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I am fascinated by abandoned buildings. I look at the crumbling brick walls and think of all the work that went into carefully building those walls brick by brick. I notice rusting metal beams and think of all the hours of labor that went into forging the beams and welding them into place. I see crumbling plaster with drooping wallpaper and think of the hours spent carefully selecting colors and installing the walls and wallpaper.

It doesn’t take long to see in our world what Solomon wrote about in Ecclesiastes 2:22-23: “What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless (NIV).” He makes a great point about the purpose of this futility — that it is meant to point us toward God. “This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment (verse 24-25). Without God in our life, our work in this world will amount to nothing.

If our purpose and meaning in life is centered on God, then all we do will be meaningful, our efforts will be invested in the eternal Kingdom of God. Our work on earth, our toil, will become centered on God’s purposes, not our own. Our work becomes a way to invest in the lives of those around us, to be a light for them in a dark world.

© 2019 CGThelen

When I attended college there were many buildings on campus that bore the names of people from generations before me. I had no idea who these people were and why they were important enough to have their name on a building. To me the name was just a reference to the building. Unless there was a plaque on the building about the person, no one would know them or their accomplishments.

I thought of this as I recently sat at a dedication ceremony where someone I knew was having a building named after him to recognize his accomplishments in the city. This was the third person I knew who would now have their name emblazoned on a building. To me, the building would always be associated with the person I knew, but to coming generations the name would be just a building to them.

Solomon reminded us of this in Ecclesiastes 1. “Meaningless, meaningless” he wrote in verse 2 about the result of all we do on this earth. “What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun (verse 3, NIV)?” Like the people I know who had buildings named after them, ultimately their accomplishments will be forgotten and eventually the building that bore their name will be torn down to make way for the new. “Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever (4).”

Solomon cautions us not to ignore the eternal in our work here on earth. It is the only thing that will truly last forever. All our accomplishments in this world, as great as they may seem, are meaningless unless they help build up the Kingdom of God. “No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them (11).”

The only thing that matters in the end is if our name is in the book of life. “The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels (Revelation 3:5).” We may have our name on an earthly building, but it won’t matter if our name is not in the book of life. “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15).”

© 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

How do people know I am really who I say I am? When I enter another country customs asks for my passport. When I check into a hotel in another state the front desk asks for my driver’s license. My passport and driver’s license show my citizenship. But how do people know we are citizens of the Kingdom of God?

In Phillipians 3:20 Paul wrote, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ (NIV).” Paul encouraged the followers of Jesus to follow his example of living out their faith in Christ Jesus. In 3:17 he said, “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.” A Christian’s identification is their identity in Christ Jesus, a life lived for Christ.

Paul cautioned the Phillipians about an identity in this world. “Their destiny is destruction,” Paul wrote. “Their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.” An identity invested in things of this world is an identity invested in temporary things that will pass away. How we live our life reflects our identity.

At times I am overwhelmed by God’s love and grace — that he offers us citizenship in his kingdom through his son Jesus. In Luke 6:25-26, Jesus called us to “love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked (NIV).” As citizens of the Kingdom of God, as people whose identity is in Christ, Jesus called us to, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:26b).”

© 2019 CGThelen

I walk along the ocean shore

Footprints formed in the sand

Behind me each step is erased

As the waves pound the shore

.

Thousands before me

Have walked this very shore

Every trace of their steps

Washed away by the waves

.

Ships arrived to conquer lands

Armies waded to shore

Empires rose and then fell

While waves lapped the shore

.

As the years continue to pass

Buildings rise with sweat and toil

Then slowly crumble with age

As waves reshape the shore

.

Vacation houses on the shore

Balconies with ocean views

Mighty storms take them down

As waves crash the shore

.

As I walk along the ocean shore

I recall God’s constant love

His eternal voice whispers

As the waves lap at the shore

Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.” (Psalm 39:4-5, NIV)

“Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.” (Psalm 119:89-90)

© 2019 CGThelen

It’s hard to believe it’s December. As another year draws to a close, I reflect on another year of joy and sorrows. The older I get, the more the sorrows seem to accumulate to the point where they can overpower the memories of all the joy I have in my life. The older I get the more I feel my body showing it’s age.

Yet Paul’s words in 2 Corinthian 4:16-18 remind me, “do not lose heart (NIV).” He reminds us that as Christians there is much more than the sorrows of this world and our failing body — “inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” With Christ Jesus in our life we are actually growing and maturing our eternal body inside of us.

Some days it is difficult to remember that everything in this world is temporary. The only eternal value it has is how we use what God has given us here to help others learn about Christ Jesus. Paul encourages us to keep a proper perspective: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (verse 17).”

The next time your body’s aches and pains remind you of your age; the next time the struggles of this world get you down, remember the eternal hope we have in Christ Jesus. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (verse 18).”

© 2018 CGThelen

“Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it.” – 1 Peter 2:11 (MSG)

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published July 1, 2010.

On a recent trip I watched people coming and going from the hotel where we spent the night. It was morning and it was apparent we were there for different reasons. Some dressed for a wedding; some carried baseball equipment for a tournament game; and some were on their way to a family reunion. Some were there for a brief stay and checked out that morning while others were there for an extended period of time. While many of us headed in different directions, the one thing we had in common was that for one night we all shared this temporary home.

Life in this world is a lot like that hotel. We all share this temporary residence called earth. Like the hotel, we come and go each day for different activities and events like work, weddings, school, ball games and family reunions. Some of us are here for a brief stay while others will stay for an extended period of time. No matter how hard we try to make this hotel feel like home, we cannot deny the fact that it is a temporary residence. One day we will all check out and stand before God.

As Christians, it’s easy to get caught up in this world and act as if this hotel we call earth is our permanent home. When we do that, we attempt to build a palace for ourselves on earth instead of focusing on building God’s eternal kingdom. I Peter 2:11-12 tells us “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives (MSG).”

If we start thinking this hotel called earth is our permanent home, we risk investing our lives in things that will not last. We become vested in the world. 1 John 2:15 warns us to not “love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.”

We must get to the mindset that our real home is with Christ, a mindset that focuses on living for Christ and not ourselves. This is the mindset that helps point the way for others to walk with Christ to our eternal home. As Paul reminds us in 2 Cor. 5:6-7, “So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

© 2010 CGThelen

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