What does it mean to be still dear God? Can I rest? Can I be motionless? Can I really just stop at this moment as the world passes by in a blur? The Psalmist recorded, He says, “Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10, NIV).”

I know he is God. I know that in my heart. Yet to be still and know that he is God is quite a different thing. Being in the moment. Clearing my mind of the blur of activity. Resting my tired body. Pressing the stop button of my life instead of pause. To know God is to be still in him. To empty myself and let his presence flow freely into my life, instead of just letting him seep into the remaining cracks and crevices of my full life.

To be truly still is to be motionless, stopped, empty. To let exhaustion take over and immobilize me in the presence of you dear God. To stop pressing onward and release myself to your hand, your lead. Take your hand in my hand dear God, like the small child I am who still has so much more to learn about you. May I look up to you with confidence that you will lead me, lead me on the right path.

© 2019 CGThelen

This morning God I feel the wind in my hair. It blows forcefully past my face. I hear thunder in the distance. I feel rain falling upon me. A fresh, clean smell fills the air. I praise you God that you fill our senses with your creation. I praise you that you fill us with your Spirit. I praise you that you give us hope in a world filled with hopelessness. I praise you that you are present even in the small things. Thank you for your infinite care for us. Thank you that your grace and mercy abound. I give you praise this morning!

He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth — the Lord God Almighty is his name. – Amos 4:13 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

A friend of mine has been in ministry for more than 40 years. Recently we were together and I relished hearing him tell about how several people he impacted with his ministry over the decades were now coming together to create a new ministry that he would lead. It reminded me of the parable of the mustard seed in Mark 4. Here were small seeds, sown years ago, about to mature into a mighty plant with strong branches bearing much fruit. This is the longview of the Kingdom of God.

What’s intriguing to me about the parable of the mustard seed is the parable that precedes it. In Mark 4:26-29 Jesus talked about a farmer scattering seed on the ground. Verse 25 tells us, “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grow.” The next verse tells us that the seed matures and bears fruit even though the farmer “does not know how.” He then proceeds to harvest the crop.

Couple this parable with its companion parable in verses 30-32 and you get a powerful image of how God can turn small things into a large, fruitful thing for the Kingdom of God. In this parable, Jesus talked about how a small mustard seed, when planted, “grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants.” So big in fact that “the birds can perch in its shade.”

The common thread weaving through both of these parables is the action of planting. In both instances, the seed must be planted in order for it to grow, but it is God that actually grows the seed to enable it to be fruitful and useful. Too often we focus on trying to create the big thing first without waiting on God to grow and mature it from first sowing the small seeds.

In these parables Jesus reminded us that often the work of the Kingdom of God is found in the small things. We should not ignore the work of sowing the seed of the gospel into the lives of people we encounter each day. Even the smallest of seeds can eventually mature into something powerful for God. When we see the fruit it bears years later we are amazed that God could grow something that large from something so small.

Jesus reminded us in these parables that it is God who transforms the seed of the gospel into mature and fruitful believers in Jesus. We are to be obedient in responding to God’s leading to sow the gospel into the hearts and minds of people in our lives, no matter how small and insignificant the encounter might seem. As my friend found out decades later, many of the small seeds he had sown over the years now were maturing to bear fruit and provide for people in ways he never dreamed possible.

© 2017 CGThelen

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published June 15, 2017.

My father. He’s a hard man. We didn’t part on the best terms. I said some things I shouldn’t have said; awful words thrown at him like poison darts. I intended to hurt him.

“What does this Jesus know,” I grumbled to myself. “My father would never take me back. He would never forgive me.”

I rolled over on my mat and tried to forget standing in the crowd listening to this Jesus teach with stories. The afternoon was hot and I laid down to rest a bit to get out of the heat. People in my village told me I should at least go and listen to him. They were right. I had never heard anyone talk like that.

I tried to clear my mind, but his words replayed in my head:“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Repent. How could that even happen to a serial sinner like me? The Pharisees told me I was too far gone, that there were not enough sacrifices to cover my sin. Could my father really care that much about a nobody like me, the lost sheep, the black sheep of the family

How could he be so joyous over a totally lost person like me repenting from sin? I get it, I mean in the sense that Jesus talked about in that story about the lost coin. If I found that coin I lost last month I’d be filled with joy. But I hardly think I have that much value, certainly not the value of a silver coin. I don’t think my father would waste time searching for me, someone with such little value.

I rolled on my back and stared at the ceiling. All I could think about was how I squandered so much of my life, my time and my resources on worthless things. I felt like that son in the story Jesus told, the son who took all his father’s inheritance and spent it on wild living. I too would willingly be a slave in my father’s house just to share in his abundance, just to have a small portion of his wealth.

