The world rages on. Disputes arise, kindling flames. Yet in this moment, in your sanctuary I hear only silence. “Peace be with you,” Jesus tells me.

I am unsettled, anxious about this day. I thirst for calm waters. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you,” Jesus reminds me.

I feel surrounded by those hostile to you God. They clasp their ears so they cannot hear your truth. I am discouraged, tired; my efforts seem futile. “Peace be with you,” Jesus repeats.

Praise God for his calming voice. Praise God for his peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding. Praise God for his reassurance, that we can call him Father. Praise God for his grace, his loving touch that calms and soothes. Praise God that we can approach him with our fears and worries, that he listens. Praise God that he patiently guides us on his path and purpose. All praise to God who is our rock, our fortress, our constant in a world of shifting sand.

Peace scripture: Luke 24:36, John 14:27 & John 20:26 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published December 6, 2016.

Sometimes no matter how much I plead with God to transform the life of a person with Christ, it seems nothing changes. The struggles remain and I feel helpless to show the way to Christ. I feel helpless to bring about any change and it feels like my prayers fall on deaf ears.

At times like this I am caught in the tension between God’s sovereignty and the free will of people to reject or embrace Christ. Romans 9:18 tells us, “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden (NIV).” Within this tension I am forced to trust God’s sovereignty; forced to deepen my pursuit of Christ; forced to let the tension hold me close to God.

I must trust that God has a purpose for delineating between mercy and wrath and that only he is qualified to judge between the two. I must admit I am severely unqualified to judge why some graciously receive Christ and others reject him.

The only answer to this tension is to continue to liberally apply the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to all people who God places in our life. We must continue to trust God to handle the response people give to the message of salvation.

© 2016 CGThelen

Physical strength is something that we can see and recognize, but how do we know if someone has spiritual strength? How do we know someone has a strong faith in Jesus Christ? Often it is through difficult times in life that the strength of our faith becomes evident. Just as the strength of a weightlifter is tested by adding more weight, the added pressures of trials in life test the strength of our faith.

Like a weightlifter preparing for competitions with muscle building exercises, God works with us to strengthen our faith and endurance. He encourages us to read scripture, pray and meet with other Christians. He continues to add weights, continues to encourage us, continues to tell us, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV).”

Yet when we are in the middle of great difficulties in life; when our arms are fully stretched holding the weight of the world above our head; when our arms tremor as we watch more weight being added to the barbell; it’s hard to heed God’s reassurance that his burden is light. All we can see is the crushing weight of trials over our head, not wanting to release our grip even though we can feel ourselves growing faint and weak, weary from the pressure.

That’s when God gently tells us, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:28-31).”

© 2019 CGThelen

The sun dawns on a new day, a new week. At this moment the day is open like an empty calendar. I have filled this day with my schedule, my tasks. I have my expectations for how this day will go. I pray Lord not for you to bless my designated activities, but for you to fill me with your wisdom on how to discern what I should do this day to serve you.

Help us to hear your voice, to listen to your guidance, your direction. Let us not get distracted from serving you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. May we spend time in prayer seeking you as we make decisions this day.

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor (Luke 6:12-16, NIV).”

© 2019 CGThelen

You can’t change the past, but you can influence the future. Be in this moment, don’t linger in what is gone, but learn from it. Don’t miss what is in front of you this minute worrying about a future yet to come. This moment, this very minute close your eyes and rest in the presence of God. As you breath in, feel the Spirit of God giving you breath, giving you life. Rest in Him. Give him praise this morning. Enter his presence with gratitude for his son Jesus. Praise Him that we are forgiven. We are free from sin and death. Eternal life is ours in Christ Jesus. All praise to God who created us, who shaped us for a purpose. This moment we praise you dear God. You are worthy of our praise.

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7, NIV).”

© 2019 CGThelen

When he was a young kid, barely a teenager, I would often notice him standing in the back of church all alone. One day as I watched him I felt God nudge me to go over and talk to him. I sighed and reluctantly walked over to him. I tried to start a conversation, but we stumbled over our words. It was very awkward at best. Afterward I questioned why God wanted me to talk to him. It made no sense to me.

As the years passed, God continued to nudge me to periodically talk to this boy. Sometimes it was just a simple “hi” to show that I noticed him. Because of these short, awkward conversations we connected in a strange way. We didn’t become close, but slowly I built a kind of disconnected friendship with this kid.

As he grew older he began to get in more and more trouble. Several times I would talk to him about it, but he was indifferent to my words. It became harder to connect with him, yet God still nudged me to talk to him. When his trouble landed him in prison, he put me on his visitor list. I wrote him a couple times and tried to visit him but for some reason my visitor application was lost.

I began to wonder what the point was in trying to stay connected with this guy who was now a man serving time. Yet God kept nudging me. After he was released from prison, he committed more crimes that landed him back in prison. This time I was able to visit him in prison. When I sat down with him the first time in the visitor area, I was astounded to hear him talk about the Bible and following Jesus. He was determined to change his life.

Last December he was released from prison after serving his sentence. A few weeks ago he and his wife came over to our place for dinner and advice on questions of faith and their relationship with each other. As they sat on our couch talking with my wife and I, it occurred to me that perhaps God placed me in his life almost 20 years ago for this moment. He kept me connected to him with those short, awkward conversations that did not make sense at the time. God knew this day would come and he began preparing us for it almost 20 years ago. I was reminded that God is at work in the littlest details. He has the long view of life and how seemingly small, insignificant things can make a big difference years later.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1

© 2019 CGThelen

When I was in college many years ago, in the days before video streaming and on-demand television, my roommate in the dorm religiously watched his favorite television shows each week. He was so devoted to his television that he structured his weekly schedule around the weekly broadcast schedule of each episode.

His behavior might seem a bit strange in our digital era, but things were different back then in the world of broadcast TV. At that time, if you missed the show that week, you may have to wait months to see it when the network aired it again. If you didn’t catch a rerun of your favorite show, you would be at the mercy of the network to show it again sometime.

So my roommate planned accordingly by scheduling classes around the weekly broadcast schedule. One night when I asked him if he wanted to join me for dinner in the cafeteria, he told me no because the “Rockford Files” was on in a few minutes. I began to learn his weekly routine and when I was likely to find him in our dorm room in a trance, staring at the TV screen.

When I think about his devotion to those old shows, it makes me consider what I give priority to and how it shapes my day. At times I wonder if I have the same regimen for my devotion to God. Does my life revolve around Jesus and the Word of God, or do I give other things priority over God? My roommate demonstrated to me his devotion to his television by how he planned his life. May others see our devotion to God in how we plan our life.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” – Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

Lord, this morning I think of Hezekiah who faced a powerful adversary. He did not seek strength to overpower, did not seek personal victory. Instead he sought to defend your name dear God, to punish those who ridiculed you. May we take such a stand, to humbly ask that we seek to bring honor to you dear God. That we lift your name up today; that those who seek to discredit you will be silenced by our prayers.

Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. – Isaiah 37:14-17 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

At times, dear Lord, we are overwhelmed by the world around us. It appears to dominate all things, seemingly ready to overpower us. Yet you dear Lord are our strength, you are our shield. You are steadfast, a mighty fortress. Praise you Lord that we can rely on you to be our protector. Praise you Lord for your grace, that you redeemed us and gave us a path to eternal life. Praise you God that you gave us victory over sin through your only son Jesus. All praise this day to you dear Lord.

Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress. – Isaiah 33:2 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published May 6, 2016.

I am a self-made man. I relish my achievements because they endorse how great I am. From job promotions, to bank accounts, to awards, to the accomplished lives of my children, I constantly seek endorsements that I am better than those around me. This arrogance is what elevates me above God. This is not an attitude that brings me closer to God.

It is in the hard times that I am brought closer to God and his purposes for my life. We do not welcome the struggles in life. As Paul writes in 2 Cor. 12:6-10, we plead for God to take them away, to remove the thorn in our flesh that continues to torment us. It is difficult for us to see that the challenges we face in life are there to help prevent us from becoming conceited.

It is so very hard to think that God places a thorn in our sides to prevent us from becoming arrogant. For months, even years I have prayed for a young soul to return to Christ. I have helplessly watched as this person’s life spiraled out of control. I desperately try to help, but it seems all my efforts are in vain. I feel weak and humbled. Paul’s words in verse 9 resonate, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

It is not in my own abilities that I find the strength to manage hardship, it is in humble reverence to God that I find strength through Jesus Christ. When I am beaten down and worn out, that is when I am most open to the power of Christ within me. It is what Paul writes, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Jesus sacrificed himself to demonstrate the power of God to the world. On the cross He looked weak and defeated to the world. But through his death and resurrection, God’s power was made evident. Our ability to make Christ evident rests in our ability to die to self; to remain humble and not conceited. Paul’s words in verse 10 should encourage us: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” It is our acknowledgement of how truly weak we are to control this life that we find our true strength in Christ.

© 2016 CGThelen

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