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Praying to God for healing is a difficult thing for me. It is a wrestling match between my will and the will of God. It is a deep yearning to lay down my desires for God’s desires. Yet my emotions tell me I want people I love to be whole, to not suffer. It hit me again this week when I found out a coworker who retired last year has terminal cancer and a year to live.

This struggle of wills reminds me of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1-6. After he became ill, the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz said to him, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover (verse 1, NIV).” These are words we do not want to hear from the doctor: “Your cancer is terminal.” They are words I have heard about a loved one: “He will not make it through the night.”

Hezekiah turned away from Isaiah in his bed and faced the wall. He prayed to God, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes (verse 3).” I can feel Hezekiah’s grief as he wept bitterly. I have found myself reciting a similar prayer when devoted followers of Christ I know have died; when friends contract terminal cancer. “Lord, these are people who have followed you; righteous people dedicated to serving you. Why?” In prayer I plead as Hezekiah did, “Lord, these people have walked faithfully with you; they are devoted to you.”

God heard Hezekiah’s plea, his prayer. In verse 4-5 he tells the prophet Isaiah to go back and tell him, “This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.” God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and he hears our prayers. Yet it is a matter of God’s will, his plan, whether he heals. God added 15 years to Hezekiah’s life, but not just because of Hezekiah’s will or his righteous acts. “And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.”

God chose to heal Hezekiah for his purposes; for his sake and for the sake of his servant David. God chose to continue to use Hezekiah. It seems I always want what I want and I don’t understand why God does what he does. But that is the element of faith in him. Part of the process of opening up to God in prayer is to also open up our heart to God; to share with him the deep desires of our heart and to know he hears our prayers. The answer to our prayers, our pleas, is to rest in God’s will for our life and the lives of those we dearly love in this world.

© 2019 CGThelen

How do people know I am really who I say I am? When I enter another country customs asks for my passport. When I check into a hotel in another state the front desk asks for my driver’s license. My passport and driver’s license show my citizenship. But how do people know we are citizens of the Kingdom of God?

In Phillipians 3:20 Paul wrote, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ (NIV).” Paul encouraged the followers of Jesus to follow his example of living out their faith in Christ Jesus. In 3:17 he said, “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.” A Christian’s identification is their identity in Christ Jesus, a life lived for Christ.

Paul cautioned the Phillipians about an identity in this world. “Their destiny is destruction,” Paul wrote. “Their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.” An identity invested in things of this world is an identity invested in temporary things that will pass away. How we live our life reflects our identity.

At times I am overwhelmed by God’s love and grace — that he offers us citizenship in his kingdom through his son Jesus. In Luke 6:25-26, Jesus called us to “love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked (NIV).” As citizens of the Kingdom of God, as people whose identity is in Christ, Jesus called us to, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:26b).”

© 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

In Luke 3:1-14 John is in the “country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (verse 3).” Luke noted that this was is in accordance with what was written in the book of Isaiah. But it is not just repentance that John preached to the people. In verse 8 he said, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”

Our repentance isn’t just an act of verbalizing our faith in Jesus. John warns in verse 9, “every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” In the next verse the people listening to John ask what they should do and he proceeds to tell them how to live out their repentance. He tells them to share with those who have none. He tells tax collectors not to cheat and soldiers not to exhort money, “to be content with their pay (verse 14).”

We are messengers for Christ Jesus, preparing the way for the Lord in what often seems like a wilderness of unbelief. Yet it is our faith lived out in patient hope that prepares hearts to receive Christ. Our repentance lived out causes us to not cheat others; to be generous with what we have; to be content with what God gives us. This is the straight, clear path of a changed life that stands out in the twisted jungle of a corrupt world.

We need to stay vigilant and not let the overgrowth of discouragement creep in and overtake our path to Christ. We need to focus on making a way for Christ to work in the lives of those around us. We can point the way to Jesus so that the Spirit of God can transform lives. As John said, “But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire (verse 16).”

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. – Philippians 1:9-11

© 2019 CGThelen

“Not another delay,” I thought as I sat at the airport gate waiting for my plane. Just a week ago my plane was delayed two hours and now on my return trip it was happening again. As I stuck my nose in a book to pass the time, I sighed and tried not to get stressed about it, thinking that maybe God had a purpose for it

By the time I finally boarded the plane, I wondered if perhaps God would place me next to someone he wanted me to talk to. Maybe the delay was so someone could board the plane? But as it turned out I had a row of seats to myself. I settled in the window seat, just glad we were finally ready to take off and forgot about God’s purpose for the delay.

A few hours later we made our final approach to land. As we descended I had the perfect vantage point, to see a magnificent golden sunset break through the clouds (picture below). At that moment it hit me that if the plane wasn’t delayed, I would’ve missed that amazing sunset. The timing as well as my window seat were perfect for me to experience a sunset in the clouds.

I praised God for that moment and for the beauty of his creation. It was as if he was telling me, “See how beautiful my timing is?” So often I get caught up in my agenda and my time frame that I lose sight of the potential God has in store for me for the day. I get annoyed by delays or things that interfere with my plans instead of looking for God at work in my day. I thank God that he patiently teaches us to follow his way.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” – Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. My you trust in his plans for you this day; may you see him at work today.” -Romans 15:13

© 2019 CGThelen

Sometime a certain passage of scripture jumps off the page and sticks with me for awhile. This week Psalm 118:6 stuck with me: “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” This verse seems to resonate even more today as we start a new year.