Unable to sleep, I left my mat and walked to the front door. The rotted wood door creaked when I opened it and flakes of plaster fell from the wall. I stepped outside then sat on the front step and watched the people milling about the neighborhood. I looked down the street and noticed the shadows of people moving on the walls of the buildings. A dusty haze lingered, stirred up from the movement of people and animals. I imagined what it would be like to see my father on the street spot me sitting here, then run arms open to hug me. No one was ever that excited to see me. Could it be possible?

#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 a person who heard Jesus tell the parables in Luke 15.

© 2019 CGThelen

Sorrow fills me

Tears well up inside

Flowing down my cheeks

Pooling on the floor

Jesus wept

Death returns once more

Grief fills my soul

So much living remained

Cut short by the grave

Jesus wept

Deep hurt inflicted

The memories return

Sadness overtakes me

The pain, too much to bear

Jesus wept

Memories haunt me

Violent outbursts

Directed at me

Muscles tense, I recoil

Jesus wept

Hope has vanished

Stricken from this place

Emotions overwhelm me

All seems so pointless

Jesus wept

I see him weeping

I see his love for him

I see his love for me

He knows my pain

Jesus wept

He weeps with me

Tears pool on the floor

But his are tinged with red

Love for me so deep

Jesus wept

There is life after pain

There is life after hurt

There is hope in sorrow

There is life after death

Jesus rose

His love abounds

He wipes away my tears

His grace is sufficient

His hope eternal

Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” – John 11:35-36 (NIV)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26

© 2019 CGThelen

People will disappoint. Expectations will not be met. I will be hurt by others. Grief will come. I can count on them happening to me in this world. Yet you dear God are faithful. Your grace and love continue to abound. Your promises are truth. Forgive me for having unreasonable expectations of you. Forgive me for being disappointed when you don’t meet my expectations. Forgive me for being inpatient with you dear God when you don’t work in my timeframe. Help me to align with your will, your plans. Help me to forgive those who hurt me. Fill me with your grace and love.

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. – Luke 23:33-34 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

This morning my mind is filled with earthly concerns, yet my heart just wants to praise you dear God. I am drawn to the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 150 so many years ago yet it still rings true today.

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.

Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord. (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

In Mark 13:11 Jesus tells us not to worry about what to say when we are brought to trial, instead we should let the Spirit of God guide our words. In a world full of scripted remarks and prepared statements, it is hard to think about going into a trial without proper preparation. Yet I don’t think Jesus is saying that we should go into these situations totally unprepared.

Jesus’ whole discourse in Mark 13 is a warning to his disciples to be prepared for what is to come. He is warning them of coming persecution. To that end he tells them to be ready and to let their faith in God guide them, not their own strength, cleverness, or words. “So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time,” Jesus said in Mark 13:23.

For us that means we need to prepare ourselves for trials in life by immersing ourselves daily in the Word of God; to prayerfully seek God and his will each day. We need to learn to endure struggles without compromising our faith in Christ. We need to continually strengthen our resolve to follow Christ so that we will endure to the end. Jesus reminds us in Mark 13:13, “Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published Feb. 27, 2017.

© 2017 CGThelen

The camp fire crackled as I stared at his face illuminated by the orange glow of dying embers. I had never seen this courageous warrior with such concern on his face. I could see the fear in his eyes.

“I tell you, they’re coming for us!” He exclaimed.

“So let ‘em come,” I snapped back. “We can defeat them.”

“No!” He snapped back, grabbing my hand and staring intensely at me. “You don’t understand. God is on their side.”

“So they have a god behind them. So what? Everyone has their own beliefs. I believe we are tougher than them.”

“Listen to me! Their Lord God is in heaven above and on the earth below!”

“Okay, so?”

“Haven’t you heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea when they came out of Egypt? How he completely destroyed Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan?”

“Those are just rumors, scare tactics.”

“Believe what you want, but our turn is coming. I don’t think we’ll escape their judgement.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Word has it that the Israelites sent spies to survey our land. Someone spotted them leaving when the city gate was closed.”

“You keep talking like that and you’ll make the men lose courage. Their hearts will melt in fear.”

“So, if you don’t fear this God of theirs, what will you do when they are standing at our gate? When they’re here to decide your fate.”

I stared at him silent for a moment. His words made me uneasy, but I didn’t want to give even a hint that I was concerned. “Well, until that day comes, I don’t believe this God is all powerful.”

#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 two soldiers under the service of the king of Jericho, based on Joshua 2:1-11 (NIV).

© 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

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