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Overcoming the Current

Currents of popular opinion sweep about us like white water waves swirling down the narrow ravine of everyday living. They threaten to sweep us off our feet into the wild seas of disillusionment and disappointment though we strive to cling to things on which we can count. When we finally find the “rock” of love and mercy that Jesus is to those who believe in Him, we finally discover a firm place to plant our feet, a solid rock on which we stand.

But then calamities of one kind or another come and they threaten to pry the fingers of faith loose even as a subtle, yet pernicious, erosion works at weakening our confidence in the words of hope that God has spoken to us.

Sadly, such waves seem appealing at times and we find it all too easy to give in to pressures and promptings. At times we not only allow ourselves to be carried along blindly by those streams of wild thoughts and reckless ideas but we revel in them, at least until we are finally cast upon the jagged rocks of brokenness and ruin.

Even more sad are those occasions when messages urging the abandonment of truth come to us under the mask of Christian leadership. There are those who advocate from the pulpit of popularity a “gospel” that is not really a gospel: a good news that is not truly “good news”, but is instead a dangerous deception.

For example, there are books and blogs that suggest that they are Christian, but pick up the threads of spiritual relativism and basically tells us that much of what we read in the Bible is untrue or is, at the very least, greatly misunderstood. They assert that there are many ways to know God, be accepted by Him, and subsequently be ushered into an eternity of bliss. They claim that there is no hell (or final judgment of any kind), since hell is not commensurate with the authors’ and artists’ ideas of God.

These notions are not new ideas in circles of “Christian” thinking. They are simply re-introduced, refurbished, and repackaged to look as though they are new messages for a new millennium.

One defender of this teaching claims that we in the contemporary world cannot understand what the Bible really means given its spiritual sophistication and the alien nuances of the cultures and languages that existed at the time of its writing.

Another writer who has advocated such “ticklish teachings” wonders “what if?” What if these notions are right? It seems to him that the cloudy ambiguities in this line of thinking are as reliable (if not more so) as the basic tenets of orthodox Christian teaching we have heard since childhood. Unfortunately, tossing “what if’s” into the mix of faith does not create a new sense of wonder and awe but ultimately robs us of the assurance that the Bible is truly trustworthy. “What if the Bible isn’t right about hell?” “What if Jesus is A way to God but only one way among many?” “What if people can be ‘saved’ after death?”

While such ideas may give us momentary (but delusional) comfort when we are considering the plight of lost loved ones, they eventually steal from us that same comfort because the consistency of the Bible’s message has been compromised. Worse yet, in saying that teachings of the Word of God can’t be taken at face value, we find that the its overall message has been rendered incoherent. Because “hell” has been explained away, heaven is suddenly suspect. Because it is assumed that one does not need to receive Christ in this lifetime, Jesus is put off indefinitely. Because other ways to God than Jesus Christ have been introduced, Jesus is demoted from “Savior and Lord” to merely “teacher and friend”.

“In the end,” says one writer, “I don’t know. And you don’t know. Which is why we have faith.” But if we simply leave things there, we are quagmired in a kind of agnosticism (which basically means, “there is no knowing”). Just who is our faith in? What is our faith in? If there is no knowing anything then there is no foundation on which to have faith.

We have been given the foundation for faith through “revelation”; specifically, God’s revealing of Himself through His Word.

We have been given the foundation for faith through “revelation”; specifically, God’s revealing of Himself through His Word.

But, happily, we have been given that foundation through “revelation”; specifically, God’s revealing of Himself through His Word. While some may say that we cannot understand what the Bible really means when we open it and read, we find that it proves to be pretty straightforward after all.

Expository preaching may help to deepen our understanding of some things in it, but we can take Jesus’ claims about Himself at face value and learn to rest in His promises. Some books and Bible study supplements can often help us to apply what we learn from the Word of God, but its claims about the Holy One, His holy law, and His righteous judgment can be taken seriously with a highly appropriate sense of urgency. Worship, religious activities, and service may energize and enrich the daily application of our faith in God’s Word, but are eternally meaningful only when they are the responses of hearts that realize the sin and destruction from which they have been delivered and the price paid by Jesus’ blood for their redemption.

Let us not play games with God’s grace and let us certainly not minimize the urgency of the hour. Men and women today are as much in dire spiritual straits as were the people of the first century who recognized their sinfulness and the inevitable consequence of their unattended condition.

Realizing that a God Who is just can only confront sin with justice, dooming all of sin’s partakers to an eternity apart from Him, “they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself” (Acts 2:37-39 ESV).

The needs of people are the same today as they were then. Rich or poor, man or woman, young or old, black or white, people need Jesus; they need the power of His cross applied to their lives which comes only through a personal response of faith (which results in repentance and obedience to His Word); and they need Christians to proclaim the freedom found only in the truth of the Gospel of Christ.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

 

Have you ever felt burned-out? You know… that feeling of frustration and weariness of soul that has no clear vision for renewal. “Burn-out Syndrome” has a way of creeping into our spiritual psyches imperceptibly and sets us up for disaster because it becomes the filter through which we perceive life and the standard by which we make our decisions. When we find ourselves chin deep in what seems to be pointless striving, we are dangerously close to something akin to despair, so naturally we become extremely vulnerable to taking desperate measures to solve our problems.

The problem, of course, is a faith one (or a lack-of-faith one, to be precise). There are countless examples in the Bible of God’s men and women either falling and failing or succeeding and conquering. The determining factor for the outcome of their burn-out is consistently whether or not they refocus their lives on God and resume confidence in Him and His promises.

God’s people are clearly not immune to the hazards associated with being burned out, of course. We are, after all, on an adventure in which the Lord calls us to put our faith into action in practical ways and the biggest challenges to faith are found less often in crises than in long periods of monotony. Crisis is simply a match that ignites the fuel of mounting doubt and apathy.

the biggest challenges to faith are found less often in crises than in long periods of monotony. Crisis is simply a match that ignites the fuel of mounting doubt and apathy.

The biggest challenges to faith are found less often in crises than in long periods of monotony. Crisis is simply a match that ignites the fuel of mounting doubt and apathy – leading to a potential wipe-out!

Consider Elijah, a servant to the LORD, who had daringly confronted a king named Ahab (a weak man whose throne was controlled by his God-hating wife, Jezebel).

“Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word” (1 Kings 17:1 ESV).

The Lord directs Elijah to a quiet haven away from Ahab’s soldiers (and Jezebel’s malice) and time passes without any weakening in the resolve of Ahab to reject God and rule the land in his own way. For a long while, Elijah lives by himself and has nothing but time on his hands. The Bible tells that after awhile, Elijah’s resources are depleted. Circumstantially, it becomes clear that God is using this in positioning Elijah to be a means of blessing someone else in need. Then, after more long waiting, God says that it is time for a showdown.

Now keep in mind that during the time that has passed, although Elijah has not been active in a physical sense (at least in regard to his calling and ministry), his mind has likely been very active. With all the down time that he has had, one would like to think that he is especially refreshed and encouraged, that any and all doubts about God’s faithfulness to Elijah, not to mention Elijah’s sense of purpose, will have been arrested in that extended “alone time” with God.

And at first it seems that way. He boldly confronts those who have been instrumental in leading people away from a concentrated and fruitful devotion to the one, true God (in Genesis 18), and through him, God thoroughly trounces them and their phony gods. One would expect Elijah to be on what we often call a “spiritual high”.

But the long moments of frustration and weariness have taken a toll on poor Elijah. Jezebel’s hatred of the Lord remains unabated, Ahab continues to be a weak-kneed ruler who will let his apostate wife rule the roost, and idolatry remains the policy of the people of Israel.

Elijah is, in every sense of the expression, burned out. He had lived his life to see the people of God return to God in whole-hearted affection. He had spent all his hopes and fears in what appears to be the vain pursuit of revival for God’s people. And it appears to be of no avail. So, he does what any of us would likely have done. He gives up. He quits. He runs away.

“It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4 ESV).

But God uses this breakdown in Elijah’s life as a means to refresh and reorient him to God’s love and power (see 1 Kings 19). When Elijah seems to be about as low as he can be (alone in a cave at Mount Horeb), God speaks.

