Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

“Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in Me.”  John 14:1

Those are familiar words to all of us. Jesus was talking to his disciples. In a few short hours he would be arrested.

The current situation was alarming. Most of them had no idea how alarming it was.  They must have sensed Jesus was on edge, but even though he had tried to tell them of the trouble that was coming they couldn’t comprehend it.

He tried shifting their gaze from earthly trouble to heavenly peace. (John 14:2-3) It is a good place to rest our eyes. These days of sickness, unrest and trouble have been taking it’s toll on our children, our families, our countries, and our world. I can’t remember another time like this in my life. There have been wars, and local trouble, but this trouble is world wide.

What kind of power could make this such a world wide event? I can think of only one. Satan, himself. He is determined to destroy men and turn them against each other and more importantly against God.

We are reminded in Ephesians 6:12

“for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” 

My granddaughter, Arianna asked me the other day why God didn’t come and make the new heaven and the new earth now. (II Peter 3:13) Why was He waiting?

I paused, because I long for that too.  My answer was simple.

God is very patient. He is waiting for those that might yet decide to come to Him.

II Peter 3:8-9 “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 

Are you one of those He is waiting for? Have you turned to Him in repentance and accepted His forgiveness?

We each have a great need. Our sin has separated us from a holy God. Because He loves us He has made a way for us to come back to Him. Jesus took our punishment on the cross. Paid for our sin. He rose three days later and conquered death.  He asks us to repent and believe.

Repentance involves a change of direction.  Turning away from selfish and worldly pursuits and a turning to God.

There is trouble now.

I don’t know if it will be temporary or if this is the beginning of the end.

Wouldn’t now be a good time to make things right with God?

Ezekiel 18:32 puts it simply. “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, declares the Lord, so repent and live.”

 

 For further study:

I Peter 5:8

“Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:28b

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation.” II Corinthians 6:2

Dealing with Anxiety – Study 11 – Thomas

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Anxiety that lasts too long can lead to depression. Having dealt with depression in my 30s it is something I fight against when the first signs appear. Sometimes no matter how hard we fight we can’t overcome it. Just such a case is found in John 20:24-31.

His name was Thomas. We know from John 11:16 that he was already discouraged. He was willing to follow Jesus to Jerusalem and to death. (Remember the Lazarus episode?)

Now things were truly hopeless. His worst fears were realized.

His leader was dead. The disciples were all in hiding. They feared for their lives. They seem to have forgotten all Jesus had tried to tell them while He was still with them.

It is one thing to die with your leader in a glorious battle. It is another thing to be left alone and expected to carry on when your Captain is dead.

Read John 20:24-31. Here is the template anxiety template

Thomas was absent when Jesus first appeared to His disciples. (vs. 19-21) What was Thomas’ reaction when they tried to tell him they had seen the Lord?

What did he demand in order to believe?

Since Thomas was in such distress why do you think Jesus waited another 8 days before He appeared to him?

What is the first thing Jesus said? Why did he say it?

What did he say to Thomas? What was His tone?

Remember Jesus had told them these things again and again. I find his gentle patience amazing.

What was His final word to Thomas (and to us) in verse 29?

Do I ask God to prove Himself? Do I demand answers when God expects me to trust Him?

Why was the book of John written? (vs. 31)

What are we asked to believe and what is the result of that belief?

Our faith isn’t dependent on our circumstances. Thomas and the disciples were done in. They were completely discouraged, but they had forgotten that their real life was in heaven. They were here for a purpose, and it wasn’t to have a soft, easy life.

They were to engage in the battle that was raging. Jesus death was not without meaning. It sealed their redemption. It brought them life. They were just beginning to understand.

…and so, like Jesus, I say to you “…be not unbelieving, but believing.”

If you have any questions please comment below or e-mail me.

For further study:

I Peter 1:3-9, 18-19

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Dealing with Anxiety – Study 10 – Mary Magdalene

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“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Proverbs 13:12

We have all had situations that didn’t turn out as we expected. A job offer that fell through, a betrayal by a friend, a baby that didn’t arrive, a lost love.

We all make plans in our head and when life turns out differently we grieve what might have been.

Today we are looking at Mary Magdalene. Her story is found in John 20:1-18. Here is the template. anxiety template

We don’t know very much about her, but Luke 8:1-3 gives us a little information. We know she was one of the women who followed Jesus from city to city. This group of women helped support Jesus and his disciples financially. It also mentions that 7 demons had been cast out of her. To say that her life was changed by her encounter with Jesus is an understatement.

She was all in. Her life was completely focused on following Jesus. Imagine her brokenness when He is crucified. This is where we pick up the story.

Notice what she does, where she is, who she tells.

We know from Mark 16:9 that she was the first one to see Jesus alive. Why do you think that was?

How am I like Mary Magdalene? How am I like all the other followers who were in hiding?

 

Dealing with Anxiety – Study 9 – Mary & Martha

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Our time line is different than God’s. We have all been in our houses longer than we want. We continue to pray and wait for God to act in supernatural ways. I fluctuate between contentment and restlessness. How can I learn to wait better?

Today we are looking at two sisters who asked in faith, but Jesus didn’t follow their timeline. Their names are Mary and Martha and their story is found in John 11:1-53.

Here is the template. anxiety template

What were the disciples struggling with. (vs. 8, 16) For a background on why they felt so strongly look at John 8:58-59 and John 10:24-31.

Notice the two different responses of the Jews in verses 45-46. Which group am I in?

How did the chief priests and Pharisees respond when they got the report. (vs. 47-48) What were they worried about? What was their ultimate goal? (vs. 53, 57)

Our hope is plainly laid out in verses 25-26. Take note of what it is. What have I been focused on these past weeks? What is my ultimate goal?

There are so many layers here. Take your time.

 

 

If the Cure Won’t Kill You…

I’ve been struggling the last few weeks. It started as a cold that wouldn’t go away and when the coughing overstayed its welcome I took myself to the doctor. Bronchitis was diagnosed and antibiotics were prescribed. I thought that was that and dutifully took my medicine and proceeded on my way.  A couple weeks later my cough was sneaking back and there was no more medicine to take. I called the doctor’s office and they prescribed something stronger.  It remains to be seen if this medicine will be effective, but I got a bit of a shock when I read through the three pages of warnings and possible side effects. I suddenly was afraid I would die in my sleep,  if I could get to sleep.

But my biggest problem isn’t bronchitis. My biggest problem is sin. Like the paralytic in Mark 2 whose friends bring him to Jesus, tearing up the roof to get him there, Jesus first words to him were…”Your sins are forgiven”. It wasn’t that Jesus was overlooking the obvious (his physical condition). It was that Jesus saw his most pressing need as the need of his soul, the need to have his sins forgiven. The man didn’t get his life cleaned up before he came. He came sick and helpless. Jesus knew his most pressing need was his soul and almost as an afterthought he heals his body as well.

And so as I wait for the bronchitis cure to take effect I have to think of a more effective cure that has already been applied, one of eternal value. I can’t earn or work for it. I don’t deserve this cure and yet it is freely offered to me and to anyone who will apply the finished work of Christ to his life. Jesus did what I couldn’t. He died so I wouldn’t have to. He gave up His inheritance so I could inherit. How could I help but love such a God.

I Need to See Something Good

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Show me something good… I need to see something good…

There are times in my life when I am surrounded by trouble. Deep discouragement overwhelms me. I find myself crying out to God…Show me something good…I need to see something good.

God in His mercy shows me good things. Things I have overlooked. Things I can’t see through the clouds that surrounded me. He shows me how He is working, unseen.

Lately I was reading about Thomas. He has gotten the unfortunate nickname of “Doubting Thomas”. (I shudder to think what my nickname would be if I was mentioned in the Bible.)

Thomas had been handpicked by Christ to be one of His disciples. He had spent more than three years walking the countryside, listening to, and working beside Him. He had left all to follow Jesus.

Now Jesus was dead and Thomas had given up hope. They all had. He was so discouraged that when reports started coming in that Jesus was alive, he couldn’t believe it. It was better not to get his hopes up. He didn’t dare believe it was true. It hurt too much.

When his fellow disciples tried to tell him they had seen the Lord he responded with…”Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)

It wasn’t really a prayer, and yet it was. A desperate prayer to a God who had gone missing.

Eight days later when the disciples were together in a “locked” room Jesus suddenly appeared. After greeting them with, “Peace be with you.” He turned His gentle attention to Thomas.

