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We definitely live in a different age than the one in which I grew up. I won’t say that things are worse, because attaching that sort of interpretation might infer to some that our God has lost control of things and is somehow not as sovereign as He once was (a ridiculous notion).  Of course, I won’t say that things are better either… but times of difficulty and even suffering have a way, by virtue of their fiery trials, of bringing out the pure metal of spiritual gold and silver:  courage, the pursuit of holiness, love, and faith are all qualities that shine most brightly when brought to surface by hard times.

Some things in those “hard times” are of unimaginable proportions. For example, the horrors of ISIS seem to spread, unabated in the Middle East, as the West continues to fail in stopping their advance.  Threats of pandemic Ebola rattle our confidence in Medicine and governmental policies to restrain or contain virulent epidemics.  Terror attacks strike north of our country’s borders reminding us that even a semblance of peace is not much more than a veneer that is easily stripped away.

The Church not only has a right to speak about real life things, but must.

The Church not only has a right to speak about real life things, but must.

In our own country, American cities and towns serve as battlefields of another sort, threatening our tendency to complacency. In Houston, Mayor Annise Parker’s administration subpoenaed, according to Valerie Richardson of The Washington Times, “communications with church members and others that pertain to not only the signature-gathering effort (supporting the overturning of pro-LGBT legislation imposed upon all public entities in the city including churches) but (also) such topics as the mayor, homosexuality and gender identity” (10/22/2014).  Originally, the subpoenas included sermons, but the term was retracted after a firestorm of controversy erupted.

An attack on religious liberty in the United States, although not as obvious a form perhaps as the atrocities orchestrated by ISIS, is nonetheless a form of persecution that requires a response from those who profess the name of Jesus Christ. There are those who claim that the Church is not supposed to take part in political discussions, citing a misguided interpretation of “separation of Church and state” (which was intended to protect faith, not attack it).

I saw an example of this shortly after the well-known Christian speaker John Piper posted on October 14th via social media a viewpoint contrary to Mayor Parker’s perspective on sexuality.  Comments began to follow and one woman posted what some others haphazardly say, “The Church has no business dealing with political topics; only religious ones.”

This sentiment is echoed in Mayor Parker’s statements as relayed in Mike Morris’ story from The Houston Chronicle (10/17/2014).  Mayor Parker says, “We don’t need to intrude on matters of faith to have equal rights in Houston, and it was never the intention of the city of Houston to intrude on any matters of faith or to get between a pastor and their parishioners. We don’t want their sermons, we want the instructions on the petition process. That’s always what we wanted and, again, they knew that’s what we wanted because that’s the subject of the lawsuit.”

That may be the official reason for the city’s demands (especially as Parker seems to be hurriedly backpedaling from a negative backlash), but the facts don’t support the claim. Remember, it wasn’t references to the petition only in sermons and other communications, but also the topics of “the mayor, homosexuality, and gender identity” which were called for in the subpoenas.

But here we are. Is the woman who indignantly claimed that the church ought not to be discussing such “political topics” as homosexuality and gender identity correct?  Well, no.  The glaring problem with her statement is that everything is political given the right context.  And sooner or later everything you hold dear becomes political no matter what religious affiliation you have or personal conviction motivates you.

Racism is a moral topic. Great opponents of racism cite religious convictions against it, but it is also a political matter requiring legislation to combat it.  Immigration has a religious dialogue encircling it.  It is, of course, a political matter as well.  Nazi Germany historically told the church to mind its own business and stay out of politics.  While some did not listen, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was executed by the Nazis, many abdicated their roles as conscience of their society, and stood by while the Nazis killed millions of Jews, dissidents, people of “inferior race”, and those who were disabled in some way.

What determines whether or not an issue is political? Apparently, all it takes is some lawmaker somewhere writing legislation about it.  And that, ironically enough, is so broad that religion itself is a political topic.  Christianity is not about some mystical mumbo-jumbo that has nothing to do with real life, but about the spiritual realm interfacing the material one.  If your Christianity is kept separate from your daily life, your business affairs, the way you conduct yourself at home, how you report your taxes, and so on and so on, then “you’re doing it wrong.”

The Church not only has a right to speak about real life things, but must. We are compelled by both the preaching and the role-modeling of Jesus to make tangible differences in the world around us ranging from God’s design for sexuality and marriage to feeding the hungry and helping the poor.  We must deal with standing up for the rights of others when speaking about racism, unborn babies, and victims of persecution in Syria, Iraq, or Nigeria.  Those who push back on the Church’s speaking out are simply looking for a way to silence the opposition.

But we must speak out, not because it’s our political duty or because such issues are political topics, but because they are spiritual ones and our allegiance to Jesus commands it.  When we pray to God, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10), we are confessing that God’s commentary on social issues overrides our personal preferences and we are therefore agents of carrying out His plan.  In other words, how can we not speak out on social issues of the day no matter how political they are?  In some ways, everything is political.  But then again, nothing is.

An American city’s mayor has taken aim. Whether the city’s vendetta to silence the voice of the Church in the matter of sexuality will succeed or not remains to be seen.  But no matter what, God’s people must be a faithful voice, not only about “issues”, but more importantly for the Savior Who came to die for sinners.  Ultimately, it’s the Church’s testimony about Jesus Christ that is the most important call of all.

“But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20 ESV).

 Copyright © Thom Mollohan

As much lamenting as is being done concerning the virulence of horrific persecution, tough economic times and perhaps joblessness, the threat of pandemic disease, and the collapse of Biblical morality and ethics, Christians should be reminded that this is a season of opportunity for the people of God to receive a two-part blessing!

Today is definitely an age in which most of us are beyond our ability to negotiate life’s circumstances, whether we have been laid off and cannot now find a new job, we have an illness for which there is no cure and/or very little comfort, or we have broken relationships that we simply can’t fix no matter how much we may desire to do so.  Even our “constitutionally protected right to free speech” is under fire and in jeopardy.

While there may be a few (somewhere) where optimism for both the supposedly inherent goodness of human nature and “good old fashion Yankee ingenuity” may be running high, many folks have already come to the realization that such hope has been misplaced and are realizing that the circumstances that have driven them from the high places of self-sufficiency are forcing them to turn to the One Who alone really has the answers for which they’ve been seeking.

 

While there is indeed much that is challenging and even troubling about today, there are indeed pearls of great value hidden within our circumstances.  Let us not overlook them and miss the treasure that can be ours!

While there is indeed much that is challenging and even troubling about today, there are indeed pearls of great value hidden within our circumstances. Let us not overlook them and miss the treasure that can be ours!

A “desperate” situation is frequently the spiritual crowbar that God uses to pry us out of the temples of self-reliance that we erect for ourselves. Ask yourself the questions, “When am I inclined to stop what I’m doing and really turn to God? What moves my heart to really reach for His throne? When does my spirit cry out to Him in earnest?” Chances are your prayers take on a deeper and more profound quality when you’ve been shaken to your core and all the props upon which you’ve rested have been knocked out from under you.

So let us not be hasty to whine about our predicaments, but instead stop to examine our hearts and ask the questions, “How is God dealing with me through this? How is He using His Word to instruct me? What is He specifically asking of me in the midst of this trial?”

If we are sincere when we as Christians say that God has created us for intimate relationship with Himself, we should then not be surprised to find Him working out our circumstances to bring us to the point of having to choose Him over other things. Will I embrace pleasure over the joy of daily delighting in Him? Will I place power to chart my own course in life above His will for me? Will I choose to value money or other material possessions over the gift of His Son?

If we were honest, we would probably have to admit that we do those very things. And since we have allowed such things to become rivals in our affections for the God Who created us and spent His own Son’s life for us, it should not surprise us that He would permit those things to be taken away.

Can there be pleasure in pain and suffering? No, not unless it drives us to the source of a higher joy, the pleasure of which physical experience pales in comparison.

Are we quick to bow to anyone else’s authority for calling the shots with our destiny, thereby relinquishing the power and right to make our own decisions? No, not unless we see that control of our own lives is illusionary and that there is One Who not only sees into our future but has already mapped out a life of purpose and significance.

Is it easy to choose sacrifice over a life of affluence and the false sense of security that money can give to us? No, it is not, unless one is enlightened to the fact that there are riches in eternity that await those who wholeheartedly follow God that make worldly goods seem like trash.

All in all, there is a sweet victory that belongs to those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ that only begins to become evident to their eyes when the smog of worldly thinking begins to be blown away by His Spirit moving through their circumstances. Sickness, poverty, and oppression, while real enough in our temporal spheres, are only temporary after all.

“Let us press on to know the LORD; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth” (Hosea 6:3 ESV).

In addition to teaching us reliance upon the Lord, our hardships and woes are also the arenas in which the glory of God can be seen.

For example, Christians are commanded to love one another. In fact, this is how Jesus said that they would be identifiable to the world as His followers.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 ESV).

Christians supporting and generously helping each other bear testimony to the abiding presence of the Lord in their midst.

Also, God’s people bring glory to God by upholding His Word. Naturally, defending it as His Word to a world that is hostile to truth is part of this. But inherent in the upholding of His Word is the child of God’s love for reading it, learning it, and applying it in his or her daily living. When the Bible is taken into the heart of a man or woman, he or she is changed and the change is apparent to those around him or her. Their values are revolutionized, their character is transformed, their homes are impacted, and their work is influenced. If we see Christians whose lives make very little difference around them, we are seeing Christians who aren’t taking the Word of God very seriously, evidently not feeling the need to do so.

But many people turn to the Word when times begin to get tough. They’ve begun to realize that they need a wisdom greater than their own to navigate life’s tough choices. They thirst for the comfort of assurances that science and worldly philosophies promised to supply, but couldn’t even begin to address. The fact that our painful circumstances can drive us to search out the promises of God sheds a light of hope for those around us who don’t know where to turn.

And finally, it is true that the prayers of God’s people often begin to be lifted up in earnest only if and when we feel we’ve reached the ends of our ropes. It is through prayer that our spiritual lives can be aligned with the Lord’s Spirit. Genuine prayer is the act of one who has no hope in anyone or anything BUT God and such apparent desperation gets the attention of those around him. But better yet is the fact that in our concentration upon Him in prayer, God delivers. And if what seems to be a fanatical reliance upon God through prayer will get folks’ attention, how much more will those moments when God visibly and miraculously answers those prayers?

I want to be quick to emphasize that God answers prayers in His time and in His way, but He definitely answers prayer. And if as God’s child you allow Him to instruct your mind and heart in His ways through His Word, you will see His hand move in power and in love, giving you a story to tell others about the faithfulness of God.

“Return… to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity!… Say to him, ‘Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay… the vows of our lips. Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the LORD are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them” (Hosea 14:1, 2b, 9 ESV).

While there is indeed much that is challenging and even troubling about today, there are indeed pearls of great value hidden within our circumstances.  Let us not overlook them and miss the treasure that can be ours!

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

As if a Dove

God's grace and God's love     Gently touched me as if a dove Had lit upon my soul And entered in to make me whole.

God’s grace and God’s love
Gently touched me as if a dove
Had lit upon my soul
And entered in to make me whole.

 Copyright © Thom Mollohan

As our daughter nears ten years of age, I find myself reflecting on what Jesus said in John 13:20, “I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts Me; and whoever accepts Me accepts the One Who sent Me.” While this certainly has to do with receiving the good news of Jesus Christ and entering into God’s great Salvation, it is also an admonishment for any who are Believers to humbly receive God’s love through the loving administrations of caring people.

For months of uncomfortable and perilous “expecting” our daughter’s arrival, my family had been the object of a great outpouring of love and support from family, friends and church family. And then, as our new daughter arrived on the scene dangerously early, my wife’s doctor supportively walked with us through the difficult situation while nurses in the maternity area gently and attentively tended to our family. We know indeed that each loving gesture and every caring word was sent from Him. We joyfully praised Him for all those who had a part in the arrival of this wonderful new life.

Little hands and little feet;  A fragile life when first we meet!

Little hands and little feet;
A fragile life when first we meet!

Oh, and how we celebrated that precious little girl! “Little hands and little feet; a fragile life when first we meet….” Naturally, we already knew our new addition in so many ways before she even “arrived.” Ultrasound pictures, for example, helped to introduce us. Those “windows on the inner world” settled for us, by the way, the age-old question, “Do babies suck their thumbs in the womb?” In case the answer interests you, this one did. She also practiced gymnastics and did some occasional “kick-boxing” (much to my wife’s vexation). Also, all of our children occasionally had the hiccups in the womb, this little girl being no exception (much to my amusement).

Did you know that the Biblical perspective on life (Old Testament as well as the New Testament) is that all human life is precious? Every life, even that in the womb, is an amazing work of God, a gift to the world that no one else has a right to mar or destroy.

Did I say a “Biblical perspective?” Absolutely! For does not the Scripture say in Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” We are created in the image of God whether our bodies are sound and whole or crippled with disease. Black and white, male and female, we were created in the divine image, our first ancestor receiving the very breath of God and becoming a living soul.

Dear one, you also are marked with the image of God. What the world has done to deface that image in you with the horrid “graffiti” of hurt, hate, fear, and bitterness, cannot erase God’s image and the fact that you have unimaginable worth.

“Biblical perspective,” did I say? Truly! The Bible is God’s megaphone as He proclaims, “…before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…” (Jeremiah 1:5). Dear one, you have “God-given purpose” and a divinely appointed significance.

We live in such a strange age though. This is an age in which life is not really esteemed as all that important. It seems so bizarre to me to know that we live on the very brink of an era in which human embryos can be harvested for stem cells as though each tiny life were nothing more than a lab-grown culture of bread mold for penicillin.

But I don’t buy it. God doesn’t look at any human life as a commodity whether we’re speaking of slavery or aborted unborn children. Each life counts in God’s Book. “For You (oh, God) created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13-16).

How wonderful! How amazing! God knew you before you came to be! He saw you while your body was just taking shape in your mother’s womb! You have had value and purpose in the heart of God all along!

As Christians we celebrate and honor the sanctity of human life… the life of the healthy and the life of the sickly; the life of the wealthy as well as the life of the one who has no home; the life of the strong and the life of the crippled; the life of the seeing, the life of the blind; the life of the young and the life of the old; not to mention the life of the born as well as the life of the unborn.

Each life is sacred, even the life that appears to have little to give to our short-sighted and narrow-minded eyes. Each life is sacred, even when the world tosses it aside, calling it worthless and unwanted. Each life is sacred, each with a world of beauty inside just waiting to be tapped by God to show to the world. Each life is sacred, dear one… including yours.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

In the little Italian burb of Florence, a sculptor taps patiently away at a seventeen foot tall block of marble.

Tap, tap, tap!

“Hmmm. Maybe a bit more right here,” he says to himself as he resets his chisel.

Tap, tap, CRACK!

“Oops!” says the sculptor as he stares at the huge section of stone totally crumbled at the block’s base. The monolith now looks as if it is leaning, about to fall over on its side. “Um, could somebody roll this thing outta here and get me a new block of marble!”

“Hey,” says his friend, Mike, who happens to be walking through. “If you’re not gonna use that, could I have it?”

The nameless sculptor shrugs. “Why not? It’s ruined now so I don’t want it. Yeah, you take it!”

With a little help from his protégés, Mike manages to get the nine ton stone block moved to his own studio. Once it is settled into place, he dismisses his students and then surveys the monolithic block of stone with a critical eye.

Instead of looking at us as unwanted “lumps”, God sees what beautiful works of art that might be made of us!

Instead of looking at us as unwanted “lumps”, God sees what beautiful works of art that might be made of us!

“You can’t hide from me. I see you in there,” he says as a smile spreads across his face. Armed with a hammer and chisel, Mike begins hunting the elusive quarry hidden within. For three years he breaks dead stone loose from the marble muscles and stony sinew of David. Eventually, the enemy of Goliath and the great king of Israel stands free and clear in front of Mike.

Our friend Mike, born Michelangelo Buonarroti, looks on the masterpiece before him and murmurs softly, “See? I told you that I’d find you.”

About fifteen hundred years before Michelangelo carved the magnificent form of David which now stands in the Galleria Dell’ Accademia in Florence, Jesus gazed on a rough cut figure of a fellow, a fisherman named Simon and saw something more than a “throwaway”.

After having met Jesus, Andrew “first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter)” (John 1:41-42 ESV).

This is something of the reverse of Michelangelo who, when looking at a stone, saw the man.  Jesus looked instead at a man and saw the stone (“Peter” means “stone”). Not a lump of oozing mud, not a pile of dusty and worthless rubble, not even gravel with which to line one’s driveway, Jesus saw something special hidden deep inside the rough and wild man. He saw him and discerned the potential for faith. He looked inside the heart of Peter and saw a faith that would profoundly grow and would change the world in unimaginable ways as the Holy Spirit of God worked within him.

Jesus “said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’  Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’  And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father Who is in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:15-18 ESV).

What do you see when you look at those around you? Do you see imperfections? Do you only perceive failures and “throwaways”? That’s not the way the Father sees them. He sees people who are broken, yes. He sees the blemishes and the faults, yes. He even sees the hidden imperfections that you and I cannot perceive with our human eyes.

But instead of looking at them as unwanted “lumps”, He sees instead what beautiful works of art that might be made of them. Instead of complaining about all the “block”-heads that are in His way, He dreams big dreams and welcomes the imperfect and marred into the divine studio of His grace. There He begins to patiently chisel out masterpieces as men and women place their faith wholeheartedly in Him and align themselves with His will.

I’m glad. I’m glad because I’m one of those “block”-heads. I’m glad because God saw in me something more than failure and brokenness. I’m glad because He loved me and saw something more than a “throwaway”.

“We also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV).

*Please note that this account of the origins of the Michelangelo’s block of stone has been partly fictionalized: tradition has it that the city of Florence gave the blemished and broken block of marble to Michelangelo when it commissioned him to sculpt the statue of David. The stone had allegedly been lying discarded and unwanted in a church yard for more than thirty years!

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

My Hope in His Word

His Word“Forever, O LORD, Your word is firmly fixed in the heavens” (Psalm 119:89 ESV).

As we read the Word of God, let us hope that we do more than just read and even just memorize what it says. Unless we begin to perceive the Author Who penned the Word of God through the living quills of human writers, we have seriously missed the point of the Bible. As we seek to navigate through life with not only mere survivors’ mentalities, but that of victors whose lives have significance and purpose, we must begin to perceive that the Bible is not simply a list of “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots”. Neither is it merely a historical document or compilation of masterful literary works.

Oh, no. The Bible is quite actually the written record of the Living Word of God Himself. In its beginning, it points to the Living Word, Jesus; throughout its account of our world in its youth, it is Jesus to Whom it directs us. Even as that written Word draws to its grand conclusion, spelling out for us those things which have not yet all come to pass, its Subject, as well as its Author, is Jesus Christ.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3 ESV).

Oh, the tragedy of having read the Bible and not really seen the One Who stands behind it… the One Who stands full of grace and truth. In the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry before His crucifixion, He labored and sought to bring illumination to the gloomy condition of all of humanity… but for so many, their eyes were darkened. Indeed, those who professed to know the Scriptures simply refused to recognize its Author, though they were staring Him in the face. Nor could their ears discern the sweet melody of God the Father speaking to them through the Person of God the Son, Jesus. It did not matter that all that He said and all that He did was in fulfillment of the very Words they believed that they upheld. Though the Living Truth spoke the truth to them, they would not acknowledge the legitimacy of His testimony.

Jesus said, “…the works that the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about Me that the Father has sent Me. And the Father Who sent Me has Himself borne witness about Me. His voice you have never heard, His form you have never seen, and you do not believe the One Whom He has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:36b-40 ESV).

How tragic! How ironic! Those who had spent their entire lives searching the written revelations of God had reduced it to rules and regulations, forgetting in the process that the point of the Law of God was to bring us close to Him.

David, who penned tremendous portions of the Old Testament, passionately pursued his relationship with His Creator, recognizing the inestimable worth of the Word that God had given the world. For him, the Word of God was a means by which we can come to know the Lord, and has been entrusted to us for showing us His ways, His purposes, and His presence.

And so David could write, “In Your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of Your mouth…. Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors” (Psalm 119:88, 24 ESV).

Even as God Almighty imparted His Words of life to His people in ancient times, those words were not given to place burdens upon His people, replacing the slavery of Egypt with an entirely new kind of slavery. His Words were given that they might become truly free – free to be what they had been created to be; free to pursue a divinely appointed destiny; free to truly become alive, with the distractions and undue bonds of selfishness amputated from their existence. Truly, the Words of God were “not just idle words for them, they were their life” (from Deuteronomy 32:47).

So what is the relevance of the Word of God for our daily living? And what does the Word of God counsel us to do? Is the pursuit of righteousness and a genuine life of faith realistic… especially when all the world seems to be out of control and all morality a thing of some forgotten age of long ago?

In Deuteronomy 30 God says that “This commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in His ways, and by keeping His commandments and His statutes and His rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it…. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life…” (verses 11-16 and 19-20a ESV).

Whatever ideas one may have about the Word of God, it must be understood that the Word has been given to us so that we may embrace Him… for He Himself is our life. Without His Word, we cannot come to know Him. And without Him, we are dead things though our bodies breathe and move and go about their daily business.

So… invited as we are to seek His face, to meet Him in the written revelation of Himself that we call the “Bible”, and to partake of life as we come to know Him and learn to trust Him, what will we choose today? Life…or death? Blessings… or curses? May we each choose today to pursue His offer of life.

“With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD! I will keep Your statutes. I call to You; save me, that I may observe Your testimonies. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in Your words. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on Your promise. Hear my voice according to Your steadfast love; O LORD, according to Your justice give me life.” (Psalm 119:145-149 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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

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