The Betrayer Within

And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. – Luke 22:3

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Why did Satan choose to enter Judas? Was he more vulnerable? Was he more wicked? Or was he just “chosen”, and the real reason is locked away in divine sovereignty? We cannot know the answers to these questions this side of heaven and once in heaven, we simply won’t care.

There is at least one lesson, however, to be learned from Judas’ life and tragic betrayal of Christ and that lesson is this: it could have been any one of us. For within each of us lies the latent ability to betray Jesus for wealth, pleasure, pride, or just plain old comfort.

So, the next time you begin to look down on the “betrayer” look straight into the mirror and be reminded of what might be, apart from God’s amazing and very necessary grace.

Either sin is with you, lying in your shoulders, or it is lying on Christ, the Lamb of God. Now if it is lying on your back, you are lost, but if it is resting on Christ, you are free, and you will be saved. Now choose what you want. – Martin Luther

Simple Obedience is Best

Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” – 2 Kings 5:13

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Naaman was a pagan military commander who contracted leprosy while Elisha, God’s prophet was alive and prophesying in the Lord’s name. Seeking a cure for his malady, Naaman was unwilling to obey the simple command of Elisha to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River. He thought that Elisha’s directions were totally devoid of supernatural significance and, therefore, a waste of his time. They seemed too simple and, probably from his perspective, too weird. This powerful man’s servants finally convinced him to obey Elisha’s instructions and be healed. Of course, he did, and he was.

Have you ever looked for some awe-inspiring direction from God, yet ignored His simple guidance that has been made available to you through God’s ancient spokesmen? I am not talking about an “Elisha” or “Elijah,” but rather God’s wisdom and teachings found in the writings of the Bible. Henry Blackaby, in his book Experiencing God, reminds us that God speaks through prayer, His church, and circumstances, but in every case, the Scriptures are of primary importance.

If we do the “small things,” if we just simply obey God’s manifest instructions, we will be amazed at how the “big things” begin to fall into place.

The golden rule for understanding in spiritual matters is not intellect, but obedience. – Oswald Chambers

What People Need

Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. – Luke 21:23-24

Many years ago, at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday mornings, a group of three to seven men gathered for prayer on the church property where I pastored. There were many varied situations, needs, and persons on our prayer list, but at the end of the page there was always this one item, “the peace of Israel.”

An outside observer might have thought that we were praying for a military peace, but though our hearts might have desired it, this was not our intent. Rather, we were praying that God’s covenant people would come to know the peace that comes from an intimate relationship with the Messiah, also known as Yeshua (Jesus Christ).

According to the biblical record, this event cannot occur until the “times of the Gentiles are fulfilled;” therefore, our task was then, and remains now, a simple one. If we who believe in Jesus want Israel to know His peace, if we are intent on praying for that peace, then we must also commit to pray, give, and go to the nations that have yet to hear of it.

The world always seems to be drowning in need, but more than anything else, people need Jesus.

Could a mariner sit idle if he heard the drowning cry? Could a doctor sit in comfort and just let his patients die? Could a fireman sit idle, let men burn and give no hand? Can you sit at ease in Zion with the world around you damned? – Leonard Ravenhill

Raising Your Integrity

Moreover, they did not require an accounting from the men into whose hand they gave the money to pay to those who did the work, for they dealt faithfully. – 2 Kings 12:15

When young Josiah became king of Judah, under the watchful eye of Jehoiada (the high priest), repairs on the Temple in Jerusalem were of primary importance. To accomplish the funding for the task, free-will offerings were collected from the people and applied to the payment of workers, but as reconstruction went forward, there was no need for financial oversight because the men in charge were so trustworthy.

In a day like today when multiple safeguards are often in place to ensure funds are protected, it is refreshing to see that where integrity abounds such precautions are not as necessary. At the same time, this situation should not be considered normative and it is wise for church and ministry leaders to exercise as much caution when handling God’s resources as they would if they were handling their own. Too many ministries are poor stewards, wasting God’s resources while condemning and/or berating those who will not give to their efforts.

Raising funds? Here’s an idea. First, raise your integrity.

If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters. – Alan K. Simpson

Do Your Part

He must increase, but I must decrease. – John 3:30

Long before King Herod locked him away in a prison cell, John the Baptist stepped aside to allow Jesus’ ministry to take center stage. Those who followed him at the time, wondered (aloud) why he would allow this to happen, but John understood his unique role as the “announcer” and “way-maker” for the arrival of the promised Messiah.

Sometimes it is hard in life to play “second fiddle” and while not everyone struggles with this role, the feeling is probably more common than we realize. Yet, we must remember than none of us is as important as Christ. He always comes first and with that knowledge comes the acceptance of our individual part, our fit in God’s kingdom plan and purpose.

Whatever you do, do it for the glory of Christ Jesus. It is essential for the health and success of an entire Body that has been fashioned by the Creator and Redeemer Himself. Resolve to be the best version of “you” that you can be and, along with the other members of His kingdom, proclaim the Good News until the King returns.

Unless we are willing to pay the price and sacrifice time and attention in what appear legitimate or necessary duties for the sake of the heavenly gifts, we need not look for a large experience of the power of the heavenly world in our work. – Andrew Murray

Faith is Not a Leap

“Woe to the rebellious children,” declares the Lord, “Who execute a plan, but not Mine, and make an alliance, but not of My Spirit, in order to add sin to sin; who proceed down to Egypt without consulting Me, to take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!” – Isaiah 30:1-2

Why does it seem so difficult to seek God’s will before our own? Why do we act as if we have no idea of God’s purposes and design, when His Word is (for most of us) at our fingertips? I am not aware of your personal circumstances, but I can speak from my own experience.

If I have ignored God’s plan and desire, it is usually for one of two reasons (ruling out willful rebellion): 1) I acted hastily, because I believed that the situation required it or; 2) I did not perceive that God’s truth applied to the situation at hand, because I was not as familiar with His Word as I needed to be.

Due to my own persistent failures, two practices/disciplines have emerged. First, I procrastinate (when possible) to allow time for God to speak to my heart (and others) in order that His solution might become clearer. Second, I work to become more familiar with His Word so that I might learn His direction for a situation before it ever arises. While I may not always succeed with my aim, I have a greater possibility of it now. Experience is a great teacher.

Faith for the Christian is not a blind leap, but rather a thoughtful step rooted in the love of an infallible Sovereign.

Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility. – Augustine

Given the Opportunity

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. – Colossians 4:2-4

The fact that Paul wrote to the church at Colossae asking for an open door for the gospel message is not (on the face of it) that surprising. The fact that he made the request from a Roman prison is! The door for Paul’s release from captivity may have been tightly shut, but the apostle never saw his situation as a hindrance to ministry.

Our circumstances can change or be altered by God as He sees fit to allow for the continued spread of the Gospel. For example, we may begin to think that a location is closed, or our movements hindered but we shouldn’t, as long as we continue to serve a sovereign God. Let us pray for open doors, then when God provides one, we will be prepared to walk through it, no matter where we are.

It isn’t that we lack opportunities. Rather, we lack the readiness to act when the opportunity is presented.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. – Thomas Edison