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I must confess that many times in my life my mouth has gotten me into trouble. Not necessarily because of some remark uttered out of anger, but by a response to a temptation or sinful desire in my heart. The mouth vocalizes our thoughts whether good or bad; it responds to temptations with a “yes” or “no.”

Psalm 141:3 tells us, “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” It is a great prayer that treats our mouth as a fortress that determines if good or evil enters our life. The guard at the door to this fortress determines what comes in or goes out of our life and what better guard than the Lord.

Even though evil doers approach and ask to enter, our door remains closed. Our lips do not welcome them. With the Lord’s wisdom we can defend our life with how we respond — with what we say. With our mouth we can humbly pray Psalm 141:4, “Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evildoers; do not let me eat their delicacies.”

© 2019 CGThelen

“Not another delay,” I thought as I sat at the airport gate waiting for my plane. Just a week ago my plane was delayed two hours and now on my return trip it was happening again. As I stuck my nose in a book to pass the time, I sighed and tried not to get stressed about it, thinking that maybe God had a purpose for it

By the time I finally boarded the plane, I wondered if perhaps God would place me next to someone he wanted me to talk to. Maybe the delay was so someone could board the plane? But as it turned out I had a row of seats to myself. I settled in the window seat, just glad we were finally ready to take off and forgot about God’s purpose for the delay.

A few hours later we made our final approach to land. As we descended I had the perfect vantage point, to see a magnificent golden sunset break through the clouds (picture below). At that moment it hit me that if the plane wasn’t delayed, I would’ve missed that amazing sunset. The timing as well as my window seat were perfect for me to experience a sunset in the clouds.

I praised God for that moment and for the beauty of his creation. It was as if he was telling me, “See how beautiful my timing is?” So often I get caught up in my agenda and my time frame that I lose sight of the potential God has in store for me for the day. I get annoyed by delays or things that interfere with my plans instead of looking for God at work in my day. I thank God that he patiently teaches us to follow his way.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” – Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. My you trust in his plans for you this day; may you see him at work today.” -Romans 15:13

© 2019 CGThelen

A Journey of Faith With the Magi  Part 6

Matt. 2:7-8 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

Herod has a secret meeting with the Magi. It’s interesting that he meets with them in private. He does not want people to think he’s concerned about the magi and what they are saying around town. Herod does not want to give the magi any credibility or even hint that there might be some truth in their question about a new born king. He is more concerned about how it might affect his prestige than about the reason the magi made their journey.

Instead, Herod wants to get to the bottom of all this talk about a King of the Jews. From a selfish perspective, he likely asked himself, “Is this another plot to overthrow me? Are these guys spreading rumors to stir a rebellion by telling the Jewish people their Messiah is born?”

Notice Herod asks the magi when the star appeared. It seems no one in Jerusalem is aware of the star. He goes to the source of the rumors around town and interviews the magi. He pretends to be interested in what they are saying, implying he too wants to worship Christ while plotting to protect himself. He’s more concerned about himself than the fact that the savior of the world has been born.

The magi bring the most important news in the world to Herod, yet he misses it because he focuses on himself. It begs the question, “What are we missing in our lives because we are focused on ourselves instead of Christ? Who in our lives is missing Christ because we are more focused on our own needs than the need of others to hear about Christ?”

Often the biggest barrier to putting Christ first is that we want to look out for ourselves first. If we are to be willing to sacrifice; willing to act on our faith; willing to not worry what others think about us; then we must put Christ first in our lives.

Next Post: Listening to God Instead of the World

Originally published Dec. 17, 2010.

© 2010 CGThelen

A Journey of Faith with the Magi Part 5

Matt. 2:4-6 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”

Notice Herod does not call the magi right away. First he conducts an investigation. The magi are asking about the King of the Jews so he calls in the Jewish experts. It’s ironic that the chief priests and teachers of the law know the prophesy from the Book of Micah 5:2. They know the scripture and where the Messiah was to be born, yet they did not know the Messiah was already born.

An active faith requires us to not only know scripture but to act on it as well. Where are you at in your faith? Are you more like the Chief priests and teachers of the law who knew scripture and the prophesy, but missed its fulfillment. Scripture to them was just words on a page and the prophesy was just another fact they taught. Or are you like Herod where everything is about him, someone who looked at the news about the Messiah as competition for his throne.

The magi were educated  men who understood the prophesy about the birth of the Messiah. They were men who were sincere in their belief that the Messiah was born — men who were sincere in their pursuit of Christ and willing to give it all to him. Are you willing to follow the magi and follow your faith to Christ?

 Next post: When Self Makes Us Miss the Biggest News on Earth

This post originally published Dec. 15, 2010.

© 2010 CGThelen

A Journey of Faith With The Magi Part 4

Matthew 2:3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed and all Jerusalem with him.

News about the fulfillment of the prophesy about a Messiah was not well received by King Herod or the people in Jerusalem. It’s interesting when you look at the chronology of the events in the first three verses of Matthew 2, it’s not how it’s often portrayed:

  • Verse 1, the magi arrive in Jerusalem
  • Verse 2, they start asking around about the “one born King of the Jews”
  • Verse 3, eventually Herod hears about it

The magi do not seek an audience with Herod. They start asking about the location of the new-born king. The news about the birth of Jesus spreads through Jerusalem. Eventually, Herod hears about it from someone on the street. It demonstrates that King Herod was paranoid enough to have spies keeping tabs on what was going on in Jerusalem.

Another interesting thing in verse three is that it says they were all disturbed. Think about it. It says, “Herod and all of Jerusalem.” In a time with no cell phones, television and the Internet, the news still traveled fast. So why would they be disturbed by this news? Isn’t this what the Israelites longed for since their exile, a Messiah to save them? Or maybe it was because they said he was already born and they did even know it had happened.

The people in Jerusalem were caught unprepared for the news of the birth of the Messiah, yet they don’t respond with excitement. Contrast this to the sacrifice the magi made to travel to Jerusalem and their desire to put their faith into action. They are totally focused on Christ. Their boldness in asking about the Messiah spreads the news that Christ was born. Remember, they only asked one question and look at the response they received from all in Jerusalem.

What is your response to Christ? Are you like the magi who were bold in professing the Messiah’s birth and not worried about what others might think? Are you true to your faith even in asking a simple question that could have a major impact?

Next Post: Follow the Faith of the Magi Instead of Facts

This post originally published Dec. 13, 2010.

© 2010 CGThelen

A Journey of Faith With The Magi Part 3

Matthew 2:2 … and asked, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

Picture the magi coming into Jerusalem, the crossroads of the world. They enter this bustling town full of people going about their daily business. The magi must have thought that the Jewish people would know about the birth of the Messiah. So they inquire of the people in Jerusalem, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews?”

Their determination is evident. They focus on finding the Messiah, and acting on their faith. Remember, they are strangers in a strange land, yet they don’t show fear of asking about the Messiah. The magi are not afraid to act on their faith. How is it that these strangers from a far off land show the people in the Israelite’s home town how to live their faith?

What a contrast to the people in Jerusalem who don’t seem to have a clue about what is going on. It appears that the star the magi saw was not even visible in Jerusalem. If you look closely at verse two they ask, “We have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him.” They didn’t point to the sky and say, “that’s the star we saw.” Apparently the star that was guiding them is not visible.

It’s interesting that they don’t ask if they have heard of the prophesy, they ask, “where is the King of the Jews.” They seem to know he has already been born and they have come to worship him. They are not scared about what people will think. They profess that he has been born and that they want to worship him.

How bold are you about your faith? Are you as bold about your commitment to Christ as the magi? Do you act on the scripture and God’s guidance? Do you fear God more than man?

Next Post: A Determined Faith

This post originally published Dec. 11, 2010.

© 2010 CGThelen

A Journey of Faith With The Magi Part 2

Matthew 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem… (NIV)

They were Magi. Astrologers. Educated men known for their wisdom. Men of position and prestige. Men who were likely from Persia, what is today Iran. Despite their status, they were willing to sacrifice for their faith and leave everything behind.to travel 800-900 miles from Persia to Jerusalem.

As we approach Christmas, it’s appropriate to take a look at our own journey of faith. How much are you willing to sacrifice? Would you leave right now to travel 800-900 miles, the equivalent of a trip from Chicago, Illinois to Boise, Idaho, to seek the Messiah? Would you travel on horseback or camel and leave everything behind to travel across rugged trails and terrain, through snow and cold across the plains? Just how far are you willing to go to seek Christ?

The magi knew the prophesy of the Messiah. They recognized the signs of his birth and put their faith into action. The magi went the distance to find the Messiah. They went all the way to Jerusalem. How far are you willing to go to demonstrate your commitment to Christ?

Next Post: A Bold Faith Put into Action

This post originally published Dec. 9, 2010.

© 2010 CGThelen

The story of the magi is a familiar part of the Christmas story. Maybe too familiar. We know all too well their journey from the east to find the Messiah, the new-born king. Or do we? Sometimes our familiarity with scripture causes us to miss significant things, just as many who encountered the magi missed the news about Jesus’ birth.

The story of the magi is as much about their physical journey to find the Messiah as it is about their journey of faith. There is a lot we can learn from the magi. When you take a close look at the scripture in Matthew 2, you find the magi had four characteristics that were the foundation of their faith:

  • A willingness to sacrifice
  • A desire to put their faith into action
  • A fear of God, not men
  • A generous and humble spirit

Journey with me over the next few days as we travel with the magi through Matthew 2:1-12, verse by verse, in search of the new-born king.

Next Post: The Journey of Faith Begins with a Commitment to Christ

This post originally published Dec. 7, 2010.

© 2010 CGThelen

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

A Global Positioning System or GPS is a great tool to help you find your way in an unknown area. But it is only as helpful as the information you put into it. If you give it the wrong starting point or destination you will be just as lost as when you began your journey.

Life is the same way. You travel into an unknown future surrounded by a lot of misinformation about your starting point and where you are going. It can be easy to get distracted from Christ and to start relying on a GPS of another type – Globally Positioning Self. When this happens we begin to focus more on selfish desires in this world instead of Christ. As Paul reminds us in Romans 8:7, “Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing.” (MSG)

That’s why you need a true GPS – God’s Positioning System. When you trust Christ to direct your life, you will always know you are heading in the right direction. Even if you think you are traveling down the wrong road, you can trust that this GPS will help prevent you from becoming lost. “Point out the road I must travel, I’m all ears, all eyes before you.” (Psalm 143:8 MSG)

Like Abraham, there will be times that God will tell you to go a certain direction. “Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.’ So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him.” (Gen. 12:1 & 4 NKJV) Hebrews 11:8-10 tells us that Abraham traveled by faith “to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents.”

In the same way, we must travel by faith, following our Spiritual GPS. Our purpose becomes helping others see the correct path in life is to follow Christ. We cannot get too comfortable in this foreign land because we know this is not our true home. Like Abraham, we live as strangers in temporary homes, relying on God to guide us. The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. (Heb. 11:1 MSG)

© 2010 CGThelen

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published April 20, 2010

What was it like to be a disciple with Jesus; to hear the crunch of rocks under your feet as you walk the dusty roads with him; to hear his voice as he spoke to the crowds that followed him; to witness the miracles? What was it like?

Imagine being in the boat when the storm arose (Mark 4:35-41) and feeling panic as the boat fills with water. Fearing for your life, you cry out to Jesus who is sleeping in the stern. Imagine the awe you feel as you watch Jesus rise and instantly calm the sea and the wind. “Who is he that even the wind and waves obey him?” (NKJV)

Imagine your amazement as you collect 12 baskets of scraps left over from feeding five thousand men. (Mark 6:33-44) Earlier you questioned how to feed all the people gathered around – if bread should be purchased for them. Yet Jesus took a mere five loaves and two fish and somehow it was more than enough to feed everyone.

Imagine marveling with the crowds (Matt.15:30-31) as Jesus heals the lame, blind and the mute who are brought to him by the multitudes. The reports of these miracles spread throughout the land. “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Luke 7:22 NKJV) “Who is he?” you ask yourself.

Yet you do not have to imagine experiencing Christ. He is alive today. When the storms of life start filling your boat with water, call out to him and he will calm your fears. When you are crowded by the demands of life, turn to him and there will be baskets left over. When the sickness and death in this world burden you, be reassured that because you believe in him, you will walk with him some day. (John 3:16)

Today we can still be in awe of Jesus and the power he gives us through the Holy Spirit. We can show the same compassion he did to the crowds who are searching for him. We can still marvel at his power to overcome. “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9 NKJV)

© 2010 CGThelen

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