Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

The scene is in the upper room, where Jesus met with His disciples to observe the Passover. He washed their feet as an example of humble serving. He instituted what we call the Lord’s supper. He predicted that one of them will betray Him. He gave them a new commandment, to love each other as He loved them.

And now He tells them He is about to leave them.

Peter, almost always the first one to speak up, wants to know where Jesus is going and why they can’t follow. He pledges to lay down his life for Christ.

And then Jesus stuns Peter by predicting Peter will deny Him—not once, but three times.

In John’s narrative, it looks like immediately after this exchange, Jesus goes on to some of His final teaching before He is betrayed and arrested. John is the only gospel-writer to record this extended discourse.

The disciples only know part of what’s coming: that Jesus is leaving, and that at some point persecution will come. Peter is told that he will spectacularly fail. None of them knows that Jesus is about to be arrested that very night and die the next day. But Jesus knew they needed comfort, hope, and strength for what was ahead.

Jesus opens and closes these words with the phrase, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1, 27). I had never realized before this reading that Jesus said it twice or that He said it right after predicting Peter’s denial.

In Warren Wiersbe’s book, Be Transformed (John 13-21: Christ’s Triumph Means Your Transformation), he brings out six truths Jesus shared with His disciples at this time:

They are going to heaven (13:36-14:6). Not immediately, but someday they will follow Him to the place He went ahead to prepare.

They know the Father now (14:7-11). Wiersbe points out that “the word Father is used fifty-three times in John 13-17.” Heaven is “my Father’s house.” “Jesus said that knowing Him and seeing Him was the same as knowing and seeing the Father. He was claiming to be God.” Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). They could trust in the Father’s loving care.

They have the privilege of prayer (14:12-15). “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (14:13). Wiersbe notes:

The “whatsoever” in John 14: 13 is qualified by all that God has revealed in His Word about prayer; likewise, the “anything” in John 14:14. God is not giving us carte blanche; “in My name” is the controlling element. To know God’s name means to know His nature, what He is, and what He wants to do. God answers prayer in order to honor His name; therefore, prayer must be in His will (1 John 5:14–15). The first request in “the Lord’s Prayer” is, “Hallowed be thy name” (Matt. 6:9). Any request that does not glorify God’s name should not be asked in His name (Location 587).

They have the Holy Spirit (14:16-18). In God’s plan, the Holy Spirit would come to minister to God’s people in a special way when Jesus went back to heaven. He’s called the Helper and the Comforter. “He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (14:26).

They enjoy the Father’s love (14:19-24). Our love for Him will be manifested by keeping His Word.

They have the gift of His peace (14:25-31). “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (v. 27).

Though our circumstances are different, there is much in the world that could trouble us. The world has never been a friend of God, but it seems to be going further away from Him. Those who know God in Western society have had many privileges the last several decades, but those are fading fast. Christianity is not popular these days. Christ foretold a variety of bad things that would happen before the end.

And besides the large-scale issues, we face rising prices, discord in our country, new diseases, and physical issues.

And, like Peter, sometimes our personal failures haunt us.

Yet God has given us the same resources He gave the first disciples, hasn’t He? We have a relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God has prepared a place in heaven for us to look forward to. Meanwhile, we have the Father’s love, care, forgiveness, and grace, the Word of God, the Holy Spirit’s help, comfort, and guidance, and the peace of Jesus that overcomes the world.

Truly we have every reason to “let not our hearts be troubled,” no matter what comes our way in the future.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

Here are a few of the thought-provoking reads found this week:

Peace That Passes All Understanding, HT to Challies. “Now what? I just tried one of the classic passages on anxiety and it didn’t work. A-ha, there is a clue. I was looking for a pill. I visited God-my-pharmacist and asked what to take for my anxiety. That’s not the way Scripture works. I should have noticed it when I reduced the passage to a formula.”

Trusting God Through Terminal Illness, HT to Challies. “I am very thankful that I have an eye-tracking device so that I can still use a computer and turn on the TV. When my voice gives up, I can use my eyes to slowly type a few phrases which my mechanical voice speaks out loud. It would be easy to look at me and feel that there was no purpose to my life, but that’s not what God says.”

To the Impetuous and Impulsive. “As people repent of their sins and profess their loyalty to him, he does not eradicate their personalities as if he created them wrong in the first place or as if there is nothing within them he can use or redeem. Rather, he channels their personality, he redirects it, masters it, perfects it. Though he does sanctify his people, he does not completely destroy and then recreate them in such a way that they are all the same.”

Four Practical Ways to Cultivate Personal Evangelism, HT to Challies. “Let’s be honest, evangelism can be intimidating. For most, it can induce certain anxiety that can be crippling. It is easy to leave this high call that every believer has to a select few – elders, extroverts, or “experts.” Where does this intimidation come from when it comes to evangelism?”

Can Christians Date Nonbelievers? HT to Challies. The author answers from passages other than the usual go-to verse on this issue.

Eleven Factors for Helpful Short Term Mission Trips from one who has been on both sides of such trips, HT to Challies.

Welcoming the World’s Oldest Babies, HT to Challies. “Three weeks ago—on Monday, October 31—Rachel Ridgeway gave birth to the oldest babies in the world. Nearly 30 years ago, Lydia Ann and Timothy Ronald were conceived in a fertility clinic. Hours later, they were frozen.”

Gray Hair Is a Crown of Glory, HT to Challies. “This age-group will never be the “target” group for church growth strategists. However, if you want a church that actually does the work of the church and gives back to you as a pastor and to the congregants on the whole – then pray for a group of elderly saints.”

How Jesus Cares for Caregivers, HT to Story Warren. “Caregiving is hard. Not only do we grieve the suffering of our loved one, but we also process our own losses. Caregiving requires us to lay down our preferences and plans and pick up the holy calling of meeting the needs of another.”

Chosen Isn’t So Special If You’re a Turkey, HT to Challies. “My kids used to say I should write a how-to-hide-the-turkey-recipe book. We ate a lot of turkey when we lived in Italy. Affordable and easily available, I disguised wings, thighs and breast, every possible way. But turkey, as often as it showed up at our house, didn’t come whole.” A fun story with a great application.

The quote above is from Joy: The Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback.

Laudable Linkage

Here’s another list of good reads I cam across recently.

Gentle and Lowly Book Club. Linda is hosting weekly discussions of Dane Ortlund’s Gentle and Lowly: the Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers from September 12 through October 3. I haven’t read the book yet, but I have heard many good things about it. Reading with others always enhances the experience and brings out more than I gleaned on my own.

Afghan Pastors Ask for Prayer, HT to Challies. “As Taliban forces have swallowed up Afghanistan and even now the capital city of Kabul, pastors in the country have been emailing and messaging me over the last few days, even hours, anxious for prayer.” See also Pray for Afghanistan.

The Situation in Afghanistan, and Ways to Pray and Help, HT to Challies. “Jesus is literally all they have left.”

What Does It Mean to Be Filled with the Spirit? It’s interesting that this post came up just after reading about the same topic in the ESV Study Bible notes and Warren Wiersbe’s “Be” commentary on Acts and a Bible study discussion at church on the first five chapters of Acts—and they all agreed.

Perfect Courtesy Toward All in the Worst of Times, HT to Challies. “Paul tells Titus to remind his flocks of seven important Christian virtues. Their need to be reminded implies a tendency to forget. Apparently, top-to-bottom cultural corruption creates a need for repeated conscience re-calibration.”

How to Experience Peace in Spite of Unsafe People. “We think if we can escape their presence and any reminders of them, we’ll have peace. My experience in Switzerland reminded me peace doesn’t come from distance from them but from closeness with Jesus.”

5 Ways to Reflect Christ’s Character in Contentious Conversations. “God tells us that we are to seek peace, not contention. Peace isn’t simply the absence of conflict, and it isn’t a passive act. We have to pursue it with an active and committed determination, searching for ways to maintain peace with others.” 

Mom Guilt and the God Who Sees, HT to Challies. “Mom guilt. Moms today are well acquainted with the term. We use it as a kind of shorthand to express an all-too-common feeling we face in the everyday events of mothering.”

Dear Next Generation. Though this is addressed to young people, the advise is good for any age. “I didn’t really think about the gospel all that much. At a young age, I believed that Jesus died on the cross for my sin, but that’s where the story ended for me. I had never considered that the gospel should impact my everyday life. Why would I need to hear the gospel anymore?”

This is interesting: four cellists play Ravel’s “Bolero”—on one cello. I wonder how many practices it took to coordinate without bumping into each other. I like the first comment on YouTube: “When everyone except the cellist forgets their instruments: It’s ok guys, we can make it work.”

Laudable Linkage

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Here are some thought-provoking reads discovered recently:

How Should Christians Respond to Racism? HT to Challies. “We have so confused Christianity with politics that people often assume Christian equals the stuff political conservatives identify with and non-Christian equals the stuff progressives talk about. And since racial justice often tends to be at the forefront of the discussion in politically progressive circles, we shy away from them because we think that to discuss the evil of racism is to identify with the liberal left. But here’s the thing. When we call out the evil of racism, we’re identifying with the word of Almighty God.” (Update: I removed the link to this one because evidently it was taken down from the Core Christianity site. The quote is included in the show notes of this podcast of the same title.  Perhaps what I originally saw was the transcript that was later taken down. That’s too bad—it was a good article. Probably a lot of people who would have read the article would not take the time to listen to a podcast.)

Three Thoughts on Current Events.

