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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.

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“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

Summer nears its end with a collage of sights, sounds, and sensations that flood the experience. The lush green of late summer (when it hasn’t been a drought year) is unlike that of any other time of year; flowers gardens are glowing and bugs are buzzing with their busy, end-of-summer drone.

Of course, bugs are not the only things buzzing about. The yearly phenomenon of fall sports also starts afresh with the energy and zest that those who are bored with summer enthusiastically embrace. As football practice and fall soccer in particular prepare to get underway, children and their parents (who are often much more passionate about the games than are their kids) will just in a few short weeks once again line the bleachers to cheer and jeer with passion their way through the season.

Passion… a word so riddled with various meanings that it can be used almost as a dirty word and yet signifies that remarkable quality by which we summon up untapped energies, reorient our minds with new dreams and ambitions and then begin the whole-hearted pursuit of our heart’s desire.

Passion can be an amazing thing; amazingly fruitful when it rockets us towards helpful and fruitful goals; amazingly destructive and dangerous when it drags us into the pits of lust, greed and proud ambition.

Christians must continually guard their own hearts in this regard. It is easy for our eyes to be drawn by the activity of “winning teams” and the overly-inflated luster of “beating out” other kids (by which we determine that our own children are superior to others).

In recent years, it has repeatedly occurred that fans of sports react to losing (or winning) by resorting to extreme violence and destruction. Nothing new I suppose, but I wonder sometimes if it has been escalating, especially when I hear more and more incidents of parents assaulting other parents at their children’s sports events. What is wrong with us that we would let it get that far?

And it should be clear too that this isn’t really about sports. Playing sports is a great source of exercise, fun and excitement, the learning of teamwork, and an opportunity to develop initiative. But, although athletic events are sometimes an obvious forum in which some folks make spectacles of their misplaced passions, this is really about anything that supplants God’s place of preeminence as Lord of our lives. Things like career achievement, financial affluence, physical ecstasy, and social approval (to name only a few) too easily and too often become our hearts’ desires.

Misplaced passions always reap bitter harvests though. Whether we’re talking about getting swallowed up by the lightning-fast pace of the corporate world, keeping up with the Joneses right on into Chapter 11, chemical addictions or STDs or even co-dependent relationships that repeatedly fail and leave us heart-broken, whatever we allow to come before God comes to nothing in the end. This is why it is time right now to seek after God. This is why it is imperative that we begin to passionately pursue the most important thing of all before the setting of another sun.

“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all My purpose’” (Isaiah 46:8-10a ESV).

Are we willing to live with the “end in mind?” I hope so. It’s a shame to think that we might pursue all our own purposes, not believing perhaps, that only His purposes and plans will last for eternity.

“The path of the righteous is level; You make level the way of the righteous. In the path of Your judgments, O LORD, we wait for You; Your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. My soul yearns for You in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks You” (Isaiah 26:7-9a ESV).

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Okay. I admit it. I am tempted sometimes to feel troubled by the times. From the point of view of someone who believes that there is such a thing as “truth” and that such truth has as its basis and origin a Creator, our culture seems to be waging war against the idea of a divine standard and, therefore, the One Who upholds that standard.

I am troubled that our society’s “drift” from God is now a complete freefall from any consciousness of Him and all conviction of moral uprightness. I am troubled by our government’s ongoing rabid support of anti-life (pro-abortion) legislation. I am troubled by the notion that Christianity has become culturally marginalized as if Biblical values have no place in public policy and are therefore interpreted as being irrelevant and now “offensive” and bigoted. I am troubled by the saturation of unrestrained sensuality that constantly surrounds our children, the reckless and senseless “normalization” of violence as being nothing more than entertainment (particularly when slash-and-gore movies make their rounds this fall), and attitudes of rebellion and dishonor to parents that are popularized in music and popular television. I am troubled by churches that claim to belong to God on the one hand and yet shrug off His Word on the other. And I am troubled by apathy and powerlessness that often characterizes Christians in general.

But although I may feel troubled, the promises of God have a way of reining my anxieties in. This is not the only occasion in which God’s people have lived in disconcerting times and have faced disconcerting circumstances. In fact, Christians today need to remember to Whom they belong, Whose blood was spilled for them, and Whose promises never fail.

We need not be afraid of the times, nor of policies that are contrary to God’s Word, neither do we need fear increasing disfavor in our society’s eyes. Instead, we ought to continue to fear the Lord Whose hand still governs the nations and holds the entire universe in its grasp.

“The LORD spoke thus to me with His strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: ‘Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, Him you shall regard as holy. Let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. And He will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling… And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.’ Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. I will wait for the LORD… I will hope in him” (Isaiah 8:11-17 ESV).

For many today, the Lord is very much “a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling” (see verse 14) because a genuine faith in God that compels people to make radical choices for their lifestyles and values is just too much to ask for some. True disciples that establish boundaries for what is acceptable and what is not, choosing obedience to His Word over comfort and convenience, are rarer and rarer in a world that worships freedom from restraint and responsibility. Many have indeed stumbled (see verse 15) and live now only a watered down spiritual life. And so they have become snared (also in verse 15), taken by the whims of society and fearful of taking a stand for the values of God.

“For wickedness burns like a fire; it consumes briers and thorns; it kindles the thickets of the forest, and they roll upward in a column of smoke” (Isaiah 9:18 ESV).

Nevertheless, if you are His child, then do not fear. It may seem that the shadows of our times have lengthened to a twilight of hope. But if you walk a life that is humbled before the Lord, trusting His promises, and strive to be obedient to His Word, then you can expect the light of His love being shed abroad in your experience.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Isaiah 9:2 ESV).

Be reminded that the light of Jesus Christ is greater than the darkness of human sin. Be comforted in knowing that the willful and wanton rebellion of a nation does not trump the grace of God which covers His people for all eternity. Yes, we continue to proclaim and hold fast to the truth of Christ. Yes, we continue to seek godliness in our homes, for our families, and even in how we conduct ourselves at work or in school. Yes, we will frequently be derided for faith in God and godly conviction. But our eyes are not on our circumstances, they’re on God. Our ears are not open to the public opinion, but to the voice of God. Our hands are not quick to win the favor of those who do not know God, but are ready and available to serve the One Who not only always speaks truth but IS truth.

“The LORD loves justice; He will not forsake His saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and His tongue speaks justice. The law of His God is in His heart; His steps do not slip. The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death. The LORD will not abandon him to his power…. Wait for the LORD and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off” (Psalm 37:28-34 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Beautiful and amazing things happen to you in the moment that you are brought into the Kingdom of God as you place your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Of course there is the fact that you are “born again” into God’s family. “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God…. Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:3, 5-6 ESV).

Then there is the wonder of an incredible transformation taking place as you are made new. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, Who through Christ reconciled us to Himself…” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18a ESV).

And how can we not marvel that the ugly and loathsome sins that we have borne are carefully and completely cleansed from us! “You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14 ESV).

No less amazing is the fact that God has set us apart for Himself, for His purposes and for our own sake! This setting apart is called “holiness” in the Scriptures and has almost become unknown in the culture in which we live. Today it is clear that we have lost sight of the precious treasure of holiness and drifted from flirtations with “unholiness” to embracing it; from embracing unholiness to flaunting it.

But what is holiness? What does it look like? How do we grasp this lifestyle of living in the Lord, fulfilling His purposes for our lives, and knowing the joy of being wholly His? Well, holiness is not self-righteousness, nor is it strict adherence to a rigid code of conduct (although these ideas seem to be the prevailing attitudes and biases folks have about holiness).

Holiness is first of all the nature of God. It is the infinitely high and noble essence of what He is and how He reveals Himself to us. His holiness is unfathomable and so alien to our fallen nature that we naturally contend with the directions in which His holiness leads us.

“Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11 ESV). So majestic that we must revere it if ever our hearts truly turn towards Him, His holiness is overwhelming!

Holiness for us then is both recognizing the unique and precious nature of God and embracing it. It is the pursuit of the pleasure of God as we willingly seek to know Him as He is and to become like Him by the help He grants us through His Holy Spirit.stand alone

“Strive for… the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14 ESV). Righteousness (being considered “upright” and therefore acceptable by God) is granted to us because the true righteousness of Jesus is credited to us once we place our faith in Him: our sin is forgiven and we know that He has made a place for us in heaven. But holiness is the key to intimacy with God because through holiness we turn our attention to His love, His purposes, and His ways and subsequently submit to them. It is no wonder then that God admonishes us to pursue holiness in how we live and will even take steps to correct us and discipline us accordingly.

“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness” (Hebrews 12:7-10 ESV).

Many Christians today may have no idea what holiness is all about. Or they may wonder why we should seek to live in it. Or they may even scoff at it as a relic of the past or an agenda of a pompous and “kill-joy” group of hypocrites. Nevertheless, holiness is essential to the joy that God intends for us in life. We must remember that we are called to live holy lives and that we are truly set apart for God. We do not belong any longer to the world, nor are we bound any longer to its wickedness.

So what practical steps can we take in the pursuit of holy living? We could try to (and too often do) compose a long and complicated list of “Thou shalts” and “Thou shalt nots”, but the Bible teaches us a simple frame of mind to adopt that lovingly yet firmly leads us into ever-increasing holiness as we lean on God’s empowering through His Word and prayer.

“You also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace…. Just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification” (Romans 6:11-14, 19b ESV).

Because you are called to sanctification, which is another word for “holiness”, your body and your mind are now reserved for God and His purposes. Withhold the valuable gifts that your mind and body are from those things that are contrary to God’s will for your life and daily offer them anew to Him so that He might both bless you and bless the nations of the world through you.

“As a pleasing aroma I will accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered. And I will manifest My holiness among you in the sight of the nations.…. You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (Ezekiel 20:41, 1 Peter 2:9 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

I am often convicted that the key misunderstanding among Christians that produces qualities of apathy, confusion, legalism, and pride is in the matter of what it is to which we have basically been called. It is true that you and I are called to serve God, but it is not our primary calling. It is true that you and I are meant to learn of God and His Word, but the reason we do so is not so that we can just be impressive reservoirs of useless information. It is true that we are to not live like the world or buy into its value system, but the reason is not that we might be able to look down our noses on others or point to our spiritual superiority. And it is true that we are called to lives of great value and worth, but it is not so we can revel in our own uniqueness or squander our gifts and opportunities upon our selfish desires.

It is to love that we have been called. We are called to be loved by God (living according to His pleasure and purposes for us) and enjoying the delight in which He lavishes upon us; and we are called to love God with all our being, rendering to Him a passion and devotion that usually only appears in counterfeit forms in Hollywood love stories or sappy songs that make us groan inwardly. Far different from our shallow ideas of love is the love God intends for us. The love relationship for which we are made is not an imaginary apparition that we chase in vain nor is it simply an emotional by-product of wishful thinking. The love to which we have been called is both real and true.

First, consider the “realness” of God’s own love for you. It exists whether or not you recognize or accept it. It is there even if you do not believe in it, hence the need for the Bible to remind us of it.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 37-39 ESV).

If that promise of His love is not enough for you, then consider the “proof” (or demonstration) of His love.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.…. By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us…. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (John 3:16, 1 John 3:16a, 4:9-10 ESV).

In other words, God’s love for you is so “true” that He gave His only Son for you, sinless and perfect though He is. Furthermore, His love for you is so “real” that it has tremendous power over your life, your circumstances, your past and your future.

“What then shall we say to these things? 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?” (Romans 8:31-32 ESV).

It is to love that you have been called: to be loved and to love Him in return.

“Whoever has My commandments,” said Jesus, “and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21 ESV).

This basically means that we are to go beyond lip-service and Sunday morning religion and enter into a daily love-relationship with God that supersedes all other priorities, passions, and pursuits. Loving God and enjoying His love in return is more than just going to church. It is more than just living a moral and (self) righteous life. It’s about giving your heart away to the One Who made you and died for you. It’s about romancing the heart of God with a passionate clinging to Him, His Word, and His leading by His Holy Spirit.

Do not settle for mediocre and ho-hum Christianity. Chase after God and let the power of His love change you. Are you in doubt about whether or not He can love you? Then go back to what His Word says. His love for you is not founded on your appearance, your finances, your ability to do “great things” for Him, your not having miserable failures in the past, or even your good intentions. He loves you simply because He is love (see 1 John 4:16).

And as you allow the soothing waters of God’s love surround you and flow into you, with cleansing and healing power, let them flow through you that the love of God which has rescued you from sin and death, reach the parched desert shores of lives that have not yet been reached or transformed by this love that has been revealed to us through Jesus Christ.

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:16-18a ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

I’m not a “die-hard” Andy Griffith Show fan, but I sometimes have the opportunity to sit down with my family and enjoy a hilarious episode with them. Perhaps my all-time favorite episode is the one entitled, “Aunt Bea, the Warden” where she is haplessly made the caretaker of Otis, the town drunk, who can’t “sleep off” his stupor in the jailhouse as he normally does. Not the least inclined to coddle him as the sheriff and deputy are in the habit of doing, she promptly initiates her prisoner into “the Rock” (as he later “affectionately” refers to it) with a good dousing of cold water and a healthy dose of good ol’ hard work.

However, Otis, not accustomed to a sentence of “hard labor”, groans and moans his way through the day. And in between his grass cutting, window washing, hall vacuuming, dish washing, and floor scrubbing, he makes several less than heroic efforts at “breaking out”.

Even Aunt Bea cant reform us But always watching over him is the ever vigilant eye of Aunt Bea. Just as soon as he slips his shoes off so he can sneak out, she’s right after him with snapping finger that have all the effect of a cracking whip. So, after all his futile efforts to escape have been foiled (from disguising himself as a laundry bag for the cleaners to truck away, to his climbing out a second-story window and down a nearby painter’s ladder), and in spite of his pleas for mercy directed at the sheriff, he eventually “does his time”. Then, all cleaned up and looking sharp, he vows never to touch another drop of liquor. Later he is repeatedly referred to as having been reformed. At the end of the episode, four other prisoners who have been recaptured are transported to “the Rock” (since the deputy’s efforts to reform them only result in their escaping from jail). Once they realized where they are, one cries out, “Oh, no! We heard about this place! It’s the Rock!” and the four of them try to scramble over the sheriff and deputy back into the police car. And when Aunt Bea herself materializes, holding brooms, mops, and buckets, one of the big, burly men points at her and yells to his brothers, “Bloody Mary!” just as they are all shoved under her ruthless reign by the sheriff and deputy.

And what a logical and perfectly sensible solution to the crime wave besetting little Mayberry… turn the hardened criminals over to one who knows how to whip them into shape. Ah, yes. Maybe I enjoy it all the more because Aunt Bea reminds me a lot of my sweet and unassuming grandmother before she went to be with the Lord.

As far as Otis goes, the whole idea of reforming a man gone bad, of course, is not a new one. It defines society’s general attitude towards handling men and women convicted of crimes and has at its heart, for its greatest proponents, a core of mercy.

But since this episode was produced and aired in the show’s second season, folks who watched the show know that Otis did not stay “reformed” for very long, no matter what oath he had made. He was back to the booze in short order and remained in the less than honorable position of “town drunk” until a reunion movie was made many years later.

I’ve known men and women with substance addictions and can attest to the terrible chains that alcohol and drugs have produced for them. The addictions themselves aside, consequences to being under the influence, terrible decisions, and tremendous lapses of moral fortitude destroy families, marriages, careers, and even lives in only moments. The addictions also create such a bondage that men and women who would have been horrified by the very idea, have fallen to such an extent that every sentence from their lips is a lie and stealing becomes so natural and subconsciously driven that they’re not even aware that they are doing it. 

But this column isn’t really about alcohol or other substance abuse. It’s about all of us and our struggle against sin. Spiritually speaking, we’re all waging a war, caught between impulses that can overwhelmingly and unexpectedly surge within us (urging us to hate and hurt, maim or kill those who represent to us racism and classism’s abuses of power) and those societal pressures for us to conform (to “fall into line” and do what we’re told).

Although we each are created in the image of God, our nature has been corrupted by our cumulative rejection of God’s love and authority over us. Our nature, although designed perfectly by a perfect Designer, has gone out of control and seeks to elevate its own interests above relationship with God and even our own long-term future. Humanity has an incredible addiction to selfishness and pride. And it takes more than mere reformation for us to break free of it. You or I may look at social problems, diagnose them in other people (sometimes even correctly), and yet miss the fact that we ourselves are each liars at heart (if not overtly, we’re great at spinning the truth to our own benefit), thieves by nature (“Well, the mistake was the cashier’s, not mine”), and murderers in the hidden chambers of our thoughts (“I hate him for what he’s done to me. I wish he were dead”).Aunt Bea cant reform us

Maybe you disagree with my logic, but I’ve no doubt that if you were to honestly lay out all the thoughts you’ve ever had on a table, you’d be as red as a tomato. But the point isn’t that God stands over us like some monstrous Aunt Bea with flaming red eyes and a huge rolling pin poised to whack us on the head, or even snapping His fingers at us, and demanding more blood, sweat, and tears. The point isn’t even that God is telling you to pull yourself up by your boot straps and reform yourself. “Now promise you’ll be a good boy, Otis, and run along.”

The point simply is that what you and I need isn’t “reformation”; it’s “transformation”. You can mold something externally and maybe make it resemble something else (or break it in trying to do it). But to really change something into something else, you’ve got to get inside it and effect change from its heart. That’s true of you and me. You and I can’t be the people God wants us to be unless we let Him transform us. And He can’t transform us unless we let Him into our hearts. We need for more than our appearances to change. Our desires have to change; our values have to change; and our choices have to change. And it takes a something more than resolve and good intentions on our part. The source of strength on which we depend must shift from self-reliance to dependence on God’s strength (which He offers us by His Holy Spirit through His Word, prayer, authentic worship, and the loving support of other Christian men and women who understand our struggles and lift us up with love).

Reformation, even when it appears to work, doesn’t really work. The transformation that comes from placing our faith in Jesus alone as savior and His exerting His lordship in our hearts is the only solution for setting us free from the bondage of our own sinful natures. You might be inclined to settle for a watch-dog to help you get in shape. Or you might be resigned to tolerating character flaws and spiritual needs within yourself. I hope not though. Jesus has made a way for you and me to break free and start clean with Him. After He’s invested so much so that we can be free, why try to do it on our own?

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 ESV).

Copyright ©  Thom Mollohan

 

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