Archive for January, 2014

The call that we each have been given to follow Christ is very frequently at odds with our inclinations and opportunities to be carried along with the currents of opinion and compulsions that characterize the world surrounding us. It seems easier and, at least in the short term, more fulfilling and satisfying to us to devote our lives to the agendas supplied to us by popular opinion (which, I hastily point out, is generally at odds with God’s Word).

It’s an interesting paradox because we are actually being invited by God to enjoy lives that are designed for our greatest happiness, reaping joys that extend beyond the limits of our frail bodies into eternity beyond.

Popular opinion tells us, for instance, that material possessions are worth so much that we should make the pursuit of the “finer things in life” our primary goal. Popular opinion tells us that to be a person of worth we must achieve great achievements or obtain wide renown. Popular opinion tells us that to be a person of significance that we must obtain the means of having our way.

And so we organize our lives around such priorities. For these we lose sleep, either in the worry about whether or not we will succeed in obtaining them or very literally rising early and laboring long into the night for them so that we won’t miss our chance. For these we race ahead of others so that we may be the first in line, even knocking others out of the way if necessary, heedless of the human souls we’ve afflicted and the heart of God we’ve pained. For these we squander our resources, failing to realize that God’s providence was not given us to promote our own glory, but rather His own.

If you will heed God's call, then your life, as you submit to His loving authority, will open the doors for others to follow.

If you will heed God’s call, then your life, as you submit to His loving authority, will open the doors for others to follow.

In such a day and age as this, it is to be hoped that there will be some who will be awakened to the life that God has in mind for them. It is imperative that some will perceive the gnawing in their hearts and know it for what it is: evidence of a “hunger for more” than can be achieved in worldly pursuits. If some will heed this call from God, then their lives, as they are submitted to God’s loving authority, will open the doors for others to follow.

Every generation needs such pioneers, those who will fearlessly lead the way into what seem to be the wild lands of faith. Although their paths may indeed lead them through perilous places and monsters do indeed lurk in the shadows all about, the path itself is guarded by a great Guide Who will lead them safely and faithfully as they walk faithfully with Him. And instead of deserts or thorny wastelands that will swallow them up, these pioneers find far green valleys of such heavenly joy that the old things of their old lives are as a child’s plastic trinkets in comparison.

What lies in store for you if you will set out on this great and grand adventure with God? Some sacrifice, yes. But what are our temporary sacrifices when compared to the eternal treasures that God stores up for us? Pain and loss? Probably. But pain and loss whet our appetites for what God has in store, reminding us that our struggles here and now point to our great reward which is eternal life with God. Persecution and rejection? Maybe. But when we consider that our God shares in our rejection, sympathizing with our hurt, we then find encouragement, finding our delight in knowing that God Himself accepts us completely when we in faith cast ourselves wholeheartedly upon the cross of Christ, receiving His death on our behalf through faith. Not only that, but we do well to remember that when others reject or persecute us (directly or indirectly) because we are doing what God wants us to do, then it isn’t really we who are being rejected.

“And the LORD said to Samuel, ‘… they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me …” (1 Samuel 8:7 ESV).

Will you then be such a pioneer? Will you today set your heart so unreservedly on God that you’ll make Him your top priority? Your greatest aim? Your first love? Maybe the desire to grow and serve Him is stirred up in your heart, but you’re afraid. If so, remember that fear is a common denominator for people throughout the world… even Christians. Yet fear need not be your master. Simply remember to Whom you belong, and that He is so jealous over you that He’ll see to it, if you’ll wholeheartedly walk with Him, that you’ll make it to that “far green country”.

If you will do that, you may join in with the Pilgrims who said in the early years of our nation, “it is not with us as with other men whom small things can discourage, or small discontentments cause to wish themselves at home again.”

Let us each today then indeed press bravely forward. “…One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13b-14 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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The stakes that tie down the tent that houses the family of God (see Isaiah 54:2) are continually pulled up and moved outward as people all over the world turn in faith from sin and death to Jesus Christ. Tapped on the shoulder by the awesome hand of the Master, men and women throughout the pages of human history have had the breath of God breathe into them the spark of divine life. As He moves within them, they’ve renounced the paths of darkness that their own selfish will would blaze for them and placed their confidence and hope in the sacrificial death and resurrection of God’s Son.

“…He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him Who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15 ESV).

Before coming to Christ, we are so blind that we cannot even see darkness, for darkness is all we’ve ever known.

Before coming to Christ, we are so blind that we cannot even see darkness, for darkness is all we’ve ever known.

Before coming to Christ, we are so blind that we cannot even see darkness, because darkness is all we’ve ever known. So deaf are we before our hearts are opened that even though He speaks our names, imploring us to turn to life while the door is still opened to us, we cannot recognize His voice. And with spiritual ears that fail to detect and recognize the melodious whisperings of His eternal voice, we dwell in a lifeless state, devoid of the knowledge of the eternal grace of God. Without this life, our greatest aspirations and our most profound achievements leave us still wallowing in the muck of our sinful nature, incapable of any act of worship worth rendering to our Maker.

Yet… the death and glorious return to life of our Savior enables us by faith to begin to spiritually hear what we need most to hear… God’s voice. For a heart that will not respond to God’s call, His loving invitations and remonstrations sound like little more than the “white noise” which constantly cascades down upon us all the day long every day. But just as Jesus personally took a deaf and mute man aside in order to bring hearing and healing to a man’s whose ears seemed dead to the voice of his Maker, He beckons us today to willingly be pulled out of our pointless routines, our ineffectual plans, and our vain pursuits in order that we might be given eyes to see what matters most in life, ears to hear the voice of the One Who loves us most of all, and a voice by which we might lavish thanksgiving and praises upon Him as well as tell others what He can do for them!

“They brought to Him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged Him to lay His hand on him.  And taking him aside from the crowd privately, He put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.  And looking up to heaven, He sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’  And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.  And Jesus charged them to tell no one.  But the more He charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.  And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’” (Mark 7:32-37 ESV).

One can recognize the tender touch of the Lord’s hand in his or her life by the yearning for more than this life can offer. One may discern His holy presence by the growing sense of horror of one’s own selfishness and sin while awe of His incredible glory swells within our hearts. One can hear God’s invitation to come and know Him by the sudden realization that Jesus’ suffering and death was the only means by which His gift of forgiveness and cleansing could come to us. Even now He yearns to break through our defenses against His love and release us from our bondage to the temporal sphere. How He longs right now, with a heaviness that only the infinite heart of God could bear, for our eyes, ears, and hearts to be opened, sighing heavily to the Father His discontent with humanity’s lostness.

And once our haughty hearts surrender to this amazing invitation, and we’ve been delivered from sure destruction (the fruit of rejecting Him), then everything changes. When we’ve finally been set free from the chains of despair forged by yielding to our pride and selfish inclinations, our tongues are loosed and we may proclaim our praises of the living God Who not only has created us but has moved heaven and earth, as it were, to redeem from us our “wages of sin” (see Romans 6:23). Not only that, but our tongues are unleashed in proclaiming hope to the world.

Does the world resent this hope?  Definitely, for in turning to Jesus for life, we must abandon the marketplace of the world, laying down the baubles and worthless trinkets it would have us purchase with our very souls, in order that we may invest all that we have and all that we are in our race to follow Him. Once we’ve been made His children and our eyes are filled only with the loveliness of His grace, success in the world loses its appeal. Once our hearts are cleansed and our minds begin the wonderful process of being made new (see Romans 12:1-2), we no longer think and plan based on our own previous agendas. No longer must we dwell under the thorny hedge of condemnation (see Romans 5:1-2), but we can rejoice that grace has saved us and we no longer owe any debt to the flesh.

Everything is new. Everything is different. Troubles and trials take on only a shallow and temporary taint, and what once ruffled my feathers can only make us laugh now. What once seemed too unbearable and terrible to face now seems small and unimportant. After all, Who holds our future once we’ve come to Christ? The Father does… in a mighty hand that flaming suns cannot scorch, measureless seas cannot drown, and an endless span of years cannot wither away.

 I have to agree with those who stood by, watching as the Lord Jesus went about healing and helping: He does all things well.  Absolutely. Every. Thing.

 Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Aren’t God’s ways wonderful? As human beings we frequently attempt to “make God in our image”, assuming that how we do things is how God does things. It turns out though that nothing could be farther from the truth! “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9 ESV).

In our natural state we are inclined to think, for instance, that we must somehow “earn” our righteousness before God; that we may earn salvation (eternal destiny with Him) through the keeping of rules and regulations. Isn’t it odd then to hear God say, “No. It doesn’t work that way”? “… By works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20 ESV).

You are probably finding that your very best service to Him somehow falls short of the perfection that His holy Law requires. You may be wondering then how one really does find God’s favor and enter into the righteousness that the Holy One requires.

God’s provision for righteousness for men and women has always simply been faith/belief. “(Abram) believed the LORD, and He counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6 ESV, again in Romans 4:3).

Holding onOf course, John 1:12-13 says, “…To all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory..” And finally, in Romans 3:21-22 it says “… The righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the Law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe….”

Hungry for more of God in your life? Then understand God’s provision for acceptance. You have nothing to prove to Him. You have no burden of sin in your past that the perfect sacrifice of Jesus can’t cover. You have no reason to say “no” to the One Who loves you so much that He was willing to pay so great a price for you to know fellowship with Him.

Wondering if there is any purpose for your life? While you cannot be “saved” BY good works you have been saved FOR good works: “…For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV).

If you turn to Jesus, you will find both acceptance through faith in Him and purpose as your walk with Him is “fleshed out” through your works. After all, real faith cannot help but result in fruitful service to Him. If you, like so many in the world today, find yourself starved for acceptance and emptied of purpose, look to the One Who offers you life through His atoning work on the cross and know that in Him, you’ll find all you need and more.

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If you have really heard the “Call” of Christ, His love and His holiness sinking into your awareness through the murky night of the soul, then somehow your life has become different. The Call of Jesus in your life, if allowed to have its way, cannot help but whisk you into a new reality, one that is completely different from what life would be like had He never sent you the Call or had you not hearkened to it.

Don’t think for a moment that you can “meet” God, and just walk away as if nothing has happened. Folks often see the salvation of God as simply a means to escape punishment for wrong-doing. And while it IS true that we are released from condemnation forever once we have placed our faith in Him (“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” [Romans 8:1 ESV], Jesus’ invitation to you is so much more than a mere escape hatch from hell .

Neither is the Call simply a matter of getting your reservations turned in for your after-life. Although God Himself has indeed promised us a “forever after” life with Him (“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him” [1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 ESV]); even so, Heaven is not just a Hilton Hotel for all eternity.

The Call of Jesus Christ in your life is an appeal for you to leave what you once knew, to cease to be what you once were, and to become something completely new… recreated with a new position, a new passion, and a new power. “…If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God, Who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18 ESV).The Call of Christ

When you turn in faith to Jesus, your new position is that of “child of God”, citizen of His heavenly kingdom, servant to the Lord, and ambassador for the King of kings. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-20 ESV).

Your new passion is a hunger for more of God’s glory to be revealed through your life and in the world and a forgetting of the spiritually trivial priorities and goals you once kept for yourself. “…Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-9 ESV).

And tapping into the new power that is yours only in Christ, you have an eternal hope given you through His victory over sin and death. You’ll find yourself unconquerable as long as you keep your eyes upon the Savior and discover that He faithfully calms either the storms in your life or calms you in the mist of those storms as you walk with Him. “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 ESV).

The Call of Jesus pulls you out of the despair of a life that may seem beaten down and oppressed by tragedy and heartbreak and places you squarely in the arms of the One Who is all loving and all powerful. The Call takes you by the hand, leading you from the drudgery of a pointless existence and mere survival mentality and puts your suddenly eager feet upon a path full of new purpose, meaning, and worth.

If you cannot say that you have in the past “heard the call of Christ”, God may even now be initiating a relationship with you, one in which He beckons you to join Him, leaving behind your sin, your selfishness, and your plans. Trust Him. Try Him. “Taste and see that the LORD is good!  Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8 ESV).

 If you have heard the Call in the past and have yet to really answer, perhaps you hesitate for fear that God will let you down. But know this: those who really trust Him, allowing that trust to result in faithful obedience, are the ones whose lives matter most in the eternal realm. “Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed” (Psalm 34:5 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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As 2014 dawns on us, one may be certain of two things. The first is that the future cannot be fended off no matter how hard one may try to hold on to the joys and comforts of the present or how much he or she may dread the future. The second is simply that the God of the past and the present is also the God of the future.

Days come but then they go as fast as they came. What a sorrow it is when we squander those days over the course of a lifetime not heeding the Lord’s instruction on how we should handle our time on earth.  No one who has ever lived has ever done everything that he or she should and could have with all the time given him or her (with the exception of the Lord Jesus during the days of His earthly ministry). But even in spite of occasional mistakes or missed opportunities, hearts surrendered in trusting obedience to God yield not only an existence in the here-and-now, but an eternity full of sweet victory as the fruit of our walk with God is fully given light.

For there is more than one way in which one can squander his or her life. He or she may, for example, simply accept drudgery and pointlessness as inevitable and simply “survive”, seeing life as merely a “series of unfortunate events”. Yet this human point of view isn’t in touch with the reality of God’s enduring grace. “Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.…. What gain has the worker from his toil?… God has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart…. that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil – this is God’s gift to man.  I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before Him” (Ecclesiastes 2:11, 3:9, 11a, 13-14 ESV).

Jesus - the same yesterday, today and foreverGod has set eternity in our hearts so that we may be “eternity minded”. You can be certain that what we do here affects our future beyond the grave: our works do not procure salvation for us (see Ephesians 2:8-9), but they DO impact the cosmic significance of our salvation in the eternal Kingdom of God. In other words, if I refuse to let God sow His Word in my life, then the fruitfulness that will be harvested through my life will be gaunt and barren.

We can also see that a man or woman can squander his or her time by selfishly living life “to the fullest”. But, as in the case of what appears to be pointless labor (or mere survival mentality), refusing our hearts no pleasure results also in a “chasing after the wind” (from Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).

All the people I’ve ever known who have prescribed to this philosophy either ended in tragic sorrow or are tragedies in the making. Whether they really didn’t believe that life holds any meaning beyond pleasure in the immediate moment or they repeatedly put God off in order to accommodate more pleasure for themselves (hoping to “get to it one day”), “living life to the fullest” is an empty lie with one’s destruction wound up inside it. And how sad that one would be willing to sacrifice not only his own eternal joy but also the joy of others as his life fails to yield anything of worth that might have led others also to God! “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring…. riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations?” (Proverbs 27:1, 24 ESV).

Another way that one can devote himself to a lie is to “buy into” something that promises to give meaning, fulfillment, and disguises itself as truth, yet is only a counterfeit, sent by our spiritual enemy to detour us from the Truth of God (see John 14:6). “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.  And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.  Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep” (2 Peter 2:1-3 ESV).

Because some prefer to let others simply tell them what to believe and what to do, as opposed to personally becoming students of God’s Word, there are those who fall prey to such liars, becoming participants in the deceit that some practice for evil gain. Sadly, I must point out that even though one may be only a follower of a lie, and not the lie’s maker, he or she is still accountable to God. This is true even more today in our highly literate society where Bibles are plentiful but not often read, than in times and places where people could not read or Bibles were not in the hands of ordinary people.

But of greater importance than all the various ways we could possible squander our days, is the truth that God is God of the future. Within the awesome knowledge that God is God for all time is contained the hope that we need to secure our anxious hearts in spite of our reluctance to part with what we have right now or our various fears and worries for the future.

“He has broken my strength in midcourse; He has shortened my days.  ‘O my God,’ I say, ‘take me not away in the midst of my days – You whose years endure throughout all generations!’  Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.  They will perish, but You will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but You are the same, and Your years have no end.  The children of Your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before You.” (Psalm 102:23-28 ESV).

Is a new year upon us? Yes. Are things going to change for you and your family? Yes, somehow they’ll change. Is this something that should make you afraid or cause you alarm? No. Not if your heart rests in the hand of God and you seek to walk with Him throughout all 365 days of this year. Why should I not be afraid? Because “Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 ESV). Amen.

 Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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