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Hope Spent Well

Christmas is doubtlessly a busy season for most of us. It can be overwhelmingly full of the chores of shopping for gifts, cooking for family get-togethers, and decorating our trees. Not that it’s all bad, mind you. We love the excitement and expectancy of the season as we sing our Christmas carols, hang our Christmas lights, and send out our Christmas cards all while we wait for the fun of receiving our gifts and enjoy (hopefully) the giving of them.

But perhaps what we love best about this time of year is the rekindling of hope in our hearts like a cold and dark fireplace suddenly springing to new life when a small and hidden ember bursts into a cheery blaze that once again warms a home.

Perhaps what we love best about this time of year is the rekindling of hope in our hearts like a cold and dark fireplace suddenly springing to new life.

Perhaps what we love best about this time of year is the rekindling of hope in our hearts like a cold and dark fireplace suddenly springing to new life.

Hope is an essential ingredient for life, its sweet savor making bearable and even pleasurable a dining table set with circumstances that we would otherwise find unappealing and even revolting. Without hope, peace is an illusion, joy is hollow, and faith is empty. Hopelessness can be a spectral wraith haunting not only our dreams but also our waking moments, draining our labors of purpose and our suffering of meaning.

It is probably obvious that hopelessness is rampant today. It not only wounds and wears upon those who have been overcome by sickness of body, but also men and women who are sound in body, but are afflicted with illnesses in hearts and minds that others cannot see. Hopelessness not only holds drug addicts in its ruthless and merciless grip, but also successful business people who have come to realize that they have acquired plenty of material benefits but have not acquired any lasting fulfillment from them. Hopelessness not only torments victims of years of cycles of abuse, but also those who themselves possess power and prestige but have found such baubles to be pointless in affecting change in lasting and meaningful ways.

Hope is something we desperately need, but so rarely find and sustain in the dark watches of winter and in the long seasons of trials of this life. It is like the hoped for oasis in a sprawling desert after finding only mirages along the way. Hope is essential to every one of us no matter who we are or where we’ve been. But ironically everyone who is now tortured by the pangs of hopelessness once actually had hope… but such hope was placed in the wrong things.

Our hopes are placed wrongly in our political leaders as we look to them to remedy our society’s hurts, yet they fail… either from their own corruption using our trust to advance their selfish ambitions or from their own limitations as we find them simply unable to do all that they promised.

We place our hopes in education, but we find that head knowledge cannot change hearts as it becomes clear that hurt, fear, prejudice, and violence continue. In a similar way, some of us place our hope in media in the belief that it can inform and inspire people to action. Often it does, but we have learned (from nearly a century of broadcast news) that often it is the wrong kind of action and that it is sometimes no more than a propaganda machine, uncommitted to truth but a skewed perception of things that leads us astray.

There are so many other things in which we hope, yet time and again we find that we have reached for mere phantoms. And each time we close our hands upon a promise that evaporates into nothingness, we are left a little more calloused and suspicious and even reluctant to endure the pain of once again placing our hope in something or someone.

The ultimate tragedy is that when we are finally met by the Source of true hope, we often dare not believe it. On the day that God shows up in our circumstances, wooing us by His Spirit to forsake sin and become His child forever, we feel so burned and disappointed by our pasts that we listen to the lie that, “Surely this is not true. God cannot or will not love me.”

This happens so often to us who have resisted His call and spent ourselves on things that appealed to our spiritually childish inclinations, flashier and easier substitutes for Christ’s call to forsake all and follow Him. The world is not lacking in its proposed alternatives to Jesus nor is the devil lackadaisical in inventing them.

Yet there is no path surer than that of Christ though it lead us through valleys under the shadow of death. The Living Word Who became flesh effectually offers you hope because He both desires for you to be His victorious child and also has power to achieve it.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made…. By Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together…. If God is for us, who can be against us? He Who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16-17, Romans 8:31b-32 ESV).

Hope spent in what is eternally able to deliver us and fulfill us is hope spent well. Hope that is misplaced is always eventually a disaster. Christmas is a season of hope, not because of gift-giving, nostalgic traditions, and families spending time together, but because it marks the occasion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, leaving the glory of heaven so that you and I might be saved from our sin (*Matthew 1:21).

The Lord, speaking of Jesus says, “Here is My Servant Whom I have chosen, My beloved in Whom My soul delights…. The nations will put their hope in His name” (Matthew 12:18a, 21 HCSB, citing the prophecy in Isaiah 42:1-3).

So let the story of Christmas turn your eyes from mere temporary things to the eternal hope of heaven. If you will allow God to kindle within you His divine spark, it cannot be snuffed out however furious the winds of discouragement may blow. Hope, therefore, may be one of the greatest gifts given to you this season… or any season.

Copyright ©  Thom Mollohan

Thanksgiving is an enormously wonderful time to stop and intentionally offer up the praise of a heart full of gratitude to the One Who has not only created us, but surrounded us with an abundance of blessings. How tremendous also is the privilege of honoring our being blessed by God by using our abundance to bless others, as we pour the overflow of God’s grace from our lives into the lives of others around us!

On the other hand, if your holiday season is characterized by difficulty and loss, Thanksgiving may seem an especially difficult occasion to express thanks. After all, it isn’t easy in your human nature to be grateful when you are frustrated or burdened by your circumstances. Nor is it easy when the uncertainty of the future wheels over your head like a giant bat of worry casting its dark shadow of fearfulness over your path in life. Neither are we quick to be grateful when pain or loss come to roost in our homes.

But take heart! It is no trite thing to say and believe that “God is in control!” You have One in your corner Who is bigger than the universe, cheering for you even if no one else is. In a day when a lot of people felt forgotten by God, Jesus came along and announced that “My Father is working until now, and I (also) am working” (John 5:17 ESV). Human nature hasn’t changed all that much: we still wrestle with that same doubt, the same temptation to think that God has forgotten us, the same inclination towards despair when we’ve used up all the “liquor of self-sufficiency.”

In the early 1600s a young man named Squanto (also called “Tisquantum”), a member of the Patuxet tribe of Native Americans along what is now the coast of Massachusetts, was tricked and kidnapped by an English captain named Thomas Hunt. Along with 23 other Patuxet and Nauset Indians, he was cruelly treated and stowed down in the dark and dank hold of a ship and taken to Maluga, Spain, where Hunt attempted to sell them all into slavery. Some local Friars in Maluga, learning of Hunt’s plot, took Squanto into their care by which they “disappointed this unworthy fellow (Captain Hunt) of the hopes of gain he conceived to make by this new and devilish project.”

Although far from home and his loved ones, Squanto learned about hope in Christ as he was taught from the Bible and as he witnessed the loving and selfless work of those in whose care he resided. Eventually these Christians found a way to get him started towards home and secured him a place to stay in England. While staying in the home of John Slaney in London, he attended church and learned the English language. In 1619, he returned to North America accompanying an English trading expedition. But when he arrived, he found only the ruins of his village and no signs of his people anywhere. He learned from neighboring tribes that a plague had killed everyone in his tribe: he was the last of the Patuxet.

storm-at-sea

It is hard to thank God in all circumstances, but He is the only one Who can turn great tragedy into great good.

Meanwhile, an English ship carrying 102 colonists (mostly Pilgrims seeking religious freedom) sailed for two months from England, anchoring after a tumultuous journey in what’s now called Plymouth Harbor in November of 1620. It was a long, cold few months for the Pilgrims who were not prepared for the harsh New England winter. Forty-five colonists died and 8 of the 30 Sailors would never return home.

 

What was their surprise when an Indian named Samoset strode out of the forest to greet them with halting English phrases! How much greater was their astonishment when he returned a few days later with Squanto who spoke nearly perfect English! Squanto chose to remain with the Pilgrims, adopting these newcomers who now lived on the ruins of his old life (figuratively but also literally for they had built their settlement on the remains of the old Patuxet village). He taught them how to find food on this land that in the gray of winter had seemed so inhospitable and helped them make peace with the Wampanoag Confederation of Indian tribes surrounding them.

Who would have guessed that Squanto’s hardships and trials would prepare him to be the instrument of grace that would help establish and preserve a new nation? And who could have guessed that God would meet Squanto’s own loss and brokenness by bringing into his life a new people with whom he could start again? And who would have thought that this little band of people would produce the first genuinely American document in the “Mayflower Compact” which would set the stage for American democracy, that is, “government by the people for the people?”

Is God still working today? Yes indeed! The same God Who created the Cosmos from nothingness with just His Word, is the same God Who provided a helper and preserved the lives of members of the Plymouth Colony. The same God Who sent His own Son into the world to bear its sin so that those who place their faith in Him might be saved is the same God Who lives and works today in the universe with no person too small that He doesn’t see them and know them.

Yes, it is hard to thank God in all circumstances (see 1 Thessalonians 5:18) but He’s the only One Who can take great tragedy and turn it into great good. Are you shut up in a lonely and dark place in life? Are you far from the home that His love is for those who will receive it? Are you deep in a pit of sorrow and pain? Has loss and grief beaten you down until you feel nearly overcome?

If so, place your hope in God because “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” and that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us” (Romans 8:28, 37 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

It happens at some point for most parents, that harrowing moment when a child presumed to be safe and sound is not where he or she is expected to be. A mother will turn and see an empty place where a daughter should have been. A father will “count heads” and come up one son short. Worry sets in, panic is unleashed, and all the fear that one’s imagination can conjure up is set ablaze.

It even happened to Mary and Joseph, the mother and step-father of Jesus our Lord, as they were returning home from their annual visit to Jerusalem for the Passover (see Luke 2:41-49). Thinking that Jesus was with others in their group of travelers, they went a whole day before realizing that He just was not with them. They did not actually find Him until three whole days had passed, after searching for Him throughout the city and discovering that He had been at the Temple the whole time. It is clear that they were terrified that they had lost Him.

Families are like that. They are endowed with a sense of interconnectedness and responsibility for one another that leaves members feeling incomplete and even wounded when one or more of their family is missing.

Even when children grow up and become adults, the connectedness and need for one another does not cease, but just becomes more abstract and complex as they learn to still be a family even if and when miles and circumstances separate them from other family members and prevent them from physical closeness.

Of course, evil in the forms of selfish attitudes, bitterness, and unforgiveness can tear and even destroy the fragile fabric that binds us to one another. But we are nonetheless wired in such a way as to be pained by such voids that are formed when a loved one goes missing.

This is true of the Family of God as well. If you are brought into a relationship with God by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ, then you are like the lost sheep of which Jesus spoke in Luke 15:3-7. You are brought not only into a “fold”, but also a “family in which no one else can possibly take your place. You are of unique worth and purpose to the One Who has saved you and placed you in His family.

If you are not in daily fellowship with Jesus, then there is an empty place in Jesus’ heart.

If you are not in daily fellowship with Jesus, then there is an empty place in Jesus’ heart.

In other words, if you are not in daily fellowship with Jesus, then there is an empty place, so to speak, in Jesus’ heart. The absence of your fellowship wounds Him. Not only that, but there is a vacuum created in the Family of God as well.

The Father has created you and me to be dependent upon each other. Correspondingly, He has gifted us so that we complement one another as we both individually and corporately walk with Him through life. If you give up attending a Bible-teaching and Holy Spirit-led church, then you are forfeiting the blessings of support and encouragement that God gives to His children through the Church. Worse yet is the fact that the biggest and best revelations of God at work in your life are always in the context of His Body, meant to be a blessing to all His Children and not just for individual Believers. Demonstrations of God at work in the world are vital to those who are lost around us. Our obedience to Christ in our fellowship with each other gives testimony to the fact that we do indeed belong to Him. Our love for one another is the biggest and best means we have to validate the truth of what we share in the Gospel of Christ.

“As I have loved you,” said Jesus, “you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 14:34b-35 ESV).

Basically, this means that the fruitful sharing of the Gospel is intimately tied to our relating to each other as family. If we truly share the heart of Christ, then we deeply desire to proclaim the Gospel to the world around us so that the hope that we have in the Son of God can be realized in the experience of those who do not yet know Him. And if we truly share the heart of Christ and long to see the “one lost sheep come into the fold and family of God, then we desire the fellowship of His people.

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many… God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose… that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 18, 24b, 25-27 ESV).

If you have been missing from the fellowship of your church family, then make it your priority to return so that both you and they may be more deeply blessed by God and that the pain and hurt created by your absence might be healed by the hand of God.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Relationship is as vital to the human soul as is water to the human body. And just as the quality of water will have direct bearing on one’s overall physical health, so too will the quality of our relationships influence the health of our soul.

In some places in the world, good water is taken for granted (and the sound of me clearing my throat and nodding subtly in the direction of the closest drinking fountain will not be lost on you). On the other hand, in some places “drinking water” is unknown (at least to the extent that we would define it as such) and, if any water is to be had at all, then mud and disease must be tolerated by those who have no other option than to drink what we would be appalled by.

My wife and I have friends who have been called by God to serve in some of those places. In the midst of poverty and spiritual oppression, these friends dig wells for the use of communities that are suffering from drought or arid conditions that make agriculture nearly impossible and even leave inhabitants parched and thirsty. As they help those in physical want of water, they often find that the Holy Spirit provides opportunities to also share in leading some to the ultimate wellspring of “spiritual water” – water that is healthy, wholesome, pure and good (see John 7:37-38).

As far as relationships in general go, none is as important as the one for which we were actually made, that of abiding in an ongoing love relationship with God Himself through Jesus Christ. If that one is not what it ought to be (or at the very least is not on its way to becoming what it ought to be), then none of our relationships can be truly sustained or be fully satisfying. In other words, let us remember to keep Jesus Christ first in our hearts, our plans, our hopes and our dreams.

Relationships have a way of being great sources of encouragement and empowerment for us. They also have a way of leeching from us health and wholesomeness, and in some cases of completely destroying lives.

Relationships have a way of being great sources of encouragement and empowerment for us. They also have a way of leeching from us health and wholesomeness, and in some cases, of completely destroying lives.

Having said these things, however, as human beings we have been designed by our Creator to “need” one another (i.e., “It is not good for the man to be alone,” from Genesis 2:18). We need one another’s company, we crave one another’s good opinion of ourselves, we depend on one another both in social and in physical endeavors, and nothing underscores the importance of relationship so much as the fact that nearly everything in the Bible either directly or indirectly deals with it, from God’s delineation of how to relate to Him and to others in the Ten Commandments to the very work of Jesus so that we could have relationship with Him through His atoning work on the cross and fellowship one with another.

“That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3 ESV).

Relationships have a way of being great sources of encouragement and empowerment for us. They also have a way of leeching from us health and wholesomeness, and in some cases of completely destroying lives. Like the little girl with the little curl, “when they are good they are very, very good. And when they are bad, they are horrid.”

Healthy relationships take time, trust, honesty, and good old fashioned hard work. Neglecting them lets them deteriorate into acid pools of frustration that can ruin us and damage others. We have the hope that with the help of Christ, our relationships can be made into beautiful vessels of honor for God whether we’re talking about friendship, courtship, spousal, or parenthood. Even business associations can (and should) be avenues of grace as God’s love and power flow through us into the lives of others because of our connectedness.

But what do you do when, in spite of all that you do and all that you pray, relationships break down and turn into ovens of frustration? When the yeast of discontentedness and miscommunication somehow filters into the dough of relationship from the broken world around us, relationships sometimes become seemingly capable of producing nothing but pain and sadness. So much can be (and needs to be) said to address this that this small article can do little more than touch upon it.

Yet, if you have found yourself suffering from the aftermath of a broken relationship, be reminded that you are not alone. The world around you has itself been reeling from the horror of such brokenness from its infancy, from Adam and Eve’s broken fellowship with God to Cain and Abel’s broken fellowship with God and one another resulting in the first murder.

Seek to humble yourself to God and allow Him to help you in being reconciled if possible: apologize for that which you ought and make right what you can. Then commit the matter to the Lord through prayer, trusting that God is at least as interested as you (and likely to be more so) in bridging broken relationships.

Sometimes, however, others are not interested in fixing broken relationships. Sometimes, you are a victim of unearned and unwarranted attacks by those who “should” love and support you. Again, you are not alone.

“It is not an enemy who taunts me – then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me – then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend” (Psalm 55:12-13 ESV).

Let the healing water of Jesus' love soothe your weary and scarred soul as you trust His promise to love you and make you His own forever.

Let the healing water of Jesus’ love soothe your weary and scarred soul as you trust His promise to love you and make you His own forever.

Because we sometimes suffer broken fellowship no matter how hard we have tried to mend things or compensate, we must remember that we need not be ruined or bound by our hurt. While it is true, as has been said, that we have been created for relationship, the one relationship that sustains us when all others have been drowned in the raging waters of disaster is our relationship with God. Fortunately, it is the one relationship that is not founded on our efforts or our successes or even our own personal worth, but is based on the love and righteousness of Jesus Christ Himself.

Take heart. Jesus loves you, even if friends or family desert or betray you. Let the healing water of His love soothe your weary and scarred soul as you trust His promise to love you and make you His own forever.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

He Is Who He Is

In times as challenging as these, it may be some comfort to you to know that God is at least as interested in your well-being as you are. When jobs are lost, when health fails, when ones dear to us are taken, when our lives are rocked by hurt, pain, or rejection, we often will give up on God or we attempt to gang up on Him.

We give up on Him in the sense that we despair of His loving us in practical ways while we gaze at Him through the cracked lenses of our circumstances. “Pain is bad”, we instinctively begin. “God has allowed hurt in my life,” we further reason. Therefore, “He must not love me if He lets bad things happen to me,” we mistakenly conclude. And so we become “victims” in the version of our story that we have authored and recite for ourselves.

But sometimes we gang up on God instead by striving to bully Him with a crowd of demands and complaints. We launch missiles of accusation powered by pent up frustrations and suspicions as we strive with God to do things our way. We allow the disappointments that throng within our hearts to riot before His throne, forgetting that He does indeed sit upon a throne and not a folding chair in a complaint department.

Perhaps this is mostly because we are habitually underestimating Him. Oh, I don’t mean underestimating what He can do. While it is certain that we cannot fathom all or even the tiniest portion of what an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God can do, our primary deficiency is that we are consistently underestimating Who He is.

“Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is His name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”’… This is My name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations” (Exodus 3:13-14, 15b ESV).

He continually reminds me that He is not and never will be just what I want Him to be… unless I just want what He truly is. God does not bow to my limited understanding of what He should act, say, or do because He is in His being more than I can conceive in my own thinking or imagination and He is far more in His being than I can perceive on any level, intellectually, emotionally or spiritually. Besides, perspective does not make reality; it simply shapes my capacity to engage it. If I truly hunger for God, I want no counterfeit that my own selfishness would construct for me; I want Him as He really is.

he-is-who-he-is

A relationship with God is not so much a “connection” than it is a journey… of wonder and delight.

The Lord tells us in Exodus 3 that His “name is, ‘I AM WHO I AM,”. What does this mean? Just that God is Who He is. He is Who He is regardless of one’s refusal to acknowledge Him as such. He is Who He is in spite of countless (and groundless) inane theories as to His nature and attributes. He is Who He is no matter how many alternatives to Him the world supplies us. He is Who He is whether or not one tries to explain Him away. He is Who He is even though one believes that we have Him figured out. You see, no one can “figure God out” because He is infinitely greater in being than can be calculated, envisioned, or believed.

 

Personally, I am grateful for this realization. This means that I have an anchor that can withstand the most violent waves the world can throw my way. I have a light which guides my feet no matter how tall the shadows of life become. I am given a hope that no despair can conquer and no fear can overcome. He is Who He is though discouragement may hang upon my shoulders like a deadly weight and doubts may flood my mind. My world may crumble down around me, but He is the “Rock in Whom I take refuge” (Psalm 18:2).

Therefore, turn to the One Who does not lie or change His mind (from 1 Samuel 15:29). Come to Him on His terms and let Him show Himself to you as more than the “Big Guy upstairs”, more than a kindly Old Man to Whom we send our wish lists, and more than a Judge Who sits either in complacent coldness or in fiery fury. He is so much more than words can describe Him that knowing God is not about just an occasional “connection” but is instead a journey of wonder and delight. Come to Him through faith in His Son, Jesus, and see the wealth of joy and peace that He has set aside for you as you learn to delight in His presence. Come to this God Who has chosen to reveal Himself through the written Word of His Bible as He shows you what “amazing grace” truly is in the Person of His Son, Jesus, the Lamb of God.

Turn to Him and trust Him. He is faithful to receive us if we come wholeheartedly to Him and do so with a singleness of mind and purpose. “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 29:12-14a ESV).

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Healing for Our Land

Living with the conviction that God’s Word is as true and relevant today as it ever has been is not an easy task, considering that the tides of our culture break upon the cliffs of faith in Christ like a typhoon. Every day we find new cases-in-point, as it were, when we find government officials, iconic pop culture stars, or supposed “academics” who snidely observe that their views on ethics and morality are “evolving”. They suppose that they are using a buzzword that suggests that they have somehow transcended to a higher plane than “lesser beings” who continue to cling to the Bible.

Such disdain for reverent regard for the holy Word of God is found practically in every sphere of life; it can even be found in many churches wherein it is deemed appropriate to abandon a clear confidence in the authority of the Bible in the interest of what Satan likes to call “effective cultural relevance”.

Some will look on the moral plummet of our country and simply shake their heads in helplessness and continue to live life in “survival mode”. Some say our country is “going to hell”” and are ready to wash their hands of everything except of the joy of criticizing others. Perhaps there are a few who take on a violent attitude of retaliation and subsequently plot bombings and shootings as if these things can solve the effects of the spiritual crisis that besets us.

But hope for a return to greatness for America is not found in these things, but rather in what God can do through His people as they are renewed and the power of God surges again through their obedient lives. And the spiritual renewal and the resurgence of holiness that God’s people today desperately need is not in “fighting fire with fire” but in humbly turning from worldly thinking and living and returning to genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Repentance, faith, holiness, love, and obedience is what God expects of us today – all things that God has graciously declared to us through the Bible so that we might yet return to Him.

hope for a return to greatness for America is found in nothing but what God can do through His people as they are renewed and the power of God surges again through their obedient lives.

Hope for a return to greatness for America is found in nothing but what God can do through His people as they are renewed and the power of God surges again through their obedient lives.

Even this presidential election is insufficient in turning our country around and the idea that it can insults God, hindering Him in the transforming work that only His Spirit can do if such activism is not the fruit of following God’s lordship in our lives. The answer to the need of America is found only in Jesus Christ in every area, from disintegrating families to crime, from economic collapse to unemployment, from illegal immigration to lack of healthcare, from drugs to national security and terrorism.

Please hear me carefully: while how we vote (and for whom we vote) is important, it is only important (in a good way) if it truly is the act of worship of a truly humble and God-seeking heart. And by what measure can we hope to know if that kind of heart is the heart beating within our chests? By how we seek to hear from God through His Word and then what we do with what He has said to us.

Our need is for the power of God’s saving grace to enter into our individual lives so that it may then flow into those institutions that reflect the uniting of all who call themselves Americans. Whether they call themselves leaders or simply see themselves as citizens, all need to come to Christ Jesus and none can truly come to Him except by coming to Him in faith and repentance. Such faith and repentance is only truly evidenced in how we listen to the words He has spoken through His Word, the Bible.

And if there has ever been a word that God Himself would speak to Christians in America today, it is most certainly this word:

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

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

On Forgiveness

Forgiveness may be at once both the most necessary of responses to the grace that God has bestowed upon us and the most misunderstood (and, consequently, the most neglected). I hesitate in even attempting to address the wonderful and mysterious world of forgiveness in such a short article because it is both very simple and very complex.

For example, the fact that Jesus commanded us to forgive notwithstanding, it is when we spend ourselves in this very activity that we most resemble our Father in heaven as well as find ourselves being groomed for full and unfettered fellowship with Him.

“Then Peter came up and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. …Forgive your brother from your heart…. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 18:21-22, 35b; Matthew 6:14-15 ESV).

Frankly, Jesus Himself is the embodiment of forgiveness – literally! He not only lived forgiveness in the daily wear and tear of life, He demonstrated it perfectly in interceding for His haters and persecutors while dying at their hands.

“When He (Jesus) was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him Who judges justly (His Heavenly Father)” (1 Peter 2:23 ESV).

It is not an illogical assumption then to move on from His forgiveness for those who were physically involved in His suffering and crucifixion to the realization that we, too, are culpable (guilty) of His death because it was our sin (mine as well as yours) for which He laid down His sinless life as payment (restitution) to God the Father for the breaking of His holy Law. And if He, sinless and guileless, could pray, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 ESV), then we can be expected to employ that same attitude towards others.

forgiveness

When we forgive we resemble our Heavenly Father, but are also cultivating a great joy in our future.

We do, after all, belong to Him once we have placed our faith in Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord. We are therefore intended to partake of His nature by submitting to the lordship of His Holy Spirit and allow Him to transform our character as well as our hearts.

We are consequently expected to forgive. This is where we must attempt to clarify what we mean by forgiveness. Forgiveness in the Scriptures had a strong connotation associated with financial dealings between people. If you borrowed money from someone, then you owed that person a debt. If you could not repay the debt, the one who made the loan could “forgive’ that debt, canceling it so that recompense would not be pursued and the fact of owing him would not be held over your head. If the debt was not forgiven, failure to repay could result in imprisonment, slavery, or forfeiture of something very dear and near to either your heart or your survival (like your livestock, your land, or even your own children).

Forgiveness in the relational sense works pretty much the same way. When you have been hurt or “sinned against”, then the one who has injured you has incurred a debt to you. This is why we often struggle with a temptation to “get even” or “settle the score” when someone hurts us (physically, emotionally, or materially). It is important that when someone has hurt us that we not dismiss it or rationalize it, but acknowledge it to the Lord, so that we can then forgive.

Some opinions on forgiveness argue that we pretend that nothing ever happened. That’s not forgiveness in the biblical sense. Our Lord never dismissed sin as a trivial matter but in extending forgiveness to others, exhorted them to stop sinning and live transformed lives (see John 8:11 as an example).

If you have been hurt by someone, you are not called upon to willfully hand him the means to do so again when he will likely do so. Nor is it expected that if someone has fallen morally that we, in forgiving her, place in front of her again whatever it was that tempted her in the first place. It would be a bad idea, for instance, to have someone who has been convicted of embezzlement handle your money without very close monitoring. And it would not be wise to allow someone who struggles with narcotic addictions to have access to your painkillers. And forgiveness does not mean that we pursue relationships that are abusive or endanger our lives or the lives of our loved ones.

Forgiveness is simply the releasing of someone else from indebtedness to you. It is taking the position that the offending party is not going to be held to account for his or her actions (by you at any rate) and you will offer to him or her the same kind of love that Jesus has shown you. Forgiveness is when we let ourselves off the hook of trying to make others pay for their misdeeds or hurtful words. Instead, we just let it go.

Furthermore, forgiveness is something that we give even when it has not been requested by others. Note that Jesus sought forgiveness for those who had not sought such forgiveness. Forgiving others who may not care one bit whether or not we forgive them, is not about taking on an air of spiritual superiority, but is a matter of quietly releasing them from indebtedness to ourselves and entrusting their behaviors, attitudes, and actions to the Lord.

Forgiveness is, as you might have guessed, a key arena in which we employ faith in God. Forgiveness both frees us from a bondage to anger and hate, but also helps to move us “out of the way” of God’s redemptive work in the lives of others. Forgiveness even allows us to be entrusted by God with a ministry of intercession (praying on the behalf of others) and might, perhaps, be the very means by which the seeds of God’s grace can enter the life of someone else who needs God’s help as much as we did before we were forgiven by God of our sin and given the prize of salvation.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:13-14 ESV).

Just so you know, forgiving others is not something that we can necessarily do on our own. When one has been deeply hurt, or hurt repeatedly over time, it requires more than an effort of our own will to disentangle ourselves from the complex web of emotions that are spun from our anger, grief, and fear. In other words, there will likely be occasions when you will need the help of God’s Holy Spirit to be successful in forgiving others – even though you “try” with all your might to do so on your own. When in such straits, cry out to the Lord to deliver you from the terrible bondage of unforgiveness and trust that He will give you the same heart for others that Jesus has for us.

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan