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Not Worth Comparing

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth. With those words we are swept from boundless darkness into the glorious illumination of the countenance of God; from the brooding silence of an empty cosmos we are made the audience of the indescribable melody of God’s voice as He spoke Creation into being.

And though deceit, destruction, and death entered His world through the very ones He lovingly created to walk with Him in bliss, the grand and eternal themes of restoration, reconciliation and redemption triumph again and again.

From Adam to Peter, from Nineveh to Jerusalem, God’s hand ever seeks to bring forgiveness and relationship with Himself through what are at times discouraging, depressing and even painful trials.

In Genesis chapters 37, 39-41, God begins to work mysteriously in the life of Joseph, one of the sons of Jacob whose father Abraham had been the recipient of a special covenant with God. Because they choose to drink the sour elixir of jealousy, Joseph’s own brothers cast him into a pit and sell him into bondage, delighting in his humiliation. Joseph could be ruined by resentment and defeated by hopelessness after such an ordeal, but God has other plans.

Though rejected, Joseph’s trust in God remains and God blesses him. He works hard and with integrity follows this new path on which his feet must trod. But suddenly he is beset with false accusations and is punished as a criminal. Joseph could be poisoned by discouragement and broken by despair after this second wave of failure in his life, but God has other plans.

Profoundly moving in the faith and character of Joseph, God takes him from the bottommost pit of his life and sets his feet on the path toward renewal. Surely you see the hand of God moving Joseph closer to where God would most use him. By allowing him to be falsely accused and imprisoned, Joseph finds himself in the company of Pharaoh’s royal prisoners. Then, as God works through Joseph to reveal Himself to the royal attendants, word is ultimately taken to the most powerful leader in the world at that time and Joseph becomes his closest advisor and chief administrator!

Although things are not the same as before trials invaded his life, Joseph is ushered into an amazing restoration! Once rejected, he is now held in very high regard indeed.

Once falsely accused and wrongly punished as a liar and philanderer, he is so thoroughly trusted now that the supreme leader of the land entrusts him with power nearly equal to his own.

Though the wounds of his past have left deep scars, Joseph has been restored beyond his or anyone’s wildest expectations.

Joseph deeply suffers at his brothers’ hands, but a day finally comes when he and his brothers are reconciled. Unbelievable that after such suffering at their hands, Joseph one day falls on their shoulders, weeping with joy over receiving again the brothers he had lost.

God grieves over the brokenness of our lives and desires that we be lifted up and restored to the high and noble life for which He created us.

God grieves over the brokenness of our lives and desires that we be lifted up and restored to the high and noble life for which He created us.

And because of his faith in God’s promises and his obedience to God’s will for his life, Joseph’s suffering becomes the means by which the “world” is redeemed from famine and God’s covenant people are preserved in order to ultimately inherit all the promises that God had made to their forefathers.

Today, God’s heart still beats with the pulse of reconciliation, restoration and redemption for His creation. And we do well to listen to words spoken by the Savior to a people who thought that God didn’t care anymore… “My Father is always at His work even until now…’” (from John 5:17).

Restoration? Yes! God grieves over the brokenness of our lives and desires that we be lifted up and restored to the high and noble life for which He created us. “My steps have held fast to Your paths; my feet have not slipped. I call on You, O God; for You will answer me; incline Your ear to me; hear my words. Wondrously show Your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge…” (Psalms 17:5-7a ESV).

Reconciliation? Yes! God desires to renew again our unfettered fellowship with Him through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Keep in mind that this reconciliation is supremely centered upon our relationship with God Himself. “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life” (Romans 5:10). But it spins off for us both a capacity and a desire to love one another as He has loved us (John 15:12).

Redeemed? Yes! Our Father hates that we have been overpowered and enslaved by sin’s soiled enticements. Even now He yearns for our release and works in human hearts to break the bonds of selfishness and self-satisfaction so that sin may no longer be our master. “…He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12b). Christ came and died and lives again that the world may have hope in spite of its brokenness and helpless condition.

Are you in the midst of a pit of discouragement or doubt? Are you haunted by humiliation and defeat? Have you been falsely accused or feel abandoned? You might be discouraged. You might even be defeated.

But God has other plans for you no matter how wildly things around the world may seem to be spinning and no matter how out of control your own life may feel. For any life that is surrendered to Him through Jesus His Son, there is reconciliation, restoration and redemption. As you allow God to unfold His plans for you, his power transforms your life and the lives of others in eternal ways.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him Who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:18-21 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

A Serious Strength

Of the struggles that beset us as Christians, the inward battle raging within our hearts and minds is the most insidious. We may very well be experiencing strife between ourselves and others, feeling oppression and animosity from those who simply don’t yet understand the higher life to which we’ve been called, and even experiencing persecution for the fact of our walking with Jesus.  But the greatest conflict that any of us face is actually fought within ourselves, the result of the clash of His newly established presence within us and the habits and attitudes of what we were before we came to know Him.

“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:14-19 ESV).

Sound familiar? The world so often rants and raves at the antics of Christians (some who are perhaps so in name only), Christians who refer to the holy standard of the Righteous God, yet so often exemplify imperfection, failure and exhibit the very things that they condemn.

Does that mean that we Christians are hypocrites as we admonish the world to repent from sin and seek God’s face? Do our failures to achieve moral perfection coupled with our crying out for a return to holiness simply demonstrate that we Christians are simply being self-righteous and like tossing around commandments just to make other folks miserable?

No, not at all. Just think for a moment on what it is that God is actually doing in you. First, He receives you as you come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ, allowing His perfect sacrifice to pay for your sin. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in home of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2 ESV).

Secondly, He marks you invisibly with His own Holy Spirit so that His claim on you is secured and your confidence in His saving grace for you is anchored adamantly in Him. “In Him you also , when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV).

When you come to faith in Jesus, you are sealed with His presence in the person of His Spirit. Take a look at yourself when you stand before Him thusly clad: you are not a weak and defeated slave to sin, with the tattered and filthy rags of all your failures, overt rebellions and the junk of a fallen heart. When you’ve really placed your faith in Him, you have been clothed with the righteousness of Jesus and the mantle of His presence has been laid upon your shoulders.

“…And [the Father] will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.  You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you…..  The Helper, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you”(John 14:16-17, 26 ESV).

The Holy Spirit is the manifestation of God at work in the world and in the hearts of God’s children. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives today, the might of God is made available to us and we may count on His strength and resolve to deliver us from the chains of our old fleshly nature with all its baggage.

As we read His Word, the Bible, we can rest assured that He will indeed “teach us all things and bring to our remembrance His will for our lives” (from John 14:17). Furthermore, as we pray, we may also count upon His help, struggle as we might to find just the right words. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He Who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27 ESV).

God does not intend for us to fight sin with only our feeble strength of will. He implores us to turn to Him and invite His “wonder-working power” into our lives.

God does not intend for us to fight sin with only our feeble strength of will. He implores us to turn to Him and invite His “wonder-working power” into our lives.

All of this is to simply say, that our Father has not intended for us to fight our war with sin on only our feeble strength of will. He invites us… no, He implores us to turn to Him and invite His “wonder-working power” in the arena of our hearts.

When we read Romans 12:1-2, we find that if we seek every day to offer our bodies as “living sacrifices” to Him, He moves through our trust and obedience and does the work of transformation of our hearts and our minds. A saturation of His presence trains our minds to think in different channels than has been our habit and allows us to “swim up the stream” of the conventional wisdom of the world. It slowly but surely has the effect of loosening our flesh’s “vice grip” on our minds and habits as He starts cutting the chains of our old nature away and sets us free to live the liberated life that Jesus has promised us.

“Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Broken Cisterns…

Broken Cisterns

How infinitely sad when we “forsake Him, the fountain of living water, and dig our cisterns for ourselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water” (from Jeremiah 2:13).

As one gazes across the landscape of American Christianity, one can easily see that we are experiencing very little of the power and grace of God at work in our lives. When one considers God’s intention that there be so much more in our experience with Him and His people, this is indeed an incalculable tragedy. It seems that we either think that the spiritual realm is merely mythical or hypothetical and that God simply doesn’t “come near” to us as He did in the Scriptures or we feel that God should only have access to a limited number of spheres in our lives, ranking little more than just another spot on the calendar or one other thing to juggle in our busy schedules.

How sad when we come to these conclusions. Cynicism with people is one thing; cynicism with God is another. When God’s people stop believing that God desires to bless them, then they themselves shut the door of His grace and enclose themselves in a tight spot without access to the provisions of joy, peace, wisdom and love that can only be found in God’s larder.

The most significant roadblock, however, to experiencing God is satisfaction with what we’ve already got. When content with ourselves and our circumstances, we are not inclined to go out and look for more of God. Like the companions of Ulysses in Homer’s Odyssey, we eat the fruits of the Lotus (namely achievement, pleasure, success, and fame) and we forget that our “home” isn’t here. Thus, we stop seeking Him. We stop desiring His presence. We settle for the intoxicating lures of a world that is simply way out of step with God.

How infinitely more sad when “we have forsaken Him, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (from Jeremiah 2:13). Imagine trudging along away from a fountain of clear, cool water, while saying to yourself, “No. I want to get my own water in my own way.” Imagine sitting beside a cistern that you have built with your own hands, hoping for rain, only to watch the sparse drops that smatter down, instantly trickle through the cracks left in the bottom of your basin. Wouldn’t that fountain of clear, cool water begin to haunt your thoughts and dreams? Wouldn’t you long for that?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” said Jesus in Matthew 5:3. Another way to say the same thing is, “happy are those who see their spiritual poverty for now the power and provision of heaven can come to them.”

We are horribly impoverished without God. We are miserably bankrupted when we seek sustenance for our souls in things other than His love. Sadly, we often just don’t get it. We feel confident in ourselves and in the security of our accomplishments and have no clue as to how precarious the position is in which we rest.

The Lord Jesus though, in addressing significant problems among His people in Laodicea, says in Revelation 3:17 and 18, “…You say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.”

If we come to our senses (see Luke 15:17) and realize the spiritual squalor in which we live, and our hearts “turn to home”, doesn’t it make sense to toss aside whatever rotten Lotus we hold in our hands, and cry out to God, “Lord, I need more of You!” and believe that this is indeed a prayer He longs to fulfill?

I often hear Jeremiah 29:11 quoted, “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.” How wonderful! But the next two verses spell out the necessary conditions for you and me to receive the benefit of His plans, “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,” (Jeremiah 29:12-13 ESV).

God is not likely to pour out the blessing of His presence upon a life that passively hopes that God “might do something.” No, He waits for us to seek Him. “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Couple in rain

Sex, within sacred parameters, is intended by God to be a joyful and pleasurable expression of the union of the lives of a husband and wife as well as a celebration of a loving Maker Who delights in His creation.

With the high-profile release of the movie version of the best-selling book Fifty Shades of Gray timed to ride in on the coat-tails of Valentine’s Day and with hordes of other such movies, books and ideas marching down upon us in the near future, it strikes me that confusion surrounding human sexuality is at an all-time high and likely to soar even higher.  Porn remains a multi-billion dollar “industry”, boundaries and morals are constantly being challenged and redefined, and controversy pervades attitudes towards sexual habits and identity.  Sadly, people even in the church either do not concern themselves with what the Bible actually does say about sexuality… or they do not care, no matter that our Creator created sex and intended it, within sacred parameters, to be a joyful and pleasurable expression of the union of the lives of a husband and wife as well as a celebration of a loving Maker Who delights in His creation.

The Bible paints sexuality with brilliant and wonderful colors, portraying it as a truly beautiful expression of love and intimacy when it is observed within the boundaries laid out for it by the Maker of our bodies, minds, and souls:  it is the sacred consummation of a unique and special covenant between one man and one woman who have joined their lives together, becoming one flesh (see Matthew 9:5-6, Mark 10:7-8, Genesis 2:22-25). “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled…” (Hebrews 13:4a ESV).

It is interesting that the nature of sex makes it somewhat unique among human interactions and activities. It is not something in which one can involve only a single facet of him or herself no matter how hard one may try to do so: when one connects sexually with another, he or she involves the whole of him or herself – more so than in any other activity.

Giving us a “for instance,” the Bible asks the question, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh’” (1 Corinthians 6:15-16 ESV). Thus, sexual union with another isn’t just a matter of gratifying natural urges. It is more than that; it is an investment of a certain amount of one’s essence as a spiritual and emotional being.

Tragically (and I definitely mean “tragically), our culture simply fails to see the spiritual dimensions of human sexuality. And muddying the water even further for minds estranged from God is the fact that participation in sexual activity outside of a loving marriage places the person in a spiritual posture before God as either one of two things. One is either a “taker”, degrading his sexual partner (no matter how consensual the act) to no more than a means of temporarily satisfying one’s lust. Or else one is submitting himself to another in ways that are outside parameters that are acceptable to God, degrading him to a position below the esteemed being of worth that God has made of him.  Fifty Shades of Grey, therefore, can only offer a very warped version of what God intends sex to be.

“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV).  When we “take” another to be used for our pleasure (and this includes those who are victimized through pornography and sex-trafficking), we not only sin against God, we also sin against those we use, and even sin against (or defile) our bodies which God has entrusted to us for holy purposes.

Thus, the person (man or woman) who goes lightly into the realm of expressing himself sexually however he likes, makes of himself something less than what God intends, whether this person engages in adultery (thereby watering down the spiritual and holy union that he has with his spouse), partakes regularly of casual sex (thus rendering his partners as mere “things” and not sacred beings created with divine purpose and value), or cohabitates with his partner (wanting the “perks” of marriage without its responsibilities and obligations).

The Scriptures are quite clear on this point: the degree to which we define and interpret sexuality however we choose is the degree to which we declare to God our rejection of His will for our lives. If we therefore justify homosexuality, pornography, or any of the other sexual immoralities mentioned above, we yank from the hands of God our lives and our world. We are saying, “Here, God, is an area in which You have no say.” And when we as individuals run from under the protective and loving limits given us by God, we run headlong into self-destruction (emotionally, physically, and spiritually). Even our culture suffers the effects of disintegration as families become unsure of what they are, fathers and mothers become confused as to their roles and responsibilities, and children become caught up in the moral tempests that rage across the societal landscape.

And if the Church is afraid to engage these issues, afraid to say “right is right and wrong is wrong” and that there are many things that are just not acceptable to a holy God, we can expect the Church also to become riddled with the same confusion that keeps a stranglehold on the world and expect that families within the Church to become just as confused as those outside in the world.

Again, sexual sin is a “sin among many sins”, but it is still sin. To play it down as anything less is to do no service to the world and does nothing to remedy an area of human life that is deplorably ill and corrupted. Worse, the travesty that our post-modern world has made of sex leaves countless millions with millstones tied around their spiritual necks, never knowing what it is that hampers them in having a fruitful and joyful relationship with God.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV).

If one has found him or herself ensnared by sexual “improprieties”, he or she may take great comfort in knowing that God can bring healing and cleansing to his or her heart. Inasmuch as you are willing to admit to God that you have left God’s ideal for your life, and place your confidence in the power of His grace, which led Jesus to the cross of Calvary, you can experience a fresh start and a new beginning.

“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).

Copyright © 2015, Thom Mollohan

Where to Turn

Having spent what seems to me a great deal of time in hospital emergency rooms, I have learned to appreciate to some extent the solemnity associated with them. The experience not being exactly a barrel of laughs, sitting with someone in an ER can easily remind one of the fragility of life.

Crisis has a way of establishing a whole new perspective for us.

Crisis has a way of establishing a whole new perspective for us.

While we can make all sorts of assumptions about life in general or develop very complex ideas about what really is important, real crisis can force refocusing: refocusing of priorities, refocusing on our place in the world, and refocusing on how we should have invested the life given to us.

And although we can develop tunnel-vision in the journey of living and neglect others or even our own eternal destiny (to our ultimate and utter ruin), crisis has the potential of establishing a whole new perspective for us.

We may at one moment be planning our next day’s agenda and in the next, after a brutal accident, be wondering if we’ll ever be able to walk again. We may on one day be thinking about getting the entertainment system we’ve always dreamed of and then after being laid off, be wondering how long we might be able to count on our unemployment checks. Or we may on one evening be thinking that our spouse is nearly the most exasperating person in the world and then find our hearts breaking the next morning when the doctor sadly says, “I’m sorry. There’s nothing more I can do.”

When Sennacherib, king of the Assyrian Empire, invades King Hezekiah’s land of Judah, Hezekiah does all he can physically do to prepare (which isn’t enough) and then calls his people together. Having them assembled before him in the city square at the city gate, the Bible says that he encouraged them with these words: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before of the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.’ And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah” (2 Chronicles 32:7-8 ESV).

Read just a little further in that chapter to see how God delivers Hezekiah and the people of Judah, though Sennacherib taunts Hezekiah and blasphemes God. Verse 22 contradicts any grand claims Hezekiah’s army officers might have been tempted to make by saying simply, “So the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of his enemies, and He for them on every side.”

In a national emergency, Hezekiah did the very best thing he could have done. He turned to God. As a good king, he did all he could to prepare, but, in the end, he knew and proclaimed that there was only One Who had the power to deliver his people. Here’s a lesson we as Americans should continually take to heart, immersed as we are in the raging storm of moral chaos and confusion.

Lest we think that such principles do not apply to our own lives, consider another defining moment in Hezekiah’s life: personal illness to the point of death. In 2 Kings chapter 20, the Scriptures describe a malady that very nearly takes Hezekiah’s life. While 2 Chronicles 32:24-26 describes the illness as a chastening of God on Hezekiah’s pride and lack of responsiveness (it’s funny how unresponsive we can be to God’s mercy), 2 Kings elaborates on how Hezekiah finally does respond to this new and very personal crisis in his life: turning to God in humility and faith. God hears his cries and sees his tears (very real evidence of very real faith) and honors his request.

While we cannot say that God will answer our prayers the ways that we always ask or demand, if we will trust Him with our lives, He can turn evil around for good, pain into solace, and sorrow to joy.

What should one say then when his or her plans go awry? What does he do when his strength is not enough to save him? To whom does she turn when she finds herself alone and broken?

Where do you turn when your world comes crashing down around you? Do you rely on your own ingenuity to save you? Do you look to others to bail you out of your plight or start searching for proverbial escapes hatches? Do you perhaps begin to plot remedies and retaliations as the bitter bile of hurt and anger bubbles up in your soul?

Would you not allow such crises to reorganize your priorities and plans? Wouldn’t you like to think that you’d stop what you were doing and begin to focus on those things that really matter, so that a legacy that will outlast you might remain behind?

But why wait until crisis comes calling? Why not live our lives prioritized His way from the “get-go”, knowing that there is no promise of a tomorrow? Even now let us seek to allow God’s priorities become our priorities. His Son, His Church, your family and your service to Him wherever you live work and play, are all urgently important to Him. May they be so for us, too.

“Now may the God of peace Who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

No More “No”s

On occasion, I find myself in conversations with people who choose to share with me why they have chosen to not become Christians (or at least the reasons they delay in becoming Christians). Sometimes they may even share why they feel some hostility towards the church and pretty much let it appear that they would just as soon have a root canal as come to church.

I appreciate their willingness to trust me enough to bare their hearts as they seek to explain the “whys” and “wherefores” of their resentment or fear of church… if not out-and-out hostility towards it. In fact, I’m honored by their confidence. And I especially appreciate their willingness to talk about it for their own sake.

No more no's

Sometimes our concerns are not real concerns, but hide deeper spiritual issues that we may or may not recognize within ourselves.

They’ll share with me about hypocrisy that they’ve witnessed. Or they’ll refer to some “Christians” who, somewhere and at some point, were cold and indifferent. They’ll perhaps mention Church people in their past who were all about condemnation of others while exalting themselves and their own “holiness.”

As they share, I find it impossible, of course, to attempt to excuse the bad behavior of someone in their past. Additionally, since I (generally) don’t know the people to whom they refer, it is impossible for me to really form my own opinions of their behavior and discern if the one talking to me is justifiably angry and upset, or is perhaps looking with a distorted perspective, misunderstanding the words and deeds of others.

Be that as it may, our conversations ultimately drift towards the subject of how the person sharing is him- or herself responding to the information that they feel they’ve gleaned.

Honestly, there are times when folks eventually begin to show that their concerns are not real concerns, but perhaps hide deeper spiritual issues that they may or may not recognize. For example, Bill (an imaginary person) may blame Aunt Ellie’s “FOSE” for his reluctance to attend church, talk about spiritual things, or make a personal commitment to trust and follow Christ.

Oh. Maybe you don’t know what FOSE is. Well, don’t look it up in the dictionary; I made the word up. It stands for “Flamboyant Outbursts of Spiritual Excitement”.

Maybe Bill’s embarrassed by how Aunt Ellie claps out of rhythm… very loudly. Okay… so maybe every time her hands come together everybody else in the building stops what they’re doing and looks her way… with poor old Bill blushing an amazingly deep fire-engine red.

In truth, he is envious of her peace and confidence (if not her lack of rhythm). He would like to have a sense of confidence that his eternal peace with God has been secured but he’s afraid of what his co-workers and friends might think… so he throws up a smokescreen for others and, maybe, even for himself.

Another example is Ruthie (another imaginary person). She says that she resents the hypocrisy that she sees at church. “Why go if they’re all a bunch of hypocrites, right?”

In reality, she simply likes her life… a lot. She doesn’t have any particular desire to change anything, being perfectly happy with her friends, her job, her hobbies, her family, etc. Placing her faith in Jesus for salvation makes sense in her head, but her heart is contented with everything the world has been serving up to her. She fears that in following Him, she’ll have to begin making some choices about her priorities. She’s afraid that He’ll say to her what He said to the disciples when He called them, “Follow Me.” So now, when someone suggests that she attend church, she pulls out her handy-dandy, sure-fire reason for not going. The person who invites her backs off, not sure how to respond to Ruthie’s objection and so she continues to contentedly live her life the way she wants.

And then there is Carl, who feels the stirrings of something, a hunger for more perhaps. His defense is to wear a mask of cynicism, to keep what he calls “over-reactive Bible thumpers” at a safe distance. But all the while he is weighing their words with how they live. He’s known some Christians who seemed no different than anyone else in the world, but then there have been a few whose joy, compassion, courage and patience have seemed almost supernatural.

So Carl probes into the life of his co-worker, Leonard, a quiet, but peaceful Christian. Carl likes to play “devil’s advocate” (no pun intended) with Leonard, sometimes to amuse himself by trying to upset Leonard (who doesn’t often cooperate and chooses to patiently withstand Carl’s taunts). But sometimes he asks because he really wants to know why Leonard’s life is so different: same problems and same headaches, but a completely different outlook on them.

But there are times when we may meet a person who has really and genuinely been hurt, been misused or abused, or has witnessed others being victimized by someone allegedly from “the church”. Their reaction? Anger, of course. And then sweeping generalizations about other Christians. And then, horror of horrors, mistaken conclusions about God Himself.

Maybe they’ve heard about some abuse at the hands of a “church leader” in a news story. Perhaps some other immoral act or behavior comes to their attention. Or, it may be, they heard of someone who helped him or herself to others’ money illegally… or at least inappropriately.

I understand that there is real confusion and hurt sometimes. And God understands infinitely more clearly than I do. However, no one is released from accountability before God just because someone else was “messing with our minds”. God will indeed hold those folks accountable who are “leaders” in the church but have violated the calling God has given them. Though they dash to the ground the fact that He had entrusted them with abilities and opportunities to serve Him, they are each accountable to God for the ways that they have lived.

Have you been hurt in the past by someone in the church? The Lord understands… He understands and He cares. Yet He looks to you to let go of the past and to look to Him. He urges you to surrender your will, receive His gift of reconciliation, and walk a new path by His side.

Though you and I may say, “But I was hurt in the past!” His reply is, “Yes, I know. I was there and I saw it all. I’ll take care of it. But what about you? Why won’t you walk with me? It’s the only way to happiness and fulfillment. You were created for Me and My purposes. Why won’t you receive the gift of life I want to give to you? You can see that I gave My very best in giving up My Son for your sin. Don’t hesitate and miss out on your opportunity to have eternal life.”

“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 3:16-18 ESV).

The Father waits for you to finally say “yes” to Him. He waits with an open heart and an open door to you in Christ Jesus.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Fragrant Offerings

To every generation there is given the way and means to, in some measure, affect a meaningful legacy for those who follow after. At times the path to such an outcome is obvious, while at others, the road is gradual and veiled in mists of worry, weeping, and weariness.

How do we steward today the power that we have over tomorrow? Will our choices in daily living positively transform the future of children in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our communities?

For the Christian in particular, with the love of Jesus compelling him to lift up others, the wisdom of God’s Spirit guiding him in the administration of that love, and fervent passion for the glory of the Father catapulting him to action, he may not remain silent and aloof from the needs and opportunities to make a difference that have been presented to him.

For the few who give up nearly everything to faithfully serve in and through the Christian community: it is very difficult at times when one feels that the Christian community-at-large does not care.

This ought not be. The lives of the people of God have been knit together for purposes that transcend personal agendas. It is therefore imperative that we “heed the signs” in these days and allow the “attitude of Christ” to direct us in the choices that we daily make and the myriad ways that we spend our energies and resources.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:1-8 ESV).

Christians are free in Christ, but have not been made free to live selfishly

Christians are free in Christ, but have not been made free to live selfishly

Christians are free in Christ, but have not been made free to live selfishly. It is both reasonable and appropriate for God’s people to consider ways in which they can make things better for a world that they themselves may never see. “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act” (Proverbs 3:27 NIV).

With a thousand and one practical reasons for caring for others being spouted off by a thousand and one charitable organizations, it would be nice indeed to think that “Christians” would allow simple love for the Lord to be the bottom line in how they respond to the doors opened to them.

In the end, the questions for a child of God are simply, “If Jesus’ Spirit is truly living in my heart as both Savior and Lord, how will He now have me spend the time, gifts, and resources with which I’ve been entrusted? How may I bring Him pleasure through my daily choices, attitudes, and habits? How can I be a real and present blessing to those with whom my life has been joined in the world today?”

May we each act, speak, and love others according to how He guides our conscience. If we open our hearts to allow His love and goodness to shape our choices, He will open gates of blessings for us, our children, and our community.

“…I seek the fruit that increases to your credit…. (Your gifts are) a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:17b, 18b-19 ESV).

Copyright ©  Thom Mollohan

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