This morning my mind is filled with earthly concerns, yet my heart just wants to praise you dear God. I am drawn to the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 150 so many years ago yet it still rings true today.

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.

Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord. (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

In Mark 13:11 Jesus tells us not to worry about what to say when we are brought to trial, instead we should let the Spirit of God guide our words. In a world full of scripted remarks and prepared statements, it is hard to think about going into a trial without proper preparation. Yet I don’t think Jesus is saying that we should go into these situations totally unprepared.

Jesus’ whole discourse in Mark 13 is a warning to his disciples to be prepared for what is to come. He is warning them of coming persecution. To that end he tells them to be ready and to let their faith in God guide them, not their own strength, cleverness, or words. “So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time,” Jesus said in Mark 13:23.

For us that means we need to prepare ourselves for trials in life by immersing ourselves daily in the Word of God; to prayerfully seek God and his will each day. We need to learn to endure struggles without compromising our faith in Christ. We need to continually strengthen our resolve to follow Christ so that we will endure to the end. Jesus reminds us in Mark 13:13, “Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published Feb. 27, 2017.

© 2017 CGThelen

The camp fire crackled as I stared at his face illuminated by the orange glow of dying embers. I had never seen this courageous warrior with such concern on his face. I could see the fear in his eyes.

“I tell you, they’re coming for us!” He exclaimed.

“So let ‘em come,” I snapped back. “We can defeat them.”

“No!” He snapped back, grabbing my hand and staring intensely at me. “You don’t understand. God is on their side.”

“So they have a god behind them. So what? Everyone has their own beliefs. I believe we are tougher than them.”

“Listen to me! Their Lord God is in heaven above and on the earth below!”

“Okay, so?”

“Haven’t you heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea when they came out of Egypt? How he completely destroyed Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan?”

“Those are just rumors, scare tactics.”

“Believe what you want, but our turn is coming. I don’t think we’ll escape their judgement.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Word has it that the Israelites sent spies to survey our land. Someone spotted them leaving when the city gate was closed.”

“You keep talking like that and you’ll make the men lose courage. Their hearts will melt in fear.”

“So, if you don’t fear this God of theirs, what will you do when they are standing at our gate? When they’re here to decide your fate.”

I stared at him silent for a moment. His words made me uneasy, but I didn’t want to give even a hint that I was concerned. “Well, until that day comes, I don’t believe this God is all powerful.”

#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 two soldiers under the service of the king of Jericho, based on Joshua 2:1-11 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

We live in a media saturated world. By some estimates more than one billion images are uploaded each day on social media and that doesn’t include the millions of hours of video uploaded each day. Then there are the additional hours of television shows and movies available for streaming. Woven into all of this are millions of ads trying to grab our attention and influence us every day.

All this media isn’t necessarily bad. There is plenty of Christian content in the mix. It’s more about our choices and how we let all this media impact our lives. 1 John 2:16 warns us, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” Jesus reminded us in Luke 11:34, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.”

So how much of your screen time includes the eternal? Filling our eyes and minds with a healthy dose of scripture helps us to discern the eternal from the temporal. We become better oriented toward God’s will for our lives and not earthly desires that leave us feeling empty. It’s hard to imagine that all those billions of uploaded images and videos will soon be forgotten and eventually pass away. 1 John 2:17 reminds us, “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people. – Ephesians 1:18

© 2019 CGThelen

This morning broken hearts are on my mind dear God. Hearts shattered by those close to us. Hurt that seems like it will never go away. Pain that continually penetrates like a thorn in our side. Piercing pain that drains the life from us. Heal us Lord as only you can do. Fill us with hope only you can give. Bind up our wounds to bring healing as only you, the great physician can do. Absorb the tears from our eyes with your soothing tissue of love and grace. Nurture us back to life, new life in you dear Lord.

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. – Psalm 6:2-4

I praise you dear God for the majesty of your creation. I praise you for the vista of mountains in the daylight that leaves us breathless. I praise you for how that same mountain ridge is so strikingly different and amazing at sunset. I praise you for the beautiful detail within that mountain range from majestic trees rising high above to a towering waterfall tumbling down a steep cliff into a relaxing stream that nurtures the smallest flower. I praise you for the sights and sounds of your creation: the bubbling brook, the wind in the trees and the sound of crickets in a warm night. Only you dear Lord give us so much in this world you created for us. May we forever sing our praises to you dear Lord for what you have given us.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” – Romans 1:20 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

It can be difficult waiting on God to respond to our needs. Often our impatience is born out of our expectations that God will respond according to our plans and schedule. This is what we see in Exodus 5:1-23 where Moses followed God’s request to return to Egypt to ask Pharaoh to release the Israelites. He told Pharaoh, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness (Exodus 5:1).'” Pharaoh promptly refused Moses’ request and then imposed harsher conditions on the enslaved Israelites that made their work even more difficult.

Instead of winning freedom for the Israelites, Moses made things worse for them. The angry Israelite overseers told Moses in Exodus 5:21, “May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” That is the thanks Moses received for being obedient to God.

It is apparent that Moses had the expectation that he would go ask Pharaoh to release the Israelites and Pharaoh would grant his request. In Exodus 5:22-23 Moses complained to God, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”

When God does not meet our expectations, like Moses, we can get angry with God. It is hard to remember that God has the long view of our life and that his timing is perfect. Often when we think he is not responding to our needs he is actually equipping us and preparing the way for us.

Such was the case with Moses and the Israelites in Egypt. If Pharaoh had simply let them go the first time Moses asked, all of Egypt would not have experienced the power of God. Because of God’s delay the Israelites plundered Egypt and were well equipped for their journey ahead as well as having gold and silver for the tabernacle and later the temple.

With each chapter of Exodus we can see the wisdom of God’s long view unfold as well as the consequences the Israelites faced for their impatience with God. The lesson for us is to rest in God and trust him even when we get impatient for him to act according to our expectations.

#ThrowbackThursday – This post originally published Feb. 2017.

© 2017 CGThelen

I sat down after a long day to rest my weary body after a day of toil in the fields. My young children came to me and a I greeted them with a hug. How blessed I felt as I gazed above the heads of my children in my embrace at my beautiful wife preparing our evening meal. She smiled at me. Suddenly this moment was interrupted by a knock at the door.

My wife frowned as I glanced at the door. Once again their was a knock. I sighed and released my children as I stood up. “Who could that be?” I looked at my children gazing up at me with a curious look. They were as puzzled as I was about who was visiting us at this hour.

When I opened the door I was surprised to see the widow from down the street with her two boys. One of the boys held an armful of empty jars.

“Well, good evening,” I greeted her. I did not know her, but I had heard of her plight — how her husband died and now his creditors were likely to take her sons as slaves to pay for the debt left by her husband. I was sure she was looking for handouts to avoid the fate of her boys. In my mind I thought they were getting what they deserved. It was a consequence of taking on debt. I wasn’t about to give up what what I earned. By this time my children gathered behind me by the door as my wife looked on from the table while she continued to prepare our meal.

“Please, can you spare a few empty jars?” She asked.

“Empty jars?” I didn’t expect that request. “What do you want with empty jars “ I asked. She certainly did not have anything to put in them.

“I am only doing what the prophet Elisha asked me to do.”

“Elisha?!” My eyes widened. “Is he at your house?”

“No, I went to him and pleaded for help to save my sons from slavery.”

“I’m aware of your situation,” I replied. “As are most people in town, yet this is all your ask for?”

“It is what the man of God told me to do.”

I nodded. I had a lot of respect for Elisha and I wasn’t about to argue with his instructions. “Children. Go get a couple empty jars from your mother.”

They immediately ran to the table where my wife already had two jars waiting. She smiled at me and nodded in agreement. When I took the jars from my children, I noticed they were the jars my wife’s mother made for her. I glanced at her, unsure whether I should give up these special jars. She smiled again and nodded.

“Here you go,” I told the widow as I handed her the jars.

“Thank you,” she replied with tears in her eyes. She handed the jars to her son who held them tightly in an embrace. “I hate to impose, but do you have any more jars you could spare?”

I glanced back at my wife. She reached toward the shelf behind her and grabbed a jar that was given to me by my grandfather. She looked at me and I nodded. “Son, go get that other jar from your mother.”

My son retrieved the jar and I handed it to the widow. “I’m afraid this is all we have to spare.”

“Thank you so much,” she said as she handed the additional jar to her son who carefully added it to his armful of jars.

“May I ask what the prophet intends to do with these jars?”

“I’m not sure,” she replied. “After I pleaded with him to help, he said, ‘How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?’ Then I told him I had nothing except

a small jar of olive oil. That’s when he told me, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”

I nodded at her as we exchanged a stare. Behind her eyes I saw hope. She revered the Lord like her husband.

“Thank you for the jars,” she said with a slight smile.

“You’re welcome,” I replied.

I began to close the door, but paused as I watched her walk to the next house with her two sons. I admired her faith, her trust that this prophet would work a miracle for her.

#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 encounters the widow at his door asking for empty jars based on 2 Kings 4:1-7 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

Shattered

Broken pieces

Scattered all around

Void of any shape

A broken vessel

Unable to hold

Fragile clay pot

Smashed against

A cold, hard floor

So many pieces

Yet God’s hand

Patiently shows

Porous clay edges

Now exposed

Readily absorb

His love and grace

One by one

His compassion

Glues pieces together

Little by little*

He rebuilds

Restoring this vessel

To serve him

Until one day

It is complete

A vessel worthy

To hold his love

Filled with hope

Cracks still visible

Brokenness still evident

But held together

By God’s love and grace

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

*Thanks to Jennifer Arimborgo and her post http://feedingonjesus.com/2019/08/27/little-by-little-2/ for inspiring this poem.

Today my mind is full, the vessel of my life overflowing. As I look at my day, there is little room for you dear God. Help me to empty my vessel of me and my desires; help me to prioritize my day with you in mind dear God. Fill me with your wisdom to know what I should do with this day you have given me. May you fill me to overflowing with your love and grace.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. – Philemon 1:9-11 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

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