plagued her these many years. I’m sure you will rejoice with us at her new-found freedom.”

“Delivered? Freedom!” He was almost barking.

“You’ve ruined my livelihood! You’ve robbed me of my income! You’ve stolen my most valuable asset!” His anger grew with each accusation. Now passers-by were stopping to see what was happening.

Again he tried to reach me, but Silas managed to fill the gap as well.

He looked past them and found my eyes.

“You can’t see?” he shouted.

“No, but I can still cook or clean. I can still serve you.”

“What good is that? I don’t need a cook or a maid. I need a seer—I need your gift. Without that gift, you’re nothing—worthless. Go and don’t let me see you back here again. Don’t bother coming for your things. I’ll sell them to make up for what you’ve stolen from me. Get out!”

With his dismissal, he slammed his door in our faces.

Paul and Silas turned to me to see if I was alright. When they did they saw my relief and my brand new joy.

I was completely free.

The chains that held my insides, the chains that kept me in this house and with this man, all broken. Jesus set me free, and my new brothers—fathers—stood with me to face my old life.

Lydia did set me up with a cot in her room. She became a sister and mother to me. We laughed together. I hadn’t laughed since my mother died. She taught me to pray, and taught me of Christ and His ways. She taught me her trade, and paid me to work in her shop.

Today, I am free.


To read the original story, see Acts 16:16-18

I hope you have enjoyed this story. It's part of my upcoming book, Encounters With the Holy Spirit.

To read more first person encounters check out my new book Encounters With Jesus. It's a collection of forty stories from the life of Jesus through the eyes of those He touched. Available now in paperback or kindle editions.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by,

See you tomorrow,



photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)
photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)

Because of its length, I've decided to split this story over three days. You can find Part 1 on yesterday's post, and the conclusion will come tomorrow morning bright and early (if you live on the east coast of the US.)



This brought a smile to his face, so I said it again.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

This time I heard some accent from the crowd. Once again, this time even louder I cried out,

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

The more I called out the more the crowd grew. It was curious to me that my captors would help this one they so feared, but they—I—continued to call out the virtues of these men of God.

When we got down to the river, we had quite a crowd. This manPaul, began to try to quiet the crowd. He said they had come down to the river to pray. It was the time of day that those women meet down here every day.

But today, the crowd was large. Rather than pray, Paul tried to teach, but the crowd was restless. He tried to lead in prayer, but that did not work either.

All the while, I stood up at the head of the path that lead down to the river calling out my now familiar declaration.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

Finally Paul sat down and kept silent. After about an hour of silence, he got up and walked back out to the road we came in on. He and his companion, Silas, headed back into the village, and the crowed followed along with them.

I led the way, calling out as we went,

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

I wasn’t sure where they were headed next, but as we got to the edge of town, they headed into the Lydia’s, the fabric shop. Lydia lived above the shop, and there they went for the evening meal.

I stood outside in the street, and continued calling out  the words my seeing spirit gave me every few minutes.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

I finally went home after dark, fearing my master would have harsh words for me. He didn’t disappoint me. But this time there was something new. He hit me. I knew, or thought I knew anyway, that he had beaten my mother from time to time, but until that night, he kept his hands to himself around me.

“Don’t you ever walk out on our shop again while we have a line of customers,” he roared.

I slept well that night. The night was cool. The air was still. The voice was silent.

But with the light of dawn, the voice returned. It compelled me to find Paul again, so I headed back to Lydia’s where I found him speaking to a small group in front of the shop.

Then I started again,

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

All day and everywhere they went, I followed with my incessant call. I could see now my keeper’s plan. This call, though it seemed like a great pat on the back at first was wearing, not only on Paul and Silas, but on those would be followers as well. By the end of the day, their number was down to just a few women. There was no longer a man in town who would walk with the pair.

Again when I returned home, my master beat me.

“I don’t have a choice.” I wept. “The spirits make me go, make me follow. If I don’t go, there no telling what they would do to me.”

He didn’t understand—or carebut he did stop hitting me.

“You’re mother could turn it on and off. She didn’t go trailing after strange men.”

“She didn’t make you the kind of money I make you either, did she?”

As soon as the words left my mouth I was sorry. The blows began again. Finally he left me, sobbing and huddled in the corner. He stormed out, slamming the door. I locked it behind him. I wouldn’t venture out even to eat that night. I cried myself to sleep, hoping tomorrow would be different.

I really didn’t want to taunt these men again, but there was some part of me that hoped for a chance to hear the older one, Paul speak once more. His words cut through the clamor in my head. Each time I tried to listen to his preaching, the voice would repeat my tedious refrain.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

I’m not sure I slept that night. For hours I lay with my eyes closed, trying not to press against one of the bruises the brute left on my body. I rolled over and over, top, bottom, left, right, half asleep. I dozed off just as the birds began to announce the dawn, and there it was again, this irresistible  urge to go find Paul and Silas.

I crept out of my room, trying not to wake my master. Thankfully I could hear him snoring in his room as I tip-toed by it. Off I went to find them.

[To be continued.]

Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of I Am Free

To read more first person encounters check out my new book Encounters With Jesus.It's a collection of forty stories from the life of Jesus through the eyes of those He touched. Available now in paperback or kindle editions.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by,

See you tomorrow,



photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)
photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)

Over the next three days, I will be sharing the first draft a new story that will be part of an upcoming book, Encounters With the Holy Spirit. This story ran a bit longer than my usual posts, so I am breaking it into three installments. You can read it day by day, or come back Wednesday and read all three at once.

Some of the ideas for the life of this young slave girl were inspired by the Praying Medic podcast:
"Alan Champkins – From Witch Doctor to New Creation."

And now, with no further ado:

I Am Free

A Slave Girl

I wasn’t always able to see, but my mother told me it was in my blood. She could see. Every time she put food on my plate, she reminded me it was her sight that paid for the food. It was the sight that gave us a place to sleep.

She told me tales of her life before the master bought her, on the street, begging, starving, in rags and tatters. She loved to tell me of the day her gift caught the master. To hear her tell it, you might think she was the master and he the slave. But that’s not really how it was.

On my sixth birthday my mother first put her hands on me, and asked her spirits—that’s what she called them—to share her sight with me. She told me it was for my own good—that I would thank her some day.

She must have already known she was sick then, but she didn’t tell me until she could no longer serve the master’s customers. That day came two years later. I was almost eight the day my mother couldn't get out of bed to sit with the guests.

I thought he would kill her right then. When she choked out her refusal with blood on her lips, I feared he would kill her for her weakness.

Then she told him about me.

“She has the gift too,” she told him. “She can see your guests.”

His eyes searched me. At first, pride filled me. My mother trusted me. But as he looked me over, I felt like property for the first time. The change hit me. My sight was not just going to put food on our table. Gone were the day when my mother and I would play at seeing. Now I had to see on demand, I had to tell his guests their fortunes. I had to put food on his table.

My gift—this sight—shackled me. It demanded my obedience. It put requirements on my life which I was too young to bear. My sight was my jailer and I felt it’s manacles. Every time I tried to stop seeing—stop knowing—life would turn against me. I can’t explain it. It seemed like everything turned sour. So I kept seeing, and my sight treated me well. And that made my master happy too.

The master seemed unsure that first time, but in a few short weeks, lines of customers down the dusty path to his door—all day—every day, convinced him. The gift was strong in me, stronger than it had been in my mother.

Those weeks were my mother’s last. She grew worse every day. My time with her grew shorter as the lines at the door grew longer. She died in our bed while I told a Grecian man of the woman he would meet. I cried myself to sleep that night. He hired a couple men to bury her in back of the house that was my home—prison—workplace. The men who buried my mother didn’t know her. No one spoke a word on her behalf. I was reading leaves for a hand full of Phoenician women when the soil filled her grave. He cared so little for her—for me. She worked for him for thirty years without complaint. She gave him her days, her nights, her body, her soul, and now, her own daughter—me. And he tossed her into a hole in the ground without so much as a wooden marker.

That’s when I began to hate him. The sight of him turned my stomach. And yet, I had to eat, and I knew of no other way to live.

One day, two men walked past the door of our shop in Philippi. As they walked by, I felt them and looked up. Really it was my internal jailers who sensed them walking by. The business men who had come from Antioch to get advice from my seeing voice started as I ran out of the room and into the street.

When I caught up with these men, the spirits in me went berserk. My insides were out of control, and I couldn’t stop them from speaking. Usually I have a measure of control. They show me things, and I use my words to bring their influence to my customers. But this was different. I’m not sure what I was sensing. At first I thought it was joy—a strange elation—at the sight of these two men. But now I see it was darker—perhaps fear—dread.

The spirits that speak to me—show me things—have never been fearful before. Never before has their command been so immediate and so compelling. They drove me out into the street, and I started following these two men. I was not the only one following them. There were at least eight other women and two or three men following after these two as they headed for the river. There’s a place down there were some of the women of the city have been meeting to pray and worship the Hebrew God. That’s exactly where we went.

I pushed through until I was right behind the one they called Paul. When I was sure he could hear me, I started saying,

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

[To be continued.]

Come back tomorrow for part two of I Am Free

To read more first person encounters check out my new book Encounters With Jesus. It's a collection of forty stories from the life of Jesus through the eyes of those He touched. Available now in paperback or kindle editions.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by,

See you tomorrow,



They broke into the room in a furor. Caught in the act! All their suspicions confirmed, and the truth, right there in my arms.

Before I knew what was happening, they grabbed me, one by the hair, and two others took my arms. My feet stumbled to keep up with their pace but soon I was just so much luggage, pulled along behind them. Out the bedroom door, down the stairs, each step down sending pain up through my legs. All my kicking and struggling just added to my agony.

At first I was screaming for help, then I realized who my attackers were. This angry mob that broke into my home and dragged me out into the dusty road, was made up of those who were supposed to protect me, the ones I was supposed to call when I was in trouble. One wore a police uniform, two had the backward collars of the clergy. I recognized store owners and local businessmen. Even the mayor was there. I thought I recognized the pastors from three local churches.

Amid the shuffle, I heard someone ask, “What do we do now? Where to?”

The forward motion stopped and then they let me drop to the ground, face in the dirt. A foot pressed into my upper back holding me to the ground.

Then I heard a voice I knew. “Our law calls for stoning.” It was my rabbi. This man witnessed when my parents named me. He taught me the Torah as I came of age. He officiated at my wedding.

There was general agreement.

But then a voice I didn’t know called out, “Let’s take him to the teacher who just arrived in town. Let’s see what He'll do.”

Everyone seemed to love this idea, so they took up my arms again. Again my feet tried to gain purchase, but someone tripped me so I couldn’t get my balance. The short walk through town seemed to take hours to me. My mind was racing. My emotions skittered from fear to rage to shame and back again.

What would this man do with me?

When they found Him in the dusty square, they dropped me at His feet. As I looked at His dust-covered sandals, the stories of this man—Jesus—came to me. He’d been teaching in the square, and healing the sick. He healed dozens of men and women in the two days he’d been in town. Lame men were walking. The blind woman I see in the market every day could see. But I knew He was a Jew, like me, and they called Him a rabbi.

By now all my accusers had rocks in their hands, and some of them called out hurtful names.

My rabbi now addressed this outsider.

“This filth was caught in the very act, in the arms of a man. Our law says this abomination should be publicly stoned to drive this evil out of our land.”

Then he left me there in the dirt and backed away, stone at the ready. As he backed away he finished with “What do you say, what should we do?”

A cry went up from the angry pack, “Stone him” and then the vile epithets came in a wave, “Homo. Queer. Faggot. Queen.”

At the sound of these words, my tears began to flow into the dust inches from my face. The bile was rising into my mouth as everything I held dear slipped through my fingers. My life was over, and I felt I had hardly lived. Twenty eight short years ended by these hands of hate.

Part of me wanted to agree with this mob, and part of me hated them right back. Somewhere inside me was a voice screaming with the crowd that I deserved this scorn, a voice that called along with them, “Your broken.” How could it all end like this? If I could, I would go back and make it right. I didn’t want to hurt my wife this way. I didn’t want my kids to be fatherless. I didn’t want to die with this sin, this betrayal, this ugliness, the only legacy I left behind.

Then this rabbi they called Jesus, bent down. I turned my head toward Him to see what He was doing. It looked like He was drawing in the dust. I wiped the tears from my eyes so I could see what He was doing. He was writing. With my face so close to the ground, I couldn’t make anything of the words.

He stopped writing, still crouched down near me, and looked up at the army of hate surrounding us. He raised His hand to quiet them and said,

“The one of you who has no sin should throw the first stone.”

All the shouting turned to a murmurs, and soon silence.

I raised myself up enough to see what He was writing.

“You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall not bow down to idols.
You shall not take the name of the Lord lightly.
Keep the sabbath.
Honor your father and mother.”

My heart told me I had broken each of these, and many others too. Now my tears came in torrents. I was sobbing.

The Rabbi didn’t finish. He didn’t have to. Through my tears I was astonished to see we were alone in the street. The mob was gone, and the street was littered with stones. They just let their hate fall in the dust and moved away.

Then Jesus crouched down; He put His hand under my chin, and raised my eyes to meet His. Our eyes met.

He took the sleeve of His well-worn robes, and wiped the tears from my eyes.

“Son, where are your accusers?”

With my voice shaking, I said, “There’s no one left,” then cautiously, “except You.”

“Then, I don’t accuse you either. I want you to go and turn your life around, no more life of sin.”

He helped me up to my feet.

I hurt all over, bruised and battered from head to toe, but something deep inside was fixed, healed. The brokenness I felt minutes ago was gone. The confusion I lived with since the day of my bar mitzvah left with the mob. There was something rising up in me. Free? Forgiven? Clean?

I went home. I asked my wife to forgive me. Tears flowed again, from both of us. I sat with my children and repented before them. My humility before them broke the shame they carried because of me.

I can’t say meeting Jesus has made my life easier, but He gave me a path to walk, and gave me a desire to walk it. For the first time I can remember, I’m free from shame and regret. I’m free from the confusion. I’m free to be the man God created me to be.

I’m free!


Does this picture challenge your heart as much as it does mine?

Let me know how your heart reacts.

benheadshot1See you again soon.

Walk like Jesus.



Its flashes are flashes of fire,
The very flame of the LORD.
Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor will rivers overflow it;

Song of Songs 8:6-7 NASB

The edict came from King Ahab that the entire nation must come to Mount Carmel. The messenger who came through our village said even the women and children must come.

So we packed up some food for the journey—thankfully we only live a day’s walk from Carmel in Megiddo. My younger brother had to travel for a full week. He and his wife and four children live across the Jordan in Rabbah. They came and spent the night with us, and then we all made the trek up to the Mountain the day before the assembly.

We arrived early in the afternoon and set up our tent at the base of the mountain. There were already thousands of tents stretching as far as the eye could see. Even though it was inconvenient to close our shop and leave our lives behind, it was great to be with family. On every side of us fires burned and the smell of meaty stews and roasts filled the air.

As the sun went down, the sounds of joy and laughter fill the air. Families and friends reunited under the stars. We sat around the fire and told all the stories of life since the last time we had seen my brother.

The evening wore on and the fires began to burn down one by one across the encampment. Soon we too let our blaze dwindle and headed into our tents for the night.

A sense of apprehension began to settle as the talking waned. Why did Ahab call the nation together? What did tomorrow hold?

Early the next morning the shofars began blowing calling us up the mount. I gathered the children from my brothers tent. They slept with their cousins—a rare treat. Mazel, my wife, put together some food for later in the day. Then we all headed up hill to the peak where the crowds had begun to gather.

As we arrived and got settled, I saw that there on a raised mound of earth before us, they had erected a large stone altar. In front of us on the left, a large group of lavishly clothed foreigners were assembled. To our right stood one old man dressed in a leather wrap of some sort. It looked like he was covered with hair from top to bottom.

As the crowd swelled, this hairy man came to the center and began to call out to the crowd. As he did I saw that the king himself came up to join this old man. At the same time that woman he married—that outsider—Jezebel—went over and stood with the garishly dressed strangers on the left.

Someone blew a shofar and the hairy man signaled for our attention. The crowd hushed. Then this old man began to speak. His voice boomed,

"How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him."

Complete silence was the only answer he received.

"I alone am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal's prophets are 450 men. Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God."

Now this sounded interesting. I grew up hearing the stories from my papa of the miracles in days gone by. Every now and then you hear a tale from some far away place. And I have to admit, it no longer felt like we were God’s chosen people. Yes, we brought our yearly sacrifices to the altar in Dan, but after three years without rain, we felt more God forsaken that God chosen.

This one old man laid down a direct challenge for the old God of Israel and the strange gods of Jezebel, and the people loved the idea. It started as a mummer, some scattered clapping, but in short order it was a booming cheer.

The old man raised his hands and waited till the crowd settled down again. He then began to speak again, this time directing his words to the mob of Jezebel’s prophets,

"Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it."

By about ten in the morning they were all set. Rather than slaughter their ox, they bound it and laid him on the altar. The first sound we heard was his fearful bellowing. Then they began to worship—at least I think it was worship. It was a strange arrangement, nothing like the worship of the old God of Israel. They were dancing and shouting and some were beginning to take off their ostentatious robes and scarves. At first the crowd watched in wonder and silence. As the worship intensified, the crowd began to lose interest, and began to ignore what was going on above.

