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When Our Eyes Can’t See

Of all the regularly appearing doubts in the human experience, one seems to surface a great deal of the time in the various conversations that I have with Christians about God, spirituality, and the choices that affect the ultimate outcomes of our lives. And just what is that doubt? Well, to put it in the form of a question, here it is: What do you do when your eyes can’t see the promised good for which you wait?

An appropriate response to that question seems to me to be at the heart of what is essential for living a victorious Christian life. Come to think of it, that’s what faith really is, isn’t it? Faith is the continued grasping for that which God has promised us, trusting that it is there before us, though the mists of a thousand doubts hide it from view.

This is perhaps why God takes such pains in chronicling the lives of men and women over the span of a couple of thousand years who wrestled with that same perplexity.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrew 11:1-3 ESV).

Faith, therefore, is all about acknowledgement of the reality of that which is unseen even if we cannot empirically discern either the substance of what God says is, or the manner in which He causes it to be.

Can't seeIn other words, whether we’re using just the eyeballs God gave us, an electron microscope, or the Hubble Telescope, there still comes a limit to that which we can observe and the fact that our sight is limited does not nullify the reality of those things that exist beyond our sight!

In a similar way, God has created a spiritual reality that transcends our ability to observe it. There are some things that are very real, but are very invisible to our physical faculties. Not only that, but there are things that “are as good as real” but do not (yet) exist in our present time. Men and women who place their faith in Jesus Christ live in a reality that overarches all of time from before the beginning of creation in which a Sovereign God set all the Cosmos in motion to the end of time as we can see it. Will all of creation end in a collapsing universe that cannot overcome its own gravitational pull? Not hardly. The reality of God continues, unfolding new chapters and new experiences between Creator and Created Being that will continue beyond the burning out of our sun or any earthly cataclysm that we fear may overtake our globe.

How can we know this? Do we have “proof”? Yes, in a sense. The proof isn’t in improved technology. It isn’t in a live feed transmitted across the internet via MSNBC of footage from “the other side”.

The “proof” is in the assurance of those called by God who lived faithfully, trusting in God’s promises no matter what their circumstances may have screamed at them.

“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household…. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God…. These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth…. As it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:7a, 8-10, 13, 16 ESV).

The biggest problem with much of so-called Christianity today is our tendency to live for the here-and-now, sacrificing the “prepared city” of joyful fellowship with God for the “earthly dwelling” of comfort and self-sufficiency that we erect for ourselves today. Instead of investing in eternal things, we settle for the “sure” things of what our eyes can see now, the ideas and philosophies that superficially satisfy our selfishness, and the comforts and pleasures that immediately gratify us. If we today, continue to bank on only what we can see benefiting us right now, we will continue to be a weak and ineffectual people. But it does not need to be that way.

“By faith Isaac… By faith Jacob… By faith Joseph… By faith Moses… Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets – who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life” (from Hebrews 11:20-35 ESV).

These lived in such a profound power that their lives were not only changed but incredibly changed the world around them also. But what were these who are mentioned living for? Was it conquest? Was it justice? Was it safety? Was it comfort, pleasure or power? Nope. That’s the ironic thing about it. These “material benefits” were the fruit of eyes that weren’t looking at all upon their material circumstances or satisfied with material gain. They were fixed on the future yet before them that made all right whatever good or bad came their way in life.

“Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about… destitute, afflicted, mistreated – of whom the world was not worthy – wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:36-40 ESV).

So back to the original question. What do you do when your eyes can’t see the promised good for which you wait? Whenever your eyes are distracted by what you have, what you don’t have, what others have, or what hurts or disappointments have afflicted your life, remember that you’re not living for the “here-and-now”; you’re living for something held in reserve for you. And as you release all of your everyday worries, grief, ambitions, pride, and fear to God, you’ll find that the reality that something better awaits you will suddenly begin to give you victory in the present. There is no one so free as he who is chained to Christ Jesus in the bonds of loving faith.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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One of the things that fascinated my children when they were much younger, and still does with babies I sometimes hold, is my having to wear eyeglasses. When my kids were little they would grab hold of my metal-framed glasses, sometimes nearly taking one of my ears off with them, and then put them onto their own faces so they could try them out for themselves. “What’s the deal with this thing, dad?”they seemed to be asking (or the very young child version of it).

They would clumsily slide them onto their own faces, poking themselves in the eye as often as not, try to fit the earpieces over their ears, but getting them tangled in their hair or missing their ears altogether. Then, when having finally succeeded (with a little help from their father), they would take a look at the world around them through my lenses.

Because my eyeglasses were prescription lenses designed for my particular eye problem (nearsightedness with astigmatism), the children naturally could not see very well through my glasses.

But they thought it was fun to look at the odd things that they could see through them. The lenses would bend the light rays passing through them in such a way that to my children’s eyes the people and things around them were distorted into strange and bewildering shapes.

New lensesOf course, spending only a little time looking through my glasses made them laugh. I imagine that if they continued to look too long through them, however, giddiness would turn into nausea (and leave them feeling like they’d gone a few times too many on an amusement park “Whirl-a-hurl” ride). I’m glad to say that we never came to that unhappy conclusion – at least not with my glasses.

I find that a lot of people are a lot like my kids. Oh, I don’t mean that people are lining up to try on my glasses (that would be a bit awkward). But I do mean that folks like to try on different perspectives. In some ways, that’s not a bad thing. It’s great to try to look at things from the point of view of another person in order that we might appreciate such insights that they might have or have an understanding of them that cultivates compassion within us.

On the other hand, it can be a dreadful thing for us to take upon ourselves a perspective by which we will live life that isn’t prescribed for us by the One Who created us!

Before a person comes to Christ, he or she has a spiritual nearsightedness that effectively renders him or her blind. Such a person cannot genuinely see life (either the temporal world of the “here and now” or the eternal one that awaits him or her after this physical life is over). But when a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ as his or her Lord and Savior, blindness begins to melt away, and a new set of “glasses” are prescribed for that child of God!

In other words, as Christians we are given the gift of “true sight”, a perspective that is not bound to the mere circumstantial evidence of what our physical eyes can perceive nor the erroneous conclusions our mortal minds can reach. We are permitted, through His Word, to see reality as it truly is which is neither the self-gratifying denial of the evils of the world, nor the gloom and despair of hopelessness.

With this new set of “glasses” we can see with eyes of faith the hand of God moving in and through our lives! Spiritually speaking, as we permit the Holy Spirit of God to open our minds, our eyesight gets better and better, as we become more and more accustomed to using the “prescription lenses” of the Bible.

How strange then, if we try to slip them off and put on our faces the old “glasses” we once wore or that someone else wears who hasn’t yet experienced God’s healing of spiritual blindness! An occasion which finds us trying out or trusting a perspective that is alien to the promises of God may give us a momentary feeling of “giddiness” but has no other ultimate conclusion than that of making us spiritually sick!

What about you? What glasses are on your face right now? By whose perspective are you living life? Is it a perspective being influenced by the common assumptions of society? Is it a philosophy that is built upon human wisdom? Does it puff up your ego? Does it deny your God-given worth? Is it something others share but stands in stark contrast to the Word of God? Is it something you’ve put together from your (limited) experiences and you’ve decided that it just “feels right”?

Be careful! The lenses through which you view life will dramatically affect the way you spend your life! Not only does your eternal life depend on it, but also the fruitfulness of your life that may lead others to a future forever with God.

Get into God’s Word! Prayerfully turn your heart and mind over to His inspiration as He speaks to you through the Bible! Let Him make “changing your mind” an ongoing process – not that you flip back and forth from one conclusion to another on any given day, but that you allow Him to lead you further and deeper into His life-changing truth so that even those things you think and feel you know become new as He applies those principles and promises into new areas of your mind, heart and actions!

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Some years ago, my wife, Diane, and our two younger sons (one who was almost 11 years old and the other nearly 8) were discussing their studies in astronomy. They had spent several weeks on the subject of our solar system: the inner planets, the asteroid belt, the gaseous giants, the Kuiper Belt (which is the other asteroid belt), comets, and of course Pluto – the planet that is smaller than Earth’s moon (and is consequently the point of contention between some who say it should not be counted as a planet and others who say that it should).

They then moved on to other topics, such as the various types of galaxies and the different kinds of stars (yellow suns like ours, red giants, white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes) as well as exploring the subjects of supernovae, nebulae, quasars, and so forth. They concluded their study by learning specific names for some of the better known stars like Betelgeuse (pronounced beetle-juice) and Polaris.

Throughout their discussion there were frequent pauses in the study to reflect on God’s marvelous hand in creating and ordering the universe so that we could, from our vantage point of precisely fine-tuned positioning in the violent cosmos swirling around us. Whose hand but God’s alone could have situated us so perfectly that we can gaze in awe at the handiwork of His infinite ingenuity and do so in the relative comfort and safety that Earth’s orbit affords?

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth (constellations) in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children?” (Job 38:31-32 ESV).

Now, the chief danger in regard to our awe and appreciation of the wonders of creation is that we divert our worship to that which has been made from the Maker Himself.

“Beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven” (Deuteronomy 4:19 ESV).

One would think that such heavenly counsel would be heeded by a people who believed themselves as attuned to the divine and as culturally savvy as did the Israelites who first received that command (and as perhaps we Americans do today). Yet men and women are easily wooed away from whole-hearted devotion to God. This danger has not relented in its capacity to ensnare people no matter the incredible passage of time since our beginning and in spite of the fact that God has disclosed to us His written Word, which was given to us through men whose hearts were divinely directed by His Holy Spirit (ensuring their validity and inerrancy for the generations that followed their writing). People still fall prey to idolatry.

“…And they abandoned all the commandments of the LORD their God… and worshiped all the host of heaven…. they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen!” (2 Kings 17:16 & Romans 1:25 ESV).

If we give our hearts in worship what God has created instead of our Creator, we shed every entitlement bestowed to us by God for those things we need like love, peace, and joy!

If we give our hearts in worship what God has created instead of our Creator, we shed every entitlement bestowed to us by God for those things we need like love, peace, and joy!

So whether we’re talking about worshiping the sun or moon, or regulating one’s life according to the daily horoscope, we can see that such practices put us at odds with the divine expectations that are associated with truly following Jesus Christ. Not only that, but as we give our hearts over to worship what God has created instead of our Creator, we shed every entitlement bestowed to us by God for those things we need (e.g., peace, joy, spiritual security, not to mention salvation).

Not only that, but if we depend on astrology to give us direction for life, we stuff our ears against the sweet whisperings of God’s Holy Spirit. If we let numerology or Tarot cards provide us instruction and inspiration for life, than we’ve no room left for the tender words of love and heart transformation God would have us receive from the marvelous words He speaks in the Bible. And what does God intend to do about it? Will He simply sit idly by and watch as the hearts those for whom He sent His own Son travel down the all-too-short road to spiritual destruction? The grim truth is that He can’t say nothing nor can He do nothing. Grace does not permit it.

“…I will cut off from this place… those who bow down on the roofs to the host of the heavens…” (Zephaniah 1:4b-5a ESV).

I have found that many Christians like to read their horoscopes or watch for their lucky numbers. I realize that many don’t take it very seriously, but some do. In either case, it is my hope that we’ll realize that God takes these kinds of things very seriously, given what is at stake for eternity. Making choices according to advice given to you based on your birth sign is a sorry substitute for the wise counsel of the One Who made both you and the stars to which astrology bows.

So be careful. Let your heart be filled with things from His Word and not the nonsense that’s concocted by spiritual forces that war against the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Him we have something far more mysterious than the best offerings of any occultic master. In Jesus we have the incredible love of God inexplicably reaching into the tragedy of human sin and providing us the “…the unsearchable riches of Christ…, the mystery hidden for ages in God Who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in Whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him” (Ephesians 3:8-12 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Stop, Look and Listen

In times of famine and drought, the thoughts of a man dwell constantly on food and drink. When scorching winds blow and the rays of the sun beat down without mercy, he dreams of a renewal of his strength and soothing refreshment.

I believe us to be today in such a famine and drought. We wrestle with such a profound spiritual poverty that we are finding ourselves empty and parched for something that gives peace in the valley of sorrow and fear – a valley through which we tread and yearn for something that grants us hope beyond the grave. Too often we seek to satisfy our longings with temporary fixes, but end up unfulfilled, empty, lonely, and broken.

“… A hungry man dreams he is eating and awakes with his hunger not satisfied, or as when a thirsty man dreams he is drinking and awakes faint, with his thirst not quenched…” (Isaiah 29:8 ESV).

But a genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ is both fulfilling and refreshing. Becoming His child through obedient faith in His atoning death on the cross and His resurrection, we must come to understand that we are doing far more than merely adopting a “Christian” philosophy, worldview, or lifestyle. We have entered into a covenantal relationship with God Himself. Having “saved” us through faith in Christ by grace, He both seals us for His divine purposes and glory, and sets us apart as royal members of His own heavenly household.

“In him you also when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV).

Knowing then that we have been set apart as special recipients of God’s favor, we can reasonably expect to find that He is more than sufficient in satisfying our deepest soul-wracking hungers and spirit-parching thirsts. The most fundamental secret then to lasting happiness is to not turn to temporal alternatives. Material and shallow substitutes may momentarily appease our appetites but they can do no more than simply distract us from our inevitable collision with eternity. Nor can we afford to play “Let’s Make a Deal” with other religions, their promises of everlasting hope and peace being mere curtains over “Door Number Three” into destruction and endless judgment, a day of reckoning with a God Who is holy.

If you are God’s child then “you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-11 ESV).

There is an urgency today that cries out to us that we set our affairs in order, stop delaying in our obedience to God, and wholeheartedly trust His love, His power, and His wisdom.

There is an urgency today that cries out to us that we set our affairs in order, stop delaying in our obedience to God, and wholeheartedly trust His love, His power, and His wisdom.

And, happily, to learn to walk with Him now (though we may have all our lives ahead of us) allows our journey to joyfully blend with His activity – His mission to reveal His love, power, and holiness to the world.

And besides, when we’ve become His children and begin to walk with Him in the here-and-now, we come to know Him personally and intimately. As we dwell in His Word, seek Him in prayer, and follow His leading as He shepherds our hearts, we not only have opportunities to see His hand at work but also occasions of His glorious presence revealed to us.

So stop, look, and listen. Stop running the wild race of life on your own. And stop seeking satisfaction in things that aren’t going to have any lasting value. Stop putting God off, telling Him that “one day you’ll give Him your heart.” Stop… and look up and know that your Creator yearns to give you real hope that the world can’t steal away from you. Look to His Word for encouragement, direction, and for transformation as He establishes His holy presence in you. Look around with eyes opened by His love and see the needs of countless scores about you that the Lord would love to bless if only you, His child, would take the time. Look… and listen to what God has to say about you, your inestimable value in His sight, and His purposes to bless and keep you. Listen with an open heart to His Holy Spirit’s prompting inside of you towards holiness, courage, and compassion. Listen to His voice as He leads you, His precious child, in ways of peace and hope. Listen as He shares His words of comfort and encouragement with your hurting and weary soul. Let this be the day that you stop in your tracks, turn to Him, and start anew knowing that His Word of life and truth is everlastingly trustworthy.

And Jesus said to those gathered around Him… “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake – for you do not know when the Master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or in the morning – lest He come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake’” (Mark 13:31-37 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Food That Endures

It is a wise use of time to consider the direction of one’s life, pondering the extent to which it has been lived well and has significance beyond the small span of years that it has on earth. One may on occasion reflect on such things and find the path that he treads lacking in any really meaningful direction or having any real eternal value. Hungering for more in life is a good thing.

At times, one may look at his or her life and perceive shackles and chains that keep him or her in bondage and unable to cultivate those things that are truly important and precious. Guilt, obsession, shame, fear, pride, anger, lust, bitterness, apathy, or greed form bonds that cannot be broken by mere human strength. Even Christians can fall victim to the depredations of such snares, spiritually disemboweled and empty of the hope, victory, joy and peace we profess to have in Christ Jesus.

Sadly, these are times when the sum total of our spirituality is tied up with the waves of circumstances that we ride or the emotional tides that lap at the shorelines of our lives. We sometimes follow Jesus simply because we desire Him to fill our “spiritual bellies” or fix our problems; not because He is Lord of all and has done the amazing work of atoning for our sin with His own life. Sometimes we “follow” Him just because we see Him as a free ride out of pain and sorrow and into contentment and easy living.

So what can we say about this? Does He or does He not care for our pain and suffering? Of course He does. Is it or is it not of any significance to Him that we may be lonely or afraid, hurting or hungry? Of course it is. Otherwise He would not have given to you and me an outstretched hand and invited us into the “living room” of His grace.

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV).

Anyone who does not allow for the love of Jesus being realized in the human experience does not understand the love of our Savior. He who thinks of the love of God as being purely an abstract theological teaching is missing out on a great truth about the love of God:  that the love of God is real. It is eternal and transcendent, to be sure, for it is above any mere mortal’s ability to grasp how perfect and endless is the love of our Redeemer.

Nevertheless, the tremendous love of God spills into our lives daily. Whenever the fingers of dawn begin to stretch into the twilight of the eastern sky each morning, we are reminded that no darkness is so enduring that daybreak will not come in time. Whenever the giggles of children interrupt our otherwise mundane days, we are taught anew that it isn’t too late to sip again the nectars of the joy and hope that only God’s love can bring. And whenever we find our hearts breaking when suffering the loss of a loved one through death or through estrangement, we take comfort in knowing that as Jesus was deeply moved to the point of weeping for grief-stricken Mary and Martha in John 11:33 and 35, so is He moved by the deep ache of our lives when we also lose hope.

However, we must first of all be mindful of the fact that God’s love compels us to become more than what we were before we met Christ Jesus. He will not be satisfied with “leaving well enough alone”. He is not content with that. He desires for us to no longer be slaves to sin, prisoners of hopelessness, and punching bags for despair. He has adopted us into His family and has made of us children of His royal family as well as junior partners with Him as we serve Him in this life.

Secondly, let us not be oblivious to the fact that His will always directs us to new horizons as we climb with Him to new experiences, new hopes, and a new future. One knows how seriously he or she takes the will of God by how much God’s will matters in the planning of each and every day.

The “food that endures to eternal life” are those things pursue that have eternal value and consequence.

The “food that endures to eternal life” are those things we pursue that have eternal value and consequence.

Finally, let us consider well the ultimate purposes of the demonstration of God’s power in our lives. It is not simply to make things more convenient for us. While our Father in heaven may choose to bless us materially for example, He is not excessively worried about the quality of the car we drive or the clothes we wear. And I will guarantee that the forefront of God’s mind is not occupied with the size of one’s house or yard. Those things in which we find ourselves somewhat lacking are “pointers to God” – inasmuch as we permit God to remind us that He Himself is our all-in-all. If we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ, we may count ourselves rich beyond measure though we wear patched clothes or are forced to ride a bike because we have no car. And those things in which we can see our needs being met by His graciousness are also just temporary “pointers” to those things that really count in eternity.

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.  For on Him God the Father has set His seal” (John 6:26-27 ESV).

And what are the things that really count and what is this “food that endures to eternal life”?

Simply put, these things that count most are the things that have eternal consequence. One’s eternal destiny, for example, should be an urgent priority because we do not know the count of days given to us. Also of great importance is the spiritual legacy we each will leave behind for others. How does my life impact the spiritual destiny of my family, my friends, my co-workers, and even strangers I may never know?

Most of all, I must ask the question, “Is my life pleasing to God?” I do not want only to be “acceptable” to Him; I want to be pleasing to Him.

Let it be the ambition of each of His children to hunger for more in life. May it be our goal to one day hear Him say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant!… Come and share your Master’s happiness” (from Matthew 25:21 and 23).

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan.

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