#ThrowbackThursday – This post originally published December 23, 2015.

How often do we go through life and wonder why certain things happen to us; life-changing events that can be very emotional and gut-wrenching. In the midst of these traumatic events. we can’t always see how they can shape our character and strengthen our faith. Jeremiah 18 gives us a vivid picture of how God works in our life to mold us into someone with Godly character.

In verse four, Jeremiah notes, “But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him (NIV).” God uses this image to show Jeremiah how he is working to remove the blemishes from Israel to shape them into a vessel for his purposes. God shows Jeremiah how he will continue to apply pressure on Israel to stop them from continuing as a marred pot that refuses to follow His ways.

In our own life we can act like Israel, pushing back on the pressure God applies as he works to mold us. We try to form our own life in our own way, preferring to remain a marred pot or even a lump of unusable clay. As we struggle it may seem like God has abandoned us, but all the time God’s loving hands are wrapped around us, gently applying pressure to shape us in his image so we can become a vessel for His kingdom.

In Jeremiah 18:6, God said to Jeremiah, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand.” It is a good reminder that God touches our life with his love and grace. Even though the pressure may seem like too much to bear, God’s hand is always upon us.

© 2015 CGThelen

Typically in a game of hide and seek, the goal is to hide so as not to be discovered by the seeker. But in the case of Zacheus in Luke 19:1-9, he chose to put himself in a place that made him visible to Jesus. Scripture tells us Zacheus wanted a better look at Jesus. He didn’t settle for trying to get a peek at him through the crowd. Zacheus is determined to get a full look at the man he had heard about.

I wonder what was going on in Zacheus’ life to cause him to climb a tree like a child to get a better look at Jesus. Perhaps there was a hunger in his heart to see if what he had heard was really true. Maybe he was growing tired of his lifestyle and sought something better. Whatever his motivation, it appears that he did not anticipate that Jesus would see and seek him. He sought Jesus and then Jesus sought him.

Imagine how Zacheus felt when Jesus stopped below him and looked up at him. I picture his heart beating faster as he stared into the eyes of Jesus. When Jesus asked Zacheus to take him to his house, he responded immediately and took Jesus to his home.

Sometimes we may feel like playing hide and seek with Jesus. Our struggles and our sin might make us feel like hiding from him. But Jesus seeks us no matter how much we try to hide from him. Like Zacheus, we should place ourselves in full view of Christ. When he asks to come into our home, we should welcome him. Like Zacheus, we should repent of our sins, offering restitution to those we have harmed; demonstrating our new found life in Jesus to others.

© 2019 CGThelen

After the triumph of Easter morning, after the joyous celebration of your resurrection Jesus, it is Monday morning, the start of another week. Back to the work week, back into the world. This morning I feel like i am being thrown into the lions’ den. This morning I hear rustling in the tall grass — Satan on the prowl looking for someone to devour, devious eyes watching me (1 Peter 5:8). The reality of the world waits. I am being tossed into the lions’ den. I think of the king’s words in Daniel 6:16, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

Lord Jesus help us this day as we go out into a hostile world. Help us to focus on you, not the prowling lions with their hungry look. Let us reach out to you for strength and courage, trusting in you and not our own ability to defend ourselves. Help us to wait on you to close the mouths of the lions.

May we be found righteous in your eyes dear Lord and in the sight of others. At the end of the day may Daniel 6:22 be the words we share with those who ask: “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

© 2019 CGThelen

Editor’s note: This post originally published March 31, 2018.

After Jesus died on the cross and was buried, before Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples were hiding out of fear they might meet the same fate. All they knew was that Jesus was gone. They had yet to experience his resurrection. This was a period of fear and doubt, the time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

To live without salvation through Christ is to be caught between Good Friday and Easter morning. It is an eternal darkness without the hope offered by the resurrection of Christ. It is a place of constant night with only the fading light of a man-made lamp to illuminate the way. It is a state of hopelessness without any chance of salvation from sin. Yet because of God’s love for us we do not have to remain trapped between Good Friday and Easter.

Salvation is ours through faith in Christ. This Easter embrace the hope of the resurrection. Leave behind doubt and disbelief and run with Peter to see the strips of linen lying in the empty tomb (Luke 24:12). Share the joy of the women who saw the risen Lord and ran to tell the disciples (Matt. 28:8). 1 Peter 1:8-9 tells us, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls (NIV).”

My prayer is that the dawn of this Easter morning will dissipate the darkness of night with the radiant light of the risen Lord. May we express the joy of our salvation with the proclamation, “He has risen!”

© 2018 CGThelen

The material wrapped around me, clinging tighter with each twist. I felt restrained by the world, restricted to my old self. But praise God that he gave me Christ Jesus, that he saw fit to save me. The old cloth of death has been removed and left in the tomb. I have been raised into a new life in Christ. My sin no longer weighs me down; no longer conceals me in the tomb.

I praise you Lord Jesus that you rolled back the stone, that you set us free with your death and resurrection. Thank you for bearing the burden of our sin so we can have eternal life. Praise God for his love and grace, that he sacrificed his son for us. Praise God for the blessing of Easter morning — for the empty tomb where the burial cloths of death were left behind. Praise God that we too can leave behind the burial cloth of certain death and have new life in Christ Jesus.

“Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen.” – John 20:6-7 (NIV)

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” – Romans 6:4

© 2019 CGThelen

I was reading Luke 21 when verse 37 and 38 caught my attention: “Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple (NIV).” I wonder what was going through his mind each night he spent on the Mount of Olives, the place where Judas betrayed him days later (Luke 22)? I believe Jesus spent much of this time in conversation with his Father; spending time in prayer after a tiring and grueling day.

During the day when he taught in the temple courts, the chief priests, teachers of the law and the elders questioned him in hopes his answers would give them a reason to have him arrested (Luke 20:1). People were flocking to Jesus and the Jewish leaders were jealous of him. These were full days for Jesus, tending to the people, silencing his opposition, and trying to prepare his disciples for what was to come — knowing they were not quite ready. Jesus took time each night to retreat and spend time with his Father, to prepare for what was to come. Yet this very routine of evenings on the Mount of Olives seemed to make his disciples unprepared for what was about to happen.

The disciples were used to Jesus’ routine of going to the Mount of Olives each evening. Luke 22:39 tells us, “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.” Which is why I think they seemed so casual about going there, despite Jesus’ warnings. In the next verse Jesus tells them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He was telling them that this wasn’t just another night on the Mount of Olives.

My take-away from these verses is that we need to be careful that the routine does not become too familiar — to the point where we get lulled into complacency. God is very much at work in the everyday. Significant things can emerge unexpectedly from a day that seemed very routine. May we take Jesus’ words to heart: “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:36).”

#ThrowbackThursday – This post originally published March 30, 2018.

What would you have done that day if you were standing in the crowd when Pilate offered to release either Jesus or Barabbas (Matt. 27)? Would you have shouted “Barabbas” like the rest of the crowd or would you have shouted “Jesus”? Would you have been persuaded to choose a rebel and murderer, instead of the Son of God, the Messiah?

Mark 15:7 tells us that Barabbas was “in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising.” While Jesus chose the will of God, Barabbas chose to join others who decided to take matters into their own hands with a violent uprising. Pilate asked the crowd that day, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews (Mark 15:9)?” The crowd was swayed to choose the insurrectionist Barabbas over Jesus. “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross (Phil. 2:8)!”

What’s amazing about that day is that even though the people in the crowd chose to reject Jesus, God still offered redemption to them with the death and resurrection of his Son. Like Barabbas, we are rebels condemned to die for our sinful, selfish desires. Yet in God’s infinite mercy and love, he offers us freedom and eternal life through his son Jesus Christ who paid the price for our rebellion so that we could forever live in the Kingdom of God.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. – Romans 10:9

© 2018 CGThelen

#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 a person who saw Jesus on the cross based on Mark 15:33-39.

It was a strange darkness unlike any I had ever seen. Around noon it suddenly covered the whole land in a way that was unlike any severe storm I had ever seen. My friend commented that he wondered if this was what the darkness looked like when it covered Egypt at the time of Moses before the Exodus. Some said it was because they crucified Jesus.

It wasn’t something I necessarily liked to see, but curiosity got the best of us so my friend and I made our way to Golgotha. There in the darkness we could make out three crosses. I barely recognized Jesus, the man I had seen a few times teaching the crowds. It was a gruesome scene with blood dripping down the wood beams from bodies suspended with spikes. I became nauseated at the site. What had this man done to deserve such severe punishment? What had he done to deserve death?

Suddenly we heard Jesus cry out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Indeed, I could not understand why God would allow such a brutal injustice.

Someone near us remarked, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” My heart ached. It wasn’t enough that they crucified him. Now he had to endure these people mocking him. I wanted to turn my head and shield my eyes, but someone brushed by me with a staff that had a vinegar-soaked sponge on the end. I watched as he hoisted it up to Jesus and offered him a drink. Someone else shouted, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down.”

“Yes, leave him alone!” I whispered to myself. Something stirred deep inside me as I gazed at Jesus on the cross and then looked at the people mocking him. Something did not feel right. Why were so many so intent on making fun of him?

“We should go,” my friend said to me with a sad face. “I’ve seen enough.”

I nodded in agreement. As I turned to leave, I heard Jesus cry out. I looked back at the cross and saw his body suddenly slump with a sigh as he breathed his last. Tears began to stream down my cheeks as I traced trickles of blood down the wood beam to a pool on the ground. My head slumped with sadness. “Who was this man,” I wondered to myself. That’s when I heard the centurion standing in front of Jesus say, “Surely this man was the Son of God.”

© 2019 CGThelen

Editor’s Note — This post originally published July 8, 2013.

What if Solomon had tried to build the temple of God on his own with no help? There is no way he could have completed the project on his own. The same is true today when it comes to building our life as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Instead of relying on others in the body of Christ, too often we treat temple-building as a do-it-yourself project.

In 1 Kings 5:5, Solomon declares, “I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the name of The Lord my God, as The Lord told my father David (NIV).” In order to accomplish this task, Solomon did not just direct the construction, he also relied on resources and other people to help him complete the temple. 1 Kings chapter 5-6 details the thousands of people and extensive resources required to complete the temple in seven years. As 1 Kings 6:38 tells us, “…the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications.”

Solomon precisely followed God’s plan and did not attempt to create his own plans or try to complete construction by himself. But that is only the beginning. God provides further instruction in 1 Kings 6:12-13 “As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, observe my laws, and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father. And I will live among the Israelites and I will not abandon Israel.”

2 Corinthians 6:16 reminds us that we are the temple of the living God. Building our lives as a temple is not a do-it-yourself project. We need to follow God’s plan for our life and rely on the people and resources God makes available to us in order to mature in our faith. In this way, others will know that God’s Spirit dwells in our midst (1 Cor. 3:16). As 1 Kings 6:12-13 reminds us, we must follow God’s decrees, observe his laws, and keep His commands in order to create a space in our hearts for the living God.

As Genesis 12:2-3 reminds us, God’s intent in making Israel a great nation was so that others could be blessed by the living God. He provided them with detailed instructions to become that great nation. Likewise, God has plans for our life to become the temple of the living God, not just for our own benefit, but so that others will be blessed by God.

© 2013 CGThelen

At the bedside, in the hospital we wait. Tubes and monitors hooked up to our loved ones, we wait for good news. We wait on God to bring healing; from the depths of our sorrow, we cry out to God for healing. Yet all we can do is wait; wait for the broken and ravished body to heal.

While doctors monitor our loved ones as they lay in the hospital bed, God monitors us; he knows our pain, our suffering, our sorrow. His one and only son Jesus was crucified, willingly sacrificed so that he could redeem us; so that we can be saved from the grip of sin and death.

We wait at the bedside of our ailing loved ones. We feel the pain of watching them suffer. We may even cry out, “God, why have you abandoned me?” But God is there. He is always there right by our side. Reach out to him and take his hand. Find strength and comfort in the one who knows your pain, the one who created you.

Dear God fill us with your hope, your strength, your peace. As we worry about the unknown, the future, may we find comfort in you. May those this day who are waiting at the bedside of ailing loved ones feel your peace surround them. May they know that God knows their pain. May they feel the hand of Christ Jesus upon them, the one who knows suffering and pain. May they find rest as they keep vigil over their loved ones day after day. In Jesus name we pray.

If you desire, share your joys and concerns in a comment so we can lift them to God in prayer.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

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