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Praying to God for healing is a difficult thing for me. It is a wrestling match between my will and the will of God. It is a deep yearning to lay down my desires for God’s desires. Yet my emotions tell me I want people I love to be whole, to not suffer. It hit me again this week when I found out a coworker who retired last year has terminal cancer and a year to live.

This struggle of wills reminds me of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1-6. After he became ill, the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz said to him, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover (verse 1, NIV).” These are words we do not want to hear from the doctor: “Your cancer is terminal.” They are words I have heard about a loved one: “He will not make it through the night.”

Hezekiah turned away from Isaiah in his bed and faced the wall. He prayed to God, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes (verse 3).” I can feel Hezekiah’s grief as he wept bitterly. I have found myself reciting a similar prayer when devoted followers of Christ I know have died; when friends contract terminal cancer. “Lord, these are people who have followed you; righteous people dedicated to serving you. Why?” In prayer I plead as Hezekiah did, “Lord, these people have walked faithfully with you; they are devoted to you.”

God heard Hezekiah’s plea, his prayer. In verse 4-5 he tells the prophet Isaiah to go back and tell him, “This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.” God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and he hears our prayers. Yet it is a matter of God’s will, his plan, whether he heals. God added 15 years to Hezekiah’s life, but not just because of Hezekiah’s will or his righteous acts. “And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.”

God chose to heal Hezekiah for his purposes; for his sake and for the sake of his servant David. God chose to continue to use Hezekiah. It seems I always want what I want and I don’t understand why God does what he does. But that is the element of faith in him. Part of the process of opening up to God in prayer is to also open up our heart to God; to share with him the deep desires of our heart and to know he hears our prayers. The answer to our prayers, our pleas, is to rest in God’s will for our life and the lives of those we dearly love in this world.

© 2019 CGThelen

How do people know I am really who I say I am? When I enter another country customs asks for my passport. When I check into a hotel in another state the front desk asks for my driver’s license. My passport and driver’s license show my citizenship. But how do people know we are citizens of the Kingdom of God?

In Phillipians 3:20 Paul wrote, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ (NIV).” Paul encouraged the followers of Jesus to follow his example of living out their faith in Christ Jesus. In 3:17 he said, “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.” A Christian’s identification is their identity in Christ Jesus, a life lived for Christ.

Paul cautioned the Phillipians about an identity in this world. “Their destiny is destruction,” Paul wrote. “Their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.” An identity invested in things of this world is an identity invested in temporary things that will pass away. How we live our life reflects our identity.

At times I am overwhelmed by God’s love and grace — that he offers us citizenship in his kingdom through his son Jesus. In Luke 6:25-26, Jesus called us to “love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked (NIV).” As citizens of the Kingdom of God, as people whose identity is in Christ, Jesus called us to, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:26b).”

© 2019 CGThelen

What’s it like to have a heart for God, to be totally devoted to Jesus? Paul gave us a glimpse in Philippians 1:21-30. In this passage Paul wrote about his longing to be with Christ yet his deep desire to continue serving him. “I am torn between the two,” he said in verse 23.

Paul revealed that it is his “desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far (verse 23),” but recognized the importance of remaining with the Phillipian church. As difficult as it is was for him at times, he knew his calling was to “continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith (verse 25).” For Paul, it wasn’t just about his personal salvation. He had a longing to be with Christ; a deep desire to serve him; a total selfless dedication to being a disciple of Jesus.

This passage caused me to examine my own life and my devotion to Christ. While I may long to be with Christ, I don’t always share Paul’s dedication to be with those who need to be nurtured in their faith in Christ. Am I so totally devoted to serving Christ that I feel as Paul wrote: “so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me (verse 26).”

How deep is your commitment to Christ? Is your faith all about your salvation or does it include a dedication to growing other disciples? It wasn’t enough for Paul to just bring salvation in Christ to the Philippians. He wanted his passion for Christ to be contagious so that their boasting in Christ would overflow into the lives of others.

© 2019 CGThelen

Sometime a certain passage of scripture jumps off the page and sticks with me for awhile. This week Psalm 118:6 stuck with me: “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” This verse seems to resonate even more today as we start a new year.

Indeed, what am I afraid of in this world? If I truly believe in Jesus Christ, if I believe he is with me, I have nothing to fear. If I believe my eternity is secure with Christ, what can mere mortals do to me? There is nothing they can do to take away my salvation in Christ Jesus. They can seek to discourage me from sharing Christ, seek to thwart my ministry to others, but God is victorious.

Psalm 118:6 is a call to trust God, to keep your eyes on the Lord Jesus. He showed us how to stand up to opposition to the message of salvation. He showed us how to trust God and his plan for our life. Jesus taught us not to be afraid of mere mortals. May we seek to be bold with our faith in 2019 and trust in the Lord when we face situations that stir up our fear.

© 2019 CGThelen

On this New Year’s Eve, I want to thank all of you for taking time to read this blog. Throughout this year I have been encouraged by your comments and uplifted by your words. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:15-16: “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers (NIV).”

It is my prayer in the new year that you will grow in your faith in Christ. “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 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, and his incomparably great power for us who believe (Eph. 1:17-19).”

Blessings to you.

The Journey of the Magi Concludes, Part 9

Matt. 2:12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

The magi expressed their faith with their journey. Their physical journey ended when they saw Christ, the new-born King. But their faith journey continues. The magi do not listen to King Herod. Instead they listen to God and return home a different way. We can only guess what their life was like after this encounter. It would seem that an encounter with Christ would change their lives forever.

This Christmas, what is your faith journey? Are you on a journey to Bethlehem or are you stuck in Jerusalem. Will you follow the magi to pursue the Messiah to seek Jesus Christ? What are you willing to sacrifice? What is your desire to put your faith into action? Do you fear God more than men? How generous are you? Are you willing to humble yourself before Christ?

King Herod and all of Jerusalem missed out on seeing the new-born King. Don’t let this Christmas pass without seeing Christ.

Originally published Dec. 23, 2010.

© 2010 CGThelen

The Journey of the Magi  Part 8

Matt. 2:11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and myrrh.

Think about this moment. The magi sacrifice much and rely on their faith to get them to Bethlehem. Even after so many distractions from men, they remain focused on the Messiah and experience true joy.

It’s the same with us. One day the focus of our faith will be revealed. At the end of our life, we’ll approach the house and see the Messiah, Jesus Christ, face-to-face. This Christmas, don’t stay in Jerusalem and miss the moment.

The magi were men of position and prestige, yet they fall before the new-born king. They humble themselves before him. They give generously to him, giving gifts of great value. They did not give him a television, smart phone, fruit cake or a Christmas sweater.

They did not tell Mary and Joseph, “Wow, do you know what we went through to get here? They didn’t say, “Hey, there’s a gift receipt in there if you don’t like it.” They didn’t even warn them about that crazy guy Herod. They are totally focused on the Messiah, Jesus Christ. They are totally reliant on their faith. They trust God has everything handled, even Herod.

The magi gave of themselves, leaving everything behind to pursue the Messiah. They gave it all to Christ. How much are you willing to give to Jesus?

Next Post: Don’t Stay in Jerusalem This Christmas

Post originally published Dec. 21, 2010.

© 2010 CGThelen

The Journey of the Magi  Part 7

Matt. 2:9-10 After they had heard from the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

Again, take note that the star goes ahead of the magi and stops over where the new-born king lays in a manger. The magi do not see the star as they leave Jerusalem, they see it after they “went on their way.” They are overjoyed to see the star again.

Stop and ponder this moment. The magi were smart men. It’s likely they wondered if they could trust Herod, yet they took what he said, perhaps as another sign from God, and headed for Bethlehem. The star was not visible at that point, yet they head toward Bethlehem. That is why they are overjoyed to see the star again. The star confirmed they were going in the right direction. God demonstrates his authority by using Herod to give the magi direction.

It’s a sad commentary on Israel that the star was not visible in Jerusalem. The star that pointed to the Messiah was not visible in the very place where God once dwelt in the Temple. They knew the scripture and the prophesy, but missed the moment. It took men from a far off land to spread the news to all Jerusalem that the Messiah has been born.

Yet all Jerusalem ignores this message from God. The magi leave Jerusalem alone. No one joined them on the journey. Sometimes we can feel like the people in Jerusalem. We’re surrounded by a materialistic Christmas; we’re familiar with the scripture about the birth of our Savior; yet we choose to remain in Jerusalem and miss the true Christmas.

The difference between Jerusalem and Bethlehem is whether we live out our faith. Are we willing to sacrifice as the magi did to pursue the Messiah? Are we willing to act on our faith and pursue our faith without fear of man? Just look at the attitude of the magi. After traveling hundreds of miles for months, they are overjoyed to see the star again. They are filled with anticipation as they prepare to see the Messiah they have traveled so far to see.

Next Post: Meeting Jesus Face-to-face

Originally published Dec. 19, 2010.

© 2010 CGThelen

A Journey of Faith With the Magi  Part 6

Matt. 2:7-8 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

Herod has a secret meeting with the Magi. It’s interesting that he meets with them in private. He does not want people to think he’s concerned about the magi and what they are saying around town. Herod does not want to give the magi any credibility or even hint that there might be some truth in their question about a new born king. He is more concerned about how it might affect his prestige than about the reason the magi made their journey.

Instead, Herod wants to get to the bottom of all this talk about a King of the Jews. From a selfish perspective, he likely asked himself, “Is this another plot to overthrow me? Are these guys spreading rumors to stir a rebellion by telling the Jewish people their Messiah is born?”

Notice Herod asks the magi when the star appeared. It seems no one in Jerusalem is aware of the star. He goes to the source of the rumors around town and interviews the magi. He pretends to be interested in what they are saying, implying he too wants to worship Christ while plotting to protect himself. He’s more concerned about himself than the fact that the savior of the world has been born.

The magi bring the most important news in the world to Herod, yet he misses it because he focuses on himself. It begs the question, “What are we missing in our lives because we are focused on ourselves instead of Christ? Who in our lives is missing Christ because we are more focused on our own needs than the need of others to hear about Christ?”

Often the biggest barrier to putting Christ first is that we want to look out for ourselves first. If we are to be willing to sacrifice; willing to act on our faith; willing to not worry what others think about us; then we must put Christ first in our lives.

Next Post: Listening to God Instead of the World

Originally published Dec. 17, 2010.

© 2010 CGThelen

A Journey of Faith with the Magi Part 5

Matt. 2:4-6 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”

Notice Herod does not call the magi right away. First he conducts an investigation. The magi are asking about the King of the Jews so he calls in the Jewish experts. It’s ironic that the chief priests and teachers of the law know the prophesy from the Book of Micah 5:2. They know the scripture and where the Messiah was to be born, yet they did not know the Messiah was already born.

An active faith requires us to not only know scripture but to act on it as well. Where are you at in your faith? Are you more like the Chief priests and teachers of the law who knew scripture and the prophesy, but missed its fulfillment. Scripture to them was just words on a page and the prophesy was just another fact they taught. Or are you like Herod where everything is about him, someone who looked at the news about the Messiah as competition for his throne.

The magi were educated  men who understood the prophesy about the birth of the Messiah. They were men who were sincere in their belief that the Messiah was born — men who were sincere in their pursuit of Christ and willing to give it all to him. Are you willing to follow the magi and follow your faith to Christ?

 Next post: When Self Makes Us Miss the Biggest News on Earth

This post originally published Dec. 15, 2010.

© 2010 CGThelen

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