I answered the call of the messengers, the call to arms. I did not hesitate to respond, immediately joining my buddies to follow the call of this Gideon. “This is our moment,” I said as we marched, joining thousands of others. I was tired of hiding from the Midianites, tired of the years of oppression. The Lord heard our cries and now Gideon would lead us to remove the stench of Midian from our midst. It was time to extract revenge on them.

Camped at the spring of Harod, I looked over the sea of men, as far as I could see. My best friend told me we were 32,000 strong. I smiled as I thought of the fear that must be present in the Midian camp. I looked north toward the valley near the hill of Moreh and imagined them frozen with fear, knowing we had come to even the score, to punish them for years of tormenting us. “Vengeance is ours this day,” I thought. “We have the strength here to save ourselves!”

Suddenly Gideon appeared and shouted something to the men. “What did he say?” I asked one of my buddies. “I think he said if we’re scared we can leave,” he replied. I couldn’t believe my ears. “That can’t be true!” I said in disbelief. “This is our moment.”

Then I saw Gideon wave his hand. A hush fell over the crowd of men. He repeated his statement as if to anticipate skepticism: “Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.” There was a moment of hesitation, then a handful of men started to leave. Soon hundreds followed them. “I’m outta here,” my buddies said. “Wait!” I shouted as I grabbed the arm of my best friend. “This is our moment!” He shook his arm free of my grip. “I’ve seen what those Midianites can do to us,” he replied as he picked up his things. “It was stupid of me to think I wasn’t scared of them.”

I watched in amazement as all my buddies left me standing alone. My heart sank as I watched a river of men pouring out from our camp. I sighed as I scanned the remaining men — a fraction of the force we once had. “Better to get rid of the cowards,” I reassured myself. “We are actually a stronger force now with brave men,” I convinced myself as I moved closer to the remaining men in the camp. Then I saw Gideon again. My heart raced. “Could this be our call to battle?” I wondered.

Gideon motioned to us to go to the water to get a drink. “Smart man,” I thought. I could tell he considered all the details. He wanted to make sure we would not grow faint from thirst as we went into battle. I followed the men into the water and knelt down to get a drink. The water refreshed me. As I stood up I noticed a few men cupped the water in their hands and lapped it like a dog. “They’re acting like an animal,” I mumbled. “What kind of soldier is that? They certainly can’t be a good soldier if they do that.” I watched as Gideon pulled those men aside. Apparently Gideon agreed with my assessment. But then he did something that astounded me.

There must have been about 300 men standing with Gideon when he announced that those men would stay and the rest of us should go home. I couldn’t believe what was happening. The men around me shook their heads and grumbled about Gideon. I had to agree with them. How could we possibly have a victory now with a few hundred men. I followed the other men as we started for home, so disappointed that Gideon had squandered this moment to beat back the Midianites. I stopped a moment and looked back at the small group of men standing with Gideon. “The dogs!” I thought as I turned and continued walking. “They’ll be slaughtered.” The man walking next to me nodded in agreement. “It will take an act of God to save them.”

#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 man who answered Gideon’s call to fight the Midianites, based on Judges 6:1-2, 6 & 34-35; 7:1-8 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

Life has a way of giving us formidable challenges with seemingly impossible hurdles. “It would take at least six months of work to make that happen,” we say, discouraged as we assess our options. “We don’t have nearly enough here to help all these people,” we cry as we are overwhelmed by the need around us. From our limited perspective we can’t see beyond ourselves and our limited abilities. We do the math and things just don’t add up.

It’s the same type of response Phillip and Andrew gave in John 6:1-13 when Jesus tests them with the question, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat (verse 5-6, NIV)?” Jesus specifically asks his disciples the question in response to a large crowd gathering around them. As believers in Jesus Christ, it is the question we are often faced with in our walk of faith: Do I trust God to provide or rely solely on my own means to try to overcome challenges in life? In our head things just don’t add up.

“It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite,” Phillip answered Jesus, with a rational approach of doing the math to determine it would cost more money than they had available to feed everyone. “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Andrew replied, only seeing what was available in front of him. These are answers I often give when what I have available doesn’t add up to the need.

But Jesus shows another way to look at the equation: “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish (11).” He shows his disciples that God is able to meet our needs in ways we can’t imagine. When we try it on our own, we come up short, but with God we get our fill: “When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten (12-13).”

© 2019 CGThelen

Today Lord I think of your servants who have chosen to become therapists. I am amazed at their patient work with broken people, listening to deep hurt, traumatic events and emotional pain. They validate the pain and direct so many toward healing. I think of how they can help people beaten down by life and raise them up; how they can help the weak become strong; how they can help fill those who are drained by ministry. I pray Lord you will give both therapist and client strength and wisdom. Fill them with your Spirit; fill them with the possible and remove the impossible. May they feel renewal as they work to rebuild lives.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:10-11 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

I am parched, beaten down by the scorching heat of life; dried out, craving relief from the oppressive inferno of barbs from others. In this moment I hear your word dear Lord: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink (John 7:37, NIV).” Praise God that you don’t just offer a shot of water, mere drops to wet the palette. Praise to you Jesus that you offer to immerse us in a river of living water to heal our thirst. Praise God that you fill us to the point of overflowing. All we need is to believe it is so, that only Jesus can quench our parched souls; that Jesus can can fill us so we never thirst again; that Jesus fills us to the point of overflowing. All praise to you dear Jesus for giving us eternal life, for filling us with the Spirit of God.

