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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

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

There are a lot of things that separate us from each other in this world. Anger, miles, language, and broken relationships can all create division at home, work, school and in the community. Sometimes the split is so severe that it seems the divide will never be bridged.

At times we may have the same feeling toward God. Events in our life can cause us to feel angry and distant from God. We may feel like we can’t talk to him, that our connection to him is forever broken. But Romans 8:38 tells us nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Like a coiled steel spring, the harder we push God away, the greater his force in reaching out to us. It is only our pressure on the spring that attempts to push God away. No matter how hard we try, we can never separate ourselves from the love of God.

#ThrowbackThursday; this post originally published May 31, 2013.

© 2013 CGThelen

Over the years I have encountered many people who are bitter about life and the things that happened to them. Their demeanor is so sour and angry about the past that it affects their outlook on the present. At times this attitude can cause them to lash out at people.

I thought of this attitude of bitterness when I read 1 Samuel 30. David has allied with the Philistines after fleeing from Saul. After they join the Philistines to fight Israel, they are sent back to their homes in Ziklag only to find their town has been pillaged. David’s men are angry with him when they find “it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive (verse 4, NIV).”

The response to this horrible event reveals the character of David and some of his men. In verse 6 we read that David “was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him.” Not only was David upset that his wives had been taken, but now he faced the anger of his men who blamed him.

The second half of verse 6 is instructive for us in how we choose to respond to horrible things that happen to us in life: “each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord.” Because David focused on the Lord instead of the men who were bitter in spirit, he was able to seek the Lord’s guidance and rescue their wives and children as well as everything the raiding party had taken from them.

Bitterness about horrible things that happen to us can taint our attitude about so many things in life. When we are bitter in spirit as David’s men were, it can cause us to be angry with people and lash out at them for even minor injustices. David’s ability to find strength in the Lord, even in the midst of his own loss, enabled him to seek the Lord for wisdom on how to respond to their tragedy (verse 7-8). He follows God’s wisdom and rescues their families.

Bitterness of spirit can be destructive to us and those around us. It can sow seeds of mistrust, revenge and division. Read 1 Samuel chapter 30 and compare David’s response to his bitter and grumbling men. Seek the Lord’s wisdom in your response to bad things that happen in your life.

© 2019 CGThelen

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” – 2 Corinthians 4:15-16 (NIV)

Thank you God for your infinite love and grace, for giving us renewal. Take time today to give thanks to the Lord God for the blessings he has given you. If you are so inclined, make a comment on something you are thankful for this week.

© 2018 CGThelen

I have read the passage in Mark 10:17-31 many times and heard many sermons about the rich ruler. But this time when I read about Jesus’ encounter with this man, the first sentence in verse 21 caught my attention: “Jesus looked at him and loved him (NIV).” I think too often I have been quick to judge this man who “had great wealth” as someone hopelessly attached to his riches. I think Jesus saw something else in him.

In the opening verse of this passage, the man ran to Jesus “and fell on his knees before him (verse 17).” He addresses Jesus as “good teacher.” This shows the man has respect for Jesus and views him as someone with good advice on eternal matters. I think it’s also significant that the man asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said “inherit” instead of “earn” which indicates to me that he desires to be part of the family of God.

This a completely different posture than at the beginning of this chapter where the Pharisees approached Jesus to test him. The rich man seemed sincere in his pursuit of eternal life, but he is misguided in his method of obtaining it. Unlike the Pharisees who seem intent on proving Jesus wrong, this man appears to want a heart after God. Something inside of him is telling him he is missing something and he is excited to see Jesus, excited enough to run to him and to respect him as a “good teacher.”

I think the key point in Mark 10 relates to our attitude toward God. Are you more like the Pharisees where you think you are a mature Christian who needs to test the faith of others, or are you like the man in verse 17 where you desire to learn more; where you respond to the Spirit and fall at the feet of Jesus to ask him, “What am I missing Jesus? Point me toward what I need to change.”

Like this man, Jesus looks at us and loves us. He sees our heart and what we truly desire. Jesus has a way of convicting us with the Spirit of God in what we need to change in our life to have eternal life. He tells us to be sold out to a life in Christ. Like this man whose face fell and went away sad (verse 22), when the Spirit convicts us, it can sadden us as well. The question I like to ask is, “How much more than gravity is holding you to this world.” For this rich man, apparently his riches were holding him back from selling out to Christ.

As Jesus points out, earthly riches can make it difficult to enter the Kingdom of God (verse 23). Jesus said in verse 25, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” But we have to be careful we don’t fall in the trap of saying, “At least I’m not rich. I’m doing all the right things to enter the Kingdom of God.” That is exactly what the man told Jesus in verse 20, that he has kept all the commandments since he was a boy.

It’s easy to slip into the thought that our good deeds make us a good Christian. That’s why we need to focus on having a heart for God, a deep desire to follow Christ. Praise God that he looks on us with love and compassion. When we are convicted by the Spirit to address things that are holding us back from a deeper relationship with Christ Jesus, it can make us sad like this rich man. As God reveals more and more of our failings, we can feel like the disciples who remarked, “Who then can be saved (verse 26)?” To which Jesus responded in the next verse, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

To be sold out to Christ Jesus requires us to rely on God, not ourselves or our riches on this earth. Kneel at the feet of Jesus and ask him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” What he tells you might make you sad; it might seem impossible, but remember, nothing is impossible with God.

© 2018 CGThelen

For the last year I have been watching my granddaughter grow and develop. It is amazing to see how she has matured from a helpless infant to toddler. She is walking now and able to explore so many more things that are now within her reach. In a world we have known for so long, everything is new to her.

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This is what I think of when Jesus said in Mark 10:15, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (NIV).” A little child is curious about the world and wants to learn about it. They don’t walk around and analyze everything they see or question its existence. A little child is full of wonder and amazement at the world. They hunger to learn about it.

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So many things prevent people from receiving the Kingdom of God. Approaching God as a child means we trust him to care for us, to provide for us. It means depending on him to protect us, knowing he will guide us away from dangerous things that affect our faith. It is that childlike wonder at the vastness of the world God created and his infinite love for us.

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Don’t let others hinder you from approaching Jesus with your childlike faith. Run to him with wonder and amazement at the grace he gives us, “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Mark 10:4).” Let Jesus take you into his arms; let him place his hand on you and bless you.

© 2018 CGThelen

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