Your Time to Shine

In the Sermon on the Mount found in chapters five, six, and seven of the book of Matthew, Jesus covers a lot of ground concerning what the believer’s life should look like. Name a topic, and chances are He included it. He spoke to His audience about everything from judging others, adultery, how the needy should be treated, to reasons not to worry. It is straight-to-the-point and easy to understand for anyone who desires to hear words directly from the mouth of Jesus.
While reading through this sermon recently, a phrase in Matthew 5:14 jumped out at me like never before: “You are the light of the world.” Jesus was telling a mountainside full of listeners that they were to illuminate the world by doing the good works they were led to do, and in turn, observers would give credit to God.
The Bible does not say we should attempt to be the light, that a valiant effort should be put toward being the light, or that being the light of the world is an admirable goal. Matthew 5 straight-up says we ARE the light of the world!
Being a light is a tall order, for sure. However, God does not give us a command and then abandon us as we try to fulfill it. If He gives us an instruction, we can rely on Him to equip us to do it and to be right by our side the whole time!
Our job is not to produce the light. Our mission is to shine HIS light wherever we can; to allow HIS light to shine through us. If we live in such a way that His light is visible in our actions and words, others will see His brilliance and be drawn to Him! Something we do or say can be the cause of someone else looking at Jesus in a more positive way, or desiring to be in closer relationship with Him. What an awesome opportunity that is!
Ephesians 5:8 advises us to walk as children of light. In John 8:12, Jesus Himself says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
That aforementioned Light of the World freely gives His light to each and every one of us. Our choice is to reflect that light in our Christian walk or to keep it hidden.
As we look around this world, does it seem as if darkness is overtaking the light in some areas? If we have the Light of the World in our life, then we can strive to shine His light in those dark places. Shining His light in this world means more Jesus in this world! It’s your time to shine!

New Year, New Prayer

New Year’s prayer from a year ago. Renewing my commitment to pray this prayer for 2017!

gwenthielges.com

Typically, as the new year arrives, we spend time thinking about what we want to carry forward and what we want to leave behind. We think about the things that we want to ‘start anew.’

It’s a new year full of new opportunities. As I grow older, I grow more and more thankful that I serve a God that makes all things new. Every time we see a sunrise, we can see it as a magnificent reminder that His mercies are new every morning. (Lam. 3:22-23)

I recently read 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 with a new perspective: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.So from now on we regard no one…

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So I Have To Love Them?

Love done right is about giving. Giving and not expecting anything in return. Basically, love done right is about loving for the sake of loving. And therefore giving others a glimpse of Jesus in a world that is in desperate need of Him.

If you were to ask me if loving people is a challenge for me, I would immediately say no! I persistently strive to love regardless of the level the love is reciprocated at. Well…as long as you are referring to family and friends and people who treat me well. In fact a pretty impressive list of people comes to mind.
But then there is that one Scripture passage that also comes to mind. You know, the passage we could all do without? The one that if it was somehow removed from the inerrant, inspired Word of God, we would not raise too much of a fuss? However, every Bible I have checked still contains these words found in Matthew 5, from the Sermon on the Mount.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”
I can proudly proclaim that I am killing it when it comes to loving those that are easy to love. (Which by the way, is not much of an accomplishment.) But when it comes to enemies?  That is another story.
In this world where rebellion is revered and absolutes are avoided, it is a good idea to remind ourselves of the good old-fashioned truth that if God tells us to do something, we should. Period.
Loving our enemies is a bold example of loving like Jesus does. It is most certainly a time when you can safely not expect anything in return! It is against our human nature to show love toward those that have hurt us and treated us badly. ESPECIALLY when we know or suspect that the love will not be reciprocated.
I have pondered spending a little time trying to find a Biblically-based teaching on NOT loving our enemies; one that justifies gossiping about, giving dirty looks to, and silently wishing bankruptcy or a mildly sprained ankle upon my enemies. However, I would be wise not to waste my time looking for a loophole…The bottom line is: God says we need to love our enemies. Oh, and pray for them too. He does not command us to do something, and then NOT give us the ability to do it. You know what that means, right? We cannot use the excuse, “I have tried, but I just can’t do it…” when attempting to justify why we aren’t following the “Love your enemies” command. If He tells us to do it, then it is possible to do it!
With God’s help, we can love others. ALL others. Imagine: love done right can come from us. What a blessing. What a responsibility. What a gift.
Lord, help us love like You. Help us give others a glimpse of Who You are by showing this world love done right. Amen

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He Is What?

This is my latest contribution to LiftUpYourDay.com. Take a look!

He Is What?
JUNE 15, 2016 ~ GWEN THIELGES
Years ago at a Women of Faith conference, I had one of those moments. Well, a few actually. I was brought to tears as several speaker’s and singer’s words touched my heart.

But the song that had me weeping and wondering why tissue boxes weren’t handed out as you walked in the door was, “I am,”

When Nichole Nordeman spoke about the meaning of the song, she very articulately explained the meaning of God’s name for Himself in Exodus, “I Am.” I’m unable to quote her now, as it has been a number of years…but in essence, she said that God has promised to be all that we need no matter the situation.

Her song moves chronologically through a typical lifetime of events.

From a childhood fall off a bike, to teenage angst, wedding vows, starting a family, and to the time God calls us home, she beautifully expresses through the lyrics that God is the filler of every single void that we have. It is not just what He does…it is Who He is!

Anytime I am reminded of God deeply loving me, His ultimate sacrifice, and the fact that He desires a genuine relationship with me, it brings me to my knees (sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively) in tearful praise of Him. We are not worthy, but He sure seems to find us worth it.

Before that conference, when I heard the phrase, “I am,” in reference to God, I secretly waited for the rest of the sentence. Finally, I grasped the awesome truth and promise that name contains. The name, “I am,” means He is.

He IS.

Are you hurting? He is Healer. Grieving? He is Comforter. Sinner? He is Savior. Fearful? He is Peace. Lonely? He is Friend. And on, and on, and on to infinity. Any need you throw at the King of Kings will be met in the only way He does things – perfectly.

My tearful-turned-full-out-weepy praise of Him in that moment was caused by finally realizing that God’s presence in every situation is something that He desires. We are not a bother or a burden to our Heavenly Father.

We have a God that seeks us, loves us, and is in it for the long haul with us. He wants to be in it with us. He wants to be our I AM.

Maybe you have a deep need today, and you do not know how it can be met. Bring it to God. God not only knows the way to meet your need, He IS the way to meet your need.

Thank You, God.

 

And here is the tweet from Nichole Nordeman after she read it! This is the complete conversation, including my spelling error! 😉Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 6.07.07 PM

 

 

 

 

 

Only One Said, “Thank You”

When our children are small and they receive a gift or some sort of treat, what do we almost always hear ourselves say? When my children were little and were standing there with a new treasure, I remember saying, “What do we tell them?” or “What do we say?” to avoid any awkward, empty silence that should be filled with a sincere, “Thank you.”

The story of the ten lepers in the Bible has always aroused my curiosity. I remember the flannel-graph version when I was a child sitting in a Sunday School room in a small, red rounded-back children’s chair. I remember reading a devotion based on it when I was older. And I remember just recently being reminded of this story found in Luke 17, when a long-time prayer in my life was answered and I went about my day without even murmuring a quick, “Thank you” to God.

When my prayer request was granted in a wonderful way, I felt relief, excitement, and joy. Somehow, however, my mind skimmed right over thankfulness.  When I realized I had forgotten to thank God, the picture of the ten lepers jumped right into my mind.  Out of ten completely healed and restored men, only one came back and knelt at Jesus’ feet in gratitude for healing him of this horrible, life-changing disease.

The Message version says, “He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank Him enough.” The Living Bible version says, “He fell flat on the ground in front of Jesus, face downward in the dust,” and the New International Version says, “He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.” Genuine appreciation is definitely sensed when the one receiving a gift is face-down, kneeling at your feet!

In Luke 17:17, Jesus asks where the other nine healed men are. He speaks about it with grace; in the only way Jesus would. If I were Jesus, I would most likely be saying, “Did that just happen? I miraculously made those men whole again. Did nine of them seriously go on their merry way without even a wave or a smile in my direction?”

There is a humility and a sincerity that is expressed in the simple two-word phrase that we work so hard to try to teach our children to say without reminders. “Thank you,” may seem like two simple words, but the impact made by those two words is not simple.

I am sure that you can think of a time when you felt especially validated after someone took the time to thank you for something you did or said. I am also sure that you can think of a time that you felt your kindness was taken advantage of when there was no ‘thank you’ offered.

If gratitude has been absent in your life, it is never too late to count your blessings and give thanks to others and most importantly to the ‘Ultimate Blesser’!  God is so very worthy of hearing a sincere, heart-felt “Thank You” from us. Let us take our cue from the one healed leper who knelt at His feet and could not ‘thank Him enough.’

Lord, we realize that all good gifts come from You. We thank You and we praise Your holy name. May we never take the blessings You give us for granted. Even more importantly, may we never take You for granted. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

 

 

 

 

4th post on Momspuration.com

This is a while after the fact,  but you can still head on over to momspuration.com and check out my blog post that was posted on May 9th!

It is titled, “Setting the Tone,” and here is an excerpt:

In 1820, Fanny Crosby was born. At the age of six, because of a doctor’s mistake, she became blind. The difficult circumstances that were thrust upon her could have caused her to be bitter and to complain about what she did not have. However, this woman of God wrote over 8000 hymns and is quoted as saying, “It seemed in­tend­ed by the bless­ed prov­i­dence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dis­pen­sa­tion. If per­fect earth­ly sight were of­fered me to­mor­row I would not ac­cept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been dis­tract­ed by the beau­ti­ful and in­ter­est­ing things about me.” How is that for a positive perspective? Instead of complaining, she wrote praises to God. And instead of praising Him in spite of her blindness, she actually praised Him for it. She forever blessed the world by sharing her praise of her Heavenly Father in hymns such as, “Blessed Assurance” and “Near the Cross.”

Check out Kristen Mitchell’s site, momspuration.com! You will be encouraged! As always, I would love to hear from you!

Dear Spectator

Dear Spectator,

My husband recently completed his twelfth season as a Class B boys basketball coach in North Dakota. He has had the pleasure of seeing some of his teams overachieve, and he has experienced the heartbreak of seeing teams not reach the goals that they worked hard for.

I am feeling a bit sentimental this year, because our third (and last) son just completed his high school basketball career. I have watched my husband coach all three of my sons. Maybe my sons will never have a coach that expects as much from them as their father did. However, I would challenge you to find a coach that cared as much, or felt their triumphs and heartbreaks as powerfully as he did. As you would find out if you asked any of my sons, they would not have it any other way.

For twelve seasons, I have become increasingly aware that as fans, we see a very small excerpt of what the whole season is comprised of. We sit in the bleachers deciding how the coaches should dole out playing time without knowing anything of the players’ off-season dedication, practice behavior, or locker room decorum. We aren’t there when the team goals are set. We aren’t there when the game plan for each particular team is determined.

Throughout the years, my husband has had numerous times when fans, parents, and players have kindly praised his coaching style and achievements. However, there have been a handful of times when I could swear that a spectator thought I was struck deaf and could not hear their negative comment OR they did not think I was struck deaf and seemingly did not care that I could hear their negative comment. I heard them. Unfortunately, I have had a difficult time forgetting them. I do not mention that in order to ask for even a small measure of sympathy. I mention it so that I can simply point out that there may be some things we do not realize as spectators.

For instance: the player that just got benched after they made an outside shot ignored the coach’s instructions in the previous timeout to work the ball inside. The player that is sitting on the bench even though they played well in the previous game missed practice, or did something divisive, or rolled his eyes after getting corrected at practice, or is ineligible because 3rd quarter grades just came out. The quick, scrappy guard that you think should be playing is outsized in this particular game and will most likely get an opportunity to succeed in an upcoming game that is more fast-paced and needs strong outside defenders. The player that just made three consecutive baskets gave up three consecutive shots on the defensive end. That is why he is sitting on the bench. Not because the coach “doesn’t like him.” I could go on with other types of scenarios, but suffice it to say, each team has different dynamics and each player has different skills to offer. We cannot possibly know all the factors that go into deciding the playing time, the type of defense the team is playing, or the offense that they will run in any given game. Keep in mind that most likely, if you and 9 people sharing the bleacher with you were asked how the playing time should be dispersed, or what type offense they should run, there would be 10 different opinions.

My husband holds all of his team members to a high standard, and he holds them accountable. He knows what they are capable of, and he does not just hope they come through. He expects it. Some people may call that ‘being demanding’. I call it being a coach that believes in his players. I also call it a gift that those players are blessed to experience.

My husband prays for and with his players and puts forth his best effort to coach the X’s and O’s, the ins and outs, and the highs and lows of basketball. However, as long as he continues to coach, the importance of that will never compare to the other lessons he teaches them; winning with dignity, losing with grace, being a man of integrity, being respectful and respectable, and being a teammate that genuinely cares about the whole team, just to name a few. There is so much more to being a basketball coach than what we see on the surface. Coaches are faced with countless decisions, and countless factors are considered in each decision that they make.

I am proud to be the wife of a successful class B basketball coach. He is successful if you look at his win-loss record, but that is not the success that I am most proud of. I am most proud of the life-lessons and the love that his teams have experienced through the years. That is what defines him as a successful coach.

Next time we sit in the stands or stand at the water cooler ready to vocally question the local high school coach, let us please remember that what we are about to present as factual information is actually an opinion based on only small part of the picture. May we please remember that high school coaches care about each and every athlete, and they are doing everything possible to set their teams up for success. Maybe that thought will prevent a careless opinion from being expressed. Maybe that thought will compel us to thank our local high school coach for the amount of time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears they invest in each and every athlete in their program. I have more that I could say, but I’ll stop there. I have some coaches to thank.12970997_10209497310212393_709008197043880225_o