Indeed, what am I afraid of in this world? If I truly believe in Jesus Christ, if I believe he is with me, I have nothing to fear. If I believe my eternity is secure with Christ, what can mere mortals do to me? There is nothing they can do to take away my salvation in Christ Jesus. They can seek to discourage me from sharing Christ, seek to thwart my ministry to others, but God is victorious.

Psalm 118:6 is a call to trust God, to keep your eyes on the Lord Jesus. He showed us how to stand up to opposition to the message of salvation. He showed us how to trust God and his plan for our life. Jesus taught us not to be afraid of mere mortals. May we seek to be bold with our faith in 2019 and trust in the Lord when we face situations that stir up our fear.

© 2019 CGThelen

On this New Year’s Eve, I want to thank all of you for taking time to read this blog. Throughout this year I have been encouraged by your comments and uplifted by your words. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:15-16: “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers (NIV).”

It is my prayer in the new year that you will grow in your faith in Christ. “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 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, and his incomparably great power for us who believe (Eph. 1:17-19).”

Blessings to you.

The Journey of the Magi  Part 8

Matt. 2:11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and myrrh.

Think about this moment. The magi sacrifice much and rely on their faith to get them to Bethlehem. Even after so many distractions from men, they remain focused on the Messiah and experience true joy.

It’s the same with us. One day the focus of our faith will be revealed. At the end of our life, we’ll approach the house and see the Messiah, Jesus Christ, face-to-face. This Christmas, don’t stay in Jerusalem and miss the moment.

The magi were men of position and prestige, yet they fall before the new-born king. They humble themselves before him. They give generously to him, giving gifts of great value. They did not give him a television, smart phone, fruit cake or a Christmas sweater.

They did not tell Mary and Joseph, “Wow, do you know what we went through to get here? They didn’t say, “Hey, there’s a gift receipt in there if you don’t like it.” They didn’t even warn them about that crazy guy Herod. They are totally focused on the Messiah, Jesus Christ. They are totally reliant on their faith. They trust God has everything handled, even Herod.

The magi gave of themselves, leaving everything behind to pursue the Messiah. They gave it all to Christ. How much are you willing to give to Jesus?

Next Post: Don’t Stay in Jerusalem This Christmas

Post originally published Dec. 21, 2010.

© 2010 CGThelen

The Journey of the Magi  Part 7

Matt. 2:9-10 After they had heard from the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

Again, take note that the star goes ahead of the magi and stops over where the new-born king lays in a manger. The magi do not see the star as they leave Jerusalem, they see it after they “went on their way.” They are overjoyed to see the star again.

Stop and ponder this moment. The magi were smart men. It’s likely they wondered if they could trust Herod, yet they took what he said, perhaps as another sign from God, and headed for Bethlehem. The star was not visible at that point, yet they head toward Bethlehem. That is why they are overjoyed to see the star again. The star confirmed they were going in the right direction. God demonstrates his authority by using Herod to give the magi direction.

It’s a sad commentary on Israel that the star was not visible in Jerusalem. The star that pointed to the Messiah was not visible in the very place where God once dwelt in the Temple. They knew the scripture and the prophesy, but missed the moment. It took men from a far off land to spread the news to all Jerusalem that the Messiah has been born.

Yet all Jerusalem ignores this message from God. The magi leave Jerusalem alone. No one joined them on the journey. Sometimes we can feel like the people in Jerusalem. We’re surrounded by a materialistic Christmas; we’re familiar with the scripture about the birth of our Savior; yet we choose to remain in Jerusalem and miss the true Christmas.

The difference between Jerusalem and Bethlehem is whether we live out our faith. Are we willing to sacrifice as the magi did to pursue the Messiah? Are we willing to act on our faith and pursue our faith without fear of man? Just look at the attitude of the magi. After traveling hundreds of miles for months, they are overjoyed to see the star again. They are filled with anticipation as they prepare to see the Messiah they have traveled so far to see.

Next Post: Meeting Jesus Face-to-face

Originally published Dec. 19, 2010.

© 2010 CGThelen

A Journey of Faith With the Magi  Part 6

Matt. 2:7-8 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

Herod has a secret meeting with the Magi. It’s interesting that he meets with them in private. He does not want people to think he’s concerned about the magi and what they are saying around town. Herod does not want to give the magi any credibility or even hint that there might be some truth in their question about a new born king. He is more concerned about how it might affect his prestige than about the reason the magi made their journey.

Instead, Herod wants to get to the bottom of all this talk about a King of the Jews. From a selfish perspective, he likely asked himself, “Is this another plot to overthrow me? Are these guys spreading rumors to stir a rebellion by telling the Jewish people their Messiah is born?”

Notice Herod asks the magi when the star appeared. It seems no one in Jerusalem is aware of the star. He goes to the source of the rumors around town and interviews the magi. He pretends to be interested in what they are saying, implying he too wants to worship Christ while plotting to protect himself. He’s more concerned about himself than the fact that the savior of the world has been born.

The magi bring the most important news in the world to Herod, yet he misses it because he focuses on himself. It begs the question, “What are we missing in our lives because we are focused on ourselves instead of Christ? Who in our lives is missing Christ because we are more focused on our own needs than the need of others to hear about Christ?”

Often the biggest barrier to putting Christ first is that we want to look out for ourselves first. If we are to be willing to sacrifice; willing to act on our faith; willing to not worry what others think about us; then we must put Christ first in our lives.

Next Post: Listening to God Instead of the World

Originally published Dec. 17, 2010.

© 2010 CGThelen

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