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Archive for September, 2015

Can He Build It?

Anyone who has entered into a building or renovation project finds that it is often a noisy and messy process. Naturally! Those who are not used to the work, mess, and time involved in such a project can be discouraged and may question why they ever entered into it. And those who are not accustomed to or at least informed as to the cost of such projects can be overwhelmed and wonder how something that seemed so simple could end up costing so much. Dream big and save big for what it is you want to do, but keep the aspirin handy: such is the way of progress.

And that’s just in the physical world! As much energy, time, hard work, and resources as we may pour into those material things that ultimately do not last, we should be reminded of how carefully one must be in the building of one’s life: our relationships, reputations, and legacies. Only one life to live with eternity to follow. Maybe we’d better get things right in the here and now.

So… how do you really make your life count? What steps can you take in building for yourself something that will outlast your physical body? How will you go about leaving something behind that will endure beyond the end of your days here on earth?

He can build it

It is vital to understand Who ultimately has the right to be the architect of your destiny.

Begin by asking yourself, “Who is doing the building in my life?” Perhaps that seems like an odd question, but it’s an extremely important one. It is vital to understand Who ultimately has the right to be the architect of your destiny. Shouldn’t it be the One Who made you? Is it not God, the Creator, Savior, Master and Lord? Would it not be worthwhile and wise to let the One Who created you with grand themes in mind to lead you into experiencing His plans for your life?

After all, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1a ESV). Who wants to live a life that ultimately is summed up as vain and empty of meaning? Besides that, while it is a great idea to plan ahead, remember that “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 ESV). Is it not better to willingly follow the Lord’s leading than to go kicking and dragging one’s feet?

Secondly, ask yourself the question, “With what material am I building my life?” I don’t mean, of course, things like straw, wood or even brick (whatever the Three Little Pigs may think).

The things I mean are a little bit more abstract. Are you building a life with the highly unstable materials so highly valued by the world? Are you in an obsessed pursuit for material success? Are you aiming for the topsy-turvy goal of the acclamation of others? Are the evasive prizes of position and influence your heart’s desires and the reasons that you do all that you do?

With all the ways you could spend your life lying before you like an endless menu, you’ll likely get a throbbing in your head akin to the one that I have from the rhythm (or lack thereof) of hammers pounding a mere yard or two away from me all this week.

Nonetheless, you will have not lived in vain if you build your life on the foundation of Jesus Christ with the bricks and mortar of love, holiness, faith, service, hope and courage. On the contrary, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame’” (1 Peter 2:4-6 ESV).

If I were to attempt to sum up the gist of what God can do with your life, I might borrow the theme from “Bob the Builder”, one of our children’s favorite television shows when they were little: “God the Builder: Can He build it? Yes, He can!”

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Early and Late

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are really only two kinds of people in the world: “early people” and “late people”. I am of the “late person” persuasion. You know, the kind that always gets stuck in traffic; the one who spills coffee all down his front and has to somehow find time to change clothes; the kind upon whom everyone else is always waiting (unless, of course, these are other “late people” who simply congratulate you for showing up at all).

When I am especially late for something especially important I am sometimes tempted to pray, “Please, Lord, let someone else be later than me!” Generally, if people are still there when I finally arrive and are still on speaking terms with me, I write the journey off as a success.

Early people, on the other hand, always arrive at least fifteen minutes early to everything. This is extremely stressful for “late people” who are having “early people” over and must frantically try to get everything ready (knowing they don’t have the thirty extra minutes they would have if “late people” were coming over to visit). Fortunately, my wife is an “early person” so I’ve not had so much of a problem with this since we’ve been married, although my tendency for lateness is something of a thorn in her side at times.

Watching the clock

God knows exactly when to do what He has planned.

Of course, all this leads us to the fact that “early people” are often aggravated with “late people” because of the constant delays. Thus, lateness is often associated with apathy. Just to set the record straight for all you “early people” out there: we “late people” aren’t necessarily apathetic; we’re just… hmm… late.

God, however, seems to me to be in a class all by Himself. He’s neither a “late Person”, nor is He an “early Person”. He’s on time.

God never moves before or after His appointed time. Some examples include His not giving Abraham the son of promise (Genesis 21:2, Hebrews 11:8-12); His not bringing the children of Israel out of Egypt (Genesis 15:13, Exodus 12:40-42); His not bringing them into Canaan (Numbers 14:33-34, Joshua 3-4); His not allowing His temple to be built (1 Chronicles 17:11-12, 2 Chronicles 6:10-11); and His not having His people released from Babylon (Ezra 1:1-4) until it was the right time for each of these things to happen.

Neither did He send His Son, Jesus, into the world until it was the right time. Isn’t it marvelous to see how God works? In His great economy He knew exactly when to do what He had planned! It was just the right time for the Savior to be born in that stable one night over two thousand years ago! It was just the right time for Him to come and reveal the love of the Father for the world as He taught, healed and ministered. Even His crucifixion was perfectly timed. All the conditions were ripe; all the players were in place for God’s great drama to unfold. He was neither late nor early in carrying out His plan!

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6 ESV). What an appropriate reflection for us to dwell upon in the faster-than-light speed of life today!

In practical application, for a person who seeks to walk with God in a love relationship with Him through faith in His Son, this also means that whatever God is doing in one’s life right now, he or she has no need to fear that His timing will be off. In His great economy, He still knows exactly when to do what He has planned. His timing is always right as He works out His plan for you.

Although His timing is always right, our patience generally needs a great deal of fine-tuning! Please know that God is so interested in you that He will at times deliberately “delay” events in your life in order to “maximize” His fruit in you. Our Father knows what He’s doing, how best to do it and how to time things just right. And although He isn’t likely to consult us about our own plans and probably won’t ask permission to interrupt our agendas, that’s okay, isn’t it? He is Lord after all.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Lighthouse Living

If you are a Christian, how does His light shine through you into the darkness of our community and world?

If you are a Christian, how does God’s light shine through you into the darkness of our community and world?

As my family and I stood on the deck of the boat operated by the Virginia Aquarium, watching for the fins and flippers of dolphins off the sands of Virginia Beach, we drew close to the site of the Cape Henry Lighthouses. Although our eyes were mostly focused on the waters around us, I briefly pondered the stately sentinels standing watch over the ocean, providing nightly a perpetual warning of dangerous rocks and offering skilled sea-farers a reference point by which they could navigate their ships. A thrill ran through me as I considered the serious responsibility carried by those lighthouses and how over the years sailors have trusted their signals.

The older lighthouse, built in 1792, was designed by John McComb Jr. (who was also the architect of New York City Hall) and was constructed of sandstone from the same source as the White House. It is said that the older Fort Henry Lighthouse was commissioned by President George Washington himself.

The newer lighthouse was constructed in 1881 after the original lighthouse was damaged by a lightning strike. The older was left standing to this day where it not only remains a national landmark, but offers a “daymark” (a daytime reference point for sailors) as well as, along with the newer lighthouse, a point of triangulation (a term that has been explained to me but is relegated to the realm of words so technical that they seem almost mystical to me like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”).

At any rate, the Lord has placed His own “lighthouses” in the world, too. These are “lamps” through whom His radiance shines, sending light into the darkness of our times, warning us of dangerous waters, and signaling God’s resolve to not simply settle for our sinking on the jagged rocks of confusion, sin, and faithlessness. He has sent His people into the darkness and confusion of the world to be a testimony of His great and awesome love.

In the daylight, lighthouses are spectacles of grace and beauty. We are fond of them as tokens of art and enjoy decorating with them (we have several in our home). Are you aware that no two lighthouses are identical? In the daylight, the pattern of their colors and stripes permits a sailor to know his exact position along the coast. At night, each lighthouse flashes its light differently so that, again, a sailor might be able to know exactly where he is as he sails through the darkness.

Each person who has placed his faith in Jesus Christ and has been made a child of God, is a lighthouse, unique and beautiful as God transforms him by His Holy Spirit. On the other hand, as beautiful and wonderful as each “lighthouse” is, his or her primary calling is to shine the light of God’s love and truth into the darkness of our world.

The shoals that abound under the surface of the waters of everyday life are just as real as the physical rocks along the coast of Virginia. They are just as real but are in actuality deadlier because the stakes are not merely ships of war or commerce, nor even our physical lives. Far more serious is that what is at stake is an eternity apart from God.

If you are a Christian, how does His light shine through you into the darkness of our community and world? When greed, immorality, deceit and selfish ambition are the norm, how has God’s presence in your life made a difference for others to see? A lighthouse with no light in the darkness is a useless building… a waste of brick and mortar.

If your light has gone out, let God rekindle His flame in you so that His love for those around you may be made known. May the light of His grace and goodness so illuminate your own attitude and behavior that those who are surrounded by the darkness of fear, hate and confusion can avoid the destructive rocks of sin and meet God’s love in Christ Jesus.

The Lord has called us to be “lights in the darkness”… His compassion for the lost and His passion for His glory compel Him to fan within us a flame of holiness and testimony as we live lives surrendered to Him.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father Who is in heaven…. God, Who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us…. You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…. You yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness” (Matthew 5:14-16, 2 Corinthians 4:6-7, 1 Peter 2:9, Romans 2:19 ESV).

If you have not yet turned your life over to Him and are still afflicted with the darkness of soul that only God can dispel with His holy love, then take heart and know that His light of forgiveness can penetrate the darkest places of your heart, cleanse your life of the foulest of sins, and bring the brightest of lights into your life! All He asks is that you place your faith in Jesus, and turn your life over to Him!

“In (Jesus) was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, Who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:4-5, 10-12 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Have you ever visited with someone as she sat quietly watching “Antique Road Show” (which is in its 19th season this year, by the way) only to watch her jump to her feet, shrieking, “That piece of junk was worth $3,000?!? I sold mine at a yard sale for $3!” No? Well, I haven’t had that experience either (though I can imagine it).

I have had friends however who have claimed that they once possessed a Hank Aaron ball card or an original Batman comic book from the early 1960s (worth a lot of money, let me tell you) only to have had unwanted help from mom in cleaning up their rooms, losing their priceless treasures forever. Who knew, right?

At some point, though, we all inevitably lose something or have something taken from us that didn’t strike us as valuable at the time.

When you watched or heard of a senseless shooting situation, perhaps it seemed that you could never really feel as secure as you once did.

Maybe you yourself have been the victim of a burglary or otherwise violent crime. If so, you’ve lost a lot more than “things”: you have lost your sense of safety and even of innocence.

It could even be that every time a boss, politician, or religious leader makes a promise only to break it, you feel that you have been robbed of the ability to trust.

The list of things we can and do lose is endless whether we’re talking about any of the above, financial resources, health, or loved ones.

The value of these things seems all too often “un-realized” unless and until those things are either lost or are taken from us. It then makes sense to say that losing what turns out to be valuable only in retrospect leaves us bristling with outrage and overwhelmed with feelings of betrayal and anger. We may also find ourselves haunted by guilt for neglecting those things that should have been the priorities that they never were.

It’s funny but it is smack dab in the middle of loss that we may be the most profoundly met by God. While we are tempted to be destroyed by the torrents of affliction that can and do pour down upon us, God can intervene, pick us up and restore to us all that we have needed and give to us those things for which we most long.

Sometimes it is in the middle of loss that we are the most profoundly met by God.

Sometimes it is in the middle of loss that we are the most profoundly met by God.

In the book of John, chapter 11, the Bible tells of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus of Bethany, who becomes very sick. Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, also friends of the Savior’s, send word to the Lord in hopes that He’ll come and “save the day”. But, inexplicably, Jesus delays His arrival on the scene, thereby apparently aggravating the situation. As a result of His apparent lack of intervention, Lazarus dies.

Three days after Lazarus’ death, Jesus finally arrives in Bethany (which means, by the way, “House of Affliction”) and the sisters cry out to Him, “You could have saved Him, Lord. You could have kept us from losing our brother.”

Jesus’ response to the sisters’ questioning wasn’t to be angry or put-out; He was deeply grieved over their sorrow. Never say that God doesn’t understand your hurt. He understands all too well. Never think that your pain is lost on Him, for He carries the sorrow of the whole world. When the Scriptures said in this chapter that, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35), the heart of God was laid bare in just two small words.

Jesus’ answer to that heart-wrenching questioning was, in essence, “Trust Me. Just see what I now can do.” Then the Savior speaks into the situation and Lazarus is returned to life.

Whatever brokenness and loss afflicts you, God can speak into the void and emptiness of your aching heart and bring forth not only comfort, but new life: a renewal of what you really need, only now made complete and more beautiful than ever before.

Do you feel as if your sense of security has been forever lost? “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man run into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10 ESV).

You don’t feel safe? “The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9 ESV).

Have people broken their promises to you? Happily, “God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind” (Numbers 23:19a ESV). He will see to it that His promises for you all come to fruition. You must see to it that you remain in a spirit of trust and obedience in order to receive the fulfillment of His promises.

Have you lost your innocence through the behavior of an ugly world or through your own bad choices? He can cover you with His purity and restore to you a sense of “cleanness” if you’ll allow Him to do it (1 John 1:9).

Have you been rejected? Your Father in heaven cannot and will not turn His back on you. “Never will I leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b ESV).

If you are in a place of affliction, your own personal “Bethany”, take comfort in knowing that it can truly be a place to meet God. Know that He’ll suffer with you. Watch as He somehow brings new life again to places in your life that you have believed could never be really alive again.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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