This continued for a couple hours, and just as my stomach began to rumble, hoping for a noon meal, the old man stood up again and began to taunt these pagans. They has been calling on Baal now for more than a couple hours, and there had been no answer.

If ever there was a day to call down fire, this was it. After three years with no rain, this place, high above the surrounding land was ripe for fire. Wildfires came and went on a regular basis these days, and keeping fires contained was part of our daily lives.

But there had been no fire today—not here on the mountain top. No fire in answer to the calls of hundreds of prophets. No fire to consume this ox, which had fallen asleep there on the altar. No fire to answer our burning question. No fire to say “Baal is god, worship him.”

So Elijah—my brother overheard someone say that was who this old man was—began making suggestions to the prophets of Baal.

“Call out Louder. Perhaps your god is on a journey. Maybe he’s out to lunch. Could be he is in the bathroom. Where’s the fire?”

At this these prophets of Baal began to strip their chest bare and cut themselves, letting the blood from their own veins flow onto   the altar. Some climbed right up on the altar beside the ox and let their blood flow on the poor animal. He was awake now and struggling against his bonds.

As I watched I became more and more appalled at their actions. There were some things they were doing that made me cover my children’s eyes. It was sad really. How could they think that a god would be pleased by such a strange display?

This went on all afternoon. These prophets of Baal—there were hundreds of them—worked in shifts, fifty at a time, dancing, crying out, cutting themselves, until finally, as the hour of the evening sacrifice approached, Elijah stood once again. There had been no voice, no answer, no god paid attention to any of these prophets of Baal.

Elijah said, “Come to me.

He began assembling an altar to the Lord. With the help of a few strong men, he assembled twelve large stones, one for each of the original tribes of Israel. We were only ten tribes now, ever since Rehoboam and Jeroboam divided our kingdom. Still he used twelve stones.

Then he dug a trench around this altar, and arranged the wood on the top. Next he slaughtered the ox, the same way the priests do it at the temple in Dan. He assembled the body parts of the ox on the wood.

This next bit is where it got strange again. He called for water. He must have brought it along, since water was scarce in these parts, especially in this drought. He sent four men off to bring four pitchers of water, and poured it out all over the altar, the wood, and the ox. Then he sent them back for more.

Now the altar was glistening in the setting sun. You could see it dripping off the ends of the wood, and rolling down the sides of the stones.

“Once more,” called out the old man.

So a third time, the men poured water down over the ox and altar, until then the water filled the trench.

The time of the evening offering had arrived, and Elijah stood to his feet, raised his hands up over his head and said in a voice like a trumpet,

"O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word.

"Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again."

At that moment, while Elijah’s words were still echoing in the distance, a pillar of fire descended from the sky directly upon Elijah’s altar. The roar it made was at once terrifying and wonderful. The heat was intense. I don’t know how Elijah could stand so close and not be consumed, but he stood right there, hands raised, face to the blaze.

As suddenly as it came, it was gone. The fire was gone; The heat was gone; The ox was gone; The wood was gone; The stones were gone; The fire even consumed all the water in the trough. Nothing was left but the old man. Strangely not a hair on his head was even scorched.

He turned to us, and lowered his arms.

Immediately everyone in the crowd fell, face to the ground, and began to cry out, “Yahweh is God. Yahweh is the only God. There is no God but Yahweh.” We cried out for what seemed like an hour, worshipping the Lord Almighty, the God who answers by fire.

Elijah called out to king Ahab then, and told him to gather up all the prophets of Baal and the prophets of Asherah, 850 in all, and bring them down to the brook Kishon. He insisted that not one be allowed to escape.

There, with the nation watching in awe and horror, this prophet who just called down fire, killed every one of these false prophets, and let their blood double the flow of the brook.

Finally, he turned to Ahab, as the crowds began to disperse and said,

"Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a heavy shower."

I gathered my family and we headed back down to our tents. I didn’t sleep at all that night. I could see how my life had strayed from the true worship of Yahweh. Of course I was still doing my sacrifices. But I allowed other things to fill my time, and we almost never spoke of Him outside of the synagog. We did not worship Him in our home. We did not teach our children when we arose and before we retired.

That day, I turned my heart back to the Lord God of Israel. That day I became a priest to my family once again. That day changed everything for me.

I will never be the same.


If you want to read the biblical account of Elijah on Mt. Carmel you can find it in 1 Kings 18:19-46. If you enjoy hearing the scripture stories from a new vantage point, check out my book, Encounter With Jesus, available now on

Thanks for coming by today,

Shine where you’re screwed in.



But Peter said,"I do not possess silver and gold,
but what I do have I give to you: In the name of
Jesus Christ the Nazarene--walk!"
Acts 3:6

Look At Us

A Supplicant

From before I can remember, my papa and I would go down to the temple at the hour of prayer. He wouldn’t close his shop for the day. He put a note on the door and left everything just as it was. Then he stopped at home to get me. Mama and the girls would stay at home getting dinner ready.

“Men are made for prayer,” my papa would tell me, when I asked him why my sister didn’t have to come.

Before the praying started, the rabbi would say a few words, to guide our petitions. Mostly I didn’t know what he was saying, and didn’t much care. But I still remember one talk.

The rabbi read from the scrolls containing the Psalms. The Psalms were always my favorite readings. That day he read from one of Solomon’s psalms.

He will have compassion on the poor and needy, And the lives of the needy he will save. Psalm 72:13

Then he told us that any man who gave to the poor was doing the Almighty’s work. He continued by telling us that when we put alms in the hand of the poor, it is as if we are putting our money directly into the hand of the Lord Himself.

He reminded us of the proverb:

One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed. - Proverbs 19:17

The next day when papa came to get me, I remember asking him for a penny.

“My little Gideon, what will you do with a penny today?”

“Papa, I want to give it to the lame man who sits near the temple gates. He’s there every day, and Rabbi Yosef says if we give to the poor we lend to the Lord.”

“Well then, that’s just fine, Gidi, we’ll both give the Lord a loan today.”

He went back into his room where his coin purse hung on a hook on the wall.

“Here you go Gidi my boy, you can carry them both, one for you and one for me.”

I can still remember how cool the copper felt in my tiny hand. From that day on we never went to the temple without two coppers for the lame man there. Papa told me he had been there as long as he had lived in the city.

I’m twenty now, and my papa and I still close up shop for the hour of prayer every day. I’m married and have a boy of my own, but I still work in my father's shop. It won’t be long before my little Josiah starts working with us too. We still grab a few coins to give the beggar as we head out of the shop.

One day, as we neared the temple there were some men standing over our beggar. We thought of him as our beggar, since we had given him money for more than fifteen years. We rarely stopped as we walked by. We just tossed our coins into the hat that sat before him.

I’m not sure I had ever seen his eyes. His eyes are always on the dust of the path. It may have been shame that kept his eyes from meeting ours, or perhaps he simply found people more generous without the tacit confrontation of his gaze. In any case, we never stopped there, but dropped our coins and kept moving.

These two men were standing right there and talking with him. As we approached I heard the beggar repeat the words I had heard a thousand times.

“Do you have a coin for this cripple.”

The words were so familiar to me. They were a part of me, like our meal time prayers, or my sisters giggles. I think it was those words that kept the memory of Rabbi Yosef’s message about giving to the poor so fresh in my mind.

One of the men gave a sort of shrug as if to say, we have no coin to share, but then the other reached out his hand, not as though he was going to give something, but as if he was going to pull him up out of his cot.

At this point our lame friend didn’t see what was going on, because he was still looking down.

As this stranger reached his hand out, I heard him say:

“Look at us!”

The crippled man raised his head, tentatively at first, but once he got a look at this man’s eyes, he began to look—I don’t know how to say it—with his whole face. The eyes I’d never seen, and the face I knew only by profile, now looked directly at this man—he sounded like a Galilean—with his outstretched hand.

"I do not possess silver and gold,”

At this the lame mans gaze wavered with an edge of disappointment.

“but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene--walk!"

His hand hung there for what seemed like minutes, until finally the lame man grabbed it and they both pulled, the Galilean pulled up and the lame man held on with both hands. Then he was on his feet.

As I stood staring it started to dawn on me how impossible this was. I may have never seen this man’s eyes, but his feet and legs sat out there in the dust and grime of the temple courts every day. They were shriveled and useless. The man had to be forty years old, and he had never used those legs for anything.

And now he was standing just a few steps away from me.

He bent over at the waist and reached down with his hands and felt his legs. I could see that they were no longer the tiny twigs that lay beside him yesterday. These were legs, with flesh and muscle.

He took a cautious step or two—feeling for his balance—testing his new legs, getting a feel for this unfamiliar sensation. Then he was walking, then leaping, then walking and running and leaping, all the while shouting praises to the Almighty, and praises to Jesus that Nazarene who was crucified just a couple months back over on skull hill.

The crowd was growing now, and the beggar—everyone knew him—was leaping and shouting praises—and shaking everyone’s hands.

The one who had lifted the lame man off his bed called for silence, and a hush came over the crowd. We all wanted to hear what this man had to say.

I later learned this was Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples. He began to preach to us about how God the Father had sent Jesus, His servant, and how we had crucified the Lord’s holy and righteous Son. This fisherman began to open our eyes to the words of the prophets and of Moses himself, and show us how in our ignorance we had killed the very Son of God.

As he preached the temple priests saw the ruckus and called the temple guards, who arrested Peter and his companion John, but not before Peter led thousands of us to faith in Jesus.

That was the day the Lord fulfilled His promise to me. For years I had lent Him my pennies, and today, He paid me my interest. He gave me an inheritance far beyond the value of copper, silver or gold. He gave me new life.


To read the original story, see Acts 3:1-4:4.

Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2015 - all rights reserved.

Encounters With JesusIf you enjoyed this brand new Encounter With the Holy Spirit, you might like my book, Encounters with Jesus. It is a collection of forty stories told in similar fashion, from the conception of Jesus through His resurrection. It's available now in paperback or kindle versions.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by

See you again soon.



Here is a free chapter from my new book, Encounters With Jesus. The book contains forty such encounters, looking at the life of Jesus from conception to resurrection through the eyes of dozens whose lives He touched.

The book is available in paperback and kindle.

Encounters With Jesus makes a great forty day devotional walk through the life of Christ. Each short retelling includes the original references so you can go and read the Gospel account.


Christ And The Rich Young Ruler - Heinrich Hofmann

“I’d say it’s easier for a camel to go through
a needle’s eye than for the rich to get into God’s kingdom.”
Mark 10:25

What am I Lacking?

Rich Young Ruler

Growing up with wealth, I never thought much about the things that worry other people. I can’t remember ever being hungry or wondering whether another meal was in the offing. I never wore secondhand clothes.

My father was wealthy, and I’m not talking about money. Sure, there was always money, but money is a by-product of wealth. Many people get that turned around. They think, “If I only had ten thousand denarii, I’d be set.” What they don’t get is that wealth produces money. The lands my father passed into my hands and the herds and flocks I own produce all I could ever need.

I am always well dressed, and when I’m out and about, I usually have a few of my closest and dearest servants with me. I have always been able to afford entertainment. I can lay down enough coin to buy some happiness, but there has always been an empty place deep within me.

Recently, one of my attendants, a Jew like me, experienced something that changed him. Don’t misunderstand—there was nothing wrong with him before. He was always on time and faithful to me. He was trustworthy, and I could allow him to handle my money and manage my holdings.

But one day when he came into my presence, he . . . I don’t know. He just lit up. When I asked him about it, he told me he’d been passing through town and stumbled upon a crowd. His curiosity drew him in, and the words he heard held him there.

He said, “Now I am a disciple of Jesus.” He asked me if I would allow him to spend time listening to Jesus’s teachings while He was in town.

I have to tell you, he was so different.  For the first time, I felt he had something I didn’t. He kept talking about eternal life and living water. Though he was an indentured servant and subject to my command, he seemed to stand in greater freedom than I.

Since he said this man, this Jesus, was going to be in town for a few more days, I told him we could go together to hear Him talk.

When we arrived, He was having a conversation with the Jewish leaders, and it seemed like they were laying a trap for Him. They were pressing Him with leading questions. It was an obvious attempt to discredit Him in front of His rather large following.

I couldn’t hear the whole conversation, but the leaders from the synagogue walked away perturbed. As they left, the crowd began to press Him. Women sent their children in to touch this Jesus. I could tell His entourage was getting upset with the way people were crowding Him. But He put His hands on each of the children as they came to Him and spoke a blessing over each one. No two of the blessings were alike. He was speaking into their future and creating a path for them to follow. I was so impressed with every word He uttered. He never wavered, but spoke with a profound authority. My parents never spoke into my life like that. Yet here is this man from Nazareth picking up the children of total strangers and giving them a destiny. It was wonderful to behold!

I wanted Him to speak into my life. I wanted the eternal life my servant spoke of. I wanted Jesus to speak words of hope over me. The child inside me cried out for His touch.

Before I thought better of it, I dashed right into the middle of everything, fell to my knees before Him, and revealed what was in my heart.

“Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?”

There I was, on my knees before Him, feeling quite foolish and just a little hopeful.

He looked at me—honestly, it felt more like a probe than a look—and He said:

“Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God.”

I got the impression He was asking me if I thought He was God. I grew up in a good Jewish home. I know the Lord God is One. But He kept speaking.

“If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you. You know the commandments . . .”

The commandments. Excellent! I grew up in the home of a Jewish businessman. From a young age, the commandments were pounded into my brain. Business is built on trust, and wealth flows from righteousness. We read the proverbs over and over, and the commandments hung on the kitchen wall.

“Which ones?” I asked Him.

He started to list them:

“Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.”

As He was listing, I was counting to myself and trying to figure out which ones He missed. But when He finished, I told Him I had always kept the commandments. I was beginning to feel like this whole conversation was kind of strange. I thought He was going to speak a blessing over me. I thought He was going to receive me with open arms. I thought He would be eager to have such an important and outstanding follower. Why were we talking about me keeping the commandments? You know how things race through your mind.

“Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!” I said. “What am I lacking?”

He got quiet for a minute, and then a new look crossed His face. What was it? Love? Compassion? Pity? Sorrow?

“There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.”

Now I got quiet. Was this a joke? A trick? A test? Sell it all and then just give the money away? And to the poor, no less. I am okay with giving alms. In fact, a portion of my earnings is set aside every year for the poor. But to give the indigent great sums of money can create an entitlement mentality. It undermines their ambition. It’s not a good idea. Why doesn’t Jesus know this?

Besides, how would I live? These guys look like nomads. They travel constantly from place to place. They have no visible means of support, and I’m not sure I trust the one holding their money. You learn to get the measure of a man in my line of work.

What is He asking? Is He really demanding I just walk away from a fortune accumulated over the course of generations? What if I have children someday? What would I leave them? Didn’t wise Solomon tell us to leave an inheritance to our children’s children?

I’m not sure if He knew what I was thinking, but His gaze never faltered.

My eyes must have been asking what my heart was calculating, because He nodded.


My servant came over and helped me back to my feet. I turned away from this frustrating man. This was not how I expected the scenario to play out. I wanted what my servant had—that joy, peace, and freedom. But instead, my emptiness was deeper than ever.

To this day, I can’t figure out if I rejected Him or He rejected me, but in the end, I know we both walked away saddened.

Occasionally I wonder if I could do it, if I could forsake all and follow Him. But I realize it would be like putting the very core of my being to death. He was asking me to turn away from my identity, from who I am.

I can’t. I just can’t.


To read the original story, see Matthew 19:16-31, Mark 10:17-31,
and Luke 18:18-30.

Copyright - 2015 -  Benjamin Nelson

If you would like to buy these books in quantities, or get a supply for your church's bookstore contact me via email -

Don't forget to shine!



It's here - it's finally here!

I'm so excited to announce the release of my new book:

Encounters With Jesus.

Encounters With Jesus - Available Now
Encounters With Jesus - Available Now

This book was birthed right here at Another Red Letter Day. My interaction with this wonderful community of faith has encouraged me to write, and keep writing. So I want to say a huge thank you to all of you.

It is available in both Kindle and paperback editions.

I'm hoping that you'll share it with your friends.

If you have not been following my blog, let me bring you up to speed.

Encounters is a collection of forty stories from the life of Jesus. What is striking about these stories is the way they look through the eyes of the people He touched.

What would it have been like to be on the boat when Jesus calmed the sea?
How would it feel to see your son raised from the dead?
How would you react if Jesus asked you to sell all that you have?
Can you imagine standing at the foot of the cross?

I walk through the life of Jesus from before His conception to His resurrection speaking in dozens of voices.

To those of you who have shared life with me the last few years as a blogger, I hope you will join me in praying that this simple approach to the life of Jesus will draw men and women to Him. Will you pray with me for the impact of this book?

If you’re on the fence, here are some reviews and such:

A Must Read! by Debby Maciorowski

Encounters with Jesus by Felecia Clarke

Encounters With Jesus  by Kristyn Mogler

Encounters With Jesus | Book Review by Steve Bremner

An Interview with Benjamin Nelson by Felecia Clarke

Ben NelsonThanks so much.

Remember: Shine where you're plugged in.


%d bloggers like this: