Archive for June, 2013

A few years after the mission trip to which I referred last week, I was on another trip (this time in Togo).  I had the humbling experience of being asked to give the benediction (closing prayer) at the close of a special commencement/commissioning service for a group of new pastors.  They had just finished a pastor training intensive and were about to embark on new adventures laid before them by God in their home communities (mostly in very rural villages scattered throughout West African countries).

A national pastor named James (with whom my partner and I had been working in Ghana) was to give the keynote address.  Every eye and ear focused solidly on him as he both passionately and compassionately laid before his hearers the charge to be faithful stewards of the Word of God.

As he began to wrap up his thoughts and knowing well the prevailing winds of pop-culture Christianity, he began to tell a story about an experience that he’d had early in his ministry with a man named Charles.  Charles, an elder at James’ first church, was as stalwart a pillar of that community of faith as a pastor could hope for.

When Charles became very sick, Pastor James and his church family began to pray for him, intensely interceding over the course of several days.  Charles’ illness did not dissipate however, so more and more Christians were called upon to pray.  The huge numbers of people praying as well as their earnestness touched the family deeply and many believed that Brother Charles would be healed.

As Pastor James was relating his story to the crowd of young pastors before him, I noticed that his audience was being drawn deeply into the account.  They were excited about God’s call upon them; they were eager to see the Kingdom of God grow and advance; and they were expectant of God’s power and might to be manifested in and through themselves.  I could see many of them nodding approvingly of the broad cooperation of God’s people with one another as they agreed in prayer for Charles’ healing and I sensed their longing for something like that to happen for each of them.

But James’ story took an unexpected turn.  Just where the audience expected him to say that Charles miraculously arose from his sick bed to give glory to God, James instead said simply that Charles died.  As soon as they were uttered, the men before me wilted visibly at his words.

James then mentioned a conversation that he had with another Christian friend who challenged him with the words, “Where is your faith?  God undoubtedly allowed Charles to die so that He could raise him from the dead.”  The crowd in the room sat up straighter as a new look of wonder filled their expressions.

The thought of God’s power raising Charles from the dead struck a chord with them just as it had with James years earlier as he found himself wondering if perhaps the whole experience had all been a test.  Soon he concluded that it must have been a test and that he wasn’t to stop praying.  So he began to pray for Charles to be raised from the dead like Lazarus in John 11.  He promptly involved a few of his closest friends and then word quickly spread that people were to now pray for Charles’ resurrection.  The excitement in the crowd about me as James shared his story began to climb afresh as the desire to hear of God’s power working in such an awesome way began to take hold of them.

James shared about how he rose early in the morning and went to the building where Charles’ body had been laid.  He arrived there while it was still dark and silent.  The family wasn’t present and no one answered James’ knock at the door.  It wasn’t locked so he stepped inside.  He walked up to the dark form spread out in the center of the room, ready at any moment to find his brother in the Lord sitting up to greet him.

The crowd about me waited in suspense as James drew near to the end of his story.  Was Charles alive?  Had the Lord raised him from the dead?  Would God not honor the faith and prayers of His people in such a way as to prove His favor?  Everyone in the room seemed to be expecting a resounding affirmation.  Even a few of the officials on the platform near me were nodding their heads enthusiastically and smiling from ear to ear.

James shared that as he drew near to the figure in the center of the room, he was sure he would hear Charles’ voice and see him stir.  Everyone hearing James’ story was holding his breath as he paused in his tale.  What would happen next?  James looked over the hundreds of faces turned his way.  “Charles never spoke,” he said.  “Charles didn’t move.  He didn’t even breathe.”  I could hear the sound of air as the people before me suddenly released the breaths they had been holding.  “No,” James said.  “Charles couldn’t greet me.  He was still dead.  He hadn’t been raised back to life.”

James then shared with the room about the pain that emerged in that dark moment which challenged his faith and the subsequent disillusionment of what at first appeared to be unanswered prayer.   He had thought that by this sign that God would prove His unimaginable power (by conquering death) and demonstrate His infinite love (by answering – in the affirmative – the specific hearts’ cries of His people).

In the years that have followed my hearing James’ tell that story, I’ve thought long and hard about the wisdom that he had sought to pass on to the generation of young pastors heading out into the spiritual battlefields of their homelands.  It seems to me that James’ point was that God has already proven His power by conquering death in Jesus Christ Who was raised to new life!  And it appears to me also that the Lord has already demonstrated His infinite love for us by sending Jesus, His Son, to die for us so that our deepest and most desperate need (forgiveness of sin) might be granted to us through faith!

Many of us want continually for God to prove His power, His love, and Himself.  But God doesn’t have to prove anything.  He is, after all, Creator, Judge, and King.  He doesn’t have to condescend to us at any point on any level.  But it just so happens that He has proven everything we really need to know anyway, praise His name, in what He has done in Jesus Christ.  He didn’t have to… but He did.

It’s therefore all the more grievous a transgression on our part when we hesitate or even refuse to obey Him until He satisfies us with signs and wonders, miracles that wow us sufficiently until all vestiges of doubt are eradicated.  Truth be told, many of us (even those of us who call ourselves Christian) hold back on an attitude and subsequent lifestyle of true obedience to His Word and Lordship until He convinces us that the path to which He calls us is really worth the price of “dying to self” (Luke 9:23).

Of course, we’re not the first to fall into the selfish trap of demanding signs from God.  Some who had seen for themselves Jesus healing the lame and sick, satisfying the multitudes with miraculously provided foods, and even walking on water, said to Him, “What sign do You do, that we may see and believe You?  What work do You perform?” (John 6:30 ESV).

What cheek!  Here they were demanding from God’s Son Himself a sign even after He had provided them with sign after sign!  Luke 11 records the fact that there were some who repeatedly demanded signs from Him (v. 16), yet Jesus’ ultimate assessment for their spiritual pig-headedness was, “This generation is an evil generation.  It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” (v. 29b; the “sign” was the man who was sent from God to preach repentance and returned miraculously after three days – Jonah from the belly of the great fish [Jonah 1:17 & 2:10] and Jesus from the grave [Luke 24:6]).

More often than not, what we deem as our “need” for proof before we will believe is really an excuse to not obey God.  Selfishness, fear, pride, and laziness are so deeply rooted within us that we scarcely can discern those traits within ourselves, yet they are there contaminating trusting obedience.

What is actually needful then is a humble and submitted heart that does not put upon God any demand but is ever ready to cry out to Him as did Jesus, “Father… not My will but Yours, be done (Luke 22:42).

It may be that God awaits your request to move a mountain in your life (Matthew 21:21).  But don’t throw in the towel if you have spent yourself in the request and are as submitted as you know how to be.  It could be that your heavenly Father’s refusal to “move the mountain” is the prelude to having you climb it by His side so that you can achieve a high place with Him you could not have known otherwise.

It may be that God awaits your request to move a mountain in your life (Matthew 21:21). But don’t throw in the towel if you have spent yourself in the request and are as submitted as you know how to be. It could be that your heavenly Father’s refusal to “move the mountain” is the prelude to having you climb it by His side so that you can achieve a high place with Him you could not have known otherwise.

As was shared in the previous article, real faith is nothing more than trusting God.  By faith, we receive God’s forgiveness in Jesus Christ.  By faith, we pray, laying out our petitions before him and sending our intercessions to Him.  By faith, we serve Him, believing that He can take our meagerness and multiply it so that many may be blessed.  By faith, we press on in this life believing that our labors are not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58 & Philippians 2:16).  By faith, we rejoice because our God is sovereign and has under His control all the stars of the endless universe as well as the heartaches and needs of these lives of ours no matter how small and inconsequential we deem ourselves (Romans 8:28).

It may be that God awaits your request to move a mountain in your life (Matthew 21:21).  But if he hasn’t, don’t throw in the towel even though you have spent yourself in the request and are as submitted as you know how to be.  It could be that your heavenly Father’s refusal to “move the mountain” is the prelude to having you climb it by His side so that you can achieve a high place with Him you could not have known otherwise.

“This God – His way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.  For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? – the God Who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights” (Psalm 18:30-33 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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There are too few who seem to know
        That it’s to Christ that we must go;
                  And it’s to Him that we must run
                           When fails the light of noon-day sun.
When fear creeps and terror crawls
        Slipping through our eggshell walls,
                  We find our hope has been mislaid
                           When on aught but Christ our minds are stayed.
Promises all are empty when
        Christ is not the Lord of them.
                   Trust not the might of other men
                            Though others look and lean on them. 
When heavy is your heart and soul
        Turn to the One Who makes you whole.
                   Confide in Him your weakness then
                             Let Him wash you clean again.
Let words of Christ then lift you up
        And let His love fill up the cup
                    Of that for which His children long:
                              His countenance which makes us strong.
It is not by power, nor by might,
     That makes us stand or makes us right;
             Tis only blood shed of the King
                      Who left heaven with love to bring
                               To us new hope and to us grace,
                                        That He might bring us to that place,
                                                  Of holy light and holy rest,
                                                           Where dwells the King of righteousness. 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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When I was leading a mission team on an international trip in an area of the world much hotter than our own, I came down with a severe cold (oddly enough) that moved into my chest and became severe bronchitis (someone told me that he thought I may have actually contracted pneumonia, but we weren’t near any doctors to verify it either way).  At any rate, whatever it was proved debilitating for a few days and I was unable to accompany my team on two afternoons.  At the end of the second day, a Christian named Zacharias dropped by to chat and pray (he wasn’t a part of our team but was there working on another project).  He noted my difficulty breathing and asked me if I would like him to pray for me.  Of course I said yes.  After all, I am a believer in God’s ability to bring healing to those who are sick or are otherwise afflicted (and I was finding the act of breathing to be very painful and difficult).

Zacharias stood up, walked over to me, placed his hand on my shoulder and began to pray.  He prayed in English at first and then switched to Arabic (he was from Egypt originally).  Not only did I gratefully accept his offer to pray, but as he prayed I agreed with him fully confident in the fact that God could heal me if He so chose to do so.  He prayed for a minute or two calling on God to end my affliction (and I placed myself as fully in God’s hand as I knew how).

When Zacharias was done, he concluded with an “amen” and then looked at me intently.  “Do you feel better?” he asked me.

I paused before I answered as I weighed how to answer.  Did I feel better?  My lungs still felt as though they were being crushed and I still struggled to draw in my breath.  I answered honestly.  “No, I don’t.”  And I was content in believing that God would bring healing in His own way and His own time.

However, Zacharias was not content.  He scowled slightly and said crisply, “You must have faith.”  He began to pray again and began tapping me sharply on my chest.  Trying to be as open-minded (and open-hearted) to God as I could, I again agreed (more-or-less) with Zacharias’ appeal to God for healing.  But I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of angst in regard to where this might be going.

When he finished with his amen this time, he gazed at me fiercely and asked, “Did you feel anything this time?  A heat or rushing feeling?”

I thought about his question and then answered simply, “No, I didn’t.”  Zacharias sighed and shook his head sadly and murmured, “You do not have enough faith.”

I considered his statement for a few seconds and then responded – wheezing and gasping all the while.  “Now wait a minute, Zacharias.  What actually requires more faith?  Demanding that God do what I want or trusting Him when He doesn’t do what I want when I want it?”

He looked at me as if he did not know how to answer.  I continued with, “I know God can heal me and I’m not afraid to ask Him.  He can heal me and I believe He will… in His time and in His way.  I deeply appreciate your praying for me and as God answers that prayer – one way or another – I will give Him glory for doing it.”

For the record, Diane (my wife) and I had experienced God’s healing in our lives in very tangible ways!  It was only a couple of years before this encounter that a doctor at a local hospital informed us that our second oldest son probably had leukemia, setting in motion a couple of years of much intensive medical work, first at Columbus and then in Cleveland.  The summed-up version of what happened is that after much prayer and trust in God, the signs and symptoms of leukemia disappeared.  Then, as they tried to understand what was happening with the vestiges of certain symptoms still stubbornly lingering, the doctors watched for lupus.  Time passed, prayers continue to be offered up, and we still trusted God.  Finally, our son was declared free from all signs of disease and was released (it took years for this to completely unfold).

Faith is not a magic wand to make God do our bidding.  It is simply trusting God’s love, power, and holiness to work in us and through us mighty things.

Faith is not a magic wand to make God do our bidding. It is simply trusting God’s love, power, and holiness to work in us and through us mighty things.

As Diane and I sought to immerse ourselves in the comfort and guidance of God’s Word, the Bible, we learned to understand that experience (and others like it) as the venues through which our faith is tried and purified.  If our heavenly Father had not healed our son, our God was no less good, we were no less loved, and His glory any less manifested.  On the contrary, sometimes loss and suffering are the very means by which we most clearly discover that our consolation is in God Himself and not just in what He does for us.  But often it does please Him most and is most advantageous to us for Him to quickly and clearly answer our requests.

Faith is not a magic wand to make God do our bidding.  It is simply trusting God’s love, power, and holiness to work in us and through us mighty things.  When Jesus tells the blind beggar of Luke 18 that his faith had made him well, the Lord was declaring that the man’s trust in Him was what positioned him to experience God’s best for him.  The same is true of you and me.

“You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions….  Is anyone among you suffering?  Let him pray.  Is anyone cheerful?  Let him sing praise.  Is anyone among you sick?  Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.  And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 4:2b-3 ESV).

Beloved, look to God for help and healing.  Ask your Christian brethren to pray for you and even allow them to anoint you with oil in Jesus’ name.  And then, as you trust God and manifest that trust in obedience, let God work out His will for you in His way and in His time as He does the high and holy work of preparing you for an eternity with Him.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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To my sons, Ben, Zach, and Andrew and to my daughter, Hannah… God has deeply blessed me through you with awesome joys that I cannot begin to describe!  In addition to the laughter and tears, adventures and fears we’ve faced together, there are countless, but beautiful ways His grace and mercies delight your mother and me through you!  Thank you for being you!  Thank you for letting His love shine through you!

When you turn from sin to walk with Him,

            it makes this father proud.

When courage you find for each daily climb,

            it makes this father proud.

When love you show to those you know,

            it makes this father proud.

When in grace you live, quick to forgive,

            it makes this father proud.

When your integrity lights the lies of night,

            it makes this father proud.

When you help the weak find strength to seek,

            it makes this father proud.

When you press on though you tire to reach ever higher,

            it makes this father proud.

And when each day that you live to your heavenly Father you give,

            it makes this father proud.  Very proud indeed.


“And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at his coming” (1 John 2:28 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Musings on dog ownership while with my kids at the Ohio 4-H Dog Bowl…

Dogs to our left;
dogs to our right.
Barks are all we hear,
Waving tails fill our sight.
They want in when they’re out
And out when they’re in;
And though we just fed them,
It’s time they’re fed again.
They’re fun and adorable
And they’re naughty and they’re bad.
They drive you crazy with all their chewing,
But bring comfort when you’re sad.
It always makes you cry
When they mess upon the rug,
But even when you’ve yelled at them
They’re quick to take a hug.
When friends turn against you,
Your dog’s loyal to the end.
When you feel all forsaken,
He’s still a trusted friend.
Sometimes we may wonder
Why we get our canine friends,
But then it finally hits us:
They’re gifts our Father sends. 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan


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You can probably summon to your recollection easy-enough memories of inspirational posters or Facebook wall photos that urge you to “Follow your dreams!”  A dream is a grand thing, but it’s grander by far to see it come true.  To have a dream come true is wonderful, but to have it come true so that it overflows the cup of our temporal expectations to become a flowing river that nourishes the souls of untold others is beyond all wonder.

Such was the case of King David who, it is recorded in 2 Samuel 7, dreamed of honoring the Lord God with a temple.  Hitherto, the active worship of David’s people had centered around the tabernacle (think of a large, fancy tent custom-made to God’s specifications and you’d be about right).  The temple would take the place of the tabernacle and become the center for their sacrifices and a symbol of God’s presence on earth.

David’s dream was meant well and was received well – as far as it went.  God knew that His servant’s heart was in the right place (so to speak):  David wanted to bring glory to God and it hurt his heart to think that there he was building for himself a kingly palace while the Lord still “lived” in a tent.

But God said no.  It wasn’t David’s calling to be the one who would build a house for God.  In fact, it would be God Who would build a house for David.  The house of David would be an enduring house that would outlast the cedar and stone used in the temple and would last through all eternity in the Person of the Messiah, the Christ that we call Jesus.

On one level, David’s dream did not come to fruition.  He would not build a house for God.  He could have reacted with resentment, despondency, and bitterness.  But he didn’t.  He let the dream go.  He didn’t give up on it, but instead released it into God’s hands.  And because he did, the Lord fulfilled that dream through David’s son, Solomon, who built one of the most beautiful structures the world had ever known.

Dreams can be hard to let go of because we fear that in doing so, the dream will never come true.  We may be tempted to doggedly follow our dreams and ignore the immediate daily responses required by God in following Him – namely, opportunities to live sanctified lives of service and love others as ourselves.

The more we hold onto our dreams to the point of ignoring the daily cost of discipleship, the more we forfeit the potential for divine fulfillment of our dreams.

The more we hold onto our dreams to the point of ignoring the daily cost of discipleship, the more we forfeit the potential for divine fulfillment of our dreams.

But the more we hold onto our dreams to the point of ignoring the daily cost of discipleship, the more we forfeit the potential for divine fulfillment of our dreams (at least if our dreams are truly God-centered and not self-centered).

I know people who want to do things for God and set out to do so without really consulting Him.  Their hearts are in the right place (so to speak):  they want to bring glory to God and it hurts their hearts to think of all the ways people steal from God the glory due Him (from matters of their personal salvation to being the radical disciples we all are called to be).

That’s not to say that we’re passive about the fulfilling of our dreams.  David didn’t just kick back and, because it wasn’t his job, announce, “Oh, okay then.  I’ll not do anything about it and will just do my thing.”  No, he did all he could do to set up what Solomon would need to get the job done.  David chose to by faith continue to believe that his dream would still be fulfilled – even if he would never see it himself.

Sometimes the best test we have of whether are God-centered or are self-centered is by our response to the question, “Would I still labor and sacrifice for the fulfilling of my dream if I don’t get credit for it or if I don’t get to personally enjoy it?”

The answer to that question is intimately tied to whose kingdom we really are seeking first (Matthew 6:33) and determines for you and for me the realness of our Christian devotion.

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act” (Psalm 37:4-5 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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While I can’t say that the children’s books of Maurice Sendak are exactly a wellspring of deep spiritual insight, but in honor of his 85th birthday today (June 10th), I would like to point out that his picture book, Where the Wild Things Are (published by Harper & Row, Publishers), is a masterpiece in depicting our general attitude towards God, what we think about ourselves, and maybe a little bit of our spiritual predicament.  Its pages have long reminded me of the story that Jesus told about another son (see Luke 11:15-35) also with a willful spirit, a rebellious wandering out into the wide world, and an eventual repentance and return to grace.

Little Max, when he “came to his senses” remembered where he belonged.

Max, when he “came to his senses” remembered where he belonged.

Sendak’s little tale begins with, “The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind… and another… his mother called him ‘WILD THING!’ and Max said, ‘I’LL EAT YOU UP!’ so he was sent to bed without eating anything.”

Although we loathe to admit it, there is within each of us an overwhelming impulse that passionately seeks to have its own way and, when yielded to, wreaks mischief of one kind… and another… and another. From the dawning of time when humanity first rebelled in the Garden (see Genesis 3), we have habitually exalted our own plans and ambitions above the loving directives given us by God. And so we don the wolf suit of selfishness, heedless of the implications of our defiance.

But there are great prices to pay when we choose to defy the loving plan of God. The first great tragedy of asserting our will above God’s is, of course, discordance in our relationship with Him and the breaking of our fellowship with our Creator. Our disregard for the Lord’s will and our wolfish pursuit to please ourselves disrupt His plan to enrich our lives, encourage our hearts, and envelop us with His peace and joy. Even subtle sins and passive rebellion to God’s claim to our lives as Lord contaminate our lives and make us unfit to “enter His presence.”

The second great tragedy results from the first. Having lost the immediacy of His divine presence, and bent on going our own way in the world, we are fated to find ourselves surrounded by terrors and monsters unleashed by such self-will. Fears enslave us, hatreds besiege us, pain and loss bind us as though they were great shackles forged in the heat of our pride and passions. Such woes and afflictions “roar their terrible roars, and gnash their terrible teeth and roll their terrible eyes and show their terrible claws.” We may have succeeded in “sassing” God, but our only reward is fearsome and awful friendship with trouble and woe. But perhaps it dawns on us that somewhere there is something better waiting for us, and just like Max in Sendak’s book, we long “to be where someone loves us best of all.”

When the willful son of Luke 15 approaches his father and begs an early withdraw on his inheritance, we can perhaps feel a little bit of the sorrow that wrenched the older man’s heart. Was that all he was to this beloved son? An easy way to a good time? The mischief wasn’t merely in the asking for the money of course. It was also partly in the son’s desire to leave the fellowship of his father’s house and to be lord and master of his own destiny. With a pocket full of cash, he could call the shots and be the big man for a change.

And so he, like Max, boards the “private boat” of his independence and sets sail through “night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are.” And there this wayward son reigns for awhile, having a “wild rumpus” of his own… at least until he runs out of money. And lo and behold, he suddenly has nothing and is nothing to even those he had once called friends. He is reduced to squalor and terrible jobs that no one else will endure.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ And he arose and came to his father.” (Luke 15:17-20a ESV).

We don’t necessarily have to completely hit bottom for us to come to our senses. How much easier and better would it have been if this young man had had a change of heart before he had even left his father’s house? There’s no denying that it would have been an easier road for all involved. Still, it is clear that God is perfectly willing to go to unimaginable lengths to soften our hearts to His overtures of loving acceptance. You matter that much to God. And when your heart turns towards home, He is ready and waiting to receive you!

And don’t think that getting up and going home was an easy thing to do for this prodigal son… no matter how broken he was. It wasn’t. Wild feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and worry most certainly “roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws”, yet it was the right thing to do… it was the only thing to do.

“But while he (the son) was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:20b-24 ESV).

What an incredible reunion! Instead of glowering at him from under bristling eyebrows, instead of slamming the door in his face, instead of lecturing him on how he squandered his father’s money and brought shame upon his house, the father embraced him and said, “Welcome home, son. Let’s go inside and get to know each other all over again over a nice hot meal.”

Little Max, when he also “came to his senses” remembered where he belonged. He too turned towards home and “sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him… and it was still hot.” 

If your heart hasn’t yet “turned towards home”, let today be the day you also come to your senses and remember that there is a place “where someone loves you best of all,” too. That “place” is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Let today be the day your heart goes home.


Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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“Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this:  to believe in the One He has sent.” – John 6:29 ESV

The work of God, if genuine, manifests itself in the trusting obedience that produces Christ-like, Spirit-led service that in turn produces the everlasting fruit of changed lives.  Worship, evangelism, discipleship, missions, caring-ministry, and true kingdom fellowship all must find their roots in believe in Jesus.  Being rooted in anything less is not the work of God.  Anything less is not worthy work.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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If we run from pain…

If we run from everything that may cause us pain, we will run from love, too. Even the love of God can inflict pain upon our fragile hearts just as surely as the setting of a broken arm or the lancing of an infection beneath the skin inflict pain.

Yes, for awhile we can run and hide from the hurt we feel from God’s correcting, cleansing, and refining, but to do so lashes us securely to what will finally be the infinitely unbearable agony of not experiencing the hope and healing we would have found if we’d only allowed Him to draw us to Himself.

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Grace!  What a lovely word!  It’s a sweet syllable that lingers in our hearts after it trips off our tongues in our talk of God!  It’s a tender and beautiful sentiment in our singing of sweet songs to our Savior as the wonder of His love saturates our minds!  The awesome majesty of God’s authentic grace is so other-worldly to our world that delights in fingers pointing at the fallen, snide snickers at the expense of the stumbling, and taunting “told-you-soes” to the temptation trapped.

Grace is that sunny smile of acceptance when a stern frown of disapproval is earned.  It is the helping hand that pulls another to his feet instead of the cold shoulder that shrugs him off.  It is the patient forbearance that persistently pursues something better for our stubborn hearts than the filthy trifles that so easily satisfy us!

In John chapter 8, a woman caught in sin was brought before Jesus so that the wicked self-righteousness of the proud and arrogant could “force His hand”, but Jesus refused to be baited.  He simply stooped down and began writing on the ground.

“Early in the morning He came again to the temple. All the people came to Him, and He sat down and taught them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.  Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.  So what do You say?’  This they said to test Him, that they might have some charge to bring against Him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground” (John 8:2-6 ESV).

The world, with its accusing fingers, writes for us constantly all the ways that we are guilty, fallen, and deserving of God’s judgment.  Grace, on the other hand, blows over the sands of our sin and shortcomings and gently blows it them all away.

The world, with its accusing fingers, constantly points to the writing in the sand all the ways that we are guilty, fallen, and deserving of God’s judgment. Grace, on the other hand, blows over the sands of our sin and shortcomings and gently blows them all away.

The Scriptures do not record what it was that Jesus wrote and there has been a lot of speculation about what it might been.  Some have suggested that He was naming in the dust of the street the “pet sins” of the accusers.  Perhaps so.  Perhaps even adultery was among the sins listed.  But whatever it was, the significance is at first lost on the accusers.

Imagine it, if you will, the unfolding of this living tabloid.  See the scandal and distorted delight of those standing there with stones in their hands as they sneered in derision at the one they brought to be judged and scoffed at the One Who, ironically, is the final Judge of all judges.

But after Jesus’ words bring home the indictment of the flawed spiritual condition and self-serving motives of Jesus’ enemies, grace that finds its source in a holy God also finds the woman at Jesus’ feet and raises her up.

“Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?’  She said, ‘No one, Lord.’  And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:10-11 ESV).

Just as surely as the breezes of the day wafted over and eventually erased the things Jesus had written in the sand, so too does His grace erase the eternal record of our sin if we turn from that sin and receive Him as Lord and Savior.  If you believe that Jesus came to die for you in your place to pay for the reality of your sin, the blood that He bled as He died on the cross is, in the mind of God, applied to your life.  His Spirit says to you, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

“[Jesus] entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.….  the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purif[ies] our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:11, 14b ESV).

The world, with its accusing fingers, points to the writing in the sand of all the ways that we are guilty, fallen, and deserving of God’s judgment.  Grace, on the other hand, blows over the sands of our sin and shortcomings and gently blows them all away.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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