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I had thought that I would be writing this week on the matter of Thanksgiving or perhaps an admonishment to beware, this Black Friday weekend, the frenzied lures of greed and covetousness that turn relatively sane and civilized people into barbaric hordes terrorizing retail establishments (all to the liking of those same retail establishments).

However, the explosion in the news of stories of men in power who have reportedly sexually harassed and/or assaulted women, using their position and affluence to force compliance and then to buy silence, underscores the urgent need for dialog among Americans in regard to what it means to be a man and whether or not a man can be a man without also being a sexual predator.

Ultimately, sexual harassment and sexual assaults emanate primarily from what the Bible refers to as sin, a condition that is essentially intertwined with what it means to be human. From this tragic, but intrinsically human quality, flow thoughts, attitudes, actions, habits and lifestyles that erode what God intended for what was in the beginning the crown of God’s creation, humanity which alone among living things bears the image of its creator (Genesis 1:26).

Sexual sin, in all its forms, but certainly including those occasions when a man views and subsequently treats women as mere tools to expedite his own pleasure, is a deviation from God’s purpose and plan. In His plan, men treat women with dignity and honor. What some call “old fashioned”, “gentlemanly” behaviors did not come from out of nowhere nor are they merely quaint notions of how “cute couples” get along, but are born out of a biblical worldview. Holding doors open, standing in a lady’s presence and so forth were specific behaviors that expressed a man’s regard for God’s gift of woman.

So the question arises, is it “normal” for a man to sexually harass women? Is it “okay” and/or “natural” and therefore something we should all just overlook and learn to live with? I most certainly maintain that it is not. In fact, it is an insult to God for men to behave so towards women and an insult to God for us to accept it as a “necessary evil” in regard to men.

Happily, God grants provision for men to rise to a holier (and healthier) attitude towards women. First, there is the gift of His Word, the Bible, the lens of which He bids us view ourselves, our condition, and our need for His help in changing our hearts so that we are not merely at the mercy of any and every compulsion that besets us.

“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!… How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your Word” (Psalm 119:1, 9 ESV).

Secondly, there is the promise of God’s indwelling Spirit. It is, in fact, the Lord’s design for us to live life in cooperation (and in trusting obedience) to His Spirit which then empowers us to avoid the snares and promptings of flesh when our flesh is attempting to commandeer our lives.

“But I say, walk in the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:16-17 ESV).

Thirdly, we have the potential for cultivating relationships with others that would encourage a nobler and higher regard for women. There are those men in our lives who have not settled for the lie that men can be assumed to be perverts or predators and therefore strive to remain sexually pure, be maritally faithful, and respectful of women.

These men are placed in such a proximity to your life that they challenge and encourage you to live like men should, courageously and faithfully complementing the work that God does through women who also follow God’s leading for their lives.

Like Paul the Apostle, their lives say, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Philippians 3:17 ESV).

They can see the snares of adultery and sexual promiscuity. They have recognized the dangers of pornography and the travesty that it is and how it relegates women to the role of objects of pleasure and how it enslaves men to the pursuit of physical pleasure. Many men have failed at some point but have repented (and not just because they were “caught”) and now seek, with God’s help, to live out the higher calling of viewing others, including women, the way God views them, precious and empowered co-laborers in His kingdom. These men have come to the place where they have taken their sin (not just sexual sin) and placed it under the cross of Jesus Christ and found the forgiveness of God. Seek out such men. Spend time with them. Imitate them but learn, through God’s Word, to imitate Jesus, Who is the ultimate Man.

“… Let us… lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising its shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:12b-2 ESV).

If you have failed in the past, take it to the Lord and seek His forgiveness. Seek, where possible, to make right what wrong you have done. And then forsake that hellish mentality that not only turns women into “things” in your heart, but also chains you to a small-mindedness and small-heartedness that makes us look more like Satan than it does our Savior. And finally, seek to walk with God so that you find power to live above lust and pride and live out the love and kindness of Christ.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Strive to Rest

In times of trouble and stress, the need for rest becomes all-the-more apparent. How rare it is for us today to make a space in the busyness of life that is reserved for breathing in the presence of God and breathing out His wisdom, love and will. Spiritual exhaustion seeps into every other aspect of life, including our emotions, our relationships, our self-image, our reliance upon God and the things we ultimately do and say (or don’t do and say, even when we should).

All of life seems to resist such rest. Tragedy surrounds us on all sides as if we were being besieged by forces of destruction, whether disease, horrible violence in churches and schools, natural disasters, opiate addiction and overdose deaths, orphans and broken families and international dilemmas that blare constantly through our airwaves and digital spaces.

The world wonders, “Rest? How can you speak of rest?” And it hurries on its way through the trackless jungles of worry and doubt, trying to fix with the bandages and duct tape of wishful thinking and government policy what can only be cured by the power of God in the changing of hearts.

So before you and I get carried away by the monstrous vultures of fear and hate, remember that there is healing and hope even in a time of tears. Remember that there is life and light beyond the veil of shadow of doubt that afflicts us in the swirling mists of hateful and fearful messages that rampage about us today. Take heart that even death cannot conquer the child of God for even when our bodies are broken or are overcome with weakness at last, our hope is not in this life alone, but in the life to come.

“On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God” (Psalm 62:7 ESV).

There is no evil act that trumps the sovereign grace of God at work in our world. Evil will destroy and disturb, it will slander and obscure, but it cannot quench the hope that God’s children find in the life and ministry of our risen Savior.

“Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:7 ESV).

The alternatives to trusting in Him are, of course, to trust someone else who promises “the goods” (but cannot deliver anything beyond this life), to trust ourselves (until we come tragically to the end of our wisdom and strength and find that we cannot do or be all that we must do or be), or to trust no one at all and wither into bitterness and despair as we are swallowed alive by the very evil that we hate.

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13 ESV).

Happily, it is not necessary for us to come to such a tragic conclusion. It is our blessing, as we turn from sin and turn to Jesus Christ, to enter into a rest that has been reserved for us.

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-29 ESV).

Such rest is a place of sweet release as we surrender our compulsion to “control” our lives and the lives of others (as if we really could), and learn how to, day-by-day, hear His voice from His word and how to, moment-by-moment, step with Him through the crazy labyrinth of life finding that He is indeed the only Guide truly worth trusting and the only Path that leads to life. Why would we want to live anywhere but in the place of growing in Him, knowing Him, and experiencing His love and power at work in our lives? And why on earth would we ever wander from it?

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God…. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall…” (Hebrews 4:9, 11a ESV).

If you have found yourself led astray by the devious distractions of hectic schedules, demanding expectations, or numerous disappointments, learn the simple, yet sweet, practice of daily seeking God through prayer, listening to God by reading His Word, drinking from the well of worship from among His people, and fellowshipping with Him in the sacrament of service. These are not given to us that we just have more things to do (and more things to feel guilty about if we don’t do them), but that we might be refreshed and renewed and strengthened to not only survive, but conquer.

“For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15a ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

An Unspeakable Glory

Many thoughts and prayers have been centered around the shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. Much dialogue, also, has (as usual) flurried around the matter of gun control and the answers to the questions of why it happened and how now to respond to it. There is so much heartache and brokenness emanating from this tragedy, so much that is horrific about taking the lives of the 26 people killed in what can only be described as a truly evil and cowardly act.

The day after it happened (Monday), I took a brief moment to pause and reflect on our own community and to consider its need for the hope in Jesus Christ that drew together believers there in Sutherland Springs, many of them for the last time.

As I looked out over Gallipolis and the Ohio River from Fortification Hill, my mind was filled with the thoughts of the people in our community, the men and women, boys and girls, their families, their homes, our schools and our churches and I prayed.

I prayed that God would open the hearts and minds of each of us to His presence and to His love. I prayed that He would open our lives to His power and to His hope. I prayed that He open our eyes to recognize that the only true hope that there is the world is found in His “only begotten Son” (John 3:16).

The terrible events of Sutherland Springs were insidious and contemptible in every way. Yet there is for Christians so much that resounds with an unspeakable glory and an unimaginable hope. The child of God has heard and accepted the truth that Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of all who repent and believe in Him (John 1:29) and that knowledge grants him a sure place to plant his feet and stand.

Truly, there is an unbearable pain being felt by the people of Sutherland Springs, a pain that we, in some measure, must each face. But it is not a pain that we must carry upon our shoulders; it is a pain that we find, if we will trust Him through the “valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4), that allows Him to lead us onward and upward to an eternal home in His presence.

“For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…. We ourselves… groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:18, 23b-24a ESV).

Satan’s enticements and the resulting enslavement of minds, lives, hearts and souls often erupt in obviously wicked and horribly violent ways at times and our initial reaction often is to shy away from God and question His goodness or His power. But when we remember that this life and its trials and pains are not about this life, but about preparing us for the life to come, even death loses its terror as its shadow shrinks in the light of hope in Jesus’ love and power.

Even God has suffered the pain of loss, yet He endured it so that you and I could have a hope that conquers sin and death. His Word delivers to us, by His Holy Spirit, a conviction that He Who faced down death yet rose from the grave, will be with us even today to strengthen us in our walk and fill us with joy, granting to us strength to carry on and to hold out that truth for others to hear and receive as well.

What happened in Sutherland Springs can happen here in Gallipolis, Ohio. But Satan cannot conquer the heart that is already conquered by the glory of Christ. He cannot steal what is eternally grasped in the mighty grip of God Himself.

“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?… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ 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 8:31-32,35-39 ESV).

And that, dear one, is reason for great joy.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

 

One day, many years ago, my daughter and I were singing “Old McDonald Had a Farm”, going through an entire ensemble of barnyard critters. We went in order from mouse to sheep, then cat, horse, cow, dog, goat, donkey, chicken, duck, and goose. When we would come to the point where we sang, “… And on that farm he had a…” she would smile impishly and suggest “moose”. Not sure what a moose sounds like, I kept trying to redirect the song towards “regular” farm animals, only to have her suggest “moose” once again on the next round. I love that memory and loved her joy in taking such creative liberties with the song!

There was a mooseSo what does a moose sound like anyway? I seemed to vaguely remember a documentary or something in which I may have heard a moose making some sort of trumpeting noise, but I was not sure how one would fit that into a game of “Old McDonald”.

But something else occurs to me also. Did you ever notice how a “regular” sing-along of “Old McDonald Had a Farm” gives each animal its own unique voice? “Mooses” notwithstanding, each member of McDonald’s farm family has its own niche that no other animal can assume. Cows don’t “cheep” for instance. Nor does a horse go “quack”. If they did, Old McDonald would have gone broke with psychiatric bills for his very confused critters.

Singing that song with my daughter all those years ago reminded me of a story in the Bible in which something else apparently has a voice of its own.

“As He (Jesus) was drawing near – already on the way down the Mount of Olives – the whole multitude of His disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out’” (Luke 19:37-40 ESV).

Think of it! If the crowd had contained its praise, the stones themselves would have erupted in glorious tribute to the King of Kings with sounds that no human mouth could have uttered!

But the point was not merely that the stones would have broken forth into singing; although, as I become increasingly awed by the vast wonder of God’s boundless ability and creativity, I take His comment quite literally. I realize, as I read this passage, that of the men and women, boys and girls who made up the crowd shouting praises to Jesus, each one had his or her place that only he or she could fill. The voice of each one was not lost in the tumult around him or her, but was joined together with the voices of all those around them to produce a harmony that blessed the ears of the One to Whom they shouted. Each person present was different to all the others there. Each one contributed that day to the thunder of welcome that was lifted up to the Lord. And if any one of them should have held his or her tongue, no other person could have taken his or her place. He or she may as well have set up a rock along the road as it would have been as qualified a substitute as any other person.

In the same way, there is no voice created and included in all of God’s vast world that can utter the exact melody that yours can. You have been given your own spiritual voice, your own spiritual place and niche to serve and celebrate the God of Wonders Who placed you in His world.

Your voice has been given to you to render back to God a resonance of praise and thanksgiving. Don’t let a rock have to pick up your slack because you are withholding your worship. Your voice has been entrusted to you to serve Him by telling of His awesome love, revealed in His Son, Jesus. Don’t let the story be told only by lifeless objects that have no eyes to see with, ears to hear with, nor even hearts to feel with. Your voice has been bequeathed to you so that you may serve God in the use of your words in the privilege and duty of prayer so that His kingdom might advance throughout the world as He listens and honors your intercession for those who either do not know Jesus yet as Lord or for those who belong to Him yet need the strengthening of encouragement that only His Spirit can grant them.

How would the “Old McDonald’s Farm” song go if God were singing it and you were its subject? Would it be “Here a praise! There a praise! Everywhere a praise! Praise!”? I hope so. After all, you and I have so much to praise Him for that it seems a shame to let our opportunities slip by and hope that some stones somewhere will fill in for us!

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

In the fourth season of the Andy Griffith Show, there is an episode called “Citizen’s Arrest” in which Gomer Pyle, the both physically and socially clumsy attendant of Wally’s gas station, is given a ticket by Deputy Barney Fife, everyone’s favorite stickler for the rules. The citation is for making an illegal u-turn in downtown Mayberry and is given in spite of Gomer’s protests, his appeal for mercy from Barney, and his claim on Barney for friendship.

The matter would have then been laid to rest, Gomer would have paid his two dollars, Barney would have gone back to his patrol, and Andy would have had a moment’s peace if it were not for the fact that Barney, no matter his zealousness regarding the keeping of law and order by others, excused his own culpability (responsibility for wrong, guilt) and also made an illegal u-turn (he was, as was pointed out in the show, not on an emergency run and therefore not supposed to be making a u-turn).

Of course he was then caught in a net of his own making. Gomer, standing haplessly by still holding the freshly written ticket that Barney had given him, witnesses Barney’s infraction and begins shouting at the top of his lungs, “Citizen’s arrest! Citizen’s arrest!”

A situation then unfolds in which a crowd gathers, Andy attempts to sort things out, and the altercation between Gomer and Barney escalates to the point that Barney not only resigns as deputy but, in refusing to pay his fine, locks himself in the “slammer” (one of the few times he did it on purpose), all in an attempt to hurt Andy who, in trying to be just, was forced to hold Barney to the same standard that Barney had held against Gomer.

I remember the episode clearly from childhood, Gomer’s loud chanting of “Citizen’s arrest! Citizen’s arrest!” making an impression upon me. It was a very funny show. It was troubling, too, to watch Barney’s pride get the better of him to the point that he very nearly seemed to have lost all ability to be reasonable and act rationally. It was painful to watch him render almost irreparable harm to his life-long friendship with Andy as well as very nearly flushing his own career down the proverbial drain.

On the one hand, this was just another one of those completely off-the-wall things that Barney did. “I’m not like him. I would never do that,” we might think. And so it seems surreal and we’re safely “better than him.” But really, the creators of his character were trying to create an overt example of what we are beneath the surface. We tend to know people that remind us of him but overlook the subtle things in ourselves that are perhaps more like him than we imagine or choose to appreciate.

As Christians we often have issues with our pride, for example. Perhaps the problem manifests itself when we feel compelled to put someone else in his or her place or when we criticize others with caustic remarks. We might even be inclined to run after someone in order to give him his ticket (a visible or audible rebuke that makes it clear that he is morally inferior to us).

But pride isn’t our only problem. We each also have other areas of ineptitude, places or things in which we can’t quite handle the job, so to speak, and need help. Some folks are clumsy with their words, some with their relationships, some with money, some with their physical well-being, and all of us when it comes to the deep truths of God (to one degree or another). I’ve no doubt that some reading this will be offended in my comparing them to Barney Fife, but know that I am applying a universal truth to each of us (myself included). No one but Jesus measures up to the standards of God. Whether in our actions, our words, our thoughts, or in the attitude of our hearts, we cannot measure up to the pure and righteous standard that holiness requires.

But this, of course, is where grace comes in. Our clumsiness is swallowed up by God’s grace when we turn to Him through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

If you have ever seen the episode, Citizen’s Arrest, you may recall that Andy required Barney to apply the same standard to himself as he did to Gomer, but then Andy offered to pay his fine himself out of his own pocket. Andy knew he had to be just, but his desire for ongoing friendship with Barney compelled him to make a sacrifice in order to preserve and perfect that friendship.

What was the one thing standing in Barney’s way though? It was that recurring pride of his. His pride not only refused the gift of grace his friend offered, but deliberately chose instead the alternatives of punishment, the loss of his livelihood, the harvest of humiliation that his choices brought to him, and the ending of his long friendship with Andy.

Was Barney technically in the wrong for giving Gomer the ticket? Nope. We might sympathize with Gomer who felt somewhat hurt for getting a ticket from his friend, but Barney was just in giving it and in doing so was fulfilling the responsibility given to him in being an agent for peace and law and order for Mayberry. What was unjust however was his attitude of moral superiority and his notion that the same rules did not apply to him.

By the way, God does allow u-turns. In fact, He loves it when we turn from our pride, our selfish ambitions, and our sin and begin walking with Him. “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die?” (Ezekiel 33:11 ESV).

And, once we have made that u-turn and begin walking with Him in the direction of His will for our lives, we do not become like Barney with his ever-ready ticket book and wailing siren, but live humbly in the forgiveness offered us through God’s sacrifice in His Son. Through faith in Jesus we are empowered to become messengers of grace, ready not to give tickets but words of hope and warning to those who also need to turn… turn to God’s grace and be made new!

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

In another misadventure amongst the cornstalks, we learned, in weeks following the incidents in last week’s article, a broader (and maybe deeper) perspective of some kingdom principles.

It had come to our attention in the course of that summer that the number of tomatoes among the vines in our garden were not in quantity what we had expected. At first, it was simply a vague feeling that something was amiss, but it got to the point of being fairly obvious when a tomato vine on one evening would have multiple clusters of tomatoes and then suddenly be stripped bare by the next morning. Cucumber plants also were being plundered although squash plants were only mildly disturbed: I guess that squash was not someone’s favorite vegetable. The bean plants did not appear to be disturbed suggesting that the task of picking beans was simply too time consuming or too much work to bother with for our neighborhood vegetable picker.

Standing Upright 2We considered the various culprits that possibly could be responsible and had to rule out animals (even raccoons). The plants were not pulled down but were simply plucked of their vegetables. What planted the realization beyond the reach of doubt, however, was our discovery of our storage building’s doors having been forced open, the latch bent almost beyond repair (with a few items missing from our building). Our backyard is completely surrounded by a chain link fence with gates that are locked but a spry person (or persons) could hop over the fence and back again without too much trouble.

The aggravation came to a head (or maybe I should say that it came to an “ear”) when we realized that someone was carrying off the corn. In spite of the hard work of preparing the soil (we had the help of a small rototiller for some of it but did most of it just with a shovel), the ongoing work of weeding (a never ending battle), and the struggle with falling cornstalks (don’t worry, I won’t go into that again), someone had carried off twice as much corn as we were able to pick for ourselves.

Needless to say, the Lord used the experience to develop our character in the realm of anger. And really, if someone wanted some of it we would have liked to have shared it with him… or her… or them.

But in our discussing the whole matter, my wife, Diane, and I were actually reminded of Jesus’ parable of the sower, the seed, and the soils in Matthew 13.

“He told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them’… ‘Anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path” (Matthew 13:3-4, 19 ESV).

There is a “seed” called the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is being sown along the path of life today and there are “birds” out and about scavenging that seed. A little bit like those that have snuck into our backyard to help themselves, there are causes and philosophies and false religions that steal from God the harvest that He desires in His people. What complicates this is that much of this is happening, in a sense, in His backyard. Causes that compete with the proclamation of God’s Truth and ideas that have their origins in worldly philosophy have a way of infiltrating the lives of Christians and consequently steer them away from the harvest of Godly fruits that the soil of their lives would yield for Christ.

Instead of the fruits of worship, thanksgiving, love, joy, peace, holiness, and glory to God, folks are too often giving themselves to thieves. As a result they leave behind legacies of selfishness, resentment, strife, brokenness, anger, immorality, and dishonor to God’s name. Frankly, if your life is not wholly surrendered to God for His glory and purposes, and obeying Him and experiencing His love in your life is not your top priority, then someone has been plundering the garden of God and you are an accomplice.

What makes this worse is that many Christians are “okay” with this mediocre and lukewarm spirituality. But the Lord isn’t okay with it. Not only is He being robbed of the devotion of His people, He is also being robbed of the effect that such devotion has on unbelievers: the salvation of souls. And if you can imagine Diane and myself being somewhat disturbed and frustrated by someone coming into our yard to snatch a few vegetables, then you’ll probably realize that the spiritual crime of robbing God is far more serious and deadly.

So what do we do? How do we not rob God of His harvest? The Bible puts forward this plan of action.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, 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. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:12-17 ESV).

So take care to not let spiritual thieves into the corner of God’s garden that is your life. Focus your devotion upon the Lord Jesus and let His Holy Spirit nurture the soil of your heart with His Word. As He brings conviction to your spirit from the revealing of His truth, yield to His leading and follow His lead. Our family finally took some steps to discourage future thefts, and God is taking steps to protect a future harvest in your life. Let Him have His way in your heart and let Him reap the fruits of grace that He desires to produce for you.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

An unusually wet summer, years ago, proved to be a special problem in growing corn when my wife and I were a bit more involved in growing vegetables for our family. I recall one garden news expert remarking at the time that since, we were having an especially wet summer, the roots of corn plants had not grown downward as deeply as they generally do thus making them very susceptible to being knocked down. And so it was that a very heavy rain late in the season beat the corn down until the stalks all lay flat upon the ground. Being of the opinion that corn growing vertically would do much better than corn lying flat on the ground, my wife, Diane, and I laboriously restored them to upright positions by carefully standing each individual plant up and then packing soil around their roots.

A few weeks later, a few short but heavy rains early in the day knocked a lot of the corn down again. I was not home at the time so my wife diligently set herself to the task of restoring them to an upright stance and, when our family left to run some errands, the garden was in fairly decent shape. But then we had a “gulley washer” a few evenings later while we were gone. The next morning when we investigated, we found that the four new rows of corn had all fallen, smashed down flat once again by torrents of rain.Standing Upright

When we were finally able to go out to fix what we could before we had to leave again, we found that a lot of the stalks were actually broken or had begun to curve as they lay on the ground, their growth bending them towards the sunlight. Still, it was mostly back in shape by the time we had to leave again.

Two days later, however, Diane went out again to the garden and discovered that another rain had fallen, both adding significant weight to the corn stalks and weakening the soil that we had piled up around the plants causing them to fall again. Needless to say, we were both crestfallen over our fallen corn. We seized the narrow window of opportunity between other responsibilities and stood the plants up yet again.

The end result of our labors I may disclose in a future article, but for now let me only say that our misadventures in trying to keep the corn upright reminded me a little of God’s efforts in growing an “upright” people in whom He intends to produce a harvest.

If we appreciate the fact that God personally engages His people in a covenant relationship (complete with mutual benefits and responsibilities), then we must recognize the trial that we must be to Him at times as we frequently demonstrate a failure at being “upright”.

The spiritual alignment of a Christian is, in a sense, a vertical one. This is not a description of a physical stance but of a spiritual one, in case anyone thought that the human body is some sort of cosmic rabbit ears: lifting your left arm over your head, for example, and holding your right leg backward in the air will in no way improve the effectiveness of your prayers. No, living in spiritually vertical alignment (which is to say “living an upright life”) simply means living a life focused on God and His Word while manifesting a straightforward commitment for “God-likeness” in attitude and character. This orientation, which is not native to us, is the result of a life redeemed by Jesus’ sacrifice and a heart that is transformed by God’s grace.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14 ESV).

We might be considered a “trial” to God therefore when we lean towards either the various distractions that come our way or give in to our own compulsions (the remnants of the old lives we lived before we came to know Jesus as Savior). Such “mild” and subtle bendings in our character are little moments of compromise or laziness that erode a passionate following of Jesus. Naturally, when “heavy rains” of trouble, trial, and temptation come our way, we are knocked flat into a mud of failure and condemnation from the world.

When Diane and I were standing corn up for the umpteenth time, I can tell you that I seriously considered giving up on that corn. But my wise wife gently reminded me of the reward we could expect on the other end of our waiting and working, stalks with full and ripened ears of corn upon them. So I joined her and set myself again to the task of straightening out that stubborn corn.

And I am sure too that when we get knocked down the Lord is quick to intervene in our lives in order to stand us up again in an upright relationship with God. Through His Word He “straightens us out” so that you and I can live an upright life, free to enjoy our fellowship with Him and His people, and ready to produce a harvest of praise and fruitful service to God. The fruit of godliness produced by living uprightly opens the door for a more joyful life and opens the door for those around us to also be touched by the grace of God.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan