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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

A friend of mine introduced me to a friend of his from his church. As we talked, I learned that this man had a very successful business in finance. I immediately judged this man who likely made more money in an hour than I made in a year. How could someone so wealthy possibly have faith in Christ? The two seemed at odds with each other.

However, as we talked I soon learned that this man had a passion for Christ Jesus. He began to tell me about all the orphanages he funded with his income; how he was helping to spread the gospel to these children in need of hope. Then he said something to me that made me regret my quick judgement of him. “I believe God has gifted me with the ability to make money for his kingdom,” he said.

I quickly realized I was ill-equipped to judge a person’s commitment to Christ. In Galatians 3:26-29, Paul reminded us that “in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith (NIV).” He explained that we are all one in Christ, that our worldly labels are replaced by our identity in Christ. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Through Jesus we are descendants of Abraham “and heirs according to the promise.”

© 2019 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

The Journey of the Magi  Part 8

Matt. 2:11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and myrrh.

Think about this moment. The magi sacrifice much and rely on their faith to get them to Bethlehem. Even after so many distractions from men, they remain focused on the Messiah and experience true joy.

It’s the same with us. One day the focus of our faith will be revealed. At the end of our life, we’ll approach the house and see the Messiah, Jesus Christ, face-to-face. This Christmas, don’t stay in Jerusalem and miss the moment.

The magi were men of position and prestige, yet they fall before the new-born king. They humble themselves before him. They give generously to him, giving gifts of great value. They did not give him a television, smart phone, fruit cake or a Christmas sweater.

They did not tell Mary and Joseph, “Wow, do you know what we went through to get here? They didn’t say, “Hey, there’s a gift receipt in there if you don’t like it.” They didn’t even warn them about that crazy guy Herod. They are totally focused on the Messiah, Jesus Christ. They are totally reliant on their faith. They trust God has everything handled, even Herod.

The magi gave of themselves, leaving everything behind to pursue the Messiah. They gave it all to Christ. How much are you willing to give to Jesus?

Next Post: Don’t Stay in Jerusalem This Christmas

Post originally published Dec. 21, 2010.

© 2010 CGThelen

The Journey of the Magi  Part 7

Matt. 2:9-10 After they had heard from the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

Again, take note that the star goes ahead of the magi and stops over where the new-born king lays in a manger. The magi do not see the star as they leave Jerusalem, they see it after they “went on their way.” They are overjoyed to see the star again.

Stop and ponder this moment. The magi were smart men. It’s likely they wondered if they could trust Herod, yet they took what he said, perhaps as another sign from God, and headed for Bethlehem. The star was not visible at that point, yet they head toward Bethlehem. That is why they are overjoyed to see the star again. The star confirmed they were going in the right direction. God demonstrates his authority by using Herod to give the magi direction.

It’s a sad commentary on Israel that the star was not visible in Jerusalem. The star that pointed to the Messiah was not visible in the very place where God once dwelt in the Temple. They knew the scripture and the prophesy, but missed the moment. It took men from a far off land to spread the news to all Jerusalem that the Messiah has been born.

Yet all Jerusalem ignores this message from God. The magi leave Jerusalem alone. No one joined them on the journey. Sometimes we can feel like the people in Jerusalem. We’re surrounded by a materialistic Christmas; we’re familiar with the scripture about the birth of our Savior; yet we choose to remain in Jerusalem and miss the true Christmas.

The difference between Jerusalem and Bethlehem is whether we live out our faith. Are we willing to sacrifice as the magi did to pursue the Messiah? Are we willing to act on our faith and pursue our faith without fear of man? Just look at the attitude of the magi. After traveling hundreds of miles for months, they are overjoyed to see the star again. They are filled with anticipation as they prepare to see the Messiah they have traveled so far to see.

Next Post: Meeting Jesus Face-to-face

Originally published Dec. 19, 2010.

© 2010 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

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