Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

Chapter 14 of John’s gospel begins with Jesus saying to His closest disciples “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”  Near the end of the chapter, Jesus says “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.”  In between, He gives His followers many words of encouragement because they needed it.  Why?

Leading up to this, Jesus had just told them “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me,[1] predicting Judas would soon turn Him over to be killed.  Since He knew He would be raised again and ascend to heaven, He had to tell them: “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’”[2]  Then, in front of all the others, He told Peter, who had just offered to die for Jesus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.[3]

In quick succession, this small group of 12 disciples were told that 2 of them would soon be unfaithful, and that their leader would soon be leaving them.  They must have felt devastated and troubled in their hearts.  Had they given up so much for Jesus, only for it to fall apart?  Likewise, when we’re bombarded with bad news in quick succession, our heart may tell us to be troubled, but “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

Instead of listening to our gut feeling or our instincts, the only one in whom there is no deceit – Jesus – says to trust Him.  He says: “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.

If you’re troubled with something today, bring it to Him and ask Him for His peace.  It can overcome anything.

Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. I took this from a beach in Florida.

[1] John 13:21
[2] John 13:33
[3] John 13:38b

Greetings to My Dear Fellow Travelers

Dear fellow travelers,

Have you ever wondered why posts here often start with that greeting?  But before that, why start with a greeting at all?  It started with an observation.

There are 27 New Testament books, and 17 start with the words “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” or something very similar.[1]  It wasn’t an accident, which made me wonder: Do I greet others with grace and peace?  Do I intentionally bring grace and peace to relationships with others?  In real-time interactions, certainly not as often as I’d like, but in a blog, where I have the time to be very intentional, why shouldn’t I be able to?  So, what would be an appropriate greeting for this blog?

“Dear fellow travelers” first came to mind because it communicates motion and relates to the name of the blog.  In Taxi Cab by twenty øne piløts, God tells Tyler, the song’s author, that “We’re driving toward the morning sun; Where all your blood is washed away; And all you did will be undone.”  Where we are is not where we will be and becoming Christian changes our destination forever.  We’re going to a different place, but if we focus too much on the circumstances of our time and not enough on the implications of eternity, we lose sight of the Lord who is our Savior, and of the grace and peace He provides.

“Dear fellow travelers” also reminds us of this grace and peace.  The apostles started their letters acknowledging up front that everyone needs grace, even the author.  We are all travelers in this community of faith, and we should be dear to each other.  In addition, when Paul, Peter, or John wrote of peace, they didn’t mean just a sentiment or feeling.  The word translated as peace is rooted in a Greek verb meaning “to join”.  God’s grace enables us to overcome what divides us and to join together in Him.  Through grace, we all fellowship as one and experience peace.  We’re all in the boat together, and with Jesus as the captain we can be confident in the destination.

Since blogs can reach people in any place and theoretically at any future time through the internet, the blog’s greeting needed to be inclusive.  Nations and cultures don’t each have their own gospel of Christ.  There is one gospel, and it applies within, and above, all nations and cultures.  Christians in all places and times are traveling through a place that is not their home, to a place where we will all be together in perfect grace and peace.

So, dear fellow travelers, let’s keep driving!  Let’s strive to bring grace and peace to every encounter we have as we travel through this world.


[1] Refer to Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Colossians 1:2, 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, 1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4, Philemon 3, 1 Peter 1:2, 2 Peter 1:2, 2 John 3, and Revelation 1:4.

The Joy, Unity, and Peace to Come – Psalms of Ascent #6

Finally, we return to a series on the Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134), used as a liturgy for ancient Israelites travelling to Jerusalem for annual worship festivals.  Today’s post focuses on Psalm 122, where David writes of the joy found in the destination – the house of the LORD in Jerusalem.  When first written, this house would be the tabernacle, since the temple was built under David’s son Solomon, but when the Psalm was organized into its present order, this house would be the temple.  After the pilgrims look up from their circumstances in Psalm 121 to find their help in the LORD, in Psalm 122 they reflect on what they will find at the end of their journey.

This short, 9-verse Psalm has three sections: an expectation of joy, a path to unity, and a prayer for peace.  I’ll summarize each as we go.

First, expectant joy.  Verses 1 and 2 of the Psalm say:
I was glad when they said to me,
            ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’
Our feet have been standing
            within your gates, O Jerusalem!

David was glad to attend corporate worship, and this joy would be an encouragement to other when worship required a lot of travel, large crowds, and disruption of daily routines.  In the following sections, David explains where his joy comes from: that worshipping with others reminds him of what only God can truly provide: Unity and Peace.  David doesn’t expect everyone arriving in Jerusalem to get along and have a perfect experience, but it doesn’t ruin his joy because God promised these things to those who worship Him.  While perfect is unattainable in this imperfect world, corporate worship acknowledges that this world is not all there is, and that God’s people will worship perfectly in eternity.

Second, a path to unity.  In verses 3 to 5 David writes:
Jerusalem—built as a city
            that is bound firmly together,
to which the tribes go up,
            the tribes of the LORD,
as was decreed for Israel,
            to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
There thrones for judgment were set,
            the thrones of the house of David.

Corporate worship is a physical, visible reminder of our membership in a tribe that is not of this world.  From all the tribes of the world, God calls His people and promises to make a perfect unity out of vast diversity.  However, unity only exists when differences are resolved through either forgiveness or judgment.  Worship should remind us that every injustice ever committed will be judged.  Every offense to God’s laws of love will be paid for by either the sinner, or by Christ on the cross, and we can be thankful for both.  We do not experience perfect unity or justice yet, but we know that the price has been paid for God’s people to be perfectly unified in eternity.  Jesus ultimately sits on the throne David established; therefore Jesus’ authority in mercy and in judgment provides a hopeful expectation that overcomes the current, inevitable conflict that exists among God’s people, and between God’s people and the world.  He remains “glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’”

Lastly, peace.  The final verses of the Psalm say:
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
            “May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls
            and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions’ sake
            I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
            I will seek your good.

The Holman Bible Commentary notes that these prayers for peace are “a reference to divine protection from hostile nations. They needed an indivisible unity and impregnable safety that can come only from God. Where God finds unity, he commands his blessing there.”  While Christians do not take pilgrimages to Jerusalem, in Matthew 18:20 Jesus says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”  God does not promise absence of trial and persecution to His people, but He asks that in worship we do all we can to promote joy and unity within His church, wherever His people congregate.  Peace can, and should, exist within the church even if peace is absent outside the church, since God’s peace is not dependent on circumstance.

David found joy in expectation of worshiping with God’s people, based on God’s promises.  This week, pray for joy, unity and peace as God’s people gather locally, but also globally.  While we remain yet unperfected by His grace, we hold fast to His promises and to His call to ascend to His sanctuary for worship.

Amen.

This post continues a series on the Psalms of Ascent. To start at the beginning, click here, and for the next post click here.