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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

For God Alone

When all is said and done and when the history of our lives is complete, what measure shall be used for unveiling a man or woman of greatness? The barometer will simply be the fact of the Eternal Father’s pleasure in finding the trusting surrender of a person’s life to His measureless grace. It is this trusting surrender that compels a person to begin the initial trek of turning his or her life over to God’s cleansing forgiveness. It is this abandonment to confidence in God that beckons us to enter a lifestyle of yielding our wishes, desires, and plans to the mysterious, yet perfect, will of God. And it is in the willful casting of ourselves upon His greatness that permits us to enter into the arena of hope in which we may witness the hand of God’s deliverance.

When we shed our garments of flesh, and we leave this earth without all the material things we thought that we needed, what will be our vindication that life was worth the living?

When we shed our garments of flesh, and we leave this earth without all the material things we thought that we needed, what will be our vindication that life was worth the living?

Even if we were to reside in plush palaces and have at our disposal all kinds of conveniences as well as the means to accomplish all that we could wish according to our limited understanding, we must agree (if we are to pursue true wisdom, success, and significance) with ancient and powerful declarations that God is good, God is great, and that His creation is ultimately His sovereign domain.

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken” (Psalm 62:1-2 ESV).

What tempests have rocked your world in the past? And what lurks just beneath the horizon that will spring upon you in the days to come, relentless and ruthless, prepared to steal your joy, your sense of security, and perhaps every last shred of dignity? Unless your confidence is only in God, you are not prepared. Maybe you have great insurance. Maybe your job is stable and steady. Hopefully, your health is all that you could wish and you’ve never felt better.

But don’t be fooled by calm waters and steady seas. There are massive leviathans of trouble and tragedy lurking beneath serene scenes that are ready and waiting to upset the precariously crafted lives we lead, and to do so without the benefit of any forewarning. Yet… for someone whose life is held tight in the grip of El Shaddai (God Almighty), the comfort and security that spill out of the knowledge that He is in control, robs the robbers of joy their spoil. Our trust in God binds the burglars of hope and peace when they creep into our lives invisibly or jump out at us with the suddenness of unexpected death.

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 62:5-6 ESV).

When we shed our garments of flesh, and we leave this earth without all the material things we thought that we needed, what will be our vindication that life was worth the living? What will be our reward? What will bring us the satisfaction that every grief, every hardship, and every hurt was worth what we have endured? It will be the smile of our Father as He receives to Himself all those who have found the forgiveness that only Jesus’ sacrifice can secure. It will be the knowledge that our trusting in Him for eternal life and holiness was an acceptable offering to Him and that His name was truly exalted somehow through our lives.

“Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Psalm 62:8 ESV).

The lives that will in the end be proven to have been empty of meaning and will have somehow squandered what promise that had been instilled in their beginnings, are those that are built on the faulty foundations of human wisdom, are riddled with yieldings to the compulsions of physical cravings, and are “sheltered” by the “house-of-cards” presumption of human pride.

“Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.  Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them” (Psalm 62:9-10 ESV).

But tragedy is not the final destination that God has in mind for you. Whatever griefs are given access to you and whatever pain is permitted to approach you, God’s plan is to produce a precious pearl of eternal value that could never have been realized without them. God doesn’t make light of sorrow, nor does He handle our pain with calloused coldness, but He WOULD have us lift our eyes to an eternal hope and not be defeated by a temporary trouble. Our hurt says God is nowhere or that He doesn’t care, but we need to set aside such cracked lenses and let the testimony of His promises heal our sight. Our hope in Christ says God is here and will lead us right, rewarding our faith in Him with the everlasting treasure of His presence.

“Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to You, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For You will render to a man according to his work.” (Psalm 62:11-12 ESV).

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

On one occasion some years ago, my three sons stood in line with me and their uncle (my brother-in-law) as we all scrutinized the sign before us. “You Must Be This Tall To Ride This Ride,” it said. The older two were in the “safe zone” but the youngest just barely “measured up”, so to speak. After breathing a hearty sigh of relief, he began to leap up and down in excitement. In between bounces, he managed to ask me why there was a rule about how tall one has to be.

