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Without God, our life is formless and empty. We hover over the surface of the deep, the pit of despair. Deep in our darkness we cannot see, but the Spirit of God is there, hovering over the surface. God is our hope. He brings order to our formless and empty life. In our darkness we feel the Spirit’s presence. We only need to reach out to God, to cry out to him to bring order to our life.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. – Genesis 1:1-2

© 2019 CGThelen

My father. He’s a hard man. We didn’t part on the best terms. I said some things I shouldn’t have said; awful words thrown at him like poison darts. I intended to hurt him.

“What does this Jesus know,” I grumbled to myself. “My father would never take me back. He would never forgive me.”

I rolled over on my mat and tried to forget standing in the crowd listening to this Jesus teach with stories. The afternoon was hot and I laid down to rest a bit to get out of the heat. People in my village told me I should at least go and listen to him. They were right. I had never heard anyone talk like that.

I tried to clear my mind, but his words replayed in my head:“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Repent. How could that even happen to a serial sinner like me? The Pharisees told me I was too far gone, that there were not enough sacrifices to cover my sin. Could my father really care that much about a nobody like me, the lost sheep, the black sheep of the family

How could he be so joyous over a totally lost person like me repenting from sin? I get it, I mean in the sense that Jesus talked about in that story about the lost coin. If I found that coin I lost last month I’d be filled with joy. But I hardly think I have that much value, certainly not the value of a silver coin. I don’t think my father would waste time searching for me, someone with such little value.

I rolled on my back and stared at the ceiling. All I could think about was how I squandered so much of my life, my time and my resources on worthless things. I felt like that son in the story Jesus told, the son who took all his father’s inheritance and spent it on wild living. I too would willingly be a slave in my father’s house just to share in his abundance, just to have a small portion of his wealth.

Unable to sleep, I left my mat and walked to the front door. The rotted wood door creaked when I opened it and flakes of plaster fell from the wall. I stepped outside then sat on the front step and watched the people milling about the neighborhood. I looked down the street and noticed the shadows of people moving on the walls of the buildings. A dusty haze lingered, stirred up from the movement of people and animals. I imagined what it would be like to see my father on the street spot me sitting here, then run arms open to hug me. No one was ever that excited to see me. Could it be possible?

#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 person who heard Jesus tell the parables in Luke 15.

© 2019 CGThelen

Sorrow fills me

Tears well up inside

Flowing down my cheeks

Pooling on the floor

Jesus wept

Death returns once more

Grief fills my soul

So much living remained

Cut short by the grave

Jesus wept

Deep hurt inflicted

The memories return

Sadness overtakes me

The pain, too much to bear

Jesus wept

Memories haunt me

Violent outbursts

Directed at me

Muscles tense, I recoil

Jesus wept

Hope has vanished

Stricken from this place

Emotions overwhelm me

All seems so pointless

Jesus wept

I see him weeping

I see his love for him

I see his love for me

He knows my pain

Jesus wept

He weeps with me

Tears pool on the floor

But his are tinged with red

Love for me so deep

Jesus wept

There is life after pain

There is life after hurt

There is hope in sorrow

There is life after death

Jesus rose

His love abounds

He wipes away my tears

His grace is sufficient

His hope eternal

Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” – John 11:35-36 (NIV)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26

© 2019 CGThelen

I sat down after a long day to rest my weary body after a day of toil in the fields. My young children came to me and a I greeted them with a hug. How blessed I felt as I gazed above the heads of my children in my embrace at my beautiful wife preparing our evening meal. She smiled at me. Suddenly this moment was interrupted by a knock at the door.

My wife frowned as I glanced at the door. Once again their was a knock. I sighed and released my children as I stood up. “Who could that be?” I looked at my children gazing up at me with a curious look. They were as puzzled as I was about who was visiting us at this hour.

When I opened the door I was surprised to see the widow from down the street with her two boys. One of the boys held an armful of empty jars.

“Well, good evening,” I greeted her. I did not know her, but I had heard of her plight — how her husband died and now his creditors were likely to take her sons as slaves to pay for the debt left by her husband. I was sure she was looking for handouts to avoid the fate of her boys. In my mind I thought they were getting what they deserved. It was a consequence of taking on debt. I wasn’t about to give up what what I earned. By this time my children gathered behind me by the door as my wife looked on from the table while she continued to prepare our meal.

“Please, can you spare a few empty jars?” She asked.

“Empty jars?” I didn’t expect that request. “What do you want with empty jars “ I asked. She certainly did not have anything to put in them.

“I am only doing what the prophet Elisha asked me to do.”

“Elisha?!” My eyes widened. “Is he at your house?”

“No, I went to him and pleaded for help to save my sons from slavery.”

“I’m aware of your situation,” I replied. “As are most people in town, yet this is all your ask for?”

“It is what the man of God told me to do.”

I nodded. I had a lot of respect for Elisha and I wasn’t about to argue with his instructions. “Children. Go get a couple empty jars from your mother.”

They immediately ran to the table where my wife already had two jars waiting. She smiled at me and nodded in agreement. When I took the jars from my children, I noticed they were the jars my wife’s mother made for her. I glanced at her, unsure whether I should give up these special jars. She smiled again and nodded.

“Here you go,” I told the widow as I handed her the jars.

“Thank you,” she replied with tears in her eyes. She handed the jars to her son who held them tightly in an embrace. “I hate to impose, but do you have any more jars you could spare?”

I glanced back at my wife. She reached toward the shelf behind her and grabbed a jar that was given to me by my grandfather. She looked at me and I nodded. “Son, go get that other jar from your mother.”

My son retrieved the jar and I handed it to the widow. “I’m afraid this is all we have to spare.”

“Thank you so much,” she said as she handed the additional jar to her son who carefully added it to his armful of jars.

“May I ask what the prophet intends to do with these jars?”

“I’m not sure,” she replied. “After I pleaded with him to help, he said, ‘How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?’ Then I told him I had nothing except

a small jar of olive oil. That’s when he told me, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”

I nodded at her as we exchanged a stare. Behind her eyes I saw hope. She revered the Lord like her husband.

“Thank you for the jars,” she said with a slight smile.

“You’re welcome,” I replied.

I began to close the door, but paused as I watched her walk to the next house with her two sons. I admired her faith, her trust that this prophet would work a miracle for her.

#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 encounters the widow at his door asking for empty jars based on 2 Kings 4:1-7 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

Shattered

Broken pieces

Scattered all around

Void of any shape

A broken vessel

Unable to hold

Fragile clay pot

Smashed against

A cold, hard floor

So many pieces

Yet God’s hand

Patiently shows

Porous clay edges

Now exposed

Readily absorb

His love and grace

One by one

His compassion

Glues pieces together

Little by little*

He rebuilds

Restoring this vessel

To serve him

Until one day

It is complete

A vessel worthy

To hold his love

Filled with hope

Cracks still visible

Brokenness still evident

But held together

By God’s love and grace

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

*Thanks to Jennifer Arimborgo and her post http://feedingonjesus.com/2019/08/27/little-by-little-2/ for inspiring this poem.

Grateful. Thankful. I sit this morning, trying to clear my mind of so many things that make me feel ungrateful, envious, unthankful. I am so blessed. Help me Father God to focus on you today. To keep away the thoughts and things that corrode — that erode the foundation of gratefulness. Help me to rest in your hope and grace, to see you at work around me; to express my gratitude for the beauty of this world; the beauty of life.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” – Colossians 3:15

© 2019 CGThelen

It’s happened many times in my life. I am in a deep conversation with someone about Christianity and it feels like I am speaking another language. I keep hitting a stonewall. No matter how hard I try to explain my faith in Jesus, they can’t seem to hear it. I just want to throw up my hands in frustration and walk away. But Jesus offers us some insight into those who refuse to grasp the truth.

In John 8:31-47, Jesus is in the middle of one his many debates with the Jewish people and they just can’t seem to hear what he is saying. In verses 31-33 he made the statement: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (NIV).” The Jewish people argue that as descendants of Abraham they are children of God and slaves to no one. Jesus makes the distinction that their actions say otherwise. “Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word,” Jesus told them (37). He then makes a distinction about which family they belong to, God his father or the devil.

“Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say,” Jesus told them (43). It’s a harsh reality, but people who don’t believe Jesus died and rose to save us from our sins are not part of the family of God. They can’t hear what we say because it is God’s truth. Jesus doesn’t mince any words: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires (45).” They can’t hear because Jesus speaks the language of truth while the devil, “the father of lies,” speaks his native language of lies (45). The truth and lies don’t mix. They are totally different languages.

So when we encounter people who seem to not want to hear the truth, the gospel of Jesus Christ, we need to understand they speak a different language. In the midst of a frustrating conversation with someone trying to convince you Christianity is phony, remember who they belong to, the father of lies; and remember where we came from.

We were once slaves to sin, chained to lies we thought were truth. Praise God we were set free through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, the truth has set us free and there is hope it will also set free those who want to hear the truth of Jesus Christ. We need to remain patiently hopeful that the truth we speak will eventually overcome the lies, that they will learn the language of God’s truth.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

© 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

The sun rises in the east. I feel the first rays of light warm my face, touching me with a golden glow. Your presence dear God awakens my soul. In this moment, I feel your Spirit envelope me. Joy fills me as I consider the love and grace you have lavished on me. The memories of the past, the pain from long ago, is covered with the knowledge that you were there. Despite what others did, you brought me to this point. Despite the tears from ancient streams of sorrow, you are here before me. Your loving arms embrace me. Praise God that you never abandoned me even when I felt like you did. Praise God that you are my shield, that you have given me these years of life. Praise God that you don’t consider me broken and useless, but you raise me up as a servant worthy of your call. All praise to you dear God for your grace, for sending your son Jesus to save us from our sins. Praise God that we can be your children, heirs to your kingdom. All praise to you dear God.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philemon 4:4-7 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

Editor’s note: This post originally published March 31, 2018.

After Jesus died on the cross and was buried, before Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples were hiding out of fear they might meet the same fate. All they knew was that Jesus was gone. They had yet to experience his resurrection. This was a period of fear and doubt, the time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

To live without salvation through Christ is to be caught between Good Friday and Easter morning. It is an eternal darkness without the hope offered by the resurrection of Christ. It is a place of constant night with only the fading light of a man-made lamp to illuminate the way. It is a state of hopelessness without any chance of salvation from sin. Yet because of God’s love for us we do not have to remain trapped between Good Friday and Easter.

Salvation is ours through faith in Christ. This Easter embrace the hope of the resurrection. Leave behind doubt and disbelief and run with Peter to see the strips of linen lying in the empty tomb (Luke 24:12). Share the joy of the women who saw the risen Lord and ran to tell the disciples (Matt. 28:8). 1 Peter 1:8-9 tells us, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls (NIV).”

My prayer is that the dawn of this Easter morning will dissipate the darkness of night with the radiant light of the risen Lord. May we express the joy of our salvation with the proclamation, “He has risen!”

© 2018 CGThelen

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