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I stick my toe in the water. It feels cold to the touch There is a nudge on my back. “Go in, the water’s fine,” I hear from behind me. I place both feet in the water. I want to return to shore, but I take another step, then another, slowly wading into deeper water. My body becomes more acclimated to the water. I am now waist deep and a wave crashes over me. I lose my balance in the sand below, but manage to stay standing. Soon wave after wave pounds me, but I choose to stay in the water. Determined now to press on, I move into deeper water. Soon I plunge into the water, totally immersed. I feel the water surround me. For this moment the waves are gone. I rise to the surface. Waves are still present, but I am now thoroughly soaked with living water.

“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” – Revelation 7:17 (NIV)

© 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 as she lay dying. The machine behind me pulsated, providing oxygen to sustain her in these final moments. She could no longer swallow and her voice was barely audible, yet occasionally she was able to say a few words. I held her hand and told her, “It’s okay, it’s okay.” Even though she was very weak, she managed to lightly squeeze my hand. The cancer had ravaged her body, taken away all her strength, and now it was taking her life. She was no longer able to sit up and had been bed-ridden for more than a week. But now I sensed the end was near.

I gently pulled the hair away from her face and slowly caressed her head, trying to sooth her. “Water,” she managed to utter. She was no longer able to drink with a straw. I picked up the small sponge on a stick, dabbed it in the cup of water by her bed, and moistened her mouth with it. She sucked on it and I could see the relief on her face as the water refreshed her parched mouth. I set the sponge down and held her hand. “Thank you,” she managed to say with a raspy voice. “It’s okay,” I repeated to her with my mouth close to her ear. “God loves you,” I added.

As difficult as it was to sit with her, I had a sense of peace. I couldn’t help but think of this as an image of God and how he tends to us with a loving touch. In the midst of our difficulties in life, when we feel weak and helpless, he is there holding our hand saying, “It’s okay. It’s okay.” He dabs our parched soul with living water to refresh us. He is there by our side each step of the way, gently caressing our head, soothing our weary soul. We only need to take his hand and say, “Thank you.”

After a few hours of sitting with her, a family member arrived and took over the vigil. A few hours later she died. I thought of what a privilege it is to serve God; how he calls on each of us to serve him in a special way. No one act of service is any greater than any other in the Kingdom of God. We all have our own calling to convey God’s love to others in need of a loving touch; people who need their parched soul moistened with living water. As followers of Jesus Christ it is a privilege to be his hands and feet in a world full of need.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28 (NIV)

“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28:20 (NIV)

© 2018 CGThelen

This #ThrowbackThursday post commemorates a good friend who died a year ago on August 17. Originally published August 21 2018, this post reflected on the experience of being there that day.

I am parched, beaten down by the scorching heat of life; dried out, craving relief from the oppressive inferno of barbs from others. In this moment I hear your word dear Lord: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink (John 7:37, NIV).” Praise God that you don’t just offer a shot of water, mere drops to wet the palette. Praise to you Jesus that you offer to immerse us in a river of living water to heal our thirst. Praise God that you fill us to the point of overflowing. All we need is to believe it is so, that only Jesus can quench our parched souls; that Jesus can can fill us so we never thirst again; that Jesus fills us to the point of overflowing. All praise to you dear Jesus for giving us eternal life, for filling us with the Spirit of God.

“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” – John 7:38

© 2019 CGThelen

Praise you Lord for the new life of spring; the brown turns to green grass, the barren limbs of trees now trimmed with budding leaves. Praise you Lord that the cold snow of winter now falls as warm rain, creating the fresh aroma of spring. Thank you Jesus that you bring new life to us, filling our brown and gray life with the brilliant hues of your Spirit. Praise you God that the spring rains of living water wash over us, quenching our dry and parched soul. Thank you God for your creation, for creating us.

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. – 2 Corinthians 2:15 (NIV)

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. – John 7:38

© 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

There’s a phrase “putting down roots” that describes someone settling down in a place. I have heard this phrase used to describe people I know who have finally settled in one place after jumping from job to job and one town to another. But do we think of this phrase in the spiritual sense as settling down with God?

To settle down with God is to focus on building a relationship with him. It means putting down roots deep into his scripture; spending focused time in prayer with God; drawing deeply from solid relationships with other believers. The challenge is to not get distracted by customs and beliefs in this world that can uproot our faith in Jesus. This is what happened repeatedly to the Israelites in the Old Testament. Psalm 106:34-35 tells us how the Israelites repeatedly disobeyed God by mingling with other nations and adopting their customs.

When we put down roots with God we secure ourselves to his eternal grace and love. The deeper our faith in him, the more we can draw on God’s strength and not our own; the better prepared we’ll be for the storms of life. Jeremiah 17:7-8 tells us, “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 (NIV).”

© 2018 CGThelen

There are people in my life that I have know for years, but who are no closer to experiencing redemption through Christ. Month after month I pour myself into their lives, but I feel as if I am trying to create a lake by pouring one bucket of water each day onto a vast desert. It’s discouraging to watch the dry sand quickly soak up the water as if it was never there.

Then I read Isaiah 43:18-19: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” This verse is a good reminder that even if I do not “perceive it,” God is still at work “doing a new thing” in the lives of these people. The process of a heart change has begun, even if I do not notice.

On the surface, each bucket of living water I pour out quickly disappears into the dry sand, but below the dry surface the moisture continues to collect, creating the beginnings of a stream of life-giving water. While it seems my efforts to build Christ into the lives of these people is futile, the love of Christ is at work healing past hurts even if I cannot see it. My faith in God tells me he is making a new way, a stream of living water in a dry and parched land.

© 2017 CGThelen

In the last chapters of the book of Ezekiel, Israel is in exile and the prophet Ezekiel is given a detailed vision of the restoration of the temple and Israel (chapters 40-48). In 47:8 there is a description of water flowing from the temple into the Dead Sea. The result is that “the salty water there becomes fresh.” Verse 9 tells us that “where the river flows everything will live.”

This is a compelling picture of how God’s living water brings life to formerly dead things. Because of the water from the temple of God, plants bear fruit for food and “leaves for healing (verse 12).” As believers in Jesus Christ we can do the same for people in our lives. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them (John 7:38).”

In the course of our day we can let living water flow from the temple within us (1 Cor. 3:16)  to touch people we encounter with the Spirit of God. We can bring fresh water to people who are wading through the saltwater swamps and marshes of life (Ezekiel 47:9-11).

© 2017 CGThelen

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