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This morning my mind is filled with earthly concerns, yet my heart just wants to praise you dear God. I am drawn to the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 150 so many years ago yet it still rings true today.

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.

Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord. (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

At times I wonder if I will ever be able to convince some people I know that Jesus is “the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6, NIV). No matter what I say, I cannot get them to understand my life in Christ. In Ephesians 4:17-25, Paul wrote “they are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God (verse 18, NIV).” Paul attributed this to “ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts (verse 18).”

My desire to share Christ is not to convert them to a religion, but a desire for them to have life to the fullest (John 10:10). I want them to have the same peace in Christ that I have in my life. Yet no matter how much I try, how much I pray for them, it seems their hardened hearts will not budge. Sometimes I feel I am the barrier to them seeing Jesus as the way to salvation.

I want them to see Christ Jesus, not the flawed person I am who still has struggles in life. I want them to know that I am not perfect, that I still wrestle with my old self seeking to corrupt me with “its deceitful desires (Eph. 4:22).” I want them to see that I am following the “truth that is in Jesus (verse 20).” The same truth they can have.

I don’t want them to merely come to church, nor do I want to just win a theological argument. My deep desire is for them to have the hope of a new self, to see that they are “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (verse 24).” I want them to be truly changed by Christ Jesus, to share the richness of life I have in Christ Jesus.

© 2019 CGThelen

What’s it like to have a heart for God, to be totally devoted to Jesus? Paul gave us a glimpse in Philippians 1:21-30. In this passage Paul wrote about his longing to be with Christ yet his deep desire to continue serving him. “I am torn between the two,” he said in verse 23.

Paul revealed that it is his “desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far (verse 23),” but recognized the importance of remaining with the Phillipian church. As difficult as it is was for him at times, he knew his calling was to “continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith (verse 25).” For Paul, it wasn’t just about his personal salvation. He had a longing to be with Christ; a deep desire to serve him; a total selfless dedication to being a disciple of Jesus.

This passage caused me to examine my own life and my devotion to Christ. While I may long to be with Christ, I don’t always share Paul’s dedication to be with those who need to be nurtured in their faith in Christ. Am I so totally devoted to serving Christ that I feel as Paul wrote: “so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me (verse 26).”

How deep is your commitment to Christ? Is your faith all about your salvation or does it include a dedication to growing other disciples? It wasn’t enough for Paul to just bring salvation in Christ to the Philippians. He wanted his passion for Christ to be contagious so that their boasting in Christ would overflow into the lives of others.

© 2019 CGThelen

Wednesday Walk Though the Bible, Matthew 5:1-12 & 7:28-29 (NIV)

#WednesdayWalk, an occasional 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 encounters Jesus teaching the Beatitudes.

It was another hot day. The dust swirled around my sandals as I hurried along the path. Small stones crunched under my feet as I walked on the barren dirt. My mouth was dry from the heat as sweat dripped down my forehead and back. I was focused on fetching the baskets my father needed when I caught a glimpse of a large crowd on a hillside. I stopped and noticed the people were gathered around a man. “Why would so many people stand and listen to this man in heat like this?” I asked myself.

I hesitated a moment, curious as to why the crowd had gathered around this man. I knew my father was expecting me back soon with his baskets. “It will only take a moment,” I finally convinced myself as I moved up the hillside and pressed into the crowd. I strained to get a look at the man, but the mass of people made it difficult to get closer. I could barely make out what he was saying to the crowd. I thought he said something about being comforted. I tried to push my way forward, but the people were packed in too tight for me to move any further.

I listened as best as I could, concentrating on the words I could make out. The tone of his voice was gentle yet forceful. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Did I hear that right? How could the meek be blessed? How could they inherit the earth? His words became clearer as I closed my eyes and listened.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Those words resonated within me. Oh how I hunger for righteousness in this unjust world.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” How could I receive mercy for being merciful? I processed his words. “Who is this man?” I asked myself as I continued to soak up his words.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” How could a mortal man see God? My heart began to long for more of what this man said. I had never heard anything like it.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” How could someone like me, someone of such low status, be considered a child of God? That’s when I noticed a man adjacent to me, wearing fine clothes, staring at my ragged appearance with disapproving eyes. I closed my eyes and listened for more.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Persecuted for doing what is right? That happens everyday around here, yet he said those who are persecuted for righteousness would inherit the kingdom of heaven. How could that be?

Who is this man who speaks with such authority? I strained to get a look at him. My soul stirred deep within me. For the first time I felt that perhaps there was hope for a poor, forsaken person like me.

© 2018 CGThelen

On congested streets filled with chaos

I listen for you

On sidewalks swarming with people and turmoil

I look for you

In a crowded building filled with screens and distractions

I seek you

In a packed train humanity closes in on me

I reach for you

But you are not there

Yet in the solitude of the wilderness, I heard your voice.

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)

In the quiet of the upper room we saw you.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19)

In the crowded building we found you.

Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. (Mark 2:4)

In the midst of the crowd pressing in, I touched you.

She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. (Luke 8:44)

In my deep desire to hear you, to see you, to seek you, to touch you, I came to know you.

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Duet. 4:29)

© 2018 CGThelen

As I look to a new year, I wonder if I have grown closer to God in the past 12 months. I examine my life and contemplate if I am any better at truly having a heart for God; any better at truly trusting him. The struggle remains in how much I am willing to follow the Spirit of God over my selfish desires.

Psalm 119:1-24 is instructive as I look at how to align my life more with God’s desires. Verse 2-3 encourages me to “keep his statues” not just out of compliance, but because I desire to seek God with all my heart — to follow his ways. That desire is expressed in verse four, “Oh that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!”

Verses 9-16 give us practical advice to guide us to “the path of purity (9).” This passage encourages us to live “according to your word (9);” to seek God with all our heart (10); to hide the word of God in our heart (11); to be open to God’s teaching (12); and to not grudgingly follow God’s decrees, but to rejoice “in following your statues (14).”

Verses 17-24 remind me to be teachable and to learn from my mistakes. Asking God to “Open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in your law (18);” to seek to be “consumed with longing for your laws at all times (20);” to not just read the word of God, but to “meditate on your decrees (23).”

I praise God that he is a loving God filled with compassion and grace. I am thankful that he continues to pursue me as a counselor (24), pointing out my faults and working to shape me according to his laws. I pray we can all be resolute in the new year to seek God with all our heart.

© 2017 CGThelen

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel”. It touches me because it captures the yearning of God to restore us to him through his son Jesus Christ. Likewise, I think it captures the longing in our hearts for someone to save us from the hopelessness of this world.

Ever since sin created a chasm between us and God in the Garden of Eden, we have been exiled to this world full of temporal hope. The song reveals the deep desire of our heart to ransom us from the captivity of sin, to “close the path to misery.” It expresses a longing for a savior to save us from exile in this land that is not our true home. The song reveals a deep desire to put “death’s dark shadow” to flight, and a longing for “sad divisions” to cease.

Yet there is a hope that resonates from the yearning within this song. It leads us to contemplate the hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ, our “King of Peace”. Amidst the despair that cries out in the lyrics, there is a joy that sings out. “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel!”

This Christmas may our hearts yearn for Christ Jesus who was born as a baby in a manger and will one day come again to save us once and for all.

© 2017 CGThelen

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