“Reach here your finger, and see My hands, and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” (John 20:27)

Thomas’ immediate response was, “My Lord and my God!”

The relief must have been immense. What he didn’t dare hope for was true. His Lord was alive. His God wasn’t missing after all.

What came next must have broken his heart. “Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (John 20:29)

It breaks my heart as well. When I fail to believe because things are dark, when I ask to see good when I am discouraged… God is gracious, but He must long for me to trust Him in the dark. He must long for me to know that He is good even in the midst of trouble.

Teach us to Number our Days

January is more than half over and I am still contemplating what my goals should be for the new year. I attended too many funerals last year. There were at least half a dozen. January brought even more. It is a sad reminder that life is fleeting.

I have been settling in for the long haul and God reminds me that this life is just temporary. Heaven is waiting. This life that I cling to so fiercely will be but a flash when I am finally home with Him.

So what are my marching orders as I live day to day here? My husband pointed out to me the most mentioned command in the Bible. I was sure it was something about loving God and our neighbor. Ready?…

“Do not be afraid”  or “Do not fear”

God said it again and again. He said it to Abraham, Jacob, Joshua, Moses, the nation of Israel. He said it to Hagar, a slave girl, who was afraid her son was going to die of thirst in the desert.

The Psalms are full of the command.

Psalm 23:4 “…I fear no evil, for You are with me.”

Many of the prophets said it multiple times. (Isaiah 35:4; 41:10; 41:13)

God sent angels to give the message to Daniel, Zecharias, Mary, Joseph, Shepherds, women at the tomb.

Jesus also repeated it often to his disciples. Reminding them that they were worth more than the sparrows. (Matt. 10:31)

The command applies to me as well. “Do not fear!”  – Why? Because I have a God who is with me and guiding my steps.

He doesn’t promise that my path will be easy. There will still be trouble and funerals and dark days, but He is with me.  …and someday there will be no more crying. There will be no more sin. There will be no more fear.

For now I need to trust him with today. I need to have courage that he will provide the strength for what he has called me to do. I need to believe that this God, who cannot lie, will do more than I can ask or think. Knowing that this troubled life is but an instant compared to eternity.

 

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Say to those with anxious heart, Take courage, fear not…” Isaiah 35:4

“For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, Do not fear, I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

The trouble with Santa

“You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout I’m telling you why, Santa Clause is coming to town. He’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out whose naughty and nice…He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!”

Santa, the all-seeing god-like character we see so much of this time of year. Unfortunately some people get their view of God from Santa. He is a pale comparison. Here are some important differences.

We are told Santa keeps track and will only bring presents to the good. Contrast that to “…You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” God sending the gift of His son didn’t depend on us being good, but was sent because we were sinners. Good people don’t need a Savior. Sinners need a Savior.

Santa’s list keeping implies that he will not deliver gifts intended for us if we are naughty. Romans 11:29 tells us “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” God’s gift of salvation isn’t taken back if we are unworthy. Truth be told we are all unworthy. Again, that was the point of God sending His son.

Santa shows love to those who show themselves to be good. God loves those who understand that it depends not on their own goodness, but on God’s grace. II Timothy 1:9 says “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,”

Santa visits one day a year…while we are sleeping, just long enough to leave a pile of presents.

Jesus came to be with us. His name Immanuel means “God with us.” The most important gift we can get is His presence, not his presents. Things get old and wear out. They lose their appeal, but the very real presence of God Himself is a gift beyond compare.

So what is our response? The wisemen had the right idea. They journeyed to a foreign country to find this king and when they found him…”They rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Upon meeting the child they “fell down and worshiped him.” They didn’t come expecting to receive, but to offer what they had. So we too can offer what we have. A heart yearning to know this God who stoops down to be with us.

Praying you each find the peace only God can give in this troubled world.

Safe

Safe in the arms of Jesus.

Safe?! You call this safe?

Hush, I’m safe. I’m safe.

Are you mad?! Look around you!

I tell you I’m safe!

But the storm! Look at the storm!

I know, I’m with the one who made it.

Don’t you see this could be the death of you?

Even so,…I’m safe…I’m safe.

 

“In whirlwind and storm is His way, And clouds are the dust beneath His feet.” Nahum 1:3b

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For further study: Nahum 1:7, Job 30:22, 40:6; Psalm 83:15; Jonah 1:4;