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I was reading Luke 21 when verse 37 and 38 caught my attention: “Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple (NIV).” I wonder what was going through his mind each night he spent on the Mount of Olives, the place where Judas betrayed him days later (Luke 22)? I believe Jesus spent much of this time in conversation with his Father; spending time in prayer after a tiring and grueling day.

During the day when he taught in the temple courts, the chief priests, teachers of the law and the elders questioned him in hopes his answers would give them a reason to have him arrested (Luke 20:1). People were flocking to Jesus and the Jewish leaders were jealous of him. These were full days for Jesus, tending to the people, silencing his opposition, and trying to prepare his disciples for what was to come — knowing they were not quite ready. Jesus took time each night to retreat and spend time with his Father, to prepare for what was to come. Yet this very routine of evenings on the Mount of Olives seemed to make his disciples unprepared for what was about to happen.

The disciples were used to Jesus’ routine of going to the Mount of Olives each evening. Luke 22:39 tells us, “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.” Which is why I think they seemed so casual about going there, despite Jesus’ warnings. In the next verse Jesus tells them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He was telling them that this wasn’t just another night on the Mount of Olives.

My take-away from these verses is that we need to be careful that the routine does not become too familiar — to the point where we get lulled into complacency. God is very much at work in the everyday. Significant things can emerge unexpectedly from a day that seemed very routine. May we take Jesus’ words to heart: “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:36).”

Editor’s Note — This post originally published July 8, 2013.

What if Solomon had tried to build the temple of God on his own with no help? There is no way he could have completed the project on his own. The same is true today when it comes to building our life as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Instead of relying on others in the body of Christ, too often we treat temple-building as a do-it-yourself project.

In 1 Kings 5:5, Solomon declares, “I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the name of The Lord my God, as The Lord told my father David (NIV).” In order to accomplish this task, Solomon did not just direct the construction, he also relied on resources and other people to help him complete the temple. 1 Kings chapter 5-6 details the thousands of people and extensive resources required to complete the temple in seven years. As 1 Kings 6:38 tells us, “…the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications.”

Solomon precisely followed God’s plan and did not attempt to create his own plans or try to complete construction by himself. But that is only the beginning. God provides further instruction in 1 Kings 6:12-13 “As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, observe my laws, and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father. And I will live among the Israelites and I will not abandon Israel.”

2 Corinthians 6:16 reminds us that we are the temple of the living God. Building our lives as a temple is not a do-it-yourself project. We need to follow God’s plan for our life and rely on the people and resources God makes available to us in order to mature in our faith. In this way, others will know that God’s Spirit dwells in our midst (1 Cor. 3:16). As 1 Kings 6:12-13 reminds us, we must follow God’s decrees, observe his laws, and keep His commands in order to create a space in our hearts for the living God.

As Genesis 12:2-3 reminds us, God’s intent in making Israel a great nation was so that others could be blessed by the living God. He provided them with detailed instructions to become that great nation. Likewise, God has plans for our life to become the temple of the living God, not just for our own benefit, but so that others will be blessed by God.

© 2013 CGThelen

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published July 15, 2013.

I grew up in a very small town. When I tell people the name of the town where I lived as a kid, they typically shrug their shoulders and say, “Never heard of it.” It is of no significance to them. That is how it was for Jesus.

Matthew tells us in verse 2:23 that Joseph settled his family in Nazareth after returning from Egypt. As the verse explains, this was in fulfillment of the prophesy that “he would be called a Nazarene.” InIsrael.com describes Nazareth as so insignificant that it is not even listed in the Talmud or by Josephus. Few people outside of Galilee had ever heard of Nazareth which InIsrael remarks is almost saying Jesus was from nowhere.

Those who did know about Nazareth did not speak highly of it. In John 1:45, when Phillip announced to Nathanael he had found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, Nathanael remarked, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”

If that wasn’t enough, even the residents of Nazareth, the people who grew up with Jesus, rejected him. Luke 4:16-30 describes the account where Jesus returned to Nazareth and proclaimed himself as the Messiah in the synagogue. As a result the people of Nazareth tried to throw him off a cliff. Jesus’ remark to the people, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown (Luke4:24),” is an understatement.

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is repeatedly referred to as “Jesus of Nazareth”, as if to say that he is of no significance. In Matthew 26:71, after Jesus is arrested and taken away to be crucified, a servant girl accused Peter of being with “Jesus of Nazareth”. In Mark 10:47 when the blind man heard that “Jesus of Nazareth” is near, he promptly corrected them by shouting, “Jesus, Son of David.” Many rebuked him for saying that.

Even the apostles are labeled with the term Nazarene. In Acts 24 when Paul was brought before the governor he was accused of being a trouble maker who is stirring up riots. They go as far to say, “He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect.”

When we associate ourselves with Jesus, we take on the label of being a Nazarene. People will look at you as if you are from nowhere significant. They will look at you and say, “Can anything good come from you?” While your hometown may not try to throw you off a cliff, your friends and family may not accept your new life in Christ. You may even be accused of being a ringleader for that Jesus of Nazareth.

To follow Christ means we must stop identifying ourselves with the titles and addresses of prestige in this world, and be willing to identify ourselves as being a follower of Jesus the Nazarene, “a ring leader of the Nazarene sect.”

© 2013 CGThelen

“What is the Kingdom of God like?” Jesus said to the people in the synagogue after he healed a woman, “What shall I compare it to (Luke 13:18, NIV)?” It is a question for us to contemplate as we look at our role in the Kingdom of God. Are we working just for our own salvation, or to bring others into the Kingdom?

Jesus answers his question by comparing the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed and yeast, both very small things. But what strikes me about this illustration are the words “planted” and “mixed” (Luke 13:19 & 21). It is one thing to have a mustard seed or yeast, but another thing to use them to impact the lives of others.

In the example of the mustard seed, the man planted it in his garden. Over time it grew into something large enough for birds to perch on. Think of talents God has given you that you can sow into the lives of others who are in your garden; seeds that one day grow large enough to provide support for years.

In the example of yeast, the woman doesn’t just keep the yeast to herself, or just make a loaf or two for herself. Instead, she mixed it into “about sixty pounds of flour.” If you’ve ever made bread, you know that is a large amount of dough to knead. It takes a lot of hard work to knead that much dough. Yet that is what must be done to ensure the yeast is thoroughly mixed in so that the dough can grow in size.

God calls us to Kingdom work, to take what we have been given and put it to work so that it grows the Kingdom of God. Sometimes it takes years and a lot of hard work before we see how it impacts others God has placed in our life. Sometimes we never see the results of our work — just as we rest under and enjoy the shade of trees planted by others we don’t know.

Our Kingdom work can set people feee from the chains that Satan uses to bind them. What God has given us can advance his Kingdom if we “sow” and “mix” so it influences the world around us — so Christ Jesus can touch others, causing them to “straighten up and praise God (Luke 13:13).”

© 2019 CGThelen

Sweat poured down his face as I watched the man pedal the stationary bike as if his life depended on it. His shirt was soaked with sweat and his breathing heavy as the muscles on his legs propelled him nowhere. No matter how hard or how fast he pedaled, he remained stationary, in exactly the same place as when he mounted the bicycle.

While staying physically fit has its benefits, it cannot help us to live forever. Eventually our bodies will break down as we age. Spiritual fitness, however, does have eternal value. Paul frames this concept in 1 Timothy 4:7-10 where he instructed Timothy to, “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come (verse 7-8, NIV).”

This made me think about the man on the stationary bicycle. What if I put that same amount of effort into living a godly life? I picture myself going to the “Godliness” gym each morning and doing the heavy lifting of reading God’s word that is weighty with spiritual wisdom. On the treadmill, God stops the chaotic running, the striving, and tells me to stand still and know that he is God. On the track, He instructs me to run the race laid out before me; to stay in my lane and run with endurance. Sweat pours down my face, my shirt is soaked yet I feel my spiritual muscles strengthen. My breathing becomes less labored. I feel eternally fit.

