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“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” – Psalm 100:4-5 (NIV)

Thanksgiving Day is everyday. Take time today to give thanks to the Lord God for the blessings he has given you. If you are so inclined, make a comment on something you are thankful for this week.

© 2018 CGThelen

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published Nov. 29, 2018.

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

Morning Praise — This week Lord I am again reminded of the frailty of our bodies. I praise you for your presence, for your healing touch and the hands of those in the dental profession who did surgery on me this week. I am grateful for all the training they completed to help me. Our bodies are such an amazing creation, yet I recognize we live in a fallen world where these bodies of ours will not last. I praise you God that you extend to us the promise of eternal life where we will be made anew; where we will no longer have bodies that wear out; where we will be in your presence forever. I give praise that you are a constant presence for those who are faithful to you. Give us us the stamina, the strength to carry out the mission you have given us here on this earth. Thank you that we are able to serve such a loving and gracious God.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” – Revelation 21:4 (NIV)

“No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” – Revelation 22:3-4

© 2019 CGThelen

The gravel crunches under my shoes as I step out of the batters box with bat in hand. I notice the outfielders moving in as I take my stance at home plate and face the pitcher. “Easy out,” someone shouts from the infield. My confidence evaporates as I steady the bat, poised to swing. I glance at the stands filled with parents cheering, but my father isn’t there. He’s never made it to even one of my games, but I still hope someday he will.

The pitcher delivers a fast ball across the plate. I swing the bat. Nothing but air. “Strike one!” The umpires snaps in a gruff voice. I want to glance at the stands again, but I force myself to concentrate on the next pitch. “Strike two!” The umpire yells. I just want to get on base for once. “Wait for the pitch,” the coach yells. I restrain myself on the next pitch. “Ball one,” the umpire calls to my relief.

But I can’t hold back on the next pitch. I swing and feel the ball clip the bat, then rise toward the sky. The bat slips from my hands as I instinctively sprint toward first base, unaware that the ball is sailing straight up, past the foul line. I run with all my might, but my heart sinks as I hear the ball smack a glove. “Out!” The umpire shouts. I drop my head and return to the bench. I know this will be my last time at bat.

A few innings later the game ends. We lost again. Our opponents smile and give each other high fives. All I could think about was being a loser on a losing team. I trudge toward the now empty bleachers to wait for my brother to pick me up. He’s usually late. I pass parents reassuring my team mates, “It’s okay.”

I start to climb the rows of seats on the bleachers when I notice an older man sitting on the top row. “Dad?!” I utter. He gently smiles and motions to me to join him. I climb the bleachers and sit next to him. He gives me a hug and says, “It’s okay, son.” I look at him in disbelief. “How long have you been here?” He gives me a loving grin. “For the whole game, he replies.” I shake my head, “But I didn’t see you.” I look into his eyes and feel a warmth I’ve never felt before. “I’ve been here for every game,” he says.

I’m skeptical about his comment, but his face speaks truth. “This is part of your journey, son; part of making you into the man I want you to be.” Such wisdom, but It doesn’t make sense to me. “But I’m no good,” I insist. He smiles and puts a hand on my shoulder. “I made you to be so much more than a baseball player.”

Suddenly a car horn blares. I turn to see my brother pull up with the car. “That’s my ride,” I say as I turn back to look at my father, but there’s no one there. Tears well up inside of me as i step down from the bleachers. I climb into the car with my brother. He turns to look at me. “Who were you talking to on the bleachers when I pulled up?” I close the car door and look at him, “My Father.” My brother frowns. “Dad? Dad’s at home!” I smile at him, “I was talking to God my father. He hasn’t missed a single one of my games.”

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father —and I lay down my life for the sheep.” – John 10:14 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

Oh God, you are faithful. Your word tells of your steadfastness. May we reflect on your word and have confidence in who we are in you.

God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. – 1 Corinthians 1:9 (NIV)

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. – Duet. 7:9

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. – Jeremiah 31:3

Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. – Joel 2:22-23

I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God. – Zechariah 8:8

Come near to God and he will come near to you. – James 4:8

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. – Psalm 62:5-6

© 2019 CGThelen

The pain of past hurts is still there.The hurt of rejection. The laughter and judging eyes. The isolation, feeling rejected. But you rise up in this moment dear God to remind me you were there; to remind me you are here now. You long to show me your graciousness, your love. Even when I could not see you, you saw me and held me. You have carried me all these years, to this moment when I can look back and see how you protected me; how you cared for me, soothing my broken heart. All the time you inched me along, pointing me to something better, deepening my faith in you, strengthening my hope in you.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. – Hebrews 10:23 (NIV)

Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God. – Isaiah 50:10

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! – Isaiah 30:18

© 2019 CGThelen

This morning dear Lord my heart is heavy with those I know who struggle through life without you. They seek false hope from spiritual things that are not from you. I plead with you to transform their heart, to open their eyes to you God, yet they continue to reject you. I do not understand why you don’t act now to change them.

We know you are able Lord. We know your word has the power to change lives. Yet you remain silent as we plead our case for those we love. Help us to trust in your timing, in your wisdom. Help us to lean on you and not our own ability. Fill us with your peace in the midst of our worries. Thank you for your grace and your patience as you gently teach us to trust you, to follow you, to rest in the wisdom of your timing.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

Lord, this morning I think of Hezekiah who faced a powerful adversary. He did not seek strength to overpower, did not seek personal victory. Instead he sought to defend your name dear God, to punish those who ridiculed you. May we take such a stand, to humbly ask that we seek to bring honor to you dear God. That we lift your name up today; that those who seek to discredit you will be silenced by our prayers.

Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. – Isaiah 37:14-17 (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.

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published May 30, 2012.

After a year of neglect, my old garden plot was overtaken by weeds. Remnants of corn stalks and brown, brittle garden plants were barely visible in the sea of green weeds that now dominated the plot of earth.

“How did this happen?” I asked myself. It amazed me how the weeds now dominated the garden to the point where it choked out the fruitful plants. I asked “how,” but I knew the answer to my question could be found in 1Thess. 5:16-18 where Paul wrote, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks…”

The question is that if we are not filling our lives with praises for God, then what are we filling our lives with? The gaps presented by our inattention to God create opportunity for discord and discontent with God. They become the small weeds in our fruitful garden that will eventually choke off the good plants if left to grow.

Praying without ceasing keeps us connected to God. It puts us in right relationship with Him. By rejoicing in all things; by giving thanks always; we are able to choke off the weeds of bitterness and anger that try to take hold when bad things happen in life. Praying without ceasing is like weeding our garden so that it will be more fruitful and filled with the joy of the Lord.

© 2012 CGThelen

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