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Valentine Day ReminderMany years ago, our daughter was preparing Valentine Day notes the other day for some of her friends, when she snatched up a “Sleeping Beauty” card with a great big, red heart on it and held it up in her hand, waving it around enthusiastically.

“This one is for Jesus!” she announced. Sleeping Beauty ranks number one (at the moment) of her favorite princesses. “I’m going to give Him this one!”

Her mother replied, “Oh, you are, are you? How’re you going to do that?”

“When I go to Heaven, I’m going to take it with me and when I see Jesus, I’m going to run up to Him and give it to Him!” she explained carefully.

What can you say? Her mom smiled at her, commended her for wanting to give Jesus her best valentine, and moved on.

Later on, the subject came up again with two of her older brothers. She told them that she planned to give her Valentine to the Lord Jesus. They listened thoughtfully, and when she had finished, one of her brothers said with good intentions, “That’s nice, but I don’t know that Jesus will ever read it. Well, He can read it but it’s not like He’s going to come down and just get it.”

His younger brother interrupted, “Ah, but how do you know? He could!”

On that thought, my daughter began to whirl around the room like a ballerina, flitting about and waving the Valentine as if it were an oriental fan, singing, “Here it is, Jesus! Here’s Your Valentine! Come and get it!”

That evening, she was sitting in my lap while I sat in my chair, and she told me again about how she was giving her Valentine to Jesus. When she was done, she held it in front of me solemnly and then slipped it into my shirt pocket. “Would you hold it for me until I can give it to Jesus?” she asked.

I pulled it back out of my pocket. “I think that maybe you should take this and put it away with some of your other special things, sweetie!” She smiled and took it from my hand, running off to presumably place it with her other treasures.

There, she did it again. She, as do all of my children, has a way of coming into the hum-drum routine of daily life and lobbing “deep thoughts” my way with reckless abandon. Sometimes those “deep thoughts” blow in like bubbles, inspiring warm and comforting images of God’s great grace and patience; sometimes, like bricks, they break the windows of presumption of my heart and I find myself a bit rattled.

In this particular instance, I was not in any particular hurry to contemplate again the mortality of my children. I would be much less disturbed in considering my own. Nevertheless, the “brick” has been thrown. When our second oldest son was only eight months old and we had been told that he likely had Leukemia (which, I am glad to say, he did not), my whole world was shaken to its core. When our daughter was arriving and the doctor suggested that neither the baby nor her mother may survive, I was profoundly shaken yet again. In the same way, when life-threatening events seemed to “zero in” on our other two children, we have been forced to reconsider our priorities!

My daughter waxing on and on about giving her Valentine directly to Jesus painfully reminded me of her mortality, and then, as a result of that harrowing thought, of the importance of not losing focus on what is truly important. Frankly, I am glad for such reminders for they are opportunities for me to reevaluate how I am spending my life!

As you know, Valentine messages are generally either made in the shape of hearts or are adorned by them. Her dancing, with her Valentine held up high for Jesus, underscored to me the supreme importance that she truly gives her heart to Jesus, especially while she is yet a child. This weighs very deeply upon my heart… that she and my sons all come to a genuine and life-saving faith in Jesus Christ and then dwell in a deep and abiding relationship with Him.

I thank the Lord for such a gentle reminder that every single moment that I have with each of them is a gift given to me from God. Obviously I do not wish to squander these moments of enjoying them, but I certainly do not want to lose the chance that I have while they are young to do all I can to help them see God the Father’s love for them and the need right now for them to seek Him with all of their hearts, all of their lives!

“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’… before the silver cord is snapped… and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, 6a, 7 ESV).

If you are a parent, or have influence over little ones, ask yourself the question, “To whom is my child giving his or heart?” While you cannot decide for your child to accept God’s love expressed to us through Jesus Christ, what are you doing to be a catalyst in his or her life that he or she comes to know God’s love personally? What about you, your choices, your lifestyle, and your priorities is pointing that child to an abiding relationship with his or her Creator?

If you are finding yourself painfully unable to answer this, then why not turn the direction of your life over to God right now and ask Him to help you to be the person your child needs you to be, even if he or she has reached adulthood? Take in faith God’s desire to set things straight and His will to turn things around if you will surrender yourself to Him. Allow God to set things right in your own heart and then, through your submitted will, allow Him to start making a difference in the life of someone you love.

Copyright ©Thom Mollohan

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Discover His Love

Forlorn and lost and bereft of hope,

            Embraced by fear and pulled down the slope

Of pain and fear and desperation

            And dying from our separation

From our source of life, the God of love

            Who supremely rules from above.

 

In His holiness, He judges all.

            Yet to the sinner, He sends the call

To turn aside from all pride and sin

            And through Christ’s blood he is ushered in

To His presence! Be cleansed and made new!

            Pardoned and changed completely through!

 

O come and find His forgiveness now!

            And set yourself to discover how

Great and good is Jesus’ love for you!

            How beautiful and perfectly true

Is Jesus Who died to set you free

            But lives and reigns eternally!

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

With this year’s Valentine’s Day comes another round of… what is it? Shades of something? If audiences’ responses to the last two episodes are anything to go by, this one will also likely have a wildly enthusiastic reception and viewers will once again be exposed (no pun intended) to confused and distorted messages about sex, relationships, and love. It’s too bad that folks are so eager to accommodate an easy message of pleasure that they’re willing to overlook a genuine message of love… one that these movies essentially ignore or, perhaps, are incapable of even understanding.

Some might argue that the movies somehow, in the end, redeem themselves by trying to convince us that their characters eventually come to a place where they genuinely understand love itself, the movies themselves reportedly take (as the books on which they are based allegedly also do) such a circuitous path through hazy messages of sensuality and perverted sex, that viewers will be victimized by the notion that such interactions between two people are not only normal, but are desirable. 

But that argument is a stretch anyway. I cannot help but believe that the primary engine driving the production of the movie itself is greed which, in turn, exploits lust, the engine that is driving those who will eagerly attend the movie.

All the emphasis of these movies – all the sex, all the need to control others, and all the using of others to build ourselves up – are sad counterfeits of the greater pleasures of knowing God and experiencing His love and power in our lives. They threaten to ruin the God-given point of sex in the first place: the joyful consummation of the uniting of the lives of a husband and wife in a covenantal relationship.

It’s a sad thing when people, in whom the image of God resides, relinquish the high and beautiful purpose granted them by their Maker as they twist a gift He has given them… a gift that would ultimately deepen their love for Him and each other as it teaches them to love as He loves.

The love of the Bible is first-of-all a giving kind of love, not a taking. Just as God gives His love to those who place their faith in His Son, a husband and wife express their love for each other by giving themselves emotionally and spiritually to the other. The physical act loses all its meaning if it takes place outside the context of marriage and is a mockery of true love because sex without the commitment of the covenant of marriage is merely a taking from the other. As one uses the other for his self-centered urges, or allows herself to be used selfishly because she believes the lie that this is how one is loved, they miss the mutually edifying and sacred union that marriage represents when fleshed out as God intends it.

And aside from that, the very idea that physical pleasure is the greatest goal to pursue in this life misses the point entirely of what this life is about. God is not God to us when we capitulate to the lie that a mere physical pleasure is our greatest good. Nor can we accept the natural counterposition of this idea: that pain is our greatest evil. When we believe these lies (even subconsciously), we are unable to make sacrifices and put the needs of others before ourselves.

So watch out. Let your ideas about sex, love and marriage be shaped by the Bible, which is God’s Word. Don’t fall into the lie that God’s great aim in creating you is to deprive you of the joy of sex, but understand that He wants you, when the time is right, to enjoy it in the way it is intended to be enjoyed: in the confines of a God-centered marriage.

Jesus is the supreme example of what love is and what love does. He proves that love is not a mere emotion. It is the following through of the determined resolve to raise you up into His divine life. But just so you know, when you believe that truth and finally surrender your life to His holy sacrifice for you and His divine lordship, that love does bring forth a harvest of emotion: joy, peace, comfort, courage, affection, and hope. Indeed, when we finally surrender our passion to something as truly great as He is, we find an amazing grace sweeping us up into the wild abandonment of seeking Him, pursuing Him, discovering Him, and knowing Him. Only in Jesus are we truly freed to live and love and experience the myriad of experiences and fantastic encounters with Him awaiting us… and there are infinitely more than fifty shades!

“Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek the face of the God…. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (Psalm 24:3-6, 1 John 4:15-16 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Ya Got Yer Callin’

Ya Got Yer CallinAlec MacNeal had had a reputation for knowing the waters off the coast of his little New England village like no one else around. His father had been a fisherman, as had his father before him. Alec had grown up on the waves, and knew exactly where to drop his nets and when to do it. He had weathered every storm that had ever aimed its winds his way and had enough sense to get out of the ones that he couldn’t weather.

But now he was overcome at last by a storm which he couldn’t steer clear of, a storm that wasn’t in the blowing wind or stinging spray of the open sea, but in his own flesh as cancer irresistibly continued its advance.

He reflected a bit over his life, scenes of joy and sorrow alternately flashing across his mind. He was waiting for his son, Richard, to arrive and as his wait dragged on, his mind dwelled more and more on the weed bed of regret that his own pride and selfishness had cultivated for him.

He and Richard hadn’t been close for nearly two decades, since Richard was a very young man. Alec had always considered himself a good man, perhaps even better than a lot of churchgoers in their little coastal town. Attending church was never something he had ever faulted anyone else for doing, but given the need to be out even for days at a time on the water, he reasoned that he rarely had a Sunday free to attend church and even when he did, he usually used it as his day to catch up on other things.

But he didn’t object when Richard announced that he was going to attend a church meeting with a friend who had invited him. It was, after all, a much better track than sneaking a bottle of whiskey or smoking who knew what on some back road in the country.

But Alec was mystified by Richard’s strange attitude when he returned home and in the following days. He was quiet and reflective as if deeply pondering things. When Alec asked what it was all about, Richard quietly replied that he had become a Christian. Richard went on to explain that at church he had heard about Jesus coming to show the way to God the Father, that He had died as a sacrifice for everyone’s sin so that they could be forgiven and go to heaven. Richard shared that he had asked Christ into his life and was now going to try to live for Him.

Alec simply stared at Richard. He finally shrugged his shoulders and muttered, “More power to you.” And it neither troubled or in any other way affected him until Richard’s new found relationship with God began to affect Richard’s part in the family business.

The older fisherman had always assumed that Richard would simply continue in the family business as Alec had done. But the first clue that assumptions were dangerous things was Richard’s asking to not go out on the boats on Sunday. As far as “needing” him, Alec had plenty of employees to take care of the boats, but he still bristled a little bit when Richard made his request.

“You know, Richard, that this is a very busy time of year for us,” he said crisply. Richard nodded respectfully, but continued to look his father in the eye.

“I know it, and I’ll work all the harder the next day and the rest of the week to make up for it,” he said. “Besides, you’ve got Carl, Edward, and Mac to help you. You could do without me for one day.”

Alec sighed, and then grunted his assent. Richard was as good as his word, making up for the one missed day with extra energy and enthusiasm for the rest of the week.

“Richard is a good lad,” his father thought to himself one day, as he watched him working with the other men on the engine of the boat. He was far more a positive influence on them than they were a negative one on him. Even their language began to get tamer whenever Richard was around. Nevertheless, Alec kept a watchful eye on his son, riding him hard about his work and requiring a level of perfection and performance that he himself doubted he’d have if Richard had not become a Christian.

But one Sunday, he returned home to find Richard once again in his strangely pensive mood as if he had something to say but was afraid to say it. Alec was tired after a long day of disappointing results so, after a somber meal, he turned to Richard and said, “All right. What’s on yer mind?”

Richard looked quietly at the table and then at his father. “I believe that God is calling me into the ministry,” he answered. “I’ve gotten information about a Bible college and seminary and plan to go there at the end of the month.”

Alec’s sunburned and wind-blown forehead crinkled into a thousand lines of agitation. He spluttered a few syllables but didn’t manage to say anything. He stood up suddenly and strode to the wide window that looked out over the bay. His little fishing vessel was well into the shadows that the gable of his house cast eastwards. Two of his ship hands were still inspecting nets before they stowed them away.

Richard came and stood by his father, gazing out across the relatively calm waters. “Dad…” he started to say. His father turned a cold eye towards him.

“Ya got yer callin’,” he growled. “Just go ahead then and follow it. Just go and get out!” With that, Alec turned, yanked his jacket off its peg. “I mean it! Get out!” he barked over his shoulder and then stormed out of the house down to the boats. Richard watched for a few moments, standing as if he had been slapped in the face, and then made a phone call to a friend. He packed some bags, grabbed his Bible, and quietly slipped out the door.

When Alec returned, several hours later, he came home, slamming doors and muttering curses. He cast a quick glance into Richard’s room and shook his head. “After all I’ve done for him, too!” Alec realized that he was incredibly angry… angry at Richard, but angrier at God for stealing him away.

But now, years later, he was dying. Richard frequently came back, but Alec would never receive him and never quite forgave him. Their visits were generally prolonged exercises in strained and awkward moments. Richard had even the audacity on a couple of occasions to try to talk to Alec about a relationship with God. Each time, Alec would just hold his hand up and tell him to mind his own business.

Alec’s heart now weighed heavily with regret. “What was I so angry about?” he now wondered. “If he really did become a Christian, how could I not expect him to want for me what he says he found?” Alec mentally kicked himself now. What if Richard didn’t make it back in time? What if he never made peace with his son? What if he never made peace with God?

But the outer door opened. There were voices in the outer room where the nurse who took care of Alec had been waiting. Footsteps. And then Richard’s familiar form entered the room.

“Dad?” Richard said, his voice a welcome sound to Alec’s ears. Alec smiled and reached for his son.

“Hiya, Dickie,” he said, using Richard’s childhood nickname. “I’m glad you’re here.” There was a pause. “Would you… Could you tell me again how to become a Christian?” Richard’s heart leapt to his throat. He nodded and began to share with his father about Jesus, glad for the peace that now lay between them. Moments later, Alec MacNeal received Jesus as his Savior. Days later, Alec MacNeal went to heaven.

“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. And going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him” (Matthew 4:18-22 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Ever been hurt by someone? Ever been dealt an emotional, mental, or spiritual pain that may or may not have accompanied a physical hurt? You know the kind of hurt I’m speaking of… a soul-searing ache that shoots into your heart and mind, eliciting responses of fear, anger, and hate as well as the temptation to react with fight or flight. For those who try to run away, pain has a way of pursuing them relentlessly, like an awful hound of anguish keeping them constantly looking over their shoulder in dread. Or the pain slyly disappears from view for a time, hidden in the waters of busyness and life, only to resurface unexpectedly, laying hold of its victim with its icy fingers and tempting them to either hide from life or lash out even at those who love them.

Perhaps you’ve tried to numb yourself to such pain, burying it with pursuits of other things that promise to mask the hurt as you medicate yourself with activities, accomplishments, pleasures, drugs or faulty relationships. Maybe you reason that such vices are better than violently seeking revenge on those who have hurt you. Still, in time the pain one buries has a way of taking root and shooting forth tentacled vines of regret, suffocating you and even controlling you like some alien weed that makes you something you never dreamed you could be – even in your worst nightmares.

At first, such strategies seem to work. You have a “respite” and so you buy into the lie that ignoring what hurts you, closing your eyes to the pain and locking memories in a closet of denial, will somehow make the hurt go away. But the problem with masking painful hurts, running from painful memories, or avoiding painful situations is that the pain remains. It’s still there, all the while injecting the poisons of bitterness, fear, and despair into your spirit. You can neither live fruitfully nor fellowship fully with others as long as pain is allowed to control your choices. Nor can you enjoy God and what it means to be His child as long as your pain is unaddressed. Consequently, you cannot be all you could be because of the control that unsurrendered pain has over you.

Let’s not oversimplify things, but let’s recognize that addressing pain victoriously begins with engaging the source of the pain itself. Acknowledging the pain and its source is essential to recovering from it. As you admit and “own” your hurt and what it is or was that hurt you, you can move on to the healing act of forgiveness.

Letting it go through the grace of forgiveness has less to do with letting someone else “off the hook” then it does with letting yourself “off the hook” of keeping score of what others deserve and the weighty obligation of taking them to account for their sins against you. And as you forgive, hearkening to God’s admonishment to forgive others (Matthew 6, Mark 11, Luke 6, 2 Corinthians 2, Colossians 3, etc.), you then trust in God’s forgiveness of you (1 John 1:9) and finally begin to find the holes in your soul beginning the process of healing.

Forgiveness, as opposed to running away from your pain or taking revenge out on those who have wronged you, allows you to move on to the new things in your life that God has in store for you. You let go of the former things (even your broken dreams) and press on (Philippians 3:13) allowing these new things (and new dreams) to fill up the empty spots in which your past experiences try to keep you trapped. This applies to even your own mistakes, failings, and sin… you set right what you can but you know that all the rest is covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Walking obediently with Him (in even your attitudes as well as actions) allows His healing to become effectual in your experience. The more of God in your mind, heart, and experience, the less room for the bitter fruits of the past.

Healing takes time, by the way, and only the faithful and patient application of “waiting on the Lord” (Isaiah 40:31) allows you to experience the reality of recovery from the powerful grip of pain.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Three Christmas Poems

The human heart, entrapped in night,

In sin’s dread grasp, no hope of light.

Sovereign grace stooped down to free

Those in sin’s captivity.

 

He came upon a midnight clear,

The Son of God, to drive out fear.

Laid in a straw-filled manger low,

So life of God we could know.

 

________________________________

 

Oh, tiny town of Bethlehem,

The Prince of Peace is here.

To drive out night and give us light,

God in flesh is near.

 

Hark how the herald angel seeks

To lift our eyes from strife.

He bids us keep this Babe asleep

As light of hope and life.

 

________________________________

 

Away in the manger, sweet Jesus rests,

This given Lamb of God,

Who on Calvary will die for me

To cleanse me with His blood.

 

Moved by mercy, moved by love,

The King of Glory came

To cast out sin and enter in

And take away my shame.

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

I had thought that I would be writing this week on the matter of Thanksgiving or perhaps an admonishment to beware, this Black Friday weekend, the frenzied lures of greed and covetousness that turn relatively sane and civilized people into barbaric hordes terrorizing retail establishments (all to the liking of those same retail establishments).

However, the explosion in the news of stories of men in power who have reportedly sexually harassed and/or assaulted women, using their position and affluence to force compliance and then to buy silence, underscores the urgent need for dialog among Americans in regard to what it means to be a man and whether or not a man can be a man without also being a sexual predator.

Ultimately, sexual harassment and sexual assaults emanate primarily from what the Bible refers to as sin, a condition that is essentially intertwined with what it means to be human. From this tragic, but intrinsically human quality, flow thoughts, attitudes, actions, habits and lifestyles that erode what God intended for what was in the beginning the crown of God’s creation, humanity which alone among living things bears the image of its creator (Genesis 1:26).

Sexual sin, in all its forms, but certainly including those occasions when a man views and subsequently treats women as mere tools to expedite his own pleasure, is a deviation from God’s purpose and plan. In His plan, men treat women with dignity and honor. What some call “old fashioned”, “gentlemanly” behaviors did not come from out of nowhere nor are they merely quaint notions of how “cute couples” get along, but are born out of a biblical worldview. Holding doors open, standing in a lady’s presence and so forth were specific behaviors that expressed a man’s regard for God’s gift of woman.

So the question arises, is it “normal” for a man to sexually harass women? Is it “okay” and/or “natural” and therefore something we should all just overlook and learn to live with? I most certainly maintain that it is not. In fact, it is an insult to God for men to behave so towards women and an insult to God for us to accept it as a “necessary evil” in regard to men.

Happily, God grants provision for men to rise to a holier (and healthier) attitude towards women. First, there is the gift of His Word, the Bible, the lens of which He bids us view ourselves, our condition, and our need for His help in changing our hearts so that we are not merely at the mercy of any and every compulsion that besets us.

“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!… How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your Word” (Psalm 119:1, 9 ESV).

Secondly, there is the promise of God’s indwelling Spirit. It is, in fact, the Lord’s design for us to live life in cooperation (and in trusting obedience) to His Spirit which then empowers us to avoid the snares and promptings of flesh when our flesh is attempting to commandeer our lives.

“But I say, walk in the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:16-17 ESV).

Thirdly, we have the potential for cultivating relationships with others that would encourage a nobler and higher regard for women. There are those men in our lives who have not settled for the lie that men can be assumed to be perverts or predators and therefore strive to remain sexually pure, be maritally faithful, and respectful of women.

These men are placed in such a proximity to your life that they challenge and encourage you to live like men should, courageously and faithfully complementing the work that God does through women who also follow God’s leading for their lives.

Like Paul the Apostle, their lives say, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Philippians 3:17 ESV).

They can see the snares of adultery and sexual promiscuity. They have recognized the dangers of pornography and the travesty that it is and how it relegates women to the role of objects of pleasure and how it enslaves men to the pursuit of physical pleasure. Many men have failed at some point but have repented (and not just because they were “caught”) and now seek, with God’s help, to live out the higher calling of viewing others, including women, the way God views them, precious and empowered co-laborers in His kingdom. These men have come to the place where they have taken their sin (not just sexual sin) and placed it under the cross of Jesus Christ and found the forgiveness of God. Seek out such men. Spend time with them. Imitate them but learn, through God’s Word, to imitate Jesus, Who is the ultimate Man.

“… Let us… lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising its shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:12b-2 ESV).

If you have failed in the past, take it to the Lord and seek His forgiveness. Seek, where possible, to make right what wrong you have done. And then forsake that hellish mentality that not only turns women into “things” in your heart, but also chains you to a small-mindedness and small-heartedness that makes us look more like Satan than it does our Savior. And finally, seek to walk with God so that you find power to live above lust and pride and live out the love and kindness of Christ.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan