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“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name”. John 12:27,28

After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” John 13:21

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me.” John 14:1

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

“In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

We are reading the book of John here at the Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico. Our administrator thought that that would be a good thing to focus on while we are in this time of quarantine. I think it is a good idea as well. The adults and children read four or five chapters during the week, and on Friday mornings, during devotion time, we split into groups and discuss what we have been reading.

This last week we read chapters 12-17. Some people read one chapter a day while others, like my wife, daughters and I, normally read the whole thing out loud in one sitting. Doing the reading in one big chunk gives us a broader perspective of what the author is saying. More of a bird’s eye view on what is going on.

What jumped out at me during this last reading was the word “troubled” or “trouble“. I found it interesting, and somewhat confusing that in chapters 12 and 13 that Jesus’ soul and spirit are troubled, and then in chapter 14 Jesus tells his disciples to not let their hearts be troubled. Twice! That doesn’t make much sense and seems contradictory. The Divine Man, the Son of God, is troubled, yet he tells his disciples, mere mortals, to not be troubled. What’s going on here?

One of the rules to trying to figure out what the heck the Bible is saying, is to let scripture interpret scripture. So I went back and took a little bit closer look at what John is trying to communicate to us mere mortals who are so easily confused. At least I am.

There is a paragraph in chapter 16 that kinda helps me get a handle on what is going on. Jesus tells the disciples in verses 20-24 that they will weep and mourn when they will not see him anymore. Jesus goes on to say that they will grieve, but then their grief will turn to joy. Jesus tells his followers that it is kind of like a woman giving birth. She has a lot of pain during childbirth, but when the baby is finally born, “she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.”

Jesus tells the disciples that that is how it is with them. He tells them that now is their time to grieve, but later they will see him again and will rejoice and no one will take away their joy. Jesus mentions joy two more times in that passage.

Joy, or happiness is a great motivator. John 12 and 13 mentioned that Jesus was troubled in soul and spirit as he faced “his hour” of anguish and suffering that was soon to come. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that “for the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

These passages present us with three sets of troubled people – A woman in labor; the disciples grieving the death of Jesus; and Jesus enduring the cross.

We also see three triumphs. The woman brings a new life into the world. The disciples rejoice at the resurrected Lord standing before them. And Jesus sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God.

All three suffered a great deal, either physically, mentally or both. All three triumphed in the end and were filled with great joy.

Jesus was troubled in his soul and spirit, yet he tells his disciples to not let their hearts be troubled. He also tells his disciples they will experience anguish. Their hearts will be troubled! But the ultimate outcome will be triumph for Jesus and his disciples.

I think what God is trying to communicate to us is that in this world we will definitely experience trouble (covid 19 comes to mind). When Jesus tells his disciples (back then and present day) to not let our hearts be troubled, he is telling them, and us, to not live in a hopeless state of trouble, but to look forward to the time when we will be triumphant because we hope in God and in his love and power. We should always look forward to the joy, even while in the midst of pain and suffering.

Jesus said to his followers at the end of chapter 16 in the book of John, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We will have trouble, but fear not. Trouble is not the last word. Victory is the last word, for we will be triumphant in the end through Jesus Christ our Lord!

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It seems that coronavirus has turned everything upside down. We are supposed to go to work, and now we have to stay home. For some, we are supposed to have a job to go to, and now we don’t. We are supposed to go to church today and celebrate the resurrection, but now we are at home watching a live stream of a pastor preaching to empty pews. We are supposed to have a big family dinner with friends and loved ones; now it is us four and no more. Indeed, everything seems upside down.

But take a moment to think about what happened Easter morning. Consider the empty tomb and how that has made all the difference. It turned everything upside right. Because of Christ’s resurrection, those living in darkness have seen a great light. Those who were slaves to fear are now children of God. Those who were dead in their trespasses and sins have been raised to life!

The effect of covid 19 pales in comparison to the effect of the resurrected Messiah. Covid 19 constrains us to our houses. Easter sets us free to live lives of joy and happiness no matter where we are. Covid 19 causes illness, anxiety and depression. Easter brings contentment, soul healing and a peace that passes all understanding. Covid 19 keeps us from family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Easter connects us to all of humanity through the power and love of the Holy Spirit. Covid 19 turns our world upside down. Easter turns our world upside right.

My wife and I see this everyday. We are part of Foundation For His Ministry’s outreach to needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico. We live in a community with 50 children and about a dozen staff members. Our lives are relatively the same now as before the coronavirus struck. We are one big family – a family in God. An Easter family, you could say. Things that were important and vital to us before the virus infected Mexico are still important to us now. Things like making disciples and making children smile. Sharing the love of God and sharing cookies. Meeting felt needs and meeting to watch movies. We still hug one another, encourage and pray for each other, and share meals together. Sure, we don’t go out into the community as often as we used to, and we are restricted from visiting friends and family members who live outside our Casa Hogar ( home for children). And we wash our hands a lot more! But overall, we are living the same Easter upside right lives that we enjoyed before. Lives free from the bondage of sin and guilt. Lives lived glorifying God and enjoying Him, still believing that He loves us and wants us to be happy.

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“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. —Isaiah 55:8–9

There is another way. It is not your way. You would not have imagined this alternative way nor been able to predict it, and you surely cannot control it. There is a way into the future in your life, because God is at work doing strange, wondrous things for you and in spite of you, and your job is to get your mind off your ways of need and control, to give your life over to God’s large, hidden way in your life.”

“A Way other than Our Own: Devotions for Lent” by Walter Brueggemann

Why Am I Here?

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