Feeds:
Posts

A Big Bear Hug

Several years ago my family and I were driving in southern West Virginia near the college campus on which I worked. As we turned with the road in one of its many curves, my wife suddenly grabbed my arm and exclaimed, “Did you see that buffalo?”

“No,” I replied. “I didn’t see any buffalo. Are you sure you saw a buffalo? There aren’t any buffalo around here.” And while I waxed eloquently on and on about buffalo not living in the area, she sat quietly and looked ahead, smiling. The road curved back again and by the road we came upon a huge wooden gate and above it a big sign that read, “Grandfather’s Hill. Horseback riding and petting zoo. Come and see our friendly bears and buffalo.” *Grandfather’s Hill was not its real name.

They should have mentioned crow, too, since that was what I was eating. Anyway, I pulled our car into their parking lot and we got out. After we had walked around a bit, looking at the various animal exhibits, we finally went into the main building which housed a gift shop.

While my wife and son looked around, I was irresistibly drawn to a large cage that stood in an open area towards the back. Inside the cage was a small black bear, probably in its adolescence. It sat on its rear haunches looking forlorn and I found myself feeling sorry for it. “Oh, it’s lonely,” I thought as I approached it. “How ya doin’, buddy?” I gently said to it as I neared it. “Are you feeling forgotten? Are you lonely?” I began to reach out to pat its leg which was just inside the bar of the cage. When my hand was inches from the bars, the bear shot its two front paws out like lightning between the bars and smacked my hands hard between them!

big bear cub

As we trust and obey God, His power and love work to “tame the wild beast” within us!

 

I was extremely startled and jerked my hand backward out of its reach, smarting from its unexpected assault. “Oka-a-y!” I thought. “That was interesting. But maybe it didn’t mean to hurt me. I must have surprised it. Besides, surely the people here wouldn’t have an animal sitting here in the middle of their gift store if it was aggressive.” Famous last words. In my own defense, I was younger then and a bit more naïve than I am now. I moved slowly towards it again, this time a wee bit more cautious. “It’s okay, fella,” I said soothingly. “I’m not going to hurt you.” As I watched for any sign of sudden movement, I reached out again. I thought that if it knew I didn’t mean it any harm, it would let me touch it. My hand got as far as it had before and I held it there, waiting to see if the animal would react. It sat quietly and just looked at me as if it didn’t mind in the least that I was entering its space. Feeling encouraged, my hand started to reach through the bars and was almost touching its leg.

As quick as a snake, it lunged forward and reached both its paws through the bars, slamming them together hard around my forearm. Higher up my arm and with better aim than before, its paws grasped at me even as I pulled back away from it, its claws raking long lines of skin from my forearm. Well, enough is enough, even for me. I quickly joined my wife and young son and said simply that we needed to stay away from the bear on the other side of the room. I mentioned my little misadventure to the owner/manager before we left (noting that the animal could be very dangerous especially to children who might wander into its reach) and we then left, with me on a quest for the antiseptic in the first aid kit that we keep in our vehicle.

As foolhardy as approaching the bear may have been, Christians frequently do the same thing on a spiritual level. We flirt with things that we know are spiritually dangerous and potentially corrupting. We reach out thinking foolishly that such things are not really so dangerous (whether they’re things we watch, things we indulge in, or kinds of attitudes we permit ourselves to have). Unfortunately, we find out sooner or later that some things really are beset with pain and sorrow, and are best left alone.

Still, the good news is that God has truly caged our spiritual enemy and limited its ability to daunt and control us. It is caged and we are free. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1-4 ESV).

One of the great truths of God is that His love and power are relevant to every day life. It is His love that moved His God-sized heart to bear the Cross in our place. It is His power that binds the universal law of sin (which is that sin in all men and women will be judged) to its being satisfied by the laying down of Jesus’ sinless life for our sakes, securing for us a beautiful certainty that through faith in Christ, we are forgiven and set free from its power.

Not only so, but it works to tame the “wild beast” within each of us though our selfishness sometimes shows its fangs and clicks its claws when it gets an opportunity. Let us be careful then to not “wander” into the reach of our less-than-heavenly impulses. Let us steer clear of actions, words, and attitudes within ourselves that will rend and tear our spiritual growth and hamper our joy and peace as God’s children. And although such things cannot shake us loose from God’s grace and are truly caged by God’s authority, let us take care that we avoid the snares and pitfalls that can injure our fruitfulness as messengers of the hope of the Gospel.

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry…. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:5, 8-14 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

To Get Up and Go

For a moment, consider Jesus’ call for you to follow Him as Lord of your life. For a minute, consider how you’d respond if He came to you, placed His nail-scarred hand upon your shoulder and invited you to “get up” and follow Him. Would you do it? Is His eternal love for you sufficient for you to desire to please Him? Is His holy majesty enough for you to bow your head before Him and say, “All right, Lord. Not my will but Your own be done in and through my life”?

Imagine the disciple Matthew’s encounter with the Lord as described in Matthew 9:9. If Jesus is only the carpenter most people who’ve met Him think Him to be, the whole situation would be laughable. “Follow Me,” Jesus says. And not only does this Jesus person have the audacity to just waltz up to Matthew’s table and utter what seems to be the most ridiculous invitation he’s ever heard, the Man also just turns and walks away as if He really expects Matthew to simply hop up from his table and run after Him.

And yet… Matthew thinks of all he’s heard about Jesus. The famous Teacher heals sick people, gives sight to blind men, and even rebukes evil spirits with stern authority. “Yes, there’s something different about this Man,” Matthew muses. “He’s so much more than a carpenter.” He sighs as he looks at the money on the table before him piled up in neat little columns. Beside them are stacks of ledger parchment recording the taxes paid by his fellow Judeans.

The gold just doesn’t seem as shiny to Matthew anymore. Its yellow surface now seems sickly and pale compared to the light that he’s seen in Jesus’ face. He thinks about the direction his own life has taken and he isn’t sure that he likes it. Every day he gets up, gets dressed, comes to work, puts up with difficult bosses and faces down a hostile public. He sighs again. No, he definitely doesn’t like it anymore. What’s more, he doesn’t like who he is anymore either.

Accepting an invitation from Jesus to “get up and go" with Him will alter one's destiny from destruction and despair to that of life and hope.

Accepting an invitation from Jesus to “get up and go” with Him will alter one’s destiny from destruction and despair to that of life and hope.

His eyes slowly raise from where they have long gazed at piles of money on his little table. They now begin to focus on the figure of the only One Who holds the door to change. No, more than just a simple change. A transformation. Suddenly, Matthew’s mind is emptied of any more thought of gold. His eyes remain locked upon the Master, almost unable to look anywhere else. His body now seems to take a life of its own, separated from his previous shallowness, and slowly pushes away from his table and brings him to his feet. Unaccountably, he finds himself in pursuit of Jesus.

He would never have dreamed earlier that morning that he would abruptly be chucking his career to accept an invitation to go out into the wide world alongside the One that some called “Messiah”. On the one hand, it seems like madness. Matthew’s old sensibilities feebly attempt to deter him from what he is about to do. On the other, the rays of love and glory are unmistakable in the glance of Jesus. Matthew cannot now be deterred.

He picks up his pace, rushing through the crowd so that he may walk beside Jesus. Without a single glance behind him, Matthew leaves behind his old life, his old dreams, his sin and selfishness and starts out on a journey that will not only leave him forever a changed man, but will be used by God to change the fates of millions of others in generations to come.

Later, although the scope of what is happening in his life cannot possibly be realized, he knows simply that Jesus has changed his life forever. To Matthew’s mind come the images of his old friends and associates, “tax collectors” and “sinners”. Here indeed are people only too used to dislike, rejection and failure. Do they have any hope of being accepted by God? Morally and spiritually, they were the lowest of the low, traitors to God and to their own people.

But hadn’t Jesus accepted Matthew? Hadn’t Matthew’s faith in this Savior’s grace and authority to forgive sin made a new man of him? “If Jesus did it for me, maybe He will do it for them,” Matthew decides.

In short order, Matthew hosts a party with Jesus as the guest of honor. Matthew’s old cronies and old colleagues show up in force. Aside from the free food, these societal rejects have a curiosity of this Teacher Who doesn’t spurn them or find fault with them. He doesn’t need to point out the sin in their lives for they know it all too well. Instead, they come and, as Matthew had hoped, they find grace.

Oh, but then those who don’t seem to really understand grace crash the party. Matthew bites his fingernails nervously, hoping against all hope that they’ll just go away. Always they look down their long and haughty noses at him and his friends, sniffing contemptuously as if they aren’t even worth looking upon.

“Will they shame Jesus into leaving?” he tortuously wonders. “Will they embarrass my friends? Will my friends turn from God because of this? Will Jesus even forsake me?” A sick feeling emanates from his stomach and he feels himself turning pale, the blood rushing from his head to the bottom of his feet.

But Jesus glances over at Matthew, gives him a quick wink, and then turns to face the prickly party-poopers. “Why do I eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” He says, echoing their question. He smiles at them gently, grace radiating from His countenance to these who will not see it. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick,” He answers. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (from Luke 5:30-31).

His detractors blink stupidly for a moment, wondering if there’s a hidden rebuke in what had just been said to them. While they puzzle over their encounter with Jesus, trying to think of stinging rebuttals, Matthew smiles inwardly for he knows how true are the words just spoken by the Lord. Matthew had been, only a short time before, one of those who are “sick” – sick of heart, sick in their soul, sick both spiritually and morally. Only an invitation from Jesus to “get up” and follow had altered his destiny from destruction and despair to that of life and hope.

Now, as our imagination returns to the here and now, I once again ask you to consider Jesus’ call for you to follow Him as Lord of your life. I again implore you to consider how you’d respond if He came to you, placed His nail-scarred hand upon your shoulder and invited you to “get up” and follow Him. Would you do it? Isn’t His love enough? Isn’t His majesty sufficient?

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Generally, a personal goal for me is to not waste paper and ink by writing mere opinion (no matter how good an opinion I have of my own opinions). Instead, I try to keep my aim always that God will articulate His perfect truth through my life and this pen.

Truth, of course, is the summation of that which is absolute. In other words, truth is true because it is both really and thoroughly true. Conversely, if “truth” is not “true” because it is inconsistent with someone’s attitudes or because it doesn’t jive with cultural shifts, then it isn’t true at all: it is, in the final analysis, only opinion after all. Furthermore, if something is true, it is true regardless of whether or not anyone is willing to acknowledge it as truth or is incapable of perceiving it as true. Truth is truth, even if I will not or cannot comprehend and admit it.

Maybe you’ve heard the one about the tree falling in the forest. If it falls in the forest, and no one is there to observe it, does it make a sound?

Since the word “sound” refers to the detection of a sonic vibration, perhaps it doesn’t make a sound if it falls and no one hears it. Nevertheless, if a tree falls in the forest… it still falls in the forest even if no one is there to witness the event. Seem like a silly topic?

Falling tree

If a tree falls in the forest, then it falls in the forest no matter my failure to recognize it.

Well, hold on. The falling tree in the forest thing has been used to “illustrate” that truth is actually relative to the individual. It is reasoned that the “truth” of a sound produced is true only because someone was there to hear it. The line of reasoning follows then that spiritual and ethical things are true only if we can perceive and are willing to acknowledge them. Ergo, one set of spiritual or moral principles may be true of you but another person can operate under an entirely different set of moral and spiritual principles. And so you’ll perhaps hear, “Your truth is different from my truth so you live by your truth and I will live by my truth.”

If a tree falls in the forest, then it falls in the forest no matter my failure to recognize it. It is a fact and we may therefore make an absolute statement about it. Yes, it really fell in the forest. Moreover, when it fell, the energy released in its falling resulted in sonic vibrations: sound waves. We can split hairs and say that it didn’t make sounds because no one heard it, but it still produced those sound waves.

A similar thing is (dare I say it?) “true” in the realm of the spiritual. If spiritual principles or moral imperatives are true, they are true. In fact, they are true even if I disagree with them or refuse to acknowledge them. And if something is not true then it is simply not true. Perhaps it is a blatant lie; maybe it’s a mistake; or even a joke. But it’s still not true.

Most of us understand how this works in the matter of our taxes. A blatant lie in your year-end taxes could result in close encounters of the prison kind. Little mistakes or miscalculations can quickly turn into expensive penalties and fines. And, in case you’ve never noticed, the IRS doesn’t often appear to have much in the way of a sense of humor… unless, of course, they’re the ones making the jokes.

As far as they’re concerned, if you owe taxes, you owe taxes. Denial, rationalizations to the contrary, and even good-natured miscalculations cannot alter the fact that if you have to pay, then you have to pay… and you have to pay on their terms. Of course, let us point out that it is important to get to the whole truth (who wants to pay more taxes than is necessary?), but if you were to believe that taxes were relative to your interpretation of them, you’ll find yourself on a quick trip to some hard and humiliating times.

This is why, when writing about spiritual matters, I make absolute claims in regard to God, His Word, the identity and mission of His Son, and the fallen nature of humanity. It is natural, of course, when one uses absolute terms to come into direct conflict with contrary claims and ideas. I acknowledge that not everyone will agree with me.

But it is quite interesting that Jesus Himself spoke in absolute terms. And because He spoke in the absolutes that the truth supplies us, He spoke with authority. Real authority has a foundation of absolutes that undergird it.

“… On the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:21-22 ESV). Why could He say that the things He taught “are” and not merely say that, “I think they are?” Because He knew them to be true.

Any faithful agnostic (a person who believes that the existence of God, as well as truth in general, is not provable) will correctly point out that a God as transcendent as the One we Christians claim to believe in is unknowable: our finite human brains, even with amazing technologies, cannot perceive or grasp such an infinite Being. But agnostics miss the point of the Christian understanding of God. We agree that we cannot know Him by any convention or means that we possess here on earth. But we don’t need to approach Him that way for He has chosen to reveal Himself in ways that we can understand. Small ways, perhaps, since we are beset with cognitive limitations and moral dementia, but reveal Himself He does.

He has given us His Bible, the written word that records perfectly His living Word, Jesus. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:15-20 ESV).

So Jesus is not only an eyewitness to the way things really are but is also reality’s author. When He says in John 14:6, “… I am the way, and the truth, and the life…”, He isn’t claiming to be the Truth for some people but not others, He is claiming to be Truth… period.

Thus, when He shares with us a principle of the Kingdom of God (e.g., “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” in John 3:3) or a moral assessment (for example, “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” from Matthew 5:28), He’s telling us “straight up” the way things really are. When He speaks, He tells us the truth.

Therefore, while we still can, let us seek to be open and receptive to His graceful administrations and permit His Spirit of Truth to “guide us into all truth” (from John 16:13).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

“Mommy,” said our youngest son one day when he was just five years old. Lines of deep-thinking furrowed his little forehead as he sought to say what was on his mind. “Jesus wants us to love each other, right?” he asked while sitting in her lap.

“That’s right,” she answered him, wondering what was forthcoming.

“He wants us to love all people, right?” he asked with eyes full of innocence and wonder sparkling up at her.

“He wants us to love all people, right?” he asked, looking into her eyes with eyes full of innocence and wonder sparkling up at her.

“He wants us to love all people, right?” he asked with eyes full of innocence and wonder sparkling up at her.

“Yes, that’s right, too,” she replied.

“Even strangers?” he continued.

“Even strangers,” she responded.

“Well then, the next time I meet a stranger, I’m going to say, ‘Hello there, sweetheart.’”

“Oh, you are, are you?” my wife said, trying nearly in vain to contain her laughter, as she hugged him tightly.

“Yes,” he gravely replied, “because Jesus wants me to love even strangers.”

Hmm, to love “even strangers.” Loving those we know seems hard enough a challenge at times, but must we also love people we do not know? Yes, it IS the will of God that we love even strangers. Of course, we must realize what is meant when we say that we are to love strangers. It is not meant that we must simply conjure up warm fuzzy sentiments about those we meet; nor is it meant that we lavish on strangers a sludge of sugary nonsense that has no real meaning or depth.

No, the kind of “love” that Jesus expects is an attitude that we determine to take upon ourselves which will shape our choices and actions to support, encourage and assist others. In fact, the word “love” has everything to do with “other-mindedness” and is willing to sacrifice “self-centeredness”. You may conclude that you are being “loving” when you make a conscious choice to help others who are in need whether they are inside or outside your immediate sphere of interaction. Such love will be most clearly genuine when it compels you to help or encourage others at some cost to yourself.

“By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18 ESV).

You and I are given opportunities throughout our lives to help others. Unfortunately, we fail to recognize them or become enmeshed in patterns of thinking and behaving that reduce our contact with very real need. Let’s face it. The needs of others can be a terribly uncomfortable subject for us.

After all, it isn’t comfortable for us to patiently listen to a co-worker as she shares her heartache over a devastating betrayal and a marriage that is falling tragically apart. Nor does it feel safe to talk to a homeless man, trying to connect him with shelter and, ultimately, the means by which he can take care of his own needs. And it is most certainly not a pleasant experience to witness a child that is literally starving to death, clutch at his swollen belly, whimpering for food, staring at you with the vacant eyes of the dying.

Nevertheless, we must look at our safe and carefully planned lives, and be ready to evaluate our priorities. We must realize that our resources and blessings have not been earned but have been entrusted to us so that we might be blessings to others. We must acknowledge that the revelation of the grace of God to the world at large is directly proportionate to the extent that you and I are willing to be vessels of grace.

Of course, you might be too busy to help. Or maybe your budget is too tight and if you helped then you might not have enough left over for the new golf clubs you’ve been wanting. Maybe you feel that it’s someone else’s job or someone else is much more gifted for helping than are you. If so, than you neither see what Christ has done for you upon the cross as He gazed upon your spiritual poverty, nor do you perceive the call that He is sending to you right now to love others.

Don’t wait for an angelic choir to break out in a grooving song to signal your invitation. The need itself is your invitation. Don’t miss your invitation.

Don’t hope for material blessings to reward you for your concern or sacrifice. Don’t even wait for a certificate of appreciation. The fact that you do help and that it pleases your Father in heaven is your reward (no matter that no one else affirms, approves, or even notices). Don’t miss your reward.

Too often we fail to recognize the privilege being given to us in this day and hour to help someone in real need. But the question is not “can I help?”, but rather, “How will I help?” Giving, going, and praying are all things that God’s people should be doing right now to make a difference. But set the bar for yourself higher than you’ve ever set it before. Dare to love others. Dare to love them though you must give of yourself. Dare to love them… even if they are strangers.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:11-12 ESV).

But back to the conversation between my wife and son: “Yes,” my wife said, agreeing with him. “Jesus wants us to love even strangers. But, really honey, we don’t have to call them ‘sweetheart, ’ do we? We’ll save that word for the people that we know best, right? We can find other ways to show we love strangers.”

Our son furrowed his eyebrows a bit more intensely, thought for a moment, and then finally said, “All right… sweetheart.”

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Given the grim realities that face Americans today, one might be led to believe that he or she is not so much living in the “land of promise” but in the “land of broken promises” instead.

Consider the various “promises” that flood us from all sorts of sources in the world. Such promises tell you that if you look a certain way or you do a certain deed or you have a certain thing then you will be loved. They tell you that if you try your best and work your hardest, then you will be known for your achievements, you will prosper in your lifestyle, and you will be liked by everyone else.

Well, if we stop for a moment and look carefully around us, we will see that investing our time, our minds, and even our souls in such pursuits invariably ends with us still unappreciated, under compensated, and somehow still unloved.

But then, if one thinks about it a little bit, that is really how it has to be. We are, after all, created to need God. If “things” too easily satisfied our souls’ deepest cravings, then we would continue on our merry ways, heedless that we were settling for cheap counterfeits when the “real thing” was right there all along in front of us. Oh, I realize that some will never lift their eyes above the busy-ness of everyday life and may continue along in life tragically cheating the Lord of the devotion to Him for which He created us but also short-changing themselves of the possibilities that only the love of our infinite and eternal God can bring to them.

Have you been bruised by broken promises? Have you fallen victim to the vain voices of competing philosophies of our contemporary culture? Have your dreams diminished to nothing as disappointment and disillusionment take up their permanent residency in your heart?

If any of these things are true of you, then now is the time to let go of such fruitless hopes and turn to the One Who keeps His promises. And even if you have not yet reached the end of your rope, then now is the time to change course before you crash and burn.

“In hope he (Abraham) believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, ‘So shall your offspring be’…  No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised” (Romans 4:18, 20-21 ESV).

Have you been bruised by broken promises? Do not fear: God has both the will and the power to keep His promises.

Have you been bruised by broken promises? Do not fear: God has both the power and the will to keep all of His.

The fact is that God has the power to keep His promises. Nothing else in the world can give us such certainty for even with good intentions (and that is assuming a lot for most people today who make promises), circumstances frequently arise that make mincemeat of the promises that have been made. Only almighty God is immune to the effect of circumstance for He is Lord of all things and “works all things together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

And just what has He promised you anyway? He promises hope no matter what our economy is like and no matter what illness may be afflicting you. He promises love if you’ll genuinely open yourself up to His love by letting go of sin and selfishness which are always trying to crowd out God’s best for you. He promises peace in spite of the swirling storms of turmoil that surround you. God is immutable: He never changes and cannot be made to change by whim or worry of human heart, by wave or wind of worldly woes, nor by the slow progression of the passing of time.

The same certainty that anchored Abraham to the living Rock of God, can anchor us to Him as well. That anchor is faith in the Lord.

Frankly, you and I need to cling to such a rock of hope, securing the “anchors” of our confidence to such a certainty. Jobs may be lost, health may fail, relationships may be broken, and dreams may die, but when He is our hope, we will always have something to live for, and possess a dream that cannot be taken away.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Well, so far it’s not been much of a “wintery” winter, at least not here in southern Ohio. We are hearing, of course, of real winter weather in the west and the plains, but December here has not been typical at all.  But if it were especially wintery here, if we were being assaulted by artic blasts, frigid snowfalls, and freezing ice storms, we would likely be longing for a quick return of warmer days. And while it may not be especially cold and icy here in a meteorological sense, it is a cold, cold world in which we live… in a spiritual sense.  Worn down by the apathy and indifference of a jaded people, the corruption and arrogance of a broken political system, and the confusion and hate-mongering of religions that are warmed only by the heated conflicts that characterize them, one quickly begins to long for a touch of warmth from a heart of love.

What is it after all that thaws a frozen heart? What warms a frigid home? What turns a winter of despair into a spring of hope?

What is it after all that thaws a frozen heart? What warms a frigid home? What turns a winter of despair into a spring of hope?

What is it that thaws a frozen heart? What warms a frigid home? What turns a winter of despair into a spring of hope?

Love, of course. More specifically, it is God’s love that does this (lest we be confused with the inferior notions of love volleyed about in popular culture).

Love is not content with the status quo but of upholding the welfare and enrichment of those upon whom love shines its light.  Love is not interested in merely pointing out how another is wrong or unworthy, but with drawing one out from the tentacles of error into the wonder and freedom of God’s truth (see 1 Corinthians 13).

Once we begin to understand and come to grips with this amazing and life-changing attribute of God, we find ourselves being transformed by it. It grabs hold of us and we find ourselves woefully undeserving of it, yet it wonderfully comes to us nonetheless because that is what God’s love does.

It motivated the Father to send His Son as Savior for all who will receive Him so that the yawning gulf that separates us from God might be spanned. It motivated the Son to spend His own life on a cross He did not deserve so that the reality of a literal hell might be averted for any who would receive His gift of forgiveness. It motivates the Spirit of God to abide in we who are God’s children through faith in His Son, transforming us from mere sinners into the likeness of Jesus Christ today! And it motivates us as God’s Children, through the leading of His Spirit, to give ourselves away on behalf of those around us, undeserving though we may think them (but in truth no more undeserving than any of us).

God’s love is what moves us to speak words of encouragement to one who is broken by fear or weariness of heart. God’s love is what moves us to share with those around us when they are in need. God’s love is what moves us to stand up for those who are oppressed and are victimized. God’s love is what is moving millions of Christians today in making a difference in the world around them! Because of His love, they are determined to show His compassion, share His truth, and shed His grace into the tear-ladened vales of calamity and crisis, warming hearts that have been frozen by fear, grief, and pain with fires of passion for the One Who loved them first.

“By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers…. 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us” (1 John 3:16, 4:9-12 ESV).

So let us truly love in this day of need. Let us love as Christ has loved us and thereby give Him glory and give the world hope.  Allow the warmth of God’s love even now to thaw your outlook for 2016 as He turns your heart towards Himself and others to His love through you!

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Christmas. A sweet celebration of the fact that God in His mercy chose to not abandon us to the consequences of our rejection of Him, His Word and His love!  What a joyful time for us to be made new or be renewed in our walk with Him by fully embracing His love and forgiveness!

No matter what era in which we live, if there is anything that we can conclude from the wonderful news of the birth of God’s Son, it is that no matter how ugly, horrible, or sad things seem in the world (and they do indeed seem ugly, horrible and sad), we can know for certain that God is not removed from us by the complacency of one who simply does not care. Nor does He hold Himself aloof from us in contempt which we, arguably, deserve because of our spurning His holiness.  No, He sees, He cares and He moves… in our world and in our lives.

But when we suffer and find ourselves accosted by unanswered questions, we lose heart.   When we tire of waiting for what we want and feel affronted by life’s twists and turns as if there is a divine conspiracy afoot committed to our inconvenience, we turn our backs on Him.

How prone we are to blame God for the messes that we make for ourselves! We resist His will, yet angrily accuse Him of nonexistence when He allows us to do our own will.  We object to His Word and then slander Him with claims of blatant cruelty when He allows us to refuse His interventions in our lives.

But the Christmas story is the announcement that God remembers us and remembers us in a spirit of compassion – with or without our consent. Why else would He endure the donning of flesh and blood with all its aches and pains?  Why else would take upon Himself all the limitations of human flesh when He Himself knit the fabric of our forms in the wombs of our mothers?  Why else would He forgo power and glory for a moment so that we could be forgiven and be given life with Him forever?  Why else would He suffer to let men drive cruel nails through His flesh and publicly hang His broken body upon a cross?  Why else does He today permit us a season of grace in which we can repent and turn to Him, forsaking our own ways and embracing His love and power?

The Christmas story is a wonderful story, but it is in truth part of a greater story: the epic journey of God’s Son to the cross of Calvary.  The Christmas story is about hope because God refutes our despair by refusing to stand idly by as we hasten to our own destruction.  The Christmas story is about peace because He took our sentence of death upon Himself so we might no longer be His enemies.  The Christmas story is about joy because while the manger did indeed lead to the cross, the cross was merely a doorway that led through the tomb to a resurrection that guarantees us eternal life through faith in the glorified, risen Savior Who intercedes for those who turn from their sin and place their faith in Him alone.

The Christmas story is the breaking dawn of light and life in a world of darkness and death.

The Christmas story is the breaking dawn of light and life in a world of darkness and death.

The Christmas story is the breaking dawn of light and life in a world of darkness and death. If your Christmas is only about presents, decorations, Santa, and family traditions, your Christmas is only a lump of coal.  But if you will let the fire of God’s grace ignite it, your Christmas can burst into a fiery blaze of real meaning that goes on when family and friends have moved on or when health or wealth have come to nothing for you.

December may be the darkest month of the year from a natural point of view, but it can be the bright start of a bright year when true faith in Jesus Christ is awakened in us!

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’… Behold, My servant (Jesus) shall act wisely; He shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted….  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, Who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient (to God the Father) to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Isaiah 52:7, 13; Philippians 2:4-11 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 299 other followers