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Jesus has a disdain for complacency that is very disconcerting for those who are complacent.  In fact, reading some of the things Jesus actually says in the Bible are not only downright uncomfortable, but are terrifying for those of us who have attained the deceptively fragile equilibrium of the status quo.

For instance, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.  Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:34-37 ESV).

If one reads this passage shallowly, he might conclude that Jesus’ intent is simply to create chaos and enmity between people, particularly members of the same family.  But when one reads it in the context of all things Jesus says and examines His earthly ministry, as well as His suffering and death on the cross, he sees that Jesus is referring to the rebooting that takes place when one comes spiritually alive and finds within himself a new slate of priorities… namely, love of God first and then love of others (Matthew 22:37-40).

Of course, these new passions in a person’s life will conflict with the priorities embedded in the traditions of families that have for generations believed and taught that one’s first loyalty is to himself; that the greatest measures of success in life are power, possessions, and popularity; and that the temporal is all there is.

A "rebooting" takes place when one comes spiritually alive and finds within himself a new slate of priorities!

A “rebooting” takes place when one comes spiritually alive and finds within himself a new slate of priorities!

It is an abomination to the general psyche of the various perspectives in the world to believe that one’s first loyalty is to God; that the greatest indicators of significance in life are lives influenced towards heaven by our own lives; and that we are created for eternity, not just for the now.

If one cannot see the eternal, then to him it seems foolish and even dangerous to tolerate those who do, lest others are “poisoned” with “foolish talk of heaven”.  Naturally, this friction and, at times, open hostility towards a mindset on the things of Christ is a powerful deterrent to whole-hearted pursuit of Jesus as Savior and Lord.

However, we are each responsible for weighing the temporary pain and rejection of sincerely following Jesus against the ultimate pleasures and delight of pursuing Him with all out abandon.  The “cop out” of watered-down Christianity is not what Jesus called us to and too small and petty a thing for His children.  He has raised for us the banner of passionate and urgent pursuit of His will in all spheres of our lives – from worship to service, from giving to telling, from things “church-related” to things “job-related”, from the chores that we do to the entertainment in which we indulge whether books, movies or music.

The real problem with us is that we see Jesus’ shaking up of things as a threat.  We resent the intrusion of His lordship into our lives and when we observe others bowing to Him in matters both great and small, our consciences are pricked and we assume the posture of people who are intruded upon.

But do we really want to reject a higher and more meaningful life than what we can contrive for ourselves in this short span of years we have in life?  It might make sense if all we have is a few decades of existence, but it makes no sense at all when we realize that this short time is the season of investment for an eternity beyond the limits of our flesh and even our galaxy.

Perhaps this is why Jesus explains, “Whoever finds His life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39 ESV).  It seems that the only way to “buy stock” in eternity is by entrusting ourselves to the Eternal One.

It’s not an easy decision for us since we are personally conditioned to focus on the short term perspective of our short term physical lives.  Nor does our fellow man or woman easily tolerate one who easily dismisses the promises of instant gratification.  Yet, it is the watershed point of our lives, the moment we decide for whom will we live, to whom will we bow, and in whom will we trust.  Ourselves?  Others?  Or God?

Jesus declares, “Whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:38 ESV).  He isn’t being vague.  He isn’t being touchy-feely.  He isn’t sugar-coating what it is that He expects of us.

The world doesn’t need cultural Christians.  It doesn’t need easy evangelicalism if its evangelism does not make clear the drastic command of Christ to leave all in order to follow Him.  It doesn’t even need a world religion that teaches people to get along no matter what if it means compromising a whole-hearted giving of ourselves to Jesus and His commands.

The world needs “little Christs” who, being filled with His Spirit, love as He loves, obey Him as He obeyed the Father, and speak the truth courageously even if the whole world rejects them.  As the days are filled with more chaos, as violence grows and spreads, as confusion tosses people back and forth from uncertainty to uncertainty and fear to fear, become the child of God and agent of light and love He sent you into the world to be.

Jesus said, “Whoever receives you receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him Who sent Me” (Matthew10:40 ESV).

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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A Water Horse Requiem

The Water Horse on the dry land,

       She guarded long the key of brass

Slyly hidden by wisdom’s hand

      So unbidden ones could not pass

Unmarked into wherein were kept

      Secrets to cracked soul and torn heart

So summoned there she lightly slept,

      Warden of hope for a new start.

One fateful day when one with strength

Came and sought to take hold the key,

And so fought the horse and at length

Soon sent her to her destiny.

Water horse strove to hold her own,

Although she stood upon dry land.

Parched and weary and all alone,

She fell to the Seeker’s strong hand.

Seeker gazed sadly on her foe

Who so valiantly defied,

But beaten to the earth below,

She lay there still until she died.

The Seeker took the key and went

Alone into the secret place.

Even so, she made lament

Whilst her tears trickled down her face.A Requiem for a Water Horse

“Alas! Water horse gave her all

To keep her promise to be true!

But now she lies upon the floor,

So now, I see, we need some glue!”

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

* A fun (for me) “nonsense poem” with a back story (a private little joke with co-workers – and they know who they are).  And can you tell that I enjoy Old English style poetry (and making mountains out of mole hills)?

** “Hippopotamus” is Greek for “River (or Water) Horse”.  Yes, this poem is a bit on the “dry” side of the humor spectrum.  🙂

*** The “Water Horse” in question was a wooden carving I had picked up in Africa about ten years ago.  While completing an errand, a friend accidentally knocked it onto the floor and its leg broke.  She humbly messaged me and apologized.  I am glad it happened so that the saga could be completed!

 

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A great deal of tragedy has struck in the past week in our country’s Midwest.  Literally dropping out of the sky, destruction and terror descended unexpectedly into the lives of people who were simply going about their daily activities and minding their own business.  Like so many, they had no idea beforehand the ordeal that would sweep away routines, livelihoods, homes, and in some cases lives of loved ones.

TornadoI am glad to see how people are working in response to save lives, rescue survivors, and comfort those who have been especially devastated by the disasters like those that have hit Nebraska and the Dakotas.  It is especially significant to me to see how God’s people have rallied to help via the many trained disaster relief workers who are going to help in the immediate crisis but also in the days to come.  Tragedy and disaster cannot be made as if they have not happened, but a Christ-like compassion in others renews hope and drives fear away.

Perhaps it occurs to you, as it does to me, that these deadly twisters are reminiscent of circumstances and trials that unexpectedly drop out of metaphorical skies into the lives of people everyday. Of course, we may know of people (or may even be those people) who, like storm chasers, seem to go out of their way to get as close as possible to trouble (some for the thrill of it but some to learn more about the tornadoes so that lives might be saved).  Nevertheless, even when you are not looking for trouble, trouble sometimes finds you anyway.

Some will say that if you accumulate enough good “karma” that you will avoid trouble, or if you have enough faith, trouble will not come to you. Perhaps you know of someone who believes in “luck” and calculates his propensity for trouble (or for escaping it) by trying to determine how lucky he is or by carefully reading horoscopes and so forth.

But even Jesus Himself had “trouble”, which is to say that He experienced uncomfortable, painful and sorrowful situations in the days prior to His ascension into heaven. Those things were not the result of His going out of His way to find such trouble nor were they the result of His being negligent with daily opportunities to make for Himself a life of prosperity and/or ease. They were simply the circumstances that arose in His life as He engaged the world.

Mockers, disloyal friends, rejection, conspiracy, betrayal, pain, humiliation, and death were “troubles” or “storms” that arose in His life that allowed Him to demonstrate the extent of His faithfulness to the Father, His love for us, and His commitment to conquer the troubles that beset Him with a victory so complete that we, as His followers, would inherit a rock-solid assurance that sustains us when twisters of trouble suddenly and unexpectedly drop down onto us.

Jesus comforted His disciples with words that are meant also for us today. “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV).

What kinds of troubles are swirling around you right now? What vortexes of confusion, doubt, and fear are threatening to turn your life upside down? Whatever the occasion, the victory of Jesus is found in His not only overcoming death, but in guaranteeing us an eternal place of belonging. Whatever storm may be beating up on you right now will, sooner or later, have to pass. Who awaits you on the other side of your storm? God!

Simply trust that it is God’s plan that the winds eventually will give way again to peace, that hailstones of hurt and doubts will finally have to end, and that wounds you have suffered will be bound up and healed by the hands of God.

When I find myself discouraged and I wonder if I can survive another storm, God’s Holy Spirit reminds me that even if all the world is lost to me, He has heaven in store for me. So if you are finding yourself a victim to troubles that are threatening to spin your life out of control, remember the One Who sometimes calms our storms but sometimes chooses to walk with us through them. It could very well be that He is striving to help us know Him better and give others in the world through us a glimpse of grace and hope that no wind on earth can possibly blow away.

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Let’s ask ourselves a question that may at first sound a bit typical coming from a “religious” perspective (although it is, in fact, not really a matter of its being “religious” so much as it is “spiritual”, “biblical”, and “godly”). The question is this: “When a person gives, does God look past the veneer of his words and actions and actually weigh the content of his character?”

While most of us would say “yes” to this question without even having to think about it, the choices made in many of our lives will in the end paint pictures entirely different than what we may think about ourselves. Sadly, many of our life stories will make it clear that we don’t really believe it to be true or that we perhaps don’t even care about what God thinks anyway.

How else could we possibly rationalize the callousness of our hearts, the striving with others for wealth, and the subtle little treacheries that we contrive in order to help ourselves at the cost of hurting others? Does God sit and look upon our daily deeds, reading our motives? Does He really care why we do good deeds just so long as good deeds are done?

“(Jesus) sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box.  Many rich people put in large sums.  And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.  And He called His disciples to Him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’” (Mark 12:41-44 ESV).

When God is pleased with the faith, reverence, and love of His child as she gives sacrificially, He moves into her experience, prepared to reveal Himself to her in ways she's not yet known Him.

When God is pleased with the faith, reverence, and love of His child as she gives sacrificially, He moves into her experience, prepared to reveal Himself to her in ways she’s not yet known Him.

Now the Law of Worldly Economics tells us that $1,000 is more than one penny. But here, Jesus is pronouncing a new law… or rather a Kingdom principle that should begin to clear a bit of the fog of selfishness and flesh-bound perspectives. When we give our all to God, surrendering to His care both control of our resources as well as our worries about the future, He sees us from “where He sits” and takes note not only of what we’ve done, but also the way in which we’ve done it! Then, pleased with the faith, reverence, and love of His child, He moves into our experience, prepared to reveal Himself to us in ways we’ve not yet known Him. In this “Kingdom of God Economy”, a penny can produce unimaginable results while thousands of dollars can have no more worth in eternity than a puff of hot air.

When the Christian gives or serves the Lord out of his or her poverty, God does not disdain the gift or act of service. He doesn’t sneer at our sacrifices but embraces them because it hurt us to give. Even if what we give or what we do seems inferior to what others may have given or may have done, the Lord doesn’t get caught up in comparing us to anybody else, but takes us at face value. Thus, a small act of kindness, when motivated by a selfless regard for others, may result in producing enormous spiritual fruit while a huge, multi-million dollar benevolence fund granted to a charity or a church may have very little meaning in the eyes of God if such giving is done to impress others or to bolster one’s opinion of his or her own spiritual superiority.

Consider the small boy referred to in John 6:5-13. He had only a few small loaves of bread and a couple of tiny fish. Yet his small lunch, when surrendered to the Savior, fed five-thousand men and those with them. All were blessed who were present that day… the crowds, the disciples, but that little boy most of all as he witnessed God take his small contribution and use it to nourish the many. Giving can be a scary thing, but remember that God is in control.

Think for a moment about Abraham. In the Bible (Genesis 22:1-14), God asked Abraham to give Him his son, Isaac. Abraham decided to trust God completely, even with this precious son. Father God was then able to take that “offering” and from him create a line that would ultimately produce the Messiah Himself, Jesus. Through that line, God provided us a Savior Who willingly gave His life for us on the Cross of Calvary. Giving can be a painful thing, but remember that God is in control.

“He… did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all…” (Romans 8:32 ESV). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV).

In the end, let it simply be said that God cares about motives and means as well as end results. He loves it when we give to Him and serve Him… but only when we do so cheerfully and trustingly. He loves it in part because when we have learned to give of ourselves from our finances, our homes, our cars, our time, our energy, and so on, we reflect, in small ways, His Own nature. He loves it when we give because He Himself is the ultimate Giver.

“The point is this:  whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.’  He Who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:6-11 ESV).

Let us praise our Father that He can take what we have, what we do, and what we are and produce an abundant “harvest of righteousness”. So let us take the riches with which He has blessed us (material or otherwise) and sow them according to the generosity that He has shown to us through Jesus Christ.

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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With temperatures climbing up the thermometer, it’s clear that “warm weather” activities have also arrived. We have plunged again into our yearly customs of summer events, not the least of which is grilling out.  Hopefully, as our family grills out throughout the summer, I’ll be a bit more careful than I was a few years ago.  Early one morning, I had pulled the gas grill out away from the house and dutifully cleaned it, preparing it for use later that day. When the late afternoon rolled around, I ceremoniously exited the back door of my house carefully balancing a plate full of meat on one hand and grasping various grilling utensils in the other. I set out all the necessary accouterments on a nearby table and then reached down to turn on the gas.

Fire on the grill

The flame of my match reached a concentrated pocket of gas and suddenly a brilliant flash and roar leapt out of the grill up into my face.

I then absentmindedly sorted out the food that I was going to grill, taking a good deal longer than I realized. When I was finished, I lit a long match and began to slide it towards the grill’s burner. Beyond the grill, I could see my wife come to the screen door, watching me get started. Just as she got to the door, the flame of my match reached a concentrated pocket of gas and suddenly a brilliant flash and roar leapt out of the grill up into my face. The flame had flared up and was then gone so quickly that I didn’t even flinch. I just stood there blinking, wondering if what I thought had happened had really happened.

My wife cried out and sprang out the door towards me. “Are you all right?” she asked me anxiously as I stood reflecting on the wisdom of starting the fire when one first turns on the gas so explosions don’t happen in your back yard.

By God’s grace, my face wasn’t burned and my eyes were unharmed. I couldn’t even tell that my beard or eyebrows were singed by my little accident. All the flash and flare that my wife saw bursting into my face had had no effect and was little more, in the end, than a light show (for which I’m immensely thankful, by the way).

But while I am glad that this one occasion ended up harmless, we should hope and work towards the opposite when it comes to spiritual renewal among Christians. There is yet untapped an unimaginable supply of joy and peace and power in the presence of God… ready to explode in the “everyday lives” of “ordinary Christians”. Instead of merely settling for “flashes” and “bursts” of spiritual enthusiasm (that don’t even “singe the eyebrows” of discouragement and powerlessness, let alone blow them out of the water), we should recall that the God Who revealed Himself in the ancient Scriptures, is the same God Who is on the move today, looking to see who will trust Him in practical ways in their homes, their work places, their schools, and, most especially, their churches.

King Hezekiah (whose life story is told in 2 Kings chapters 18 through 20 as well as 2 Chronicles chapters 29 through 32) began his reign during a time when his entire nation had lost its spiritual moorings, moral bearings, and sense of national security. Yet, he had a heart to follow God. “He trusted in the LORD the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the LORD. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. And the LORD was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered” (2 Kings 18:5-7a ESV). As a result of his personal commitment to faithfully follow God and to “flesh it out” in practical ways, the people took courage and were themselves softened in their hearts enough to yield their pride, fear, worry, selfishness, and sin in order to embrace the grace of God Almighty.

And because this wasn’t merely a “flash” of spiritual fervor but the true flames of real renewal for the people belonging to God, the faith that they placed in God’s love and power to protect them sustained them through the most terrifying time their country had yet known: the invasion of the Assyrian Empire. If their revival had only been a show or a shallow display of religious affectation, they could not have stood up to the Assyrian armies surrounding the capital city’s walls.

This wasn’t merely a “flash” of spiritual fervor but the true flames of real renewal for the people belonging to God.

This wasn’t merely a “flash” of spiritual fervor but the true flames of real renewal for the people belonging to God.

But there was a very real and sustaining fuel supporting Hezekiah and his people: the power of God. “…(Hezekiah) spoke encouragingly to them, saying, ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.’ And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah” (2 Chronicles 32:6b-8 ESV).

Because they trusted God’s promises, they faithfully obeyed God in their personal lives (2 Chronicles chapters 29 through 31). Because they trusted Him and because that trust was producing the fruit of reconsecrating their lives to God, they were able to see God perform an amazing rescue for them by doing as Hezekiah had said He would, fight their battles for them (see 2 Kings 19:35-37 and 2 Chronicles 32:20-22). And because their faith and their obedience had led them from what seemed to be certain doom, to a great and glorious victory, the entire known world got to see God at work (see 2 Chronicles 32:23).

I pray that in our generation God’s people will hunger for God the way that Hezekiah did. I pray that we’ll “hold fast to the Lord” and consecrate our lives anew to Him, not only for a few days or even a few weeks, but for something far more enduring. And I pray that in our trust, we’ll place before God all the problems and worries and burdens that are as intimidating to us as Assyrian legions, confident in both His goodness and His power to deliver us and to bless us, His people.

After all, “with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles” (2 Chronicles 32:8 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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