Thank You For Your Faithfulness

Lord, You are the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in a world where genuine stability and certainty is unheard of…we are beyond grateful. 

Lord, thank You for being completely faithful in a world where vows are often broken, commitments are frequently backed out on, and trust is routinely betrayed. Thank You for being dependable in a world where plans are often altered and schedules are often adjusted with no regard for who it affects.

In a world that is weak and wavering in respecting absolute right and wrong, Your Word is a solid, steadfast treasure. Your eternal promises are a gift. If You have said it, we can be assured that it will come to pass. It is settled and sure. 

In a world of instant relief, instant rice, and instant replay, etc., we thank You for demonstrating to us a patience that is unmatched. We are thankful that You teach us the meaning of perseverance, what it accomplishes in our faith, and how it enhances our character. 

Thank You for who You are and for changing us to become more and more like You. When we display faithfulness, dependability, patience, and perseverance to others, they are then blessed with a glimpse of Your character in a world that is in desperate need of more of You. Open our eyes to opportunities to develop Your characteristics in our lives. Open our hearts to the desire to seek more of You, so that those traits increasingly become a part of who we are.

We pray this in Your holy name. Amen.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.  Psalm 119:90

Thoughts and Prayers

Lately, the phrase “thoughts and prayers,” has taken a verbal beating in some circles. Numerous times, the common social media response of, “My thoughts and prayers are with you,” has been mocked, belittled, or challenged.

Of course, there are occasions when the “thoughts and prayers,” response may be a trite, typed phrase with little to no real meaning behind it. However, there are many times it is said with the sincere motive of asking God to comfort and strengthen those affected by hardship and asking for wisdom to know how to be of assistance. And in those cases, hearing a sarcastic or angry complaint after telling someone they are being prayed for can definitely take the well-wisher off guard.

When a Christian says that their thoughts and prayers are with someone, it is not to relieve them of the responsibility of doing something beyond praying. 

Prayers are not being said to check off some “thing I need to say to make myself feel better,” box. I get the impression that when someone expresses that their thoughts and prayers are with a person, there are people who actually hear, “Now I have said I am thinking of them and praying for them, therefore, I can go about my business and act as if nothing is wrong and continue hoping for no change.”  For Christians, when a tragedy strikes and it is a situation that they are able and compelled to help with, thoughts and prayers come to mind first in order to get prepared to take action. Prayers preface action because the person praying desires to take action that will reflect what God is calling them to do. Prayers preface action because they desire to hear from God, who promises to give wisdom generously to all without finding fault, as found in James 1:5.

In John 16:33, Jesus said that in this world we will have trouble, but to take heart because He has overcome the world. Until the end of time, there will be tragedies and difficult situations and therefore, many reasons to pray. But thank God, also until the end of time, we can pray with confidence to God because He has overcome the world. Friends, keep praying! God hears. God cares.

All We Will Ever Need

We search and we seek. We wander and we roam.
We look for satisfaction and a place that feels like home.

When our pursuits fall flat, we put the blame in the wrong places.
We continue to find momentary void-fillers for our heart’s empty spaces.

As our vices fail again, we move on to the next transgression.
If only we would listen for Jesus’ voice and realize He’s the answer to all of our questions.

Nothing we attempt to replace Him with brings us His promised rest.
He offers peace beyond compare and our righteous efforts He does bless.

No cheap thrill or miracle pill will fulfill us the way Jesus will.

No fleeting fame or video game will set our hearts aflame as much as the power of Jesus’ name.

No hidden sin or gambling win will ever provide us with lasting joy within.

No material thing or shiny bling will supply us with the contentment that Jesus can bring.

So let’s be honest as we approach Him with our struggles and our fears.
Tell Him we want to trust Him. He has always-listening ears.

Let’s ask Him to reveal His perfect character and to show us just how real He is.
To strengthen us and assure us that when we accept His love and forgiveness, we are forever His…

Jesus, thank You for persevering as You draw us nearer and nearer.
Take the appeal of the darkness away and cause our vision to be clearer.

Please open our hearts and eyes to our life’s purpose of glorifying Your name.
Extend to us forgiveness, mercy, and love as You take away our deep shame.

Everything You offer brings us genuine completion and peace.
You fill our emptiness with a perfect love that will never, ever cease.

Thank You for being our refuge in troubled times, and help us to follow wherever You lead.
Give us a heart to seek Your face and wisdom to realize You are all we will ever need.

Purposely Falling On Your Face

IMG_EB8A45BD7AEF-1When you are in the midst of a trial, do you ever purposely fall on your face?

Although it may sound crazy, I recommend it. Allow me to explain.

Sometimes breathing a quick prayer of, “Lord, please help,” is all we seemingly have time for when we are facing problems. As we go about our everyday lives, short, to-the-point prayers are occasionally all we can manage. He certainly hears those kinds of prayers.

But how about making time for frequent fall-on-our-face type of prayers?

Would you agree that we are living in a world that has forgotten the awe with which God deserves to be revered? Making time to come into God’s presence in a literal or figurative flat-on-our-face, prostrate posture reminds us how amazing He is and who we are in comparison to Him. It reminds us that our prayer is being heard by the One who is not only in control of the situation, but also cares about the situation and the people involved to a degree that nobody else is capable of.

When we pour out our heart’s cry and also take the time to listen to what God is telling us, it is an exquisite exchange, and eventually we will come to the point of being enfolded in His perfect peace.

That peace is described in different Bible versions as “surpassing, transcending, and exceeding” all understanding. Stop and think about that for a moment. It is an overwhelming blessing that assures us that God is in complete control of the very situation that is causing us to feel powerless.

That peace does not necessarily mean that He is going to answer our prayer exactly as we hope. It can sometimes be a peace that prepares us for the possibility of Him answering it in a different manner than we prayed for. A peace that says, “I’ve got this, Child. I’ve got you, Child.”

I will not forget the times God has granted me that gift of peace. Two times stick out above numerous others. Once, before the answer to my prayer came, I had seemingly cried every tear I was capable of crying as I prayed in desperation. And then suddenly in an extremely memorable moment, which can only be explained by the Holy Spirit completely doing an overhaul of my emotional and mental state, I came to a point of indescribable peace that even if the worst possible outcome occurred, He was going to keep His promise to never forsake me. I had absolute assurance that He was going to walk me through it. When all was said and done, He answered my prayer in the way I hoped, but He also taught me that there is no circumstance that I will ever have to face without His loving arms embracing me. Regarding the other situation…you guessed it, the worst-case scenario did happen. What I was praying against, because I did not know how I would ever, ever handle it or ever, ever get through it – it happened. And here I am on the other side of it, stronger in faith and hopefully character as well. God helped me handle it and get through it, just like He said He would. Were there moments of pain and sadness? Definitely. Was God carrying me through it with His tremendous peace? Definitely. He is a promise-keeper.

My hope is that when you face your next trial, you will fall down on your face, pray until you reach the point of His powerful, perfect peace, and then rise up prepared and primed for any possibility, knowing you will withstand it, because God will stand with you.

Lord, thank You for Your matchless peace.

 

Prayer, Perspective, and Peace

On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being “I know You’ve got this, Lord” and 10 being “Thanks, God, I know You are super-capable, but this situation is just not going to get better unless I fret and stew over it…,” I give myself a 5.5. Some days I can go through a twenty-four-hour period without a worry in the world. Some days there are burdens that jump into my thoughts, but they do not take up residence. And still some days I am a ridiculous off-the-charts worry-wart. Yep, I’m going to say I average out to a semi-solid 5.5.

The Bible says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you,” in 1 Peter 5:7. Another version says to throw all your worry on Him.  No matter what version you are reading, the message is the same. God cares about you and your burden and desires to carry it for you. Of course, God knows our needs already, but communication with Him is vital in our relationship with Him.

I look forward to prayer time when I can get to a quiet place, worship God for who He is, thank Him for what He’s done, listen to His wisdom, and then lay my burdens before Him.

Obviously, finding quiet spaces with no distractions is not always feasible. Praying to a God who can hear our prayers through the chaotic symphony of family life is such a taken-for-granted gift. Whether the quality time happens in a serene location (My quiet places are my closet or on our rural gravel road as I run) or in the midst of rush-hour traffic, there is a delight in knowing that we serve a God who is not only accessible 24/7, but eagerly awaiting our decision to spend time with Him and bring Him our needs!

We should guard against allowing busyness, laziness, or disinterestedness to get in the way of communication with Him.

Instead of fretting and worrying about what our family and friends are facing, let’s actually lift them to God in prayer. We should never let a flippant comment of, “You are in my prayers,” be a substitute for actually praying for someone.

Whether my worry is about myself or someone else, I want to always remember that going to God with an explanation of why taking this problem away would be best for everyone really is not praying! I have been learning, slowly but surely, that while there is nothing wrong with praying for a specific outcome, my job is not to convince God of why that specific outcome should happen. Praying is not a closing argument monologue in which we are trying to convince Him that our way is the solution to the problem. I am beginning to realize His Word is the final one, and while I may need an extra dose of His comfort and assurance in handling a less-than-desired outcome, I am getting better at trusting that He knows what is best.

Friends, when I spend time with God in prayer, He grants me a sense of perspective and peace every time, 100% of the time. Seriously. Every single. time. It simply cannot be a coincidence that I feel recharged, refreshed, and reassured after connecting with God. In voicing my worries and requests to God, He often grants an insight that I had not thought of before. It isn’t because the problem is solved instantly and it isn’t because He says, “Yes, I’ll answer the way you want me to.” It is because He reminds me that even if His answer is “No” or “Wait,” He will be with me through it all.

Prayer changes our perspective and gives us peace. Let’s make prayer a vital part of our lives. God is enthusiastically waiting.

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18

cropped-all-things-work-together-gwen-thielges2.jpg

“All In For Him” College Athlete Devotional

allinforhimlargefrontI have to say I am both excited and nervous about the new territory I am finding myself in: I wrote a 21-day devotional for college athletes and in a few months, it will be available through Crosslink Publishing, Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble! When Crosslink Publishing contacted me and said they had selected “All In For Him” as one of the books they want to publish this year, I was ridiculously excited. And then soon after that, I became ridiculously nervous. What do I know about the publishing process? Nothing! Absolutely nothing…

So, I am diving in and learning as I go.

I requested and received some endorsements from some great people, I wrote a bio, I wrote a subtitle, I have read through my manuscript endless times to look for typos even after it has been edited by the publishing company, and now I am looking at ways to market it. I may know nothing about publishing, but I know even less about marketing!!

God gave me this idea, and He has been guiding me through it. So…I am just going to keep walking…trying to hold on to His hand. I am just going to keep feeling excited and nervous, but I am also going to keep being confident in the One Who has proven Himself to be faithful again and again and again. I am trying to take the approach of going “All In For Him.”

If you think of it, I would be very appreciative if you would say a prayer for me as I try to navigate this new terrain!  An even more important prayer I would ask you to join me in is as college athletes read this devotional, their faith will grow stronger. That they will see that responding to the issues they face with a Christlike attitude can impact coaches, teammates, and fans alike. That they will see how going “All In For Him” is the way to go!

ctu1obfueaaxjtc

 

 

 

Dear Lord, Heal Our Land

Dear Lord,
What an amazing blessing it is to identify as Your people. We are thankful for the opportunity to be Yours; that we can go to You in prayer at any time, that we can know for certain You hear our prayers, and that we can know You have a plan for our lives that was set in motion before we were in our mother’s womb. We are grateful, but wow, do we ever take these facts for granted. Forgive us, Lord and help us keep these truths close to our hearts and foremost in our minds from now on.

Lord, help us humble ourselves. We have sadly embraced the idea that we are self-sufficient…that we do not need You until we are desperate. We have uninvited You from being part of the daily routines of our lives, the daily decisions that we make, and the daily burdens that we carry. Forgive us and remind us that we not only need You, but that You actually desire to be in everything we say and do. Clearly, we need to remember Who You are, and who we are in comparison to You. You are God. We are not. Help us live daily in a humble manner.

Continue reading “Dear Lord, Heal Our Land”

Only One Said, “Thank You”

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.’

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.

 

 

 

 

Prayer After A Long Day

imageDear Lord, it was a tough one today.

I am not complaining about big burdens or big problems. My family is relatively healthy. I have a loving family. I live in a caring community and have wonderful friends. But today, I lost my focus on the good. My eyes wandered onto what I did not have instead of what you have blessed me with. I wavered in my resolve to become more like You. I struggled. Big-time.

I woke up with positive plans. I read my Bible, spent some time with You in prayer, and attempted to put my day in perspective.

Then life happened.

An abrupt response, an irritable child, a broken-down appliance, no clean pair of socks, forgotten homework, a flat tire, and an unexpected bill.

I took the first couple of mishaps in stride. After that, I lost it. I was responsible for some non-Christlike reactions, some negative comments, and fixing my mind on some thoughts that were definitely not authored by You.

Lord, I could have done that whole “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” thing and that “Be imitators of God…walking in love” thing if my day would have been smooth sailing. It is easy to serve You heartily, happily, and wholly when difficulties are not seemingly getting in line to attempt to defeat and disappoint me.

Lord, I wish there was a reset button. But there is not. So, please help me concentrate on what IS available to me: Your amazing mercy, Your second chances, Your unfailing love, and Your all-encompassing forgiveness. That is already quite a list, and there is even more.

You do not hold these gifts of grace in some secret place, waiting for us to go through a special ceremony to unlock them. Instead, You hold them out to us in Your arms that happen to already be outstretched in order to hold us and tell us You are here to comfort us.

Lord, please refill me with Your Holy Spirit, refresh me with Your peace, and renew me with Your power.

Lord, You love me. You love me when I ask for forgiveness, and when I repent of my wrongdoing. You love me when I seek You and when I call on Your name. You love me when…I could go on forever.

I am the recipient of unfailing love that I do not feel worthy of, but You declared on a cross that You are willing to overwhelm me with. You continue to cover me with that love on bad days, good days and all days in between.

May I never use Your promised love as an excuse to not strive to be more and more like You every day. The “You love me no matter what,” fact should be incentive to become more and more like You, not an excuse to ‘get away with’ actions that do not reflect Who You are.

Lord, maybe people did not see You in my actions today. Lord, I ask You that they will see a glimpse of You in my renewed determination to display Your character tomorrow.

Only You can shine through a broken vessel like me. Thank You for wanting to show Your glory through my weaknesses and imperfections. Thank You for assuring me that while sin separates us, my repentance and Your forgiveness bring us back together again.

Thank You for second, third, and countless chances. Thank You for being Who You are. In Your Holy Name I pray. Amen.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Ephesians 4:32

Ephesians 5:1

It’s Okay Either Way

I am in the midst of preparing for a graduation open house in honor of our 18-year-old son, Drew. Two long, rectangular tables will be reserved for photos of his childhood and scrapbook pages highlighting his growing-up years and achievements. Our shop will be filled with family, friends, food and photos on May 22nd.

While perusing his baby book, I came across the following prayer that I wrote down when Drew was 4: “Dear Jesus, please help Brady tell me all of his secrets, because I won’t tell anyone. But it’s okay if You don’t make him tell me because You are the Holy One and You’re my favorite guy. In Your holy name, Amen.”

Drew’s style of praying was straightforward, reverent, and unswerving from the very beginning, and hearing him pray aloud recently showed me that is still the case.

In this particular prayer fourteen years ago, a little boy voiced a request in a straightforward manner, addressed God reverently, and displayed a faith that is unswerving…a faith not shaken by God answering a prayer differently than he hoped. A faith that led him to say, “It’s okay if You don’t…”

I asked Brady (his next-oldest brother) if he remembered those secrets that his younger brother found so enticing, but he did not remember what they were or if he revealed them. Wondering what provoked this prayer made me smile. It also made me think. The child-like faith that is expressed in this prayer is the type of faith we are all supposed to strive for. Often children bring honest requests to God, knowing God is in charge and understanding that His way is the best way.  Basically it is: ‘Here is my prayer… please answer it however you see fit, because You are God. It’s okay either way.’

How often do adults pray that way? I’ll start with me. Do I have a straightforward way in relating to God? Yes. Do I address God in a reverent manner? For the most part, but there is room for improvement. How do I do with the unswerving faith component?  Here is where I sometimes fail. Here is where my work begins. My goal is to begin consistently praying something like: “Answer my prayer how you see fit, God, because I know You have my best interests at heart. You love me. You have a plan whether I see it or not. My faith in You is based on who You are, not what You do. It’s okay either way.”

I was searching for cute photos, but I came across a cute prayer that contained a lot of wisdom. The open house tables will be filled with photos of Drew growing up with his brothers and sister, playing sports, playing with cousins and friends, and other important memories. I also plan on finding a special spot to display this sweet prayer. May I learn from my son’s prayer from 14 years ago. I do not know if God answered that prayer with a yes or a no, but I know Drew’s faith was unswerving. It was okay either way.

Image 4-20-16 at 6.58 PM