Archive for July, 2015

Jesus said in John 14:26, “…the Helper, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (ESV). In the classroom of life, the Holy Spirit assigns to us different seasons with different “tutors”. The tutor called “Waiting”, for example, is used to teach us patience, as we sometimes are required to do nothing but wait on something or someone. Standing in line at the cashier’s register, sitting long minutes in a doctor’s office, or watching the mailbox for a long-expected check to arrive, all allow us to exercise the discipline of resting though surrounded by a world that strives. “But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31 ESV).

Another tutor known as “Uncertain Circumstances” instructs us in the matter of trust and faith in God. How fortunate for us that our heavenly Father allows such circumstances into our lives so that we may trust Him indeed. A life of faith isn’t much of one if such faith is never allowed to surface and develop in our experience. Since we know that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (see Hebrews 11:6), let us rejoice in our opportunities to have occasions to please Him through an active and vital faith that grows as we learn that there really are no such things as “Uncertain Circumstances” for a child of God: the one who walks hand-in hand with God, has solid ground to tread upon and sure footing for his journey though fogs and mists may veil the path. “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV).

The tutor known as “Loss” teaches us appreciation for our blessings, particularly when our losses are weighed against the things we gain as the children of God. And if that isn’t enough, Loss has a “sister” called “Grief” who provides us with the curriculum by which we most profoundly learn “joy”… inasmuch as Grief provides for us a context for celebration: we most pointedly know what it means to have something or someone special in our lives when we’ve known the piercing sorrow of losing something special to us.

One instructor with which nearly all of God’s children are met at some point in their lives is the one called “Rejection”. To Rejection is given the assignment of radical transformation of our faith. His is a comprehensive course that covers such deep subjects as “Heavenly Sociology”, “Foundational Priorities”, and “The Chemistry of Forgiveness”.

In Heavenly Sociology, Rejection takes God’s Word, the Bible, and puts our lives into perspective, bringing to light the social dynamics of the kingdom. God is Lord over all the universe, including my tiny corner of it. Rejection teaches us that, as we are carefully and faithfully abiding in close union with God through Christ, that it is God that our world rebels against. It isn’t about me. When someone reacts against my life’s testimony and even seeks to harm me, I’m not really the target: it is God they are reacting against (directly and indirectly). “It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me, my child,” (adapted from 1 Samuel 8:7).

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of My name, because they do not know Him Who sent m….. Whoever hates Me hates my Father also” (John 15:18-21, 23 ESV).

Rejection provides us a lab experience for seeing up close the cosmic battle being waged here on earth: that of the human will set against the mercy and might of God. An attack upon me isn’t really upon me; it’s upon God. As a child of God who seeks to walk closely with Him, you also will find yourself sometimes attacked (perhaps verbally, emotionally, or even physically). But it isn’t about you. Don’t take it personally. God is the One that the world is rejecting.

Through “Foundational Priorities”, Rejection examines, under the control of the Holy Spirit, why we follow Christ in the first place. Do we follow Him for the acclaim of others? Rejection either transforms our motives as we persevere in following Him or it weeds us out should we choose to be like those mentioned in John 12:43 who, “loved the glory (or praise) that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”

Rejection sifts our motives and causes us to ask the question in our walk with Jesus, “Is this new life in Christ really worth it? Am I really willing to give up caring about what others think of me and risk the approval of others in order to please God?”

Consider that this is a tremendous opportunity for a genuine act of worship in your life. Because “worship” is all about the “worth-ship” of the One being worshiped, daring to sacrifice your consideration of the approval of others can be a fragrant offering indeed. The esteem of God chosen over the esteem of other men and women may be seen as radicalism, but in the spiritual realm, it is the only logical conclusion one can really reach when weighing his or her priorities in life.

“…Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33).

Finally, the tutelage of Rejection is used by the Holy Spirit to cause a “chemical reaction” in the spiritual realm in us who have placed our faith in Christ Jesus to become the recipients of unbelievable forgiveness, the fruit of truly “amazing grace”.

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you…. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them…. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful…. forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:27-28, 32, 35-36, 37b ESV).

Once we’ve been set free from condemnation by God through His forgiveness, Rejection in our experience allows the dynamic of forgiveness to attack the strongholds of condemnation in other people’s lives as well, and shed the glow of hope into the dark dungeon of despair that unforgiveness, bitterness, and anger would otherwise build for them.

Noonday Sun

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” Psalm 37:6 ESV

Essentially, rejection in your life provides you a door by which you may enter into a deeper and more meaningful walk with God while simultaneously allowing the Gospel of Christ to be lifted up for others to behold and also receive.

So in light of all this, “fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday” (Psalm 37:1-6 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Shortly after my youngest son turned four years old (many, many years ago), he approached me while I was reading on our sofa. A most solemn look shadowed his normally cheerful, often mischievous, expression.

“Daddy,” he said looking up at me. “Can I sit next to you?”

“Of course!” I answered, my heart jumping with joy at the thought of my little boy wanting to be with me but wondering what was on his mind. He climbed up and snuggled close to me and then sat still for a moment holding his little toes. He was clearly deep in thought.

“Daddy,” said he, breaking the stillness. “Yes?” I returned.

“God can play ‘Tag’ really good, can’t He?” he asked with utmost seriousness in his expression and tone.

“What do you mean, sweetheart?” I asked, looking into his big eyes.

“If you run away, God can catch you really easy, can’t He?” he explained. “Hmm,” I said.

“And He can play ‘Hide-and-Seek’ really good ‘cuz He can see you anywhere you hide, right?” “Umm,” I said.

“Maybe God could play ‘Freeze Tag’ sometime with us,” he mused thoughtfully rocking back and forth beside me. “Uh,” I said.

Though mysterious in His ways and in His reasons, God will lead you on the path that will most bless you and best reveal His glory!

Though mysterious in His ways and in His reasons, God will lead you on the path that will most bless you and best reveal His glory!

How to respond? I chuckled on the inside, but realized immediately both the important lesson of which God was reminding me and of the profound nugget of spiritual insight that He seemed to be already sharing with this little one.

In Psalm 139, verses 7-12 (ESV), the Psalmist sings, “Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to You; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with You.”

Just how often do we play games with God? Are we playing “Tag” with God when we run from His loving touch? “You’re not gonna get me, God! My life is my own!” Like Saul (later, Paul) of Tarsus in Acts 9:1-6 who thought that he was “It” in defending God, but found out that Jesus is really “It”, the Holy One, the One sent by the Father to redeem a lost humanity.

Maybe we instead play “Hide-and-Seek” with Him as we try to run away and hide, stubbornly refusing to believe that God’s way is better than our own. “No, God, not that! I’d do anything but that,” we’ll cry, bellyaching almost as much as Jonah who tried to hide from God but ended being a literal bellyache (see Jonah 2:10). Do you suppose that God sometimes gets “indigestion” from all our excuses and complaints?

Or do we try to play “Freeze Tag” with Him, thinking that we must live from one “spiritual high” to another, useless unless and until He “touches” us with a flood of euphoria? Too often we get stuck, “frozen in place”, whenever difficulty or opposition come against us. But, for some reason, in understanding our human frailty and having compassion on us, He touches us with His love anyway.

Remarkable, isn’t it? God’s pursuit of us is relentless and He loves us in spite of all our idiosyncrasies. “O LORD,” it says in Psalms 139:1-6 (ESV), “You have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”

The One Who made the stars, Who weaved the tapestry of the sky together and crafted the universe from His words alone, knows you, your activity and all your thoughts. Such knowledge is indeed too full of wonder for us to comprehend, but there it is: God knows who you are and loves you in spite of yourself. His hand comes upon you in mercy as He tugs at your heart to draw you to Himself. “Tag!” God seems shout as His hand touches our hearts.

“For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Psalm 139:13-16 ESV).

And what a life that God has mapped out for you! Though fraught with pain and sorrow at times, this journey finds its origin and destination at the same point of reference: God’s love! Though mysterious in His ways and in His reasons, He leads you on the path that will most bless you and best reveal His glory!

“How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with You” (Psalm 139:17-18 ESV).

Beautiful, isn’t it? “Still with Him.”

And, of course, that is the best part! Being with Him! Just as my heart overflowed as my young son longed to join me for the mere pleasure of my company, so the Father longs for you to “climb up into His lap” for nothing more than the pleasure of His company!

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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In the past several months we have witnessed tremendous surges in the tides of cultural conflict between current, politically correct thinking and those who defend the Biblical definition of marriage.

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27 ESV). “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 ESV).

Not only are courts battling it out, but also churches, church leaders and some entire denominations are caught up in this systemic typhoon with two very different-minded factions.

One side claims to be “in step” with the times and proposes that they are in keeping of the “spirit” of the Law if not the “letter.”  The other claims that the Bible is authoritative for not only warm-fuzzy words of encouragement but also for living life at large, even to the extent of shaping our society’s morals and laws.

The implications of this debate are astonishing. Indeed, it is evidence of the bottoming-out of our social conscience that it is even being debated at all in various government levels and certainly within “spiritual” organizations.

Word of God

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

Please be aware that the Scriptures in the Bible very clearly describe certain kinds of sexual relationships as unacceptable… extra-marital, incestuous and others (see Leviticus 18:1-30)… not to mention homosexual (see Leviticus 18:22).

For those who say that such commandments were shaped by the moralities of the day in which they were written so that the prudishness of the people might be appeased, keep in mind that God gave these commandments to a people who had not yet really ever heard such teachings. Prior to the giving of these commandments and even as they migrated north through the Canaanitic tribes, they were surrounded by people who “saw nothing wrong with it.”

But the Lord had called them out of the immorality of the world to walk with Him in a new kind of life… characterized by His holiness.

For those who believe that such commandments were given at a time when God was still administrating Law and not His grace (and that, somehow, He just winks at it now as if it’s no big deal), consider that unrepentant homosexuality is described after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension as a sign of someone who is not interested in walking with God on God’s terms (see Romans 1:26-27) and has been given over to his natural mind. Truly, this is merely the bitter fruit of exchanging “the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, Who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:25).

Please let us understand the horrific implications here. What is really in question is the authority of the Bible: Is it or is it not God’s Word? If these passages can be cut out and said to be totally irrelevant to our society and individual needs, then the whole of Scripture has just been lost to us. If those passages are suddenly unreliable, the meaningfulness of all the rest of the Bible has been destroyed.

When we look at parts of it we don’t like and say, “that doesn’t really apply to our society today”, it is a terrible hypocrisy to then say, “Oh, the Bible is just so encouraging to me.” “Pick-and-Choose” theology is a poison that may spread slowly throughout the body of God’s church, but it is a poison nonetheless and it only brings death.

I am not personally a fan of controversy for the sake of controversy, but I am very interested in people knowing that God’s Word has relevance for them… for their spiritual destiny, for their present pilgrimage, for the relieving of the burden of their past and the bestowing of hope and freedom for their future. Because I am so interested in it, I seek to admonish people to take to heart what God has to say instead of dwelling in the camp of spiritual denial.

“Jesus loves me. This I know… for the Bible tells me so.” He gave His Son so that you and I could receive His gift of forgiveness and life through faith. He gave us His Word so that we might understand what it is He plans to accomplish in the world and in our lives. If you or I dare to take pot-shots at parts of His message that “don’t fit the times”, we’re putting holes in the whole message and we’ve sacrificed our only hope on the altar of Self. And it doesn’t matter in the end what a human judge says about the matter when the Judge-of-All will hold us accountable for believing His Word and obeying it.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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On an occasion when some friends and I were scrutinizing the calendar together, lamenting the rapid passing of years, we were left wondering, “where does all the time go?”

Isn’t it interesting, though, that for being just a bunch of numbers, the dates on our calendars have such a big impact on our thoughts? We are immensely impressed by measurable passages of time. Maybe this is a good attitude: in the end, it turns out that time is more precious than gold and quite likely our most valuable resource.

There was an ad campaign in the 80’s (or was it the 90’s? I can’t remember because it’s been too long). The Department of Education ads quipped, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” I agree. But, honestly, time is an even more precious commodity.

Think about it. Have you ever felt that you’ve lost your mind? If so, you probably found it again eventually. I lose mine about once a week, but generally seem to find it again in short order. Sometimes I find it under a car seat, sometimes in the sofa cushions, and once in awhile it’s been carried off by one of my children or one of the house dogs and left abandoned somewhere in a pile of video games or chew toys. Oh, well.

But it’s worse to lose a moment. When you lose that moment, you’ve lost it forever. You won’t even find its remains in the lint trap of the dryer. Believe me: I’ve looked.

More precious than gold are opportunities to influence our futures and the futures of others!

More precious than gold are opportunities to influence our futures and the futures of others!

If only we’d realize how precious our moments are! More precious than gold are these small opportunities to influence our futures or the futures of others, whether we’re talking about a spouse, our children, our friends and neighbors, our co-workers, or even strangers. These “small opportunities” that we could be seizing daily to brighten a day, lighten a load or offer help in giving direction to someone adrift in life may make all the difference in determining the destiny of another human being.

But so often we choose instead to spend those moments counting minutes until coffee break, hours until we’re off work, days until the weekend, months until vacation, years until we find that job that will really let us spread our wings, and decades until retirement. Meanwhile, our moments slip away like children who’ve written with crayon on the wall. Too bad. For every moment we lose, we lose an opportunity, a “might-have-been” and a dream is diminished.

On the other hand, if we’ve already heeded such counsel and just downloaded the newest scheduling app, we could be susceptible to the lie that we have to keep busy just to keep busy. Frankly, doing something for the sake of merely doing something is just as bad as not doing anything at all.

“What” we do is as important as “how much” we do. It is right that we find things in which to invest our time and energy. But as we start finding things to do, we need to ask the question, “Is this where I want to leave my legacy?”

Instead of fretting excessively over exactly what mutual fund or stock option to buy into, we must begin to invest our moments in areas that ultimately matter (sorry to everyone who confuses the “afterlife” with a generous retirement fund).

First, consider your own spiritual life. Is it what it should be? Or are you “putting off” those things until a more expedient time? This is a terribly dangerous attitude for we often find that we don’t have all the tomorrows we had counted on. If there are unresolved spiritual issues in your life that need to be addressed, be wise and deal with them now.

Secondly, let’s invest in other people, particularly others who are in need. Look for folks in valleys of fear, loneliness, hunger or pain. Take a moment, consider its worth, and then plant it in the fertile soil of human need. It will bear fruit.

The Bible says in Ephesians 5:15-17 (ESV), “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” As the future opens its blank pages to the pen of your choices, be careful what you write.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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One evening, when our boys were still very young, our family shared together an evening devotion before bedtime. As we read the Bible together, we came to the place where it says, “… I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:11b-12 ESV).

“What’s the difference between a ‘need’ and a ‘want’?” I asked. Our sons thought a moment, and then, after waiting a moment to give his younger siblings a chance to respond, our oldest one replied, “A need is what a person must have to live.”

“Yeah,” answered our second oldest son. He then gravely began to list off several examples, “Like water and food.”

“And air!” chimed in our youngest son.

“That’s right,’ their mother said, “and we can think of even a few other things that we should consider ‘needs’, too, like shelter and clothing.”

Someone else chimed in. “And cash!”

“Now hold on a minute,” I cautioned. “Is ‘cash’ really a need? Or is money a tool we use sometimes to have a need met?”

“Don’t you need money to get other things you need?”

“Well, it is true that money is usually the way we have a lot of our needs met,” I answered, “but it isn’t a need in of itself. Don’t you think that God can meet our needs without the use of money?” Several heads nodded slowly as if considering the thought. “Can you think of a time when God met a need in our lives without money being involved at all?” After a few moments, there were several mentions of different ways that God had taken care of us without money ever changing hands.

“Now what about ‘wants’? Has the Lord supplied our wants, too?” I asked.

“Not all of them,” said our youngest.

“Right, but then some of the things we want aren’t what God thinks are best for us. But what wants has God granted us?” Again there was a great deal of conversation about various ways that God has gone above and beyond our need. “So how do we know that our heavenly Father loves us so much that He not only takes care of what we need, but also sometimes things that we simply want?”

There was silence for a moment so I went on with an answer. “Because His Word tells us so.” I then read Philippians 4:19, “… My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

“How should we respond to God’s kindness to us?” I asked and then followed up with another question, “What makes you feel good when you give something to someone?”

“When they say ‘thank you’?” one ventured. “When I can tell that he likes the gift?” suggested another.

“Those are good answers,” I responded. “So what are ways that we can ‘bless’ God when He has blessed us?”

They thoughtfully answered. “By telling Him ‘thank you’.” “By using His blessings in a right way.” And “By being generous because if we’re selfish then we’re not showing that we appreciate His generosity.”

Their mother and I exchanged glances and then nodded encouragingly. “Yes, those are all part of showing God our gratitude. We don’t want to be slaves to worry about our needs, do we? That’s why it’s so important to know that we can trust God.”

“It’s also important that we don’t become slaves to our wants. We’ve learned from Philippians 4:11-12 to be content with the blessings that God has given to us. And if ever we have trouble being content, finding that we don’t have a lot of things that a lot of our friends have, we know that we can ask God to help us with contentment… and He will!”

And then I read Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me!” We bowed our heads together and prayed, thanking our God Who loves us with an everlasting love!

This weekend we celebrate freedom. Be sure that your celebration rings true with the “inner freedom” that can only be known in an abiding relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. If you receive His gift of salvation, you are at once set free and are made His child, receiving all the privileges associated with being a part of God’s royal family!

True freedom is the privilege of entering into God’s presence without condemnation because His Son paid the price your sin.

True freedom is the privilege of entering into God’s presence without condemnation because His Son paid the price your sin.

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by Whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15 ESV).

Not only are you set free in Christ from the bondage of sin and selfishness that lead to spiritual death (separation from God forever), but in Him you are also released from the ranks of ‘spiritual orphans’, adopted into God’s family. As such, you are made free from the slavery of worry. And in learning to be content in Him, whether in a season of plenty or of scarcity, you are set free from the tyranny of “want.”

Let this “Independence Day” be a lot more than a simple summertime reveling or a rejoicing in our ability to do as we please or live as we choose.

Instead, let it be the occasion for solemn reflection as you meditate on a great gift given to you. And remember that true “freedom” hinges more on the condition of your heart before God than an abstract political affinity or even the unimpeded opportunity to act out whatever impulses fill your heart and mind, fear among these but also other compulsions that may prey upon us if unchallenged and cultivated.

True freedom, dear one, is the privilege of entering into God’s presence without condemnation because His Son paid the price your sin. Please consider turning then from your sin and receive His gift of freedom, His give of love, and His gift of Himself through Christ.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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