“The word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He said, ‘I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:9-10 ESV).

Burn-out has a way of making us feel all alone and forgotten. It makes moments of failure seem bigger than they are and God smaller than He is. It takes all our hurts and fills our hearts with them. It takes all our fears and fills our sight with them. We feel that all has been pointless and must be so bad that even God cannot make anything of our messes. “He’s left me,” we think and discouragement becomes full-blown despair.

We want God to come into our circumstances with wind and fire, making the earth quake with power as He overthrows what is wrong and sets up what is right. Of course, He can do this, but because God more often works quietly in the hidden places of the hearts of people to change the world, we, in our burn-out, give up, quit, and run away (figuratively if not literally).

If this describes where you are in your walk with God right now, then remember that God is present even when the fires do not come, the winds do not blow, and the earth does not shake. It was in a still, small voice (a gentle whisper) that God spoke to Elijah (1 Kings 19:12) in encouraging words to the effect that God was still working in unseen ways. Things were not as bad as Elijah thought, nor was he as alone as he felt. Not only that, but God would yet woo back the hearts of His people and overthrow the spiritual imposters to whom they bowed.

Today, God’s Word is filled with encouragement for His children, although we too are beset with long moments of apparently pointless waiting, long lists of seemingly fruitless failures, and long lines of increasingly hopeless people who will not listen to the hope of Jesus Christ that you profess. Very rarely is a war won with a single battle, nor is a heart changed with a single touch. If you are feeling burned out, the remedy is the rehearsing of God’s goodness to you as well as the promises He has bequeathed you. Remember to look to the God of the Bible and not your circumstances. Circumstances are, after all, only a smoky mist that distorts and shrouds the reality of the spiritual world around you.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

A Friend is a Friend

As time moves on, I think we are seeing some profound changes taking place in the way that we define friendship. It seems to me that people are generally experiencing dramatic decreases in fulfillment in friendships even as they reach out wider and wider for meaningful connections with others. Social applications like Facebook (and so forth) are single-handedly revolutionizing the way people interact and connect.

Consider the fact that the word “friend” has become intricately laced with the internet experience. Not only does the number of “friends” on the social site become a status symbol for many, but one can score “friends” without even knowing who the “friends” are. This basically decimates any previous notions we might have had of what it means to be a “friend” and waters down the wonder of having someone we can call a “true friend”.

As these careless and casual ways of using the word “friend” become more and more integrated into our thinking, the word “friend” itself has lost much power and significance, possibly obscuring the importance of a kind of relationship that we both truly need and deeply crave.

Martin Heidegger, a German philosopher who may or may not have had Nazi sympathies in the Twentieth Century, once observed that “Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man.” While his dubious associations and non-theistic world view may cast his general perspective into doubt, the fact that “language shapes thought” is undeniable: an increasing level of vagueness for the word “friend” is creating for us a quandary when we try to understand what it means to truly connect with peers, have trusted confidantes, or faithful companions in the journey of life.

The words for “friend” in the Bible, however, have similar linguistic challenges. The Hebrew word rea and the Greek philos mean friend in just about all the ways that our English word means it (well, at least until recently), ranging from “colleague” to “bff” (“best friends forever”). Nevertheless, the Scriptures talk about a kind of friend that epitomizes what friendship should be and what it should do for us.

First, the Bible talks about the “friend” ideal of acceptance. Proverbs 17:17a says that “a friend loves at all times….” Genuine friendship is not fickle. It is likely that we have all had experiences with “fair weather friends” who enjoyed our resources when there was much to be shared, but faded from view when need and sorrow came. We therefore should deeply esteem the treasure of those who love us unconditionally and faithfully, and strive ourselves to be faithful to our friends, in plenty and in times of need and hurt.

Secondly, a “friend” is one who both says and does what we need, and does not merely pays lip service to us. In Proverbs 27:6 you will find that “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Enemies rarely come to us with flaming swords and obvious hate, but instead approach with friendly ways and flattering words. Why? Generally, either to take advantage of something you have that they want or to win your heart so that their betrayals can inflict greater harm. When a companion says something that hurts, stop a moment and compare what he or she says with the truth of God’s Word. If it is not true, then simply dismiss the words of this “friend” and guard your heart in regard to your trusting of him or her. But if it is true, even if painful, then swallow pride, and ask God to help you make adjustments in your life that He sent this true fiend to share with you.

There is no greater friend than Jesus, and no greater calling for us today than to become true friends to Him as we obey Him and allow His friendship to flow through us into the lives of those around us who are lonely and hapless, lost and hopeless.

There is no greater friend than Jesus, and no greater calling for us today than to become true friends to Him as we obey Him and allow His friendship to flow through us into the lives of those around us who are lonely and hapless, lost and hopeless.

Keep in mind that having lots of friends on our social applications is about the same as referring to everyone with whom we interact on a daily basis as “friend”. “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24 ESV).

Look for and treasure the “true friend”. At the same time, seek to be a “true friend” to those whose hearts have been knit by God with yours.

“Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a (friend) who is near than a brother who is far away” (from Proverbs 27:10).

And obviously Jesus Himself is the very essence of what friendship is and the very best Friend one can have.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends,” said Jesus in John 15:13, just before He allowed Himself to be led away, humiliated and falsely accused, to be beaten and crucified for us. One of the highest virtues that we recognize in true friendship is personal sacrifice on behalf of another, especially to the point of death. Dying for another is the mark of true friendship. How marvelous then is the friendship that God has offered to us through Jesus Christ! He laid down His sinless life for us though we were eaten up with sin, guilty and stained!

True friendship has reached down from heaven, looked past our ugly and selfish motives and pasts, offered us hope and healing, and lifts us up from the power of fear, the clinging weight of sin, and sets us on a path of fellowship with God Himself. There is no greater friend than Jesus, and no greater calling for us today than to become true friends to Him as we obey Him and allow His friendship to flow through us into the lives of those around us who are lonely and hapless, lost and hopeless. Trust your Friend to lead you today, and be a true friend to someone who needs one.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Led by Grace

A thousand things may come to mind Reaching Hand

When one’s calling he seeks to find.

Riches, pleasure, fame and power

May bloom like a fading flower.

Yet their promise fades in the end

Or turns away like a false friend.

So sense of purpose has been lost

And to dark despair hopes are tossed.

But piercing clouds of doubt and fear,

The light of Jesus’ love shines clear.

We cry aloud to Him Who gave

His life for us so He could save

Us for His purposes and plans.

Our Blessed Savior understands

The strife and pain we suffer through

And helps us know what we must do.

He is the Goal for which we reach;

To our souls He’s the Song we teach;

The Living Water our hearts crave;

The Reason that this life we brave.

The rest of life falls into place,

When we believe we’re led by grace.

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Every day of your life is a day in which you must weigh the messages that rain down upon you. While many of those signals are simply lost in the informational deluge, there are a great number that reinforce or subtly erode the convictions that drive you and guide you in the choices you make as you navigate life. Never think for a moment that your convictions are an immutable substance that cannot be touched by outside forces or that they compose a structure that can never fall in upon itself. There are support beams constantly being erected or knocked down in the house that is your “world view”.

I was very keenly reminded of this once as I listened to a discussion on a public radio station between the radio show’s host and Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible. The novel describes a supposed missionary family, but Kingsolver is clearly not acquainted with a biblical understanding of Christianity as she concludes that humanity is simply one animal among many and that God is rooting not only for the “dollies” (meaning human boys and girls) but also for the various varieties of flesh-eating microorganisms that dwell unseen in the dusty floor of the African savannah (after a character in the book watches dreadful diseases wither and waste away little boys and girls).

“We think we’re so smart,” the author snidely remarks, “top-heavy hominids who are animals indeed.” But then her voice turns cheery and says, “But I happen to be one of those who think that’s a wonderful thing.”

Say what? One might strive to unravel the mysterious conundrum raised by the worldview of the author but, unless one lingers merely in the shallow waters of her last statement, “… I think that’s a wonderful thing,” one will inevitably wade out into the deep waters of the statement’s implication. There are two principal “perks” for being “one animal among many”. The first is that one may consider him or herself “free”. Free of moral responsibility: if man is merely an animal, he’s no more moral or ethical than a rattlesnake or a sea anemone (morals and ethics being merely a biological illusion). Free of divine accountability: if man evolved or was created with a spiritual ranking no higher than an aardvark or a frill-necked lizard, how could God justly hold us accountable for what comes “naturally?” After all, we’d simply be driven by Darwin’s so-called law, “survival of the fittest”.

Hand of dustWell, it turns out that some folks like this worldview because they believe that it makes them free. But it is in reality a most serious and dastardly form of slavery because it places upon humanity an unbearable yoke of biological fatalism. First, everything one does is rendered nothing more than an insignificant fluke of blind forces streaking towards oblivion. As one animal in a world teeming with countless hordes of creatures, you would have no more value or worth than an amoeba or paramecium. And second, your life is just another part of an incessant string of biological glitches. Your choices, dreams, and values, as well as the relationships that you hold dear, although not predetermined in the precise sense, are still “preprogrammed” by the unsympathetic “powers that be” that we call genetic coding. “Someone mugged someone else?” one might say. “Well, we are governed by the rule of survival of the fittest!” Or “Someone raped someone?” one might hear. “Ah, well it is natural, you know.”

If we are only one species among many, then all that we call good is no nobler than the craving a dung beetle has for its food source. You could never truly be unique or possess a wonder that is yours alone. Even an E Coli bacterium would be as important as you.

And this, of course, leads us to the other supposed “perk” of the worldview of naturalism, that there is an incredible array of wonder over-arching and surrounding us in which we are ourselves an intricate part.

But again, when we dive into this concept’s deeper waters, we find that whatever wonder we might have enjoyed in the “wonder” is also haunted by a shroud of profound dread. When, for instance, we ask the question, “What does it all mean?”, we’re met with silence for we are after all asking either nothing (if “nothing” created us) or we’re trying to talk to a “god” who pays us no more heed than if we were pond scum. If such a worldview is right, then all of reality is an exercise in futility. Why do anything? Why care for anyone else? Why bother trying to do “good deeds” if all that is “good” is just an illusion anyway?

But clearly, the idea of a god who “roots” for microbes as much as he roots for people is inconsistent with what the Bible says about the nature of the world, humanity, and God’s attitude towards us. First off, out of all the beings that God created, humanity alone was shaped in God’s own image and into humanity alone was breathed the breath of God that they would become “living souls” (Genesis 2:7). The Bible declares that the scope of creation was placed, so to speak, into the hands of humanity (Genesis 1:28-30) so that men and women might be stewards under God of the world that He had created, executing His will and authority in their governance of the physical world.

Secondly, the Bible acknowledges disease, violence, and sorrow, describing these as the fruits of the human inclination to choose to try to live independently of God (see Genesis 3:14-19). Christianity is therefore not a “Pollyanna” religion. It is a grim-laced statement of truth with hope in its wings. Yes, it is true that much is not what it should be and that bad things do happen to all of us. But God really is rooting for humanity after all in ways that the rest of creation can only be jealous. What did God’s Son come to do? To die for you and me. Why would He die for you and me? Because you and I were created in God’s image that we might enjoy fellowship with Him forever and only His sacrificial death could bridge the gap created by our sin. Why does evil continue still then, after He died and rose again? So that we might hunger for more than what we possess in this natural world and look forward to a day wherein we are united completely with the Creator of all that is.

In a world that tries to make sense of itself without God, remember that it makes no sense at all without God. So consider well the messages you heed and remember that you are priceless in the eyes of the One Who made you. And nothing can take that away.

 Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Over the years, my children, when they were little, often demonstrated a mastery of articulating what I have found myself thinking or feeling when words would fail me. When having to navigate my way through the midst of difficult or trying times, I have sometimes been tempted, deep down in the recesses of my heart, to be somewhat less than spiritual and would get dangerously close to becoming bent out of shape about my circumstances. There have been moments when it has seemed to me that there were simply no words that could describe the emotions swirling around inside of me. But then there have also been moments when I have been astounded with how well one of my children would sum up what I was prone to overly-complicate in my own thinking, muddling, as it were, what was really a very simple truth or fact.

My youngest son, for example, once encapsulated in six words the very issue that tends to weaken and wear down most of us at some season of our lives or maybe even many seasons of our lives. In a moment of brilliant imagery, he left me feeling a bit stupefied by the succinct way he captured my tendency for frustration when God doesn’t answer my prayers on my time table.

One afternoon, when feeling a bit impatient for his supper, he asked my wife when it would be time to eat. “A couple of minutes, honey,” was the reply. He gasped and with a distraught look of horror, clasped his face and moaned, “Oh, Mom! For me minutes seem like years!” Of course, it really was a matter of only a few minutes, but for a six-year-old, minutes do indeed seem like years.

Minutes and years header

“With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” 2 Peter 3:8 ESV

 

I’m convinced that this really is a problem for all of us, whether we’re six-years-old or ninety-six. There are times when we simply can’t understand why we must wait and why the Lord doesn’t just do something quick. We drum our spiritual fingers and our souls sigh with impatience as we wonder what in the world could be taking God so long. On the one hand, we talk about “waiting on the Lord”, while on the other we are perhaps busily rationalizing our impatience with soothing excuses for doubting God. “Well, I was in a tight spot and just had to do something!” “Oh, God doesn’t hear me and so I just gave up!” “But everyone else was doing something and I thought I ought to do what they were doing!”

We have a knack for trying to run God’s blessing for our lives on a stopwatch. But whatever we may expect for the Lord’s timing for us, we must simply remember to “…not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8 ESV).

What you now do with this truth will have tremendous impact on whether or not you’ll really see God’s power at work in your life. Whether it takes God ten minutes or ten years, your holding fast to an unswerving confidence in Him will dictate to you the measure of how much you’ll experience His workings in your life.

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices” (Psalm 37:5-7 ESV).

What appear to be delays in God’s answers for your life are in fact seasons of preparation and building that take place out of sight so that the Lord’s blessings might be realized more fully than you had ever hoped. Not only that, but what may often appear to be as a lull in divine activity very often turns out to be a season of grace, as God throws open windows of opportunity for people to turn from self-will and sin and turn instead to the forgiveness and cleansing that only faith in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection offers 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).

Are you waiting expectantly on God? Are you facing needs in your life that you try to give to Him while trying not to grab them back because He doesn’t seem to have noticed? As you wait on Him, does doubt gnaw at you and black thoughts of discouragement seep through your veins?

“Why do you say… ‘My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God’?  Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:27-31 ESV).

If you are waiting on God, don’t give up and throw in the towel, taking yourself offline for downloads of blessing that God has ordained for you. No… instead do what His Word would have you do in the cultivating of your relationship with Him. Read the Bible, seek God’s face faithfully in prayer, learn to worship Him among a community of Believers in a local church, serve Him in the myriad of ways He provides you each day of the week, and search your heart under His leading so that He can work inside of you to make room for His blessings for you, in you, and through you.

In the end, staying faithful to the One, Whose name is synonymous with faithfulness, keeps your heart in a spiritual posture that remains ready to be blessed… whether the timing is only a few minutes or even a lifetime.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

In a world as ravaged as is ours by the bitter winds of hate and hate’s awful offspring, cruelty, we long for the sweetly perfumed airs of good news. Not only is the terrain of the world largely barren of peace and hope, but even into our own homes come the rancid fumes of fear and the fetid stink of selfishness, suffocating us with clouds of despair. Families struggle and break apart, whole communities polarize and divide, and even churches bicker and split into fragments.

With such realities surrounding us and compelling us to either engage them or succumb to them, two questions arise. First, where can one turn for good news? It’s very hard to find good news that offsets the avalanche of bad news cascading into our lives all day long, every day. Much of it is due, no doubt, to our compulsive fascination and addiction to hearing and seeing bad news. Humanity seems to collectively find scandal and tragedy much more interesting and worthy of attention than it does good news as evidenced by our glut of (pseudo) reality shows and amusement over Hollywood stars’ misfortunes.

But there IS good news in the world. The good news is that God loves you and that He loves you so much that He spent His own Son in order to draw you out of despair and into a living hope that cannot be overcome.

The second question follows the first one and assumes that we have answered it. The question is how can we know that the good news of the Gospel is indeed the very thing it claims to be: good news? I have known very intelligent people to look at the Good News of God’s love and laugh, claiming that it is overly simplistic and is ineffective in its assessment of the world’s condition. Some have said that it is little more than a crutch for those who simply can’t face life on their own and need something a little more.

But the Good News of Jesus turns such words on their heads. There is no other, nor has there ever been a philosophy or teaching in the world, that so thoroughly recognizes the tragic condition of the world, the corrupted nature of the human heart, and the awesome essence of God’s own holy and omnipotent benevolence all at the same time. Secular science says, for instance, that human beings are not spiritual creatures, but are only biological ones, just another link in a chain of accidental mutations that have (luckily) adapted to ever changing environments. So we are reduced to things no more morally advanced than frogs or tapeworms in a world where all things live according to the blind rules of natural selection.

Meanwhile, Eastern religions (and their Western protégés) make the claim that all humanity is good and that all things are god, or rather a god-force (this is called “pantheism”). Hardly capable of adequately explaining real evil, it leaves the human soul totally unprepared for such atrocities as genocide in Nazi Germany, Kosovo, Cambodia, or Kurdish Iraq (let alone the perpetual problems of poverty, corruption, oppression, and aggression in our own backyards).

Even the religion fueling radical terrorism today across so much of the world leaves one cold. It is partly right in recognizing that there is a law given by a divine Creator and that it is given to all of the human race. But it is totally wrong in thinking that we can achieve a holiness that is acceptable to the most Holy One of all apart from His divine work on the cross: no matter our best efforts, we will always fall below the required mark if we trust merely in our own abilities or sacrifices. And so its presumption has sown the seeds of destruction and heaped upon itself an even more contemptible unholiness.

But the Good News of Jesus fully recognizes the capacity for evil of men and women and yet does not resign us to despair while we wait for self-destruction. Nor does it white-wash the fence, pretending that evil is something less than evil. It faces it and stares it down with the power of the goodness of God: what we may plan for evil, God can turn towards good (from Genesis 50:20). This is in fact why the Good News of the Gospel (which means, “good news”) is such good news!

Even so, I suspect that the greatest source of disdain from Christianity’s critics is the frequent attempt to isolate individual claims of Christianity and apply them according to these other worldviews. An unfortunate mistake – for if one cannot conceive of a natural propensity for sin in the human being, then the idea of a Savior is irrelevant; if one cannot shed the image of God as an impersonal force, redemption (as in the Christian idea of reconciliation with God) is alien; and if one can only imagine God as punitive judge, then the ideas of “Heavenly Father” and “Good Shepherd” are unfathomable.

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV).

Thus, for us to see the Good News of Jesus for what it is, the wisdom of God, then we must be willing to relax our grip on our preconceived notions of what the world is really like, what people are really capable of, and Who God really is.

“For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:19-25 ESV).

The Good News of Christ grants me peace within though the world may war without. The Good News of Christ gives me a well-spring of joy though sorrow may fill my cup. The Good News of Christ is a shelter of hope though storms of despair may hammer at my spirit. And the Good News of Christ is a balm of love and forgiveness though I may suffer cruelly from the hands of my enemies.

No wonder it seems like foolishness to someone who doesn’t yet know God personally… such a one does not know the boundless and amazing grace of an infinitely transcendent God who sees our world wracked with the pain of selfishness and sin. But He brings His grace to bear upon our woes and beckons us to release our fears and prejudices so that we might have life – real life that has no end. Let’s dare to trust Him. Let’s risk losing ourselves in Him. If we dare not, then we’ll lose in the end what we thought we had as it crumbles into nothingness. But if we do reach out for Him, we’ll find that He gives us far more than anything that we can lose as He daily gives us Himself.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan