Bible Stories

Walking Through The Sea

(Exodus 12-15)

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Pharaoh had finally given his consent, saying to Moses, “Up, leave my people, you and the Israelites–go worship the Lord as you requested.’

Now it was that Moses’ early training in Pharaoh’s royal palace came in useful. Part of his education as a prince had been in the array, so he knew how to handle men and keep large numbers of people in order. Working through the leaders of Israel, he soon had the crowd forming into line and moving out along the route he planned to take them. Gradually a long procession took shape as the Hebrews started out for Canaan “five in a rank”.

It must have taken hours just to get everything ready, for there were “600,000 on foot that were men, beside children”, “and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle”.

At last they were free from that wicked Pharaoh, at last they were heading for the Promised Land. And the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud by day and at night in a pillar of fire “so that they could travel by day or night”.

Of course they all expected to go straight to Canaan, a journey that would have taken them only a few days at the most. But when they reached a little place called Etham, less than 150 miles from the border of Canaan, orders came from Moses that they were to turn south and “go through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea”.

Everybody was surprised, and no doubt many said, “This isn’t the way to Canaan”.

But God had a purpose in leading His people this way. Had they gone direct to Canaan, they would have had to pass through the land of the Philistines, who would have fought them. And God knew that if these poor people, just out of slavery, should see war too soon, they would lose heart and return to Egypt.

So on they went in what seemed like the wrong direction. You can imagine how the people watched the pillar of cloud all that day to see whether maybe it would turn back and go where they thought it should go. But it did not turn. Instead it moved slowly till it came to a place on the shores of the Red Sea. Here Moses told the people to make camp for the night and rest, just as the Lord had instructed him.

Suddenly a cry of alarm was heard. A man pointed back along the way they had just come. Far in the distance a cloud of dust had arisen. In the midst of it were men on horseback! Chariots! The Egyptians!

When Pharaoh was told that the Hebrews had fled, taking all their cattle with them, he had found it hard to believe. But as the truth dawned upon him he shouted angrily, “Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?”

“And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: And he took 400 chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt… and he pursued after the children of Israel.”

Now when the Hebrews saw the chariots rushing toward them, they were terrified and cried to the Lord. And they bitterly complained unto Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? It would be better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

“Fear not!” Moses cried bravely to the people. “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will shew to you today; For the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.”

Just then as Moses spoke, something began to happen. Suddenly the pillar of cloud moved mysteriously toward the onrushing Egyptians, and became a barrier between them and the frightened Hebrews. As night fell, the cloud brought dense darkness to the Egyptians while shedding a warm, comforting glow upon the camp of Israel.

And then Moses, left alone, knelt in prayer to God, and the Lord said, “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward”!

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong East wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, with a wall of water on the right hand and on the left hand.”

“Forward!” cried Moses.

“Forward!” yelled the leaders of Israel, passing on the word of command. “Forward! Everybody forward!”

God hadn’t failed! The way of escape had come!

Somebody was first to step onto that strange, wind-swept avenue through the stormy sea. Then another summoned the courage to go, and another, and another, while the rest began to move.

Then there came thousands of people half walking, half running, along that pathway through the sea, with oxen, cows, donkeys, goats, sheep, and dogs, moving forward as quickly as their feet could carry them. It was a never-to-be-forgotten sight.

“And then the Egyptians made hot pursuit and all Pharaoh’s horsemen and chariots followed them into the sea. But in the morning watch, the Lord looked down through the Pillar of fire and cloud and put the Host of the Egyptians in confusion.” And He, the Lord Himself, “took off their chariot wheels, so that they were slowed down, insomuch that the Egyptians cried, ‘Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them’!”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen”.

And when Moses stretched his hand out over the sea at daybreak, the sea went back to its place and the waters swept over them covering Pharaoh and the entire army.

Not one of them survived! And that day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore, their horses and chariots, swords and spears.

And when Israel saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in Him and in Moses His servant.

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: “I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted. The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea.

The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him. The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is His Name… The enemy boasted, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them’. But You blew with Your breath, and the sea covered them. In Your unfailing Love You will lead the people You have redeemed. In Your strength You will guide them to Your holy dwelling.”

*

What a wonderful miracle had been done. The Lord Himself had intervened to fight for His Children. And a magnificent victory was won.

But imagine the disastrous consequences that could have been wrought if Moses, God’s anointed Leader, had despaired of hope when his people began to murmur against him and accuse him falsely.

What if instead of raising his rod over the sea in obedience to God’s command, he had chosen the way of defeat, because of his own people’s foolish desires of the moment, and also in fear of the oncoming enemy forces? It would have been a completely different story with tragic consequences for the people of God.

A true leader knows what he believes and acts upon it, no matter what others say! What he must do-not what people think, is all that concerns him.

He stands his ground when all else fails, and all others desert!

You cannot divert him! He’ll go on with you or without you. He’s faithful to the message; he’s faithful to the method; he’s faithful to the Word, the Truth, and to the Voice of God.

You cannot stop the man of faith!

 
 

Copyright © The Family International. All Rights Reserved.

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Bible Stories

“Make Me A Cake”!

How A Widow’s Giving Saved Her Life! (1Kings 17)

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Our story takes place in Israel, around 900 B.C. It was a sad and difficult time for the nation, for she was suffering under the reign of the worst king she’d ever had, Ahab! Ahab was greatly influenced by his foreign-born wife, Jezebel, and he adopted her vile religion of Baalism, the worship of the pagan Devil-god, Baal. Under Ahab and Jezebel’s wicked rule, the prophets of the true God were systematically slaughtered, and Baalism became the official state religion.

To show His displeasure, God sent His prophet, Elijah, directly to King Ahab with an ominous message: “As the Lord lives, there shall be no dew nor rain these years, except at my word!” After delivering this warning, Elijah fled deep into the wilderness where he hid from the soldiers of Ahab. The Lord directed him to an isolated canyon where there was not only a small stream for him to drink from, but where he was miraculously fed by ravens whom God commanded to bring pieces of bread and meat to him every day.

Just as Elijah had prophesied, not a drop of rain fell and a severe drought began to grip the land. As the sweltering months slowly passed, the scorching sun took its toll on the parched earth of Israel: Crops failed, water supplies dried up and severe famine set in. Soon Elijah’s own water source, the Brook Cherith, dried up completely also. But God is faithful, and on the very day that the brook ran dry, “the Word of the Lord came to Elijah, saying, ‘Arise and go to the town of Zarephath and live there: For behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to take care of you!'”

Now Zarephath is over 100 miles north of the Brook Cherith, and Elijah had to make this dangerous journey by foot, through the parched and desolate drought-stricken land. After days of trudging through desert wastes, over rocky hillsides and steep mountain trails, he finally arrived at Zarephath, a coastal city in modern-day Lebanon. Weary, hot and caked in dust, as he approached the city gate he spotted a woman gathering sticks. “Water!” he cried out to her, “please bring me some water in a jar that I may drink!”

Taking pity on the weary stranger, the woman rose to bring him some water when he called out to her again, “And please, could you bring me something to eat also!” Turning to him, she exclaimed, “As the Lord lives, I don’t even have a piece of bread, but only a handful of flour in a jar and a few drops of oil in a jug.–Look, I’m out here gathering a few twigs to cook with, to take home and make a final meal for myself and my son, that we may eat, and then die.”

Elijah must have suddenly realised that this poor little impoverished woman was the widow that the Lord had promised would feed and care for him! He then boldly told her, “Fear not, but go and do as you said.–But make me a small cake of bread first, and then make something for yourself and your son!” He then prophesied, “For thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Your jar of flour will not be used up, nor shall your jug of oil run dry, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon this land!'”

How absolutely amazed this poor, poverty-stricken widow must have been at this extraordinary proclamation! She must have thought to herself, “I told him how poor I am, how I’m gathering twigs to cook a final tiny meal for my son and myself, and that afterwards we expect to starve to death.–Yet he is asking me to make a piece of bread for him first!”

But because Elijah spoke to her with such authority in the name of the Lord, she knew that he must be a man of God, a prophet, and she believed the Word of the Lord that he spoke. This dear little widow therefore decided to trust God and do as Elijah instructed her. She hurried home and scraped together the last tiny handful of flour from the bottom of the large clay jar that it was kept in. She took her oil jug, tipped it, and drained out the last few drops of precious oil.

It was probably after she had mixed the flour and oil together into a paste and baked the little piece of bread for Elijah, that she received the surprise of her life: Picture this lowly little widow, tidying things up while the bread-cake for Elijah was cooking. She goes to put the empty oil jug in its proper place, and suddenly she notices it’s much heavier than it was a moment ago. Barely tipping it, she can hardly believe her eyes when fresh oil flows out of it!–It is full!

Setting it down, she rushes over to the large earthen pot where the flour is kept, and gasps aloud in astonishment when she lifts its lid!–Instead of the empty, dusty jar she knows it was just a few minutes earlier, it is now filled to the brim with fresh flour!–A miracle has taken place! Her heart overflows with thankfulness to the Lord for such a wonderful manifestation of His blessing!–And just as Elijah had prophesied, “Her jar of flour was not used up, and her jug of oil did not run dry throughout the entire duration of the famine!”

This poor little widow-woman had been out trying to save herself, pitifully trying to gather a couple of sticks so she could make a fire to cook one last cake of bread for herself and her son before they died. But when God’s prophet suddenly showed up and told her, “Bake me a little cake first, and then afterwards, one for you and your son”, God was testing her to see if she’d be willing to put God and His messenger first.

And she did! And as a result, God mightily blessed her, and in the midst of three long years of famine, her jar of flour never ran out and her jug of oil never ran dry! She gave what little she could, and God repaid her beyond her wildest expectations!

 

*

 
This is the way God works: He loves to outgive you, and He will never let you outgive Him! He will always give you much more back than you could ever give to Him!–The more you give, the more He will give you back!

David Livingstone, the wealthy British missionary who pioneered the jungles of Africa and died there for the Lord, said, “I never made a sacrifice for God, because He always repaid me far more than I gave to Him!” He could never outgive God! And even though he ended up giving his life, he has surely reaped eternal rewards for all of the immortal souls he led to Jesus, thousands saved forever!

What many people don’t seem to understand is that the Lord’s finances work the opposite way of the World’s. Most Worldly people think, “Well, when I’ve got my millions, when I’m rich, then maybe I’ll start giving to others and helping the poor and helping support the Lord’s Work!” But the Lord says, “Start giving what you’ve got now, and then I’ll pay you back and give you more!” God’s way to plenty is to give it away! His Word says, “He that withholds unfairly shall come to poverty, but he that gives freely shall gain even more!” (Proverbs 11:24)

So even if you don’t have much, God will bless you if you will give to Him. And one of the ways to give to the Lord is to be good to the poor and His missionaries, to do what you can to help those who are accomplishing the job that Jesus gave to His disciples, to “Feed My sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

The Apostle Paul wrote to a group of believers whom he had personally led to the Lord, “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it too much if we shall reap your material things? If others receive support from you, shouldn’t we have this right all the more? The Lord has ordained that those who preach the Gospel should also receive their living from the Gospel.” (1Corinthians 9:11-14)

This is how God intends for His missionaries–those who have given up everything they owned to “go into all the World and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15)–to receive their sustenance. And to those who have received God’s Word from such missionaries–just like the little Widow of Zarephath received the Word of the Lord from Elijah–if they will give what they can to help God’s messengers, the Lord Himself will give to them, and will even “pour out such a blessing upon them that there will not be room enough to hold it!” (Malachi 3:10)

Jesus promised, “Whoever will give even a cup of cold water unto one of these little ones because he is My disciple, I tell you truly, he will in no case lose his reward!” And, “Whatever you have done for one of the least of these, My brethren, you have done it unto Me!” (Matthew 10:42; 25:40) So even if you are unable to serve the Lord by sharing God’s Love and Truth with others, you can still be a very helpful and necessary part of the work for the Lord by giving what you can to help missionaries reach and win all they can!

“Give and it shall be given unto you!–Honour the Lord with your wealth, and with the best of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine!” (Luke 6:38; Proverbs 3:9,10)

 
 

Copyright © The Family International. All Rights Reserved.

Bible Stories

The Power of a Touch!

(Matthew 9:20-22; Luke 8:43-48)

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As Jesus taught the multitudes by the Sea of Galilee, a prominent leader of the local synagogue named Jairus came pushing through the crowd, and falling down before Him, pleaded for Jesus to heal his little daughter. “She’s at the point of death!” he cried in desperation! “Please, come and TOUCH her and make her LIVE!”

Jesus, full of compassion, agreed to go with him, and the crowd pressed behind Him. In the midst of the throng was a woman who had been sick for 12 years with a terrible bleeding haemorrhage. All this time she had gone from one doctor to another, but never with any success. She’d spent every bit of her money on doctors’ bills and suffered much from all their treatments, but still the bleeding continued.

Desperate, the woman thought, “Oh, if I could only TOUCH Him, I KNOW I could be healed!” Then, seeing Jesus afar off, she began anxiously making her way towards Him. It wasn’t easy to get through the pushing, shoving mob of onlookers who were trying to get close to Jesus, but that one thought compelled her: She had to TOUCH Him, even if only the hem of His garment!

Finally she came within reach, and stretching out her hand she was able to barely TOUCH His robe with her fingertips. No sooner had she touched Him than the bleeding stopped completely! A warm and wonderful feeling of health and well-being swept through her body and she knew that after all these years of pain and suffering, she was healed at last! Jesus paused for a moment, having felt that healing POWER had gone out from Him. Turning to the crowd He asked, “Who touched Me?” His disciples looked at Him with astonishment, saying, “With all this great crowd pressing around You, You ask who TOUCHED You?” But Jesus, knowing already who had touched Him, smiled and silently, knowingly turned to look upon the astonished woman.

Still trembling at the realisation of what had happened, she came and fell at His feet, telling Him what had happened to her. And Jesus lovingly, tenderly as a father would speak to his child, said to her, “Daughter, thy FAITH has made thee WHOLE! Go in peace and be healed of your disease.” Jesus was making it clear to all the crowd that touching His clothes was not what had healed the woman, but it was “her FAITH in Him that had made her whole”!

That woman had put her tiny grain of faith into action, and the result has echoed throughout the centuries: “Thy FAITH hath made thee WHOLE!”

*

There is a lesson to be learned from this story which we can APPLY to OUR lives NOW, today. Though many people thronged about Jesus, why was it that only ONE received that powerful healing touch from God? Many had gone to see Jesus out of mere curiosity, they were more interested in the sight of the man. Yet this woman, as soon as she heard of Him, BELIEVED in her heart that He could really help her, when all else had failed. So she pressed toward Him, full of faith, never giving up until she made that divine CONTACT with the Lord!

What an illustration of how PRAYER works! It’s not how LONG you pray or how MUCH you pray, but how much you BELIEVE! It’s like tuning in a radio station on your receiver. When you finally make the right contact, the signal booms in loud and clear and strong! Prayer is making contact between our human needs and God’s divine resources. All we’re doing when we pray is presenting our need and BELIEVING that God will do it. And if you are doing your best to trust the Lord and follow His Word, He will help you in your hour of need!

Anything wonderful can happen in that little margin of time when you don’t give up, but keep on believing and keep on praying! That frail sickly woman had only enough strength to draw close to Jesus, but when she ACTED on her little seed of faith, she made contact with the Lord.

What a blessing it is when we learn to contact God’s power through prayer. It is a spiritual seeking of that contact with His Spirit through OBEDIENCE to the Word of God that gets results!

It’s a shame that so many Christians today find their faith stronger in the men of medicine than in the Great Physician Himself, Jesus Christ. Actually, they haven’t lost FAITH, but they’ve just TRANSFERRED that faith to the MEDICAL profession! It’s not that doctors are bad, but they are not always necessary, or cannot help.

So often one will run to the medicine cabinet for one little ailment, ache or pain, without even considering that a simple prayer of faith could save them all that trouble! Even for a little HEADACHE, just a little faith in God can HEAL you! There’s nothing wrong with taking an aspirin, but why not give God a chance? PRAY that you may be healed, and He can not only HEAL you, but He can even show you what CAUSED it and how to avoid it or correct it!

One of the greatest of healing factors is FAITH, to know that God LOVES you and is going to take care of you no matter what happens. And did you know that faith not only heals, but it eliminates one of the greatest causes of disease and ill health?–And that is fear and tension!

God is very willing to HEAL you and HELP you WHENEVER you need it! All you have to do is ASK! He says, “I am the God of all flesh; is there ANYTHING too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:37) Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My Words abide in you, you can ask what you will and it shall be done unto you!” (John 15:7) Have you asked the Lord for His healing power in your life?

Prayer is not only CHEAPER than medicine, but it is SURER too!

TRUSTING GOD for your healing keeps you close to the LORD, but trusting the DOCTOR for healing keeps you close to the DOCTOR –and BROKE!

Jesus MADE us, so He can FIX us!

 

 

 

Source: The Power of a Touch!
 

 

 

Copyright © The Family International. All Rights Reserved.

Bible Stories

Peter’s Transformation

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One of the most illustrious personalities of the entire Bible is Simon Bar-Jona, commonly known today as Saint Peter, the Apostle. A very colorful character, a rough and rugged fisherman, he was always bursting with energy and action.

During his first years under Christ’s personal leadership and teaching, Peter often bulldozed his way around like the proverbial bull in a china shop, and whatever he thought was right or should be done, that’s what he did, with little regard for the consequences. By far the most outspoken of the 12 Apostles, Peter always said whatever was on his mind. However, quite often he seemed to contradict himself, and although a strong personality, his own wisdom, strength and self-confidence often hindered him and caused him to make mistakes.

But after Peter had followed Jesus for three full years, he underwent a tremendous and dramatic change.–And this transformation is what our story is all about. We begin at the closing hours of Jesus’ ministry on Earth, at the last supper that He ate with His disciples, only a few hours before His arrest and eventual crucifixion.

Knowing that He would soon be crucified and suffer death for the sins of the World, Jesus looked around on His disciples, and sadly but firmly said, “You shall all be offended and shall leave Me this night: For it is written, ‘I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.'” (Matthew 26:31)

Upon hearing this, and overestimating his own faith and strength, Peter boldly proclaimed, “Though all men desert You, yet I will not!” But Jesus, knowing what was to come, answered quietly, “I say to you that before the cock crows, you will have denied Me three times!” (Matthew 26:31-35) Peter was shocked at such a prediction and even MORE adamantly insisted, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both into PRISON and to DEATH!” (Luke 22:31-33)

But Jesus’ prophecy was soon fulfilled! That very night, as Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying with His disciples, a band of soldiers sent by the chief priests and elders came with a multitude carrying swords and clubs and torches! They seized Jesus, and all His disciples, filled with fear, fled for their lives into the night!

As Jesus was taken away to the palace of the high priest, Peter, trying to gather his courage “followed Him AFAR OFF!” Arriving at the palace, Peter stood by the door, hoping to see the court proceedings from a distance. A woman gatekeeper at the the palace door noticed the nervous and distraught figure, & looking suspiciously at Peter, asked, “Aren’t you one of this man’s disciples?” “NO! I’m NOT!” Peter exclaimed.

Moments later, as Peter stood warming himself by the fire which the night guards had made, another woman said to the men who stood by, “This fellow ALSO was with Jesus of Nazareth! HE is ONE of them!” But Peter swore before them, “I do NOT know the man!”

As the situation became more and more tense, Peter felt more and more uncomfortable! Suddenly a man who had been present when Jesus was captured, pointed out Peter and loudly questioned him, “Didn’t I see you in the Garden of Gethsemane with Him?” Again Peter denied it. But others who stood in the crowd joined in the accusation, saying, “Surely you ARE one of them! We can tell by your ACCENT that you’re a GALILAEAN!” Desperately, Peter began to curse and to swear, vehemently insisting, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!–I know NOTHING about this man!” (Mark 14:70,71)

No sooner had he finished his denial than the cock began to crow. And the Lord, as He was being led by His captors to another part of the palace, turned and looked directly at Peter. Immediately Peter recalled Jesus’ Words, “Before the cock crows, you will have denied Me three times!” When he realised what he’d done, Peter could barely control his grief. As tears began to well up in his eyes, he stumbled for the door, then ran blindly into the night. Finally in a deserted alley beneath the walls of Jerusalem, he sank to the ground and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:59-62)

Then, only three days after His trial and brutal crucifixion, Jesus victoriously arose from the dead! His disciples, meanwhile, were huddled in a small room, hidden away “for fear of the Jews”. But knowing their hiding place, Jesus boldly appeared to them. It was then that the transformation of their lives began!

For the next 40 days, after His resurrection from the dead, Jesus walked among His disciples, encouraging their hearts and explaining details of their mission now that He would be leaving them. And on the fortieth day, just before ascending into Heaven, He told the disciples to return to Jerusalem, saying, “Wait for the promise of the Father, until you are strengthened with POWER from on High! For you shall receive POWER after the HOLY GHOST comes upon you, and you shall be My WITNESSES!” (Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8)

The Apostles returned to Jerusalem, and with well over 120 other disciples and their women and children, stayed all together in an upper room praying and waiting in obedience to Jesus’ last and final command before His departure. Ten days later an awesome manifestation of God’s power occurred: “A sound like the rushing of a mighty wind filled the whole house where they were, and they saw the appearance of many tongues of fire that rested upon every one of them. And they all were FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:2-4)

This was it!–This was what they’d been waiting for, that supernatural strength from the Lord to enable them to continue His work now that He had departed! And another amazing thing happened! Peter, his entire heart and life transformed by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit of God, led the disciples in one of the most phenomenal wit nessing adventures of all times!

There was a great religious festival going on in the streets of Jerusalem at that time, and visitors from many foreign nations had come for the annual celebration of the Jew’s Feast of the Harvest. When Peter stepped into the streets with all those 120 disciples–now filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit–they all supernaturally began to speak in the languages of the multitudes visiting Jerusalem that day, yet none of the disciples had ever known before how to speak those languages! And the disciples boldly witnessed to all of the crowds about the wonderful news of God’s Love in Jesus and His message of Salvation.

Then Peter leaped up on the steps of a nearby building, raised his hands and shouted to the enormous crowd, bringing a hush over them all! He began to speak to them with such AUTHORITY and CONVICTION that an astounding 3000 people were not only saved, but committed themselves that very day to serve the Lord as fulltime disciples!

Peter had CHANGED! Here was a man who had acted so cowardly after the arrest of Jesus that he had denied Him three times!

But now he stood before THOUSANDS–in the very city where Jesus had been crucified–boldly, unashamedly proclaiming God’s Message to all! What caused this sudden transformation?–The white-hot power and might of the HOLY SPIRIT! As the Lord had promised, they had received POWER after the HOLY SPIRIT had come upon them.

Peter had gone through the most severe testings and trials of his life only a few short weeks before, but no longer did he remember the pain and the agony that he’d felt. There was no time for remorse. A tremendous explosion of witnessing and winning others into God’s kingdom was underway, and the Lord was using him in ways that Peter had never dreamed would be possible. BEFORE he’d been so impulsive, always seeming to say the wrong things at the wrong times. But now he was “strengthening his brethren”, just as the Lord had prayed he would! (Luke 22:32)

Not only was PETER encouraged, but ALL the disciples were overjoyed to see the Lord working so many miracles! Even though they had all forsaken the Lord in His most desperate hour, they knew that Jesus still loved them, and now they experienced a strength of faith that even SURPASSED those days when Jesus had walked right among them!

It seemed that Jesus was no longer gone, but was even CLOSER than ever before! They remembered the Words He’d spoken to them before, “It is necessary that I go away, for if I go not away, the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, will not come unto you. Right now the Spirit lives WITH you, but then He shall be IN you! And he that believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also. And GREATER works than these shall you do, because I go to My Father!” (John 14:12,16,17; 16:7)

Not long after that incredible day of winning over 3,000 new converts to their movement, there came another day in which a man who was lame from birth was instantly healed by Peter and John, right before the astounded multitudes! And when Peter spoke to the huge crowd that gathered to see the miracle, 5,000 more joined ranks with the disciples, increasing their number to over 8,000 men, not counting women and children! Truly these were the “greater works” Jesus had spoken of! Why? Because Jesus was no longer merely WITH them–but He was IN them by way of the Holy Ghost!

In the days that followed, Peter and John faced a wave of persecution from the same wicked religious leaders who had crucified their Saviour. But there was no fear, no cowardice this time, no denial! Peter stood before their councils testifying with such unflinching courage and authority of the Spirit that the Bible says, “When they saw the BOLDNESS of Peter and John and perceived that they were UNEDUCATED and IGNORANT men, they MARVELLED at them and knew that they had been with JESUS!” (Acts 4:13) Why did they marvel? Because they saw that same power IN them that Jesus had when He walked the Earth!

And the WONDERFUL thing about this story is that YOU can have this Power TOO by simply receiving Jesus into your heart, and then being FILLED with the Power of the Holy Spirit of God! “And you shall receive POWER after the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and you shall be My WITNESSES!” (Acts 1:8) “If you know how to give good gifts unto your children, then how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit unto YOU, if you ASK Him!” (Luke 11:9-13)

 
Food For Thought

Even though Peter was already a believer in Jesus, many things he did before he was FILLED with the Holy Spirit were a mistake! But it showed that whatever got accomplished was not of HIM, but of CHRIST that lived first WITH him, and then IN him. “For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the EXCELLENCY of the power may be of GOD and NOT of US!” (2Corinthians 4:7) So we all certainly need the infilling, or “baptism”, of God’s Love and power and to be FILLED to overflowing with His precious Holy Spirit in order to have the STRENGTH to be what HE wants us to be!

The PRIMARY PURPOSE of the Holy Spirit is to give you the POWER to be a WITNESS. But the baptism of the Holy Spirit also helps you greatly in your personal RELATIONSHIP with the LORD. It gives you a STRONGER CONTACT with the Lord and BETTER COMMUNICATION through prayer, and much GREATER UNDERSTANDING when you read God’s Word! (See Acts 1:8 and John 16:13)

“Have YOU received the Holy Spirit since you believed?” (Acts 19:2) Have you received the overflowing power of God’s Spirit in your own heart since you received Jesus and were saved? All you have to do is ASK! You can’t EARN it or be GOOD ENOUGH to deserve it, any more than Peter could! It’s a GIFT, you just have to RECEIVE it!

Why not ask God for His Gift of the Holy Spirit right NOW? You can pray this little prayer:

“Dear Jesus, thank You for Your precious gift of the Holy Spirit. I ask right now that You FILL me to overflowing with Your Heavenly Spirit of Love so that I can love You more, follow You more closely, and have greater power to tell others about Your Love and Salvation! In Jesus’ name, amen.”

 
 

Copyright © The Family International. All Rights Reserved.

Bible Stories

Persecution–Yesterday and Today!

“BLESSED is he, whosoever shall not be OFFENDED in ME!” (Matthew 11:6)

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One outstanding feature of Jesus’ life that most of His followers today tend to overlook, is that He was almost continually PERSECUTED! Imagine, Jesus was PERFECT, He never made a mistake, He was GOD manifested in the flesh! (John 1:1,14) Yet His enemies relentlessly accused Him of all kinds of horrible crimes, sins and wrong-doings, and finally arrested and CRUCIFIED Him!

Jesus virtually promised us that EVERYONE who dedicates themselves to follow Him will ALSO suffer persecution: “Truly I say unto you, there is NO ONE who has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for My sake, and the Gospel’s, who will not receive 100 times more in this present age, WITH PERSECUTIONS; and in the World to come, Eternal Life!” (Mark 10:29,30) But if we never suffer any persecution or have any trouble, then we must NOT be DOING anything for Jesus!–Because the Bible says that, “ALL who will live GODLY in Christ Jesus SHALL suffer PERSECUTION!” (2Timothy 3:12)

The first time that Jesus returned to His home town after beginning His ministry, the Gospel of Luke tells us, “He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue (the Jews’ religious building).” (Luke 4:16) When He arose and read from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, a prophecy about the Messiah that was fulfilled in HIMSELF, He told the wide-eyed congregation, “‘TODAY this Scripture is FULFILLED in your hearing! … But I tell you the truth, no Prophet is accepted in His home town!’ (Luke 4:21,24)

“And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with WRATH, and they rose up and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him to the edge of the hill that their city was built on, that they might throw Him down the cliff! But He, ESCAPING through the midst of them, went His way.” (Luke 4:28-30)

All Jesus had done was tell them the TRUTH, the good news that God was fulfilling His promises and prophecies, and had at last sent the Messiah to His people. But they REJECTED this revelation of Truth and tried to KILL the Messenger Who was delivering it, saying, ‘From WHERE does HE get such Words and authority?–Is not this the Son of Joseph the carpenter?’ And they were OFFENDED in Him.” (Luke 4:22; Matthew 13:55,57)

As Jesus’ ministry continued to prosper, the false accusations against Him mounted and multiplied as His jealous enemies attempted to discredit Him. One of their prime accusations was that He had fallen in with bad company. During Jesus’ time, Israel was occupied by Rome, and the most despised persons among the Jews were the PUBLICANS, Jewish tax collectors who worked for Rome, who made their Jewish brethren pay their taxes. Jesus, ignoring all customs and prejudice, befriended such despised publicans, and actually chose one of them to be one of His Apostles, Matthew! (Matthew 9:9)

When the Jewish religious leaders found Him actually entering publicans’ houses to DINE with them, in horror they asked His disciples, “How can your Master EAT with such PUBLICANS and filthy SINNERS?” (Matthew 9:11) Jesus acknowledged their accusations, saying, “John the Baptist came neither eating or drinking wine, yet you say, ‘He has a DEVIL!’ The Son of Man is come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘He is a GLUTTON and a DRUNKARD, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is proven right by all her children (by their life, character and deeds). For by their FRUITS ye shall know them!” (Luke 7:33-35; Matthew 7:20)

Jesus’ Own RELATIVES also misunderstood His Words and actions, and on at least one occasion they felt He’d actually gone CRAZY: “And when His family heard of His deeds, they went out to lay HOLD on Him, for they said, ‘He is OUT OF HIS MIND!'” (Mark 3:21)

Although Jesus made it clear that He came to bring PEACE to the lives and hearts of all who would RECEIVE and BELIEVE on Him (John 14:27; 16:33), because He knew that many would REJECT Him, He said, “Do you think I am come to bring PEACE on Earth?–NO, I tell you, but rather DIVISION!” (Luke 12:51)–And certainly this was the case. Wherever He spoke, there was always a clear division drawn between those who RECEIVED and those who REJECTED His message:

“Many said, ‘Of a truth, this is the PROPHET.’ Others said, ‘This is the CHRIST!’ But some said, ‘Shall Christ come out of GALILEE?’… So there was a DIVISION among the people because of Him!” (John 7:40-43) Another passage tells us, “There was a DIVISION therefore among the Jews for His sayings. And many of them said, ‘He has a DEVIL and is MAD!–Why do you listen to Him?’ But others said, ‘These are not the words of him that has a devil!'” (John 10:19-21)

When the religious hierarchy heard how Jesus was healing the sick and curing those who were possessed of evil spirits, “The Scribes came down from Jerusalem and said, ‘He has BAALZEBUB, and by the PRINCE of the DEVILS He casts out devils!'” (Mark 3:22) Imagine, the most RESPECTED religious authorities of His day accused the Son of God of being POSSESSED by SATAN! Regarding accusations of this nature, Jesus warned His followers, “The DISCIPLE is not above his MASTER, nor is the SERVANT above his LORD. And if they have called ME, the MASTER of the house, BAALZEBUB (the prince of the devils), how much MORE shall they call THEM that FOLLOW Him?” (Matthew 10:24,25)

Frequently Jesus was criticised not only because He consorted with “publicans and sinners”, but also due to His association with WOMEN of very questionable moral character. Once, while dining in the house of a prominent religious leader, a PROSTITUTE suddenly burst into the room where they were eating, fell at Jesus’ feet, weeping and washing His feet with her tears as she wiped them with her hair. As she began kissing His feet, the skeptical religious leader thought to himself, “This Man, if He were REALLY a Prophet, would know WHO and what KIND of a woman this is that’s TOUCHING Him!–For she is a SINNER!” (Luke 7:36-39) But Jesus loved that woman, forgave her sins and sent her on her way with His blessing.

His Love and mercy put His religious enemies to shame because it exposed how LITTLE love and mercy THEY had! Their religion was based on their OWN good works and SELF-righteousness, whereas Jesus taught the common people that FAITH in God’s Love and mercy was all they needed to be saved. He added insult to injury by telling the chief priests and elders to their faces, “Truly I tell you, the PUBLICANS and the PROSTITUTES are entering the Kingdom of Heaven before YOU!” (Matthew 21:31)

On another occasion, the religious leaders brought a woman to Him whom they had caught in bed with someone else’s husband. St. John tells us that they demanded of Him, “‘Master, this woman was caught in the very ACT of ADULTERY! Now MOSES in the Law commanded that such should be STONED, but what do YOU say?’ This they said TEMPTING Him, that they might have something to ACCUSE Him with. But Jesus acted as though He heard them not.

“But when they KEPT asking Him, He said to them, ‘He that is WITHOUT SIN among you, let HIM cast the FIRST stone at her!’ And when they heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, they went out one-by-one, beginning at the eldest. And Jesus was left alone with the woman, and He said to her, ‘Woman, where are your accusers? Has no man condemned you?’ She said, ‘No man, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.'” (John 8:4-11)

One reason that His enemies were so infuriated with Jesus was because He was always BREAKING their RELIGIOUS LAWS and TRADITIONS. Once, He entered a synagogue on the Sabbath (the Jewish holy day in which no one is supposed to work), and found a man whose hand was deformed and withered. The Bible says, “The Scribes and Pharisees WATCHED Him closely, whether He would HEAL on the Sabbath day, so that they might have an ACCUSATION against Him.” But Jesus ignored them and healed the man anyway, and it says, “They were FILLED with MADNESS and held a council against Him, how they might DESTROY Him!” (Matthew 12:9-14; Luke 6:6-11)

One story that clearly shows how His enemies worked against Him is found in St. John, chapter 9, where Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth. The fact that this formerly blind man could suddenly see caused such an uproar in his neighbourhood that his neighbours brought him straight to the religious rulers, the Pharisees, who after interrogating him, snapped, “‘This Man Who healed you is NOT of GOD because He doesn’t keep the SABBATH day!’

“Others wondered, ‘But how can a man that is a SINNER do such MIRACLES?’ And there was a DIVISION among them! Then they said to the man who was blind, ‘What do YOU say of the Man Who opened your eyes?’ The man answered, ‘He is a PROPHET.’ They then told the man who was blind, ‘Give GOD the praise; we KNOW that THIS Man is a SINNER!’ But the man answered and said, ‘Whether He is a SINNER or NOT, I don’t know; but one thing I DO know, that, once I was BLIND, but NOW I SEE!'” In the eyes and minds of the religious rulers, Jesus COULDN’T have been of God, because He broke their hallowed traditions and did not observe their rigid religious rules, regulations and laws! In fact He often did things completely CONTRARY to what they would expect from a “righteous” man!

Furious and concerned about Jesus’ mushrooming popularity, the Pharisees debated among themselves, “‘We have not been able to stop Him.–Look how the whole WORLD is going after Him! What can we DO? For He does many MIRACLES. If we let Him alone, ALL men will soon believe on Him, and the Romans will come and take away our position and our authority!’ Then from that day on,” the Bible says, “they took counsel together how to put Jesus to DEATH.” (John 11:47-54; 12:19)

Knowing that their Jewish RELIGIOUS accusations would bear no weight with the Gentile Roman governor, Pilate, they decided the only way to get rid of Jesus was to frame Him on some POLITICAL charges. Thus they told the governor, “‘We have found this man SUBVERTING our NATION!–And He OPPOSES payment of TAXES to Caesar, and claims to be a KING Himself, the CHRIST!'”

But after personally questioning Jesus, Pilate replied to Jesus’ accusers, “‘I find NO FAULT in this Man.’ For he knew that for ENVY the chief priests had brought Jesus to him.” (Luke 23:2-4; Matthew 27:18) Upon hearing this, “They were even MORE furious and said, ‘But He STIRS up PEOPLE all over Judea with His false teachings!’ Then the chief priests and the religious elders swayed the MULTITUDE to destroy Jesus.” (Luke 23:5; Matthew 27:20) But Pilate, still convinced of Jesus’ innocence of any real CRIMES, sought to release Him.

The elders then cried out before the crowd, “‘If you release this Man, then you are no friend of CAESAR! Because whosoever makes himself a KING is speaking against CAESAR!'” (John 19:12) Pilate, like a typical POLITICIAN, then yielded to this political pressure, and turned Jesus over to His vicious enemies, symbolically washing his hands before the multitude, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this good person; see YE to it! It is YOUR responsibility!’ And the people answered, ‘Let His blood be upon US, and upon OUR CHILDREN!'” (Matthew 27:20-25)–Pilate lacked the moral COURAGE and CONVICTION to RESIST these false accusers, and therefore an INNOCENT Man, a PERFECT Man, was cruelly CRUCIFIED!

But, thank God, only three days later, Jesus AROSE from the dead, and led His tiny band of followers to ultimate VICTORY!–And the Love of God rolled over His jealous enemies like a gigantic tidal wave to cover the whole Earth with His Gospel of God’s Love!–And His foolish foes were left far behind, as dead and dry as He said they’d be!

* * *

Jesus told us, “The servant is not greater than his Lord, and if they have persecuted ME, they will ALSO persecute YOU!” (John 15:20) So why should it come as a surprise to anyone that dedicated Christians TODAY receive the SAME kind of antagonistic response to their message and methods as JESUS HIMSELF did to HIS? If you are actively preaching the Word of God, delivering souls from Satan’s kingdom and winning them into the Kingdom of Heaven, the Devil will FIGHT you and ATTACK you every way that he possibly can to try to stop your good work!–Just like he did to JESUS!

“Oh, but isn’t this the 20TH CENTURY,” some people argue, “a CIVILISED age? Aren’t things DIFFERENT now?”–NO, they’re NOT! The DEVIL is as real and evil as EVER, and his PEOPLE are as vicious, bitter and in opposition to God’s children as they EVER were!

ANYONE who follows Jesus and the Bible ALL the way by “FORSAKING ALL, PREACHING the Gospel to EVERY creature, serving GOD–NOT MAMMON, living by FAITH”, etc., will be considered a misfit, odd-ball or fanatic by the MAJORITY!

According to JESUS, THIS is how you can tell if someone is truly of God or not, by the RESULTS of their ministry! He said, “Every tree is known by its FRUIT. A GOOD tree brings forth GOOD FRUIT, but an EVIL tree brings forth EVIL FRUIT.–So by their FRUITS you shall KNOW them!” (Matthew 7:15-20)

So in spite of any and all persecution, false accusations and bad publicity, God has BLESSED and KEPT us, PROSPERED and INCREASED us, and helped us to survive both the betrayal of friends and the onslaughts of enemies! No matter how much our bitter and jealous enemies may LIE about us or try to FIGHT us, they can NEVER win! For we are UNBEATABLE, because GOD is with us! (Romans 8:31) Praise God! “If this counsel or this work be of MAN, it will come to NOTHING! But if it be of GOD, NO MAN can overthrow it, lest they be found even to be fighting against GOD!” (Acts 5:38,39)

So for God’s sake, don’t believe the LIES, SLANDERS and FALSE ACCUSATIONS of our jealous and bitter ENEMIES!–And if you are tempted to wonder how CHRISTIANS today could possibly be accused of so many crimes and wrong-doings, just remember JESUS and all of the lies and accusations HE suffered from HIS enemies!–And DEATH! Amen? God BLESS you!

 
 

Copyright © The Family International. All Rights Reserved.

Bible Stories

Judas Iscariot—The Tale of a Traitor

Dramatized (Matthew 26, 27; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 6, 12, 13, 18, 20)

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(The setting for this story is the first part of John 20:19: “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week … the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews.”)

The sun was setting and long shadows were falling over the city of Jerusalem when two figures, their faces hidden by cloaks, walked through the darkened narrow streets. Coming to a large house, they looked up and down the street to be sure that they hadn’t been followed, then knocked at the gate.

The door opened a crack and a voice whispered, “Who is it?”

“It’s me, Joanna, and Salome.” Quickly the gate was opened for the two women and they were hurried into the house. Checking that the women had not been followed, Matthew closed and bolted the door.

“Did you find out where Thomas is?” he asked. “Ever since we were scattered from the Garden, no one has seen him.”

“He’s fine,” Salome assured the Apostles. “But it’s just not safe for him to try to move through the city and come here yet.”

“Oh, I’ve just got to tell you,” Joanna interrupted, throwing off her cloak. “I met Joseph of Arimathea just a short while ago, and you won’t believe what he told me!”

“Well, we’ve heard a lot of unbelievable stories today,” Bartholomew said. “This morning you and Mary said you saw Jesus alive—resurrected from the dead!”

Mary Magdalene leapt to her feet, “I tell you, I did! Jesus is alive. I saw Him!”

“Mary, Mary, listen,” the older lady admonished. “Remember how Judas betrayed Jesus and led the soldiers of the High Priest to Him?”

“What about him?! Is he leading them to us now?” James the Lesser asked nervously.

“No,” Joanna said. “Judas is dead!”

“Dead? Judas is dead? How?”

The old lady looked around at the astonished group, then whispered, “He hung himself! He committed suicide.” There was a shocked gasp and then silence. “Everybody sit down and I’ll tell you what I heard.”

When everyone was seated, Joanna took a deep breath and said, “It’s all so incredible! I never would have dreamt that Judas would have done such a thing.—To betray Jesus! I mean, I trusted him. He looked after the money for us, and when I used to hand over my gifts to him, he always seemed so appreciative and sweet.” (Luke 8:3)

Matthew sighed and said, “I always suspected that there was quite a lot of money missing every month.”

“No! You don’t mean he …?!”

“Yes! I used to be a tax-collecter and an accountant, and if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s how to count and keep track of finances (Matthew 9:9). I’m sure that many times there was more money missing than expenses could account for.”

“But he gave it to the poor, no?”

“He only gave to the poor when Jesus commanded him to. The rest he took for himself. He was a thief. Sure, he always put on a big show about being concerned about the poor, like that time last week when we ate at the house of Simon the Leper, remember?”

“Yes,” John replied. “Mary and Martha and Lazarus were there too. Mary came out with an alabaster jar containing a pound of some very costly perfume … what was it?”

“It was pure liquid nard,” Matthew replied. “And it was worth over 3OO denarii, a labouring man’s wages for a year.”

John said, “Yes,and when she poured it over Jesus’ head and on His feet, do you remember who it was that criticized her?—And criticised Jesus for allowing her to?”

“Why, of course, it was Judas!” James exclaimed. “I remember now. He said: ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold for 300 denarii, and the money given to the poor?'”

“Not that he cared for the poor,” Matthew retorted. “It was only because he stole from the bag and wanted the money himself.”

Andrew added, “Then after he said that, some of the rest of us got into it too and asked, ‘Why was all this waste made?'”

“Yes,” John replied. “But then Jesus told us, ‘Let her alone. She has done a good thing. The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you will you can do good to them, but you will not always have Me. In anointing Me with perfume, she has done what she could to prepare Me for My burial.'”

“Did you notice the look on Judas’ face when Jesus said that?” John asked. “I could swear I saw the devil himself in his eyes when he stormed out of the house! And he didn’t come back until a day later …”

“That’s it, that’s the exact time!” Joanna exclaimed. “It was that exact day, Joseph said—he only found this out yesterday—that Judas went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I betray Jesus and hand Him over to you?’ The chief priests and elders were just delighted when Judas came to them, and pledged to give him some money if he would do it.”

“How much money?” Matthew asked.

“Practically nothing. They gave him only 30 silver coins for betraying the Lord!”

“I think there was another consideration,” Simon Zelotes said. “We all knew that the chief priests and elders had been plotting for quite some time to kill Jesus (Matthew 26:2-5; John 11:7-8). Judas was clever enough to realise that the noose was tightening around all of us, and that if he didn’t get out now, he might be imprisoned or killed with Jesus.”

“Yes,” John agreed, “he was willing to be a disciple as long as the going was easy and Jesus was popular, but when things got really hot and he needed to take a stand, that’s when he showed his true colours and backslid. We were all well-known, and the Pharisees would never have believed he was really abandoning Jesus unless he proved it by turning against Him and betraying Him.”

Bartholomew demanded, “You mean, for all that entire last week, Judas was just watching for an opportunity to betray us?” “I would never have suspected,” Susanna said. “He seemed … well … so nice.”

“That’s just it,” Matthew said. “He could act so sweet and be so pleasant, but if you got to really know him, like I did, you could see the other side of him: The darkness, the cynical doubts and the criticism. Surely you remember how he was so often criticising and skeptical, casting doubt on things Jesus said or did.”

Philip added, “God knows what a bad influence he’s had on all of us.”

Simon Peter confessed, “He sure had me fooled. Do you remember at that last supper that we ate with the Lord…” Tears welled in the big fisherman’s eyes and his voice broke. “When Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you sitting here eating with Me will betray Me.’ When He said that, I thought…I thought He meant me!”

Peter burst into tears, and John threw an arm around him and said, “We were all distressed and sorrowfu.! We all wondered who it might be and were asking one after another, ‘Lord, is it I? Is it I?'”

James said, “And finally, right at the very end, Judas asked too, ‘Is it I, Master?’ And Jesus said, ‘You said it.’ In other words, ‘Yes, it is you.'”

Simon Zelotes exclaimed, “And then Jesus said, ‘The one who has just dipped into the bowl with Me will betray Me.’ And did you notice who had just dipped into the dish with his bread? It was Judas!”

Bursting into tears again, Peter lamented, “But I denied Him too! I’m just as bad as Judas. There’s no difference.”

“There’s a lot of difference, Peter,” Matthew said, comforting him. “You only temporarily denied you knew Him, for fear. Judas betrayed Him to His enemies! You were just weak. We all were. We all failed Jesus that night. But Peter, you loved Jesus. You really believed in Him.—But Judas had his doubts. He never really closely loved Jesus. That’s the difference.”

“That’s right,” John said, “from the very beginning Judas had serious doubts.—And Jesus knew it. Remember many, many months ago when all those followers forsook Jesus? He then asked us, ‘Will you also go away?’ You, Peter, answered, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the Words of eternal life.—And we believe and trust that You are the Messiah, the Son of God.’

“But then Jesus said, ‘But some of you still do not believe. Did I not choose you twelve? And yet one of you is the devil.’ And He looked right at Judas. Judas just didn’t have faith to keep believing in Jesus when things got rough or he didn’t understand something. He didn’t fully trust Jesus, so he couldn’t take things by faith.”

Matthew asked, “Do you remember at the last supper when Jesus said to Judas, ‘What you are going to do, do it quickly?”

“Yes!” Philip said. “But I didn’t get the connection at the time! I thought Jesus meant, ‘Go give something to the poor.'”

“I thought He was telling Judas to go buy the things we needed for the next day, the Feast day, and meant, ‘Go quickly before all the shops are closed,'” Andrew said.

“No, he was going out to betray Jesus,” John exclaimed. “I remember seeing the fear in Judas’ eyes. That was right when Satan entered in and took temporary possession of him.”

“I must be real dumb,” James the Lesser said. “I never saw that! Judas was just so sweet and charming most of the time.”

“But it was a cloak to hide his doubts,” John exclaimed. “Don’t you remember in the Garden when he led the band of soldiers to Jesus, he came running up and embraced Jesus, and gave Him a kiss and said, ‘Greetings, Master.’ And Jesus said, ‘Judas, do you betray Me with a kiss?'”

Joanna exclaimed, “Yes, that was it! Joseph told me that that was Judas’ signal to the Temple guards. He had told them, ‘The One whom I kiss is the man; seize Him and hold Him tight so that He doesn’t escape!'”

“What a traitor!” Philip muttered.

“Well, he paid for it.” Joanna said. Joseph said that Judas came back to the chief priests later, after he saw how Jesus’ trial had gone, and he said Judas looked like an absolute wreck, absolutely torn apart with grief, remorse and confusion, like he was going out of his mind. He came back into the Temple and told the elders, ‘I have sinned, for I’ve betrayed innocent blood!'”

“He said that?! Really?”

“Yes, but they told him, ‘What is that to us? That’s you concern.’ So Judas threw the money down and left, and that’s when he went out and hanged himself.”

“What a way to die!” John said. “He lost everything and gained nothing.—Not even the 3O pieces of silver.”

 
Food For Thought

(1) Judas probably never dreamt that his lack of faith and doubts would ultimately lead to him BETRAYING the Lord. But all it takes is just a few little DOUBTS to lead to serious UNBELIEF, which leads to DISOBEDIENCE, and finally BETRAYAL! Betrayal ISN’T usually a SUDDEN last-minute decision; it is something that has been building up inside a doubter for a long time! (Hebrews 3:12,13)

(2) We all have questions about things we don’t understand, and even Jesus’ disciples questioned Him at times.–But it was only JUDAS who seemed to listen to the Devil’s lies and spread them to others, even openly criticising Jesus! If you have reservations and nagging questions that trouble you, watch out! Remember, it’s one thing to ask a SINCERE question about something you don’t understand, but DON’T harbour serious doubts or voice them to others!

(3) If you cannot, in FAITH, commit some question to the Lord and leave it with Him (Proverbs 3:5), then the Devil will play on that until it grows all out of proportion and plagues and obsesses your mind! So don’t even LISTEN to the Devil when he tries to whisper his lies to you! “Neither give place to the Devil! Resist him and he will FLEE from you!” (Ephesians 4:27; James 4:7)

(4) Judas was obviously a “weaker brother”, yet once you have heard the TRUTH and REJECT it, then you are GUILTY, not just weak! You are no longer just an innocent weaker brother, but a GUILTY one! The WORD will cure any doubts you have IF you are willing to RECEIVE its truth!

(5) The best cure for doubts is God’s WORD! Fill your life with love and your mind and heart with His Truth and there will be no room for the Devil’s lies! Just keep busy for God and keep your mind and heart full of positive, encouraging, faith-building promises from His Word, memorising and quoting to yourself and even to the Enemy when he attacks you with bad thoughts and doubts!

(6) Nobody loves a traitor! Jesus’ enemies paid Judas to do their dirty work and exalted him for awhile. But when it was done, they didn’t want anything more to do with him! WHO is going to TRUST a TRAITOR?

(7) If you’re ever tempted with doubts or critical thoughts, before you VOICE them or even give them a place in your OWN heart, remember the story of JUDAS!–A stern warning to ALL! Which will YOU be?–A doubter, disobeyer and denier?–Or a believer, obeyer and witness for the Truth, even if it KILLS you?–What will YOU do?

 
 

Copyright © The Family International. All Rights Reserved.

Bible Stories

A Pitcher, a Torch, and the Sword of the Lord

Dramatized (Judges 68)

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It was a sad time for Israel. They were already living in the Promised Land, but the situation had become almost unbearable as they struggled to survive under the constant onslaughts of their enemies.

Because of the sins of the Israelites who worshipped other gods and idols and did not drive out the perverse and evil heathen from the land, God Himself sent the cruel Midianites and Amalekites against them as a scourge and a punishment for their sins. (Psalm 78:62; Joshua 23:13)

At that time the Midianites swept through the land ruining the crops, “Sparing not a living thing for Israel, neither sheep, nor cattle, nor donkeys.” But finally when Israel cried out to the Lord, God sent them a Prophet who told them the reason for their trouble: “Because you have not obeyed My Voice.” (Joshua 6:10)

The Israelites got desperate and cried out to the Lord for help, God in His everlasting love and mercy sent a helper.—And guess who he was? He was the simple son of a farmer, not some influential, highly educated, esteemed man of renown.

The Angel of the Lord appeared unto Gideon while he threshed wheat, saying, “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour!” And Gideon answered, “Oh my Lord, if Thou art with us, why then has all this trouble come upon us? And where are all the miracles our fathers told us of?”

Doesn’t this sound like most of us when we’re having problems? “How come, Lord? How come You’re not taking better care of us? Why are You letting these horrible things happen to us?”—when usually it has happened as a result of our own stubbornness and wilfulness and disobedience. Yet we try to blame God instead of ourselves.

But God mercifully tells Gideon, “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the Midianites.”

“But Lord,” Gideon answered, still doubting that God could use him, “how can I save Israel? My family is the poorest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and worse yet, I am the least of all my family.”

But the Lord encouraged him, saying, “Surely I will be with thee and thou shalt smite the Midianites as quickly as one man.”

God wanted Gideon to know, He wanted all Israel to know that He would be with him and He would be their strength. Gideon didn’t have to worry; of course his strength was small, of course he was weak, but God would do it all! And finally Gideon consented to simply obey and do as the Lord asked.

And the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet and sent out messengers to rally the men of Israel to do battle against their evil enemies. From all quarters men began to join the ranks until he had a sizeable army of 32,000. The next morning they set out toward the North where the Midianites were camped down in a valley beside the hill of Moreh.

This is when the biggest test of faith began for Gideon. He had raised a strong army and was headed for the enemy camp, but suddenly the Lord spoke to him, “The people with thee are too many for Me to let win this battle, otherwise Israel will boast, saying, ‘Mine own arm hath saved me’.” Gideon must have thought, “What do you mean? It just isn’t logical to cut our forces in the face of such powerful enemies.”

“Announce to the people,” the Lord told Gideon, “anyone who is fearful and afraid, let him return home.” And after Gideon delivered his surprising message, 22,000 men left, over two-thirds of his forces!

But that was only the first test! Next, the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the waters’ edge and I will try them there.” The Lord had another test to further purge the ranks which only He and Gideon knew about.

When the men went to drink beside the water, the Lord told Gideon that every man who knelt down and drank with his mouth in the water should be sent home. But those vigilant soldiers who lifted the water in one hand to drink would be chosen for battle. The men who faithfully kept their eyes open, watching for the enemy at all times, leaving the other hand free to use their weapon, only those were worthy to go with Gideon.

Out of the 10,000 who passed the first test, only 300 men passed the second! That’s right, 31,700 of them never made the grade. Young Gideon’s faith got tested to the maximum. Not only had he lost 99 percent of all the troops he’d gathered, but the armies of the Midianites were thousands and thousands. In fact, “They lay along the valley like grasshoppers for multitude.”

But oddly enough, it seemed that every time Gideon just simply obeyed the Lord, crazy as it appeared, his faith increased and became stronger and stronger! But just to keep him encouraged the Lord had another trick up His sleeve.

By now Gideon had ordered all the 300 men to gather the extra provisions and waterpots and all the trumpets from those men who were sent home, and then they moved to the highlands near the camp of the Midianites who lay sleeping in the valley below. And the Lord said unto Gideon, “If thou art still afraid to attack, go with thy servant Purah down to the enemy camp, and listen to what they say. Afterwards thou shalt be strengthened.”

So when Gideon had come near the camp, he overheard one man who had wakened from a nightmare tell another, “I had this strange dream, and in it a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into our camp hitting our tent. And it knocked it flat!”

Hearing it, the other soldier replied, “This could be nothing else but the sword of Gideon, the Israelite, for into his hand God has delivered the allied forces of Midian!”

Upon hearing this, Gideon worshipped the Lord and was filled with courage! He returned to his men and said, “Arise, for the Lord hath delivered into your hands the armies of Midian.”

And so the Lord told Gideon to give each man a trumpet, a torch, and an empty pitcher. At the right moment the torch was to be lighted and hidden inside the pitcher. Under cover of darkness Gideon placed his men in three companies surrounding the camp of the Midianites. Then in the middle of the night, at a signal from him, each man broke his pitcher, revealing the flaming torch. And every man blew his trumpet, and they shouted at the top of their voices, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!”

And did it work? Well, they made an incredible racket with all those trumpets blowing and all the pitchers breaking, and when those sleeping Midianites awoke and suddenly saw all those lights flashing, they thought the whole World had attacked!

They became so excited in the dark that they began smiting one another and they fled frantically, deserting the camp.

Imagine, only 300 men with nothing but trumpets, pitchers and torches scared the living daylights out of 135,000 men, and it says that after the battle was over 120,000 had been slaughtered! A great victory was won, as great as any in Israel’s history.

When Gideon finally reached the point where he just meekly believed God’s Word and quietly went about his business of obeying Him, then God honoured his puny little band of 300, and the Lord blessed their humble little efforts with a mighty walloping victory over a tremendous enemy in about the most ridiculous battle ever heard of in the annals of history!

Gideon dared to be different, a different approach, a new method, something crazy that God put in his heart!—A new tactic that he’d never tried before, but he believed it would work, and because God was in it, it did!

Gideon went where God wanted him to go–and God went there too! And so did his little band of 300, and they did it because God did it through them.

All through the Bible the Lord miraculously empowered and protected His children who were just weak humans like we are.—And the same miracles of power, protection and judgement that occurred back in Bible times can happen now!

It’s God that wins the battle! It’s obedience that wins the battle. It’s humble faith that wins the battle—regardless of how few you have and how weak you seem to be and how little you’ve got!

 
Food For Thought

(1) When God’s people become rebellious and disobedient, He often uses the natural means of wars with their enemies, famines and other calamities as a punishment for their sins. (Psalm 106:34-44)

(2) As with Gideon, the son of a humble farmer, God frequently uses weak, seemingly unqualified, uneducated people, who are usually not so proud and are therefore more obedient to Him. (1Corinthians 1:26-31)

(3) Sometimes we are tempted to blame God for our own troubles, when all along it was our own fault that they happened! (Psalm 107:11-20,43)

(4) Whenever you make up your mind to obey, then the Lord supplies you with supernatural power for the job He has given you to do. The moment you, because of faith, obey God, then He gives you the blessing and the spiritual strength to carry on! (Exodus 23:22; James 1:22-25)

(5) Large numbers don’t mean anything to God; in fact, He likes to work with the weak and the few in number so that it will show His strength and not our own. (1Samuel 14:6; 2Corinthians 4:7)

(6) God only chose men who were not fearful or fainthearted, but who had faith for the battle. Otherwise, that contagious spirit of fear could have spread throughout the ranks! (Deuteronomy 20:8)

(7) As this story brings out, oftentimes the Lord tests us when we don’t even know that we’re being tested. (Jeremiah 17:10)

(8) In the end, the only soldiers chosen by God were the ones who never let their guard down, not even for a moment! They were sober and vigilant, always alert for a sudden enemy attack. (1Peter 5:8)

(9) Obedience comes first, then comes the blessing of the Lord. When you by faith do all you can do, then the Lord honours your faith by doing the part that you can’t do. God blesses obedience. (Isaiah 1:19)

(10) After you have begun to obey, even if you sometimes become discouraged, the Lord will do miracles to encourage your faith! (2Timothy 2:13)

(11) God often does things contrary to our natural reasoning. Who ever heard of fighting a war with trumpets, pitchers and torches! But God’s idea of weapons may be a little different from man’s ideas!

 
 

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