Are you tired, anxious and depressed?

Are you tired? I know I am. The last two or three years have been difficult to say the least. I was recently reading a report that said that the number one mental health problem in the world today is anxiety. Somehow I’m not surprised. There is a lot going on that would create anxiety in people. Wars, rumors of wars, pestilence, famine, inflation, and earthquakes, are just a few of the things happening worldwide. The headlines just seem to get worse with each passing month. If you read the Bible however, Jesus warned us that these things would happen in the last days (Matthew 24). The whole chapter reads like one news headline after another. You see, God is not surprised by anything that is happening on the earth. He knows the end from the beginning and He told us what was coming, so that we don’t have to be afraid. 

I know that sounds great in theory, but how do we actually practice not being filled with fears and anxiety? How do we live our lives with peaceful hearts, instead of fearful ones? Proverbs 12:25 tells us that “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad”. How can we get a “good word”, so that our hearts will once again be glad? How do we learn to overcome anxiety so that we are not depressed? Let me share some thoughts with you  that have helped me during these difficult times.

As I was reading my Bible this morning, I noticed something I’d never seen before. In the book of Revelation, Jesus writes a letter through the Apostle John to seven churches. These seven letters were written to actual churches that existed at the time that John was alive. They also represent the seven church ages. It is the last two churches that I want to focus on, the church of Philadelphia and the church of Laodicea. Many people, myself included believe that these two churches represent the end time churches right before the tribulation starts. 

To the church of Philadelphia, Jesus says this: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” (Revelation 3:8) What popped off the page at me this morning was something that Jesus said to this church: “you have a little strength”. In the English, that word strength doesn’t mean much, but in the Greek, it means a lot. It is actually the word “dynamis”, which means power, wonders, works or miracles,  That word is first used in the Lord’s Prayer, in Matthew 6:13, “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” In other words, that little word that we translate as “strength” in Revelation 3:8, actually means the miracle working power of God that shows signs and wonders. 

So why does this church only have a little power or strength? Perhaps past generations would not have understood why, but living in our world today, looking at today’s headlines, it is not difficult to understand. The things going on in this world, are energy sapping, to say the least. It is easy to lose our strength and become hopeless, afraid and even depressed. It is only the Holy Spirit who can give us the supernatural strength or power to get us through each day. Only He can encourage us, strengthen us, comfort us and help us.

It reminds me of the Israelites when they were wandering in the wilderness and they had to get up each morning and collect Manna, but only enough for that day. They were not allowed to collect more than one days worth. Why? Because God was teaching them to trust Him for provision, each and every morning. I think during these difficult, last days, the Lord is teaching us to get up and collect “spiritual manna” each and every morning as well. 

But what does the church of Laodicea have to do with any of this? This is the church that Jesus wants to vomit out of His mouth. Remember? They make Him so sick, that He wants to throw up. Why? He tells us in Revelation 3:17. “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked”. They don’t need a thing, these people. They have accumulated all kinds of wealth, and consequently, feel very secure in their lives. Do they have any strength? From the sounds of it, they have lots. But it’s not the kind of strength that will do them any good, because their strength lies in themselves and what they have accomplished in their lives. They have no need to get up each morning and collect Manna. They have plenty of leeks, onions and garlic, that they have managed to bring with them from Egypt. (“We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” Numbers 11:4-6)

I know it would be easy to look back at the way things were, not that long ago, and long for those days. But the world has changed and God is telling us not to be like the lukewarm church of Laodicea. He wants us to get up each morning and collect Manna, not the kind that Israel collected, but spiritual Manna. He doesn’t want us to find our comfort in those things that we have accomplished or attained ourselves. He is asking us to sit and read His word, listen for His voice, feel His presence, and regain our strength from Him, for the day.

I have learned that I have to search for that Manna each and every day. What I read or heard or even understood yesterday, doesn’t really help me to face today’s issues. Paul tells us the secret in 2 Corinthians 12:9 when he tells us what the Lord told him “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” The word used for strength is that same word used in Revelation, dynamis. His power, his strength, is actually made perfect or complete, in my weakness. When I come to Him and allow Him to strengthen me, I am no longer relying on myself, but on Him.

If you don’t know Jesus, but you’ve made it this far, then let me tell you something that He said to those people in Laodicea that He wanted to vomit out. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20) Jesus is standing at the door of your heart right now, and He is asking you to let Him in. Will you repent of your sins, accept Him as God’s sacrifice for your sins, and allow Him to come into your life? He is waiting, because He loves you. If you decide to let Him in, get a Holy Bible and start spending time with Him each day. He will strengthen you to overcome.

What is the Whole Counsel of God?

If you’ve ever watched murder mysteries, (I confess that I used to be addicted to them) you might have noticed something. Sometimes it’s not what people say, it’s what they don’t say. What I mean by that is that you have to look at the context. People say certain things during certain events. It’s just human nature.  If you are lying to someone, there are things you won’t say, that someone who is telling the truth, would. Have I confused you yet? It took me a while to understand this as well.

I’ll give you an example from my own life. Many years ago, we had a neighbor who had purchased a beautiful black lab puppy. Sadly, this puppy was left outside, chained to the deck with no place to sleep or hide from the elements. His kennel was covered with an inch of ice rain because it was winter. Once a day the owner would come out and give him a bowl of food. Other than that, he was ignored. After watching this unfold for months, my daughters and I couldn’t handle the abuse anymore. We stole the dog. We took that puppy and brought him to a dog shelter in another county, ensuring he would not be found by this man. The next day, when the owner discovered the dog was gone, he came to my house and demanded to know if I had his dog. We had been babysitting another black lab puppy from a different neighbor and he thought it was his dog. I told him no. Long story short, it occurred to me after the confrontation, that I never told him I was sorry for his loss and that I hoped he would find his dog. It wasn’t what I said, it was what I didn’t say to him that mattered.

So what does my story have to do with the whole counsel of God? Paul tells us in Acts 20:26-27 “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” What Paul was in effect saying is that he had not shrunk back from telling people everything, not just some things. He was not picking and choosing which parts of the gospel he taught, he was not leaving some things out because they are difficult to understand, controversial or perhaps didn’t fit with his own understanding of things. Or, perhaps worse, he didn’t teach only those things that built up his own ministry. His goal, his only goal was to teach God’s people everything that he knew to be true, from the beginning to the end. The New Living Translation puts it this way: “for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know”.

When I read that sentence, I have to ask, what is this “all” that God wants me to know? 

The answer to that question is probably trickier than you think. Most churches, at least the ones that still believe in salvation through Christ alone, teach only about our salvation. They have turned the good news into something about you and me. Although there is no doubt that Christ died for our sins so that we could be saved from eternal damnation, is that really “all” that God wants me to know?

How about creation? Did God create the world in 7 days as Genesis tells us, or did we evolve over millions of years? 

How about the fall of Adam and Eve? Are they a real couple that sinned and were banished from the garden of Eden or were they just a myth, a legend of old? 

And then there is the nation of Israel. Did God make a covenant with Abraham, for eternity or was it just for a season until Jesus could come through the Jews? Did God actually “replace” Israel with the church because they rejected His Son?

What do we know and understand about Jesus? Is He the Son of God, the promised Messiah who came to take away the sins of the world? Or is he just another prophet, a good teacher, a kind man who helped people? 

Is Jesus alive today? Did He rise from the dead, or is He still in the grave?

Is there such a thing as the rapture? Will the church, the real church of believers, not just church goers, be taken to meet Jesus in the air, in the clouds, and be taken to heaven?

How about the book of Revelation? Is it just an allegory or is it a prophecy of end time events?

If Revelation is true then what does that mean for our world? Is God going to judge the nations for their wickedness and rejection of Him?

Will Jesus physically return to the Mount of Olives, to Zion, and set up His kingdom for a thousand years, ruling and reigning on this earth from Jerusalem, Israel.

I could go on with more details but I want you to notice something about all my questions. They start with the book of Genesis, the beginning, and they end with Revelation, the last book in the Bible, or the end. 

Paul talked about every one of these questions in the New Testament. As a matter of fact, every single book in the Old Testament also speaks of these questions. The Bible, from beginning to end, speaks of creation, sin, redemption, salvation and the first coming of Jesus to earth and finally, the rapture of the church, the restoration of Israel and the second coming of Christ. 

The Bible tells us about the Kingdom of Jesus. Salvation is a part of that “all”, but the whole story, the whole counsel, all the things that God wants us to know, encompass the entire book. It is a story from beginning to end about God. Not about us. Not about the Gentiles. Not just about salvation. The Bible is about the Creator God, the King of kings and Lord of lords and His plans for this world and for eternity. 

Why are these questions that I asked so important? I will give you a brief answer, although there are no doubt books that have been written. Let’s start at the beginning.

If God did not create the world, none of it matters. If He didn’t do it in 7 literal days, then there would not be an Adam and Eve. Without Adam and Eve, there is no fall of man, whereby sin and death entered the world. Without the fall, there is no need for redemption. Therefore, Jesus did not need to come and die for our sins. Even if He did come and die, if He didn’t rise from the dead, then there is no resurrection from the dead and no hope for eternity. If He has rejected Israel as the chosen people and replaced them with the church, then God does not keep His promises. If He doesn’t keep His promises to them, He won’t keep them to you and I either and He is therefore a liar. If God is a liar, then He can’t be trusted for the future. If He doesn’t rapture the church before the tribulation, then He lied when He told us that we are not destined for wrath. (1 Thessalonians 1:10, 5:9) If He is a liar then He won’t come back to earth physically and set up His kingdom. If there is no kingdom of God, then we of all people on earth are without hope. We are living a lie, a delusion. A very sad delusion.

Do you see where I am going here? It all hangs together. It is the “whole counsel of God”. All of it matters. And if we do not understand all of it, then apostasy can creep into our thinking and our beliefs and pretty soon, all kinds of false teaching begins to twist our understanding. Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 24:4 “Take heed that no one deceives you”, when they asked Him about the end times. There is all kinds of deception in the church, all kinds of false teaching being taught by false teachers. Paul called them “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1) I will go back to my story of the dog. Sometimes, it is not what they are teaching you that is a lie. It is what they are not teaching you that matters. Protect yourself from deception. Read the Bible. All of it. 

Are you fearful of what is happening in the world?

When my children were younger, much younger, I used to read them a cute little story called “Chicken Little”. I’m sure you’ve seen variations of this book, sometimes also called “The Sky is Falling”. It was the story of a chicken called Henny Penny, that was out in the woods, foraging for food, when an acorn fell on her head. She came to the conclusion that the sky was falling and went about telling everyone. Pretty soon everyone in the barnyard was frightened by her warning and joined her in telling the king. Because we all knew that it was just an acorn and not the actual sky, my children thought the book was very funny and couldn’t get enough of it. 

The other day I was watching a sermon on YouTube, titled, “How close is the rapture?” I was drawn to watching the sermon because so many of the things that are happening in the world right now, are converging towards the rapture of the church. What is the rapture of the church? Briefly, the Bible tells us that at the time of the end, right before God’s wrath is poured out on an unbelieving and rebellious world, He will rapture, or snatch away, those that belong to Him. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 is just one of many verses in the Bible that talks about this glorious event for those who have repented of their sins and made Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior. 

I have to confess that as I watched this sermon unfold, I was overcome by fear. Not because the pastor was making things up, or jumping to conclusions as Henny Penny did in her little barnyard, but because his fear, like her’s, was palpable. He admitted to his congregation that he was very, very afraid. I spent the next two nights struggling to sleep peacefully, something I usually have no issues with. It took me several days before I realized why. As I thought about my fear, and how quickly I was affected by this pastor’s fears, I realized that with everything going on in the world, it would be odd to not be adversely affected. Unfortunately, in his attempt to comfort his church, and to educate them about Bible prophecy, he had in effect fallen into the same trap that Henny Penny did. He was spreading his fears to others. 

The Bible however tells us not to be afraid. There are literally hundreds of verses in both the Old and New Testament admonishing us not to be afraid, but to trust that the Lord is with us. So how do we reconcile what is happening around us, fearful things without a doubt, and these words:  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me”? (Psalm 23:4) Or how about these words of Paul in 2 Timothy 1:7,  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”?

As a matter of fact, we are told repeatedly that the ONLY one we should fear, is the Lord. Jesus Himself tells us this in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”.

So again, I ask, how do we reconcile what is happening around us in our world, and the command to not be afraid? 

As I ponder on this question, I am reminded of something that Jesus told His disciples when He was telling them about the signs of His second coming and what would be happening on the earth just before the end. He actually addresses these fears: “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken”. (Luke 21:25-26) However, He then goes on to tell them what to do, when these fears come. He says the following: “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” (Luke 21:28) 

I think that we read the words, “look up and lift up your heads” far too quickly and without giving them any real thought or importance. Is Jesus giving us a nice suggestion here? Maybe He’s telling us to look at the sky, searching the clouds for His return? I’m not making fun here, I’ve done it. But as I ponder on His words, I have to remember that Jesus doesn’t waste words or use words lightly. Every word of the Lord is important. In this passage, He is telling us how we can emotionally and spiritually survive these difficult and frightening days. He’s telling us to stop looking at the things of this world, the things around us, that frighten. He’s telling us to stop looking at the darkness, or the violence, which is growing in leaps and bounds. Does that mean we should put our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not happening? Absolutely not! After all, He just gave them the very signs we should look for so we will understand the season and times we are in. In other words, be awake and aware. 

However, in the midst of all the fear, He is telling us that our focus should be on Him. Look up. Lift up your heads. Stop looking down. Stop being afraid. 

I remember years ago, when my life was literally falling apart around me. It seemed that everything that could go wrong in my life, other than my own health, was going wrong. It was a time of great darkness for me. I chose to do something that I look back on now and realize prepared me for these terrible days we are facing. Even as I felt the snakes slithering at my feet, and felt myself in a dark cavern, I looked up with my spiritual eyes at His light and chose to trust Him. The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 121:1-2, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth”.

In my darkest hours, when nothing made sense, I would say to the Lord, “I don’t understand, but I choose to trust you, because I know you are good and you are in control!” Every time I struggled, which was often, I chose to repeat that to Him. I chose to trust Him.

I am reminded of a very old hymn, made popular again in recent years by Lauren Daigle:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.

Friend, if you are struggling and afraid, you are not alone. Let me encourage you however to remember that Jesus told us He would never leave us nor forsake us. The writer of Hebrews tells us the following: “For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

He is with you. Remember that. As the darkness grows darker, as the evil grows stronger, fear Him who is in control. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords and He is coming soon for His church!

I will leave you with these words by Saint Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18:

“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words”.

If my words encouraged you, please like and share. 

Does God’s goodness and mercy chase after you?

I remember the last time I spoke with my youngest daughter. It was several years ago, when she informed me that she never wanted to see or speak to me again. Her reasons? They were vague. She never really told me what sins I had committed to deserve such a harsh punishment. It left me breathless and puzzled. I knew I had not been the kindest to my own mother. I had often said things to her I deeply regret now. I had occasionally been harsh to her, but my mother was from another era and she always bore my reproach with kindness. However, I would never have considered cutting my mother off just because I had issues with her. If you love someone, as I did her, you don’t deliberately hurt them. 

Sadly, my youngest is not alone in her judgements. Several of her siblings have followed suit and also cut me off. I won’t go into family dynamics here, because that is not the purpose of this article. Suffice it to say that my heart is broken. This is a particularly hard week as I have back to back birthdays to deal with emotionally. Two of my children were born a week apart. My heart aches for them and I find myself breaking down sometimes. Tears flow from my eyes even as I write this. I long for reconciliation. I long for a chance to talk with them and hear their accusations. I long for a chance to tell them how sorry I am that I failed them. I know that I am not alone in my pain. I have heard statistics that 30% of the younger generation have chosen to do exactly the same thing to their parents, cut them off. 

With this pain in my heart, I turn to the Lord. He has promised me that my prodigals will return to me. But it has been years. It would be easy to give up, to lose hope. As I spoke to the Lord about my children this morning He gave me some Scripture that renewed my hope. If you are waiting on the Lord, waiting for prayers that have still not been answered, hope that is beginning to fade, sorrow that is overwhelming at times, then let me encourage you with what He has shown me. 

I was reading in Psalm 27 today when I encountered verses 14 and 15: “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!” As I read these verses I decided to write them in my journal so I would remember them. But then I added something else to my journal. I wrote, “So here I am Lord, waiting on you. Show me your goodness in the land of the living. But I feel as though I have already seen your goodness. How can I wait for more?

It is true. God has been good to me! He has been faithful to me. He has never forsaken me. I look at my life, and I have learned to trust Him, even with the things that do not or did not make sense. Do I dare ask for more of His goodness?

As I sat there writing in my journal, I heard Him say to me, “why do you limit my goodness?” He then showed me another psalm, also written by David, one that I am sure many are familiar with. Psalm 23:5-6 tells us: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!” That word “follow” is quite interesting. It means to pursue, to run after and to chase. Let me paraphrase that. God’s goodness and mercy runs after me, chases me and pursues me. It’s not just walking behind me, slowly. No, it means He is running after me with intention to bless me. 

At the moment that I heard Him say that to me, “why do you limit my goodness?”, I wasn’t sure whether to rejoice or to feel rebuked. Perhaps it’s both! All I know is that as I read the verses He showed me, I felt renewed hope. It strengthened my heart. I am reminded that the prodigal eventually came to himself, remembered his father, and went home. Luke 15:11-32

This promise of God’s goodness and mercy in the land of the living, is not just about prodigal children however. It is about everything in our lives. David was being hunted down by a madman called King Saul, hiding in caves and running for his life, when he wrote these verses. David saw the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Eventually, he was made king and God called him a “man after his own heart”. (1Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22) Why did God call Him that? Because David never gave up hope and always trusted God. David believed in God’s  goodness and did what God told him to do. We might not be running for our lives, we might not have prodigal children we wait for, but it doesn’t matter. We all have things in our lives that are painful, even agonizing at times. What we do with those things is what matters.

Do we give up? Do we lose hope, and become bitter? Do we become offended with God? It’s not hard to do that! But I would suggest a better way. I would suggest that we strengthen ourselves in the Lord. I would suggest that we sit at the Lord’s feet and allow Him to comfort us with His word. That’s what He did for me. He comforted me and strengthened me with His word. I choose to believe Him. I choose to wait. I choose to believe that His goodness and mercy is running after me and chasing me down. I encourage you to make the same choice. 

What is the Lord saying to you?

Several years ago my husband and I retired and decided to move to warmer weather. We chose an area of the United States that had very little history of hurricane activity, yet was still close to the ocean. When we arrived in this region, we were reassured by the natives, that a hurricane had not come in decades. With this assurance, we settled in without worries. Oddly enough within just a few short years, 3 or 4 to be exact, we had two hurricanes within one year. To say that we were frightened would be an understatement. Perhaps the most terrifying part of the ordeal was the constant alarm going off on our phones; the government was warning us to evacuate town and get to safety. 

During both of these situations, I remember very clearly what the Lord was saying to me. He told me that no harm would come near my dwelling. He told me, not to be afraid! In both cases, there was terrible destruction in our neighborhood, both with flooding and with downed trees and home repairs. But our house remained completely safe. I’ve seen images of tornado damage where an entire neighborhood was destroyed, except for one house. Although not quite that dramatic, it was similar for us.

We are living in unprecedented times. There is turmoil, plagues, fears, rumors of wars, food shortages, everywhere. You would have to be living under a rock, not to see that there is a proverbial “hurricane” coming to this earth. With the internet giving us live information and misinformation, there is never any doubt of what is coming. Just like those loud government alarms on my phone, the world is shaking with fears and turmoil and the internet will not let us forget it. Nor should we. The Bible warned us that these events would happen in the last days. Just read Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. In each one of these, Jesus talks about the end of the age. Therefore, none of these things should take us by surprise. God has certainly not been caught off guard. 

So what are we to do? This morning as I was in prayer, talking to the Lord, He reminded me of those two hurricanes and how He kept my husband and I safe and protected our home. He reminded me of what He had told me back then, “Do not be afraid”. 

It would be easy for me to respond with, “but Lord, look at this person, or this situation, or that country”! And I have done exactly that. If it can happen to them, why not to me? 

Let me share another story with you, this time from the Bible. After Jesus’ resurrection, He spent some time with the disciples eating breakfast on the shores of Galilee. The story is found in John 21. After they had eaten, Jesus walks with Peter and asks him several times if Peter loved Him. He was of course restoring the heart of Peter to Himself, during this conversation. But that is not my focus here. My focus is on something that Peter then said to Jesus at the end of this conversation. Peter noticed that John was following them and he turned around, to look at John and then said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” John 21:21

I find this question rather intriguing. I’m not sure what it was that Peter wanted Jesus to do with John, but the most obvious thing is that he was comparing himself to John. Instead of focusing on his own situation, his own restoration, and his own sin in this case, he wanted to know what Jesus would do with John. 

Is that not so easy to do? We look at other people, we look at other situations, and we question what God is doing in their lives. I’m not suggesting that we can’t learn from others, but I am suggesting that we first and foremost look at what Jesus is doing in our life, in my life. What is Jesus saying to me? What is He saying to you? And that is where it gets interesting, doesn’t it? Jesus responded to Peter like this, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” John 21:22 (Have you ever considered the fact that John did in fact remain on the earth until He saw Jesus come back a second time? He saw it during his vision in Revelation! John saw it all before he died: “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war…And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” Revelation 20:11-16)

However, back to my original point.  It is easy for us to focus on all the evil happening in the world; all the people dying, all the people starving, being locked in their homes, bombed from the air, etc. It is easy for me to look at all these situations and ask, “but Lord, what about all these people”? Should I pray for them? Absolutely! Should I help, if I feel led to do so? Absolutely. 

But just like this conversation between Peter and Jesus, with John listening in the background, we need to focus on what Jesus is saying to us. What is He telling me? What is Jesus telling you? If you don’t know, perhaps you need to sit quietly and ask Him! 

The Bible tells us in Psalm 91:1-2 “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” 

In order for me to dwell in the secret place of the Most High, I first have to find that secret place. It’s secret for a reason! You don’t find it by listening to other people. You don’t find it by running around looking for it. You can only find that secret place, by being still. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.” Psalm 46:10-11

I would encourage you to find out what the Lord is saying to you personally during this storm. He has promised that He will be our refuge, our strong tower. He will protect us, but we need to trust Him. Never mind what is happening to others. I need to follow Jesus. You need to follow Jesus!

If you like this article, please like and share it with others. 

Why did Jesus invite Judas into His inner circle?

Have you ever been deceived by someone? When I ask this question, I’m not talking about a used car salesman, or a one time event. I’m talking about someone who deceived you over a long course of time and led you to believe that you could trust them, because you thought they cared about you. I’m sure you will answer yes if you’re part of the human race. We all have had someone like this in our lives.  Now, let me ask you another question. What did you do, once you saw the truth? Did you look back and realize the signs were there all along, you just didn’t see them? Did you realize there were red flags, but you, for some reason chose to ignore them? I bet you answered yes to that as well. I know I did.

With these questions in mind, I find it fascinating that Jesus, during His earthly ministry, chose Judas to be one of His closest friends, one of His disciples. Judas was a part of the Lord’s inner circle of 12, someone so trusted, that he even took care of the money box. (John 12:3-8) Why would Jesus do that? Did He not know that Judas would betray Him?

If we look at the Scriptures, it becomes very clear that by choosing Judas to be one of His disciples, Jesus was in fact fulfilling prophecy. Psalm 41:9 gives us a foreshadow of the last supper, when Jesus hands Judas a piece of bread while telling the disciples that one of them would betray Him:

Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me”

Zechariah 11:13 tells us of Judas’ selling Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver and then in remorse, throwing it back into the temple:  

And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter”

Judas hanged himself when he realized that he had betrayed innocent blood and the money was used by the priests to buy the potters field. (Matthew 27:6-7)

Scripture also tells us in Luke 6:12-16 that Jesus spent all night in prayer, before picking His twelve disciples. Even if you argue that Jesus didn’t know what Judas would do, which I don’t believe is true, the Father certainly did. Therefore, Judas was chosen very deliberately.

So why did Jesus, other than fulfilling prophecy and knowing that Judas would betray Him, still invite him into the inner circle? The Bible warns us in Matthew 7:15-23 that there would be many false teachers among us. Jesus calls them “wolves in sheep’s clothing” in verse 22 of this passage. In Matthew 24, Jesus tells His disciples that one of the greatest problems of the last days would be deception. 

“And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you”. Matthew 24:3-4.

I do not believe that the 11 other disciples recognized who Judas really was and what was in his heart, until after he had betrayed Jesus and killed himself. We know that they had no idea at the last supper because they were confused when Jesus told them one of them would betray Him. John tells us in John 13:22  “Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke”

Fast forward to many years later, and the Apostle John gives us the benefit of his own hindsight as he looks back to the events of those years and the ultimate crucifixion of his Lord. In 1 John 2:18-19 he tells us the following:  

Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us”! 

I want you to read this passage slowly. John is telling us that the reason why these antichrists, (notice I’m not saying The Anti-Christ, but small antichrists,) went out from among us, is so that we would recognize that they were never one of us. Let me rephrase that. These deceivers, these wolves in sheep’s clothing, who were once among our inner circle of friends, perhaps even our pastors, or someone in leadership or ministry, became mature in their lies and deception so that it would be revealed to us who they really were. They were never one of us, because if they had been, they would “have continued with us”!  They were never believers and sooner or later they will reveal their true colors to us, just as Judas did!

John also tells us, years later when he wrote his gospel, that Judas was a thief who always took what was in the money box. (John 12:3-8) Hindsight is 20/20!

So what can we learn from these events? What could the Lord possibly have taught the disciples and ultimately us, by allowing this man, Judas, into His inner circle, knowing full well, that he would deceive the disciples and eventually betray Jesus?

First and foremost, I think the lesson we can learn from this situation is that God is in control. He is not afraid of wolves in sheep’s clothing and He even uses them for His own purposes!

Jesus was in full control of when He would be crucified! He tells the disciples at the last supper who would betray Him: “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” (John 13:26-27) 

I think another reason Jesus chose Judas to join them was to open the eyes of the disciples to the fine art of deception. Think about the parable of the wheat and tares that look alike until maturity (Matthew 13:24-40). Judas looked like one of them. He talked like one of them and he most definitely acted like one of them by doing the many miracles that they did. He was for all intents and purposes, a true believer. Did you know that tares have no fruit? They look identical to wheat, until maturity. Only then can you tell the difference. 

Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 7:15-20 that the way to discern a wolf from a shepherd is through their fruit: 

You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them”.

Fruit is an interesting concept in the Bible. There are so many different explanations for what fruit could mean. However, I would suggest that we keep it simple in this case. No one would argue that what Judas did is “good fruit”. I’m sure the disciples looked back and saw the red flags, the little warning bells that they ignored about Judas. I guarantee you that they were much more careful in the future about who they trusted. Once you’ve been deceived by someone over a long period of time, it changes the way you look at people.

Let’s learn from the disciples and from Judas. When you see red flags, pay attention. When you catch people being deceptive, don’t dismiss it and make excuses for them. Keep watch, read the Word, spend time with the Lord and use discernment. Only the Lord will keep us safe in this evil generation!

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