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The Goal Before Us

As a father, I have over the years often been implicated (I mean “involved”) in my kids’ various sports activities. As a result, I have often been left reflecting on my own athletic endeavors in the past. Let’s see. There was the time that I was running Track, tripped on my own feet and slammed my knee into the cinders and the cinders into my knee. The pain didn’t bother me so much but the spectacle I had made of myself very nearly caused me to die of embarrassment.

It didn’t help, of course, that the coach didn’t give tuppence about my injury even with the sight of blood gushing down my leg and mingling with the black cinders on the track. Incidentally, I’ve noticed that coaches don’t cater much to self-pity. Oh, well. At least I’ve got cinders still in my knee as a souvenir.

I remember too as an older teenager playing some two-on-two basketball and slam-dunking the ball through the hoop (with a little help from short stone wall nearby). I guess I should not have hung on the basket’s rim so long. Who would have guessed that the backboard might not have been designed for such abuse? As you might suppose, the game ended with my accidental destruction of the basket and backboard.

Then there was the time that I had just moved. It was my eleventh grade year at a new high school and I had just gotten up to bat in front of my new team. Maybe subconsciously hoping to impress my new coaches and teammates with how tough I was, I was immediately beaned with a fastball. “What a way to start the season,” I thought as I crashed backward from the impact of the ball. No pain, no gain, right?

Given my lack of athletic finesse, “Going for the Gold” was naturally never really a catch phrase for me until I began to understand that I indeed am an athlete… spiritually at least, if not also physically.

As Christians are we not “running a race”, a marathon run in which only perseverance brought forth from faith in Him can keep us going? Are we not “wrestling” today with powerful social and ideological opponents that watch us with shifting eyes, seeking to lay hold of us and topple us over with confusion and “pin us to the mat” with doubt? Are we not hoping to daily “score a goal” by holding forth Truth, so that someone will see His light of love and reach for the prize of eternal life?

Don’t assume that because “Rocky’s Theme” isn’t blaring every moment of every day that we may squander life as spiritual couch potatoes. Are you waiting for someone else to run into the ring? Hey, you! Put your gloves on and get in there!

And don’t get caught running on the wrong track! Can you see Him in your mind’s eye, this One Who shed His blood for you to receive the gift of eternal life? Coach and Team Manager, He’s also the Great Reward of those who will receive Him as Lord.

“…I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But 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 3:12b-14 ESV).

The race is on! The goal is before us! The starting gun has fired! Let’s get out there and win!

The race is on! The goal is before us! The starting gun has fired! Let’s get out there and win!

The race is on! The goal is before us! The starting gun has fired! Let’s get out there and win!

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ESV).

Perhaps you can even hear in your heart’s ear the crowd in Heaven as they roar their approval of those who start the race and then stick with it until finally reaching their goal – the goal of remaining true to Him until the end.

“…Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrew 12:1-2 ESV).

 Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Ever feel like your voice can’t be heard?

If you’re a parent then it is a foregone conclusion: you do feel that way at times. “Can’t we turn the video game volume down a little bit?”; “What’s that? You can’t hear me over your brother?”; and “Didn’t I say that you needed to clean up your room?”.

Perhaps in your role as a “common citizen” you may feel that no one listens to you. You may feel that your stand for “right” over “wrong” is ignored by all and your vote doesn’t make a difference. If that isn’t enough to depress you then just remember that this is an election year.

Not being heard when you have something to say is terribly frustrating, particularly when what you have to say is a matter of life and death.

As a Christian, my life revolves around a message that truly is a matter of life and death. As carefully and as determinedly as I might try to share that message, there is no denying that there are multitudes of voices and messages trying to compete for the same ears.

God's still, small voice is hard to hear over the clamor of the world, but He does indeed speak to us, inviting us to join Him in relationship and on mission.  The questions is, do we have ears to hear?

God’s still, small voice is hard to hear over the clamor of the world, but He does indeed speak to us, inviting us to join Him in relationship and on mission.

In fact, I’m confronted daily by this when I share about God’s love with folks. “Well, I’d like to learn more sometime and maybe even be in church but I’ve got yard work on this day, meetings on that day, ballgames on this night, my favorite show is on the other, and don’t forget my unused vacation days. Sorry: no time left. Sundays? But that’s the only day I can sleep in.”

