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I recently read an article in a popular Christian magazine intended to challenge church leaders to lead their ministries in ways that are more relevant.  I do not often read the magazine anymore because I have, in more recent years, come to the conclusion that in our pursuit of “relevance” that we collectively seem to be forsaking the mooring that faith in God’s Word must be to keep our Christianity (and its resulting ministries) true to the true nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the particular article I read, it heavily defended a popular preacher who began to question the doctrine of hell and apparently came to the ultimate conclusion that a good and loving God could in no way have meant that people actually go there.  This person wrote a book about it and has since left his megachurch. But still maintaining a following through more sensational means (e.g., promoted by an extremely popular television personality and even given his own television program), he continues to push forward (apparently) in a denial of a teaching on God’s judgement.

The article claims that this person is continuing to be “crucified” and laments what the author appears to feel is the persecution by Believers of this person simply over a difference of opinion.  The article was unclear about what constitutes “crucifying” in this former preacher’s situation and perhaps there is validity in how things are handled (if disagreement is expressed with a genuine degree of hate or something to that effect).

My concern with the article, however, grew as I read it because it seemed to me to treat as of small consequence the issue in question (specifically if there is such a thing as hell and whether or not people go to it after God’s judgement).  It troubles me greatly that the article relegated the matter of hell to the realm of things that Christians can agree to disagree on, such as the role and purpose of the gift of tongues or even the method and mode of baptism.  We may not see “eye-to-eye” on tongues and baptism perhaps because we are understanding the Scriptures from different points of view, but we maintain an over-arching agreement that the Bible is true and authoritative and so we are in unity is some essential elements of doctrine.

The problem that emanates from this former preacher’s teaching is that it simply denies Scripture itself.  Jesus, the Author and Lord of love, the One from Whom love is derived, spoke about hell, its reality and His desire for us to not go there.  Three separate Gospels record for us Jesus’ passionate plea to weigh our choice to pursue our own flesh and proud ways in the light of the eternal consequence of hell (see Matthew 5:22-30; 10:28; 18:9; Mark 9:43-47; and Luke 12:5).  The presence of these remarks from Jesus should sufficiently support our acceptance of the fact of the reality of hell.  Those who argue these passages away would do well to also read and reflect upon 2 Peter 2:4-10.

But, as has been observed, Jesus Who is not only a picture of grace but is the expression of infinite grace, extends to us the hope of the forgiveness of God and shows us the extreme lengths to which His heavenly Father has gone to grant to us the opportunity to turn from ourselves and turn to Him through faith in the One Who died for us.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV).

And in regard to Jesus, God says, “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.  For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame….  For everyone Who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:33 ESV).

Saved from what?  Eternal death.  Eternal judgment.  Eternal separation from God.  “This is the second death, the lake of fire.  And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14b-15 ESV).

If this is true, and the Bible says that it is, then it is imperative that we have not only a right understanding of its reality, but also a right understanding of what our response must be.

Lives are at stake.  More than that, eternal lives are at stake.  And we cannot reduce our Christian teaching to philosophical nonsense that does not adequately allow people to respond in faith to the only One Who can save their souls.  If standing for life-saving truth is confused for hating, then it is worth it to have our motives misunderstood.  Why?  Because in our standing for life-saving truth, God’s Holy Spirit can bring a lost soul bound up in his or her pride or worldly preoccupation into a soul-saving relationship with Himself that can only come through faith in Jesus.

Is it an uncomfortable teaching?  I would say, “No.”  It is not “uncomfortable.”  It is absolutely terrifying.  To not be in a place spiritually of having received God’s pardon for my sin would be the worst possible place that I or anyone can be and we would do well to be terrified of the judgement of God.

But then there is grace which is offered us freely through faith in Jesus.  He is the channel as well as the source.  “Jesus said, ‘I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me….  For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.  Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 14:6, 3:16-18 ESV).

Turn to Him in genuine faith.  Turn from your sin.  Turn from your self.  Allow His forgiveness to enter into you as you cling to Him in faith.  Let Him change your destiny from eternal death to one of eternal life.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Perhaps the most pernicious calamity assaulting people anywhere and everywhere in our area today is the epidemic levels of addiction. The most obvious expression of this plague is, of course, the deluge of opiates flooding our homes and families as “regular people” find themselves reeling from its merciless grip.

