Archive for March, 2015

Clink, clink, clink! Is it the sound of coins being counted out or is it that of links of a chain rattling together? Perhaps it’s the one and the same. Strange, isn’t it? How can it be that the sound of what we believe can open the door to freedom and security is really the noise of our being shackled by greed and manacles of insecurity? If, when we have fallen victim to such bondage, we could step outside ourselves and see with a clear eye, we’d likely know at once the ugly presence of selfishness.

Are there chains in your life that weigh you down and restrain you from what God intends for you?

Are there chains in your life that weigh you down and restrain you from what God intends for you?

In some places in the world, idols are carved from wood or stone, overlaid perhaps with gold or silver. But false gods in America are often more subtle and clever than that. Some of our gods we lock away in vaults and add to them so that they grow and grow and grow. Sometimes we often drive around inside our gods and demonstrate our worship of them by spending more time and resources upon them than the needs of our world around us. Some American gods are even more abstract and have no physical forms, being instead a feeling of pride that we get when we win or succeed or are esteemed highly by others.

Should one assume then that money, cars, success, or the good opinion of others are bad things in of themselves? Oh, no. Of course not. It would be loony to say that wood and stone are bad things in of themselves. But neither are any of their middle-class equivalents bad in of themselves. These things only BECOME bad things, however, when we set our hearts upon them and give to them what should have been given to God. And when we divert towards our selfish dreams and desires what He’s given us to bring Him glory and help others, we have locked upon our silly selves links of the chain of selfishness, crueler than rusty iron and heavier on our souls than lead.

Perhaps that is why the “Rich, Young Man” recorded in Matthew 19:16-22, approached Jesus with his earnest pondering, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16 ESV). He was coming to Jesus with a hunger for more than his money could buy. And certainly he was coming in recognition that the good things he had done had not yet succeeded in procuring for him a real sense of peace with God.

On the contrary, he was a quite a driven man I gather, for when he heard Jesus sum up the Law of Moses in Matthew 19:18-19, the man hastily pointed out that he had kept all the commandments. But although he had been meticulous in observing the rules, he was still missing the point of the Law: the Person from Whom it came. Something was still not right. There were still chains in his life and a heaviness he hadn’t been able to shake.

“What do I still lack?” he asked Jesus in Matthew 19:20. “What is it that I’m not doing? Why can’t my spirit fly? Why don’t I have freedom in my heart?” The shackles were cutting deeply into him and the weight of his bondage was stubbornly dragging him down still.

Even today, we can be really “good” people. We may generally try to get along with others; we might highly esteem hard work and honesty and helping others; we might even go to church and help out there. Still… just like this rich, young man, who was really very poor after all, we find something lacking, something that isn’t quite right, something that leaves us yearning and hungering for more. The chains grip us tightly and we feel their burden upon us.

Jesus looked at that man and saw his need. He saw a life with everything that money could buy but was still gripped in the terrible jaws of greed, comfort, and pride. “If you really want to be whole,” Jesus told him in verse 21, “take those things to which you are enslaved, and get rid of them. Kick them out of your life, and follow Me” (from Matthew 19:21).

I can’t help but pause here and reflect on how wonderful Jesus is. He didn’t give the man a religious answer per se, but He did give him a real answer. He didn’t say what religious dogmatists might have said if approached similarly. Neither did he say what the man wanted to hear just to please the man and win him over.

No, Jesus was not a particularly good politician (at least if one characterizes that title with modern examples): He didn’t get caught up in worrying how people might receive His message. He spoke the truth, spoke it with boldness, and spoke it in love. He told this searching young man what the young man needed to hear the most, whether he wanted to hear it or not. “Get rid of those things before the love of them overpowers you. Let go of them before they drown out the craving of your mortal soul for the divine life that God desires to give you

Jesus, looking into the man’s heart and mind, discerned the terrible hold that money and possessions had on him. He could see how that the man was giving his worship to things instead of God. The door was now open. This grave young man was being given an opportunity to have his shackles unlocked and the chains broken. Here he was, looking into the eyes of Jesus, God’s Spirit softening his heart so that he not only could sense his own need but could see that Jesus alone could save him.

