In 2 Chronicles 1, after the death of David, Solomon “established himself firmly over his kingdom (verse 1, NIV).” That evening, after making sacrifices to the Lord, God appears to Solomon and asks him: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you (verse 5-7).” This is the ultimate test of someone’s heart.

Stop and think for a moment. If someone with the ability to give you anything you wanted asked you what you wanted what would you say? Pose that question to anyone on the street and how many would say they want wisdom and knowledge? How many would request the things God lists in verse 11: “wealth, possessions or honor… death of your enemies.” These are the desires of the flesh, selfish desires.

But Solomon, humbled by the task before him, asks for “wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours (verse 10).” God said to Solomon in the next verse, “Since this is your heart’s desire.” Solomon didn’t just want wisdom and knowledge for himself, but to faithfully perform the task that God laid before him.

When God gives you a difficult task that overwhelms you, a task you feel ill-equipped to handle, how do you respond? Do you seek the counsel of this world and follow your own desires or do you seek wisdom and knowledge from God? Is your heart’s desire to faithfully perform the task he has given you, humbly admitting you feel ill-equipped without his guidance? May you continue to seek the wisdom of God in prayer and His word — in honor and praise of our Lord.

David had it in his heart to build a dwelling place for God. Psalm 132:3-5 expresses this desire:

“I will not enter my house or go to my bed, I will allow no sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob (NIV).”

Yet David never built the temple. God left that task to David’s son Solomon. It reminded me of the deep desire I have to build a temple for the Lord within the people I know who have not accepted Christ Jesus.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:16: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst.” I want them to experience the joy of the Lord; to experience the peace that comes from the Spirit of God dwelling within. Yet like David, sometimes God tells me “no,” that someone else will build it and I will not see it in my lifetime.

That does not stop me from praying for the people God places in my life. I continue to try to sow seeds, praying at some point they will sprout and grow with deep roots, yielding “a crop, a hundred times more than was sown (Luke 8:8);” hoping they will build a dwelling place for the Spirit of God within their heart.

“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 3:10-11

© 2019 CGThelen

Ever had a time when you worked at something a long time and had nothing to show for it? Such was the case with Simon in Luke 5. Simon had fished all night and caught nothing. As he cleaned his nets with the other fisherman along the shore of Lake Gennesaret, Jesus was also there teaching the crowds.

Luke tells us in verse 5:1-3 that the crowd pressed in so Jesus climbed into Simon’s beached boat and asked Simon “to put out a little from shore (verse 3, NIV).” Even though Simon is likely exhausted he shoved the boat off shore. Then Jesus “sat down and taught the people from the boat (verse 3).”

At this point I wonder if Simon sat and intently listened to Jesus, or was he just thinking about going home and getting some sleep? When Jesus finished teaching, he told Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch (verse 4).” Who can blame Simon for responding, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets (verse 5).”

Isn’t that how we respond sometimes to what the Lord asks us to do? “But Jesus, we worked a long time on that ministry and we came up empty.” We put a lot of effort into our work and now Jesus comes along and tells us to give it another try. We reluctantly respond as Simon did in verse 5, “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” The difference this time is that Jesus is in the boat.

Luke tells us in verse 6-7 that they proceed to catch so many fish that their nets almost break. When their partners in the other boat come to help, they fill both boats so full that they begin to sink. Simon is humbled by what he sees. He falls at the feet of Jesus and says, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man (verse 8)!”

It’s humbling when God shows up and proves our doubts were wrong. It’s embarrassing when we realize we put all that effort into something without inviting Jesus into the boat. Yet Jesus patiently invites himself into our boat, teaching us his ways; showing us how together we can do things we didn’t think were possible.

Simon, James and John are astonished by the catch of fish. Jesus tells them, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people (verse 10).” The result is that they pull the boats on shore and leave everything to follow Jesus. In time they accomplish great things for God. Indeed, later Simon Peter speaks to the crowds after the resurrection of Jesus in Acts 2:41 and “about three thousand were added to their number that day.” As Jesus promised, they became fishers of people. Their boat was overflowing with followers of Christ.

As you seek to follow Jesus, seek to serve him and welcome him into your boat. Sit humbly at his feet and listen to his teaching. When he calls you to do something, you may have your doubts, but put your nets in the water anyways. Let the Spirit of God work within you and let Jesus multiply the fruit of your labor.

© 2019 CGThelen

Over the years I have read Luke 9:10-17 and heard many sermons about this passage where Jesus feeds a massive crowd with 5,000 men and likely more. But this morning as I read this passage again a phrase in verse 17 made an impression on me: “They all ate and were satisfied (NIV).”

In the beginning of this chapter, Jesus “called the twelve together (verse 1)” and “sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick (verse 2).” He instructed them to “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town (verse 3-4).” Essentially Jesus told them God would provide for their needs.

In verse 10 Luke wrote that the apostles returned and “reported to Jesus what they had done.” Then they withdrew to Bethsaida, but the crowds followed so Jesus “spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing (verse 11). At that point it was late so the twelve told Jesus, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here (verse 12).”

Remember these are the same twelve that Jesus sent off at the beginning of this chapter and told them to bring no food with them and not to worry about lodging. The same twelve that he empowered to “drive out all demons and to cure diseases (verse 1).” But now they simply wanted to send the crowd away. Which leads me to believe is why Jesus responded, “You give them something to eat (verse 13).” All the twelve could see was the five loaves and two fish in front of them.

Jesus proceeded to show the apostles that God would provide all their needs. In verse 16 he took the loaves and fishes and “gave thanks and broke them.” Then he had the disciples distribute them to the thousands in the crowd. Imagine how the apostles felt as they handed out the food and there was enough for everyone — the same apostles who wanted to send the crowd away; the same apostles who Jesus empowered to do miracles. They saw that, “They all ate and were satisfied (verse 17).”

How often do we doubt God’s ability to provide all our needs? Is our tendency to send the crowd away, to send away those God puts in our life because we don’t see how God can provide at that moment? Do we tend to want to handle things on our own, packing a large suitcase of our own provisions instead of relying on God? Jesus continued to teach his apostles to rely on God, to have faith that God will take care of their needs. Jesus continues to teach us the same thing today: “They all ate and were satisfied (verse 17).”

Jesus told his disciples, ‘If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith.’” — Luke 12:28

© 2019 CGThelen

There are a lot of things that separate us from each other in this world. Anger, miles, language, and broken relationships can all create division at home, work, school and in the community. Sometimes the split is so severe that it seems the divide will never be bridged.

At times we may have the same feeling toward God. Events in our life can cause us to feel angry and distant from God. We may feel like we can’t talk to him, that our connection to him is forever broken. But Romans 8:38 tells us nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Like a coiled steel spring, the harder we push God away, the greater his force in reaching out to us. It is only our pressure on the spring that attempts to push God away. No matter how hard we try, we can never separate ourselves from the love of God.

#ThrowbackThursday; this post originally published May 31, 2013.

© 2013 CGThelen

Praying to God for healing is a difficult thing for me. It is a wrestling match between my will and the will of God. It is a deep yearning to lay down my desires for God’s desires. Yet my emotions tell me I want people I love to be whole, to not suffer. It hit me again this week when I found out a coworker who retired last year has terminal cancer and a year to live.

This struggle of wills reminds me of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1-6. After he became ill, the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz said to him, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover (verse 1, NIV).” These are words we do not want to hear from the doctor: “Your cancer is terminal.” They are words I have heard about a loved one: “He will not make it through the night.”

Hezekiah turned away from Isaiah in his bed and faced the wall. He prayed to God, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes (verse 3).” I can feel Hezekiah’s grief as he wept bitterly. I have found myself reciting a similar prayer when devoted followers of Christ I know have died; when friends contract terminal cancer. “Lord, these are people who have followed you; righteous people dedicated to serving you. Why?” In prayer I plead as Hezekiah did, “Lord, these people have walked faithfully with you; they are devoted to you.”

God heard Hezekiah’s plea, his prayer. In verse 4-5 he tells the prophet Isaiah to go back and tell him, “This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.” God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and he hears our prayers. Yet it is a matter of God’s will, his plan, whether he heals. God added 15 years to Hezekiah’s life, but not just because of Hezekiah’s will or his righteous acts. “And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.”

God chose to heal Hezekiah for his purposes; for his sake and for the sake of his servant David. God chose to continue to use Hezekiah. It seems I always want what I want and I don’t understand why God does what he does. But that is the element of faith in him. Part of the process of opening up to God in prayer is to also open up our heart to God; to share with him the deep desires of our heart and to know he hears our prayers. The answer to our prayers, our pleas, is to rest in God’s will for our life and the lives of those we dearly love in this world.

© 2019 CGThelen

How do people know I am really who I say I am? When I enter another country customs asks for my passport. When I check into a hotel in another state the front desk asks for my driver’s license. My passport and driver’s license show my citizenship. But how do people know we are citizens of the Kingdom of God?

In Phillipians 3:20 Paul wrote, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ (NIV).” Paul encouraged the followers of Jesus to follow his example of living out their faith in Christ Jesus. In 3:17 he said, “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.” A Christian’s identification is their identity in Christ Jesus, a life lived for Christ.

Paul cautioned the Phillipians about an identity in this world. “Their destiny is destruction,” Paul wrote. “Their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.” An identity invested in things of this world is an identity invested in temporary things that will pass away. How we live our life reflects our identity.

At times I am overwhelmed by God’s love and grace — that he offers us citizenship in his kingdom through his son Jesus. In Luke 6:25-26, Jesus called us to “love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked (NIV).” As citizens of the Kingdom of God, as people whose identity is in Christ, Jesus called us to, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:26b).”

© 2019 CGThelen

In the deepest pit of sadness, as sorrow overwhelmed me, I cried out to God to somehow free me from the suffering. When tears flowed seemingly from no where, I cried out to you Lord, “Let this pass.” When my body tensed, my breathing quickened and my heart rate increased, I cried out to you God. Tears flowing, filled with sorrow, I cried to God to let this pass, but you gave me the words of your son Jesus instead: “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will (Luke 14:36, NIV).”

God has created us for a specific purpose. He has uniquely crafted us, chosen us to do his will. Our obedience, as difficult as it is at times, is essential to carrying out God’s plan — to help others find the path to salvation through Christ Jesus. Through our struggles God deepens our faith. He uses our pain to help build empathy for others who experience pain. In the Kingdom of God nothing is wasted; fruit is born out of our suffering.

When I feel alone and full of grief, I recall the words of Jesus: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (14:34).” Even though Jesus shared with his disciples the deep emotional pain he felt, they ultimately abandoned him in his time of need. Jesus understands the feeling of loneliness; he understands suffering for God’s purposes. In Christ Jesus you are not alone. He will never forsake you.

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” – Mark 14:32-36

© 2019 CGThelen

I quickly darted into the house unannounced as the downpour started. Inside I found a man sitting on the floor in a large, vacant room looking up at the ceiling.

“I’m sorry,” I said to him. “I just needed to get out of he rain.”

The man acted like he didn’t hear me. He just continued to stare at the ceiling. I took a step closer to him. That’s when I noticed water dripping onto his face. I looked up at the ceiling and saw water seeping through some of the tiles in the ceiling.

“You oughta fix that roof,” I told the man. “And why are you sitting under the dripping water?”

“It was repaired,” he replied with a smile as water trickled on his face. “But I kinda like it like that.”

I shook my head not understanding the appeal. “But why?”

“Well the other day a man stopped by and helped repair the hole. But honestly he wasn’t very good at patching roofs.”

“So why did you let him patch it?”

“Well, the man said he felt responsible.”

“Responsible?”

“Yeah, the other day that guy everyone is talking about, Jesus, was in town in this very house.”

“Jesus was here?”

“Yeah, the place was packed. So this group of guys made a hole in the roof and lowered a paralyzed man down on a mat in front of Jesus.”

“So the guy who did the repair was one of the guys who tore the hole in the roof?”

“No, it was the paralyzed guy who repaired the roof,” the man replied.

“Wait a minute, are you saying the paralyzed man fixed the roof?”

“Yeah, Jesus healed him. He came back because he felt bad about the hole in the roof.”

“Jesus actually healed him?”

“It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” the man said as he stared at me intensely. “I was there. I watched them lower this helpless man on a mat down from the roof. I watched Jesus heal him. I watched the man pick up his mat and walk away. Then a few days later I watched him climb a ladder and fix the roof.”

“So it’s true?” I asked. “He was healed?”

“It’s true,” he replied as he looked up at the ceiling again. “It’s true.”

I watched him sitting under the leaky roof as water dripped on his face. He smiled again as he said, “You know what’s even more amazing?”

“No,” I replied.

“Jesus said his sins were forgiven before he healed him.”

I stood a moment and watched the water dripping on his head and streaming down his face. It was hard to tell if he was crying.

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of someone who witnessed Jesus healing the paralyzed man in Luke 5:17-26.

© 2019, CGThelen

What’s it like to have a heart for God, to be totally devoted to Jesus? Paul gave us a glimpse in Philippians 1:21-30. In this passage Paul wrote about his longing to be with Christ yet his deep desire to continue serving him. “I am torn between the two,” he said in verse 23.

Paul revealed that it is his “desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far (verse 23),” but recognized the importance of remaining with the Phillipian church. As difficult as it is was for him at times, he knew his calling was to “continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith (verse 25).” For Paul, it wasn’t just about his personal salvation. He had a longing to be with Christ; a deep desire to serve him; a total selfless dedication to being a disciple of Jesus.

This passage caused me to examine my own life and my devotion to Christ. While I may long to be with Christ, I don’t always share Paul’s dedication to be with those who need to be nurtured in their faith in Christ. Am I so totally devoted to serving Christ that I feel as Paul wrote: “so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me (verse 26).”

How deep is your commitment to Christ? Is your faith all about your salvation or does it include a dedication to growing other disciples? It wasn’t enough for Paul to just bring salvation in Christ to the Philippians. He wanted his passion for Christ to be contagious so that their boasting in Christ would overflow into the lives of others.

© 2019 CGThelen

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