“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” – John 7:38

© 2019 CGThelen

My heart races

In the tall grass

I make my way

Eyes wide open

Alert for sounds

I hear growling

A twig snaps

I am pursued

By my adversary

Once he held me

Tightly bound

With heavy chains

And a steel cage

Until my savior

Told me the truth

That I had the key

To set myself free

Once unlocked

I fled his evil grip

Feeling freedom

My heart overflowed

With pure joy

Yet his anger stirred

He came after me

Angry I was free

No longer a prisoner

Chained to his lies

He keeps pursuing me

Not wanting to let go

Hunting me in the dark

With flaming arrows

Shouting out lies

Hiding somewhere

In the tall grass

Waiting to pounce

But I press on

With the truth

Close by my side

With the key

Firmly in my hand

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” – 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

I had never before heard teaching like this. Who is this man who teaches what the Kingdom of God is like? His words resonate with me like none other. “It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

A mustard seed so small yet it grows large to support birds. Could someone like me, so insignificant, be seen as so great in the Kingdom of God? I continue to listen, drawn to his teaching, hanging on every word until evening approaches. Finally I watch as he wraps up and walks away from the crowd. I hear him tell his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”

I don’t want him to go. I see him get into the boat with his disciples and they push off from shore. I see other boats push off from shore to follow them. I quickly run to shore and spot my friend starting to push his boat into the lake. “Let me go with you!” I shout as I run toward the boat. My friend smiles and waves at me as he pauses. I quickly climb onboard and he shoves off.

We start to follow not too far behind Jesus’ boat when suddenly a furious squall comes up. The waves break over the boat so that it is near the point of sinking. We fear for our lives. In the midst of the panic in our boat I catch a glimpse of Jesus getting up. A moment later the wind dies down and it is completely calm. I have never been so fearful in calm water.

We were close enough to the boat to hear Jesus across the still water. “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” I was sure he was speaking to his disciples, yet his words penetrated my heart. Across the water I could hear his disciples asking each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Indeed, who is this man? Is he truly the son of God? I wonder if I, like the wind and the waves, could obey his words.

#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 based on Mark 4:30-41 (NIV), particularly verse 36 which mentions, “There were also other boats with him.” It is written from the perspective of someone who ends up in one of those boats after listening to Jesus teaching.

© 2019 CGThelen

What motivates you each day to do what you do? Are you driven by a sense of personal gain or by a desire to serve God? Do you seek to glorify God or self? In John 7:14-18, the Jews were amazed at Jesus’ teaching and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught (15, NIV)?” They were not amazed by what he was teaching, but by who was teaching.

You can sense the admiration in the crowd. People are impressed with Jesus. This man, a carpenter’s son, is teaching like a scholar. But Jesus is quick to divert them from focusing on the person. “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me,” he answered them (16). Jesus continues in the next verse, “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”

When we are in the will of God and seeking to glorify him, we speak for God and not ourselves. It is a humbling responsibility to be a messenger for God, to represent him in a world that elevates self. The words of Jesus in verse 18 are instructive to us today: “Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.”

© 2019 CGThelen

This weekend Lord I saw with my own eyes your restorative power. I saw a man, who I visited only two years ago in a prison, now living free — not just physically free from prison, but living free in Christ Jesus. I watched him interact with his wife and child in a loving way and all I could do was praise you dear God. I pray Lord that you forgive my doubt that you can change seemingly impossible things. May I not lose faith that you can transform lives. Help me Lord to trust your perfect timing; help me to grow in my faith in you dear God; to expand my belief that you are who you say you are. Your promises are true.

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20

© 2019 CGThelen

This day I praise you dear God for the doctors, nurses and other medical staff who were there this week for my minor surgery. It is by your hand dear God that you equipped them with skills and abilities to care for people; to help care for illnesses and injuries. I am thankful for the years of training they completed to be available to care for people. I praise you dear God that you gave us medical professionals who continue to research and learn new ways to care for patients. May they also acquire a new appreciation of you dear God and your creation.

Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. – Jeremiah 17:14 (NIV)

“I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners, creating praise on their lips. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the Lord. “And I will heal them.” – Isaiah 57:18-9

© 2019 CGThelen

I am fascinated by abandoned buildings. I look at the crumbling brick walls and think of all the work that went into carefully building those walls brick by brick. I notice rusting metal beams and think of all the hours of labor that went into forging the beams and welding them into place. I see crumbling plaster with drooping wallpaper and think of the hours spent carefully selecting colors and installing the walls and wallpaper.

It doesn’t take long to see in our world what Solomon wrote about in Ecclesiastes 2:22-23: “What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless (NIV).” He makes a great point about the purpose of this futility — that it is meant to point us toward God. “This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment (verse 24-25). Without God in our life, our work in this world will amount to nothing.

If our purpose and meaning in life is centered on God, then all we do will be meaningful, our efforts will be invested in the eternal Kingdom of God. Our work on earth, our toil, will become centered on God’s purposes, not our own. Our work becomes a way to invest in the lives of those around us, to be a light for them in a dark world.

© 2019 CGThelen

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