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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

I feel scattered, tossed upon fertile soil. The master gardener tells me I have been purposely positioned in this specific spot. Yet I feel out of place in this cool, moist soil. I question if anything can grow here as snow flurries cover me with a chilling wind.

I pray to God for strength, seeking his light and warmth, but the long night endures. “How dear God can all my effort here possibly bear fruit? Nothing will even germinate here?” In due season he tells me.

Faithfully I continue to pray, trusting the hand of the master gardener. He lovingly encourages me to wait. He tells me one day in the warmth of spring his purpose will be revealed, blossoming for all to see. Patiently I wait, praying to God for strength to see it through.

“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers.” – Psalm 1:3

© 2019 CGThelen

Darkness covers the land, but in the east light emerges. Soon brilliant hues of orange and red light up the sky. The darkness gives way to the light. Soon all that was hidden by the night is illuminated by the morning sun.

Praise God that he has given his son Jesus to us to dispel the darkness. Thank you God that your light reveals what was once hidden, that you reveal our sin and provide a way to redemption. Praise God that you gave us your Spirit to help us discern good from evil, to help us see the path you have given us to follow.

Thank you God that you have provided a community who follow Christ Jesus, a community to help one another grow in our faith in you. Praise God for your grace and love, that we can be called children of God.

“Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” – 2 Samuel 7:18

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” – Romans 8:14

© 2019 CGThelen

In so many blog posts over the years we have shared our journey through life. We have shared our struggles and our joys. At times we have cried out to God in earnest prayer; we have prayed for one another. We have shared our faith journey, as we seek to grow closer to Jesus — seek to follow his ways.

Together our prayers can build up the community of believers in Jesus Christ. By sharing our joys and sorrows with one another, we can lift one another in prayer before God; we can strengthen one another in our faith.

Today I am beginning a weekly post called “Prayer Journey” — a place where we can share what is on our heart; a place to request prayer and to pray for one another in the comment section of this post. May you be blessed this day as we share our faith journey with one another.

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. – 1 Samuel 12:23

© 2019 CGThelen

“Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” (Nehemiah 8:6, NIV)

Praise you, oh God. Praise your holy name. Praise your good works. Thank you for the love and grace you pour upon us. May we be attentive to your will for our life. May our life bring you praise. May the works of our hands bring your truth to others. May our lips bring your truth to those in need of salvation. You are worthy of all praise. We bow before you as your humble servant dear Lord. May our actions this day exalt you.

© 2019 CGThelen

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 10:10, NIV)

Show us your way, Lord. Teach us this day the path to follow. Fill us with your wisdom. Let us fear you and not people. Give us understanding of your holiness dear God. Help us to pursue your righteousness this day. Reveal to us the false truths that abound in this world. Fill us with a knowledge of your truth. May we be filled with the joy of the Lord today, a joy that surpasses all understanding. You are the one true God. All praise and glory to you.

In 2 Chronicles 1, after the death of David, Solomon “established himself firmly over his kingdom (verse 1, NIV).” That evening, after making sacrifices to the Lord, God appears to Solomon and asks him: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you (verse 5-7).” This is the ultimate test of someone’s heart.

Stop and think for a moment. If someone with the ability to give you anything you wanted asked you what you wanted what would you say? Pose that question to anyone on the street and how many would say they want wisdom and knowledge? How many would request the things God lists in verse 11: “wealth, possessions or honor… death of your enemies.” These are the desires of the flesh, selfish desires.

But Solomon, humbled by the task before him, asks for “wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours (verse 10).” God said to Solomon in the next verse, “Since this is your heart’s desire.” Solomon didn’t just want wisdom and knowledge for himself, but to faithfully perform the task that God laid before him.

When God gives you a difficult task that overwhelms you, a task you feel ill-equipped to handle, how do you respond? Do you seek the counsel of this world and follow your own desires or do you seek wisdom and knowledge from God? Is your heart’s desire to faithfully perform the task he has given you, humbly admitting you feel ill-equipped without his guidance? May you continue to seek the wisdom of God in prayer and His word — in honor and praise of our Lord.

© 2019 CGThelen

I walk along the ocean shore

Footprints formed in the sand

Behind me each step is erased

As the waves pound the shore

.

Thousands before me

Have walked this very shore

Every trace of their steps

Washed away by the waves

.

Ships arrived to conquer lands

Armies waded to shore

Empires rose and then fell

While waves lapped the shore

.

As the years continue to pass

Buildings rise with sweat and toil

Then slowly crumble with age

As waves reshape the shore

.

Vacation houses on the shore

Balconies with ocean views

Mighty storms take them down

As waves crash the shore

.

As I walk along the ocean shore

I recall God’s constant love

His eternal voice whispers

As the waves lap at the shore

Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.” (Psalm 39:4-5, NIV)

“Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.” (Psalm 119:89-90)

© 2019 CGThelen

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