In times of famine and drought, the thoughts of a man dwell constantly on food and drink. When scorching winds blow and the rays of the sun beat down without mercy, he dreams of a renewal of his strength and soothing refreshment.

I believe us to be today in such a famine and drought. We wrestle with such a profound spiritual poverty that we are finding ourselves empty and parched for something that gives peace in the valley of sorrow and fear – a valley through which we tread and yearn for something that grants us hope beyond the grave. Too often we seek to satisfy our longings with temporary fixes, but end up unfulfilled, empty, lonely, and broken.

“… A hungry man dreams he is eating and awakes with his hunger not satisfied, or as when a thirsty man dreams he is drinking and awakes faint, with his thirst not quenched…” (Isaiah 29:8 ESV).

But a genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ is both fulfilling and refreshing. Becoming His child through obedient faith in His atoning death on the cross and His resurrection, we must come to understand that we are doing far more than merely adopting a “Christian” philosophy, worldview, or lifestyle. We have entered into a covenantal relationship with God Himself. Having “saved” us through faith in Christ by grace, He both seals us for His divine purposes and glory, and sets us apart as royal members of His own heavenly household.

“In him you also when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV).

Knowing then that we have been set apart as special recipients of God’s favor, we can reasonably expect to find that He is more than sufficient in satisfying our deepest soul-wracking hungers and spirit-parching thirsts. The most fundamental secret then to lasting happiness is to not turn to temporal alternatives. Material and shallow substitutes may momentarily appease our appetites but they can do no more than simply distract us from our inevitable collision with eternity. Nor can we afford to play “Let’s Make a Deal” with other religions, their promises of everlasting hope and peace being mere curtains over “Door Number Three” into destruction and endless judgment, a day of reckoning with a God Who is holy.

If you are God’s child then “you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-11 ESV).

There is an urgency today that cries out to us that we set our affairs in order, stop delaying in our obedience to God, and wholeheartedly trust His love, His power, and His wisdom.

There is an urgency today that cries out to us that we set our affairs in order, stop delaying in our obedience to God, and wholeheartedly trust His love, His power, and His wisdom.

And, happily, to learn to walk with Him now (though we may have all our lives ahead of us) allows our journey to joyfully blend with His activity – His mission to reveal His love, power, and holiness to the world.

And besides, when we’ve become His children and begin to walk with Him in the here-and-now, we come to know Him personally and intimately. As we dwell in His Word, seek Him in prayer, and follow His leading as He shepherds our hearts, we not only have opportunities to see His hand at work but also occasions of His glorious presence revealed to us.

So stop, look, and listen. Stop running the wild race of life on your own. And stop seeking satisfaction in things that aren’t going to have any lasting value. Stop putting God off, telling Him that “one day you’ll give Him your heart.” Stop… and look up and know that your Creator yearns to give you real hope that the world can’t steal away from you. Look to His Word for encouragement, direction, and for transformation as He establishes His holy presence in you. Look around with eyes opened by His love and see the needs of countless scores about you that the Lord would love to bless if only you, His child, would take the time. Look… and listen to what God has to say about you, your inestimable value in His sight, and His purposes to bless and keep you. Listen with an open heart to His Holy Spirit’s prompting inside of you towards holiness, courage, and compassion. Listen to His voice as He leads you, His precious child, in ways of peace and hope. Listen as He shares His words of comfort and encouragement with your hurting and weary soul. Let this be the day that you stop in your tracks, turn to Him, and start anew knowing that His Word of life and truth is everlastingly trustworthy.

And Jesus said to those gathered around Him… “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake – for you do not know when the Master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or in the morning – lest He come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake’” (Mark 13:31-37 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Food That Endures

It is a wise use of time to consider the direction of one’s life, pondering the extent to which it has been lived well and has significance beyond the small span of years that it has on earth. One may on occasion reflect on such things and find the path that he treads lacking in any really meaningful direction or having any real eternal value. Hungering for more in life is a good thing.

At times, one may look at his or her life and perceive shackles and chains that keep him or her in bondage and unable to cultivate those things that are truly important and precious. Guilt, obsession, shame, fear, pride, anger, lust, bitterness, apathy, or greed form bonds that cannot be broken by mere human strength. Even Christians can fall victim to the depredations of such snares, spiritually disemboweled and empty of the hope, victory, joy and peace we profess to have in Christ Jesus.

Sadly, these are times when the sum total of our spirituality is tied up with the waves of circumstances that we ride or the emotional tides that lap at the shorelines of our lives. We sometimes follow Jesus simply because we desire Him to fill our “spiritual bellies” or fix our problems; not because He is Lord of all and has done the amazing work of atoning for our sin with His own life. Sometimes we “follow” Him just because we see Him as a free ride out of pain and sorrow and into contentment and easy living.

So what can we say about this? Does He or does He not care for our pain and suffering? Of course He does. Is it or is it not of any significance to Him that we may be lonely or afraid, hurting or hungry? Of course it is. Otherwise He would not have given to you and me an outstretched hand and invited us into the “living room” of His grace.

“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 11:28-30 ESV).

Anyone who does not allow for the love of Jesus being realized in the human experience does not understand the love of our Savior. He who thinks of the love of God as being purely an abstract theological teaching is missing out on a great truth about the love of God:  that the love of God is real. It is eternal and transcendent, to be sure, for it is above any mere mortal’s ability to grasp how perfect and endless is the love of our Redeemer.

Nevertheless, the tremendous love of God spills into our lives daily. Whenever the fingers of dawn begin to stretch into the twilight of the eastern sky each morning, we are reminded that no darkness is so enduring that daybreak will not come in time. Whenever the giggles of children interrupt our otherwise mundane days, we are taught anew that it isn’t too late to sip again the nectars of the joy and hope that only God’s love can bring. And whenever we find our hearts breaking when suffering the loss of a loved one through death or through estrangement, we take comfort in knowing that as Jesus was deeply moved to the point of weeping for grief-stricken Mary and Martha in John 11:33 and 35, so is He moved by the deep ache of our lives when we also lose hope.

However, we must first of all be mindful of the fact that God’s love compels us to become more than what we were before we met Christ Jesus. He will not be satisfied with “leaving well enough alone”. He is not content with that. He desires for us to no longer be slaves to sin, prisoners of hopelessness, and punching bags for despair. He has adopted us into His family and has made of us children of His royal family as well as junior partners with Him as we serve Him in this life.

Secondly, let us not be oblivious to the fact that His will always directs us to new horizons as we climb with Him to new experiences, new hopes, and a new future. One knows how seriously he or she takes the will of God by how much God’s will matters in the planning of each and every day.

The “food that endures to eternal life” are those things pursue that have eternal value and consequence.

The “food that endures to eternal life” are those things we pursue that have eternal value and consequence.

Finally, let us consider well the ultimate purposes of the demonstration of God’s power in our lives. It is not simply to make things more convenient for us. While our Father in heaven may choose to bless us materially for example, He is not excessively worried about the quality of the car we drive or the clothes we wear. And I will guarantee that the forefront of God’s mind is not occupied with the size of one’s house or yard. Those things in which we find ourselves somewhat lacking are “pointers to God” – inasmuch as we permit God to remind us that He Himself is our all-in-all. If we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ, we may count ourselves rich beyond measure though we wear patched clothes or are forced to ride a bike because we have no car. And those things in which we can see our needs being met by His graciousness are also just temporary “pointers” to those things that really count in eternity.

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.  For on Him God the Father has set His seal” (John 6:26-27 ESV).

And what are the things that really count and what is this “food that endures to eternal life”?

Simply put, these things that count most are the things that have eternal consequence. One’s eternal destiny, for example, should be an urgent priority because we do not know the count of days given to us. Also of great importance is the spiritual legacy we each will leave behind for others. How does my life impact the spiritual destiny of my family, my friends, my co-workers, and even strangers I may never know?

Most of all, I must ask the question, “Is my life pleasing to God?” I do not want only to be “acceptable” to Him; I want to be pleasing to Him.

Let it be the ambition of each of His children to hunger for more in life. May it be our goal to one day hear Him say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant!… Come and share your Master’s happiness” (from Matthew 25:21 and 23).


Copyright © Thom Mollohan.

Can He Build It?

Anyone who has entered into a building or renovation project finds that it is often a noisy and messy process. Naturally! Those who are not used to the work, mess, and time involved in such a project can be discouraged and may question why they ever entered into it. And those who are not accustomed to or at least informed as to the cost of such projects can be overwhelmed and wonder how something that seemed so simple could end up costing so much. Dream big and save big for what it is you want to do, but keep the aspirin handy: such is the way of progress.

And that’s just in the physical world! As much energy, time, hard work, and resources as we may pour into those material things that ultimately do not last, we should be reminded of how carefully one must be in the building of one’s life: our relationships, reputations, and legacies. Only one life to live with eternity to follow. Maybe we’d better get things right in the here and now.

So… how do you really make your life count? What steps can you take in building for yourself something that will outlast your physical body? How will you go about leaving something behind that will endure beyond the end of your days here on earth?

He can build it

It is vital to understand Who ultimately has the right to be the architect of your destiny.

Begin by asking yourself, “Who is doing the building in my life?” Perhaps that seems like an odd question, but it’s an extremely important one. It is vital to understand Who ultimately has the right to be the architect of your destiny. Shouldn’t it be the One Who made you? Is it not God, the Creator, Savior, Master and Lord? Would it not be worthwhile and wise to let the One Who created you with grand themes in mind to lead you into experiencing His plans for your life?

After all, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1a ESV). Who wants to live a life that ultimately is summed up as vain and empty of meaning? Besides that, while it is a great idea to plan ahead, remember that “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 ESV). Is it not better to willingly follow the Lord’s leading than to go kicking and dragging one’s feet?

Secondly, ask yourself the question, “With what material am I building my life?” I don’t mean, of course, things like straw, wood or even brick (whatever the Three Little Pigs may think).

The things I mean are a little bit more abstract. Are you building a life with the highly unstable materials so highly valued by the world? Are you in an obsessed pursuit for material success? Are you aiming for the topsy-turvy goal of the acclamation of others? Are the evasive prizes of position and influence your heart’s desires and the reasons that you do all that you do?

With all the ways you could spend your life lying before you like an endless menu, you’ll likely get a throbbing in your head akin to the one that I have from the rhythm (or lack thereof) of hammers pounding a mere yard or two away from me all this week.

Nonetheless, you will have not lived in vain if you build your life on the foundation of Jesus Christ with the bricks and mortar of love, holiness, faith, service, hope and courage. On the contrary, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame’” (1 Peter 2:4-6 ESV).

If I were to attempt to sum up the gist of what God can do with your life, I might borrow the theme from “Bob the Builder”, one of our children’s favorite television shows when they were little: “God the Builder: Can He build it? Yes, He can!”

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Early and Late

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are really only two kinds of people in the world: “early people” and “late people”. I am of the “late person” persuasion. You know, the kind that always gets stuck in traffic; the one who spills coffee all down his front and has to somehow find time to change clothes; the kind upon whom everyone else is always waiting (unless, of course, these are other “late people” who simply congratulate you for showing up at all).

When I am especially late for something especially important I am sometimes tempted to pray, “Please, Lord, let someone else be later than me!” Generally, if people are still there when I finally arrive and are still on speaking terms with me, I write the journey off as a success.

Early people, on the other hand, always arrive at least fifteen minutes early to everything. This is extremely stressful for “late people” who are having “early people” over and must frantically try to get everything ready (knowing they don’t have the thirty extra minutes they would have if “late people” were coming over to visit). Fortunately, my wife is an “early person” so I’ve not had so much of a problem with this since we’ve been married, although my tendency for lateness is something of a thorn in her side at times.

Watching the clock

God knows exactly when to do what He has planned.

Of course, all this leads us to the fact that “early people” are often aggravated with “late people” because of the constant delays. Thus, lateness is often associated with apathy. Just to set the record straight for all you “early people” out there: we “late people” aren’t necessarily apathetic; we’re just… hmm… late.

God, however, seems to me to be in a class all by Himself. He’s neither a “late Person”, nor is He an “early Person”. He’s on time.

God never moves before or after His appointed time. Some examples include His not giving Abraham the son of promise (Genesis 21:2, Hebrews 11:8-12); His not bringing the children of Israel out of Egypt (Genesis 15:13, Exodus 12:40-42); His not bringing them into Canaan (Numbers 14:33-34, Joshua 3-4); His not allowing His temple to be built (1 Chronicles 17:11-12, 2 Chronicles 6:10-11); and His not having His people released from Babylon (Ezra 1:1-4) until it was the right time for each of these things to happen.

Neither did He send His Son, Jesus, into the world until it was the right time. Isn’t it marvelous to see how God works? In His great economy He knew exactly when to do what He had planned! It was just the right time for the Savior to be born in that stable one night over two thousand years ago! It was just the right time for Him to come and reveal the love of the Father for the world as He taught, healed and ministered. Even His crucifixion was perfectly timed. All the conditions were ripe; all the players were in place for God’s great drama to unfold. He was neither late nor early in carrying out His plan!

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6 ESV). What an appropriate reflection for us to dwell upon in the faster-than-light speed of life today!

In practical application, for a person who seeks to walk with God in a love relationship with Him through faith in His Son, this also means that whatever God is doing in one’s life right now, he or she has no need to fear that His timing will be off. In His great economy, He still knows exactly when to do what He has planned. His timing is always right as He works out His plan for you.

Although His timing is always right, our patience generally needs a great deal of fine-tuning! Please know that God is so interested in you that He will at times deliberately “delay” events in your life in order to “maximize” His fruit in you. Our Father knows what He’s doing, how best to do it and how to time things just right. And although He isn’t likely to consult us about our own plans and probably won’t ask permission to interrupt our agendas, that’s okay, isn’t it? He is Lord after all.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Lighthouse Living

If you are a Christian, how does His light shine through you into the darkness of our community and world?

If you are a Christian, how does God’s light shine through you into the darkness of our community and world?

As my family and I stood on the deck of the boat operated by the Virginia Aquarium, watching for the fins and flippers of dolphins off the sands of Virginia Beach, we drew close to the site of the Cape Henry Lighthouses. Although our eyes were mostly focused on the waters around us, I briefly pondered the stately sentinels standing watch over the ocean, providing nightly a perpetual warning of dangerous rocks and offering skilled sea-farers a reference point by which they could navigate their ships. A thrill ran through me as I considered the serious responsibility carried by those lighthouses and how over the years sailors have trusted their signals.

The older lighthouse, built in 1792, was designed by John McComb Jr. (who was also the architect of New York City Hall) and was constructed of sandstone from the same source as the White House. It is said that the older Fort Henry Lighthouse was commissioned by President George Washington himself.

The newer lighthouse was constructed in 1881 after the original lighthouse was damaged by a lightning strike. The older was left standing to this day where it not only remains a national landmark, but offers a “daymark” (a daytime reference point for sailors) as well as, along with the newer lighthouse, a point of triangulation (a term that has been explained to me but is relegated to the realm of words so technical that they seem almost mystical to me like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”).

At any rate, the Lord has placed His own “lighthouses” in the world, too. These are “lamps” through whom His radiance shines, sending light into the darkness of our times, warning us of dangerous waters, and signaling God’s resolve to not simply settle for our sinking on the jagged rocks of confusion, sin, and faithlessness. He has sent His people into the darkness and confusion of the world to be a testimony of His great and awesome love.

In the daylight, lighthouses are spectacles of grace and beauty. We are fond of them as tokens of art and enjoy decorating with them (we have several in our home). Are you aware that no two lighthouses are identical? In the daylight, the pattern of their colors and stripes permits a sailor to know his exact position along the coast. At night, each lighthouse flashes its light differently so that, again, a sailor might be able to know exactly where he is as he sails through the darkness.

Each person who has placed his faith in Jesus Christ and has been made a child of God, is a lighthouse, unique and beautiful as God transforms him by His Holy Spirit. On the other hand, as beautiful and wonderful as each “lighthouse” is, his or her primary calling is to shine the light of God’s love and truth into the darkness of our world.

The shoals that abound under the surface of the waters of everyday life are just as real as the physical rocks along the coast of Virginia. They are just as real but are in actuality deadlier because the stakes are not merely ships of war or commerce, nor even our physical lives. Far more serious is that what is at stake is an eternity apart from God.

If you are a Christian, how does His light shine through you into the darkness of our community and world? When greed, immorality, deceit and selfish ambition are the norm, how has God’s presence in your life made a difference for others to see? A lighthouse with no light in the darkness is a useless building… a waste of brick and mortar.

If your light has gone out, let God rekindle His flame in you so that His love for those around you may be made known. May the light of His grace and goodness so illuminate your own attitude and behavior that those who are surrounded by the darkness of fear, hate and confusion can avoid the destructive rocks of sin and meet God’s love in Christ Jesus.

The Lord has called us to be “lights in the darkness”… His compassion for the lost and His passion for His glory compel Him to fan within us a flame of holiness and testimony as we live lives surrendered to Him.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father Who is in heaven…. God, Who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us…. 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…. You yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness” (Matthew 5:14-16, 2 Corinthians 4:6-7, 1 Peter 2:9, Romans 2:19 ESV).

If you have not yet turned your life over to Him and are still afflicted with the darkness of soul that only God can dispel with His holy love, then take heart and know that His light of forgiveness can penetrate the darkest places of your heart, cleanse your life of the foulest of sins, and bring the brightest of lights into your life! All He asks is that you place your faith in Jesus, and turn your life over to Him!

“In (Jesus) was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, Who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:4-5, 10-12 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Have you ever visited with someone as she sat quietly watching “Antique Road Show” (which is in its 19th season this year, by the way) only to watch her jump to her feet, shrieking, “That piece of junk was worth $3,000?!? I sold mine at a yard sale for $3!” No? Well, I haven’t had that experience either (though I can imagine it).

I have had friends however who have claimed that they once possessed a Hank Aaron ball card or an original Batman comic book from the early 1960s (worth a lot of money, let me tell you) only to have had unwanted help from mom in cleaning up their rooms, losing their priceless treasures forever. Who knew, right?

At some point, though, we all inevitably lose something or have something taken from us that didn’t strike us as valuable at the time.

When you watched or heard of a senseless shooting situation, perhaps it seemed that you could never really feel as secure as you once did.

Maybe you yourself have been the victim of a burglary or otherwise violent crime. If so, you’ve lost a lot more than “things”: you have lost your sense of safety and even of innocence.

It could even be that every time a boss, politician, or religious leader makes a promise only to break it, you feel that you have been robbed of the ability to trust.

The list of things we can and do lose is endless whether we’re talking about any of the above, financial resources, health, or loved ones.

The value of these things seems all too often “un-realized” unless and until those things are either lost or are taken from us. It then makes sense to say that losing what turns out to be valuable only in retrospect leaves us bristling with outrage and overwhelmed with feelings of betrayal and anger. We may also find ourselves haunted by guilt for neglecting those things that should have been the priorities that they never were.

It’s funny but it is smack dab in the middle of loss that we may be the most profoundly met by God. While we are tempted to be destroyed by the torrents of affliction that can and do pour down upon us, God can intervene, pick us up and restore to us all that we have needed and give to us those things for which we most long.

Sometimes it is in the middle of loss that we are the most profoundly met by God.

Sometimes it is in the middle of loss that we are the most profoundly met by God.

In the book of John, chapter 11, the Bible tells of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus of Bethany, who becomes very sick. Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, also friends of the Savior’s, send word to the Lord in hopes that He’ll come and “save the day”. But, inexplicably, Jesus delays His arrival on the scene, thereby apparently aggravating the situation. As a result of His apparent lack of intervention, Lazarus dies.

Three days after Lazarus’ death, Jesus finally arrives in Bethany (which means, by the way, “House of Affliction”) and the sisters cry out to Him, “You could have saved Him, Lord. You could have kept us from losing our brother.”

Jesus’ response to the sisters’ questioning wasn’t to be angry or put-out; He was deeply grieved over their sorrow. Never say that God doesn’t understand your hurt. He understands all too well. Never think that your pain is lost on Him, for He carries the sorrow of the whole world. When the Scriptures said in this chapter that, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35), the heart of God was laid bare in just two small words.

Jesus’ answer to that heart-wrenching questioning was, in essence, “Trust Me. Just see what I now can do.” Then the Savior speaks into the situation and Lazarus is returned to life.

Whatever brokenness and loss afflicts you, God can speak into the void and emptiness of your aching heart and bring forth not only comfort, but new life: a renewal of what you really need, only now made complete and more beautiful than ever before.

Do you feel as if your sense of security has been forever lost? “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man run into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10 ESV).

You don’t feel safe? “The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9 ESV).

Have people broken their promises to you? Happily, “God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind” (Numbers 23:19a ESV). He will see to it that His promises for you all come to fruition. You must see to it that you remain in a spirit of trust and obedience in order to receive the fulfillment of His promises.

Have you lost your innocence through the behavior of an ugly world or through your own bad choices? He can cover you with His purity and restore to you a sense of “cleanness” if you’ll allow Him to do it (1 John 1:9).

Have you been rejected? Your Father in heaven cannot and will not turn His back on you. “Never will I leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b ESV).

If you are in a place of affliction, your own personal “Bethany”, take comfort in knowing that it can truly be a place to meet God. Know that He’ll suffer with you. Watch as He somehow brings new life again to places in your life that you have believed could never be really alive again.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Many years ago (alas!), I ran some summer children’s programs for a number of ranching communities in central Montana. When I had asked to be assigned to Montana, images had arisen in my mind of tall white-peaked pinnacles of stone, their knees and feet carpeted with stately forests and icy cold torrents of frothing water weaving their winding ways between them.

Instead, I was assigned to the exact middle of the state, a dry and dusty plain sparsely populated by pronghorns, prairie dogs, sheep and tumbleweeds. The flat terrain stretched out on every side of me like an endless tablecloth with purple shadows of mountains only peeking tauntingly at me from over the edge of the distant horizon.

Even for those who always see their glasses as half full, the daily thrill of prairie dogs and tumbleweeds fades pretty fast. I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed. I had had enough of only hearing about the mountains and I wanted more than to simply see pictures of one towering majestically over lakes the color of pure sapphires. I wanted to instead ascend the mountain’s summit and touch its face, so that I would know from personal experience its glory.

Given the demands on my time, I had given up hope of such an opportunity being presented to me. But finally, after six or seven weeks, the opportunity was presented. Faced unexpectedly with a free weekend, a few colleagues and I loaded our backpacks and headed out to some mountains in the mid-western part of Montana, in spite of the fact that I was still recovering from a shocking cold into which I had worked myself.

Our trek was a 35 mile hike onto a ridge of mountain peaks that overlooked a wide lake at the foot of its northwestern face. After we had parted company with our car, we began our trek up a twisting trail marked every quarter mile or so with small, crude signs roughly nailed to trees along the way. It was a great climb, but with my fits of coughing and sneezing, we knew that the only wildlife we’d possibly see were wolves that might have confused my hacking with the sounds made by an ailing moose.

Still, even the wolves kept their distance (maybe I sounded as yucky to them as I was feeling) and our trip was mostly uneventful. The beauty of the hike, my cold aside, was staggering. The sun shone with its glory undimmed and each step brought us closer to it. The pine smell was lost on my miserable sinuses, of course, but the wild evergreen trees stood faithfully on either side of the pass arching over our heads with stoic solemnity that made me appreciate ever more deeply their tribute to God’s creation.

We passed above the tree line, made our way until we reached some of the year-round snow that adorned the mountain peak and looked out over the flat lands to the east. Far below me I could see the unremarkable terrain stretch out until another string of mountains rose again from the earth as a brown dust devil swirled quietly below us in the empty plain. A thrill of being caught up in the mountain’s majesty gripped me and I found myself singing a song of praise to God.

That night we found a large, sheltered hollow in which a grove of pine trees had managed to take root and thrive. We made camp and enjoyed both companionship amongst ourselves and a sweet fellowship with the stars that seemed to be near enough to listen in on our conversation.

But later that night, I was awakened by a titanic boom as a peal of thunder blasted our little dell with an explosion of noise. My eyes were momentarily blinded by the brilliant flash of the accompanying lightning. Suddenly, I found myself praying furiously, imagining that each pole holding up my tent was a miniature lightning rod. The wind whipped my little tent about like it was an errant kite and the rain, crashing down around it like tiny tidal waves, soon penetrated my “water-proof” tent, soaking me to the bone. When it finally turned to sleet, I didn’t mind in the least: at least it couldn’t get in the tent as easily. When the storm passed on only an hour later, the full moon reemerged and the stars were again my friends.

Sometimes, God sparks in us wonder at His power or His love. Occasionally, we are possessed with joy as we glimpse His majesty and know that, somehow, He has chosen to love us. At other times, He thunders into our lives with His holy voice and we are dumb-founded by a sense of His omnipotence and holiness!

Sometimes, God sparks in us wonder at His power or His love. Occasionally, we are possessed with joy as we glimpse His majesty and know that, somehow, He has chosen to love us. At other times, He thunders into our lives with His holy voice and we are dumb-founded by a sense of His omnipotence and holiness!

In the days that followed that hike, I realized how much it was like our relationship with God. We sing, teach, pray and talk about encounters with God. But encounters with God don’t always turn out the way we imagine they will. In fact, the longer we walk with Him, seeking Him with “all our hearts” (see Jeremiah 29:13), the more unpredictable we’ll find Him. At times, He shelters us in small valleys of comfort and protection. Sometimes, He sparks in us wonder at either His power or His love. Occasionally, we are possessed with joy as we glimpse His majesty and know that, somehow, He has chosen to love us. And yet… at other times, He thunders into our lives with His holy voice and we are dumb-founded by a sense of His omnipotence and holiness. How rich and wonderful then is our God Who made the heavens and the earth!

“May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in His works, Who looks on the earth and it trembles, Who touches the mountains and they smoke! I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being” (Psalm 104:31-33 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan


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