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Praise to you dear God for the way you show your love and grace. I praise you that you do not always meet my expectations, but instead choose the better path for me; the path with the long term view, not short term gain. I praise you for the littlest surprises that appear in our day to bring encouragement. Your love dear God abounds. It is unfathomable. I sing praises that your love is not limited by our ability to love you back. You created us in your image and love us beyond measure. May our love for you deepen each day dear God.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

There are certain people I have met in my life who have inspired and challenged me. They are not rich and famous, nor are they well known to the public. They are for the most part ordinary people living life in obscurity, but living for the Lord Jesus. Their accomplishments won’t show up in the media, nor even a mention on social media, but they will show up in God’s book of life.

These are people God has placed in my life who have mentored and inspired me, even when I had given up on myself. These are people who prayerfully support me, lifting me up before the throne of heaven, when I don’t have the energy to pray. These are people who have been there to pick me up in the midst of traumatic events that have immobilized me.

It continues to amaze me how God places these super heroes in my life to rescue me at the right moment. They are God’s faithful who listen to the prodding of the Spirit of God and act on my behalf, even if it’s just a text, “Praying for you.” God doesn’t just value me, he cherishes me enough to provide these special people in my life — sometimes years before I need them. These are the special relationships, the community of believers, the friends who I cherish.

Take some time today to thank those who have walked faithfully with you on your faith journey. Lift them up in thanksgiving before God. Know that you are loved and valued in the Kingdom of God.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. – 1 John 3:16 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

People will disappoint. Expectations will not be met. I will be hurt by others. Grief will come. I can count on them happening to me in this world. Yet you dear God are faithful. Your grace and love continue to abound. Your promises are truth. Forgive me for having unreasonable expectations of you. Forgive me for being disappointed when you don’t meet my expectations. Forgive me for being inpatient with you dear God when you don’t work in my timeframe. Help me to align with your will, your plans. Help me to forgive those who hurt me. Fill me with your grace and love.

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. – Luke 23:33-34 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

There was a chill in the air as I watched him take a draw from his cigarette. The tip glowed orange-red in the dark of the parking area as he inhaled. A white cloud of smoke and warm breath, illuminated by a nearby streetlight, emerged as he exhaled.

“You don’t know what it’s like to have the !@$?# beat out of you by your old man,” he said in an angry tone. “Day after day my dad would pound on me.”

“No, I don’t know,” I sheepishly replied. I couldn’t possibly know what he went through, but I knew he had the same hole I did, a deep desire for a loving father. I knew he felt the same emptiness, the same longing for a father’s loving touch; a father’s loving words.

“I’m sorry,” was all I could say. I looked at him in the eyes with sincerity. “You know I do care about you.”

He just swore at me and took another puff from the cigarette. “You’re all liars.”

I was speechless. I could not overcome the years of beatings, the years of disappointment he experienced. How could I overcome the massive wall he built to defend himself? How could I get him to understand he always had a loving father right there with him, that God the Father loves him no matter what. He never disappoints.

He swore again at me — told me to leave him alone. I turned to leave, then hesitated and turned around. “I wish you could see I do care about you.”

He swore again at me. “Just leave me alone,” he shouted.

“Okay,” I nodded and walked away. Before going back inside, I turned to look back at him. The orange-red glow of his cigarette was visible in the dark. “Dear God, help him to see you,” I whispered. “Help him to know you”

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. – 1 John 3:1

© 2019 CGThelen

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

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.

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

In the deepest, darkest pit

You were there

When all abandoned me

You knew my grief

When I was struck

You felt the pain

When fear paralyzed me

You were beside me

When others heckled me

Your words soothed me

When rejected, cast aside

You pulled me near

When tears engulfed me

You wiped them away

When I felt no love from others

Your love remained true

You never abandoned me

Always by my side

Dear God you’re always there

Always faithful to me

You’ve blessed me

When when I felt no blessing

Filled me up

When I felt depleted

You are the one true God

The everlasting father

Your love and grace endures

Through all that life gives

Your are the eternal

In a temporal world

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” — Psalm 146:13-14 (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

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

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