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Why did I have to be with the last ones? I knew it was my own fault for hesitating to leave when my division packed up and headed out laden with silver, gold and clothing as well as their unleavened bread. It all happened so fast. I couldn’t believe my own eyes when I saw the Egyptians urge us to hurry and leave. I think they were actually scared to have us around after all those plagues, especially that last one. I have to admit I was scared as the first born son, but we did as the Lord instructed through Moses and I was not harmed.

Only the mighty hand of God could’ve ended our slavery and brought us out of Egypt. But now fear and doubt returned as I stood between two walls of water. It was the same fear I felt when we were camped near Pi and I thought the Egyptian army was going to overtake us. I thought we were going to die right there in the desert. Moses’ words still echoed in my mind: Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

I saw it all with my own eyes. A pillar of cloud kept the Egyptian army from reaching us all night with darkness on one side and light on the other. I thought we were trapped by the sea until I saw Moses stretch out his hand and a strong east wind blew all night so that the waters of the Res Sea parted creating a dry path to the other side. It was an amazing sight to behold. But now here I stood watching the Egyptian army advancing, pursuing us on the same path through the Red Sea, but with fast moving chariots. I quickly trudged up the dry shore to the other side of the Red Sea with the last few people to cross, knowing I would be the among the first struck down by the army.

I wanted to run as fast as I could after reaching shore, but the word of the Lord that Moses gave us caused me to stop and turn around. “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” The Lord has brought us this far, yet fear began to fill me again as I watched the army coming closer. “Can I just be still and trust the Lord will fight for us, for me?”

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a person who is part of the exodus out of Egypt through the Red Sea based on Exodus 12:31-14:31.

© 2019 CGThelen

What does it mean to be still dear God? Can I rest? Can I be motionless? Can I really just stop at this moment as the world passes by in a blur? The Psalmist recorded, He says, “Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10, NIV).”

I know he is God. I know that in my heart. Yet to be still and know that he is God is quite a different thing. Being in the moment. Clearing my mind of the blur of activity. Resting my tired body. Pressing the stop button of my life instead of pause. To know God is to be still in him. To empty myself and let his presence flow freely into my life, instead of just letting him seep into the remaining cracks and crevices of my full life.

To be truly still is to be motionless, stopped, empty. To let exhaustion take over and immobilize me in the presence of you dear God. To stop pressing onward and release myself to your hand, your lead. Take your hand in my hand dear God, like the small child I am who still has so much more to learn about you. May I look up to you with confidence that you will lead me, lead me on the right path.

© 2019 CGThelen

She was just a poor old widow barely getting by on what little she had. Yet I’d never seen someone with such devotion to God. Despite the trials, despite losing her husband, she did not lose her faith in God. All she had was two small copper coins to her name, but she wanted to show her gratitude to God.

I pleaded with her not to go, to keep the two small coins. I reminded her that the teachers of the law should be taking care of her. It was their duty after she lost her husband. “Why support the temple when it doesn’t support you?” I questioned. She just smiled back at me. She wouldn’t listen to me and proceeded to the temple to give her last two copper coins.

I followed behind her. She was too stubborn to want my help, but I would follow her just in case she needed someone to assist her. Inside the temple court, as she made her way to treasury, I spotted those teachers of the law putting on a show as they deposited large amounts into the treasury. The coins made a large noise. When this widow made her deposit, the two coins were barely audible. I stood a ways back, slipping behind a pillar so she wouldn’t see me as she exited the courtyard. That’s when I saw him standing within earshot of me.

I had heard about this teacher who called himself Jesus. I noticed him watching the woman leaving the courtyard. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

His words amazed me. Such wisdom. I knew she gave all she had in belief that God would provide, but how did he know? It was as if he knew her heart, as if he had listened in on our conversation, as if he knew my thoughts. This widow’s faith, her actions, and now the words of this Jesus pierced me to the core. My heart stirred like never before in my life.

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of someone who witnessed the poor widow contributing to the temple treasury based on Luke 21:1-4 (NIV).

“For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.” – 2 Corinthians 8:12

© 2019 CGThelen

Suffering is a part of life in this world. It is difficult to understand the reason we experience pain and grief. Like Job, we wrestle with why we experience anguish — trauma that causes us to cry out as Job did: “If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! It would surely outweigh the sand of the sea… (Job 6:2-3, NIV).”

Pain in our life, deep misery, can cause us to cry out for help. As Job wrestled with God’s purpose for his agony, it caused him to open up to God and others about his pain. He expressed his true feelings: “Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul (Job 7:11).” This is the essence of true community with God and other Christians; open and honest conversation about our struggles and emotions that builds a deep connection with God and each other.

When we share our suffering, we open the door to sharing a journey that can deepen our faith in God. We move beyond surface conversations like Job’s friends who claim they have answers for his suffering: “Your sin prompts your mouth; you adopt the tongue of the crafty (Job 15:5).”

To walk with a friend through the anguish is to experience it with them; to cry with them; to grieve with them. Sharing our deepest feelings, our deepest pain, welcomes others to deepen their faith with us as we replace trying to understand the purpose for pain with a deeper faith, a deeper trust in God. We can exclaim as Job did, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted (Job 42:2).”

© 2019 CGThelen

I dig deep in my soul. I think your ways are my ways; your desires my desires. And yet I can feel distant from you God, not understanding why some things need to be the way they are — why the pain and suffering. It seems so unnecessary. I only desire for them to be free from being enslaved to the lies, to the deceit; free from the sin that only brings misery. I only want them to bask in the joy of your light dear Jesus. Isn’t this also your desire dear God? So much pain, at times it seems unbearable. My heart aches, my soul weeps. I cry out to you God in prayer for change. Help me to grab hold of your wisdom and truth, even in the midst of my doubt. Help me to trust in you.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. – Psalm 46:1-3

© 2019 CGThelen

This weekend Lord I saw with my own eyes your restorative power. I saw a man, who I visited only two years ago in a prison, now living free — not just physically free from prison, but living free in Christ Jesus. I watched him interact with his wife and child in a loving way and all I could do was praise you dear God. I pray Lord that you forgive my doubt that you can change seemingly impossible things. May I not lose faith that you can transform lives. Help me Lord to trust your perfect timing; help me to grow in my faith in you dear God; to expand my belief that you are who you say you are. Your promises are true.

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20

© 2019 CGThelen

“This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Many were grumbling in the crowd. They spoke the very question on my mind.

Indeed, what he taught was very hard to accept. It drew a line between my life as a Jew and one following this new teaching. There was no middle ground. To choose one meant leaving the other. Apparently others felt the same.

There was an awkward silence among us casual followers of Jesus. I waited for his response. So often his words pierced me like a sword, to my very soul. He touched me deeply in a way I could not explain. There was something different about him. Yet I wrestled with what following him meant to my life. Already my family and friends were making comments about how much time I was spending with Jesus.

“Does this offend you?” Jesus said. “Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.”

How did he know? Once again he cut to the heart of the matter. I questioned myself if I really believed he is the Messiah. Could he be the Son of God like he claimed to be? I could feel his words penetrate me. “They are full of the Spirit and life,” I whispered to myself. Somehow he knew who was struggling with fully committing to him.

“This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” I could feel something stirring in me to commit to follow Jesus, yet what would my family and friends say? I feared they would abandon me.

I watched as several of his followers turned and walked away. His teaching is hard. There is no middle ground. It caused people to choose — a new life with Jesus, or a life without him. I watched a couple of my friends start to leave. They stopped and motioned to me to follow them. I sighed and started to walk with them.

From behind me I could hear Jesus say to the few remaining followers, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Then I heard one of them reply, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” A surge of regret filled me inside, yet I continued walking with my friends.

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a casual follower of Jesus who hears Jesus’ challenge in John 6:60-69 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

The sun set and the darkness moved in, but God’s promises stand. I look to the east and see the first light of dawn. Darkness recedes at the presence of morning. Help me to stand on your promises today dear God. Let me not fall prey to the false promises of this world. Give me discernment to see through the facades of beliefs that are empty inside; people who are whitewashed tombs. May I be at peace knowing Jesus; knowing he sacrificed his life to give me eternal life; knowing he freed me from the chains of my sin. Let me this day rest in you dear Lord — rest in knowing my future is secure in you.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

The windmill vanes

Turn to the wind

Desperately grasping

Trying in vain

To capture the wind

The wind blows past

Spinning the windmill

Gears creak and turn

The pump rises and falls

Water emerges and flows

The wind passes through

We cannot see it

Yet we know it’s there

Building windmills

To capture its power

God’s presence is evident

His Spirit blows through

May we turn to face him

Let him turn our life

To let living water flow

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:5-8 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way” might remind you of an old church hymn, but for me it also sums up my struggle with the GPS on my phone. It’s one thing to trust the GPS to navigate me to my destination, but a very different thing to actually obey its directions. When it alerts me to a traffic backup ahead that I can’t see and gives me an alternate route, I struggle to believe what the GPS is telling me and ignore the instructions. It’s only when I am stopped in traffic a few miles down the road that I find myself frustrated that I didn’t obey. That’s when I tell myself, “to be happy in GPS, is to trust and obey.”

The same is true about my relationship with Jesus. It’s one thing to say that I trust Jesus with my life, but another thing to obey him. Often I have a destination in mind. I’ve mapped out my day and proceed to go through the day as planned. But then there’s that thought or random encounter with someone that tells me to take a different route, to deviate from my plans, to express my faith in a way that makes me uncomfortable. Too often I press on as planned and later I regret that I did not obey.

The old hymn tells us: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way. To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” The song was written more than 130 years ago by John Sammis, but it still rings true today. True happiness can only be found in Jesus Christ. In Him we find the strength to navigate the rough roads of life or to take the scenic route and discover the beauty of God’s creation. There is “no other way” in life.

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.” – Psalm 84:11-12

“Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God.”

⁃ Isaiah 50:10 (NIV)

You can read the lyrics of the hymn trust and obey at: https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Trust_and_Obey/

© 2019 CGThelen

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