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When I was in high school, I would often work for my uncle on his dairy farm after school and on weekends. One time we were working on his tractor when he asked me to get a specific tool hanging on the wall in his workshop. I dutifully hurried into his cluttered shop and searched the wall amidst dozens of spare parts and tools hanging on the walls. To my dismay, I could not find the tool he requested. Several minutes passed when my uncle appeared and grabbed the tool from the wall right in front of me. “It’s right here,” was sall he said, but I’m sure he was thinking, “Are you blind?”

I thought about this incident when I read John 9:13-41 where a blind man received sight from Jesus and the Pharisees refused to believe it. Just like me in my uncle’s shop, they could not see what was right in front of them — a man born blind who was now able to see because of Jesus. Amidst all the clutter in their life, they could not see past his claim that Jesus gave him sight. All they could see was that Jesus broke the Sabbath, that he must be a sinner. Like my uncle, the former blind man stood before them and pointed out the obvious, “I washed, and now I see (15).”

In the course of our life we accumulate a lot of clutter that can prevent us from seeing what is right in front of us. The Spirit of God keeps pointing out Jesus at work in our life and some days we just can’t see it. “It’s right here,” the Spirit tells us. What you need is right here.” Jesus patiently rubs mud on our eyes and tells us to go wash. As living water washes away our earthly blindness, we are able to see our creator more clearly through the clutter in our life. His light penetrates our soul so Christ’s work becomes more evident to us.

© 2019 CGThelen

In Ezekiel 40-47:11. Ezekiel is shown visions of the temple of God. What struck me about this passage was the description in Ezekiel 47:1-12 where Ezekiel is shown water “coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar (verse 1).” The water starts as a trickle from the altar and soon becomes a mighty river. Ezekiel is told the water eventually flows into the Dead Sea where the “salty water there becomes fresh (8).”

Because of the fresh water, there are a lot of fish and “Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows (9).” The passage describes fruit trees growing on both sides of the river because of the water from the sanctuary. Verse 12 tells us: “Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” I find this passage as a vision for what our churches today should be in this world.

Like the water from the altar, we should flow out of churches each week and press into the Dead Sea culture around us. Our fresh water faith in Christ should push back the brine with living water. Where ever we flow, we should support trees that bear fruit, bringing nourishment and healing to people we encounter during the week. With the living water we carry, “Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail (12).”

© 2019 CGThelen

I sat with her in her living room as she talked about her life. Somehow she managed to keep her frail body upright in the chair. A small plastic tube by her nose fed her oxygen as she spoke with a raspy voice. I could sense the bitterness as she told me about past injustices done to her from decades ago. Over the years I had known this aged woman it seemed the grip of bitterness had only grown tighter on her life. It seemed to cripple her to the point where she was hunched over, eyes pointed toward the floor. I longed to free her from the bondage of unforgiveness with the loving touch of Jesus Christ, but she would have nothing to do with it.

Days later I came across Luke 13:10-17 where Jesus healed a woman crippled “by a spirit for eighteen years.” Toward the end of the passage Jesus remarked that she had been kept bound all those years by Satan. What is interesting about this passage is that the woman does not seek healing from Jesus. She was there in the synagogue listening to Jesus teach and he called her forward. Jesus told the woman, “you are set free from your infirmity.” He placed his hands on her and then she, immediately “straightened up and praised God.”

It reminded me of my aged friend I visited a few days earlier and how she chose to let Satan hold her in the grip of bitterness — choosing to let past injustices keep her bent over and unable to straighten up. She was emotionally and now physically crippled, refusing to even enter a church to hear the teaching of Christ. She refused to hear Jesus call her forward so he could touch her with his grace and release her from the grip of Satan. She chose to remain hunched over in bitterness instead of letting Jesus set her free from the grip of Satan.

In this life we are often struck by emotional and physical events that can cripple us for years. Satan wants to bind us with these infirmities so that we remain crippled, hunched over with our eyes to the ground so we are unable to stand and raise our hands to praise and worship God. Jesus calls us forward to touch our lives, but the grip of the injustices of this life hold us back from receiving his freedom. Instead we listen to those, like the synagogue leader in this passage, who don’t want us to receive Jesus Christ and his healing touch. We remain hunched over in bitterness with eyes pointed to the ground instead of Jesus.

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published March 10, 2017.

© 2017 CGThelen

May you this day dear Lord, call out to those who are faithful to you. May they hear your voice to respond to the hurting. May they have eyes to see the pain in others. May they have ears to hear the cries of pain. Give them discernment to bring compassion to those ready for your healing. Equip them with the words, the actions to bring eternal healing to those crying out for relief. May the balm of your gospel message soothe the tired soul. May it bring strength and calm in the midst of the storm.

Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people. – Jeremiah 8:22 (NIV)

© 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

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

At the bedside, in the hospital we wait. Tubes and monitors hooked up to our loved ones, we wait for good news. We wait on God to bring healing; from the depths of our sorrow, we cry out to God for healing. Yet all we can do is wait; wait for the broken and ravished body to heal.

While doctors monitor our loved ones as they lay in the hospital bed, God monitors us; he knows our pain, our suffering, our sorrow. His one and only son Jesus was crucified, willingly sacrificed so that he could redeem us; so that we can be saved from the grip of sin and death.

We wait at the bedside of our ailing loved ones. We feel the pain of watching them suffer. We may even cry out, “God, why have you abandoned me?” But God is there. He is always there right by our side. Reach out to him and take his hand. Find strength and comfort in the one who knows your pain, the one who created you.

Dear God fill us with your hope, your strength, your peace. As we worry about the unknown, the future, may we find comfort in you. May those this day who are waiting at the bedside of ailing loved ones feel your peace surround them. May they know that God knows their pain. May they feel the hand of Christ Jesus upon them, the one who knows suffering and pain. May they find rest as they keep vigil over their loved ones day after day. In Jesus name we pray.

If you desire, share your joys and concerns in a comment so we can lift them to God in prayer.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

As much as we desire to stay at the feet of Jesus and worship him, sometimes he asks us to not remain there. As much as we enjoy the fellowship of other Christians, God calls us to go beyond the walls of the church. As much as we relish sharing with other believers the great things God has done in our life, he calls to share this good news with others outside of the church.

Such was the case in Luke 8:26-38. In this passage Jesus demonstrated God’s power over demons in a dramatic way. They had just arrived in the region of the Gerasenes across the lake from Galilee, when “he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town (verse 27, NIV).” The man immediately fell at Jesus’ feet and acknowledged him as the son of God.

Jesus commanded the demons to come out of this man, but they begged Jesus to not torture them. Instead they asked Jesus to let them go into pigs grazing on a nearby hillside. Jesus gave them permission and the demons entered the pigs. Immediately the pigs ran down the hill into a lake and drowned.

News of this event spread quickly and soon people from town and the countryside came and saw the once demon-possessed man seated calmly at Jesus’ feet, “dressed and in his right mind (verse 35).” When the people heard what had happened, they were filled with fear. They asked Jesus to leave because they were afraid of him. They had just seen the power of God to overcome demons. Jesus left, but he also left behind a powerful example of God’s truth.

The formerly demon-possessed man begged to go with Jesus, but Jesus told him, “‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him (verse 39).”

Imagine this man sharing his story in his home town. People who knew the man when he was demon-possessed could not deny he had changed; could not deny Jesus had changed his life. God calls us to do the same.

We are so grateful for what Jesus has done in our life that we want to remain at this feet and worship him — to remain with the community of believers and worship him. But Jesus calls us to share what he has done for us, to spread the good news to others we know outside the church; to those who knew us before Jesus entered our life and can now see the change in our life.

© 2019 CGThelen

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

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

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