“Stay in your lane.” I hear you telling me dear Lord. “Run the race I marked out for you.” Yet I see runners next to me, runners leaner and more fit. Runners with better coaches. Runners with a cheering section. Runners with supportive families. Runners with lucrative sponsors to help them.

“Stay in your lane,” God tells me. “This is the race I have marked out for you, only you.” He tells me this is the path he has chosen for me to run. He tells me he chose me for this race at this time. He tells me I am uniquely qualified to run this race, even though the people in the lanes next to me look better qualified to win. “Run the race marked out for you,” he shouts from the sidelines. “Victory is yours!” I have the best coach around.

My legs ache. I fight for breathe. I struggle to keep running. Voices in my head tell me to quit, but I press on. I can’t see the finish line. I don’t know if I can keep this pace. I watch other runners pass me with ease. I look ahead and see Jesus waving me on. “Follow my lead,” he smiles.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. – Phillipians 3:13-14

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

© 2019 CGThelen

Pure praise. What does that look like dear God? To stop myself from moving; to stop my mind from racing thoughts; to approach you with nothing but praise. Shedding all my earthly chains for this moment, I come before you empty. I lift my empty hands to you dear God and exalt your name. You are worthy of all praise. All I am is because of you. You are deserving of all praise.

“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.” – Psalm 150

© 2019 CGThelen

The grumblers. You’ll find them most anywhere and it seems especially in church. I’m sure you’ve heard them, the ones who complain about everything: “that money should’ve been given to the poor instead of wasted on that;” or “those large groups of people are only following him because of his charisma.” I know they’re in our churches because I’m one of them. You’ll also find them in the Bible.

In John 12:1-11 the grumblers show up: Judas and the chief priests. In this passage a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Lazarus is there reclining at table with Jesus — you know, the Lazarus Jesus raised from the dead. Everything is going great until Mary poured about a pint of expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair (verse 3). Verse 4 tells us, “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

Imagine the fragrant smell filling the room reminding people of what Mary did; reminding people of Jesus. But Judas smells money and says, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages (5).” It reminds me of 2 Corinthians 2:15-16: “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life (NIV)”

There were two types of people in that room, those who saw Christ as a pleasing aroma of life and those that could only smell the stench of death. Judas could only smell a lost opportunity to enrich himself as verse 6 reveals. The chief priest also only picked up the stench of death, worried too many people were following Jesus. Verse 9 tells us: “a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.”

If you recall just before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Martha was concerned he would have the stench of death (John 11:39). But now Lazarus had the fragrant smell of life and a large number of people were drawn to it. But the chief priests could only respond, “This stinks.” Verse 11-12 reveal their response: “So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.”

It’s astounding to me they want to kill Lazarus because he is a walking miracle drawing people to Jesus. The poor guy already died once and now they want to kill him! But then I think of the times I’ve grumbled about another church event drawing more people than mine or money I felt was wasted in the church and could’ve been put to better use. In both cases I was not looking at if it was drawing people to Christ — if it had the aroma of life. Instead I had the stench of a grumbler.

© 2019 CGThelen

There was something that bothered me about setting up the table in the house of the Lord.

“I don’t feel right about this,” I said to my friend.

“Don’t worry,” he replied. “Look at this crowd. There’s money to be made here.”

“But shouldn’t we be doing this on the street?”

“Look around you. Everyone else is doing it. You don’t see the chief priests or Pharisees objecting, do you?”

I nodded in agreement. No one seemed to object.

“We’re doing a service to the people selling doves right here in the temple court.”

“I guess,” I reluctantly agreed.

Suddenly I heard a snap like a whip. I turned to see a man approaching the tables. There was another crack of the whip and he started to overturn tables as he began to drive people out of the temple courts. My friend and I froze as he approached our table.

I winced as he raised his whip and stared at us with steely eyes.

“Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

My friend grabbed what cages he could and fled as the man overturned our table and moved to the next. I followed close behind. I had never seen someone with such zeal for God.

As we fled to the street with the others who were selling in the temple courts, my heart was filled with remorse. “Had I violated the sacredness of the temple?”

#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 clear the temple in John 2:13-17

© 2019 CGThelen

Without God, our life is formless and empty. We hover over the surface of the deep, the pit of despair. Deep in our darkness we cannot see, but the Spirit of God is there, hovering over the surface. God is our hope. He brings order to our formless and empty life. In our darkness we feel the Spirit’s presence. We only need to reach out to God, to cry out to him to bring order to our life.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. – Genesis 1:1-2

© 2019 CGThelen

In the moment, wedged between memories of past traumas and worries about a future yet to be, there’s emotional pain from the past and deep fear of what is to come. The pain and fear robs me of this moment dear God; steals my ability to be in the moment, to fill my senses with the joy of the moment before me. Help me dear God to be fully in the moments you give me. Help me dear God to open past traumas and pain at the appropriate time to bring healing. Help me dear God to trust the future to you. Fill me with your wisdom and only appropriate concern for the future. Your promises are true dear God. Help me to immerse myself in your presence, in the moments you bless me with each day. Thank you for how you patiently shape me each day so I am closer to your image for me. Thank you for the grace and love you give me each day.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. – Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 4 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

Praise to you dear God for the way you show your love and grace. I praise you that you do not always meet my expectations, but instead choose the better path for me; the path with the long term view, not short term gain. I praise you for the littlest surprises that appear in our day to bring encouragement. Your love dear God abounds. It is unfathomable. I sing praises that your love is not limited by our ability to love you back. You created us in your image and love us beyond measure. May our love for you deepen each day dear God.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

I sat with her in her living room as she talked about her life. Somehow she managed to keep her frail body upright in the chair. A small plastic tube by her nose fed her oxygen as she spoke with a raspy voice. I could sense the bitterness as she told me about past injustices done to her from decades ago. Over the years I had known this aged woman it seemed the grip of bitterness had only grown tighter on her life. It seemed to cripple her to the point where she was hunched over, eyes pointed toward the floor. I longed to free her from the bondage of unforgiveness with the loving touch of Jesus Christ, but she would have nothing to do with it.

Days later I came across Luke 13:10-17 where Jesus healed a woman crippled “by a spirit for eighteen years.” Toward the end of the passage Jesus remarked that she had been kept bound all those years by Satan. What is interesting about this passage is that the woman does not seek healing from Jesus. She was there in the synagogue listening to Jesus teach and he called her forward. Jesus told the woman, “you are set free from your infirmity.” He placed his hands on her and then she, immediately “straightened up and praised God.”

It reminded me of my aged friend I visited a few days earlier and how she chose to let Satan hold her in the grip of bitterness — choosing to let past injustices keep her bent over and unable to straighten up. She was emotionally and now physically crippled, refusing to even enter a church to hear the teaching of Christ. She refused to hear Jesus call her forward so he could touch her with his grace and release her from the grip of Satan. She chose to remain hunched over in bitterness instead of letting Jesus set her free from the grip of Satan.

In this life we are often struck by emotional and physical events that can cripple us for years. Satan wants to bind us with these infirmities so that we remain crippled, hunched over with our eyes to the ground so we are unable to stand and raise our hands to praise and worship God. Jesus calls us forward to touch our lives, but the grip of the injustices of this life hold us back from receiving his freedom. Instead we listen to those, like the synagogue leader in this passage, who don’t want us to receive Jesus Christ and his healing touch. We remain hunched over in bitterness with eyes pointed to the ground instead of Jesus.

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published March 10, 2017.

© 2017 CGThelen

Why did I have to be with the last ones? I knew it was my own fault for hesitating to leave when my division packed up and headed out laden with silver, gold and clothing as well as their unleavened bread. It all happened so fast. I couldn’t believe my own eyes when I saw the Egyptians urge us to hurry and leave. I think they were actually scared to have us around after all those plagues, especially that last one. I have to admit I was scared as the first born son, but we did as the Lord instructed through Moses and I was not harmed.

Only the mighty hand of God could’ve ended our slavery and brought us out of Egypt. But now fear and doubt returned as I stood between two walls of water. It was the same fear I felt when we were camped near Pi and I thought the Egyptian army was going to overtake us. I thought we were going to die right there in the desert. Moses’ words still echoed in my mind: Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

I saw it all with my own eyes. A pillar of cloud kept the Egyptian army from reaching us all night with darkness on one side and light on the other. I thought we were trapped by the sea until I saw Moses stretch out his hand and a strong east wind blew all night so that the waters of the Res Sea parted creating a dry path to the other side. It was an amazing sight to behold. But now here I stood watching the Egyptian army advancing, pursuing us on the same path through the Red Sea, but with fast moving chariots. I quickly trudged up the dry shore to the other side of the Red Sea with the last few people to cross, knowing I would be the among the first struck down by the army.

I wanted to run as fast as I could after reaching shore, but the word of the Lord that Moses gave us caused me to stop and turn around. “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” The Lord has brought us this far, yet fear began to fill me again as I watched the army coming closer. “Can I just be still and trust the Lord will fight for us, for me?”

#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 is part of the exodus out of Egypt through the Red Sea based on Exodus 12:31-14:31.

© 2019 CGThelen

There are certain people I have met in my life who have inspired and challenged me. They are not rich and famous, nor are they well known to the public. They are for the most part ordinary people living life in obscurity, but living for the Lord Jesus. Their accomplishments won’t show up in the media, nor even a mention on social media, but they will show up in God’s book of life.

These are people God has placed in my life who have mentored and inspired me, even when I had given up on myself. These are people who prayerfully support me, lifting me up before the throne of heaven, when I don’t have the energy to pray. These are people who have been there to pick me up in the midst of traumatic events that have immobilized me.

It continues to amaze me how God places these super heroes in my life to rescue me at the right moment. They are God’s faithful who listen to the prodding of the Spirit of God and act on my behalf, even if it’s just a text, “Praying for you.” God doesn’t just value me, he cherishes me enough to provide these special people in my life — sometimes years before I need them. These are the special relationships, the community of believers, the friends who I cherish.

Take some time today to thank those who have walked faithfully with you on your faith journey. Lift them up in thanksgiving before God. Know that you are loved and valued in the Kingdom of God.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. – 1 John 3:16 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

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