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Out-Loving God…

If you were to have bumped into the humble “carpenter-turned-messiah” of Nazareth on one of His many walks along the dusty roads of the Judean corner of the Roman Empire, you undoubtedly would have been intrigued by the teachings He uttered, been awed by the miracles He wrought, and been astonished by His unique claims.

Of course, you would not have been alone. After all, “… the crowds were astonished at His teaching, for He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29 ESV).

If you were to actually sit under His teaching and joined Him on His trek “to proclaim good news to the poor… to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18), you may have mustered just enough courage to speak up and ask Him, “Lord, what is the most important thing in life?”

To this, He would have perhaps turned and looked at you with a smile of warmth and understanding. “The most important thing?” He might have mused. “Just this. To love God.”

I can imagine your response, unsure of all that He might have meant. You scratch your head and ponder aloud, “To love God? Well, I don’t mean to be rude but doesn’t that sort of go without saying?”

Perhaps He would arch an eyebrow. “Does it really?” He asks you as you shift uncomfortably under His penetrating gaze. He goes on, “You see, when I say that the most important thing you can do is to ‘love God’, I mean for you to really love Him… with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. I mean for you to love Him with both deep affection and with wild abandon and passion. I mean for you to think deeply and meditatively about His love for you and all His promises, as well as offer your body daily for His glory, keeping it available for His purposes. I mean for you to take all that you are, all that you’ve ever been, and all that you may become and place everything under the feet of your Father in heaven” (adapted from Mark 12:29-30).

Maybe you would catch your breath. Perhaps you’d awkwardly clear your throat and mumble something like, “Wow! All that, huh? You mean that we’re to love Him that much?”

I think He would then smile kindly at you, place His hand on your shoulder and say, “Yeah. That’s exactly what I mean.” Maybe He would then give your shoulder a reassuring squeeze and bend close to your ear. “Don’t be afraid though: You can’t ‘out-love’ God. Just wait and see,” He might have said with a wink.

You can never out-love God, but He’s worth all the love that you can give Him.

You can never out-love God, but He’s worth all the love that you can give Him.

And if afterward you stood on a hill called Calvary, beneath an old rugged cross, you might have remembered all that He had told you. Maybe both a deep sorrow and a calm peace would strangely fill your heart. “He was right,” you’d think. Watching the love of God bear the horror of the cross for the sake of your sin, you then might have said to yourself, “I can never out-love God. But He’s worth all the love that I can give Him back.” And then you’d walk away, never the same, seeking to be emptied of yourself and filled up with Him.

“You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:18-21 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

The Groan of Creation

To many people, troubles seem to have recently increased in the world in epidemic proportions.  Satanic persecution, orchestrated by the Islamic State and Boko Haram, rightly disturbs us and hopefully moves us to action.   The potential for catastrophic impact as the Ebola virus mercilessly spreads unabated in African cities, moves us, it is to be hoped, at least in sympathy.  The racism, hurt, distrust, and anger uncovered in the events at Ferguson, Missouri, should pierce our hearts and spur us on to reconciliation and change.  The epidemic of children and women preyed upon by human traffickers abroad but also here in our own region should enflame within us a will to seek justice and a desire to set right what is wrong in our world.  And the terrible toll of drugs on our local community in the form of lethal overdoses and broken lives is all too clear.

It is as if all the world, even the cosmos itself, is caught in torment.  And the truth of it all is that all of Creation is convulsing in agony. What we are seeing is simply the physical manifestation of what has been spiritually true since the Fall in the Garden of Eden. The news that we hear and the images that we see have been there all along in the eternal realm but, for some of us, are only now beginning to really catch our attention, forcing us to abandon our tendency to focus on the material realm over and beyond the spiritual.

Consider well that in the beginning of time, we were given both the gift of fellowship with the El Shaddai (God Almighty) and lordship under Him over all Creation. In that time, there was still a prevailing sense of serenity and peace since open hostilities did not yet exist between Creation and Creator. When the Lord walked in the garden, humanity could hear and recognize His voice.

“When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him?  Yet You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet” (Psalm 8:3-6 ESV).

We were not merely formed from the dust and then put to work as lowly slaves, but were given rank and honor as children indeed, with purpose and provision to fulfill that purpose for the glory of God and for the mutual pleasure of God and ourselves.

But when humanity turned its back upon the divine invitation offered by the Holy and Majestic One, we not only forsook the amazing gift of relationship with the Father but gave up also His power and provision in ruling over that which had been entrusted to us. When our relationship with God was broken in that moment of rebellion, the toxic carcinogens of selfishness leaked into and contaminated the entire Cosmos.

The beautiful heaven and earth that a loving and awesome God had made? It was broken.

The suffering we see and about which we hear, paint the picture of the deep and desperate need of all men and women for God’s grace to be unleashed in and through their lives.

The suffering we see and about which we hear, paint the picture of the deep and desperate need of all men and women for God’s grace to be unleashed in and through their lives.

And so the whole world continues still… broken… hurting… and groaning under the weight of its massive disconnect from God. And so the human race continues still… broken and hurting, also groaning under the weight of our massive disconnect from God.

Even after all this time, with humanity still struggling today with itself, the world, and our Maker, it seems that the greatest tragedies in life are not really nestled within the face of disaster or even of painful suffering… but are instead hidden within what is too often our response to such tragedies. As devastating as these things are, they are nothing like the calamity and sorrow that they could be if no one cared and lifted a finger to help.

And what does it mean for us to really care anyway? It means only this: that we allow compassion from the Father to well up within us and saturate us so thoroughly that our hands and feet move as His would move in our place, with the character and countenance of God “oozing” out of us into the lives of others.

How desperate the hour, too! Creation longs for Godly lordship to be reinstated over the earth! How the Earth craves for righteousness to again prevail in our activities, our actions, and our attitudes! How it yearns for the healing hand of God to fix what has been broken! How it wants… no, how it needs to see the face of Jesus in us!

“The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him Who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:19-22 ESV).

Truly, the world groans. The utter suffering we see and about which we hear, all too readily paint the picture of the deep and desperate need of all men and women for God’s grace to be unleashed in and through their lives.

The question then arises… what are we going to do about it? Are we to simply go on as if nothing is happening in the world around us? Do we rally our own defenses and batten down the hatches for ourselves, hoping against hope that natural disasters and personal calamities never happen to us? Do we only passively lament the trials and tribulations of others in need, clicking our tongues and shaking our heads sadly, yet never altering our steps to make a difference in the life of someone else?

God forbid! Let our hands and feet respond even now to the call of God to serve Him by serving others! Let our bodies respond to their true callings and bring Him glory by yielding themselves as instruments of His loving lordship over this planet that He has entrusted to us.

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV).

And as we kneel humbly, yet earnestly, seeking His great power and wisdom to sustain and guide us, we may count on His faithful and good promises of love, help, and guidance in the days ahead.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to You. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid…. I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 14:27; 16:33 ESV).

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Let Not the Seed Spoil

“Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed Him. And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed Him” (Mark 1:16-20 ESV).

 When the obedience of faith in Christ has kindled God’s divine spark of eternal life, how exciting it is to see a man or woman surrender his or her life for God’s plans and purposes! And how awesome is the privilege of seeing someone move from being a mere “church attender” to that of being a true disciple of Jesus! Every occasion of having witnessed that amazing spiritual metamorphosis has brought to me an incredible joy that, without doubt, must pale in comparison to the pleasure that God feels when someone turns from whatever spiritual counterfeit for which they had been settling to the one and only source of life and hope that humanity has: that of Jesus Christ.

 There are times when God moves in a person’s life and ignites within him or her a passionate devotion that begs to return a harvest of praise and service to the Lord. “And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to Him, He said in a parable: ‘A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.  And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.’ As he said these things, he called out, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’”(Luke 8:4-8 ESV).

 But though a person may find within him or herself a sense of calling to a certain task or vocation, and while he or she may initially take up the mantle for the task divinely assigned them, at some point along the way, the eyes of the soul perhaps shifts, passion wanes, and the calling is forgotten. With such a “cooling of the coals” going on within a person’s heart, he forsakes the path to which God has led him. Just think: If an obedient and trusting acceptance of God’s commissioning on you is a cause for celebration, then the tragedy of your falling away cannot be described with words that human mouths may utter, but only by the tears that our Father sheds in sorrow.

 

There are times when God moves in a person’s life and ignites within him or her a passionate devotion that begs to return a harvest of praise and service to the Lord.

There are times when God moves in a person’s life and ignites within him or her a passionate devotion that begs to return a harvest of praise and service to the Lord.

Jesus, having just told a group of listeners this story about the seeds and the soil explained what it all meant. “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard. Then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” (Luke 8:11-14 ESV).

 How sad when a child of God, though called to walk with Him in a way especially designed for her, turns away for whatever reason. It occurs to me, though, that if God’s people remain in love with their Savior and their feet remain faithful to the trail especially chosen for them, they are a truly formidable force. Just consider the implications for the world if Christians would take the Bible’s admonition in 1 Timothy 4:14-15: to not neglect their callings and unique spiritual giftedness to till the soil of the corners of the Kingdom of God to which He has appointed them!

 As God calls to you to leave the stagnant and fruitless fields of complacency, will you rise up and go with Him or would you have Him pass you by? It is time to be more than just an “attender of church services” but now become instead a servant of the Living God. Has He placed a need in front of you for which you have the remedy? If He has indeed placed within you a hunger for more than the common life, now is the time for you to step into the role that He has ordained by releasing to Him any self-will, fear, ambition, greed, pride, and even a love for comfort. Don’t wait to follow the Savior. Don’t put off knowing Him better. Don’t delay the fruit He might harvest through your life. Let today be the day you pick up your calling and walk with Jesus.

“As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away” (Luke 8:15-18 ESV).

 Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Atop a Quiet Crag

The one-hundred and twenty degree heat of the sun bore down on my head with fierce zeal. At the moment there was no wind, but I was glad about the fact for it made things worse: just imagine aiming a blow-dryer at your face from only three inches away and turning it on “high”.

I determinedly clambered up the steep hill so I could look across the great rift that separated the Negev Desert from the Sinai. As I reached the pinnacle of the crag that I had climbed, I looked about me but could only see barren wasteland. Before my feet was a small gorge at least three-hundred feet deep, its far side rising sharply up into another cliff-face. Beyond each rocky and lifeless summit was another, the host of desert mountain tops marching on until they faded from sight in the dusty haze of the hot afternoon.

It is often when we are in "retreat" (a pulling away from distraction) that we more readily hear the still small voice of God .

It is often when we are in “retreat” (a pulling away from distraction) that we more readily hear the still small voice of God .

I glanced behind me and realized that the rest of my team members were preparing for a siesta so I would be left to my own devices for a time. I found a stone shelf near the top facing the west that was somewhat flat and out of sight and planted myself there so that I could have a few moments alone.

Well… not alone. It was, in fact, an opportunity to visit with God without the distractions of a busy schedule or the pressures of decision-making that constantly assaulted me. As I looked to the west, I thought about the mountains on the Egyptian side of the rift, the Sinai. Not so far from where I sat, the Israelites had been delivered by God from their centuries-long bondage and had marched towards the fulfillment of special promises that God had made them. Not so far from where I sat, the Lord had saved them from the attack of a hostile army as they made it through the impassable obstacle of the Red Sea and yet their pursuers did not.

As I sat there, I thought of those described in the Bible as having been used by God to powerfully change the world. What set them apart and made them especially attractive to God in His plans and in His mighty movements to work out His will for humanity? Merely their willingness to listen, trust and obey the Lord. Perhaps that was why God’s prophets and even the Lord Jesus Himself would withdraw from their busy lives to the remote wilderness.

Until I had spent that tiny bit of time in the desert, I had always envisioned the “wilderness” mentioned in the Scriptures as being a sort of “Rocky Mountain” or “Appalachian Trail” kind of wilderness… lots of green and lots of animals. But unlike places at which I had previously camped or visited, the wilderness of the Negev Desert was absolutely silent. There were no animals or birds to betray the ominous silence that seemed to fill my ears nearly as tangibly as cotton balls.

Maybe in those brief retreats wherein one was momentarily removed from the buzzing drone of human need and the blare of ignorance and idolatry seemed more remote, one could more readily hear the still small voice of God (1 Kings 19:12).

As I sat on my little rocky crag, I prayed. I praised. And I sat quietly in the vast silence. It was good to be alone with the Lord, if even for only a little while.

But then a fly landed on my arm. I flicked it away and resumed praying. The fly came back… this time with friends. I shooed the crowd of critters away again but they then began to buzz around my head. I continued to pray and worship God, but was now becoming increasingly agitated and less focused. It dawned on me then that my diminutive assailants were like so many little distractions and annoyances that accost all Believers in our walk with the Lord. Little things have a way of buzzing into the forefront of our thinking the very moment we try to settle down to spend some time in prayer or in reading (and meditating upon) God’s Word.

Let’s face it. Little things accumulate so quickly and easily in our lives that many of us are nearly drowning in details. There is such a buzzing going on in our minds so much of the time, even though we may go regularly to church and are perhaps even serving Him in some capacity, we can’t hear a thing He says to us. It’s like having Direct TV with hundreds of channels all on at the same time. Yeah, God’s “signal” is being “transmitted” (as His Holy Spirit moves in our lives), but we cannot make out what He’s saying (we can’t see the tree for the forest surrounding it). Consequently, the end result is that we lose our vital connection with God under the deluge of messages and signals sent our way and so we cannot be refreshed or given guidance: God’s divine provisions are sent, but we never receive them because we cannot find them in all the clutter of our fast-paced lives.

It’s those “little things” that dilute our passion for the Savior. It’s the “little things” in life that “get under our skin”, little annoyances that interfere with the peace of God that SHOULD be filling our troubled minds. It’s these “little things” that imperceptibly compromise our spiritual integrity and draw us from the sure footing of walking with the Savior.

It’s the “little things” that imperceptibly compromise our spiritual integrity and draw us from the sure footing of walking with the Savior.

It’s the “little things” that imperceptibly compromise our spiritual integrity and draw us from the sure footing of walking with the Savior.

But what do you do with the little buggers? As with me on that mountain peak in the Negev, you might try to “swat” a few here and there, but don’t even allow that to steal your gaze from the face of Jesus. Getting caught up in trying to eliminate ALL distractions is too distracting a venture to venture upon. Eliminate those things that CAN be removed but recognize that you cannot cut yourself off completely from responsibility nor can you foresee every contingency that might introduce distraction back into your life.

Also recognize that there is a spiritual power at work that does NOT want you to tune into God and will attempt to step up your distractions. Just as the Lord Jesus, in a critical time alone with God, found Himself the target of distracting ideas, suggestions, and temptations from the prince of that evil power (from Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, & Luke 4:1-13), you too will find yourself subject to notions and impulses that will try to grab hold of your attention and keep your gaze turned away from the Prince of Peace.

These spiritual “flies” will buzz and buzz, but you and I need to just let them buzz while we stay busy with seeking God’s face in His Word, through prayer, and in service to Him for the sake of His kingdom. It is not a coincidence that a “nickname” for the devil is “Beelzebub” (meaning, “Lord of the Flies”). He is indeed the “Lord of Distraction”, as well as, I might point out, the “Lord of Lies”. We too easily follow his leading over the leading of God Himself.

Nevertheless, we have in God both true light and real life. Let us not allow ourselves then to be robbed of an unspeakably marvelous gift by failing to spend quality time with Him in prayer and in personal worship. Even the “Lord of Flies” is tiny and inconsequential compared to the King of all creation. “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God… He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great… things that your eyes have seen” (Deuteronomy 10:17a, 21 ESV).

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Good for the Soul

Of the many “church” words that often make us cringe, we find ranked highly them the word “confess”.  Chances are, when you hear it, you have an impulse to stick your fingers in your ears and sing the national anthem.  But it’s an important word.  In fact, it’s a GREAT word – provided it is understood correctly and lived out appropriately.  So just what DOES the Bible mean by the word, “confess”? And why is it important and even necessary for us to have learned how to confess in a Biblical sense?

As far as how the word itself goes (as used in the Bible), the word “confess” is a Germanic/English rendering of two Latin roots… “con-” (meaning “with”) and “-fess” (meaning to “say”); the Greek word from which this comes is “homologeo” which literally means “same word” and should usually be interpreted as to “acknowledge” or “agree with”.

While it’s entirely possible that you don’t really care about the ins and outs of translations, etc., you very likely DO care about the bottom line. The word translated in the Bible as “confess” involves an utterance of the mouth and outward acknowledgement of truth. It means, in a spiritual sense, to speak out. But what is it that one is speaking out?

Well, for starters, saying “I’m sorry” is NOT confession, nor is asking for forgiveness. These things might be attached to confession, but they are not confession in of themselves. For me to confess, I must openly AGREE WITH GOD about Who God is, and about my sinful nature. It means to declare that God is really God, and is the rightful Lord of both the world and of my life. “…If you CONFESS with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one CONFESSES and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10 ESV).

Moreover, confession candidly admits the wrongs that I have done, the hurts that I have contrived, and the sin that I have committed. I do not rationalize these things, nor do I excuse them. I simply own up to what I’ve done and what I’ve said, taking responsibility for them. Although this doesn’t necessarily mean airing all the details of our dirty laundry, it DOES mean that we no longer deny the corruption within our fallen hearts, that we “fess up” to God in prayer, and even learn the art of admitting our faults and failures to those we’ve hurt or to whom we are accountable.

And as bad a rap as confession gets, we would be making a terrible mistake to dismiss it as archaic or irrelevant, and hence miss out on its blessing. In a purely pragmatic sense, confession allows me to address destructive habits and attitudes that may characterize my own life and sets the stage for both change and release from cycles of failure and injustice towards others. Furthermore, confession opens the door to the restoring of relationships that have suffered because of the wrong I may have said and done.

But MOST importantly, confession is a manifestation of my openness to God’s grace when I admit that I have broken His divine commandments and violated His trust (whether outwardly and obviously, or secretly in the hidden places of my heart and mind). Through confession, I make no excuses for my sin and instead throw myself on the mercy of the highest court of all: the Judge Who eternally rules. In confessing my sin to Him, I allow His forgiveness to wash me and make me new. “If  we CONFESS OUR SINS, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV).

"Ultimately, confession is a manifestation of my openness to God's grace when I admit that I have broken His divine commandments and violated His trust.

“Ultimately, confession is a manifestation of my openness to God’s grace when I admit that I have broken His divine commandments and violated His trust.

Real confession cannot happen only inside your mind or heart but must ultimately somehow be articulated by the mouth… largely because SPEAKING the truth realigns the direction of one’s heart and will with that of the Father’s. But even so, there isn’t any sort of “script” to this… each example of “confession” in the Scriptures has its own flavor and is unique to each individual that Jesus called to Himself.

Consider Peter who fell at Jesus feet and confessed, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8) and then confessed to Jesus that He was indeed, “the Christ of God” (Luke 9:20). Or Zaccheaus who said to Him, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor.  And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Luke 19:8 ESV). Or the sinful woman of Luke 7 who stood behind Jesus at a Pharisee’s home and was so choked up by His accepting her in spite of her past that she could only weep and then wipe His feet with her tears in heart-wrenching humility. Or even the Samaritan woman of John 4 who also ultimately AGREED with the Lord when she appealed to her fellow villagers to, “Come, see a Man Who told me EVERTHING I EVER DID”.

Even the thief on the cross beside Jesus “confessed” when he recognized the Lord of lords and King of kings for Who He is, even as Jesus hung dying on the cross of Calvary. “One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Him, saying ‘Are You not the Christ?  Save Yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we justly, for WE ARE RECEIVING THE DUE REWARD OF OUR DEEDS; but THIS MAN HAS DONE NOTHING WRONG.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom’” (Luke 23:39-42 ESV- emphasis mine).

Again, confession of sin is NOT the same things as saying “I’m sorry” and, of course, any efforts on our part to justify or excuse our sin would be extremely offensive to Him. It’s interesting to note, by the way, that our word for “apology” comes from “apologia” which means “defense” and refers to a plea in which one attempts to clear oneself of guilt. Be that as it may, the Biblical principle is this: inasmuch as we defend or rationalize sin, seeking to justify ourselves, we will fail and fall short of God’s glory.

But, in contrast, when we “confess”, we agree with God that He is holy and just, and that we are, in fact, “poor in spirit”. When we can bring ourselves to do this, we can then expect Him to deliver on His promise to give us the “kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). So let us each then learn to pray honestly to the One Who knows our hearts anyway. And let us also seize the joy and victory He intends for those “who shall confess Jesus before Men, for Jesus will also confess us before the Father Who is in heaven” (from Matthew 10:32).

 

Copyright ©  Thom Mollohan

Giver of Bread

To say that Jesus lived out the days of His earthly life always in the midst of controversy and conflict would be a huge understatement. People never seemed to quite know how to take Him and were constantly trying to “figure Him out”. They seemed to think that if they could just get inside His head or could neatly categorize Him as maybe just a teacher, a prophet, a lunatic, or even a demon-possessed man, they then could move on and conveniently go on living their lives as they wanted.

But Jesus could not be and can not be easily understood or tritely explained away. His authority over the physical universe wasn’t, for instance, someone’s repertoire of sleight-of-hand tricks akin to Las Vegas magic shows. He didn’t feed thousands of people miraculously with a few loaves and fishes merely by using mirrors. His liberating men and women from their bondage to evil spirits or diseases and crippling disabilities was not staged with actors and laser lights but with folks who had been widely known as suffering very real and overpowering afflictions.

Nor were His motives open to psychoanalysis as if His message of grace, His call to holiness, and His lifestyle of self-denial were the results of unresolved fixations left over from His childhood. Thus, as much a mystery as “how” He did what He did was “why”. One thing that we can be certain of is that He did not come to earth to coddle the self-righteousness of those who had failed in their charge of connecting people to God. Nor was He interested in spending His priceless time in endless attempts to convince the unconvincible.

“The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test Him they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, ‘When it is evening, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.” And in the morning, “It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.” You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.’ So He left them and departed” (Matthew 16:1-4 ESV).

Did Jesus seem concerned that there were leaders who remained rooted in doubt? No, He simply proceeded with His mission of hope to those whose hearts were tender, to those who weren’t paralyzed by their longing to hold on to the power, prestige, and possessions that their status as leaders gave them. Those who have dined on the fat of their own accomplishments yearn ever for the empty calories that future ambitions provide them. But to those who hunger for something more, for something that isn’t just a “sugary” mixture of short-term pleasures, He Himself will provide bread but will nourish us and produce lasting fruit.

Do you feel like something is lacking in your life? A sense of peace with God and freedom from the tyranny of sin? A hope for something beyond the grave and an assurance that your eternity is secure? Your goal may perhaps be to dine at the “table of self-indulgence”, but you’ll still feel famished, starving for real meaning and purpose. Maybe you’ve drunk the intoxicating “wine of pride”, but find that you are still parched for the cool and clear waters of peace that only Jesus can give. Maybe you’ve breathed the fumes and fogs of confusion and doubt long enough but now crave the fresh airs of God’s presence, sweetly and gently perfumed by His love and grace.

In the event that you want to believe in this message of hope but have trouble fathoming the fact that He offers you an invitation to know Him personally and receive the gift of eternal life, consider the depth and breadth of His compassion for those who are hungry.

 

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst." - John 6:35 ESV

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.” – John 6:35 ESV

“Great crowds came to Him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at His feet, and He healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel. Then Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, ‘I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with Me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.’ And the disciples said to Him, ‘Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ They said, ‘Seven, and a few small fish.’ And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, He took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks He broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children” (Matthew 15:30-38 ESV).

In that day and age, Jesus had great compassion for those who were hungry physically but even more so for those who hunger spiritually. He still has today great compassion for those are hungry. Not only that, He has the power and the provision in this wide, wide universe to meet our hungers with bread that sustains. Are you hungry for God’s love? Jesus has offered you an open door to receive His forgiveness and grace. Are you thirsty for hope and peace? Jesus Himself is a spring that cannot run dry and will quench your thirst for new life.

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst…. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him Who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’” (John 6:35, 37-40 ESV).

Come to Jesus and let your famished spirit be filled with the bread of His forgiveness. Come to Jesus and let Him quench your thirsty soul with His love.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Maybe Just One Cup

Spiritual life and significance can be measured by neither levels of activity nor by our emotions. In fact, emotional charges we get when we attend highly-charged meetings can encourage us, but are in some ways a bit like coffee.

Things that excite us spiritually, while pleasant and often helpful, can be no more than the metaphysical equivalents of caffeine!

Things that excite us spiritually, while pleasant and often helpful, can be no more than the metaphysical equivalents of caffeine!

Now don’t get me wrong! I like coffee! A bit too much (which is why I frequently will “fast” from it)….

Nevertheless, emotional highs from “super spiritual” experiences (e.g., a Christian music concert with an incredible speaker) can affect us a bit like coffee in the morning. Of course, the caffeine in coffee doesn’t generate any real energy in your system… it just speeds up your metabolism giving you the sensation and temporary effect of a surge of energy. In a similar way, things that excite us spiritually, while pleasant and often helpful, can be no more than the metaphysical equivalents of caffeine!

So if we’re not careful, we can get confused about our own spiritual condition (maybe assuming that we’re way off track because the positive feelings have cooled off a bit). Or we can assume the opposite, that we’re right on track when we’re feeling “high” with enthusiasm.

The fact is, though, that unless we’re carefully nurturing an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we’re going to reach some really wrong conclusions and likely make some really bad decisions. Make sure then that you’re getting more than just spiritual coffee in your life.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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