John 16:25-33 – I Have Overcome the World

“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”

“Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

“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.” (New International Version)

Imagine you are with Jesus in the Upper Room celebrating Passover. And your Lord tells you he is leaving – going back to the Father. After three years of hard and incredible ministry, there is palpable grief in the room. It’s as if you got sucker-punched. You want this time with Jesus to never end….

Jesus Christ, Son of God, Son of Man, Savior of the world, does not forget you. The Lord is concerned and careful to provide wonderful words of assurance: Father God loves you. I give you my peace. I have overcome the world.

Whenever we encounter trouble; in those times when grief seems to be swallowing us whole; and when all is dark and we cannot see our hand in front of our face – it is in these moments the Lord comes alongside us and communicates a loving divine presence which grants us the peace of settled rest, even if and especially when our troubling situations do not change.

If you have had a life largely free of struggle, the privilege of knowing where your next meal is coming from, and the assurance of having your most basic needs met, then understand many people throughout the world know nothing of this experience.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean those needy persons are unhappy, discontent, or bitter. Love and peace are neither bound nor limited by adverse circumstances. In fact, we know love and peace in a much deeper way whenever we have been hated and in conflict. That’s because love thrives and flourishes in an environment of hate; and peace takes root more surely where there is disharmony and misunderstanding.

If everything always goes our way, how then would we know the Lord’s great grace to us? How would we ever know God as Provider unless we were in want? How would we know Christ as the Healer unless we were broken? How could we ever know resurrection unless there was a crucifixion?

Jesus specializes in the improbable and the impossible, in landing on the Island of Misfit Toys and airlifting the discarded to be a gift to the world. You see, this is precisely how we overcome the world: We love and serve, just as our Lord did. Since he overcame, we walk in his footsteps.

The acquisition and presence of peace is anything but passive. Peace has been achieved through a bloody cross and settles within the spirit through an active pursuit of harmony, wholeness, integrity, and love.

Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. He has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live. And so, we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory! We also boast of our troubles, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance brings God’s approval, and his approval creates hope. (Romans 5:1-4, GNT)

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (Romans 14:17-19, NRSV)

God’s peace and love is free, but it is not cheap. It is obtained smack in the middle of worldly troubles.

May the peace of God be with you, my friends.

Almighty and everlasting God, you are the fountain of all peace, spiritual and temporal. We humbly pray, in your great goodness grant us that peace which the world cannot give, that we may ever live in your fear, obedient to your commandments, to the end that you may deliver us from all our enemies, through your dear Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Job 4:1-21 – Where Is God?

Eliphaz and the other friends of Job, speaking down to him in his suffering, from a fresco in the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Moscow

Job, will you be annoyed if I speak?
    I can’t keep quiet any longer.
You have taught many people
    and given strength to feeble hands.
When someone stumbled, weak and tired,
    your words encouraged him to stand.
Now it’s your turn to be in trouble,
    and you are too stunned to face it.
You worshiped God, and your life was blameless;
    and so you should have confidence and hope.
Think back now. Name a single case
    where someone righteous met with disaster.
I have seen people plow fields of evil
    and plant wickedness like seed;
    now they harvest wickedness and evil.
Like a storm, God destroys them in his anger.
The wicked roar and growl like lions,
    but God silences them and breaks their teeth.
Like lions with nothing to kill and eat,
    they die, and all their children are scattered.

Once a message came quietly,
    so quietly I could hardly hear it.
Like a nightmare it disturbed my sleep.
    I trembled and shuddered;
    my whole body shook with fear.
A light breeze touched my face,
    and my skin crawled with fright.
I could see something standing there;
    I stared, but couldn’t tell what it was.
Then I heard a voice out of the silence:
“Can anyone be righteous in the sight of God
    or be pure before his Creator?
God does not trust his heavenly servants;
    he finds fault even with his angels.
Do you think he will trust a creature of clay,
    a thing of dust that can be crushed like a moth?
We may be alive in the morning,
    but die unnoticed before evening comes.
All that we have is taken away;
    we die, still lacking wisdom.” (Good News Translation)

The Christian spiritual classic, The Dark Night of the Soul, was written nearly five hundred years ago by St. John of the Cross. The gist of John’s observation is that God sometimes takes the Christian through dry times of hiding himself from the believer. 

The pain of wondering where God is and if he will even show up; experiencing unanswered prayer; enduring uncaring and misdirected comments from well-meaning people; all these and more are inevitably part of the Christian spiritual experience. 

The dark night of the soul is not to be confused with personal sinfulness. Its origin is not in self, but God. 

“Silence is God’s first language.”

St. John of the Cross

Whenever one knows with a settled confidence that personal integrity is intact, but trouble abounds, we need not immediately rush to the conclusion that something is wrong with us. It may be the Spirit of God thrusting us into a desert experience to test and approve our faith.

Job’s “friend” Eliphaz offered one of those tired age-old arguments that bad things only happen to bad people. He comes at Job with the inexperience and absurdity of making misguided assumptions. He rhetorically asks: Who that was innocent ever perished?  Where were the upright cut off? 

The conclusion of Eliphaz, therefore, was bound to be off the mark – believing secret sin must surely be the culprit behind Job’s awful misfortune. Certainly, Eliphaz thinks, Job cannot possibly go through such terrible suffering without having done something to anger God.

Times change; the basic nature of people, not so much. In today’s church and world, the same notions still endure. If I had a quarter for every time I heard crazy comments, like the following, I would be a rich man: 

“He’s poor because he is lazy and doesn’t want to work.”

“She keeps having chronic health issues. God is punishing her.”

“The pandemic is God’s judgment on us for not having the Ten Commandments in our courthouses.”

“If you just confess your sin and have faith, you’ll be healed.”

“They’re in big trouble. They obviously did something evil.”

On and on the wrong-headed statements continue, ad nauseum.

The Apostle Peter understood how to view trouble in a healthy way. He said we all suffer – both the good person and the wicked. It’s just a matter of whether we will suffer for doing good and the right thing, or suffer because of saying shallow, illogical, and stupid comments that offend God and hurt others. (1 Peter 3:17-18)

Even Christ suffered. And it wasn’t because of his own sin. It was because of ours. Jesus suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. 

Jesus suffered; so, the follower of Jesus will suffer. There is a big picture only God sees. Whenever we suffer, there is something going on behind the spiritual scene. We must allow God to do divine work, and then, trust that the Lord bends all human suffering for good and redemptive purposes.

“Where there is no love, pour love in, and you will draw love out.”

St. John of the Cross

So, let’s change the rhetoric. Instead of jumping to judgment, reflexively hop to grace with comments like these:

  • “He has poverty of spirit. He’s blessed and will inherit the kingdom of God.”
  • “She’s in chronic pain. God has allowed her the privilege of suffering in solidarity with her Lord.”
  • “We’re in a pandemic. Here’s a chance for us to live out of the Ten Commandments.”
  • “If we confess the world’s sins of pride, hate, and injustice, perhaps God’s mercy will deliver us.”
  • “We’re in a big pickle. No better time than now to grow in grace.”

Where is God? Beside you, quietly and confidently holding you up in your suffering.

Lord God, I entrust myself to you because you know what you are doing. Thank you for the trials of life which humbles my heart to pray. Do your work in me so that my faith is fortified for a lifetime of service in the church and the world, through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

John 14:1-14 – “I Need Jesus!”

Welcome, friends! Simply click the video below and we will have a time together centered around the Lord Jesus.

You can also view this video at TimEhrhardtYouTube

Mindful of the many wonderful mothers and women which surround me, here are a few links with females leading us in worship of God:

Down to the River virtual choir of women

Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) this version of the Chris Tomlin song produced by BYU Records.

May you experience the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus as present and powerful today and always.

Peace be with you, my friends.