I sat with her as she lay dying. The machine behind me pulsated, providing oxygen to sustain her in these final moments. She could no longer swallow and her voice was barely audible, yet occasionally she was able to say a few words. I held her hand and told her, “It’s okay, it’s okay.” Even though she was very weak, she managed to lightly squeeze my hand. The cancer had ravaged her body, taken away all her strength, and now it was taking her life. She was no longer able to sit up and had been bed-ridden for more than a week. But now I sensed the end was near.

I gently pulled the hair away from her face and slowly caressed her head, trying to sooth her. “Water,” she managed to utter. She was no longer able to drink with a straw. I picked up the small sponge on a stick, dabbed it in the cup of water by her bed, and moistened her mouth with it. She sucked on it and I could see the relief on her face as the water refreshed her parched mouth. I set the sponge down and held her hand. “Thank you,” she managed to say with a raspy voice. “It’s okay,” I repeated to her with my mouth close to her ear. “God loves you,” I added.

As difficult as it was to sit with her, I had a sense of peace. I couldn’t help but think of this as an image of God and how he tends to us with a loving touch. In the midst of our difficulties in life, when we feel weak and helpless, he is there holding our hand saying, “It’s okay. It’s okay.” He dabs our parched soul with living water to refresh us. He is there by our side each step of the way, gently caressing our head, soothing our weary soul. We only need to take his hand and say, “Thank you.”

After a few hours of sitting with her, a family member arrived and took over the vigil. A few hours later she died. I thought of what a privilege it is to serve God; how he calls on each of us to serve him in a special way. No one act of service is any greater than any other in the Kingdom of God. We all have our own calling to convey God’s love to others in need of a loving touch; people who need their parched soul moistened with living water. As followers of Jesus Christ it is a privilege to be his hands and feet in a world full of need.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28 (NIV)

“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28:20 (NIV)

© 2018 CGThelen

This #ThrowbackThursday post commemorates a good friend who died a year ago on August 17. Originally published August 21 2018, this post reflected on the experience of being there that day.

It’s happened many times in my life. I am in a deep conversation with someone about Christianity and it feels like I am speaking another language. I keep hitting a stonewall. No matter how hard I try to explain my faith in Jesus, they can’t seem to hear it. I just want to throw up my hands in frustration and walk away. But Jesus offers us some insight into those who refuse to grasp the truth.

In John 8:31-47, Jesus is in the middle of one his many debates with the Jewish people and they just can’t seem to hear what he is saying. In verses 31-33 he made the statement: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (NIV).” The Jewish people argue that as descendants of Abraham they are children of God and slaves to no one. Jesus makes the distinction that their actions say otherwise. “Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word,” Jesus told them (37). He then makes a distinction about which family they belong to, God his father or the devil.

“Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say,” Jesus told them (43). It’s a harsh reality, but people who don’t believe Jesus died and rose to save us from our sins are not part of the family of God. They can’t hear what we say because it is God’s truth. Jesus doesn’t mince any words: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires (45).” They can’t hear because Jesus speaks the language of truth while the devil, “the father of lies,” speaks his native language of lies (45). The truth and lies don’t mix. They are totally different languages.

So when we encounter people who seem to not want to hear the truth, the gospel of Jesus Christ, we need to understand they speak a different language. In the midst of a frustrating conversation with someone trying to convince you Christianity is phony, remember who they belong to, the father of lies; and remember where we came from.

We were once slaves to sin, chained to lies we thought were truth. Praise God we were set free through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, the truth has set us free and there is hope it will also set free those who want to hear the truth of Jesus Christ. We need to remain patiently hopeful that the truth we speak will eventually overcome the lies, that they will learn the language of God’s truth.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

© 2019 CGThelen

I dig deep in my soul. I think your ways are my ways; your desires my desires. And yet I can feel distant from you God, not understanding why some things need to be the way they are — why the pain and suffering. It seems so unnecessary. I only desire for them to be free from being enslaved to the lies, to the deceit; free from the sin that only brings misery. I only want them to bask in the joy of your light dear Jesus. Isn’t this also your desire dear God? So much pain, at times it seems unbearable. My heart aches, my soul weeps. I cry out to you God in prayer for change. Help me to grab hold of your wisdom and truth, even in the midst of my doubt. Help me to trust in you.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. – Psalm 46:1-3

© 2019 CGThelen

Morning Praise — This week Lord I am again reminded of the frailty of our bodies. I praise you for your presence, for your healing touch and the hands of those in the dental profession who did surgery on me this week. I am grateful for all the training they completed to help me. Our bodies are such an amazing creation, yet I recognize we live in a fallen world where these bodies of ours will not last. I praise you God that you extend to us the promise of eternal life where we will be made anew; where we will no longer have bodies that wear out; where we will be in your presence forever. I give praise that you are a constant presence for those who are faithful to you. Give us us the stamina, the strength to carry out the mission you have given us here on this earth. Thank you that we are able to serve such a loving and gracious God.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” – Revelation 21:4 (NIV)

“No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” – Revelation 22:3-4

© 2019 CGThelen

grapes-002
I have always admired the way Joseph kept his focus on God even though his brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. Throughout Genesis 39-45, from the point Joseph is sold by his brothers to when he is reconciled with his brothers, Joseph continually lets his devotion to God guide his decisions. Yet there is one passage of scripture in all these chapters on Joseph that is easy to miss yet very thought-provoking.

In Genesis 41, after Pharaoh has placed Joseph as second in command of all of Egypt, he has two sons. When the second son is born Joseph remarks in verse 52, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering (NIV).” Even though he has become a powerful ruler of Egypt, he still calls it “the land of my suffering.” He is beginning to see how God has used his suffering to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.

Joseph’s statement in verse 52 causes me to ask if I can see God’s fruit in the land of my suffering. Too often I am focused on the agony and not on what purpose God might have for my pain. In the midst of our enslavement and imprisonment in the land of our suffering, be mindful of the fruit God is ripening for his glory.

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published Jan. 29, 2017.

© 2017 CGThelen

I have heard a lot about this man, how he is the best defense attorney around. With him as an advocate, all his clients who were accused went free. It never meant much to me until I realized I was in trouble.

I hesitated to reach out to him. Could I really believe what I heard was true or was it rumor? With the crimes I had committed, I knew I was condemned to die. Whoever I chose to defend me, I would have to believe in them and their ability to advocate for my life before the judge.

An acquaintance kept telling me not to believe it. “You are a criminal and you’ll always be a criminal,” he kept telling me. He acts like a devil, spewing discouraging words at me all the time. “You’re too far gone to save,” that devil insists. He keeps telling me I am no good. But something deep inside tells me otherwise; that my life could be spared despite what I did. Could this advocate actually save my life, even win me freedom?

It is true that I am a sinner. That I am doomed to eternal death. That I can believe about myself. But to believe in this Jesus; that as the Son of God he can free me from my sin — save me from condemnation before God — well, that is another question. I contemplate if what John said is really true. Did this defense attorney really pay the price for me, to free me from condemnation?

“Read it again,” I tell my friend. He picks up the scroll and reads: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the world.”

#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 heard John’s words in 1 John 2:1 (NIV) read to him for the first time.

© 2019 CGThelen

They thought they had the last say in the matter. As they walked by, they hurled insults at Jesus hanging on the cross, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself (Mark 15:29-30, NIV).” The Chief priests and teachers of the law joined in on the insults: “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe (Mark 15:31-32).”

But it was never about saving himself, it was never about proving a point. It was all about saving others. In a world that so often elevates self, Jesus modeled selfless devotion to God. Through his death and resurrection, he brought us salvation from sin. He taught us to die to self and to live for him; to live for the eternal.

It’s amazing to me how so many people saw Jesus on the cross, saw the son of God before them, yet chose to dismiss him and even mock him. For some like the Pharisees it wasn’t enough to just dismiss him — they had to stop the threat. These selfish acts stood in stark contrast to Jesus’ selfless act of dying for us. I have often wondered where I would’ve stood on that day — would I have joined the crowd and mocked Jesus or would I have responded as the Centurion standing by the cross, “Surely this man was the Son of God (Mark 15:39).”

Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. – Luke 9:26

© 2019 CGThelen

May you this day dear Lord, call out to those who are faithful to you. May they hear your voice to respond to the hurting. May they have eyes to see the pain in others. May they have ears to hear the cries of pain. Give them discernment to bring compassion to those ready for your healing. Equip them with the words, the actions to bring eternal healing to those crying out for relief. May the balm of your gospel message soothe the tired soul. May it bring strength and calm in the midst of the storm.

Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people. – Jeremiah 8:22 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

I awoke this morning to a gift laid in front of me. There it sat neatly wrapped, addressed to me. Such a loving thought, someone taking time to give a gift just for me. As I peeled back the first piece of wrap, I felt the warm rays of morning light on my face. With the removal of the second piece of wrap, I heard the birds singing their morning song. With the next piece a light breeze began to blow. Piece after piece came off until there before me was the gift of a brand new day. I took a deep breath and praised God for the gift of this new day; the gift of another day of life.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22

© 2019 CGThelen

I have been reading through the book of Ezekiel. It always amazes how when God sends a prophet to warn the Israelites of coming judgement for their disobedience, they do not heed the Word of the Lord and mock the prophets. My focus on these books of prophesy has usually been on the evil people who have abandoned God’s law for vile acts. But Ezekiel 9:4 caught my attention as I read: “…Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it (NIV).”

Throughout the history of humanity, there has been no shortage of “detestable things that are done.”The same is true today. But I wonder how many of us followers of Jesus “grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done” in the world today. Do we have a heart for God that runs so deep in our soul that we mourn for those who deny God, who reject Jesus. I confess that I often get annoyed or even angry at people who ridicule my faith in Christ or publicly mock God.

To grieve and lament is to feel sorrow, to mourn the impending loss of these souls. It is not just about being saved, about being marked as righteous by God, but also about a desire to bring that salvation to those who are facing destruction. As believers in Christ Jesus, God has anointed us, just as he anointed Ezekiel, to bring the Word of the Lord to the lost. He has placed specific people in our life who need to hear the gospel message. May our heart reflect the love of God; may our prayers be filled with lament and grief for those who reject God as well as a deep desire for them to know the joy of the Lord.

© 2019 CGThelen

Categories

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 936 other followers

140 Character Christian on Twitter