But when Jesus presented him the open door of escape from materialism, the man turned away. It had never occurred to him that for him to really find that for which he was looking, he might have to give up what had been the center of his life all along. Maybe he had hoped that he could worship both… setting up two thrones, Jesus on one and the man’s belongings on the other. It had never dawned on him that God might expect and even require exclusive rights to the position of “first love” in his heart.

The man turned away. He turned away sad, but that feeling of sorrow or regret could in no way fill the ache in his soul nor mend his spiritual disconnect from God. Unless he would yet turn to Jesus and renounce his allegiance to any god besides Him, he would be left without hope for eternity.

“And Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God…. With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:23-24, 26 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Invited to the Journey

What an awesome moment when one’s heart yields to the invitation of God and sets out on the greatest journey of all with the Creator of the Cosmos! We each are invited to be counted among such great ones as Abraham to whom God said, “Go… to the land that I will show you” (from Genesis 12:1); Samuel, called by name by God in the deep watches of the night, “Samuel! Samuel!” (1 Samuel 3:4, 6, 8, & 10); and that also of Andrew and Simon Peter (Matthew 4:19).

All He asks is that we listen to His call and respond with trusting obedience. Not easy? Of course not! We are constantly accosted with great dragons of fear. We fear losing control of our lives! We fear ridicule! We fear disappointment! We fear missing out on things offered in life! All too often, poisoned by our circumstances and by corrupt philosophies, we even fear Him, the One true God and the only hope for the world! “What if,” we wonder, “He leads me into a trap?” “How can I tell,” we ponder, “if He’ll take care of me and/or my family?” “Perhaps,” we muse, “it’s all just a bunch of make-believe.”

And to complicate things further, the world incessantly broadcasts to us its static and aims its deadly barrage of conflicting messages as it contradicts the promises of the King of kings! How it flashes its shiny and flamboyant “trinkets” in front of us, elaborating in graphic detail what we might never have and never see should we choose to follow the Good Shepherd. Of course, all the while it floods us with counter-offers to Jesus, it never mentions what we will miss having in eternity nor what we’ll miss seeing in the hereafter if we don’t accept the Father’s invitation in Christ Jesus. In fact, it also conveniently leaves out what we’re missing out on in the “here-and-now” as we live life without His guidance and His provision of joy, peace and victory to sustain us.

It’s a dangerous and too often an eternally fatal business to spurn the invitation of God, an invitation, one might add, that was arranged at an inconceivable cost to God Himself as He offered His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our failures, our selfishness, our neglect, our hate, our lust, our greed, our bitterness and our despair. Sin could not be easily defeated but it was thoroughly defeated as Jesus breathed His last on the coarse and rough wood of the cross.

We have a magnificent invitation to know God, written out, not with gold ink, but with His own blood.

We have a magnificent invitation to know God, written out, not with gold ink, but with His own blood.

We have therefore a magnificent invitation to know God, written out not with gold ink, but with His own blood. It is no small mistake to turn on ones’ heel and walk away from that invitation when it is offered. Nor is it wise to seek after other “avenues and routes” than the one that cost Him everything as He yielded His own Son for us.

So what must we do and what must we NOT do? Well, first we must be resolved in our hearts to not receive God’s “grace in vain!” After all, He has richly blessed us and this is the “day of salvation.”

“Working together with Him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2 ESV).

And when I consider the immensity of His having secured for us so wonderful a future with Him, I am reminded too of how precious a gift it is and what it cost Him to provide it for me and others!

“We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made Him Who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:20b).

Since He did indeed die for me, I will truly seek to live for Him! “Yes, Lord. That’s right. I’d like to RSVP to the special invitation that You sent my way. Please count me in. Take me where You want me.”

How tragic that some to whom the offer has been given, will not take Him up on His offer. They will be like those mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 22:1-14 who have been invited to a wedding feast but prove too self-absorbed to respond. In the end, none of the fancy invitees show up but their places are filled anyway with those who aren’t duped into thinking that what they have is somehow superior and that what He offers is insufficient.

“…Many are invited, but few are chosen,” Jesus replies in Matthew 22:14. What is the distinction between those invited and those who were chosen? Only that some among the invited responded to the invitation with obedient faith, and some did not. Faith that moves your feet to set out on the journey of life with Him is the right kind of faith. Faith that causes you to set your hands to the work of productive endeavors that build the kingdom of God is a pleasing kind of faith to the heart of God. Faith that tames the tongue so that it is not an instrument of hurt but of love, respect and wisdom is the kind of faith that transforms lives and brings hope to those who desperately need it.

So what must you do to join God in the journey? Just respond as Samuel responded, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.” Better yet, don’t just wait for God to hopefully do something in your life without beginning the process of “pursuing” God’s will. Seek to be like David, who was “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). Pursue the heart of God, chase after the will of the Father for your life and watch as He blesses your life with meaning, fulfillment, direction and provision for your needs!

Copyright © Thom Mollohan.

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The romance of the danceHave you ever lost yourself to something so wonderful and amazing that you wanted to throw into it your mind, body and soul? Have you ever been so passionate about something or someone that you were hardly aware of anything else around you, the object of your passion and delight eclipsing all other things?

Perhaps you’ve had tastes of such reckless and luxurious abandon if ever you’ve fallen “head-over-heels” in love or if ever you’ve been ablaze with passion for a high and noble cause. Such passion and zeal are exciting when they grip us with fingers of vision and emotion, thrilling when they carry us on the winds of activity and accomplishment, yet soul-rending and heart-breaking when they end in cold disillusionment and emptiness.

Look around and you’ll see all about you the wearied and jaded visages of people whose passion has led them into a deep and dismal cavern of skepticism. You’ll see men and women whose hearts have been so buffeted and bullied by false promises and wistful wishing that they no longer know what can be trusted and have failed to even care anyway. Thick and deadened layers of calluses now cover their once tender hearts so impenetrably that worthwhile passion and zeal can no longer seem to get in or out.

We do well when we learn to not squander our passion and fervor on temporal things, and better yet when we learn to steer away from those things that have promised their great spiritual worth yet lead only to spiritual graves. But our disappointments have so completely veiled our spiritual eyes that we no longer see the brilliant countenance of the One in Whom “there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). We no longer hear His voice though He “calls us by His own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3), deafened as we are by an earwax of complacency. We no longer respond to His invitation to love and be loved, an invitation that God has written with scarlet letters and sealed with His own promises. We have become distant and reluctant in our relationship with God. We’ve become cold and dreary “worshipers” who have no real worship to give.

But though we’ve spurned Him again and again, He is yet knocking on the door of our hearts, calling us to hear that we are loved, beckoning to us with fingers extending from nail-scarred hands to come and see that the love of God is eternal and more than sufficient to overflow with goodness our parched and famished lives. Even now He invites us to risk everything and love Him in return.

“I will make for them a covenant on that day… I will betroth you to Me forever. I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD. And in that day I will answer, declares the LORD” (Hosea 2:18-22 ESV – emphasis mine).

God’s people are the love of His life! He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5) because He passionately desires our love in return. “You yourselves have seen… how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession…” (Exodus 19:4-5a ESV).

Have you ever been loved passionately by another? Whatever you may think about yourself or your past, the answer is yes: you have been and are now loved passionately. There is One Who gave everything to have You with Him forever. How now will you respond? Will you wholeheartedly embrace His invitation to “dance” with Him in relationship? Or will you turn away, either permitting yourself to not believe that He means what He says when He says He loves you, or postponing your response to Him, choosing instead to dwell in the horror of luke-warm service and ho-hum worship?

Oh, I hope you’ll dance… that you’ll at the least dance in your heart like King David danced in body in 2 Samuel 6:14-16! I hope that you may be willing to shed an over-developed sense of propriety and allow yourself to be vulnerable in the great dance that is genuine worship. I hope that your great delight will be in walking with God as was David’s as he lavishly rejoiced in the return of the glory of God to the heart of the land. I hope that you’ll remember that, no matter your station and whatever your rank, life is only really lived when you lose yourself in unabashed devotion and celebration of the King of kings!

And while you will undoubtedly have your critics (as David did in his wife, Michal, in 2 Samuel 6:16, 20-23) let your aim be to “dance” for no one but the Lord Himself. Let criticisms and misguided good intentions roll off your back as you refuse to tone down your adoration for God.

“(I danced) before the LORD, Who chose me…. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this” (from 2 Samuel 6:21-22a). And why not be willing to set aside pride and self and all other things that stand in the way of genuinely seeking His face? Why not discard the rags of pretension we tend to wrap about ourselves that hinder our freely walking with Him? There is, after all, no substitute for truly pursuing God in relationship and there is no love like His which dwarfs even mountains of affection and adoration were you to summon them from within your heart.

As our cold hearts thaw to the warmth of His love and our eyes are met by the golden glow of the sunshine of His glory, He lovingly whispers His invitation, “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone” (Song of Songs 2:10b-11 ESV). Why don’t we now just join Him in the dance of life, listening to the music of His love filling our ears with joy, following the rhythm of His daily leading as He guides our wayward feet, and rejoicing in the wonder of fellowship with Him?

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Spirituality is a practical affair. Does that sound like a strange statement? Often, when talking about spiritual things with people, someone will express to me the notion that they like spirituality and think it highly valuable, but he or she does not make it too much a priority since it is so lacking in practical application.

When you allow God to live out His love and power through you, the ordinary becomes extraordinary and the mundane becomes mystical.

When you allow God to live out His love and power through you, the ordinary becomes extraordinary and the mundane becomes mystical.

“Well, it’s nice and all to believe that stuff, but it doesn’t work in everyday life.” And so they go on, oblivious to the countless ways that God would have interacted with them in their “mundane” living had they simply recognized that all of life is spiritual.

Every moment of every day is God’s workshop as He sets His hand to craft something of beauty in our character, chiseling into our countenance features of courage, integrity, peace and a heart for loving service: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV).

Every moment of every day is God’s parlor as He invites us into the inner chambers of knowing Him personally through faith in His Son. “For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:19-20 ESV).

Every moment of every day is God’s invitation to walk with Him along the path of life, participating in His redemptive work of unveiling His grace and love to a world that humanity has cracked and keeps on cracking.

What does it mean then to apply faith and God’s love in “practical ways”?

One way is to be attentive to the “spirituality of the average day” as we seek to recognize the presence and activity of God in the lives of others, ready to participate in His work of loving those about us.

If we pass by, for example, someone who is hungry or lonely, are we willing to dare believe that our infinitely powerful and loving Creator may have orchestrated our steps to intersect those of this person and that He would help him if our hearts would just yield to His loving authority? “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 ESV).

Do we dare believe that He Who is graceful beyond measure is leading others also to faith in Him, even those who may or may not have obvious signs of spirituality upon them? Do we boldly trust that God’s Holy Spirit can be hiding in the life of a dirty and bitter man, “in the thick” of their pain and brokenness as He seeks to apply the only healing that can fix the hurting in his heart?

“Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him Who sent Me” (Mark 9:37 ESV).

When you join with God by allowing Him to live out His love and power through you, the ordinary becomes extraordinary. The mundane becomes mystical. What a colossal adventure then if we would simply have eyes to see and ears to hear!

May this day be the day that you embark afresh on the great adventure of walking in faith with God. And if you have not yet entered into a love relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ, He invites you right now to join Him in setting out on the greatest adventure of all!

“We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him Who is true; and we are in Him Who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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