Our journey of faith in Christ Jesus is not one to take alone. Throughout the Bible we read about the importance of Christian community and meeting together to build up one another. Hebrews 10:24 tells us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds (NIV).” In 1 Thess 5:11 Paul wrote: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

In Ecclesiastes 4, Solomon writes about how two people together are better than one. In verse 9 he wrote: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.” In verse 12 he wrote: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.” But it is the last part of verse 12 that really caught my attention. “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

I couldn’t help but think of the Trinity of God the Father, his Son Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of God tightly woven together in an unbreakable bond. In God we have our creator, the ruler of heaven and earth. In his son Jesus we have a divine role model for us, our means to salvation and freedom from the chains of sin. As believers in Jesus, we have the Spirit of God dwelling within us. When we are tightly wound within this Trinity, when our faith is woven into this three-fold cord, we are secure with the Lord against our foes in this world.

© 2019 CGThelen

John 6:16-21 is a familiar passage in the Bible where Jesus walks on the water. I have read it many times and heard many sermons on this passage, but when I read it this morning one verse really stood out: “Then they were willing to take him into the boat (verse 21, NIV).” I wonder why they hesitated to take Jesus into the boat?

Verse 16-17 tells us the disciples opted to cross the lake to Capernaum without Jesus. It was dark and, “A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough (18).” As fisherman, many of the disciples were in familiar water. Verse 19 tells us they had “rowed three or four miles” — a long time — but it doesn’t say they were “frightened” until “they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water.”

This is a decision point for the disciples. “Is what I’m seeing really Jesus, miraculously walking on the water?” I picture them saying, “We’ve been navigating these rough seas on our own without Jesus. After all, we’re experienced fisherman.” Jesus is showing them a different way to navigate rough waters. It’s a frightening thing to acknowledge him as the son of God — to accept him as the Messiah and let him into your boat.

Jesus knows our fears. He knows the difficulty we have in letting him into our boat to take control; to drop the oars and cease the straining against the storms of life without Jesus. The disciples took Jesus at his word and “they were willing to take him into the boat (21).” The rest of verse 21 tells us: “and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.”

I imagine the disciples were not sure exactly how they immediately reached their destination as soon as Jesus entered the boat. Yet I think they could see that as soon as they let Jesus into the boat, somehow they made it across the stormy sea; somehow, in some inexplicable way, Jesus led them to safe passage.

© 2019 CGThelen

The sun set and the darkness moved in, but God’s promises stand. I look to the east and see the first light of dawn. Darkness recedes at the presence of morning. Help me to stand on your promises today dear God. Let me not fall prey to the false promises of this world. Give me discernment to see through the facades of beliefs that are empty inside; people who are whitewashed tombs. May I be at peace knowing Jesus; knowing he sacrificed his life to give me eternal life; knowing he freed me from the chains of my sin. Let me this day rest in you dear Lord — rest in knowing my future is secure in you.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

This moment between the past and the future. This moment before the dawn. This moment between night and day. This quiet moment there is just you and me God. You sit here with me like a dear old dad sharing a cup of coffee and life, listening intently. In this silent moment before the day emerges, I share my inner most thoughts with you. You reassure me with your wisdom. I humbly praise you; that I can acknowledge you as father; that you know me by name. You are the loving father that cheers me on, the proud father beaming with pride in the stands as you watch me on the field. I am forever grateful that I am your child. I praise you for the family of believers, my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. All praise to you dear God for this day!

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” – Romans 8:16 (NIV)

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” – 1 John 3:1

© 2019 CGThelen

There is a natural rhythm to life as expressed in Ecclesiastes 3, “a season for every activity under the heavens (verse 1, NIV).” As you read verses 2-8, it’s hard not to feel the emotion that Solomon describes in so many of these life events — the sorrow and the joy. We can readily identify with so many of the seasons of life that are expressed in these verses, but we don’t always understand the purpose behind them.

In the verses that follow 2-8, Solomon provides a clue for the reason for the rhythm of joy and sorrow we feel in life. In verse 9 he related to our frustration at times in trying to understand what we gain from our toil, the burden to find purpose. It is that desire to seek meaning that should point us toward God. We cannot “fathom what God has done from beginning to end,” but we can begin to see “how he has made everything beautiful in its time (11).” To “find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God (13).”

It is a gift from God to be able to see how he makes everything beautiful in its time. We can feel the joy of new birth and smile holding a new born baby, but the sorrow of death is hard to understand (2). We can feel the pride of constructing a new home, but feel sad when we watch our grandparents’ home torn down to make way for the new (3). We can smile at a keepsake given us, but cry when we must sort through and throw away sentimental things we have accumulated through life (6). Without God we cannot understand these rhythms in life, but with God we are able to trust he has a purpose for everything under the sun.

Solomon told us in verses 3:12-13: “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” May we receive this gift from God and accept his purposes, the rhythms of the seasons of our life.

© 2019 CGThelen

Years ago our friends were building a house and they gave us a tour of the roughed-in frame. As we walked through each room, I noticed they had scripture written on the beams and door posts throughout the house. “What a great idea,” I told them. They explained that they wanted their new home surrounded by the word of God. I decided to copy their idea, but never thought about the impact it might have years later.

In the 23 years we lived in our old house, I occasionally wrote scripture on the wall as we remodeled or repainted a room. Sometimes it wasn’t painted over if I scrawled it on a wall where a cabinet was placed or fastened to the wall. It was good to know God’s word was throughout our home. I didn’t consider its impact beyond that.

Three years ago we sold our house to my nephew and moved to another home. As we started to remodel our new home, I again started to write scripture on the walls to continue the tradition. Last week I was surprised when my nephew texted a picture to me showing some scripture he found written on the wall after he removed the old mirror above the bathroom sink. You can see in the picture below it is a passage from James.

“Looks like you left me an inspirational verse?” He wrote to me. He didn’t realize I scrawled that verse on the wall several years before we sold the house to him, but it appeared we left the verse for him. I took the opportunity to share more scripture with him in my response, praying his family would continue to deepen their faith in Jesus. It made me wish we hadn’t painted over other verses, that we had left more of them visible. I did tell him how we wrote scripture on the walls and usually painted over it, but he found one that was visible. “Now you know God’s word is all around you,” I added.

“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”

– James 1:23-23 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

The pain of past hurts is still there.The hurt of rejection. The laughter and judging eyes. The isolation, feeling rejected. But you rise up in this moment dear God to remind me you were there; to remind me you are here now. You long to show me your graciousness, your love. Even when I could not see you, you saw me and held me. You have carried me all these years, to this moment when I can look back and see how you protected me; how you cared for me, soothing my broken heart. All the time you inched me along, pointing me to something better, deepening my faith in you, strengthening my hope in you.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. – Hebrews 10:23 (NIV)

Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God. – Isaiah 50:10

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! – Isaiah 30:18

© 2019 CGThelen

Today oh Lord I think of your loving care for us. No matter how ill we feel or discouraged we may be, you are there with a gentle arm around us, holding us ever so carefully. You cradle us in your hand like a fragile piece of fine china. You value us more than anything on earth. We are your precious creation, your prized possession.

All praise to you this morning dear God. We praise you for your love and grace. We praise you for the gift of salvation that you graciously offer to us. May we embrace your gift and never let anyone tell us we don’t deserve it. May we freely accept your gift and not feel we have to earn it. Praise God that we can rest in your son Jesus. All praise to you dear God, You are worthy of all praise. I rest in the knowledge that my life is in your hands.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

The windmill vanes

Turn to the wind

Desperately grasping

Trying in vain

To capture the wind

The wind blows past

Spinning the windmill

Gears creak and turn

The pump rises and falls

Water emerges and flows

The wind passes through

We cannot see it

Yet we know it’s there

Building windmills

To capture its power

God’s presence is evident

His Spirit blows through

May we turn to face him

Let him turn our life

To let living water flow

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:5-8 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way” might remind you of an old church hymn, but for me it also sums up my struggle with the GPS on my phone. It’s one thing to trust the GPS to navigate me to my destination, but a very different thing to actually obey its directions. When it alerts me to a traffic backup ahead that I can’t see and gives me an alternate route, I struggle to believe what the GPS is telling me and ignore the instructions. It’s only when I am stopped in traffic a few miles down the road that I find myself frustrated that I didn’t obey. That’s when I tell myself, “to be happy in GPS, is to trust and obey.”

The same is true about my relationship with Jesus. It’s one thing to say that I trust Jesus with my life, but another thing to obey him. Often I have a destination in mind. I’ve mapped out my day and proceed to go through the day as planned. But then there’s that thought or random encounter with someone that tells me to take a different route, to deviate from my plans, to express my faith in a way that makes me uncomfortable. Too often I press on as planned and later I regret that I did not obey.

The old hymn tells us: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way. To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” The song was written more than 130 years ago by John Sammis, but it still rings true today. True happiness can only be found in Jesus Christ. In Him we find the strength to navigate the rough roads of life or to take the scenic route and discover the beauty of God’s creation. There is “no other way” in life.

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.” – Psalm 84:11-12

“Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God.”

⁃ Isaiah 50:10 (NIV)

You can read the lyrics of the hymn trust and obey at: https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Trust_and_Obey/

© 2019 CGThelen

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