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Archive for April, 2014

The fact that times of upheaval have been visited on the earth frequently during the long story of our planet is small consolation to those destined to live in the midst of such upheavals. Nevertheless, such seasons as these come. Furthermore, they serve as the proving grounds for what we call faith. When there is none, we quake and shake with fear and angst and tend to sink to the lowest moral common denominator.

Terrorist attacks and wars, hurricanes and tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, famine and disease, all reflect the fragility of the world around us..

It is in no way unreasonable for you to wonder about how to respond to the dynamic of fluidity in the world. Our circumstances are frail, our plans and goals are brittle, and our hopes and dreams are like mists that disappear into nothingness when the winds of calamity blast their way through life.

On the other hand, when the proving ground of upheaval finds the salt of genuine faith being worked into the mix, not only are lives transformed by the presence of God within His people, but the whole of society is transformed as well! “What gives him such strength anyway?” might be asked of one believer in a difficult situation. “Why didn’t she just take the money and run? No one was watching,” might be the observation of another.

Of course, the answer is quite simple… so simple that our world likes to turn up its sophisticated nose at it. The believer has an “out-of-worldly” strength to draw from and has an everlasting hope to stand upon.

“…For I know Whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Timothy 1:12b ESV).

Troubles and trials, anger and anxieties, frustrations and fears are the garden spots in which we must reap the harvest of what we’ve really sown in faith.

Troubles and trials, anger and anxieties, frustrations and fears are the garden spots in which we must reap the harvest of what we’ve really sown in faith.

Troubles and trials, anger and anxieties, frustrations and fears are the garden spots in which we must reap the harvest of what we’ve really sown in faith. “Do I REALLY believe God’s promises from His Word for my life?” “Am I REALLY convinced that He is able to guard the investment of my life in Him no matter what happens in the world?” Maybe what we find we have isn’t a garden spot so much as a weed patch.

For instance, when facing pain and difficulty, do we allow those circumstances to become justification for choosing to do wrong? Do you recall the Argentina factory worker riots in April 2003? Or the LA riots in April 1992? Demonstrations against injustice and oppression were not wrong in either case. What WAS wrong, however, was the reckless hurting of innocent people and the exploitation of the situations to steal. People used their anger over being victimized to victimize others. These are clearly extreme examples, but in a more subtle way, we do the same sorts of things if and when we rationalize doing something wrong based on our circumstances.

Of course, most people most of the time really don’t intend any harm in their choices, even when choosing selfishly. It’s just that when we fail to remember God’s expectations for how we live or forget that His promises are meant for our good as well as His glory, we do the harm of unplugging ourselves from abiding in a vital relationship with Christ and will fall and fail when calamity comes or tragedy strikes.

It doesn’t have to be this way though. God has made a way for us to start over when nature barrels down upon us with unimaginable destruction. He has made a way for our spirits to remain strong though illness may seep into our very bones with fiery fingers of pain. He has made a way for His people to muster up courage in the face of oppression and injustice. He has even made a way for His people to embrace the hope that they have in Christ Jesus when their beloved Christian leaders and heroes are called home to heaven. Whatever the need, He has made a way. And whatever we do, let us not neglect the only sure hope that we have… that of Christ Jesus!

“Do not be deceived God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:7-9 ESV).

 Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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“I still remember – that I was hewn down at the forest’s edge, cut out of my tree trunk. Strong foes took me there, shaped me there for themselves in the form of a spectacle, commanded me to raise their criminals. Warriors carried me there on shoulders, until that they set me on a hill; many foes fastened me there. I then saw mankind’s Lord hasten with great zeal; He wished to climb on me.”

Sound familiar? Possibly not. Taken from an ancient poem called the “Dream of the Rood” (translated here by Alexander Bruce), it was written by a Christian for the benefit of Anglo-Saxon warriors at the end of the tenth century. Through it, he weaves a tapestry of words for a hardy and rough warrior people who had only just begun to hear of the hope of Jesus Christ. From the perspective of the Cross of Calvary, the story was proclaimed that the Son of God willingly embraced death to take away the sin of the world.

“The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:12-13 ESV), fulfilling prophecy uttered in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The gentle Savior was coming in grace and not in judgment but He had no plans to just ride into Jerusalem and pick up His crown: He was coming to embrace the Cross. He knew that the crowds weren’t readying a throne for His use, but a tomb for His burial. He knew that on the other side of the shouts of “Hosanna!” were the frenzied calls to “Crucify Him!”

“Jesus answered, ‘…Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit… Now is My soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour…. He said this to show by what kind of death He was going to die” (John 12:23-24, 27, 33 ESV).

And so He pressed on to complete His ultimate mission, redeeming lost humanity by paying the price for their sin with His own perfect life.

The poem continues, “The young Hero stripped Himself – that was God almighty – strong and unflinching; He stepped up on the high cross, brave in the sight of many, where He wished to redeem mankind. I trembled when the Warrior embraced me; nor did I dare, however, to bow down to the earth, to fall to the surfaces of the earth. But I had to stand firm. As a rood (cross) I was erected; I raised the powerful King, the Lord of heavens… with iron-colored and sinister nails.”

The Son of God was rushing into Jerusalem to keep His appointment with Calvary and that He even “hastened to climb the cross” for our sake.

The Son of God was rushing into Jerusalem to keep His appointment with Calvary and that He even “hastened to climb the cross” for our sake.

“He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.… After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to His mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished,’ and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:17-18, 19:28-30 ESV).

The poem records the cross’s perspective further, “I was completely stained with blood, covered from the Man’s side after He had released His spirit. I had endured on that hill much of cruel fates. I saw the God of hosts severely stretched out. Shades of night had covered with clouds the Lord’s corpse, the bright radiance; shades went forth dark under the sky. All creation mourned, bewailed the King’s fall; Christ was on the cross.”

For a typical Anglo-Saxon warrior, it was hard to understand why someone dying a criminal’s death could be said to be victorious. Yet, when the whole story was told, that His willing sacrifice of His own life would forever defeat our great enemies, sin and death, and yet rise again in glorious resurrection, the dirge of sorrow could only give way to the song of victory indeed!

And what was the final word on the matter in the poem “The Dream of the Rood”? “May the Lord be a Friend to me, the One Who here on earth earlier suffered on the gallows-tree for the sins of men: He liberated us and gave us again all life, a heavenly home.”

Let us recall that the Son of God was rushing into Jerusalem to keep His appointment with Calvary and that He even “hastened to climb the cross” for our sake. Let us remember that His sacrifice both washes our sin away and secures for us an eternity with Him. And let us also sing the song of victory!

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law. But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54b-57 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Real Life, Eternal Life

So much hopelessness. So much despair. How is it possible that a people that has so much in the way of comfort and convenience can also seem to have so little to make it all worthwhile? And how can it be that with so much that can bring help and benefit to us that there is so little fulfillment for so many? What is the root from which springs the discontent that characterizes us? Where is the source for the overwhelming angst from which we suffer and which threatens to suffocate any capacity for a peace that lasts and the joy for which we crave?

In the middle of a world awash with “cool stuff” and inundated with knowledge, what causes a man or woman to take his or her own life? Or, more horrifying still, to plot and then act to take the lives of others as gruesomely as can be imagined in the soul that is divorced from its Creator?

Is it poverty? Is it social oppression? Could it be a lack of education? Or is it something else? Something far deeper and more basic to our essence as human beings? Well, whatever we may assume about the roles of the above social ills, they themselves do not “cause” a man or woman to languish in hatred or despair, until some awful deed is done.

Nor do the things for which all the world runs after solve, in of themselves, the problem of hopelessness. Neither can they provide us a destination that makes life worth enduring with all its aches and pains (emotional as well as physical). How often have we seen that even rich and attractive people, who have successfully obtained “the American dream”, can still lose hope and purpose, slipping into the clutches of their own destruction?

But each and every loss, whether rich or poor, famous or unknown, is a tragedy. Each life that is ended in such bitter straits is a sad and tragic story and begs the question “how could this have been stopped?”

For there to be healing in a heart that reaches a point of such final desperation that only a tremendous act of violence can seem to address it, one must get to the source of the problem itself. One must recognize that it is going to take far more than the solutions to which we too quickly run for help heedless of the real sickness from which comes all these other ills.

While education is a matchless tool that helps people find the plot of ground in life from which the rest of life may be addressed, it isn’t enough. Standing against social injustice is right and good, but doing so cannot give us an enduring hope if it doesn’t set free the soul that is oppressed by the bondage of sin. And though God Himself is a refuge for the needy (see Isaiah 25:4), our attempt to help the poor only has real meaning if our souls are first reconnected with our Maker.

What then is the problem from which all these other problems stem? What is the source of spiritual infection that contaminates our land and poisons our hope? It is found in our disconnect from God. Without Him we cannot have real meaning or purpose. In rejecting Him, we’ve rejected the real reason for which we were created: loving fellowship forever with God. When we refuse His presence and lordship in our lives, we’ve refused the only antidote there is for the poisons of hopelessness and despair coursing through the veins of the world.

“As long as you did what you felt like doing, ignoring God, you didn’t have to bother with right thinking or right living, or right anything for that matter. But do you call that a free life? What did you get out of it? Nothing you’re proud of now. Where did it get you? A dead end” (Romans 6:21 The Message).

So socialized are we in the twenty-first century to the idea that we don’t really need God that we’ve clamped a fatal kink in our one and only lifeline. But we really do need God. And we need Him as He is, not as we think we want Him to be. We need God to be above and beyond the limits of both our physical universe, but also above and beyond the limits of our understanding. We need a God Who can love us with a truly limitless love, the likes of which are perhaps found in limited ways in caring and loving mothers and fathers.

When we come to Jesus, we come to the whole point of life and the one true door for entering into an everlasting place of joy and peace.

When we come to Jesus, we come to the whole point of life and the one true door for entering into an everlasting place of joy and peace.

We need a God Who does what is right… all the time. Not just when it is convenient and even when it means running the risk of being misunderstood. We need a God Who doesn’t have to run to His creation, seeking to please everyone and hoping to not offend anyone.

“Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; Your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast You save, O LORD. How precious is Your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of Your wings” (Psalm 36:5-7 ESV).

When we come to the Lord, ready to receive Him and the gift of His Son, Jesus, we come to the whole point of life and the one true door we have for entering into an everlasting place of joy and peace. It’s true that many will look at that door, and turn away, preferring the kingdom of self-will along with its storehouse of miseries and despairs. But for all those who trust in Him, there is a hope that pain and even physical death cannot take away.

“Now that you’ve found that you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for your sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master” (Romans 6:22-23 The Message).

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Not a day goes by that we should fail to look about us in bright-eyed wonder at the glorious work of our Creator. Whenever the red-gold light of dawn breaks the bonds of night’s embrace, we should celebrate anew the Father’s provision of a brand new day. Whenever we see the twinkling lights of heaven peering down at us from a velvet sky or when the aura of the waxing moon casts its silver countenance upon the world, we should give thanks to God. Whether we stop in quiet delight when spring blossoms color the world or we find ourselves stunned by the shocking repercussions of a blast of thunderous lightning, awe should fill our hearts and praise of God fill our mouths.

How much more then should we tremble and gasp at the incredible grace of God Who reached down to humanity through the outspread hands of His Son, Jesus? And what a famished life is his who does not pause and engage the spiritual spheres of his life, perhaps not recognizing that the short time we spend here on earth is not intended to be anything but a realm of incubation as Creator God seeks to raise up a people for Himself who “will love Him in Spirit and in Truth” (John 4:23-24).

A lot of folks describe themselves as being “spiritual”, yet fail to see that true spirituality is incomprehensibly more than the mere appreciation of those things that are unseen. It is rather the product of our grappling with the fact of God’s activity in the world around us and particularly His pursuit of our own hearts. He is a God Who, having spoken the world into existence from a void of empty darkness, has made for Himself of paramount concern our welfare, searching the world over for hearts of men and women and children that will turn to Him and open up to the sunlight of His love as spring flowers do when a warm morning sun shines upon them. Through Jesus Christ we are given the doorway to know God personally and be given a destiny other than the one we’d surely find if we remained in our sin.

If you want to know God, then you must want to know Jesus. And if you do know Jesus, then you must want to make Him known.

If you want to know God, then you must want to know Jesus. And if you do know Jesus, then you must want to make Him known.

If you want to know God, then you must want to know Jesus. And if you do know Jesus, then you must want to make Him known. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…. To all who did received 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…. For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled with Him, Who is the head of all rule and authority” (John 1:14, 12-13; Colossians 2:9-10 ESV).

It’s a strange thing that we can be awestruck by natural wonders and yet fail to be knocked to our knees in fervent worship of the One Who commands them. But once we are caught up in the perpetual novelty of Jesus, His grace and glory overwhelm us. His wisdom and power amaze us. And His holiness and mercy humble us.

Only a “god” who is truly boundless in every way deserves the lifelong passion and devotion that our God deserves. And even as we begin to appreciate the majesty of this measureless God, as feeble as such appreciation is, we have finally begun to live out in truth the meaning of life.

“(You) through Him are believers in God, Who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever’” (1 Peter 1:21-25 ESV)

So, while the world screams by you, racing madly on its way to nowhere, stop and place your hand in the hand of Him Who bore savage nails for you. While society paralyzes itself in pointless squabbling over pointless things, take upon yourself a mantle of forgiveness and renewal from the One Who took upon Himself cruel lashings for you. And while the shrouds of hopelessness and despair entwine the people of today, rise up in the new life prepared for you by the One Who laid Himself in the arms of death so that, through His resurrection, you might have the surety that this God Who saves from the penalty of sin, saves from the power of death.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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