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I sat on the floor with my back against the wall in the dark room. It seemed opposition surrounded me on all sides. I only wanted to share the joy I felt, the peace in Christ that I was so generously given. I did not anticipate such hatred of such good news. Who would turn away from eternal hope? It was discouraging to me.

I wasn’t sure how much longer I could hold on. “Stand firm.” His words echoed in my mind. “Hold fast to the teachings.” I knew I was called to this. I remembered the Spirit of God coming alive in my heart: my parched soul was quenched. It was humbling to think we could share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. I only wanted others to share in this glory.

“Hey,” my brother in Christ said as he entered the dark room illuminated by a lamp. “There you are.” He sat down next to me and placed the lamp on the floor between us. “What are you doing here? You look so worried.”

“I’m discouraged,” I replied. “It seems pointless to try to tell people about Jesus.”

I watched him smile as he pulled out the letter and opened it. “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself…,” he read. “… and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

Paul’s words stirred my heart. I smiled and nodded.

“Remember where our strength, our encouragement comes from,” my brother in Christ reminded me.

#WednesdayWalk through the Bible. What unknown people experienced in the Bible, based on 2 Thessalonians 2:15-17.

© 2019 CGThelen

The day dawns

Fear rises from the east

Daylight emerges

Overtaking the darkness

The day is ahead

Yet I hesitate to enter it

Anxious thoughts

About a future yet to be

Sunlight spreads

Moving across the floor

Cold feet

Immovable as I grip the chair

Sunbeam advances

Warmth touches my toe

Distressed thoughts

Released as light moves along

Nervous body

Calmed as sunlight blankets me

Joyous praise

As the Lord Jesus takes my fear

New resolve

I rise and step into the day

“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

© 2019 CGThelen

The alarm pulls me out of a deep sleep. I drag myself out of bed. I am disoriented as I slowly awaken. My brain starts to engage, as the day’s schedule slowly comes into view. I hesitate, seating myself down before I am overwhelmed by another packed day; before God is crowded out of my day; before I leave Jesus at home. Psalm 143:8 emerges from my thoughts. I whisper the passage to myself as I close my eyes:

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life (NIV).”

© 2019 CGThelen

Where can we find joy in life, true joy that lasts? Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 1:6 that even though the Thessalonians suffered, they had “joy given by the Holy Spirit (NIV).” This joy was born out of their embrace of the gospel not just as words, “but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction (verse 5).”

Because of their devotion to Jesus Christ, The Thessalonians were motivated not by human desires, but a desire to serve Christ. Paul wrote that it was evident their “work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Faith, love and hope in Christ motivated their actions.

The Thessalonians found true joy in serving Christ despite hardships and trials. They did not do things grudgingly or because of guilt. Paul wrote how word spread throughout the region about how they “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (verse 9).” People knew their faith was real, that they held eternal truths, not words based on idle human wisdom. May we realize our joy in the Lord. May it motivate all we do so others will see the living God in us.

© 2019 CGThelen

I recently thought about the people in my life who mentored me in the early years of my Christian faith. I am thankful for their patience and interest in me. I was immature in my understanding and perhaps a bit too zealous, yet they poured into my life and encouraged me to go deeper in my relationship with Jesus.

I recall how a dear friend of mine opened my eyes to the concept of a personal relationship with Jesus. It changed my life. I remember how years ago our pastor encouraged me to preach a sermon while he sat in the pew and listened. “I’m can’t do that,” I objected. He smiled and told me, “I love it when people get up from the pews and do things the pastor usually does while I’m sitting in the pew.”

When I read 1 Thessalonians 3:7-9 I think of these people in my life. Some are still dear friends and others have moved on to other places and ministries to mentor others in the faith. At times we have encouraged one another as we faced struggles in life. Like Paul, I am so thankful for the faithful Christians God has placed in my life. I can’t thank them enough for the joy in Christ Jesus they have given me. It is a joy I now share as I watch other people in my life grow in their faith.

Who are the mentors in your life who have given you the joy of the Lord? Who are the people you are currently mentoring who bring you joy? If you are so inclined, share those experiences in a comment. Thank you for reading and the joy you bring me through your interaction on this blog. May you continue to experience the joy of the Lord.

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you.” – 1 Thessalonians 3:7-9 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

David had it in his heart to build a dwelling place for God. Psalm 132:3-5 expresses this desire:

“I will not enter my house or go to my bed, I will allow no sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob (NIV).”

Yet David never built the temple. God left that task to David’s son Solomon. It reminded me of the deep desire I have to build a temple for the Lord within the people I know who have not accepted Christ Jesus.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:16: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst.” I want them to experience the joy of the Lord; to experience the peace that comes from the Spirit of God dwelling within. Yet like David, sometimes God tells me “no,” that someone else will build it and I will not see it in my lifetime.

That does not stop me from praying for the people God places in my life. I continue to try to sow seeds, praying at some point they will sprout and grow with deep roots, yielding “a crop, a hundred times more than was sown (Luke 8:8);” hoping they will build a dwelling place for the Spirit of God within their heart.

“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 3:10-11

© 2019 CGThelen

In the deepest pit of sadness, as sorrow overwhelmed me, I cried out to God to somehow free me from the suffering. When tears flowed seemingly from no where, I cried out to you Lord, “Let this pass.” When my body tensed, my breathing quickened and my heart rate increased, I cried out to you God. Tears flowing, filled with sorrow, I cried to God to let this pass, but you gave me the words of your son Jesus instead: “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will (Luke 14:36, NIV).”

God has created us for a specific purpose. He has uniquely crafted us, chosen us to do his will. Our obedience, as difficult as it is at times, is essential to carrying out God’s plan — to help others find the path to salvation through Christ Jesus. Through our struggles God deepens our faith. He uses our pain to help build empathy for others who experience pain. In the Kingdom of God nothing is wasted; fruit is born out of our suffering.

When I feel alone and full of grief, I recall the words of Jesus: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (14:34).” Even though Jesus shared with his disciples the deep emotional pain he felt, they ultimately abandoned him in his time of need. Jesus understands the feeling of loneliness; he understands suffering for God’s purposes. In Christ Jesus you are not alone. He will never forsake you.

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” – Mark 14:32-36

© 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

The world presses in around me

Pressure suffocates, panic sets in

Breathe in deep the grace of God

.

Darkness inches forward, covering me

Cowered in a corner, I cannot see

Breathe in deep the light of Christ

.

Depression paralyzes me

Immobilized unable to move

Breathe deep the promises of God

.

Loneliness surrounds me, crowded by anxiety

Hidden away in seclusion, isolated

Breathe deeply the love of God

.

Grief and sadness fill me up

Tears submerse the joy

Drink deeply the joy of the Lord

Let living water quench your soul

.

The struggles of life wear me down

I struggle to breathe, to move forward

Let the Lord God fill you with the breathe of life

.

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” – Genesis 2:7

© 2019 CGThelen

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