“It’s to keep you safe,” I answered. “The ride is a very dangerous thing for someone who isn’t ready for it.” Although I suspect he would have found it far less satisfactory if he hadn’t been able to ride it, the answer seemed to satisfy him and he turned his attention back to watching those who were already on it. But as we stood there, my own thoughts remained on the subject, shifting ever so slightly to the ways that families thrust their children spiritually “onto rides” for which they’re simply not ready emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

Children, for example, are exposed on a regular basis to the emotionally charged and confusing themes that typical evening television broadcasts into typical homes in our world. Sexual themes, cruel and selfish behavior (often masquerading as comedy), and social ills labeled as “alternative lifestyles” are regularly presented without sufficient parental guidance to guide children in the “digestion” of them. Left to fend for themselves, our young people will have little to no alternative to assuming that the situations being painted on the silver screen before their eyes are the way life really is.

The most important “signs” our kids have to help them navigate the dangers of this world are their parents.

The most important “signs” our kids have to help them navigate the dangers of this world are their parents.

As I continue to consider that lamentable pattern of parental failure, the titanic stupidity of our failing to guide and guard our children strikes home to me. It is no small thing to be given the charge as father or mother to the children that God has entrusted to us. And we must expect an ultimate accounting of our job as parents to God Himself. While He knows that we are imperfect and doesn’t expect us to be perfect parents, He won’t wink at our neglect if neglect characterizes our parenting.

And we of course want to be wary of neglect in ALL its forms. Not only do we nurture our children physically, academically, and athletically, we also are called to guide them in matters of morals, justice, character, and (most importantly) spiritual things. But if you are intimidated by being that kind of mentor and guide, the anxiety that you’re feeling is the right emotion (that’s exactly what I feel).

You and I must therefore learn to depend upon the help of God in the rearing of our children. After all, He has promised that “we can do all things through Christ Who gives us strength” (Philippians 4:13). “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10 ESV).

We each must become a “student” of God’s Word so that we might learn His heart, His ways, and His purposes and then in turn share them with our children. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7 ESV).

Neglecting to actively engage this most high calling of nurturing our children towards the things of God is to choose to be agents of damnation for these that God has entrusted to us. And we obviously cannot expect our children to begin to demonstrate any commitment or interest at all to things that God esteems if we haven’t taught them to do so and modeled it to them ourselves. After all, honesty, courage, love, compassion, mercy, faithfulness, and sacrifice have their source in Him. If we never work to connect our kids to the source, then we shouldn’t expect to see those things come to fruition in their character.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it…. But a child left to himself disgraces his mother” (Proverbs 22:6; 29:15b).

As we think about how morally and spiritually perilous the world is, let us confess to God the sin of failing to rear our children in His ways and let us turn to Him, wholeheartedly committing ourselves to not only walk in His ways, but to rear our children in His ways also. And as we consider how heavy but wonderful mantle of parenthood is when God places it upon our shoulders, let us remember that God Himself will be our strength and provider of wisdom as we lean on Him and let His Word shape who we are.

Since there isn’t a sign on each opportunity presented by the world to our children saying, “You Must Be This Tall to Ride This Ride”, the only “signs” our kids have to help them are their parents. Let us then be the best, most Godly parents that we can be. After all, the world “is a very dangerous thing for someone who isn’t ready for it.”

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

In confusing times and difficult circumstances, God has a way of getting our attention. Whatever you may think about yourself and the world around you, the Lord has His eye on you and desires to break through the racket of everyday static to reach into your heart and pull you into the center of His will. It’s is obvious that we are living in troubling times. But the times are not troubling simply because of terrorists (although I’ll not deny that terrorism is truly troubling). The times are not troubling because of economic instability (although the difficulties associated with recession are troubling obstacles for any family). The times are not troubling because of the increase of drug abuse associated crime (as troubling as those things are).  And the times are not troubling because of the collapse of divinely appointed morality (as troubled as we should be by such things).

God can take someone like you and change the world - if you'll trust and obey Him!

God can take someone like you and change the world – if you’ll trust and obey Him!

No, the times are troubling because of our calloused hearts and indifferent attitudes towards our Maker. It’s all too rare a thing to find a man or woman whose greatest desire is to serve God wholeheartedly. Such a one allows Him to not only bring comfort and encouragement, but follows His leading into a life of purity and service. But God-centered devotion like that is sadly the exception and not the rule. If there is a danger to which we commonly fall prey these days, it is our tendency to regard God selfishly and attempt to find contentment in Him on our own terms. And in doing so the natural consequence is a subtle drifting into idolatry (wherein we sacrifice to some “god” other than the Maker of heaven and earth).

Idolatry isn’t found only when stone statues adorn our mantelshelves or carved “good luck” charms reside in our pockets. Nor is it found only when we consult the horoscope section or local palm reader for advice about choices before us. While each of these examples are all indeed idolatry, we also tiptoe into it when we devote our time, energy, and resources to our own interests or we try to make God something that He is not. If all God is to us is a great, big “wish granter” or some vague “force” that we hope will see to it that we live pleasant enough lives, then we are bowing down to an idol.

Historically speaking, it’s the human thing to do. But God has higher hopes for you and for me than that. The Bible tells in the book of Judges how God found His people slip-sliding into idolatry again (they like us had a knack for it). Consequently, He permitted troubles to wash over them until they simply couldn’t stand it anymore. Baal and Asherah (a Canaanite form of Ishtar) were the idols of choice. Perhaps it was because they were easy to understand and people feel most comfortable with things they understand. Whatever the case, God’s people had so muddled their worship of the Lord God with their trust in the Baals and Asherahs, that they really weren’t worshiping God anymore: to really worship Him, one must bow to His supremacy in all things and depose competitors. As a result, foreign invaders not only oppressed them but so effectively impoverished them that they had to keep secret places of safety for themselves and for their crops.

“When the people of Israel cried out to the LORD on account of the Midianites, the LORD sent a prophet to the people of Israel. And he said to them, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage. And I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. And I said to you, “I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.” But you have not obeyed my voice.’” (Judges 6:7-10 ESV).

But in spite of their obstinate refusal to give up their idol worship, God showed them grace. It so happened that in this particular instance, God sent His angel to an unsuspecting man named Gideon who was secretly threshing his wheat in a winepress (since the bad guys would come and swipe it if they caught him doing it). By the way, you might want to make a mental note of the fact that God sees you wherever you are and isn’t going to be deterred in interrupting your schedule just because you thought that maybe He forgot you or others have overlooked you.

“The angel of the LORD appeared to (Gideon) and said to him, ‘The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.’ And Gideon said to him, ‘Please, sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, “Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?” But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.’  And the LORD turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?’  And he said to him, ‘Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’  And the LORD said to him, ‘But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man’” (Judges 6:12-16 ESV).

And so began the greatest adventure that Gideon had ever known. The very first thing that Gideon did was to offer genuine worship to God (see Judges 6:17-24). The very next thing he did was become a catalyst for his family, his town, and his people for spiritual truth and radically challenged their worship of idols (see Judges 6:25-32). Remember that God wasn’t going to just wink at their spiritual adultery while setting them free from their oppression: He was determined to attack their spiritual oppressors first!

When the Lord had addressed their spiritual need, He set Gideon to the task of preparing an army which God promptly whittled down to a mere three hundred men – any more than that would have raised some doubt about who really was going to win the battle for them (see Judges 7:1-7). It’s time to make another mental note: God is NOT interested in you serving Him in your own strength, nor is He especially enamored by service to Him that does not permit Him to demonstrate His power and His presence through you. If you can do His work in YOUR strength and in YOUR way, where is the glory for God in that?

At any rate, God used this teeny-tiny group of three hundred men to overthrow an army of about 135,000 warriors. Now, if the Lord can take a small force like that to accomplish such an astounding victory, what can He do through you in the face of such adversaries as doubt, hate, grief, greed, hate, and violence? What could He do with a man or woman who would render Him sincere and unadulterated worship and a life of wholehearted service? Make this one last mental note: He can take someone like you and change the world. All He needs from you is a willingness to trust Him and to follow Him onto the path of true and genuine worship.

“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…. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8, 10-11 ESV).

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

“Going home is never easy,” I once heard someone say. I’ve also heard that once you leave and set out on your own path in life, “you can never really go back home.” I’m not sure that such sweeping statements apply to every situation, but they certainly applied to the Lord Jesus Who did go back to His “hometown” in the days of His earthly ministry. He was born in Bethlehem, spent a very brief time in Egypt (when Herod the Great was trying to find and kill the “little King”), and was occasionally in Jerusalem in accordance with the instructions God had given His people at that time.

But the town of Nazareth had the privilege of being the place in which Jesus “grew up”. Remember that the Lord Jesus had entered fully into the human experience (except without sin, Hebrews 4:15), so it was Nazareth in which the Lord would have cultivated His earliest human friendships and fond memories. Did He feel sentimental towards this small town and wax nostalgic whenever He heard the first century equivalent of the Springsteen song, “This Is Your Hometown”? I have no idea, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that He did.

Just think of the power that God could unleash in your life if you would turn wholeheartedly to Him and let Him into your heart!

Just think of the power that God could unleash in your life if you would turn wholeheartedly to Him and let Him into your heart!

What I do see, however, in reading of His experience in “going back home”, is His hometown’s failure to recognize just Who it was that they had in their ranks for nearly thirty years.

“Jesus… came to His hometown, and His disciples followed Him. And on the Sabbath He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this Man get these things? What is the wisdom given to Him? How are such mighty works done by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.’” (Mark 6:1-4 ESV).

What a shame! Here was a whole town of people who thought that they had Jesus figured out! A whole community who thought that they knew Jesus, but didn’t really know Him at all. And in “dismissing” His divine identity, they were dismissing the very hope and only source of life that each and every one of Nazareth’s citizen’s so desperately needed.

“He could do no mighty work (miracles) there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief” (Mark 6:5-6 NSV).

A great many people have taught a great many things about verse five, saying that somehow God’s power was curtailed by the hard hearts of the people of Nazareth. But that isn’t so. Refusing to recognize the glorious identity of Jesus’ Person cannot in any way diminish His essence. What it DOES do, however, is tragically limit what we could have otherwise hoped for in knowing Him. If we choose to not recognize that from Him flow life-giving waters, we’ll not be able to quench our parched souls’ thirst for something more than what this physical life alone can supply (John 4:10, 14-15; Jeremiah 2:13). Or refusing to accept that He has the authority to forgive sin prevents us from having that cursed burden lifted from our shoulders, liberating us from crushing condemnation (Matthew 9:2, 5-6; John 8:10-11; Romans 8:1).

What miracles then couldn’t He do in the little burg of Nazareth? Well, His power over the physical realm was clearly unhindered for He was still fully capable of bringing healing to physical bodies (and did so for some). The people of Nazareth spiritual diseases, however, remained with them. The people’s collective refusal to accept Jesus for Who He was closed their hearts to His power over their sick souls and the spiritual hunger that only He could satisfy. In fact, Matthew 13 says that they “took offense at Him” (verse 57) and Mark 4 records that they not only were offended but just about “lynched” Him. And why? Because they didn’t like the fact that this “carpenter” forgot His place and was “meddling” with their personal lives. People don’t like people who point out their depravity, especially if the people pointing it out are their own people.

We’ll say things like, “Just who does he think HE is anyway? Why that hypocrite! Where does HE get off telling ME how to live my life!” and so on. And how do I know that the spiritual realm is where Jesus “couldn’t” do His miracles in the hearts of the Nazarenes? Because of what happens next in Mark 6. When Jesus leaves Nazareth and begins to reach out with the love of God to the neighboring villages, He sends out His disciples with the message that “people should repent” (Mark 6:12).

Again, Jesus’ essence cannot be diminished by lack of faith on your part or mine, but we are rendered “unreachable” if we refuse to climb down off of the pedestal of our pride or relinquish our selfishness. Rejecting His right to our lives as Lord or refusing to acknowledge the truth of His Word as applied to our lives (e.g., that we need to forsake sin and follow Him) leaves us shut out of the grace that He would lavish upon us if we would simply humble ourselves and turn to Him.

Just think of the power that God could unleash in your life if you would turn wholeheartedly to Him and let Him into your heart! Such power can transform you, your family, your community, and your country!

“If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV).

We as a people need miracles. We need the miracle of lives being changed from self-serving to serving God and others. We need the miracle of hearts being set free from hopelessness and despair, given instead a new destiny filled with purpose, peace, and joy. The fact is that God is wanting to do just that in our lives. The only thing He is waiting on is for us to really start believing that He is Who He says He is, repent, and turn to Him.

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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