It’s important that we stay healthy and physically fit so we take care of the body God has given us to serve him. But Paul reminds us of the importance of godliness, that spiritual training has value both now and in eternity. He told Timothy that they “labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe (verse 10).” And don’t forget that membership in the “Godliness” gym has already been paid by Jesus. So accept the gift of salvation that Jesus offers to you and start your godliness workout today. You’ll be forever grateful.

© 2019 CGThelen

As you go through your day, how do you make decisions? How do you discern what is a good choice and what is a bad choice? Do you take time to pause and listen to the counsel of the Spirit of God?

In Luke 22:7-13, Jesus tells his disciples exactly what he has planned for their Passover meal. Everything is in place according to God’s plan. Yet Jesus tells his disciples to go and secure the room. They go and find everything exactly as Jesus said.

Notice that Jesus did not simply say, “follow me and I will show you where we’ll have our meal.” Jesus told his disciples what to look for — he told them God’s plan. Following God’s plan for your life requires you to be attentive to where he is directing you. Like the apostles, it isn’t enough to just listen to what Jesus says, we must also act on the directions he gives us.

#ThrowbackThursday; this post originally published January 12, 2013.

© 2013 CGThelen

The day dawns

Fear rises from the east

Daylight emerges

Overtaking the darkness

The day is ahead

Yet I hesitate to enter it

Anxious thoughts

About a future yet to be

Sunlight spreads

Moving across the floor

Cold feet

Immovable as I grip the chair

Sunbeam advances

Warmth touches my toe

Distressed thoughts

Released as light moves along

Nervous body

Calmed as sunlight blankets me

Joyous praise

As the Lord Jesus takes my fear

New resolve

I rise and step into the day

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.”

2 Thessalonians 3:16

© 2019 CGThelen

The alarm pulls me out of a deep sleep. I drag myself out of bed. I am disoriented as I slowly awaken. My brain starts to engage, as the day’s schedule slowly comes into view. I hesitate, seating myself down before I am overwhelmed by another packed day; before God is crowded out of my day; before I leave Jesus at home. Psalm 143:8 emerges from my thoughts. I whisper the passage to myself as I close my eyes:

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life (NIV).”

© 2019 CGThelen

In 2 Chronicles 1, after the death of David, Solomon “established himself firmly over his kingdom (verse 1, NIV).” That evening, after making sacrifices to the Lord, God appears to Solomon and asks him: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you (verse 5-7).” This is the ultimate test of someone’s heart.

Stop and think for a moment. If someone with the ability to give you anything you wanted asked you what you wanted what would you say? Pose that question to anyone on the street and how many would say they want wisdom and knowledge? How many would request the things God lists in verse 11: “wealth, possessions or honor… death of your enemies.” These are the desires of the flesh, selfish desires.

But Solomon, humbled by the task before him, asks for “wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours (verse 10).” God said to Solomon in the next verse, “Since this is your heart’s desire.” Solomon didn’t just want wisdom and knowledge for himself, but to faithfully perform the task that God laid before him.

When God gives you a difficult task that overwhelms you, a task you feel ill-equipped to handle, how do you respond? Do you seek the counsel of this world and follow your own desires or do you seek wisdom and knowledge from God? Is your heart’s desire to faithfully perform the task he has given you, humbly admitting you feel ill-equipped without his guidance? May you continue to seek the wisdom of God in prayer and His word — in honor and praise of our Lord.

© 2019 CGThelen

There are a lot of things that separate us from each other in this world. Anger, miles, language, and broken relationships can all create division at home, work, school and in the community. Sometimes the split is so severe that it seems the divide will never be bridged.

At times we may have the same feeling toward God. Events in our life can cause us to feel angry and distant from God. We may feel like we can’t talk to him, that our connection to him is forever broken. But Romans 8:38 tells us nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Like a coiled steel spring, the harder we push God away, the greater his force in reaching out to us. It is only our pressure on the spring that attempts to push God away. No matter how hard we try, we can never separate ourselves from the love of God.

#ThrowbackThursday; this post originally published May 31, 2013.

© 2013 CGThelen

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