Archive for October, 2012

Involvement in the political process often leaves us with a somewhat sour taste in our mouths, yet it is, as we often say, a necessary evil. Sifting through campaign promises is unavoidably wearisome and sorting through the entanglements of corruption and scandal can leave us disheartened and disillusioned. But if we who are being given the mind of Christ withhold His influence through us from the social processes into which God’s hand has place us, shouldn’t we expect symptoms of spiritual deterioration to increase? Would we dare assume that if, as vessels of honor into which the Holy Spirit of God pours His godliness, we were to hoard His bounty of grace, that the end result can be anything but ungodliness?

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5 KJV). “For God, Who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One Who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7 NAS).

If we are to be “salt” and “light” in a world gone mad, then we must lay hold of the mechanisms for impact that have been entrusted to us. The foundations for these are prayer, as we avail ourselves of the personhood and power of God Himself, and the reading of His Word as we seek to know Him intimately. The practical application then of His life in us is godly character revealed in how we live and even in how we vote. Although democracy as a governing system in the world of the early Church was nearly unheard of, one thing we can definitely say about living in one today is that we may wield our God-given influence through the exercising of our voting powers as we reach for policies which are right, just, and holy (in every social situation that we can think of, from the lives of unborn children, to God-ordained parameters on family relationships, to gambling, to matters of war and peace).

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16 NIV).

So let us not lose our opportunities to make a difference through neglect and let us not squander them by giving in to selfishness, pride, and/or hate. A vote cast from my hand may by itself seem to make little difference in the landscape of the political world and perhaps there won’t be any visible impact of my ever having voted at all, but I nonetheless seek the approval of my Lord Himself Who sees everything and knows every heart. He knows whether or not I’ve buried my opportunities in the sand or used them to the best of my ability to please Him and do His will here on earth (see Matthew 25:21 & 23).

If we as God’s people together can stand and use our votes in unison, joined with one heart and mind in the pursuit of the Kingdom of God being realized on earth, then good can indeed overcome evil in this temporal sphere.

But before God can get a hold of our electoral process, He must first get a hold of us. This is where “revival” has one of its most visible impacts. When there is “revival”, the return of God to the place of first love of our lives, suddenly our little choices begin to collectively make big differences. They begin to produce the evidence of Christ-mindedness on a large scale, shaping (dare I say it?) our values, public policies, political processes, and cultural trends.

“If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV).

A godly people will have a godly government. Please note that I did not say “a perfect government”, nor do I imply that fallen human nature doesn’t manifest itself on occasion: where human hearts are gathered, human hurts and human hates will at times rise up against God’s grace. Nevertheless, when the love of God’s people is fanned to a genuine passion, the pursuit of His perfect will crowds out our tendency towards pretension and self-will.

But again, what happens in our election depends on our attitude towards God’s lordship in our lives. If we give Him room to work in our hearts, and to shape our choices as we cast our ballots, we will see our society gravitate towards justice, compassion, reconciliation, and hope. But if we use our ballots in ignorance or in selfishness, we drift towards destruction – in our courts, our workplaces, our schools, our centers of worship, and our homes.

Yes, your vote is yours to cast. It reflects your values, your priorities, and the things you treasure most. It is a tool to indicate what you choose for not only yourself but for those dearest to you as well as generations to come. Into your hand has been delivered the means to shape the future – so choose well. “If it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” ” (Joshua 24:15 ESV).


Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Seven silly limericks (the last one, though, is deadly serious).  Well, maybe they’re not THAT silly….
A saint who just sat in his pew,
Never quite knew what to do,
          Til he fell to his knees
          In order to please
His Lord with a heart that was true.
When unsure what way you should go,
And the path to tread you don’t know,
          To the wise it’s occurred
          “Seek the Lord in His Word
And heed His call to follow.”
There once was a man who was sad,
Who, when comforted, only got mad;
          Til he saw only grace
          Shed all over the place
And now he can only be glad.
Whenever doubts rain on your day
And complaints are all you can say,
          Praise God and His Son
          Who forever have won
An eternal light for your way. 
There once was a lady who’d cry
And whine that she wished she’d just die
          Til she finally learned
          That God Himself yearned
To heal her and teach her to fly.
Has it ever occurred to you guys
There are all sorts of dangers in lies?
          Even telling one once
          Makes the teller a dunce
As integrity in his heart dies.
Whenever God gives to a man
A God-sized vision and plan
          He does well who has heard
          “Abide deep in God’s Word”
And then obeys his Lord’s command. 
He must have way too much time
The one who likes to make rhyme
          Tis better to work
          And chores not to shirk.
Such silliness is surely a crime. 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Taking Off the Masks

In this, the end of October, many a masked child can be seen stalking throughout the various corners of southern Ohio, in passionate searches of the sweets and treats that the “season” affords.  Masks range from Republic Clone Trooper helmets to leering monster faces, from super hero visages to zombie heads complete with graphic flesh wounds, from refined princesses to pallid vampires.  Adults also get in on the act, and enjoy either pretending for one evening to be someone else, or gleefully striving to scare the socks off of unsuspecting souls. 

The wearing of masks is, at the moment, completely en vogue.  On the other hand, it would undoubtedly seem out of place for our children to wear masks every day to school, the playground, or church.  A child who sits down at the dinner table with a Darth Vader helmet on his head should expect a persistent parent to banish the effigy of the Sith Lord from mealtime activities:  otherwise, attempts to eat could get quite messy.   In the same way, a bank teller wearing a witch’s gown might expect to be sent home in the middle of November and the water meter reader with a werewolf’s head on an April morning might find the sheriff’s office called down on him.  

Once we’ve agreed to take the mask off and come clean with God, we can then begin to be met by His grace in becoming what we actually wanted to become all along: a person of worth and dignity, beloved of God and appointed for great things.

But of course, the wearing of masks is (and has been) done by many people for a wide variety of reasons.  There is, as has been said, the custom of mask-wearing for Trick-or-Treat in which children (mostly) are pretending to be something they’re not, delighting in the assuming of different identities for fun as they pretend, for a brief moment, that they have the qualities associated with the assumed identities (whether super powers, a cool reputations, or royal pedigrees). 

Then there are those who wear “masks” to hide their true identity in order to carry out a wrong-doing with impunity (like robbing a local fast food restaurant when the manager arrives to open for business for the day).   Hoodies pulled low with dark sunglasses covering the eyes, ski masks, and “hose-over-the-head” are all iconic examples of folks trying to do dirty deeds without being recognized so that they can avoid punishment. 

There are also occasions when masks are worn to screen or hide the face of someone in their quest to achieve something.  Soldiers, of course, may want to blend in with their surroundings and therefore wear a mask to more effectively camouflage themselves.  Hunters, too, might wear a camo-style mask when hunting (although it might seem counter-productive when the hunter is also wearing a bright orange hunter’s vest). 

Psychologically speaking, it is the norm to find folks wearing figurative masks as well.  People “put on” an attitude so much of the time that it is almost impossible to assume that what you see is really what is going on.  People wear the mask of friendship, the mask of happiness, the mask of self-confidence, the mask of strength or courage and so on, to prove to the world that they are in control of their situation and have self-worth. 

People wear the mask of friendship, for example, because they have hidden agendas (think of the stereotypical car salesperson and you’ll have a great mental image of what I am talking about).   People who present themselves as your friends and allies range from salespeople to predatory boyfriends, but they all present themselves as being both interested in and concerned about the welfare of others in order to exploit trust and take from their “victims” something that they want. 

Others wear masks to hide inner feelings or failings, whether in the past or in the present.  Shame motivates them to cover up unpleasant qualities in order to avoid rejection.  On the one hand, some folks consistently present themselves in a particular light in order to avoid rejection.  On the other hand, a self-righteous person takes it further and projects an air (or mask) of personal “goodness” so that he or she can feel superior to others who have not perhaps quite so effective a mask of goodness about them. 

The bottom line is that we often pretend to be something we’re not, but that strategy does not work with God.  Strange as it may sound, we employ the same practice of avoiding an honest approach to God that we do with one another.  It’s strange because God cannot be fooled by our pretension and sees through our behaviors and attitudes right on down to our inner core as surely as Superman could theoretically see through a brick wall.  God knows our hidden thoughts and secret fears.  He knows our covered sins and our many failings. He knows our secret agendas and many cravings. 

He knows… in spite of the great lengths to which we go to hide them.  The mistake that we make is that we try to hide them, of course.  This is why confession in our relationship with God is essential.  It is a demonstration of the fact that we know the Lord knows all about us anyway and that denial is pointless.  It also demonstrates our submission to His sovereignty and our willingness to accept responsibility for all the ways that we don’t measure up and all the struggles with which we do battle. 

Once we’ve done that and agreed to take the mask off and come clean with God, we can then begin to be met by His grace in becoming what we actually wanted to become all along:  a person of worth and dignity, beloved of God and appointed for great things.  Once we’ve done that, we can then begin to employ the same kind of honesty in our human relationships and, consequently, experience in them a new kind of joy… a joy of true fellowship where love is more than an abstract idea but an active force at work as people accept and are accepted in the Spirit of holy grace that changed their lives.   

“May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 ESV). 

Copyright ©  Thom Mollohan

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Through the noisy street of the center of the multicultural capital of the world, the man walked. With every stride forward, his eyes flitted back and forth noting with sad interest the little altars to nothing that adorned the buildings in the city.

Altars to nothing? The people who built them up must have thought that they meant something – at least in the beginning. The man scowled as he thought of it. One “god” to whom some prayed was credited for bringing abundant harvests. Another for granting fertility to would-be mothers. And yet another for bestowing health and healing.

In fact, as the man looked up and down the street of Athens, it was abundantly clear that the number of different “gods” worshiped by the residents of the city, as well as its immediate surroundings, outnumbered all his fingers and toes.

“But none of their prayers are ever really heard,” he sighed to himself. None of these supposed “gods” even had ears to hear the supplications of those who cried out to them. Nor had they eyes to see the faces of those who worshipped them. Whether blocks of stone, lumps of wood, or even precious metals like silver or gold, they didn’t have hearts to even care.

These little tables with offerings set upon them? These little stands by which people occasionally pause and pray? They really were altars to nothing.

The man, whose name was Paul, felt heartsick and deeply distressed by the misdirected devotion of the inhabitants of this little corner of the Roman Empire. As he made his way through the town, he could not quite make up his mind whether or not he wanted to grind his teeth in his frustration over the worship stolen from the one, true God; or if he would simply weep at the “lostness” of the people here who were blindly throwing away their lives on spiritual imposters.

During the few days that he waited in Athens for his friends and associates, Silas and Timothy, he was so moved that he finally began to boldly talk with whomever he had opportunity, challenging the spiritual dementia that had beset the city.

He pointed out to some that their ideas of “gods” were little more than people with super powers. They might throw a few lightning bolts around, or give a magical golden touch away, but they had little real control of the physical universe and virtually no control whatsoever over their own passions and prejudices.

“These ‘gods” that you worship,” he explained, “are fickle, spiteful, apathetic and altogether selfish. Even if they were real, why would you pray to them? They would just as likely squash you like an insect as reward you!”

In addition to the abundance of idol worship in the city, there were two powerful schools of philosophy as well, generally contending with one another, but both looking down their noses at the more “ignorant” religions that swirled around them.

The Stoics, on the one hand, were the scientifically minded. Everything has a cause and effect, they decided, and something isn’t necessarily true just because a person believes it to be true. Most Stoics adopted a simple lifestyle, disdaining lazy and purposeless living, and theorized that anything that is genuinely true is also discernable by the human senses. “Whatever is true can be discovered and if it cannot be discovered, it isn’t true.”

The group of Epicureans, on the other hand, said that life was all about happiness and pleasure. They believed and taught that truth was entirely in a person’s perception, and that even a madman upheld truth as long as he truly believed what he said he believed. Ultimately, “pleasure is good and pain is bad” was the mantra of the Epicurean philosophy.

Still, it was Athens, and being what was generally considered the cultural hub of the known world, the one thing that folks who lived there enjoyed was the arguing of ideas. As such, they became very interested (at first) in what Paul had to say. He soon found occasion to share, not only in the marketplace and in the synagogue, but also the biggest meeting place in town: the Areopagus (or “Mar’s Hill”).

So, after they had settled themselves down and were prepared to hear what he had to say, Paul took a deep breath and began. “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD’. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you” (Acts 17:22-23 NIV).

And proclaim he did. He expounded to them the glory of a Creator Who is not the product of mere human hands or imagination. Indeed, even the great marble temples that dwarfed all other buildings in the city could not possibly house Him for all of heaven and earth could not contain Him.

Paul then declared to them the incomprehensible might and majesty of the One that human senses cannot fathom or absorb. He told them of the One Who is perfectly rational but is also mysterious, cloaked by His infinite transcendence.

And finally he spoke to them about justice, a clear and sharp warning to those in his presence that all men and women were in fact accountable for the choices that they make and the ways they live their lives.

As the idol worshipers, the Stoics, and the Epicureans listened to him, some began to sneer, particularly when he brought up Jesus and His resurrection. They had come to listen, but only to listen – just as they had always done. They had no interest in openness or truth or any message other than their own. They were there only for the entertainment value.

But some found themselves strangely stirred when Truth began to speak softly through the voice of Paul. When he had finished, they approached him and said, “We want to hear you again on this subject” (Acts 17:32). A hunger for more than human wisdom was awakening within them. And when Paul stepped down and started to leave the Areopagus, he found that some were following him. They wanted to know more. They wanted to receive more than just knowledge: they were ready to receive life. Soon Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus council, and a local woman named Damaris who was quite influential, turned from their sin and past selfishness, renounced all former and phony philosophies and religious ideas, and invited Jesus into their lives as Lord and Savior.

Even as they and others became spiritually reborn, Paul could only smile. When he had come, the city of Athens was nothing but a wasteland of moral and spiritual confusion, but here there were now a group of believers who would hold up the true light and life of Jesus Christ.

“God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:27-28a NIV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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If I  carelessly flirt with the “thrill of fear”, what I am really doing is immersing myself in attitudes that send their roots into my mind and contaminate my walk with God.

The arrival of October is something to which I look forward all year. I immensely enjoy fall. Its fiery-colored foliage, against a backdrop of azure sky, and the crispness of autumn evenings (although one couldn’t tell it yet by our warm weather lately), are all treasured testimonies to our Creator that fuel a renewed spirit of praise and thanksgiving within me.

There is little that I dislike about it. In fact, one complaint only would I register today, but it has nothing to do with weather or even of raking of leaves (not that I especially enjoy raking leaves). Rather it has to do with the tradition of celebrating evil, darkness, and death.

I am astonished every October to see the extent of our fascination with such things (in the name of fun) as I drive or walk by front yards turned graveyards, or pretend corpses hanging by gibbets beside children’s playground equipment. The fact that it is the same every fall not only fails to cause me to become accustomed to it but only magnifies my astonishment!

This may seem contradictory considering that my book, Crimson Harvest, just hit the shelves, so to speak.  But, of course, the whole point in Crimson Harvest is that the light of Christ dispels and conquers the fearful shadows of evil and death.

I am most horrified of all over the horrible images passing in front of the average person’s eyes on television and movie screens (not to mention the incredible volume of DVD movie posters in area department stores depicting at every child’s eye level images of the macabre). As far as the movies themselves go, I am not sure which is more unbelievable: the fact that movie makers can imagine in pain-staking detail (no pun intended) such cruel acts or that the movie market is madly driven by people who pay money to see them. The special effects in such movies and even regular television programming have such a capacity for realism that people watching them are essentially seeing the “real thing.”

There is no doubt that a repeated and casual approach towards images of gore and mutilation easily becomes callousness to the suffering of others. Nor can it be successfully argued by a Christian that the treatment of evil as being trivial does not produce in us a spiritual malaise. And having said that, I am quite convinced that parents grossly underestimate the dangers to their children of such whimsical attitudes towards spiritual darkness (a conviction that actually led me to write Crimson Harvest).

The Bible says, “As (a man) thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7a NAS). Our thoughts dictate our character and our character is what we really are on the inside. So if we fill up our minds with cruelty and the torture of others, we are at the very least desensitizing ourselves to other people’s problems, hurts, and losses. In fact, we are likely minimizing (if not totally eradicating) the potential within ourselves for empathy and compassion.

And if we carelessly and casually flirt with the “thrill of fear”, what we are doing in reality is immersing ourselves in attitudes of fear that send their roots into our minds, contaminating our walks with God. Why would we want to do that when we have, in fact, been called by God to “not be afraid”? “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but by Whom we cry, ‘Abba!  Father!’ ” (Romans 8:15 ESV).

The Bible teaches us to neither cultivate attitudes of hard-heartedness to others nor those that nudge us back towards the spiritual oppression of fearfulness. It directs us instead to fill our minds with the things of God. In contrast to fear, we should be concentrating on our victory in Christ. Instead of amusing ourselves with mutilations and maimings, we should be seeking opportunities to heal and help others. Instead of imagining the deplorable depths to which evil can drag one, we should focus on the wonderful heights to which the love of God can lift us.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:4-8 ESV).

Take care not only this October season to guard your heart and mind. Steer clear of things that will orient your thinking along paths that are contrary to the peace and love of God and your call to be an agent of help for the suffering of others. And be especially mindful of your children and your responsibility to encourage them towards those spiritually positive attitudes described in Philippians chapter four. Thinking about such things will help to produce such fruits in their lives and in their relationships, too.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan.

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“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light,” said the Greek philosopher, Plato.  But who could imagine anyone being afraid of the light?  Isn’t light good?  Isn’t it what illuminates the path of life and allows us sufficient knowledge by which we may make choices and know that we are indeed going in the right direction?  In both a literal and metaphysical sense, what is light but an external factor that enables the mental apprehension of reality? 

Those who say they love Christ must understand that they are Stewards of the Light!

In other words, “What is light but that thing which makes darkness go away so you can see where you’re going and know what’s nearby so you can watch out for it!” 

In a dark room, one flip of a switch produces the luminescence of light energy which, after it bounces off a particle of matter, can be received by special sensory cells in the eye which transmits data to the brain which then interprets the information and allows the rest of the body to respond appropriately.  That way, theoretically, you can avoid stubbing your toe on the way to the kitchen to get a drink of water.  That way, theoretically, you can keep from stepping on black Labrador Retrievers who think that sleeping in the middle of the floor in the middle of the night is infinitely more comfortable than resting in their doggy beds (I’m not bitter, in case you’re wondering).  

In a more metaphysical sense, truth is light.  It shows us where we’re standing, where we’re going, and what can hinder us in getting where we’re trying to go. In a spiritual sense, God is truth (more specifically, Jesus is truth).  Through Him we can discern a higher reality than can be perceived via our natural senses alone.  Through His Word (the things He has spoken to us in the Bible) He uncovers the ground on which we metaphorically stand, showing us if we are building lives on solid thinking and eternal insight or if we’re stuck in a rut of vain effort and meaningless endeavors.  He shows us our ultimate destiny (whether we’re “in Him” through faith in Christ with an eternity of bliss in His presence, or we’re NOT “in Him” and are heading towards an endless doom of suffering and sorrow).  And He reveals to us the reality of our sin condition (as well as our plight before a holy and just God), the idolatries that nullify fruitfulness in our lives; and the need we each have (myself included) to repent, return, and release to God my sin, shame, fear, and frustrations. 

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.  Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgment:  the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God” (Jesus in John 3:16-21 ESV). 

Who then fears light?  First, those who do not want to see their true condition.  For many, being right is more important than being real.  Pride lays upon them like an intense mantle of sensitivity that ignites in a moment a fiery indignation that will fight to the death to defend itself.  Their true condition is so compulsively protected by rationalization, that the “truth” is the last thing they want to hear.  I cannot deny that the “truth hurts” at times.  How quickly I think of ways to explain away a misdeed or unkind word on my part, but the truth is… I sometimes fail.  Admitting the truth, however, is like turning on a light so that a splinter of resentment or ego can be removed, by God’s grace, from my heart. 

Also, they fear light intensely who desire to keep their motives and methods concealed.  Just as the robber hates the light which reveals his entry into the sacred confines of your home, truth only hinders a spiritual predator’s efforts to take from others.  In such cases, truth is a most wretched inconvenience. 

Finally, they fear light who have become comfortable in darkness.  Just as a sudden light being turned on in a bedroom elicits grumbling from my children early in the morning on such occasions as a trip with a lot of travel involved, we too easily find the darkness of an untruth relaxing since it is conducive to doing nothing.  Those who could have prevented the Holocaust did not do so because they clung to the untruth that things were going to work out all right in the end and that people couldn’t stoop to such evil as was revealed in the horror of Nazi régime.  The darkness of denial is as deadly a gloom as the grave itself and too many of us today have gotten quite comfortable in the mellow shade of ignorance. 

Those who say they love Christ must understand that they are Stewards of the Light (sharers of the truth of Christ).  They must guard the integrity the truth of Who Jesus is, what He has done, and what it means for all who believe (as well as for those who don’t).  And those who say they love truth must ultimately come to Christ Who is the Personification of truth (see John 14:6) and acknowledge that He is indeed the Truth made flesh.  To hide from Him, to deny His truth, to attempt to extinguish His light (not that there is anyone who can), is a true tragedy that endures into eternity.   

“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.  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’” (Ephesians 5:8-15 ESV). 

In an age of darkness, people need the light of the Person of God.  In this era of deception, people need the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In a time when people have no sense of hope, joy, or peace, they need their eyes opened to the illumination of God’s glorious presence and awesome love. 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Few things in the American experience seem to stir up as much division as do presidential politics. While it is undoubtedly clear that the media (in general) finds its ability to egg on the polarization of society to be “good business”, it certainly leaves one with a gloomy perspective regarding not only the future of leadership in our nation but also our sense of national unity. Perhaps the whole business is becoming so sordid that it is difficult for us even want to be involved.

But however ugly and/or depressing things may seem, we each have a privilege and responsibility to exert whatever Godly influence we may in the whole process. If you’re wondering how you as a Christian can enter the fray without yourself resorting to “dirty pool” tactics or slanderous rhetoric, then consider these practical steps in regard to getting involved.

First, “pray right”. Pray earnestly and with sincerity as you lay down your own immediate interests in order to seek the will of God. Pray that you will have discernment. Pray that God’s Spirit will influence others across the nation to seek His will and to accomplish His purposes for them in this election, granting them discernment as well. Pray that God’s values will be reflected in your vote. And then pray that God will give you peace about the outcome and His ability to manage politics and human government in accordance with what He intends for you and your family as well as for the world.

“Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, ” (Ephesians 6:18 ESV).

Second, “think right”. Don’t only hope that your values are aligned with those of God, but actively allow His Word to transform your thinking so that your thoughts are brought under His governance. This means that you must actively read and study His Word both privately in a personal devotion time and also in a corporate setting (a Bible study group at church for example or a Sunday School program).

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ” (Romans 12:2 ESV). “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV).

Then find out the truth about candidates, important for both national elections but also state and local ones as well. This isn’t easy since we’ve all discovered that candidates may say isn’t necessarily what they truly believe and what they promise isn’t something that they may genuinely seek to deliver. And remember that what you might be seeing through various media channels might not be telling the whole story. The best thing to do is to find out how candidates’ track records stack up against God’s Word. Do candidates demonstrate a commitment to the values that you’re discovering as you meditate and reflect on God’s Word? Or does their history tell us the story of a commitment to other things, such as personal ambition or the accumulation of selfish possessions? Are they “truth tellers” or do they say one thing and then do another? And are there repeated lapses of character and competency that implicate their ability to lead righteously?

Next, “do right”. It’s an easy thing to get swallowed up by the way others do things, especially when you’ve become angry perhaps over the way someone said something or over something someone apparently did. But don’t get baited into actions or words that you know aren’t pleasing to God and thereby compromise your own capacity for spiritual fruitfulness.

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil….  Be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Ephesians 4:26-27, 5:1 ESV).

As you cast your ballot for leaders for your country, state, region, county, and city or other local leaders, do so ethically and with clean conscience. Vote as you believe God wants you to vote. Vote for issues that comprehensively uphold God’s priorities for society whether for an issue upholding families as He designed them or against an issue that exploits the poor or the vulnerability of the unborn.

And finally, when you’ve prayed, thought, said and done all that you know to do, allow God’s peace to reign in your heart and dodge the lethal bullets of anxiety that your spiritual enemy continually aims at you. You’re a very important part of God’s very big agenda. But remember that it is His agenda and that He’s ultimately in control. He is your Shepherd and won’t forget His love for you nor His commitment to be an active part of your life. Scary times can quickly motivate us to run ahead of our Shepherd, but times even as scary as these are only scary when our eyes shift away from His face.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:15-17 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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You may have but one vote to cast, but if it is cast with the desire to please God, it matters a great deal after all.

As we race through the “home stretch” of this election towards its finish line, think well on what an act of worship that the casting of your vote is.  Is it any accident that you are born into this generation?  Is it simply a coincidence that you live where you do?

Not at all!  In fact, a wealth of influence has been entrusted to you that you might help nudge that which is earthly towards that which is heavenly.  From the influence that you exert upon your acquaintances to the opportunities you have been given to help others in need, you are invited daily to join God at work around you in His mission to “seek and save that which has been lost” (Luke 19:10).  This fallen and broken world needs the help of God and you and I are invited to be a part of the remedy.

Your vote consequently is not your own but is a gift entrusted to you.  You have been made a steward of this vote that the voice of God might be uttered through you in this election.  Your vote is not about having your say (whatever popular culture tells you).  It is a powerful means by which you may “flesh out” the life of Christ in you to influence this culture which in its turn profoundly influences the rest of the world.

It is true that you and I can use our votes selfishly, of course.  We can use them to make OURSELVES be heard.  We can push forward with OUR OWN “special interests”.  After all, the God Who made the heavens and the earth and has appointed us to live in this day and hour, has given us the freedom to choose to use all our faculties in keeping with His will for our individual lives or to use in keeping with our own wills for our own selves apart from His grace.

But let us then not use that freedom to push for our own way.  While it is indeed “natural” to look out for what we want (since the beginning of time when humanity chose its own way over God’s loving direction to the 21st Century when we daily make choices on how to spend our lives), selfishness in our choices generates only disharmony, distrust and destruction for ourselves and also has the unfortunate side-effect of harming others in the process.

As you vote this coming Tuesday, make it your intention to let God speak through you.  As you seek to “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21), do so in such a way that God will be honored and pleased.

Those things which He esteems highly then should preempt those things that personally benefit us or serve our own desires.  Let our choices be shaped by God’s holiness, His regard for the life that He has created (of those born and those unborn), His establishment of the institution of marriage between one man and one woman, and such virtues as integrity and grace.

Democracy is wonderful and freedom is joyous but only when they reside under the shadow of God’s will.  Let us therefore choose in this election to abide under the shade of His grace lest we be scorched by the rays of self-will and sin.  You may have but one vote to cast, but if it is cast with the desire to please God, it matters a great deal after all.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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“You are what you eat,” right?  At least that is how conventional wisdom deals it out to us.  And, of course, there is a great deal of truth to the adage.  On the other hand, Jesus might have worded it a bit differently were He to have used the expression in the days of His earthly ministry. 

Turn your eyes to Jesus, and let the light He sheds in your heart become a beacon to the lost world around you.

“The eye is the lamp of the body,” said Jesus.  “So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Mathew 6:22-23 ESV). 

In so many words then, “you are what you look at.”  For example, if you turn your gaze (so to speak) upon those things that are negative, hurtful, or ugly (in the emotional and spiritual sense), then you allow those things to have power in the shaping of your thought life.  If you watch programs, movies, or shows that mock the dignity that God has appointed for humanity (which was created, by the way, in His image), then the darkness of pride, anger, and contempt will seep into your attitude towards your fellow human beings. 

Envy, the desire to have what others have, is the fruit of fixing one’s gaze on what another has and setting one’s affection upon it.  After we fix our gaze on what others have, the shadow of dissatisfaction moves into our hearts and takes up residence.  And, of course, pornography quite literally fills the mind (spiritually) with the darkness of lust which portrays people as nothing more than objects to be used.  It cultivates utterly selfish attitudes and habits and snares its perpetrators (a.k.a. victims) in cycles of condemnation. 

In a broader sense, however, we “fill our eyes with darkness” whenever our eyes are not on God, whether it is an obvious “sin” or not.  He is, after all, light and the only true Source of it.  If this is so, then it stands to reason, that when our eyes are not “on Him”, gloom begins its slow, but steady advance into our psyche.  When the light of His truth begins to grow dim, we find that things that come with the light of God’s presence begin to fade as well.  Joy goes when we lose track of the wonder that is ours as God’s children through Christ Jesus.  Peace fades when thoughts of worry and stress begin to dominate our busy thoughts, crowding out the calm assurance that our God is, in fact, in control.  Love disappears because our hearts are not settled on the one true example and source of love, the God Who gave His only Son so that we might have life (see John 3:16). 

If you are not sure that this is the intended application of Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter 6, consider the context.  The amazing passage of Scripture from which it is taken is referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount” and stands as the Lord’s foundational teaching for how we are to relate to God, how we should relate to one another, and how we should see ourselves. 

In this passage, Jesus speaks on greed, which is fixing our eyes on material things.  He talks about worry, which is the outcome of fixing our proverbial stare on our circumstances.  He teaches regarding forgiveness, lest we fix our gaze on crimes against us and become filled with anger and hate.  He cautions us against judging others, so that we do not get caught up in the tentacles of spiritual pride and become calloused to the needs of others.  

But eyes that are filled with the awesome presence of God channel that light to the heart.  God’s love and acceptance of us heals brokenness and comforts wounded hearts.  God’s holiness show us the pure and wholesome standard to which He draws us through Jesus Christ, as His Spirit works within us to make us holy, too.  His glorious power, revealed in the Bible and through the pages of history (for any who care to see it), trumpets the clear and awesome assurance that our God is sovereign and in absolute control of the cosmos as well as the most miniscule molecules of our existence. 

The heart blessed with eyes on God is a heart that is lifted up out of the ugliness of the world.  The soul blessed with a heart set on God is a soul that repeatedly experiences joyful communion with its Creator.  The life blessed with a soul filled with the presence of God is a life that bears fruit and leaves a lasting legacy of hope for those around it.  

If Jesus’ words applied to first century Palestine, then how much more careful should we be today with millions of images passing in front of our faces all day long via the internet and television?  If folks needed to be reminded to keep their eyes on God then, how desperately do you and I need also to be reminded to turn the “windows of our souls” to the light of God so that we may be filled with light, too. 

I occasionally hear folks say “let your light shine”, only to discover that what is meant is that one should celebrate his or her uniqueness and no particular connection to the Gospel of Jesus is intended.  But without the light of God within us, the only thing you and I have to offer the world is our own brand of darkness.  Turn your eyes to Jesus first, and then let the light He sheds in your heart become a beacon to the lost world around you. 

“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” (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV). 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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If one were to attend a leadership meeting of the First Church of Pooh Corner, with Winnie-the-Pooh presiding, one might witness the following.

Winnie-the-Pooh, turning to Piglet, whispers, “What is it I do now? I can’t seem to remember.”

Piglet whispers his reply, “You’re supposed to call the meeting to order, Pooh. You ARE the chairperson.”

“Oh, quite right. Thank you, Piglet.” Pooh then turns to everyone surrounding the table, “I call this meeting to order. I AM the chairperson, you know.”

“Bravo, Pooh!” proclaims Owl. “Well said!”

“Atta boy, Buddy Bear!” shouts Tigger. “Show ‘em what you’re made of!”

“Thank you,” says Pooh, bowing. “Now if there is no other business, I suggest we adjourn for lunch.”

Piglet fidgets and whispers, “But, Pooh! We haven’t discussed any business yet!”

Rabbit, overhearing Piglet, chimes in, “That’s right! Pooh Bear, we need to address the serious problem of ‘Moral Decay’ in the Hundred Acre Wood!”

“Moral Decay?” says Pooh, putting a honey-colored paw to his mouth. “What’s that, Rabbit?”

“Oh, you know. It’s when Heffalumps and Woozels do… well, when Heffalumps and Woozels do the nasty things Heffalumps and Woozels do! They’re all around us! They’re taking over!”

Piglet’s ears prick up. “Oh, d-d-dear! Heffa-heffalumps and Woozles?!?” he stammers.

Tigger, beginning to bounce in his seat, rejoins with, “Don’t forget them Jagulars, too!”

“J-j-jagulars!?!” squeaks Piglet.

“That’s right!” retorts Rabbit. “They’re the reason our church never grows! They’re the reason that souls don’t get saved! They must be gotten rid of! What are we going to do about it?”

Eeyore wags his head side-to-side in a most gloomy way. “It probably doesn’t matter what we do. It’s the end of life as we know it.” He sighs despondently.

“Oh, my!” cackles Owl. “I remember when our church was overflowing. It was such a wonderful time! Indeed, my cousin, Owlberta, would plan such superb potluck dinners….”

Gopher rolls his eyes at Owl’s comments. “I say we build! Twelve stories! If we build it, they will come!” He leans over towards Eeyore. “Everybody knows that!” he grumbles.

“Not that my opinion matters much,” moans Eeyore, “since no one ever listens to me, but it’s probably too late to reach them anyway.”

Pooh suddenly brightens. “I have an idea!” His expression suddenly turns blank. “Oh, bother! I forgot it.”

Ignoring Pooh, Rabbit begins again, “Building will never work!” He produces a huge stack of papers and slams it onto the table. “I’ve taken the liberty of outlining a 144 step plan for action in the Hundred-Acre-Wood. It’s all spelled out here in these 800 pages. Fight the Heffalumps and Woozels on their own terms, I say!” He slams his fist down on the papers, scattering them into the air.

“Don’t forget the Jagulars!” shouts Tigger as he bounces off his chair.

Pooh sighs and then says, “What do you think, Piglet? Piglet?” He looks under the table for the missing Piglet. “Oh, there you are, Piglet,” he says as relief floods his face. “I was worried for a moment.”

“What is it, Pooh?” squeaks Piglet from under the table.

“What is what, Piglet?” Pooh puzzles, scratching his head.

“What were you asking me?”

“I can’t remember,” Pooh replies. “It is so hard to remember things when all you have for brains is fluff.”

Rabbit tries to pull a paper out from under Piglet, who is still cowering under the table. “Pooh,” he declares, “you were clearly going to ask what we should do about the Heffalumps and Woozels.”

Tigger is now bouncing enthusiastically all around the room. “Ha, ha! And Jagulars!”

Gopher leaps to his small, furry feet. “Build!” he shouts.

Rabbit waves his arms around. “No! Social action!”

“Aw, c’mon, guys!” replies Tigger, punching the air. “Let’s just take to the streets and fight ‘em all off! Fightin’ Heffalumps and Woozels and them ridicerous Jagulars is what us Tiggers do the bestus!”

“Couldn’t we just hide?” squeaks Piglet’s voice from under the table.

“They’ll probably have us for lunch anyway!” moans Eeyore.

“What wonderful times we once had!” coos Owl. “Oh, I remember the Great Revival! My Uncle Owlvin would preach and….”

The room fills with the noise of everyone talking at once. Rabbit’s papers are again flung everywhere. Gopher and Tigger are squaring off as if they’re going to come to blows. Eeyore eyes everyone and moans about the dismal future. Owl continues to talk excitedly about the past and the only part of Piglet that can be seen is his curly-cue tail protruding from under the table cloth.

Pooh timidly taps his gavel. “I have another idea.” No one notices so he clears his throat and speaks louder with a growly voice. “I said ‘I have another idea.’” Everyone stops speaking and Tigger stops bouncing. “Couldn’t we just reach out to the Heffalumps and Woozels? Oh, yes… and the Jagulars? After all, they need God’s love, too.  Couldn’t we just love them as Jesus loves us?” His proposal is met with silence at first.

Then suddenly…

“My word!” says Owl. “That’s just what Uncle Owlvin said!”

“Ha, ha!” guffaws Tigger. “What a great idea, Pooh-boy!”

“S-s-s-say!” whistles Gopher through his teeth. “That IS-s-s a good idea!”

“Oh, my!” Rabbit replies. “I never thought of that!”

Eeyore continues to look gloomy. “I s’pose it might work… but it prob’ly won’t.”

Piglet’s head pops out from under the tablecloth. “That’s a very good idea, Pooh.”

“Why, thank you, Piglet,” Pooh replies. “Now may we break for lunch? There’s a certain pot of honey calling to my stomach!”

In Matthew 5:13, Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”

* Author’s note:  I penned this little scene years ago… long before Pathway began, so it is in no way a reference to any of our wonderful church family members.  Rather, it is a “cautionary” story to remind us that there are various pitfalls that we can fall into, tripped  up at times by even our own good intentions. 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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