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So Why Worry?

Every so often, I will have a conversation with someone who is especially frustrated with financial struggles and is not afraid to say so. It is not hard to find such frustrations especially aggravated by the various realities we face concerning economics, healthcare, drug abuse and addiction, international tensions, terrorism, and natural disasters.  With such apparent uncertainties upon us, one might be tempted to feel worried when financial difficulties come and upset about how one will make ends meet. In all likelihood, you yourself have been affected directly or indirectly by the many upheavals going on in our world and have even found yourself having to tighten your belt or make hard financial decisions at times.

Seek first to be an earthly agent of God’s will on earth while you strive to personify His holy character… and watch Him open opportunities and make good on His provisions for you and your family.

But consider for a moment if worry is an appropriate “go-to” attitude for when times are economically challenging.  If it is, ask yourself the question, “Is worry how I respond to money troubles?”

If now is one of those times when you feel trouble about money and are tempted to fear how things will fall into place, please know that God sees what’s going on. He knows how difficult things are right now for you and even sees down the road all that awaits you in regard to financial recovery, stability and even a sense of sanity. He already knows about future challenges, difficulties, accomplishments, and victories.

Yes, He knows – and cares – about you and about how all these things affect your family. If fact, consider yourself invited to sit down with the Scriptures and listen to God’s thoughts on the matter, so that you will find comfort when so many others might only find worry and fear.

For example, Jesus, God’s Son, said, “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’….  Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31, 32b-33 ESV).

In essence, God both knows and cares about your needs. After all, how could He not? He is not only your Creator, but is also your heavenly Father from the moment you first personally receive His Son, Jesus, as your Savior. And while I’ll admit that you’re one of many, many children of God, you are still known to Him by name for His knowledge and memory and love are greater than all the oceans combined and are as limited in height and breadth as the sky above with all its teeming starry hosts. You are known and prized as a precious child of the everlasting God. So why worry? Simply seek first to be an earthly agent of God’s will on earth while you strive to personify His holy character, and watch Him open opportunities and make good on His provisions for you and your family.

If things seem tight for you and your fiscal future is in doubt, remember that He cares for His own. Not only that, but take pleasure in knowing that you are indeed so beloved as His own, that He moves in your life to remind you that there is more to life than getting (and keeping) stuff! “…One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions…. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:15b, 32-34 ESV).

If you have found yourself living in what seems to be a financially precarious place, don’t lose yourself to the pursuit of trying to upgrade your lifestyle. But instead thank God for allowing you be in a spot in which you can both truly depend on Him and focus on accruing the “heavenly riches” of introducing the lost to Jesus Christ, encouraging discouraged Christian brothers and sisters in their walk as fellow pilgrims, and focusing yourself upon a genuine and passionate God Who undertook the cross of Calvary for you.

And if you have found yourself in a genuine spot of suffering, having been brought to a place where real pain and loss has not only entered your life but has apparently come to stay, think of Job. Here was a man faithful and true as a follower of God, but singled out for suffering and sorrow. Though devoted to God and faithful in all areas of his life, God permitted him to lose everything (wealth, family, health, and reputation) in order to bring Job to an incredible encounter with Himself! Sometimes God strips good things from us in order to make room for better things.

So… if you’re worried about money, take heart. If you’re fretting over the future, take courage. If you’re God’s child through faith in His Son Jesus, take Him at His word: you’re important to the Lord, He has assigned purpose and value to your life, and He takes seriously your needs and the needs of your family.

“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.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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A Passion for Something

Years ago, my youngest brother and I were having a discussion about the various twists and turns that the Lord has led us through in our spiritual walks when he mentioned that he had been asked what his “spiritual passion is”. We chuckled a bit at that because we have both discovered that, in some ways, the expression has become somewhat cliché. Ask a cliché question and most folks learn how to throw back a cliché answer. And if not a cliché answer, then perhaps a mechanical one.

My wife, in a car ride home one evening shortly after, turned to me with a twinkle in her eye. “And what is your spiritual passion?”

“Oh, you overheard our conversation, did you?” I said, laughing. She nodded. “Well, my passion is for God to be glorified.” She waited expectantly. “But what does that mean?” she seemed to be saying. I thought a moment and then continued.

“My passion,” I continued, “is for people to fall so head-over-heals in love with God, that they’re passionate about Him in every aspect of their lives.” And it’s true: I deeply long to see people take the Lord Jesus with them to work, to school, and to play instead of leaving Him at home… or worse, at church on Sunday morning (if they’ve even bothered going). I want to see folks say to the social pressures crowding into their lives, “I’m sorry. I have a very important date with God that I can’t break.”

I want to see people participate in the life of the God’s church NOT because it’s just a cool place to be, or because it’s their duty, or even because they’re hoping to get good moral training in for their kids (although all those things are true). I truly wish that people crave the presence of God so earnestly in their lives that they make meditation in His Word (the Bible) and intense prayer daily parts of each day of their lives.

My passion is to see people involved in God’s kingdom just because they love God. A radical transformation took place in my life when I was about twenty years old. I had called Jesus my Savior and said that He was my Lord, but I had never really surrendered ALL of my life to Him. At least not until I became friends with a college football player named Darrell. Darrell wasn’t a Christian when I met him. He was a nice guy – big, burly, and a lot of street smarts, but still a nice guy. And then one day, he came into the room in which I was working on a project and started talking to some mutual friends about something incredible that had happened to him. He had realized that Jesus had died for him and that He was wanting to be Lord and Master of Darrell’s life. Darrell shared that he had given his heart to God and that everything inside of him had changed.

He got rid of a gold cap on his front tooth (something he had done to make a point with the street gang he had once hung with in Miami, Florida). He got involved in Bible study and then a church. He even became a mentor in a program designed to encourage low-income kids and model for them healthy lifestyle choices. As I watched the changes taking place in him, I recalled a Bible verse that he quoted, Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you” (or “all your needs will be met”).

I remember now, even as he shared then what God was doing in his life, a perfectly clear sense of God’s Holy Spirit speaking to me. “What about you? What are you doing with the investment of my love in your life? Are you going to continue to live your life as you see fit? Or will you truly let Me take charge?”

Of course, there is only one answer to that question. When I consider how miserably lost I would be without Jesus as Lord and Savior of my life, there is no other choice before me. When I think of how I would squander my time here on earth if I were to do with it as I saw fit, I know that there is only One Who can and should hold the reins of my life. As God graciously opened my heart to His loving lordship in those days, He also opened doors of opportunity to get connected with people through whom He’d prepare me for serving Him. Even the wonderful lady who is now my wife is a perfect example of someone I met shortly after that experience with Darrell and who became a major player in helping to shape my future life and work, not to mention that it was during this time of my life that I lived for awhile with my grandparents, both passionately walking with God in the details of life.

And since those days, recalling again and again the lesson that God shared with me in that life-changing experience, I want as much or more than I did then to see God glorified in the lives of His people as they fully surrender their lives to Him.

So if ever my heart desired something and if there is something about which I feel truly passionate, it is that an incredible transformation will take hold of all the Believers in all the churches in our community. How I long for all God’s people to wholeheartedly serve Him. Just think! When He begins to really get a hold of our hearts, our lives begin to radically impact the lives of others and we begin to change the world!

“Thanks be to God, Who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Seek…

There is something dreadfully wrong with our Christianity when it is hardly more than a program affiliation. In a day when Kroger Plus™ cards and Speedway’s Speedy Rewards™ (for example) loosely tie us in to various brand name or corporate loyalties, I should not wonder that churches might also be on the verge of issuing such membership cards with “perks” or “rewards” each time a “member” condescends to make an appearance at a worship service.

I will concede that this is exactly what society demands of religion in general. It requires and promotes a nice, quiet civil religion that picks up the slack of helping to clean up the mess that society makes, as well as placating its participants with an overall sense of well-being. But it only tolerates even these contributions as long as religion essentially stays out of the way of culture’s pandemonious pursuit of temporal priorities. Yes, I like alliteration (No, I love it actually).

Anyway, inasmuch as Christians buy into such ideology (or at the very least tolerate it), powerlessness and fruitlessness continually plague the Church (overall and individually). It should not surprise us then to encounter emerging adults who get “fed up” with the games that their elders have played with religion. Seeing that “membership” and participation in church do little to actually influence practical living, many conclude that religion is not satisfying and, worse yet, that God cannot satisfy. They then “bail out”, determining to invest their devotion, energies, and time on things that promise to be more rewarding.

Only there isn’t anything more rewarding or fulfilling. At least not in any real sense. Not in any way that proves to sufficiently anchor the soul when calamity strikes (such as the cataclysmic hurricanes that have affected our country), when health fails (as in cancer or Alzheimer’s afflict us or our loved ones), when our economic means are taken away (when we are laid off), when loved ones abandon, reject or abuse us (which is all too frequent), or when our eyes dim as death comes and we slip – ready or not – into eternity.

For religion to truly “work” for those who profess to belong to it, we must meet God. For us to “meet God” – in the here and now – we must seek Him. For our search to be successful, we must come to God on His terms and nothing less.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you. You will seek Me and find Me. When you seek Me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the LORD…” (Jeremiah 29:11-14a ESV, emphases mine).

Therefore, membership in a church, although appropriate, is not enough. Attendance and participation in church (and presumably Biblically sound) events, although essential, is not enough. Going through the motions of spiritual activity is not enough. Giving all that we have and doing all that we can to appease or impress God is not enough (and please don’t insult Him by trying).

We must simply come to Him as we are, or better yet, as little children, sick of playing games of pretense that we’ve learned as adults. We must hunger and thirst for more than mediocrity and truly seek Him. We must be willing to lose all that we have and all that we are in order to possess the “one thing” without which we are utterly lost.

If you have read much of the New Testament, you may have noticed that Jesus had a way of losing followers (see the Gospel of John chapter six, verse sixty-six as an example). Our Lord had a way of thinning out the crowd, so to speak, so that those who wanted “things”, might not get in the way of those who wanted God.

“Then Jesus told His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?” (Matthew 16:24-26 ESV).

So what will it be for you? Will you be a mere member of a church or a true follower of Jesus? Will you seek Him when you have the time or seek Him with all your heart? What will your children see in you? What will they say of you? Most importantly, what does God see in you? What will He say to you when you finally stand before Him when this life is over?

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Behind These Walls

There is something about the love of God expressed in the conduct and character of Jesus Christ that makes all other pursuits silly and superfluous – at least as ends in of themselves. Just think of it.  We spend our time, our energy, and our resources in order to have a merely momentary pleasure, a fleeting sense of importance, a fading façade of purpose, or an all-too-brief taste of love.  Even at their best, our past-times, pursuits, and priorities are all-for-naught if we do not live under the banner of God’s love in Jesus.  Without Him, such things are “Vanity of vanities!” (Ecclesiastes 1:2 ESV).

Not only that, but in our frustration of gleaning only crumbs of comfort from dubious flirtations with such things, we flail about and end up settling for things that can only give us the illusion that we have found what we have been looking for.

Finally, too tired to keep up the search, we entrench ourselves in rationalizations and put up walls of suspicion and defensiveness, housing within ourselves a shrine to whatever it is we have decided to place our faith in: self, relationships, sex, drugs, work, money, power, fame, possessions, food, exercise, politics (or politicians), social causes or even escapism.

Behind these wallsWhat a sad lot we are behind those walls that we have put up. Tired of fighting off the wolves that would prey upon any of us who are unwary and foolish, we increasingly turn inward and fail to hearken to the voice of the One for Whom we have truly been searching, the One Who alone can bring healing, wholeness, cleansing, truth and beauty.  Indeed, even when we hear His voice, we eye Him with suspicion for we do not recognize Him.  In a world of liars, cheats, thieves and murderers, who can dare to open our hearts to Him?

Yet, when once we hear His voice, and find that this Righteous Judge has scaled the walls of our jadedness, we perhaps see His mercy… a mercy so great that it bears within itself the beautiful scars… ugly for they are the evidence of our sinfulness, but beautiful, too, for they are the evidence of His gracious forgiveness.

If we could then dare to lift our eyes to meet His, we would see there a fierce fire that would have consumed us in flames of holiness if it had not already been satisfied by the perfection of the righteousness of the Son Who died in our stead on the cross of Calvary. But we would also see a timeless look of love that would be like our falling into a well filled to overflowing with mercy, patience, kindness and goodness.  Looking into the eyes of Jesus, we would, I’ve no doubt, gladly lose ourselves to Him so that He could fully make us to be all that we ever hoped and dreamed to be, washed clean of failure, evil, and fear.

As He casts aside every stone of pretension we ever set up against Him, He steps fully into those places of our hearts and lives we feared most to let Him enter. And as He does so, we find that we have finally been made free and fully alive.  No more do we run from His presence or hide from His face.  No more do we seek to put up barriers to keep Him out for we have found our truest Friend.  We clasp the hands that have been holding us all along and we gladly lead Him to each corner of our lives, seeking His light to illuminate the shadows that would still haunt us and hold us at bay from the future He holds for us.

He is faithful to love us with infinite patience, doing us the kindness of bringing our rebel and sinful hearts from a posture of death into a place of life and victory. Only Jesus can do this.  Only Jesus can be this.

Whatever “good thing” you live for, it is not all it could be or should be unless you find first your fulfillment in Jesus Christ. He is the starting point for every life worth living and He is the end point for all of us – whether or not we care to admit it.

“Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own” (Philippians 3:7-12 ESV).

Because He is good and gracious, we are given the immeasurable opportunity to fully lay hold of what it means for Him to have laid hold of us. Let down your walls, friend.  Let them down and go forward into His purpose for you, a purpose which is secured by the atoning work of Jesus’ death on the cross and the astounding wonder of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  Do so and find that there is a world of wonder and delight before you and God’s mighty hand to uphold you.

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Jason and the Ant

Jason sat behind the wheel of his black GMC Sierra feeling a sense of disbelief as he monitored the progress of an ant clinging desperately to his windshield. The small insect was being buffeted by the air passing over the window as the large pickup traveled at 45 miles per hour down the straight stretch of country road, yet it had not yet been blown away. The ant had probably fallen off a branch of the crabapple tree that had stretched over the vehicle at the building site he had just visited.

While the ant’s determination to hold on was amazing, Jason was more interested and even perplexed by the fact that its plight had triggered a wave of compassion within himself. It was just an ant, after all, right?

When he had first seen it, his initial reaction was to turn on the wiper blades and knock it off. But he unexpectedly felt sorry for it and thought that the wind would knock it off anyway. But it didn’t. The little ant somehow managed to hang on. When Jason reached a straight stretch where he would normally speed up to fifty or so, he held back surprisingly reluctant to see it go. He had once read about ants, their colonies and habits, and remembered that if an ant somehow wandered or was placed in another colony’s territory, the offending ant would be quickly and ruthlessly dispatched by “guards” of the rival ant colony. So even if he didn’t smash it with the windshield, the little ant was doomed anyway should it blow away and land intact anywhere but its own home.Ant

Jason couldn’t believe he was feeling this way… about an insect. But a still, small voice seemed to speak in his mind, “But what about Randy?”

Randy… an hourly employee that worked for Jason on a lot of his new buildings. Jason rarely got to know his employees very well. In fact, Randy had been with his construction firm for months, yet Jason knew almost nothing about him, except where he lived… sort of. He knew he lived in a run-down house outside of town but either had never seen his house, or had not realized it was Randy’s at the time.

Actually, Jason knew that his employees generally viewed him as something of a snob and maybe even a jerk, but it didn’t bother him much. It was his company after all, and he said what he wanted the way he wanted, not much caring about the pressure he put on his workers or their families’ lives. Jason suddenly realized that he viewed his employees more-or-less as disinterestedly as he normally viewed the insects on the ground.

Jason was abruptly aware of the glaring contradiction in his life. Jason professed to be a Christian. He was (usually) a faithful attender, a tither, and even served as a leader on committees in the church. Yet, there was an appalling lack of compassion and even of interest in other people… especially if those people were somehow “beneath him”.

He absentmindedly followed the road, his eyes glazing over for a moment as all these thoughts ran through his mind. He focused his vision back on the windshield and saw that the ant had finally blown off… beyond recall. And he thought about employees who had come and gone through his life, neighbors he had had, and business associates with whom he no longer had reason to remain in contact. Did he know where they stood with God? Could he say that he had ever thought about them as anything other than a means to an end for his business and himself? Had he ever really thought about their lives, their pain, or their need for the hope that he publicly professed to possess? Not really. And so many were gone, blown out of his life by the winds of change… beyond recall, never once hearing from Jason the news that God loved them enough to send His Son to die for them.

Jason suddenly pulled off to the side of the road. It was the strangest thing, and he could hardly believe it about himself, but he began to weep. There was a terrible brokenness in his heart and life… a weight of regret and shame, all because of a single ant struggling to cling to life on the face of his windshield.

“Lord,” he prayed. “I confess to You that I’ve been proud and calloused. I’ve been selfish and… stupid. If anyone has a right to look upon another as just a bug, it would be You looking at me. I mean, You are God! But You loved me and Your Son died for me.”

A car drove past but Jason ignored it. “Please forgive me for… my pride… and the fact that I didn’t share eternal life with people.” Grief flooded over him as he uttered this. The thought became almost unbearable that he had had chances to share the message of God’s love with people and opportunities to, in a sense, help spiritually save lives. He didn’t even notice that the car that had passed by, an old run down, Chevy sedan, had stopped, pulling a few yards in front of his truck.

The still, small voice seemed to speak again… “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).

There was a tapping at the window and Jason looked up. It was Randy. His weathered face, so baked by exposure to the sun, made him look far older than thirty. Jason turned away, wiped his eyes, and looked back again, rolling his window down.

“I was headin’ over to the other site and I seen you sittin’ here. Is something wrong?” Randy asked, his eyes showing that he was both puzzled and concerned by finding Jason this way.

Jason almost laughed. How do you tell someone that you were crying over an ant? “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t think so… at least not now.” He looked at Randy hard.

“Randy, why don’t we go ahead and take lunch right now. You and I can go over to Bob’s; I’ll buy,” he said. Surprise washed over Randy’s face and he paused a brief moment.

“Uh… sure!” he said. “You’re the boss.” Randy headed back to his car, got in, and pulled out.

Jason followed and smiled. “I don’t have to tell him the part about the ant, do I, Lord?” he prayed aloud. “The main thing is that I start treating him like he’s something more than a bug; he’s a man… a brother-to-be and Jesus died for him. But if You’ll open the door, God, I’ll sure tell him about Your Son.”

And he did.

“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).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

One summer, when we had planted a larger garden than we did this year, our family began to notice a strange phenomenon taking place among our tomato plants. They had grown tall, lush, and fruitful with clumps of both orange from their ripening fruits as well as yellow blossoms, like golden stars, decorating their vines. But suddenly we began to notice that leaves at the very tops were being inexplicably shaved from the plants.

If this had taken place when the plants were still young and small or if it were happening only near the bottom of the plant, we might have supposed that yard critters, such as rabbits, had managed to find ways into the cages and were enjoying the fine cuisine. But the leaves being sheared off were nearly six feet off the ground. We ruled birds out for various reasons and finally concluded that it had to be an insect of some kind.

We looked and looked, searched and searched through the tomato vines, but could not find anything suspicious. So we determined to just keep our eyes opened, waiting to catch whatever naughty little culprit was responsible. In the meantime, we continued to find every morning that a few more leaves had been clipped from our tomato plants.

CatepillarBut then one evening, we saw hanging as placidly as the leaves about it, an enormous green caterpillar. Our children, on a recommendation from their mother, consulted a book on North American wildlife (handy for these impromptu learning opportunities). They concluded that it was either a Luna Moth or a Cecropia Moth. While the caterpillar in question was far too swollen for us to be sure exactly which kind it was, we had several weeks prior discovered a beautiful Luna Moth (a kind of Giant Silk Moth) which we had scrutinized until it decided that it no longer liked being scrutinized and so flew up and over the house to unknown destinations.

We gazed for a moment admiringly at its swollen progeny, but then, in the end concluded that this caterpillar needed to make its happy home some place other than our tomato plants. We consequently removed it to a new location (far from the tomato plants) and have had no further grazing problems.

The whole little episode with the tomatoes and the caterpillar, was more than a bit reminiscent of Eric Carle’s children’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but also served as a catalyst (or should I say, “caterpillaryst?”) in my mind for thoughts regarding a spiritually rewarding life.

Keep in mind that the great goal in the Christian life is true knowledge of God. Not merely knowing “about” Him, but knowing Him – intimately and profoundly! The Scriptures assume this and present this theme repeatedly from what is called the great “Shema” (in Deuteronomy 6:4-5) to the declaration of the two “greatest commandments” by Jesus to crowds who were lost and straying, eager to hear this special message from a God Whom they perhaps believed was as far off as the unreachable stars (see Matthew 22:37-38, Mark 12:29-31, and Luke 10:27-28).

If such true knowledge of God is the theme of the Christian life (and if you’re still in doubt about this then read Jesus’ prayer in John 17, especially verses 2 and 3), we must then recognize that there are as many “caterpillars” in the gardens of our souls as there are among the gardens in which we grow our flowers and vegetables.

Little attitudes subtly nibble away at our spiritual stature, shearing from us our capacity to be nourished with the simple and yet incredible love of our Father in heaven. We most likely don’t consider such attitudes to be capable of such harm, believing them to be harmless enough, but little prejudices, resentments, envies, and worries have power to climb through the vine of fellowship that binds us to Jesus and shear from us attitudes of joy, contentment, thankfulness, and peace. And when these fruits begin to fail to materialize in our relationship with God, our growth becomes stunted. We at best are slow and meager in our harvest of glory for Him through our lives. But too often we stop growing altogether and become susceptible to various kinds of spiritual blight that will try to choke out all remnants of His love within us.

Our challenge is therefore simple. As in the case of our little garden, we learn to look for little things that slowly eat at us. Not only that, but as we prayerfully meditate in His Word, the Bible, we learn what we’re looking for.

Such “caterpillars” range from greed to lust and from pride to fear. Allowing these persistently parasitic attitudes the freedom to linger in your life, will most assuredly render you incapable of true and unfettered fellowship with God. Not only that, it also makes fellowship with other believers impossible. These “caterpillars” have a way of wandering from our own leaves onto the leaves of others. Those who become thoroughly “eaten up” become hazardous to the church. Things can become so bad that they require radical intervention such as is employed in 1 Corinthians 6 when Paul addresses this kind of issue in the church in Corinth.

“…Now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one” (1 Corinthians 5:11 ESV).

Given the stakes involved, be sure to make it your habit to sit prayerfully in the Lord’s presence (in a personal time of prayer and reading His Word), and allow God to help you remove the “caterpillars” that may be at work in your heart and mind. Let Him move them far from you so that your spiritual life might become lush and fruitful, bearing a lovely harvest of spiritual fruits in your relationship with God.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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