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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

We live in a media saturated world. By some estimates more than one billion images are uploaded each day on social media and that doesn’t include the millions of hours of video uploaded each day. Then there are the additional hours of television shows and movies available for streaming. Woven into all of this are millions of ads trying to grab our attention and influence us every day.

All this media isn’t necessarily bad. There is plenty of Christian content in the mix. It’s more about our choices and how we let all this media impact our lives. 1 John 2:16 warns us, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” Jesus reminded us in Luke 11:34, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.”

So how much of your screen time includes the eternal? Filling our eyes and minds with a healthy dose of scripture helps us to discern the eternal from the temporal. We become better oriented toward God’s will for our lives and not earthly desires that leave us feeling empty. It’s hard to imagine that all those billions of uploaded images and videos will soon be forgotten and eventually pass away. 1 John 2:17 reminds us, “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

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. – Ephesians 1:18

© 2019 CGThelen

Our journey of faith in Christ Jesus is not one to take alone. Throughout the Bible we read about the importance of Christian community and meeting together to build up one another. Hebrews 10:24 tells us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds (NIV).” In 1 Thess 5:11 Paul wrote: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

In Ecclesiastes 4, Solomon writes about how two people together are better than one. In verse 9 he wrote: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.” In verse 12 he wrote: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.” But it is the last part of verse 12 that really caught my attention. “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

I couldn’t help but think of the Trinity of God the Father, his Son Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of God tightly woven together in an unbreakable bond. In God we have our creator, the ruler of heaven and earth. In his son Jesus we have a divine role model for us, our means to salvation and freedom from the chains of sin. As believers in Jesus, we have the Spirit of God dwelling within us. When we are tightly wound within this Trinity, when our faith is woven into this three-fold cord, we are secure with the Lord against our foes in this world.

© 2019 CGThelen

#ThrowbackThursday – This post originally published December 23, 2015.

How often do we go through life and wonder why certain things happen to us; life-changing events that can be very emotional and gut-wrenching. In the midst of these traumatic events. we can’t always see how they can shape our character and strengthen our faith. Jeremiah 18 gives us a vivid picture of how God works in our life to mold us into someone with Godly character.

In verse four, Jeremiah notes, “But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him (NIV).” God uses this image to show Jeremiah how he is working to remove the blemishes from Israel to shape them into a vessel for his purposes. God shows Jeremiah how he will continue to apply pressure on Israel to stop them from continuing as a marred pot that refuses to follow His ways.

In our own life we can act like Israel, pushing back on the pressure God applies as he works to mold us. We try to form our own life in our own way, preferring to remain a marred pot or even a lump of unusable clay. As we struggle it may seem like God has abandoned us, but all the time God’s loving hands are wrapped around us, gently applying pressure to shape us in his image so we can become a vessel for His kingdom.

In Jeremiah 18:6, God said to Jeremiah, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand.” It is a good reminder that God touches our life with his love and grace. Even though the pressure may seem like too much to bear, God’s hand is always upon us.

© 2015 CGThelen

As much as we desire to stay at the feet of Jesus and worship him, sometimes he asks us to not remain there. As much as we enjoy the fellowship of other Christians, God calls us to go beyond the walls of the church. As much as we relish sharing with other believers the great things God has done in our life, he calls to share this good news with others outside of the church.

Such was the case in Luke 8:26-38. In this passage Jesus demonstrated God’s power over demons in a dramatic way. They had just arrived in the region of the Gerasenes across the lake from Galilee, when “he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town (verse 27, NIV).” The man immediately fell at Jesus’ feet and acknowledged him as the son of God.

Jesus commanded the demons to come out of this man, but they begged Jesus to not torture them. Instead they asked Jesus to let them go into pigs grazing on a nearby hillside. Jesus gave them permission and the demons entered the pigs. Immediately the pigs ran down the hill into a lake and drowned.

News of this event spread quickly and soon people from town and the countryside came and saw the once demon-possessed man seated calmly at Jesus’ feet, “dressed and in his right mind (verse 35).” When the people heard what had happened, they were filled with fear. They asked Jesus to leave because they were afraid of him. They had just seen the power of God to overcome demons. Jesus left, but he also left behind a powerful example of God’s truth.

The formerly demon-possessed man begged to go with Jesus, but Jesus told him, “‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him (verse 39).”

Imagine this man sharing his story in his home town. People who knew the man when he was demon-possessed could not deny he had changed; could not deny Jesus had changed his life. God calls us to do the same.

We are so grateful for what Jesus has done in our life that we want to remain at this feet and worship him — to remain with the community of believers and worship him. But Jesus calls us to share what he has done for us, to spread the good news to others we know outside the church; to those who knew us before Jesus entered our life and can now see the change in our life.

© 2019 CGThelen

I noticed a man standing alone, anxiously waiting to hear his name. He was on standby in the gate area of the airport, waiting to see if he would be able to board the plane parked outside. If his name was not called he would not be able to board the plane and it would leave for its destination without him.

Such is life. We may have our own itinerary for our life, but in the end if our name is not on the right flight we will miss the destination of heaven. Revelation 20:15 tells us, “Anyone whose name was not found in the book of life was thrown into the Lake of Fire.” To get your name on the right flight, you need to go through the travel agent called Jesus Christ. Dedicating your life to Christ means you will not be left behind, tossed into the Lake of Fire because your name was not found in the Book of Life.

A life in Christ means living a life in the Spirit and catching the flights he reserves for you instead of settling for standby on the flights of your choosing. It is putting aside our agenda and focussing on serving God instead of the desires of the flesh. Revelation 21:27 tells us, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the book of life.”

Don’t just settle for standby in life where you anxiously wonder if you’ll make it to the destination of heaven. Secure your ticket today by committing your life to Christ.

#ThrowbackThursday – This post originally published Jan. 16, 2013.

© 2013 CGThelen

The pain is deep

It eats at my soul

My heart stiffens

I ache for relief

My body tightens

Muscles tense

Tendons strain

I can’t move

My brain swells

Turbulence within

Emotions swirl

A whirlwind inside

Tears well up

Eyes close

Salt water streams

Touch my lips

Body crumples

Folding in half

Whimpers break

The silent room

Darkened window

Broken shade

Beam of light

Upon the floor

Tear drops glisten

Reflecting light

Sparkles of hope

Deep in my soul

“I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.” – Psalm 6:6

“Why, my soul, are you downcast?Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” – Psalm 42:5

© 2019 CGThelen

I quickly darted into the house unannounced as the downpour started. Inside I found a man sitting on the floor in a large, vacant room looking up at the ceiling.

“I’m sorry,” I said to him. “I just needed to get out of he rain.”

The man acted like he didn’t hear me. He just continued to stare at the ceiling. I took a step closer to him. That’s when I noticed water dripping onto his face. I looked up at the ceiling and saw water seeping through some of the tiles in the ceiling.

“You oughta fix that roof,” I told the man. “And why are you sitting under the dripping water?”

“It was repaired,” he replied with a smile as water trickled on his face. “But I kinda like it like that.”

I shook my head not understanding the appeal. “But why?”

“Well the other day a man stopped by and helped repair the hole. But honestly he wasn’t very good at patching roofs.”

“So why did you let him patch it?”

“Well, the man said he felt responsible.”

“Responsible?”

“Yeah, the other day that guy everyone is talking about, Jesus, was in town in this very house.”

“Jesus was here?”

“Yeah, the place was packed. So this group of guys made a hole in the roof and lowered a paralyzed man down on a mat in front of Jesus.”

“So the guy who did the repair was one of the guys who tore the hole in the roof?”

“No, it was the paralyzed guy who repaired the roof,” the man replied.

“Wait a minute, are you saying the paralyzed man fixed the roof?”

“Yeah, Jesus healed him. He came back because he felt bad about the hole in the roof.”

“Jesus actually healed him?”

“It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” the man said as he stared at me intensely. “I was there. I watched them lower this helpless man on a mat down from the roof. I watched Jesus heal him. I watched the man pick up his mat and walk away. Then a few days later I watched him climb a ladder and fix the roof.”

“So it’s true?” I asked. “He was healed?”

“It’s true,” he replied as he looked up at the ceiling again. “It’s true.”

I watched him sitting under the leaky roof as water dripped on his face. He smiled again as he said, “You know what’s even more amazing?”

“No,” I replied.

“Jesus said his sins were forgiven before he healed him.”

I stood a moment and watched the water dripping on his head and streaming down his face. It was hard to tell if he was crying.

#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 witnessed Jesus healing the paralyzed man in Luke 5:17-26.

© 2019, CGThelen

Over the years I have encountered many people who are bitter about life and the things that happened to them. Their demeanor is so sour and angry about the past that it affects their outlook on the present. At times this attitude can cause them to lash out at people.

I thought of this attitude of bitterness when I read 1 Samuel 30. David has allied with the Philistines after fleeing from Saul. After they join the Philistines to fight Israel, they are sent back to their homes in Ziklag only to find their town has been pillaged. David’s men are angry with him when they find “it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive (verse 4, NIV).”

The response to this horrible event reveals the character of David and some of his men. In verse 6 we read that David “was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him.” Not only was David upset that his wives had been taken, but now he faced the anger of his men who blamed him.

The second half of verse 6 is instructive for us in how we choose to respond to horrible things that happen to us in life: “each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord.” Because David focused on the Lord instead of the men who were bitter in spirit, he was able to seek the Lord’s guidance and rescue their wives and children as well as everything the raiding party had taken from them.

Bitterness about horrible things that happen to us can taint our attitude about so many things in life. When we are bitter in spirit as David’s men were, it can cause us to be angry with people and lash out at them for even minor injustices. David’s ability to find strength in the Lord, even in the midst of his own loss, enabled him to seek the Lord for wisdom on how to respond to their tragedy (verse 7-8). He follows God’s wisdom and rescues their families.

Bitterness of spirit can be destructive to us and those around us. It can sow seeds of mistrust, revenge and division. Read 1 Samuel chapter 30 and compare David’s response to his bitter and grumbling men. Seek the Lord’s wisdom in your response to bad things that happen in your life.

© 2019 CGThelen

It’s hard to believe it’s December. As another year draws to a close, I reflect on another year of joy and sorrows. The older I get, the more the sorrows seem to accumulate to the point where they can overpower the memories of all the joy I have in my life. The older I get the more I feel my body showing it’s age.

Yet Paul’s words in 2 Corinthian 4:16-18 remind me, “do not lose heart (NIV).” He reminds us that as Christians there is much more than the sorrows of this world and our failing body — “inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” With Christ Jesus in our life we are actually growing and maturing our eternal body inside of us.

Some days it is difficult to remember that everything in this world is temporary. The only eternal value it has is how we use what God has given us here to help others learn about Christ Jesus. Paul encourages us to keep a proper perspective: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (verse 17).”

The next time your body’s aches and pains remind you of your age; the next time the struggles of this world get you down, remember the eternal hope we have in Christ Jesus. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (verse 18).”

© 2018 CGThelen

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