Feeds:
Posts

Archive for September, 2012

A Choice to Believe

There is an aspect of my coming to surrender my life to Christ as an adult on which I have had few occasions to speak in the past, yet it played a tremendous part in the paradigm shift that followed in my life.  Years ago, as a new student at a state-funded school, I little supposed that I would encounter God.  The increasingly broad spectrum of lifestyle and worldview, the irresponsible and generally self-destructive party atmosphere to which my friends were drawn, and the general animosity of secular academia to an individual’s acceptance (and application) of a biblical perspective should have swallowed whole any credible voice that an orthodox view of Christianity possessed.

Yet a subtle, but ever-growing awareness of the reality of God’s presence was dawning in my life.  It was as though He were the rising sun and my back were to Him:  I knew Him by both the illumination He brought to things about me as well as the shadow cast by my own form before me.  Still, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to look to Him yet, because I knew that if I did I would recognize Him as the Lord of my life and I would no longer be feel free to live life how I saw fit.

Those who knew me at the time or have heard me speak of the experience since know that events were thrown into my path that forced me into a reckoning with the Lord.  I won’t mention those experiences here, but suffice it to say that God used unexpected people in unexpected ways to soften my hardened attitude toward Him.  In the end, I relented.  I surrendered.  I chose to believe His Word.

The implications of being truly His were in some ways all I expected them to be.  It was complete and irreversible.  I was His child forever but I was also His servant permanently.  The practical transformation that God began in me launched a process of dismantling my worldview and building within me a new one.

At some point, we each must decide for ourselves whether or not we will personally believe the words of the Bible and the claims of Jesus Christ.

My area of study was initially psychology.  Following God’s intervention in my life, I switched (temporarily) to counseling with a minor in Religious Studies.  It is now my conclusion that the running philosophy behind a typical state-supported counseling program is that one must find purpose for himself from within himself.  And the general strategy of a state-funded Religious Studies program is to deconstruct faith as a rational process and cast it in the light of the irrational, subjective, and superstitious.

Indeed, the majority of professors who taught my religion classes conveyed Christianity (rather contemptuously) as a complex cultural construct with its origin supposedly rooted in the mythologies of various ancient civilizations.

As I listened to them, I was only given arguments as to why one should reject the idea of a loving personal God Who has revealed Himself in the Bible.  I was given reasons why it is a silly idea to claim that God yielded Himself as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of humanity.

But Satan, as I have noticed on multiple occasions, overplayed his hand.  I recall one of my religion professors, a committed atheist, emphasizing the necessity for the art and practice of critical thinking.  It was actually good advice.  When I applied it to the teaching presented to me by many of my professors (some of whom were ordained clergy who somehow had given up on God), I began to realize that I was being taught by several people who strove to do what really cannot be done:  living in a place of compromise.  They sought to dwell in a position from which they could talk about spiritual things in a superficial (but hardly satisfying) way and yet still consort with those they deemed as enlightened by the spirit of modernism.  On the one hand, they had a pretense of faith, but would, on the other, sneer at practical application of faith and the “simple-minded efforts” of those who simply tried to live it.

My classmates and I were subjected in those courses by what I now recognize as blasphemy by those who argue away the truth of the Gospel (even if done out of ignorance).  This consequently forced me to come to a decision.  Either I would believe the Bible and believe that it is, in fact, truly God’s written revelation to humanity… or I would walk away from the Bible and its antiquated claims.  If it wasn’t true, then I had no desire to continue a charade.  I was not, after all, interested in playing games.

The arguments against the validity and reliability of the Bible turned out to be unfounded speculations masquerading as scholarly thought.  They were essentially the regurgitations of minds in rebellion to God’s love and law.  The theories I heard and the efforts to explain away the trustworthiness of the Bible were prejudicially presented as fact.  Anyone who dared to express skepticism over such skepticism was publicly derided.  Many fellow students going into these classes with Christian conviction came out with only confusion and despair.

It seems ironic to me that a principle tool in bringing me to an absolute certainty that the Bible is true was an atheistic professor.  After the end of my last term taking a class with him, I received a letter from him expressing his appreciation for some thoughts that I carefully and thoughtfully shared in my final exam.  Perhaps the Lord had been dealing with him in the deep places of his heart but he just hadn’t yet taken that step to believing.  I fear that perhaps for him, as well as many others today, there just will never be quite enough proof to convince him to trust Christ.  Perhaps, however, in the twenty-some years since, he finally decided to believe.

Today, I grieve when I see someone who has some sort of vendetta against truth, especially when he or she throws up the dust of some sort of grossly misconstructed piece of archaeological evidence or philosophy.  I grieve that it appears to provide ammunition for those who delight in creating confusion.  Sadly, most who are party to this seem to fail to realize the implications of what they’re doing.

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not associate with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:6-10 ESV).

If you have encountered the Truth, the Person of Jesus Christ, as He is revealed in the Bible, then make the most of the new life to which He has called you.  Leave the darkness of life apart from God and live now in the light of His will.  Choose to believe His Word, trust His love, surrender to His will.

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.  But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:11-16 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

So much of Jesus’ heart could be seen in the fact that He compassionately intervened in the lives of those with whom the Father connected Him.  Much of Jesus’ mission could be seen in what He actually did for them.  Forgiving sin, washing feet, giving sight to blind eyes, and turning tepid water into the celebratory form of wine all showed the comprehensive reforms that Jesus sought to bring not just to society, but to each soul that would invite Him in… because each soul was significant to Him.

Not least among the expressions of His life-changing love was His passion to enable people to do what they needed to do, but could not do on their own.

Jesus crucifixion was exemplary of His committing Himself (no matter the cost) to raising us out of our helplessness to the point of our being made free to (or capable of) coming to the Father in faith… a quality we do not possess in our natural condition (see John 6:44).  And we certainly cannot even hope to live upright lives until He speaks to our need and enables us to do so.

A living metaphor (a true event that illustrates masterfully a timeless principle) is Jesus’ encounter with a suffering woman in Luke 13:10-13.

“Now He (Jesus) was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.  When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your disability.’  And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God” (Luke 13:10-13 ESV).

Whether or not you buy into a literal demonic presence which prevented this woman from being able to stand upright (and I personally believe it was so), the deeper significance is that something was wrong in her life, something that disabled her in that it prevented her from leading a fully productive and thoroughly enjoyable existence.  In this case, it seems to have physically impaired her ability to stand erect.  Imagine going through your life doomed to stoop over, stiffly and painfully bent and tormented even at rest!

Many today find that, while physically they can stand upright, emotionally and spiritually they are hunched over and bound to think perpetually of earthly things just as surely this woman was bound to stare at the dry and dusty ground at her feet.  And for some, there may also be a literal, as well as figurative, spirit that disempowers their capacity to walk uprightly, encumbering them with heavy weights of hate, fear, regret, or addiction.

But Jesus is the Great Enabler – not in the sense of modern psycho-therapeutic lingo, but rather in the opposite sense of His breaking away those things which disable a healthy and proper living.  He enables us to approach the Father in the spirit of purifying forgiveness.  He enables us to have courage in the face of fearful circumstances.  He enables us to have hope when all seems lost and forlorn.  He enables us to walk uprightly in matters of character and live lives of integrity.

Today the word “enabler” tends to refer to someone who encourages our living a self-destructive lifestyle and promotes for us only a distorted and broken vision of what we’re supposed to be.  But Jesus makes us able to to become what we should have been all along.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Read Full Post »

A broken dream

Failure is often a crowbar in God’s hand to pry from us something less than His best for us! And what is His best for us? Eternal fellowship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ!

Ever wonder why some endeavors, no matter how straight a path you walk, seem doomed to failure?

A lot of things can contribute to our failures so it is easy to offer an overly simplistic answer to one another.  Things like wrong motives, sinful hindrances, and spiritual opposition manifested in hard and hostile hearts can all be factors in why we may not succeed (even when we really want it).  Not least among such reasons is our own impatience with God’s timing and our tendency to give up too soon.

But to really understand why failure is such a pervasive part of the human experience, one must understand that failure is itself woven into the fabric of creation.

“For the creation was subjected to futility – not willingly, but because of Him Who subjected it – in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children” (Romans 8:19-21 HCSB).

Failure (a.k.a. “futility”) is not merely the ultimate conclusion of creation’s disconnect from God (although one’s destruction may rightly be deemed his ultimate failure).  Failure is also the one thing you can count on experiencing – at some point in life – not just in the passive sense of simply having something unfortunate happening to you or even in the sense of bringing down bad things upon yourself because you’ve made bad decisions.  Failure comes to us also in the active sense in that God, in His sovereignty, deliberately foils our ambitions, plans and endeavors at times.  Why?  Does He delight in tormenting us?  Does it amuse Him to tease and frustrate us, His creation?  Nope.  He does it so that He may bring us to a better and more lasting reward:  “the glorious freedom of God’s children” (in verse 21).

Not content in allowing us to be content with our mud pie plans for enjoying the “fine things” this world can offer, He has in store a feast of the sumptuous foods of fellowship with Himself!  Not settling for permitting us to dwell in the straw-thatched hovels of our earthly dreams, He has reserved for us lodgings in the palatial halls of His glory!  And not indifferent to our indifference to our own spiritual plight, He has a way of prying from our fingers the plastic fragments of earthly treasures so that He may fill our destiny with heavenly gemstones!

Failure, in the hands of God, can turn earthbound eyes to one’s eternal destiny, reveal his need for forgiveness of sin, and impress upon him the urgency of the hour – the moments are fleetly passing that we have to spend in preparing for what comes after life-as-we-know-it-here-on-planet-earth.

What will you do with your failures?  Linger over them, quagmire in regret?  Will you turn again and again to only those petty dreams you’ve always known?  Or will you allow God, through Jesus Christ, turn your eyes heavenward so that you might even now prepare to meet Him?

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Read Full Post »

Freedom is such a wonderful thing, especially if you live within it in such a way that it fosters an ever-expanding experience of the implications of being free:  the novelty of liberty should never wane, but should spark inside us a burning desire to discover what is just beyond the next horizon.  Christ, of course, is the essential provision for obtaining (and successfully utilizing) freedom.

Prior to becoming a child of God, a man is in bondage as a fallen being driven by the whip of fleshly compulsions, the sting of tender ego, and the goading of tyrannical fears.  But in Christ, he has been set free.  Set free?  Yes, set free.

In truth, freedom is the ability to become what God intends you to be as His child!

First of all, he is set free from sin itself.  No longer is he considered guilty and worthy of condemnation, but he is counted as forgiven and washed clean of all past offenses.  Secondly, he is set free in the sense of no longer being bound to a destiny of death.  Eternal destruction is diverted from him and he is granted an eternal hope in Jesus.But the cross of Christ does not merely save us from sin (and its consequence of death), although it certainly does that.  It also sets us free from the Baal of “self” (a “Baal” being a slave-master “deity” worshiped in fear; an idol).  Self naturally strives to retain its position as “center” of our will, but serves always as a snare ready to place a new yoke upon us.

Happily, when once we are made free, we are positioned to experience the fulfillment of His promises for us including such things as His presence, His protection, and His provision.  Those promises, recounted for us in His Scriptures, become experience in every instance in which we choose to trust Him.  That being said, the questions arises, “When once I am set free in Christ, how do I continue in an ongoing spirit of liberty?”

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:13-15 ESV).

According to this passage, we are admonished to love each other at least as much as we love ourselves.  In application, this means to no longer consider our own welfare, interests and desires first, but to let the welfare, interests, and desires of others become our priority.

The dilemma that we face in trying to maintain the wise counsel of loving others, is that we cannot do so in any meaningful way in our own strength.  Doing so by mere force of will binds us to a new master, that of the Law of Serving and Giving.  And, because we cannot do this perfectly within our own hearts, we are eventually overcome by our own inability to love others selflessly all the time.  We become slaves again, only now to “Legalism”.

And in addition to “Legalism”, we take on another master as well, one called “Pride”.  Who of us, when trying to gauge his success, doesn’t contrast how well he does something with how badly someone else is doing it?  And then Legalism and Pride inevitably take us hand-in-hand to their ugly offspring, “Hypocrisy”.

And finally, because our efforts degrade to doomed-attempts and erode away to nothing, we eventually meet Hypocrisy’s twin, “Condemnation”.  We will never have done all we think we should have done, never said all we could have said, and not been all we might have been, so we therefore find ourselves under Condemnation’s unbearably heavy burden.  Ugh!  What a fate!

But is that to which we’ve truly been called?  Is that all there is to being free?  Happily, no.  There is more to the story than that.  “But I say, walk by 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.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:16-18 ESV).

There is a third alternative.  We are not bound to live any longer in the flesh, nor are we set free from the flesh only to become crushingly clamped to the Law.  There is a supernatural resource granted to us in the Personhood of God Himself as His invisible presence moves within the deep confines our inner being.

In other words, once we have been set free, we can live in a daily routine of reliance upon the help of God Himself.  As we, with His help, choose to believe His declarations in regard to our condition, the resource of hope that He gives us in Himself, and the ways in which we appropriate that hope, He enables us to walk with Him, equips us to do His work, and empowers us to overcome the mountains in our way.

In every way we can carry out His expectations of us, even if we do not meet every expectation of the people around us.  In Him, I can give to others sacrificially, I can serve others effectively, I can tell others faithfully (of the hope of Jesus Christ), and I can help others fruitfully knowing that my trusting obedience to God will result in some treasure of eternal significance.

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.   If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25 ESV).

Thanks be to God that, starting today, you can live in true freedom: the ability to become what God intends you to be!

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Read Full Post »

The mystery of Jesus is that He is eternal, but He stepped into the temporal. He is divine, yet He became mortal.  He took on flesh so that He could set us free from the power of the flesh.  He is the source of life, yet He submitted to death.  He is Lord of lords and King of kings, yet He became a servant to all.  He died so that we might live.  He was buried so that we might be free.  He rose from the dead so that we who are weak might live with power.  He became utterly small so that the greatness of God, His grace, and His power could be revealed.

“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).

We who are called to become God’s children through faith in His Son live perpetually in that same mystery.  We are strong when we are weak1 for then the power of God can be manifested in us.  We are wise when we are foolish to the ways of the world.  We are innocent, though we were guilty, because of the blood the Savior shed in our place.   We gain the fullness of God’s kingdom when we lose everything here for His sake.  We only begin to truly live when we learn to die to the patterns of worldly thinking and the pressures of worldly living.

“The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written 2‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’  Where is the one who is wise?  Where is the scribe?  Where is the debater of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  For (some) demand signs and (others) seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to (some) and folly to (others), but to those who are called (in either case) Christ (is) the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (from 1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

Of course, the greatest mystery of all is the one we call grace.

 

1:  2 Corinthians 12:10
2:  Isaiah 29:14

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Read Full Post »

Amid an age when sin is vogue,
And speaking truth is running rogue,
We find that faith might wear quite thin,
For more go out than do come in.
 
The darkened mind and shuttered eye
Will point our way and start to lie:
 
“Crooked scales and caustic cues
Lay like snares within their pews!
Don’t trust them!  They’re hypocrites!
They steal him blind, the one who sits
Beneath self-righteous blitherings
And all their mindless ditherings!” 
 
It chaffs one who with all his strength
Serves his Lord!  And so, at length,
It robs him of the joy he had;
It makes him doubt and makes him sad.
 
Yet all is watched by our Lord
Who holds securely His reward
For one who trusts and stays on track;
Who endures the spite and won’t strike back
At those who laugh and those who smirk;
Who knows it’s still his job to work
For the glory of God above
And won’t stop fleshing out Christ’s love. 
 
They know there will be fruit one day
And find refreshment in the way
That God uses a faithful hand
To shine His light throughout the land. 
 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

 

Read Full Post »

In a noisy tomb once did I
               Lay engrossed in morbid lie,
Convinced that I was right as rain,
               But despairing of relief from pain
And fears boundless.  Still I would long
               For end of night and birth of song. 
 
Then He came and touched my chains,
               Broke them all, relieved my pains. 
He took my guilt as tho His own
               And gave His blood to let it drown
So violently my shame and guilt: 
               A piercing win with each drop spilt. 
 
Amen!  My King has conquered death,
               Defeated sin, and sent forth breath
That I might live with hope unending
               And strength of soul to stand unbending.
Let my life now cause Him mirth
               And please His will while I’m on earth.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »