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The Soil and the Seed

One day, while Jesus was out and about teaching the things of God, He told the tale (or parable) of a farmer who went out to sow his seed (Luke 8). He described the various places the seed fell. Some were cast upon a path whereon the seeds were trampled and then devoured by birds. Some fell on rock and immediately sprang up only to then shrivel up again once the day’s sun dried out their exposed roots. Some fell among thorny underbrush and grew fine until finally choked out by the riot of thorns about them.

Jesus’ disciples seemed to have a pretty good idea that Jesus wasn’t just giving an agricultural lesson and pestered Him about the meaning of the story. He explained that the seed was the Word of God and the path upon which the seed was thrown is the heart of the one who hears His Word, but then disregards or rejects it because of the world’s innate contempt of it. She never believes and is consequently not saved (Luke 8:12).

The rock on which seed was scattered was the heart of the one who hears it, receives it gladly, but then never allows the things of God to grow deeply in his life and naturally falls away when times get tough: he can’t take the heat, so to speak (Luke 8:13).

The thorny ground, says Jesus, is the heart of one who hears the Word of God, receives it at first, but then finds the life that God would grow there all choked out by the thorns of worry and the strangling weeds of temptation (Luke 8:14).

But then there is the seed which is sown in the heart that “hears the Word, retains it, and perseveres until its crop is produced” (Luke 8:15). The seed sown here is fruitful, thereby achieving the intended destiny of the seed and preventing that seed from dissipating into the frustrated finality of eternal pointlessness.

Soil and the Seed

What kind of soil is your heart?

If we genuinely ponder the parable, the question then naturally arises for each of us, “What kind of soil is my heart?” If I will surrender my will to His and persevere (hold on to Him) in faith, then my heart is “good and rich” and is ready for planting.

Now, if you cannot honestly say that you are responsive and ready to walk with Him, your life is consequently not “good soil” and you should take care to consider that “eternity” is a really, really long time and it can sneak up on you really, really quick! When will you be called into eternity? Are you ready for that moment though it be unlooked for?

If your life seems to indeed be the kind of soil that Jesus described as “good,” be patient and know that seeds sown in good soil will germinate. And don’t get impatient in waiting for the harvest of God’s blessings either.

When we plant a seed in our gardens, we soon may see that first little leaf rear its tiny head from the earth, but we are not satisfied in merely this fragile bud. No, it is just the beginning.

We are not content though its stem rises from the ground and it spreads its leaves towards the sun. No, it’s not done yet. It has not yet achieved its destiny.

We continue to wait as it unfolds the petals of its blossoms. We are still not satisfied, for we know that each blossom is merely a promise of something yet to come.

Then, we rejoice when in the place of each fragrant flower, a fruit begins to form. When at last its fruit has matured and is ready for harvest we know that the tiny seed has finally reached its potential and arrived at the destiny for which it had been planted.

How true this is also of the Word of God for the “Seed of His Word” is always good!

“So shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11 ESV).

We know that what He says is “good seed”. And while we can celebrate the promises and affirmations that His Word supplies us (the “warm-fuzzies” that encourage us along, if you will), God is interested in more than just the “here-and-now”. Each word of direction, correction, transformation and comfort ultimately produces the fruit of a living testimony in our lives. This is a harvest that encourages others and teaches them to trust in the goodness of God and the faithfulness of Christ. And do not fruits each hold within themselves even more seeds that will in turn be sown in the soil of other lives?

Let us then each allow God to mature His fruit in the greenhouses of our obedience! Too often we become weary, frustrated and discouraged with our circumstances, unaware that the Father is tilling the soil of the hidden places of our hearts and in the hearts of those around us. Let us instead “lay hold” of His admonishment in Galatians 6:8 to “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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There is a plethora of “churchy” words that, when invoked, sounds like little more than meaningless jargon in the ears of most people outside of the church. On the other hand, even inside the great family of God there are some expressions that have become so muddled under layers of generational over-familiarity that the original convictions or spiritual insights that they represented have been lost in antiquity.

The word “revival” may be as good an example of this as any other word of which I can think. Even in areas or among populations where the word is widely used, its real significance is generally entirely overlooked. Most of the time, when the word “revival” comes up, we refer to a set of meetings (usually running about a week and often featuring various singing groups and certainly fiery speakers). And if we as Christians tend to miss the point of the word, “revival”, it should come as no surprise that the world too can have some funny ideas about what we mean when we throw up our banners and advertisements promoting them.

The word “revival” itself simply refers to the restoration of life. As Christians we use the word to refer to God’s restoring His people to an exciting and satisfying relationship with Himself after they had repented from falling away from Him, having been either distracted or enamored by other things.

“Revival” therefore does not refer to a meeting. Contrary to some opinions, it does not even refer to a large number of people receiving the Lord Jesus as their Savior and becoming Christians. Such a response can be a fruit of revival but is not revival itself. After all, how can one “re-vive” something (that is to say “to bring to life again”) when that something was only just then receiving life for the very first time?

Today, as we look across the spiritual and moral wasteland that besets our vision, we might wonder if the church has a diminishing capacity to make a difference in the world. If so, it is because we need revival. We are no longer living with the power of Christ Who, in His earthly ministry, left people knowing that somehow life would never be the same for them because they had been confronted with the presence of God.

“When Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, for He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29 ESV).

Authority? Yes… He did not instruct them as we often do in the presumption of our own intellect and limited abilities. He came sanctioned by the Father to bring the message of God’s love and the glory of His manifest (unveiled) presence. He came in power and that power, produced in His life by both the presence of the Holy Spirit within Him and the approval of the Father upon Him, radically engaged people with the spiritual facts of life: 1) that there is a Holy God in charge of the universe, 2) that humanity is woefully and eternally separated from Him by the reality of sin (selfish willfulness in our own lives), and 3) that God has mercifully provided Himself as the object of justice in the form of His Son that we might receive forgiveness and restoration with Him provided we truly turn to Him in faith.

And it is still the Father’s will that such power continue to engage the world today. Access to that power has been entrusted to God’s people “to preach good news to the poor… to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, to recover sight for the blind, to release the oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (from Luke 4:18-19 and Isaiah 61:1-2).

Consequently, as we walk humbly with Him through life, cultivating our relationship with Him, He Himself dwells within us, assaulting bastions of hatred and despair with love and hope. In reverse, if we do not walk with Him, we lag behind His activity in the world, we become disconnected from the lifeline of His love and our hope becomes eclipsed by cares from the world. When God is not first place in our lives, the whole world suffers for it.

But thankfully, He has promised that, “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV).

Perhaps we as the church of today are losing our ability to powerfully and effectually conquer the world with love and faith because we’re allowing our lifeline (relationship with Him) to become detached. Perhaps we’re ceasing to be a living “body” of believers and are little more than dry and barren structures upon which spiritual flesh once hung. Maybe we’re dangerously close to being a great mass of “dried up old bones”.

“If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” - 2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV

“If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” – 2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV

That is what revival is. It is God gracefully bringing us back to spiritual life when we’ve finally despaired of all the deadness that the “alternatives” to faith in Christ offer us. Once we’ve repented of our own waywardness and have returned whole-heartedly to Him, we allow Him to take His rightful place in the throne of our hearts. As Lord of our lives, He brings healing, hope and fulfillment once again to not only His children but to the rest of the world, too.

“Revive us again; fill each heart with Thy love. May each soul be rekindled with fire from above. Hallelujah! Thine the glory. Hallelujah! Amen. Hallelujah! Thine the glory. Revive us again (“We Praise Thee, O God” by William P. Mackay, 1839-1885).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Honor…

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One word that is too little thought of and is certainly too little observed is the word “honor”. When one hears the word, muddled ideas as to its meaning arise in our minds. At best, it makes its rare appearances in verb form as we employ it in the same sentences as we do the words “promise” or “agreement”.

We also hear it (usually) in the uttering of wedding vows as the bride and groom pledge to “honor” the other. Practical application of these vows, undervalued by popular culture and subsequently in daily living, deserves a place of supremacy in the values and priorities of each and every marriage.

But I suspect that until a better sense of what honor is and its priceless worth have been restored to us, the point of “honoring” one another will be mostly lost on most couples, children in regard to their parents, and Christians in general of one another.

God’s Word, in delineating the priorities we should maintain in life, spells out that we are to love God above all other things and others at least as much as we love ourselves. Intricately wound up in this love, is the fact that honoring another is a means by which we demonstrate love.

We are therefore admonished to honor God above all other things. In other words, we are to revere and esteem Him more than anything else (1 Corinthians 6:20, Numbers 25:13). Then, as beings who carry His image and recognize that others have also been created in His image, we honor others, too. More to the point, as Christians, we are to “honor others above ourselves” (Romans 12:10).

A specific way for honoring God is in children honoring their parents (Exodus 20:12, Matthew 15:4, Ephesians 6:2). We also honor God when we honor those institutions that He has created for His divine and holy purposes. Marriage, the joining of a man and woman in a holy covenantal relationship, is specifically to be honored (Hebrews 13:18), for it recognizes what Jesus has done in the giving of His life for His Church and the joining of His Spirit with her. According to Malachi 2:14-15 marriage is to be honored also because it is the primary vehicle for aligning our culture with God’s plans. Aided and strengthened by God’s church, it perpetuates Godliness in our darkened world (inasmuch as the husband and wife place their home under the loving control of God).

But what does it mean to “have honor” or to “defend one’s honor”? And what does it mean today to be a “man of honor”? I have known soldiers who have had a better idea than most of what honor is when having discussions on the subject of honor. But I have to admit that I am grieved as the realization that talking about honor with most people is like talking in another language.

Honor, as a noun, means simply an “esteemed reputation” or a “reverenced name”. To “have” honor simply means that we live up to the name that we now carry as Christians. If a Christian lies, then he “dishonors” the name of Jesus. If a Christian cheats, or steals, or is unfaithful, then he is not living up to the name that he has been given and he “dishonors” the name of Christ.

One might look today across the landscape of broken promises, selfish acts, and cowardly decisions by people and conclude that there are few indeed who truly have a sense of honor. Honor means little to most because we mostly do not understand its worth nor care to discover it.

But think for a moment of the price that Christ paid for you! Jesus, the ultimate Man of Honor, courageously forsook selfish motives and endured a life of hardship so that He could honor His Father’s holiness. He boldly spoke the truth to all, even when He was hated for it, so that He could honor His Father’s Word. He bravely cared for those that others deemed unworthy of attention and affection, and then willingly died on a cross that we deserved, so that He could honor His Father’s love.

Shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus said, “Now is My soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” “Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (John 12:27-28 ESV).

Honor is at the heart of Who Jesus is and always seeks to glorify that which is deserving of honor. Ultimately, nothing is deserving of more honor than the name of God. This is why we need to seek to restore honor to our homes, to our businesses, as well as to our reputations. In the end, whether or not we earn a name of honor rides on whether or not we keep our promises, deal with others justly, and demonstrate lives of mercy and compassion. And the manner in which we are known becomes the platform from which we proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and become the means by which the name of God is glorified!

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Path through the woods

One often likes to think that when

            He or she becomes born again,

Life’s road turns smooth and runs straight through

            Flow’ring glens alive with dazzling hue,

Glorious vistas, soft sod to trod

            That lead us in our walk with God

Ever closer to see His face,

            Feel His love and His warm embrace.

 

Yet, though such glens of joyful peace

            Indeed occur, they so quickly cease

In order to work deeper still

            The workings of God’s perfect will.

Not all storms come as pounding rain

            That beat upon the window pane

Or mighty winds that whirling by

            Bring grim destruction from the sky.

 

God knows in hearts there lurk such things

            That flow from selfish ponderings:

Poisonings of our fallen state

            Like pride and envy, lust and hate.

Such seeds of death must be undone

            So deeper bliss for us is won.

For with such things we’ll never be

            Made wholly new, set truly free.

 

Trials and troubles are therefore sent

            So trust in self be entirely spent

And faith and love be taught to grow

            And from our hearts be loosed to flow.

Hearts that yield within the storm

            Are hearts that God Himself will warm.

So in the dark, though unclear the way,

            Allow Christ’s cross o’er you to sway.

 

Curse not the advent of the pain

            That is the path to greater gain.

Trust the Father Who guides you through

            And brings new joy and hope to you.

He is faithful, the God Who gives

            You His Spirit that in you lives

To grant you greater life in Him,

            A lasting joy that will not dim.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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When our children were young, it would frequently happen that one of them would construct very complex and impressive structures with toy building blocks. Occasionally blessed with the privilege of joining them in their enterprises, I sometimes could personally witness them design and build some amazing things. While I didn’t always know what it was that I was looking at, my children were always able to come up with impressive titles and elaborate explanations.

If you are facing heart-breaking loss, take heart! There is life still yet to be lived with new joy and hope!

If you’ve faced loss & heartache, here’s hope! There’s life still yet to be lived with new joy & peace awaiting you!

Sometimes they showed me a sky-scraper. Sometimes a spaceship. Sometimes it is the surface of a planet, and sometimes it is a creature that they have created.

Whatever the case, it was a masterpiece each time. And invariably, at the insistence of the inventor/artist, each completed work was placed in a safe place so that the genius invested by its creator would be preserved (at least for awhile).

Sadly, sooner or later, each work meets its demise. Too often a finished piece is taken down and enjoyed as if it is a toy (which, of course, it is although its maker generally forgets that). I have noticed that toys of the Lego genre come apart most inconveniently.

On the other hand, sometimes the project was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. Someone accidentally stepped on it, for example: Ouch! Sometimes it was innocently picked up and put away by a well-meaning parent: Oops! And sometimes a dog, wanting attention, would come and lie down on it or worse, chew it up: Eww!

The greatest heartaches always came, however, when an existing work contained a piece necessary for the building of another artist/inventor’s project. The currently existing work was dismantled, without regard for anyone else’s feelings but also without any particular mal-intent: it just happened to have a piece the other child wanted.

However these tragedies happened, the destruction of treasured creations always translated as anger and grief on the part of their creators (and then also for the parents trying to negotiate wisdom and cooperation among the young inventors).

It also meant something important for me and was something in which I still am growing in the context of God’s kingdom. When you lose what you thought you needed and wanted, for whatever reason, how do you begin again?

An important question for us as we each must deal with it in at least small ways (e.g., Lego blocks). But it is especially important when we deal with this issue on a grand scale. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the breaking of one’s health, can all leave us asking the question of how to start over.

Of course, this question has inconceivable implications for those in our world facing devastating loss in the face of persecution (such as that from ISIS), particularly those who have lost not only their homes and livelihoods but their entire families but as well.

There are no easy answers. But if you are facing heart-breaking loss even now in your own life, there is life still yet to be lived. Granted, it won’t likely be the same as before, but there is still life… and hope for you if you’ll trust that God can and will walk with you through the dark tunnels of despair as you hold His hand in faith.

Consider the magnitude of Job’s loss and know indeed that you have a kindred spirit in him. Yet, in spite of all his sorrow and pain, he would not turn his back on God. In spite of the discouragement that buffeted him, he did not ultimately despair. Having lost his wealth, his beloved family, and his health, as well as being falsely accused by his “friends”, he ended up a shining example of God’s grace as God helped him start all over.

“If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come. You (God) would call, and I would answer You; you would long for the work (the created one) of Your hands. For then You would number my steps; You would not keep watch over my sin” (Job 14:14-16 ESV).

Can you start again when all of life as you’ve known it is lost or destroyed? Can you yet live again when tragedy and hurt come as robbers to take away your joy? Yes. There is One Who will see to it that renewal will come. And when God picks up the blocks of our broken lives, He can put them back together in ways we never imagined. Starting over after loss and grief can seem impossible… but with God, it’s just a new beginning.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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