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Today is Father’s Day, a day to also recognize God our Father. We are His children. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27 NIV) We are his creation. It is right to set aside this day for God our Father. “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 7:11) He is worthy of thanks. “Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 5:20) We should give him honor not just in our words but in our deeds. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col.3:17) Honoring God with service to others in need. “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” (2 Cor. 9:12) He has given us new life through his son Jesus. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3) Our life should glorify God. “You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Cor 6:20) His love for us is eternal. “Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:26) Let us praise him forever and ever.

 Happy Father’s Day, God!

* This post originally published June 10, 2010.

© 2010, CGThelen

 

Envy. It is the one word that is hard to avoid in our world. Even if you try to not be envious, it still stalks you, seeking to dig its claws in you. Everywhere you go, it’s there waiting for you, waiting to take root in your heart.

It’s not just the nice house, the perfect lawn or the fancy car that passes your broken down car on the side of the road. It’s not just the perfect family always smiling on social media. It’s not just the person at work who always gets the praise and promotions. But it’s also the person at church who seems so holy, sings beautifully to applause, or preaches with power and conviction that impacts people. You feel forgotten while others have praise heaped on them. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 that we all play an important role in the body of Christ. “But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be (1 Cor. 12:18, NIV).”

Envy is that fiery dart that the evil one uses to pierce you, to pierce your heart. Left inside of you, the dart causes an infection that can lead to strife, jealousy and even anger. It can drive us to pursue things not out of our love for God, but out of our desire to show others that we are better than other people. Solomon sums it up well in Ecclesiastes 4:4: “And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind (NIV).”

Meaningless. Chasing after the wind. Can you really capture the wind if you chase it? You can try, but it will slip through your fingers and blow right by you no matter how hard you try. When envy stalks us, we must remember we are made in the image of God for a special purpose. God gave us unique talents and abilities for the tasks he lays before us. We are to pursue God’s plan for our life, not someone else’s journey. Psalm 139:13-14 tells us: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice (James 3:16).

© 2019 CGThelen

In 1 Samuel 9, the prophet Samuel is about to anoint Saul king over Israel. He tells Saul, “And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and your whole family line (verse 20, NIV)?” Saul immediately tells Samuel why he could not possibly be the desire of Israel. He looks to worldly attributes of strength to disqualify himself by explaining that he is from “the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin (verse 20).” He even questions Samuel by saying, “Why do you say such a thing to me?” But Samuel ignores these comments and in chapter 10 he anoints Saul king.

Too often we are quick to dismiss how The Lord views us and the tasks he appoints us to do. We are too quick to measure ourselves by the world’s standards instead of by God’s standards. Throughout the Bible we see God using the weak and lowly to overcome the powerful in the world. Psalm 8:5 tells us that God has made mankind “a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.” The Psalm goes on to remind us that we have been made “rulers over the works of your hands.”

It is natural to question what God calls us to do and the position he has given us in his creation. Even the Psalmist pondered in Psalm 8:3-4, “what is mankind that you are mindful of them.” Yet we should take to heart that we are his creation and he has ordained us for a specific purpose in His kingdom on earth. Embrace this role and seek God for the strength to pursue his will in your life. Don’t let the weight of worldly questions about your worth weigh you down.

#ThrowbackThursday – This post originally published January 9, 2017.

© 2017 CGThelen

Physical strength is something that we can see and recognize, but how do we know if someone has spiritual strength? How do we know someone has a strong faith in Jesus Christ? Often it is through difficult times in life that the strength of our faith becomes evident. Just as the strength of a weightlifter is tested by adding more weight, the added pressures of trials in life test the strength of our faith.

Like a weightlifter preparing for competitions with muscle building exercises, God works with us to strengthen our faith and endurance. He encourages us to read scripture, pray and meet with other Christians. He continues to add weights, continues to encourage us, continues to tell us, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV).”

Yet when we are in the middle of great difficulties in life; when our arms are fully stretched holding the weight of the world above our head; when our arms tremor as we watch more weight being added to the barbell; it’s hard to heed God’s reassurance that his burden is light. All we can see is the crushing weight of trials over our head, not wanting to release our grip even though we can feel ourselves growing faint and weak, weary from the pressure.

That’s when God gently tells us, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:28-31).”

© 2019 CGThelen

When I was in college many years ago, in the days before video streaming and on-demand television, my roommate in the dorm religiously watched his favorite television shows each week. He was so devoted to his television that he structured his weekly schedule around the weekly broadcast schedule of each episode.

His behavior might seem a bit strange in our digital era, but things were different back then in the world of broadcast TV. At that time, if you missed the show that week, you may have to wait months to see it when the network aired it again. If you didn’t catch a rerun of your favorite show, you would be at the mercy of the network to show it again sometime.

So my roommate planned accordingly by scheduling classes around the weekly broadcast schedule. One night when I asked him if he wanted to join me for dinner in the cafeteria, he told me no because the “Rockford Files” was on in a few minutes. I began to learn his weekly routine and when I was likely to find him in our dorm room in a trance, staring at the TV screen.

When I think about his devotion to those old shows, it makes me consider what I give priority to and how it shapes my day. At times I wonder if I have the same regimen for my devotion to God. Does my life revolve around Jesus and the Word of God, or do I give other things priority over God? My roommate demonstrated to me his devotion to his television by how he planned his life. May others see our devotion to God in how we plan our life.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” – Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

I remember as a kid I used to genuflect in the aisle before sitting in a pew after I first entered the church. It was something my parents instructed me to do so I didn’t question it. Only when I was older did I ask my parents why we genuflected before we sat down. Their response was that we did it out of respect for the altar. At the time their answer satisfied my young mind.

It wasn’t until many years later, as an adult, that I learned the symbolism of genuflecting as you enter church to worship God. The downward movement to one knee and bowing your head while genuflecting represents dying to self, while the returning upward movement to your feet represents rising in Christ. Learning the purpose of genuflecting changed the whole meaning of the tradition for me. It became a beautiful reminder to prepare for worship by dying to self and focusing on new life in Christ; an act of praise to God for what Jesus did for us.

My experience genuflecting as a kid made me wonder how many other church traditions we practice without really understanding their purpose. Do we just go through the motions because that’s what we do every Sunday or are there things we do just to appease human preferences? In Isaiah 29:13 the prophet Isaiah warns Israel, “The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.’”

This verse convicted me to be more intentional in understanding the reason for church traditions and how they bring glory to God. Equally important is that we take time to explain the purpose behind our traditions to those who are new to the church. Just as we grow in our faith in Christ Jesus, may we also grow in how we worship our Lord and Savior. May our time of worship continue to point us toward new life in Jesus Christ, giving honor, praise and thanksgiving to God.

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

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