Billions of dollars of research both in private and in public sectors underscore the complexity of the problem indicating physiological causes and effects, psychological ones, and even sociological factors that contribute to and result from addiction.

This naturally leads us to various treatment options that approach the problem of addiction from these different vantage points. It often creates confusion for us when we see it from only one of these perspectives while others approach it from still another.

The truth is that there is legitimacy in these different philosophical approaches and we are wiser when we treat the “whole person”, aiming to get at the roots of each individual’s struggle with addiction.

The most essential quality for a person’s recovery is a “heart” that is ready for it.

However, there is one aspect I cannot underscore enough as fundamental to one’s ongoing victory over addiction and I truly believe it to be essential. In the many people that I encounter who have struggled or are struggling with addiction, it has become clear to me that the most central quality for their recovery is a “heart” that is ready for it.  In other words, it is necessary for a person to hunger within the essence of himself for real and lasting change and to recognize the spirituality of life and the purpose for which he has been created.  When that hunger is acknowledged as a real need for something that drugs cannot satisfy or fulfill, then the eyes of the heart can turn to the one thing that can.  It is what turns one from the downward spiral of selfishness towards an attitude that can look outward and upward.

Addiction is often viewed as a kind of terrible bondage, a heavy and burdensome chain that shackles a person, enslaving her with a feeling (the “high”) that relentlessly eludes its pursuer. It’s a good comparison.  It IS a chain.  And it mocks and torments its victims even while it boasts of its empty promises of pleasure and happiness… or at the very least, pretends that it can provide us escape from pain whether emotional or physical.

I have been asked, “How do we fight addiction? How can we overcome it?”  The answer, while some may think it overly simplistic, is that we lead the victims of addiction to the one pleasure that makes all other so-called pleasures pale in comparison.  We must unveil the “pleasures” of drugs for the anemic counterfeits that they are by holding them up to the “real thing”.  And what is the pleasure that transcends all others?  It is the joy of the Lord.  It is what can deliver the life that wants change.

But a person’s heart must be ready for real change and not just a temporary release from the intensity of addiction. If that were all, it is only a matter of time before the person slips back into the folds of whatever drugs they depend upon or, just as bad from an eternal point of view, would settle into another phony sense of purpose for his life, content perhaps for a time, but still ensnared with something less than God’s purpose for him.

Time and time again, I have found that when a person has come to the end of herself and finds that drugs cannot now nor ever will fill, only then is she really ready to look towards the one thing that can complete her.

When a person receives the gift of God’s cleansing forgiveness, there comes upon him a newness that begins to reframe his outlook and expectation for himself. Indeed, there is now an awakening that arises within him, as he shrugs off the shame and condemnation for which Jesus died on the cross:  “You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him (Jesus), having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-15 ESV). Because Jesus gave His life for us by dying in our place on the cross, God counted the sins of all who turn to Him for salvation as being paid for through Jesus’ sacrifice.

Then, for each person who turns to Jesus and learns that he has been made a new creation, God tells us that “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).  This knowledge is so powerful in a recovering addict’s life that comprehending it and then accepting it as true is the equivalent of dynamite when he comes up against the walls of resistance that addiction’s proud owner, Satan, throws in his way.

And finally there is the priceless gem of hope that Jesus grants us through His resurrection life, bequeathing to us (through faith in Him) the same power that brought Him back to life in His glorified form! “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV).  When a recovering addict sees himself as something new and no longer bound by an old nature that was enslaved to a temporary, fleshly passion, he can then give himself over to love, forsaking all the illusions that addiction threw up previously and pursuing the higher, heavenly reality of an eternal God Who created him for His own glory.

Nothing conquers the short-sightedness of addiction like an overwhelming sense of the pricelessness of an eternity with a holy God Who loves us in spite of ourselves and holds open for us an open door to a forever kind of victory.

My heart’s desire then is to share with anyone whose heart is open to it, the message that God loves and God saves.   Jesus is proof of that reality.  In fact, Jesus is the way to that reality.  For the addict.  And for everyone else, too.

Whether addiction has been part of your story or not, Jesus is the Way.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jesus in John 14:6 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

When I was about nine years old, I happened to run across a book by Walter Farley called The Black Stallion in my elementary school library. Up until that point I hadn’t had much of an interest in reading. But that book grabbed my attention like no other book had until that point and I found myself caught up in the adventures of the boy named Alec (around which the story centered). The book, not quite like the movie of the same name, triggered a love for reading in me that abides with me still, but also ignited a love for horses that remained with me throughout my entire childhood and still stirs a thrill in me whenever I have a rare opportunity to ride or simply be near horses.

Perhaps part of the magic that the story wrought upon me had something to do with the main character’s dramatic adventures in being lost at sea and then overcoming the odds against his survival by learning to thrive upon the meager resources that his small deserted island afforded him. But the real thrill for me was found in his awe of the magnificent Black Stallion (also stranded on the island), Alec’s passion for connecting with the mighty horse, and his victory as the great beast began to trust him and allowed him to ride upon its back.

The story may also have prepared my heart for a significant truth that all too often escapes people today as they struggle with the heavy duties of juggling a plethora of worries and temptations. What is that truth? Simply that we were created for more than mere survival here on planet earth. We were made for knowing God and riding His will for our lives just as Alec was intended to be more than a diminutive Robinson Crusoe. No, as Walter Farley’s pen scribed for us the tale of The Black Stallion, we might see that the island was in fact a necessary ingredient for the wonderful turn that the young boy’s life would take.

As I recall that story, it occurs to me that we would do well to reflect on the eternal nature of our lives. We would do even better to realize that if we remain focused just on this little “desert island” that we call life, we will miss the fact that this is our grand and glorious opportunity to establish an eternal connection with God. Just as Alec in The Black Stallion recognizes that the island is his opportunity to become more, have more, love more and to be loved more, we also must recognize that life is our opportunity to become more, have more, love more and to know love in return.

The Bible, God’s Word, tells us a much greater story than the one I found on the bookshelf of an elementary school over thirty years ago. It paints for us in vivid colors the true story of how God’s plan for the world is unfolding and how His amazing love is still triumphing, in spite of the inclination of humanity to turn its back to Him again and again.

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4 ESV).

Many people linger and wallow in the muck of worry and despair as they strive to live in their own power and so every day is a misery to them. Many others choose to abide in the delusion that they can “put off” dealing with their own eternal needs or the needs of their loved ones until a convenient occasion to face them. Some almost have the attitude that if they fill their schedules (and their minds) with preoccupations that keep thoughts of their souls’ need for salvation at bay, then somehow they’ll never have to deal with their need for God’s forgiveness and the soul-saving power of faith in Jesus Christ!

In such cases, it’s like having an awesome stallion within our reach, fully capable of carrying us on the wings of the wind, but our eyes are focused elsewhere. When we finally “get off the island” as death closes our eyes, we go without ever knowing the love and power we might have known and never have the benefit of being made ready for the eternal life that awaits us.

Let it not be so with you and me! The Bible tells us of how God so loved us that He gave His one and only Son in our place upon the cruel cross of Calvary (see John 3:16)! It tells us that we obtain the benefit of His sacrifice by placing our faith (our full confidence) in Jesus life, death and resurrection (see Romans 10:9-10)! It tells us that as we repent of our sinful waywardness and past rejection of God, if we accept His gift of eternal life through His Son, we are not only fully forgiven, but are made heirs of God and the recipients of His own divine power!

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him Who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV).

Is there a “Black Stallion” awaiting you? Certainly! Are you willing to risk leaving your “comfort zone” to climb on board God’s will for your life? Will you forsake the “luxury of worry and fear” by trusting God’s Son to save you? Are you ready to let go of control of your life so that you can “ride the wind” and feel the thrill of walking with God? I hope so. One day it will be your turn to “leave the island” and I pray that you will be ready.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Many Christians today live a life of wandering. They wander from teaching to teaching, apt to drift to what sounds most like what they want to hear about God, the world, and themselves. But they also wander from experience to experience, seeking something that will satisfy them on the one hand without requiring full surrender on the other.

Are you wandering from experience to experience, seeking something that will satisfy you… but does not require full surrender?

Christianity that is characterized by shallow and self-absorbed worship and teaching is reminiscent of the spirituality of Cain in Genesis chapter 4. Cain was a “religious” man. He worshiped, he tithed, he had what could be called a “relationship with God”. In terms of practice, he is probably as good an example in ancient times to a typical Christian in our Post-Modern one.

Of course, Cain’s “practice” was the outflow of his heart’s attitude. His “practice” can hardly be said to be more than mediocre and was therefore unfulfilling to himself and unremarkable to its intended recipient, God. It had more to do with ritual (religious habit devoid of passion) than it did with genuine worship. It had more to do with the appeasement of God (the minimum necessary to “get God off his back”) than it did with atonement (the bridging of the distance that his sinful nature created with God). His worship had only to do with obliging God (fulfilling his obligation) and nothing whatsoever with pleasing His Creator.

This lackluster façade of false spirituality pales in comparison to a life authentically given over to its Maker, that of Abel, Cain’s little brother. Abel, seems to really “get it”, in contrast to Cain, who quite clearly doesn’t “get it”. Abel’s life resonates with worship that is a melody of genuine devotion and delight in God. His heart’s desire is for more than a “touch of God” but of close and sustained communion with Him. This attitude of worship outshines Cain’s offering as brightly as does the sun outdo the faint glow of an open cell phone. Abel does not want to just fulfill his obligation, he craves to surpass it and please God with his focused and lavish worship.

When God looked on Abel’s offering, the genuine nature of it was clear because Abel gave his best and “first dibs” to God (see Genesis 4:4). Cain presumably surmised that God was not taking Cain’s offering at face value but was judging it based on what Abel was giving (as if God preferred sirloin steak to garden salad with scallions and bacon bits – or vise-versa). It’s that age-old habit of ours to assume that estimations of our worth are derived from comparisons with others. But it doesn’t work that way. Our value is not relative to others; it is absolute and the Lord’s estimation of our worth is independent of how others are behaving, what they can do, or what they may be giving. The fact is that the “what” is less important to God than the “how”. God would not overlook the fact that Cain’s worship was lukewarm at best nor does He do so now.

Some might give this passage in Genesis a shallow reading. To them it might suggest that God favors sheep ranchers to dirt farmers, but that would be as silly as saying that the Lord likes plumbers over restaurant managers (or restaurant managers over plumbers), doctors over information technologists (or the reverse), and so on. But take it from a former career counselor, Cain’s “vocation” was not the problem. His problem was his heart’s attitude.

No doubt you have heard the story of Cain and Able. Cain became jealous of Abel’s favor with God. Basically, Abel was getting something out of his “religion” that Cain was not. Cain started jealous and then became suspicious, imagining in his heart that Abel’s wonderful spiritual life was all pretense and pride. Maybe, in a typically human way of underestimating God, he even wondered if Abel was doing something down and dirty behind Cain’s back to get God to like him. Who knows? What we do know is that, as his bitterness festered and grew in his heart, he moved from being suspicious to injurious, exploding in an eruption of violence that left Abel dead. I doubt, by the way, that it was a murder of passion. My inclination is that it was calculated… although stupid – as if God wouldn’t notice or hadn’t seen what had happened. Cain did not comprehend the “ever-present” and “all-knowing” nature of God. But God saw. He knew. Just as He sees and knows today what is going on in our hearts and minds.

“Cainitic spirituality” abounds today but it still has a knack for being shortsighted. Not only that, it leaves us thoroughly unsatisfied. Sadly, instead of submitting to the grace that God gives us through His Word in challenging our attitudes as His Spirit strives to help us see the roadblocks that lie within us (e.g., anger, see verses 6-10), we imagine that the fault lies with the one who is spiritually alive and passionate: he evidently has some sort of satisfaction that we crave for ourselves, a rich and passionate experience with God, so we become seeded with jealousy. Just as in Cain’s case, it produces in time a crop of injury against our brothers through unjust criticisms, disassociations, or violence.

This is not to say that we do not engage error or attitude that grieves God’s Spirit or that leads the unsuspecting from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. On the contrary!

But churches often have a way trying to snuff out the “Abels” among them, because their desire for “more of God” and their generous spirit towards the Lord makes others feel uncomfortable with their own ho-hum religious life. Folks often despise being reminded that there may be something missing that they really do want, but to possess must be willing to give up everything.

In the end, of course, God deals with Cain’s murder of his brother by sending him away. Cain ventures out east of the garden of Eden to the land of Nod (“Nod” means wandering).

In a way, Christians today are dwelling in their own “Land of Nod”. In ancient times, Cain and his descendants built a great civilization. It grew and spread and seemed to be flourishing. But it at last came to nothing when the destruction of the great Flood swept over the earth after a lengthy process of increasing immorality, anarchy, and futility.

But another son was born to Adam and Eve, trumping the evil that Cain intended when he killed Abel. Through Seth the Abelitic spirit of worship was preserved even through the cataclysm of the Great Flood of Noah’s day. It was the descendants of Seth who shone in a spiritually dark society (the civilization of Cain’s lineage) by “calling on the name of the Lord” (see verse 26), proclaiming Him even though those around them had descended into wickedness and perversion.

What kind of Christian do you want to be? A “Cainitic Christian” or an “Abelitic Christian”? One who is lukewarm and does only what is minimally necessary or one who lavishes upon God the best he has to offer? One who contents himself with the meager fruit of a nominal Christian life or one who hungers for more of God in this life?

In a world full of “Cains”, God is looking for more “Abels”. It is time to leave the Land of Nod and embark upon the greatest adventure of all. Open your heart to God, give Him your life, and let Him make Himself known to you as you follow His Son… in Spirit and in truth (see John 4:23-24).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

*This story is adapted from John 8:1-11.

 

The bruises on Rahab’s arms ached as rough hands dragged her mercilessly through the dusty streets. But more stinging than the fingers that clamped like claws were reproachful stares of those whom she passed as she was forced along. Jeers and insults were thrown at her like barbed javelins dipped in the poison of hate. “Adulteress!” some shouted. “Harlot!” cried others.

She kept her eyes down, partly so that she could focus on not stumbling as she was driven along, planting one cut and bleeding foot in front of the other. But partly she did so to avoid the mocking look in scores of cruel eyes. Occasionally she could not keep from allowing her eyes to furtively look up, searching and pleading for some shred of compassion or mercy. But there was none. Even the one whose arms from which she had been ripped now mocked her and betrayed her with cruelty as he followed along with the others.

Fear gripped her more tightly than the men who half dragged and half shoved her along and a weight of despair hung like a millstone from her heart. They took her to the temple courts where a great crowd had already assembled. A man was waiting just inside the gate, long, flowing robes dragging the dust at his feet. “You have her, I see,” he said in a low voice to one of the men. “Good! Now let’s take this sacrificial lamb and see if this ‘Teacher’ steps into our little trap.” As he laughed a cold laugh, his prayer tassels seemed to quiver in agreement.

“But what if He doesn’t, Abihu?” asked the lover who had betrayed her. “What if He upholds the traditions and says we must stone her?”

no stones came 2

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”
Psalm 32:1-2 ESV

The other man sniffed scornfully. “If He does, He does. Why do you care, Achan? You’ve been paid well.” He looked at the woman and sneered. “Besides, she’s just an adulteress. She deserves to die.” He started to turn towards the crowd. “But I don’t think you need to worry about losing your plaything. This Jesus isn’t bound by the traditions our elders passed on to us. He’s spoken all along of the Holy One’s forgiveness and I’ve no doubt that He’ll place His foot right into the snare we’ve laid out for Him… right in front of all these witnesses. And then His blood will be ours!” With that he strode towards the crowd, people parting right and left for him as he purposefully marched to the Man Who had been sitting in the center teaching.

 

Abihu stood in front of Him, a mocking smile on his lips. He nodded his head and Rahab was dragged to his side.

“Teacher,” he said the word with obvious disdain. “This woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.” He eyed the gawking people in the throngs around them many of them holding heavy stones in their hands. Oh, this was too fun! Too easy! He was about to tear down the idealism of this… this Messiah and discredit Him. News of His discomfiture would quickly erode His reputation and maybe even stop the madness of the multitudes flocking to His call. “Now what do you say?” he said with pretend reverence (see John 8:4-5).

Jesus looked at Abihu for a moment, His gaze penetrating into his soul. Abihu suddenly felt unsure of himself and took a step backward as if he feared a blow. But Jesus looked away towards the woman standing beside him, her head down, hair spilling messily around her shoulders and her hands clenching and unclenching feebly.

Then Jesus knelt to the ground and began to scratch letters into the dust of the ground. What was He writing? Abihu waited, his anger and impatience growing, like a floodwater rising inside him. He turned his head, trying to look as if he weren’t interested, and finally could make out the words.

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2 ESV).

Abihu felt the sting of those words almost as fiercely as if he had been flailed. “Who does He think He is?” he thought.

“Well-l-l-l?” he finally retorted, ignoring the writing in the dust. Others began to murmur. “Yes,” said one especially loud. “What do you say?” Soon at least a dozen voices began to prod him with variations of the same question.

Jesus stood up and the murmuring was silenced as His deep eyes looked at them. “If any one of you is without sin,” He said, “let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (from John 8:7). He then bent down again and resumed writing in the dust. Rahab gasped and clenched her eyes tightly, her heart pounding in her chest.

But no stones came. She heard a dull thud and dared to look up. An old man had dropped a stone and was quietly slipping away. There was another thud as another stone hit the ground. Another accuser was gone. One by one the stones fell from their fingers and one by one they each left silently until only Achan and Ahiju were left. Achan glanced at Rahab’s face, but then he too dropped his stone and disappeared. Ahiju stood alone, bristling powerlessly. The venomous hate in his eyes was met by the strong and graceful gaze of Jesus Who now looked up at him. Ahiju turned on his heel and stormed out of the temple area.

Rahab stood alone before the Lord. She looked at what He had written. “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing Your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever!” (Psalm 30:11-12 ESV).

Jesus stood up and faced the woman. As she stood before Him, she was tortuously aware of all of her past guilt. Her shame clung to her like rags and she could not make herself look into His face. What would He now say to her, this Judge who had judged her judges?

“Woman, where are they?” He asked as if in answer to her thoughts. “Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, Sir,” she quietly replied.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” He declared, a righteous warmth glowing from His face. “Go now and leave your life of sin” (from John 8:10-11). He looked at her knowingly for a moment as she stood blinking in her astonishment. He then turned and quietly walked away.

Rahab also turned and made her way back home, nearly stupefied over what had just happened. She had met something in Jesus she had never known before… something called grace. It was like she had been in a vast bog into which she had willfully wandered, the stench of which was overpowering. Instead of being allowed to just sink into its mire, to be lost forever, a strong hand had pulled her up and out and set her feet on a good path lined with fragrant flowers. This path, she knew, led not to disappointment but to complete joy and peace because it led to God Himself. She realized that she had been given a new life.

There was no doubt in her mind or in her heart: Jesus had truly been sent by God to pull people out of the mire of their sin. He Himself had chosen to not accuse her but to give her another opportunity to know God and be given a second chance. She smiled as she entered her house. She looked around and nodded to herself. Now that He was Master of her life, there were going to be some changes made! And in the knowledge that she had been forgiven, she began to clean her house.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

With events in the world flipping by our eyes like pages of a book being turned by the wind, it is perfectly natural to ponder our generation’s place in the cosmic chronology of things. Not only that, but it seems also that questions are constantly arising as to the timing of Jesus’ return as King and Judge as well as other mysteries of what we like to call “the end time.”

Although my opinion is that we are far closer to such things than we generally like to think, I am reminded of an occasion in which one of those questions arose in the Bible.

“…When they had come together, they asked Him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6 ESV).

Consider it. Things had been skipping along pretty quickly, from the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry to His crucifixion and then His resurrection. It seems perfectly natural for Jesus’ disciples to wonder about “tying up all the loose ends” (as far as they were concerned).

But I note Jesus’ response to His disciples. It certainly wasn’t the kind of answer they were looking for. It wasn’t a “yes” or “no” but neither was it a rebuke for their having brought up the subject. He knew only too well the reasons for their asking it. Nevertheless, He established a mindset for them that would free them to hear next… something that they really did need to know.

“He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8 ESV).

So the answer was in essence, “Maybe. Maybe not.” But whether He was imminently overhauling the rule of the world or delaying it for as long as they could reckon, all they needed to know was that He is in charge, that such appointed times were in God’s keeping, and that they need not worry about it. Instead, they could simply focus on the task at hand, which was to carry their eyewitness accounts of what Jesus had done and Who Jesus is to every corner of the world that their lives would carry them.

This passage in Acts 1:8 is a little different than the one in Matthew 28:19-20 which says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This passage is what we call “the Great Commission”. It is a charge to His children to deliberately and intentionally lead people to place their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and to obey His teaching as Lord and Master. The passage is Acts 1:8 is not a charge, but an observation made by One Who sees what is to come with perfect clarity. It is a “prediction”, or rather, a “prophecy” regarding those disciples who physically heard those words from the Savior’s mouth as well as those who come in later generations who “hear” those words through the reading of His word.

In other words, you and I are a part of a generation raised up for such a time as this that we may be witnesses both of what Jesus has done in our lives and also of Who He is as both Lord and Savior, to every corner of the world that our lives will carry us.

This is an age in which there has been much said of “global thinking” and generally we tend to think that it is a recent concept. But God’s people, when awake and alert to His Spirit’s leading, have always been “global” in their thinking. Are you being a “witness” of Jesus’ love in your own “Jerusalem and Judea?” In other words, is your life a testimony to God’s presence, love, and lordship everywhere you are most at home? In your family? In your friendships? In your church?

And are you being a “witness” in your “Samaria?” At work? At school? In your civic organizations? All those places you frequently conduct the ongoing business of life?

If you feel that the answer is “yes” to the above, what about taking it further? Would you like to see just where God might lead you and what He might do through you if you’ll give Him the chance to do it? There is a whole world out there still in desperate need of the hope that Jesus Christ offers. If He has really made a difference in yours, whose life could He make a difference in through yours? If He really is your Savior and Lord, to whom could you be a witness that their destiny also might be changed from one of death to that of life?

Don’t be afraid that you’re being too forward by believing that God could use you to do such a thing. You’re already set forward. Remember that He says, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 ESV).

And don’t be afraid of not knowing enough or of being ineffectual. God has not called you to run in either your own strength or your own wisdom. Instead, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses… to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

If you’re a Christian, then look for opportunities to grow and serve in a local Christian church. Be hungry for more of God in your life. Be thirsty for His Word. Be eager for His Spirit to open doors for you to share and to make a difference in every relationship you have.

If you are not a Christian, then consider the price of not coming to Christ. Consider the heartbreaking loss of losing forever the opportunity to know the joy of knowing God should your life end without having made peace with Him. But also consider the diminished joy of a life that continually puts on hold God’s invitation to salvation even if you think that “one day” you’ll get right with God. Don’t let the future that could be yours become a collection of sad “might-have-beens” by putting off receiving His gift of salvation now. Simply confess your need for Him and that He died because of your sin. Accept in faith that God will grant you His gift of forgiveness and grace. And then, if you have really done that, begin to let Him live His life through you in the company of other, forgiven Believers. And then just watch where God will take you and see how God will bless you!

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

A man who was both very successful and widely admired was approached by his young daughter, Allison, during a brief (and all too rare) moment between his vigorous business trips. She climbed into his lap and hugged him with the earnestness that only a small and adoring child can effortlessly muster.

“Daddy,” she began, her large brown eyes searching her father’s face. “You travel so much, I’m afraid you won’t come home one day. If something happened… to you I mean, would you go to heaven?”

For a moment he hesitated. Caught off guard like that, he was suddenly aware that he didn’t really know the answer to that question. “Well sure, honey. I’d go to heaven,” he finally replied, trying to be reassuring, but inwardly feeling a twinge of guilt as if he were lying. He knew he wasn’t a bad person as people go, but he also knew that there were places in his heart with corresponding moments in his past that had left a stain that he wasn’t sure God could overlook if that moment were to arrive. “Yes, I’d go to heaven,” he said again.

“That’s a relief, Daddy,” Allision chirped. She hugged him, climbed down and ran away to play. Her father stood up and quietly began packing for his next trip, profoundly disturbed.

That night, in his hotel room, he found a Bible. He opened it and began reading, his eyes finally running across Jesus’ parable in Luke 12 about a rich man who had big plans. When he read verse 12, his heart skipped a beat. “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’”

He lay in his bed that night finding it difficult to sleep. Eventually, drowsiness overtook him and his eyes closed in slumber. Then he began to dream.

He dreamed that he was traveling along a highway with many lanes of traffic all moving in the same direction. At first the sky seemed clear but the farther he traveled the darker and gloomier it became. He looked to the right of the highway and occasionally saw exit signs which seemed to indicate a safer road to travel to a surer destination. Every so often he could see people taking such an exit to that surer road.

At first, he laughed at them and thought them foolish for missing out on all the opportunities that the fast-paced and well-traveled road offered. He glanced around him and felt reassured that he was not alone but was surrounded by countless others all traveling as he was. He noticed that those around him were accelerating and so he too began to speed up as he strived to keep up with the others. But distant voices seemed to call to him, appealing to him to leave the road he was on and to take the exit to the safe road. He ignored them, but noticed that the exits were becoming fewer and instinctively felt that the other drivers about him were determined that he remain in their midst.

His car sped up more and was then forced to the lane farthest from the exit ramps. Many of the drivers around him who had told him that he was wise in choosing the broad, well-traveled way now laughed openly at him, while a few others seemed to be as trapped and as frightened as he felt.

He noticed that the voices from the other road seemed either to be growing fainter or were being drowned out by the roar of cars charging along on the broad way. His eyes caught sight of another exit ramp and he realized that he could just make it if he would only turn. A pair of hands floated above him ready to take control and guide him to safety if he would simply release control to them. But he hesitated. After all, most of the other drivers were still traveling the broad path apparently without worry and he didn’t wish to look foolish to them. And he wasn’t sure that he was quite ready to give up control of his direction to anyone. He passed the exit sign.

Suddenly the road ended. He was alone and surrounded by nothing at all except gloom and an eerie silence broken only by the faint echo of mocking laughter from a shadow that had hidden in his back seat all along, urging him along this path to destruction and away from the safety that the guiding hands would have granted him had he only yielded.

He wanted to blame the shadow for encouraging him along the path that he had chosen. He wanted to blame the other drivers for trapping him in the lane away from the exits. He wanted to blame those who had taken the safer road for not warning him soon enough or loud enough. He wanted to blame the hands above him for not grabbing control and taking him to safety.

He wanted to and even tried to. But he knew down deep inside that he was the one to blame. He was the one who had made the choice to remain on the wide and easy way. The darkness intensified until it was an inky blackness. It surrounded him and began to smother him in painful tentacles of regret and grief. He realized that he was alone, utterly and inescapably alone and would always be so forever after. He cried out in despair.

He awoke screaming. His eyes opened and he sat straight up in bed. He looked at the alarm clock. One thought flashed through his mind. “I can still get off that road,” he thought. He remembered the cross of Jesus Christ and realized that he had found the exit ramp. He yanked the covers off himself, knelt down beside the bed and began to pray. “I don’t really know how to pray,” he said aloud, clenching his eyes shut. “But I know that You can hear me. I’ve avoided You all my life, trying to do what I thought best on my terms. I thought I could put You off or that maybe somehow I could measure up on my own merits. I know now that I was wrong, that I was rejecting You and what You did for me as You died on the cross. Please forgive me and be Lord of my life now.”

He stopped and took a deep breath. He opened his eyes and glanced up at the bed side table on which he had placed the Bible the night before. He picked it up and opened it to a verse that he had read earlier.

“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 ESV). He glanced at the alarm clock. It glowed 7:15 in bright red numbers. He smiled and picked up the phone and dialed his home.

“Good morning, honey,” he said when his wife answered. “Yes, I know it’s a bit early but I wanted to let you know that I just switched roads.” He chuckled at the sounds of confusion on the other end of the phone. “No, I’m in my hotel room. I just mean that I’ve given my life to Jesus…. Yes, I’m serious. Thank you for being patient with me… and for your prayers. Will you tell Allison when she wakes up? Tell her that I know for sure that one day I’ll definitely be going to heaven.”

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan