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This morning dear Lord we need new words to replace the tired old refrains that voice our worries. Let us meditate on your truths and fill our souls with your joy. Help us to step out this day in confidence that you are with us every step of the way. Protect us from distractions that seek to detour us from your path. May we sing your praises:

“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.

Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.”

– Psalm 96:1-3, NIV

© 2019 CGThelen

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published December 6, 2016.

Sometimes no matter how much I plead with God to transform the life of a person with Christ, it seems nothing changes. The struggles remain and I feel helpless to show the way to Christ. I feel helpless to bring about any change and it feels like my prayers fall on deaf ears.

At times like this I am caught in the tension between God’s sovereignty and the free will of people to reject or embrace Christ. Romans 9:18 tells us, “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden (NIV).” Within this tension I am forced to trust God’s sovereignty; forced to deepen my pursuit of Christ; forced to let the tension hold me close to God.

I must trust that God has a purpose for delineating between mercy and wrath and that only he is qualified to judge between the two. I must admit I am severely unqualified to judge why some graciously receive Christ and others reject him.

The only answer to this tension is to continue to liberally apply the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to all people who God places in our life. We must continue to trust God to handle the response people give to the message of salvation.

© 2016 CGThelen

Physical strength is something that we can see and recognize, but how do we know if someone has spiritual strength? How do we know someone has a strong faith in Jesus Christ? Often it is through difficult times in life that the strength of our faith becomes evident. Just as the strength of a weightlifter is tested by adding more weight, the added pressures of trials in life test the strength of our faith.

Like a weightlifter preparing for competitions with muscle building exercises, God works with us to strengthen our faith and endurance. He encourages us to read scripture, pray and meet with other Christians. He continues to add weights, continues to encourage us, continues to tell us, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV).”

Yet when we are in the middle of great difficulties in life; when our arms are fully stretched holding the weight of the world above our head; when our arms tremor as we watch more weight being added to the barbell; it’s hard to heed God’s reassurance that his burden is light. All we can see is the crushing weight of trials over our head, not wanting to release our grip even though we can feel ourselves growing faint and weak, weary from the pressure.

That’s when God gently tells us, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:28-31).”

© 2019 CGThelen

The sun dawns on a new day, a new week. At this moment the day is open like an empty calendar. I have filled this day with my schedule, my tasks. I have my expectations for how this day will go. I pray Lord not for you to bless my designated activities, but for you to fill me with your wisdom on how to discern what I should do this day to serve you.

Help us to hear your voice, to listen to your guidance, your direction. Let us not get distracted from serving you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. May we spend time in prayer seeking you as we make decisions this day.

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor (Luke 6:12-16, NIV).”

© 2019 CGThelen

When he was a young kid, barely a teenager, I would often notice him standing in the back of church all alone. One day as I watched him I felt God nudge me to go over and talk to him. I sighed and reluctantly walked over to him. I tried to start a conversation, but we stumbled over our words. It was very awkward at best. Afterward I questioned why God wanted me to talk to him. It made no sense to me.

As the years passed, God continued to nudge me to periodically talk to this boy. Sometimes it was just a simple “hi” to show that I noticed him. Because of these short, awkward conversations we connected in a strange way. We didn’t become close, but slowly I built a kind of disconnected friendship with this kid.

As he grew older he began to get in more and more trouble. Several times I would talk to him about it, but he was indifferent to my words. It became harder to connect with him, yet God still nudged me to talk to him. When his trouble landed him in prison, he put me on his visitor list. I wrote him a couple times and tried to visit him but for some reason my visitor application was lost.

I began to wonder what the point was in trying to stay connected with this guy who was now a man serving time. Yet God kept nudging me. After he was released from prison, he committed more crimes that landed him back in prison. This time I was able to visit him in prison. When I sat down with him the first time in the visitor area, I was astounded to hear him talk about the Bible and following Jesus. He was determined to change his life.

Last December he was released from prison after serving his sentence. A few weeks ago he and his wife came over to our place for dinner and advice on questions of faith and their relationship with each other. As they sat on our couch talking with my wife and I, it occurred to me that perhaps God placed me in his life almost 20 years ago for this moment. He kept me connected to him with those short, awkward conversations that did not make sense at the time. God knew this day would come and he began preparing us for it almost 20 years ago. I was reminded that God is at work in the littlest details. He has the long view of life and how seemingly small, insignificant things can make a big difference years later.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1

© 2019 CGThelen

At times, dear Lord, we are overwhelmed by the world around us. It appears to dominate all things, seemingly ready to overpower us. Yet you dear Lord are our strength, you are our shield. You are steadfast, a mighty fortress. Praise you Lord that we can rely on you to be our protector. Praise you Lord for your grace, that you redeemed us and gave us a path to eternal life. Praise you God that you gave us victory over sin through your only son Jesus. All praise this day to you dear Lord.

Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress. – Isaiah 33:2 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

I feel scattered, tossed upon fertile soil. The master gardener tells me I have been purposely positioned in this specific spot. Yet I feel out of place in this cool, moist soil. I question if anything can grow here as snow flurries cover me with a chilling wind.

I pray to God for strength, seeking his light and warmth, but the long night endures. “How dear God can all my effort here possibly bear fruit? Nothing will even germinate here?” In due season he tells me.

Faithfully I continue to pray, trusting the hand of the master gardener. He lovingly encourages me to wait. He tells me one day in the warmth of spring his purpose will be revealed, blossoming for all to see. Patiently I wait, praying to God for strength to see it through.

“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers.” – Psalm 1:3

© 2019 CGThelen

This moment is all I know. The future is uncertain. I make plans for the day as if I know they will come to fruition, yet the unexpected awaits to thwart my plans. In the emergency room this week I lay on the bed thinking how this wasn’t in my plans for the day. It wasn’t serious, but it could’ve been if I had waited. It reminded me that God is in control, not me.

This morning I give praise dear God that you gently remind us to trust you. I praise you for your love and grace, for your hand upon us. Increase our faith in you and our awareness of the path you lay before us. With each step of faith may we give you praise that you continue to pursue us. Thank you Father God that you consider us worthy to be called your children.

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matt. 6:31-34.

© 2019 CGThelen

After the triumph of Easter morning, after the joyous celebration of your resurrection Jesus, it is Monday morning, the start of another week. Back to the work week, back into the world. This morning I feel like i am being thrown into the lions’ den. This morning I hear rustling in the tall grass — Satan on the prowl looking for someone to devour, devious eyes watching me (1 Peter 5:8). The reality of the world waits. I am being tossed into the lions’ den. I think of the king’s words in Daniel 6:16, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

Lord Jesus help us this day as we go out into a hostile world. Help us to focus on you, not the prowling lions with their hungry look. Let us reach out to you for strength and courage, trusting in you and not our own ability to defend ourselves. Help us to wait on you to close the mouths of the lions.

May we be found righteous in your eyes dear Lord and in the sight of others. At the end of the day may Daniel 6:22 be the words we share with those who ask: “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

© 2019 CGThelen

At the bedside, in the hospital we wait. Tubes and monitors hooked up to our loved ones, we wait for good news. We wait on God to bring healing; from the depths of our sorrow, we cry out to God for healing. Yet all we can do is wait; wait for the broken and ravished body to heal.

While doctors monitor our loved ones as they lay in the hospital bed, God monitors us; he knows our pain, our suffering, our sorrow. His one and only son Jesus was crucified, willingly sacrificed so that he could redeem us; so that we can be saved from the grip of sin and death.

We wait at the bedside of our ailing loved ones. We feel the pain of watching them suffer. We may even cry out, “God, why have you abandoned me?” But God is there. He is always there right by our side. Reach out to him and take his hand. Find strength and comfort in the one who knows your pain, the one who created you.

Dear God fill us with your hope, your strength, your peace. As we worry about the unknown, the future, may we find comfort in you. May those this day who are waiting at the bedside of ailing loved ones feel your peace surround them. May they know that God knows their pain. May they feel the hand of Christ Jesus upon them, the one who knows suffering and pain. May they find rest as they keep vigil over their loved ones day after day. In Jesus name we pray.

If you desire, share your joys and concerns in a comment so we can lift them to God in prayer.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

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