Betrayer

Have you ever been betrayed? Few things in life sting the way a betrayal stings. The wounds left behind can feel raw and open for a long time. Whether it happens in a professional setting or a personal one, even the memory of someone turning against you can cause pain. I know a woman who was terribly betrayed decades ago by a former boss. The boss used her position and power to undermine and derail my friend. She ended up resigning just one step ahead of an unfair dismissal. Her career never recovered. When she talks about it even to this day, you can feel her anger and grief as though it happened yesterday.

We know that our Lord suffered many betrayals in his lifetime. He was rejected by his own people and lied about by men “in charge.” His daily skirmishes with the Pharisees were a constant irritant as they rejected him over and over. The refusal of the high priests to acknowledge his messiahship was a constant attempt to undermine his divine authority. Even the disciples were confused and dull in their understanding of his mission. And then, of course, came the ultimate betrayal:

John 13 (Common English Bible)

21 After he said these things, Jesus was deeply disturbed and testified, “I assure you, one of you will betray me.”

Do you suppose it helped that Jesus knew it was coming? I don’t. This translation says that he was “deeply disturbed.” My heart breaks for Jesus in this moment. You and I have been in that place of being hurt by someone we loved and trusted. This pain is real.

22 His disciples looked at each other, confused about which of them he was talking about. 23 One of the disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was at Jesus’ side. 24 Simon Peter nodded at him to get him to ask Jesus who he was talking about.25 Leaning back toward Jesus, this disciple asked, “Lord, who is it?”

Poor Simon Peter! His love for Jesus and his loyalty made it hard for him to hear that one of them was about to betray the Lord. Imagine how it felt to realize that this tight team of men, who had lived and worked together for three years, was about to be obliterated by one man’s actions. They must have felt helpless at this news. All of them, of course, except the betrayer:

26 Jesus answered, “It’s the one to whom I will give this piece of bread once I have dipped into the bowl.”Then he dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son. 27 After Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

The scripture makes it clear what happened. Satan entered Judas. It was a demonic possession. Judas is now being employed by the devil himself to finish Jesus’ ministry. This is being done to fulfill all of the prophecies about the messiah that foretold that Jesus would suffer and die so that everyone might be raised up with him into eternal life.

So who used who? Certainly God’s purpose is now being met by what Judas is about to do. God had the ultimate authority over Satan’s futile attempt to derail and undermine the power of Jesus. Jesus’ power only grew stronger through the crucifixion and resurrection. In this way, Judas was only a pawn…not of Satan, but of God.

Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 No one sitting at the table understood why Jesus said this to him.29 Some thought that, since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus told him, “Go, buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So when Judas took the bread, he left immediately. And it was night.

Judas had been accepted into the group and was considered to be trustworthy enough to “hold the purse.” He was a person of noble character. He was a follower of Jesus. He was an important member of the team right up until the very end. Yet his guilt over his actions that night led him to take his own life after receiving his thirty pieces of silver for his heinous deed. Perhaps in the moment when Satan released him, he couldn’t bear living with what he had done.

Let’s turn this around now and consider times when we were the betrayer. Have you ever gossiped about someone, spoken a word against someone out of jealousy, or actively undermined someone for your own personal gain? Have you betrayed a confidence or repeated a falsehood to make yourself look better? Did you ever cheat on a relationship? Are you guilty of betraying God? I imagine we all are. I am a betrayer. I bet you are, too.

If God is dealing with you on this issue, it’s time to come clean. Confess your actions to the person you have hurt and confess your sins to God. All of us carry some kind of “Judas guilt,” but we don’t have to let it take our lives as well. Thank God, you can be forgiven and cleansed of your betrayal!

Is it time to seek forgiveness? God is ready to hear you. Are you ready to speak?

Come Clean by Michelle Robertson

Turned Hearts

What tempts you away from the good things that you know you should be focusing on? Is it food, wealth, possessions, laziness, your neighbor’s spouse…the list is endless. All of us have a weakness for something we want that we know we shouldn’t have.

With Solomon, it was women. Perhaps it was wine, women, and song, but mostly it was women. (As in, over 1000 women.) He was the son of King David, who also had a weakness for women that weren’t his to enjoy. Solomon was a huge womanizer in a culture that thought little of women. His conquests were staggering, and his appetite was insatiable.

God loved Solomon and warned him about intermarrying with all these foreign women, but Solomon ignored every word:

1 Kings (Common English Bible)

11 In addition to Pharaoh’s daughter, King Solomon loved many foreign women, including Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites. These came from the nations that the Lord had commanded the Israelites about: “Don’t intermarry with them. They will definitely turn your heart toward their gods.” Solomon clung to these women in love. 

Had Solomon clung to God, the rest of this story would have a better ending. Instead, he clung to these women in love. But I have to stop here and ask, what are YOU clinging to that threatens your relationship with God? Are you also turning away from God’s words of warning?

He had seven hundred royal wives and three hundred secondary wives. They turned his heart. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods. He wasn’t committed to the Lord his God with all his heart as was his father David.Solomon followed Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom the detestable god of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s eyes and wasn’t completely devoted to the Lord like his father David. 

“They turned his heart after other gods.” Our mamas warned us about running with a bad crowd. When you hang out with reprobates, you are likely to become one yourself. Mama was right.

On the hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a shrine to Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and to Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods. The Lord grew angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from being with the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 The Lord had commanded Solomon about this very thing, that he shouldn’t follow other gods. But Solomon didn’t do what the Lord commanded.

Have you ever failed to do what the Lord commands? Sometimes temptations are so great they blot out everything else. Godliness, decency, moral living, and proper behavior are often the victims of a temptation to which we succumb.

11 The Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done all this instead of keeping my covenant and my laws that I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom from you and give it to your servant. 12 Even so, on account of your father David, I won’t do it during your lifetime. I will tear the kingdom out of your son’s hands. 

The punishment is pronounced, but notice that even in anger, God’s love for both David and Jerusalem results in a measure of grace being extended. But Solomon’s actions result in the loss of a united Israel. After his death, the kingdom divides and grows weaker and weaker. Eventually even Jerusalem falls.

13 Moreover, I won’t tear away the entire kingdom. I will give one tribe to your son on account of my servant David and on account of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”

Solomon the Wise turns into a King of Fools when he succumbs to his temptations. His strength becomes his weakness as he goes from following God to actually building detestable idols in his own backyard. We can see in his story that having wisdom is not a panacea against the wiles of evil. Being smart does not equate to having strength of character.

Where is God calling you to outwit your temptations? Have you stepped aside from God’s will for your life as you have chased after idols? Has someone or something turned your heart?

Through the grace offered by the shed blood of the atonement, you can turn away from those things and come back to God. Forgiveness is the blessing that is always available to the repentant person. Softly and tenderly, Jesus calls us to come home.

Come Home by Peggy Bryson

Caught

Caught….red-handed….without a hope of denying it.

Have you ever been caught doing something you shouldn’t have done, and then had to face the consequences? I sure have. I will never forget getting caught gossiping in the cloak room of my fifth grade classroom about a girl of whom I was very jealous. The teacher heard me, sent the girl out of the room on an errand to spare her feelings, and then made me stand in front of the class and repeat what I said while she condemned every word. I was HUMILIATED, and rightfully so. The sting of that experience is still with me.

When we are caught, feelings of shame and regret are immediate and overwhelming. Our first thought is “Why, oh WHY did I do it?” Right up to the moment of discovery, we delude ourselves into thinking that we will get away with our sinful behavior. Most of us can even rationalize that if nobody finds out, nobody gets hurt.

Then everybody finds out, and everybody gets hurt.

Such is the case in Psalm 51, written by David after he was caught committing adultery with Bathsheba and was confronted by his friend Nathan. He immediately felt the searing pain of knowing that he has sinned against God and now everyone knows it. Listen to the regret and remorse that flowed from his pen as he composed a song of confession:

Psalm 51 (Common English Bible)

Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love!
    Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion!
Wash me completely clean of my guilt;
    purify me from my sin!
Because I know my wrongdoings,
    my sin is always right in front of me.
I’ve sinned against you—you alone.
    I’ve committed evil in your sight.
That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict,
    completely correct when you issue your judgment.

David is such a man of faith that his sinning against God was the worst part of it for him. He knew his wrongdoings. This sin was not done in ignorance of the Law that commands “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” He knew that he coveted another man’s wife and then had that man brought home from war to cover up the unplanned pregnancy that resulted. Then David sent him back to the front lines to be killed. Coveting, adultery, lying, murder…David was guilty on all counts.

Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin,
    from the moment my mother conceived me.
And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places;
    you teach me wisdom in the most secret space.

David was blessed to have received wisdom from God in the “most secret space.” He studied the scriptures. He experienced God’s power first hand when he faced down Goliath many years earlier. All of David’s experiences had been an adequate teacher of God’s will and direction for his life. It is this truth in the hidden places of his heart and soul that he walked away from in his pursuit of Bathsheba. There is no pleading ignorance here…David totally knew better.

As did I, when I sinned.

As do you, when you sin.

His song of confession then moves from pain to hope, and David reminds God that God alone has the power to wash this sin away. He writes that joy can be felt once more, but only after God wipes away all of his guilty deeds:

Purify me with hyssop and I will be clean;
    wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and celebration again;
    let the bones you crushed rejoice once more.
Hide your face from my sins;
    wipe away all my guilty deeds!

Singing these words to the God that he loved provided a moment of humble obeisance for David, as the song now moves to a plea for a new, clean heart. This may be one of the prettiest verses in all of the Psalms:

10 Create a clean heart for me, God;
    put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!
11 Please don’t throw me out of your presence;
    please don’t take your holy spirit away from me.
12 Return the joy of your salvation to me
    and sustain me with a willing spirit.

“Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and return unto me the joy of your salvation!” This should be our song today as well. God always inclines an ear when people confess with contrite hearts and humility.

Where is God calling you to lay down your sin so that you might take up a new and faithful spirit? God truly longs to sustain you with the power of the Holy Spirit, but you have to come clean first.

Don’t let the sun go down on your sin. Open yourself to God and ask for a clean heart to be created in you. And may the joy of God’s salvation make you sing.

Sunset Awaits by Michelle Robertson

Hidden Places, Secret Spaces

Our beautiful Psalm today comes from a moment in King David’s life when he had just been called out by his friend Nathan for committing adultery with Bathsheba. The affair resulted in a pregnancy, so David called her husband home from the war for a “conjugal visit” in hopes of a cover-up. Uriah did not “cooperate” so David sent him back to the front lines so that he would be killed in action. David thought he had gotten away with his deceit…until Nathan called him out.

Facing the enormity of his sin was far greater than the condemnation of his friend. David’s heart is truly broken at his own behavior. He is crushed by his own transgression, and he crawls to the Lord in agony. Only God’s forgiveness can bring him relief.

Have you ever felt that way?

Psalm 51 (Common English Bible)

Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love!
    Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion!

David understands that he can’t make amends based on his own character. He has to count on God’s great compassion. He longs to be made clean.

Wash me completely clean of my guilt;
    purify me from my sin!
Because I know my wrongdoings,
    my sin is always right in front of me.
I’ve sinned against you—you alone.
    I’ve committed evil in your sight.
That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict,
    completely correct when you issue your judgment.
Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin,
    from the moment my mother conceived me.

When David says “I have sinned against you—you alone” he is not discounting the damage he has done to Uriah and Bathsheba. But he is aware that the breach of trust he has committed with God is far worse than any human consequence. He has to tell the truth.

And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places;
    you teach me wisdom in the most secret space.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just offer God truth in your hidden places? Well, you can. No matter what sin has separated you from God, confession and repentance allow you to start over again. God will completely cleanse you of your guilt.

Repentance is a complete turning away from the evil behavior that ensnared you. It is walking away and not looking back.

When you do that, ask God to teach you his wisdom and fill your most secret spaces with his word. God’s faithful love will redeem you.

Secret Spaces by Kathy Schumacher

Dead to Me

Have you ever been so “over” something that you just wanted to yell, “This is dead to me!” A broken trust, the ninth consecutive day of rain, a cheating spouse, a relative showing up drunk and obnoxious once again, a contractor who ripped you off, waking up with yet another hangover…it is harsh but understandable to wish a situation or relationship to be “dead” to you when you no longer want to deal with it. Just. Go. Away.

Abuse, you are dead to me.

Alcohol and drugs, just go away.

Lying, cheating, soul-destroying behavior, you are dead to me.

Toxic relationship? Dead to me.

Rain, be GONE.

Scripture condones a “dead to me” response in a specific situation: when we declare sin to be dead to us.

Romans 6 (The Message)

1-3 So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!

Sin! Just. Go. Away. I don’t live there anymore.

3-5 That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.

Baptism, forgiveness, and the new life promised from the cross guarantee that we have moved to a new land of grace. In that place, God comes alongside of us and offers his strength to resist temptation and sin, and helps us to not return to sin-country.

6-11 Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word.

You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did.

Where in your life is God asking you to declare a certain sin dead-to-you? What behaviors and habits continue to drag you back into the miserable life that sin guarantees?

We aren’t called to a life where we get to keep sinning because we know God forgives. We are called to be included in Christ’s sin-conquering death so that we can be a part of his life-saving resurrection. So do better. Pack up that sin and leave it for good. God is speaking his language of redemption now…hang on his every word.

Just. Go. Away. By Teresa Holloway