Three Tips on Teaching Your Children about Racism, HT to The Story Warren. “Parenting is hard, but learning how to parent as a white mom to black, white, and biracial children and discuss racial issues with them has been quite the journey. They are not naïve to the realities of living in a broken society.”

Canceled: How the Eastern Honor-Shame Mentality Traveled West, HT to Challies. “Today’s cancel culture is the 21st-century Western version of the Eastern honor-shame paradigm.”

How to Walk with Jesus When Your Kids Are Little. This is one of the hardest times to have any time with God. But it doesn’t have to be quiet, solitary, or lengthy.

How to Care for Your Pastor, Part 6: Rewarding. I’ve known people who didn’t believe pastors should be paid by the church, or at least supported full time by the church. But that’s not Biblical, as Dan Olinger shows in this sixth post in a series on caring for one’s pastor.

What It’s Like to Get Doxed for Taking a Bike Ride. This is scary. A man was misidentified as someone who was racist and assaulted someone. The Twitter mob turned on him, threatening him, with someone even publishing his address. “We must align in the fight for justice and equality — but not at the cost of due process and the right to privacy and safety.”

This is an engaging video explaining the concept of peace, or shalom in Hebrew. As often as I have heard this word, I don’t think I have heard it explained this way. HT to The Story Warren.

Laudable Linkage

These are some noteworthy reads discovered this week:

To Redeem ‘Cancel Culture’, There Must Be Room for Redemption, HT to Challies. “But now to the most apparent deficiency of secularism as a religion: the absence of any explicit provision for redeeming and restoring to acceptance by the community those judged guilty of violating its moral code.”

Peace in the Beforehand. “If I dread an upcoming difficulty, as well as suffer through it, I’ve doubled my misery.” And, Sandy goes on to say, if we dread something, but then everything goes fine, we’ve wasted all that angst. Such a helpful perspective.

My Heart Is a Featherweight. I’ve enjoyed Laura Ingalls Gunn’s blog for many years. Yes, she’s related to the real LIW. But this might be my favorite post: a true story about how God brought two people to the exact same spot, one with a longtime desire, one looking for just the right person to give a treasured item to.

Dear Teenage Daughter: You Aren’t Entitled.

Protecting Digital Accounts After Death.

And a thought for the day:

. . . or sunrises or seasons or growth.

Happy Saturday!

Active Faith

The verbs in the first few verses of Psalm 37 (one of my favorites) stand out to me:

Fret not

Trust in the Lord

Do good

Delight yourself in the Lord

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him

Be still before the Lord

Wait patiently for him

Fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath

Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

The repetition of “fret not” indicates the Israelites were in a situation that could cause them to fret, namely, the encroachments and threats of the wicked. Later in the chapter God assures them that He will take care of them, provide for them, protect them. Their faith was not passivity nor naiveté, not sticking their heads in the sand: rather, it was characterized by active trust, patient waiting (v. 7), and focusing on doing good to others (v. 3).

Peace is a part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), but we’re also to “keep in step with the Spirit” (v. 25). We can work against peace of heart by fretting, magnifying the problems, spending too much time with swirling, fearful thoughts. Or we can work with God to promote peace of heart by focusing on Him, committing our way to Him, delighting in Him, trusting Him to take care of the issues, and getting out of our own heads to see what we can do for others.

It’s counterintuitive to pray for or expect peace of heart without taking the means God provided to take our thoughts captive. When we find ourselves fretting, fearful, downcast, we seek God and remind ourselves of His truth in His Word.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

 

Book Review: A Wreath of Snow

Wreath of SnowIn Scotland during the Victorian era, a “wreath” meant not just a circular decoration for your front door, but a drift, like a snowdrift. In A Wreath of Snow: A Victorian Christmas Novella by Liz Curtis Higgs, a wreath, or giant snowdrift, has not only stopped but also damaged the train leaving the small town of Stirling. An invisible wreath of mistakes, pain, and deception has halted and damaged the lives of two of its passengers.

One of them, Meg Campbell, had fled from home in a hurry after an altercation with her brother, who had become churlish, moody, and demanding after an accident that left him without much use of his legs years ago. Now she will have to go back home and face him again.

Gordon Shaw is a newspaper man passing through Stirling. He used to live there but a thoughtless and harmful act on his part hurt someone else there several years ago, and he has been living under its shadow ever since.

At first Meg and Gordon do not recognize each their or their shared histories, and once they do, they feel it best to cover it all up again with lies to Meg’s family. But deception never leads to healing. Is there any chance this wreath, this impasse, in the lives of all involved can be removed?

This book was a perfect Christmas read. Since it is a novella, it’s not overly long or involved, but the characters and plot are well-developed. The ending is what you would hope, without being sappy. This season when we sing of peace on earth and goodwill to men can be fraught with conflict and a long history of hard feelings, and the truths of this story encourage readers to seek peace with each other.