And if I, merely a messenger, feel frustrated about a culture that won’t slow down and carefully listen to the message of Eternal Life, what does the One Who sent the message in the first place feel?

In Isaiah 48, the Lord laments over His people who have gotten so far away from Him and His loving commandments that they only know heartache, disappointment and loss. “Oh that you had paid attention to My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea” (Isaiah 48:18 ESV). God’s yearning to be heeded in order for us to possess the peace that He has promised has not faded.

“Listen to Me… I am He; I am the First, and I am the Last. My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together…. Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the LORD your God, Who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go” (Isaiah 48:12-13,17 ESV).

Think of it! Even the heavens stand at attention at the summons of the King of Kings. How much more then, as God summons us from among a people too busy to walk with Him and too busy to serve, will those who hear Him calling, jump to attention and respond to His invitation of grace?

As He calls you to come out from under the power of sin, death and despair, will you have ears to hear and receive His invitation to join Him?

“Thus says the LORD: ‘In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for He Who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them” (Isaiah 49:8-10 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Eyes on Him

My path frequently intersects that of some who confide that they really want more of God in their lives. Sometimes there is almost a “haunted” look in their eyes as they share this desire for having a greater sense of God’s working in and through them.

It’s amazing to me to visit with someone as they share this kind of desire and a thrill runs through me as I remember Jesus’ words in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him….” In other words, when someone begins to wrestle with this “hunger for more” with God, I know that God is cultivating something fresh in that person’s life.

It isn’t human nature to run after God, of course. Human nature, by definition, drives us to live on a purely human level. But God created us with grander themes in mind than for us to live our short lives only to perish into the dust, dragging all our hopes and dreams down with us.

Instead, He extends to us through Christ something that sounds too good to be true, since it is so foreign to our normal patterns of thinking. He proclaims a great banquet of spiritual provision to us in 2 Peter 1:3-4 (ESV) where He says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him Who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”

Eyes on Him

Are you allowing God to give you His perspective on your life and His love for you? Are your eyes on Him as He seeks to lead you into the wonder of new life?

Wow! This One “Who calls you to His own glory and excellence” will give you, if you’ll trust Him, precious and very great promises! As He calls you to know Him (which, as that passage says, is how one taps into “everything one needs for life and godliness”), He extends to you an invitation to become a partaker in His own divine nature and no longer mere “human nature”!

A lot of the time, instead of looking at the great mural of wonder and hope that God spreads out before us, telling us the story of His enduring faithfulness from before the beginning of time, we’ll naturally get our eyes fixed on the proverbial tips of our proverbial noses… sort of like being spiritually cross-eyed. And let us not forget those words of wisdom that so many of our mothers shared with us as we were growing up, “What’s the matter with you? You want your eyes to get stuck that way?”

Maybe you’ve suffered from being “spiritually cross-eyed”, having kept your eyes on your circumstances and your immediate priorities. Maybe God is now giving you some of His perspective on your life and His love for you. Perhaps He has even stirred up a new kind of feeling in you, a feeling of restlessness that you’re not quite sure how to answer. Be aware that a feeling of dissatisfaction isn’t necessarily a bad thing: it may well be God’s way of cultivating a deeper level of spiritual hunger in you. In fact, know that the Lord passionately desires that you take your sights off what you once thought would satisfy you and “lock on” to Him. His hands are poised to bless a heart that turns completely to Him.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Journey long on the trail of relationship with God and you’ll quickly notice that not everyone’s feet tread the path exactly the same as yours. We each have different personalities, different gifts, different memories and different life experiences that shape who and what we’re becoming. Thus, your walk may look a bit different from other Believers, but, inasmuch as you’re truly pursuing God with all your heart, that’s okay: that’s how God means it to be.

Entrusted to our care

Inside and out, each man, woman, boy, and girl is uniquely designed to be a unique creation in the Kingdom of God.

In fact, one can examine the makeup of the Christian people across the nation and around the world and rejoice, for the magnitude of the Kingdom of God is unfathomable as He not only works out a special and customized plan for each congregation that will trust Him and listen to His holy Word, but also for each individual Believer within each one of those congregations!

The Kingdom of God is mighty in length and breadth, full of a host of beloved individuals, each carefully designed and thoughtfully crafted by the hands of the Creator to bring a very special contribution to God’s creation. Just think of how unique you are, graced with a unique combination of specialized talents, skills, opinions, and convictions!

Look and you’ll see all kinds of men and women who have hungered for more than this life can provide, and have declared their willingness and desire to set aside and sacrifice their own agendas and receive Jesus as Lord. Look and you’ll find all sorts of boys and girls who have heard the resounding call of God to receive the gift of eternal life and have answered with a resounding “yes!” to the One Who has offered it to them. Look and you’ll discover people of nationalities from all over the earth who have truly felt the sweet invitation of the Holy Spirit to receive salvation through faith in Christ and are now walking with Him.

Some of these are young and some are old. Some are men and some are women. Some are white while some are black. Some are Native American and others are of Asian or Polynesian descent. Some have black hair while others have brown, blond or red hair. Some have long hair and some have short hair. Some have no hair at all.

Some have small noses and others have big noses. Some have freckles on their noses and some of these have freckles all over. Some are short. Some are tall. Some are thin while others may be stout. Some are athletic and some wished that they were, too.

Some worship with adoration for the Savior lavishly displayed for all to see, with hands clapping and feet stamping. Some are so smitten with love and humility under the standard of His holy grace that they worship with their souls stilled to quiet surrender. Some sing songs that have come down to us from long ago while others find that new songs best capture the joy and reverence of their hearts.

Inside and out, each man, woman, boy, and girl is uniquely designed to be a unique creation in the Kingdom of God. From the tip of their toes to the tops of their heads, each one is uniquely gifted for meaningful, joyful and fruitful living in this world until called home to heaven or until He comes again. Such design and gifting are not intended by God to be squandered selfishly upon our own ambitions or desires, tempted as we sometimes are to bring glory to ourselves instead of glory’s rightful owner: Jesus.

So, whatever we have in our checklist of things we can do and things we have, those things were given to us to bring a new dimension to the great family of God. If you do not receive God’s gift of salvation, then what hole is left in heaven and in the house of God because of your vacancy? If you, though perhaps a child of God, withhold the light of His love from others in need, then what shadows remain in the world for the lack of your light? If you were to channel all the talent or material blessings that He’s showered down upon you on making a name for yourself or accumulating wealth for your stay here on earth, in spite of all He’s done for you on the cross of Calvary, what soul remains spiritually parched, overcome by spiritual thirst with no refreshment in sight? What spiritual lives wither and die because your gifts and talents were not there to contribute to the work of the Kingdom of God?

God forbid that you miss out on how God would bless you with all sorts of spiritual blessings if you would only allow Him to use what you are and what you’ve been given. And God forbid that others also miss out on hope and renewal because your life was not available for the Lord to use and bless. You are needed and have been sent to this time and this place to “be all that you can be.”

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He Who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:23-25a ESV).

You don’t think you need to go to church to be spiritual? Think again. If you are not participating in the life and work of a local church family, then you are missing out on experiencing God’s great provision for countering the forces of darkness in the world and in individual lives: the local church.

Unless you’re being integrated into a church family, you can never be as developed and refined a servant in His kingdom as you ought to be nor can you ever fully inherit all the peace that He has on reserve for you.

And every time someone else looks into the window of your life and either finds an emptiness inside or discovers the shutters of selfishness tightly shut to protect your own interests, that person’s life has been diminished, lacking in those things that God could have accomplished through you. A little less hope than should have been there. A little less joy than God had intended. A little less courage, wisdom, strength, and love.

But once you begin to become involved, things begin to change. Your gifts, talents, resources, and personality characteristics all begin to take on an eternal dimension. And once you find yourself living in the company of other Believers, growing, learning, worshiping, and serving together, you’ll begin to catch a glimpse of how a uniquely wonderful person like you can be the very ingredient needed in a recipe of God’s making. You yourself show the love of God and His wonderful grace in ways that could not have been realized had you not “shown up for duty.” Therefore, as you tally what you have and what you are, always remember to, “…guard the deposit entrusted to you” (1 Timothy 6:20a ESV).

 Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Shifting Sand

Several years ago, I was a guest speaker at a small church about an hour’s drive away from my home. As I traveled, the bright light of the early morning April sun made the newly budding leaves emerging on the tree branches seem to glow with the fresh green of spring. As I pulled into the gravel parking lot of the church, the church building struck me as a cheerful and welcoming place. Indeed, the pastor and a lay leader were waiting to greet me at the door and ushered me into the old but charming structure where we prepared for the service that was to shortly follow.

After worshiping our living Lord with their church family and sharing a word of encouragement from the Bible with them, they generously invited me to join them in a meal in a small fellowship room connected to the sanctuary by a long hallway with small rooms on either side set apart for Bible study classes. As we shared together over that meal a bit from our respective spiritual journeys, I happened to remark about how pleasant the facility was in which they worshipped and from which they reached out to their community. The moment that the words left my mouth, an expression that bordered on glumness crossed a few of the members’ faces and I wondered if I had said something that had offended them.

The pastor noticed my confusion and quickly said, “Well, it’s funny that you should say that. We’re not going to be in it much longer.” I glanced at others seated about us and their expressions all had the same wistful look of something like regret that had flickered over the pastor’s face. “Well, that sounds like something either really exciting or something really sad,” I replied after a moment.

“Not knowing what the future holds for us,” a lady answered, “sometimes we forget ourselves and look at these circumstances from eyes of flesh and get a little sad. But God is in control. He has a plan for us.”

“What’s happening?” I asked. “What are these ‘circumstances’ that you’re talking about?”

One of the men laughed. “This building was built on property given to the church a long time ago, before any of us were even members here. It turns out that the ground it was built on, the ground all around this area, is sand… or enough of it is that a building built on it that isn’t shored up right is in real trouble. We’ve done all right by it for a long time, but now it turns out that sinkholes all around here are causing all this sandy ground to shift. We’ve been notified that this building isn’t safe and that we’re going to have to vacate it.”

As what they shared with me sank into my mind, it seemed to me that I could sense that these brothers and sisters in Christ were wrestling with the temptation to feel discouraged and anxious about their future together as a church. And it proved to truly be a very difficult transition for them, from hosting their main worship in another church’s building when the other church was not holding services (the generosity of this other church family was just amazing), to some very serious and traumatic experiences that their pastor’s family later endured (a death, and a series of debilitating illnesses), they finally came through a valley of night, seeing God’s faithfulness in spite of that season of confusion and dark discouragement.

Shifting sand

A man or woman will find it a grave and fatal error to build his or her life on anything other than Jesus Christ.

In fact, although their old building may have been built on the sand, their lives and testimony were constructed on something infinitely more dependable than any building, financial asset, or human relationship. The fact that their hope and confidence were built on the faithfulness of Christ poured through the windows of their souls when cataclysmic storms raged against them. And although their tender souls were bruised at times in the tumult about them, they have been lifted up, and now joyfully share the hope that sustained them with others in their community.

Their physical circumstances years ago may have been a gentle admonition from our Father in heaven to be sure that their faith was not built on mere feelings or on the delusion that a Christian’s life will be without pain and problems. “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world,” said Jesus in John 16:33.

And as certain as it is dangerous to build one’s life on emotions or on denial, a man or woman will find it a grave and fatal error to build his or her life on anything else than Christ Jesus. Jesus in Matthew 7:24-27 said, “Everyone then who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

It isn’t enough to go to church, dear one. If the Word of God isn’t somehow transforming your life through your choices, your values, and even your being, then it seems that you may be building your “house” on sand. What will be your fate when tremors of troubles and earthquakes of pain crash into your life and topple over the things to which you’ve given yourself? Will you be crushed by the collapse of your dreams and desires, reaching out and hoping that somebody will find you and offer you a helping hand? Don’t wait until a catastrophe hits home before you grab hold of the only One Who can save you in all instances… Jesus. After all, His special promise to us is that, “blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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