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Archive for October, 2016

Living with the conviction that God’s Word is as true and relevant today as it ever has been is not an easy task, considering that the tides of our culture break upon the cliffs of faith in Christ like a typhoon. Every day we find new cases-in-point, as it were, when we find government officials, iconic pop culture stars, or supposed “academics” who snidely observe that their views on ethics and morality are “evolving”. They suppose that they are using a buzzword that suggests that they have somehow transcended to a higher plane than “lesser beings” who continue to cling to the Bible.

Such disdain for reverent regard for the holy Word of God is found practically in every sphere of life; it can even be found in many churches wherein it is deemed appropriate to abandon a clear confidence in the authority of the Bible in the interest of what Satan likes to call “effective cultural relevance”.

Some will look on the moral plummet of our country and simply shake their heads in helplessness and continue to live life in “survival mode”. Some say our country is “going to hell”” and are ready to wash their hands of everything except of the joy of criticizing others. Perhaps there are a few who take on a violent attitude of retaliation and subsequently plot bombings and shootings as if these things can solve the effects of the spiritual crisis that besets us.

But hope for a return to greatness for America is not found in these things, but rather in what God can do through His people as they are renewed and the power of God surges again through their obedient lives. And the spiritual renewal and the resurgence of holiness that God’s people today desperately need is not in “fighting fire with fire” but in humbly turning from worldly thinking and living and returning to genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Repentance, faith, holiness, love, and obedience is what God expects of us today – all things that God has graciously declared to us through the Bible so that we might yet return to Him.

hope for a return to greatness for America is found in nothing but what God can do through His people as they are renewed and the power of God surges again through their obedient lives.

Hope for a return to greatness for America is found in nothing but what God can do through His people as they are renewed and the power of God surges again through their obedient lives.

Even this presidential election is insufficient in turning our country around and the idea that it can insults God, hindering Him in the transforming work that only His Spirit can do if such activism is not the fruit of following God’s lordship in our lives. The answer to the need of America is found only in Jesus Christ in every area, from disintegrating families to crime, from economic collapse to unemployment, from illegal immigration to lack of healthcare, from drugs to national security and terrorism.

Please hear me carefully: while how we vote (and for whom we vote) is important, it is only important (in a good way) if it truly is the act of worship of a truly humble and God-seeking heart. And by what measure can we hope to know if that kind of heart is the heart beating within our chests? By how we seek to hear from God through His Word and then what we do with what He has said to us.

Our need is for the power of God’s saving grace to enter into our individual lives so that it may then flow into those institutions that reflect the uniting of all who call themselves Americans. Whether they call themselves leaders or simply see themselves as citizens, all need to come to Christ Jesus and none can truly come to Him except by coming to Him in faith and repentance. Such faith and repentance is only truly evidenced in how we listen to the words He has spoken through His Word, the Bible.

And if there has ever been a word that God Himself would speak to Christians in America today, it is most certainly this word:

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

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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On Forgiveness

Forgiveness may be at once both the most necessary of responses to the grace that God has bestowed upon us and the most misunderstood (and, consequently, the most neglected). I hesitate in even attempting to address the wonderful and mysterious world of forgiveness in such a short article because it is both very simple and very complex.

For example, the fact that Jesus commanded us to forgive notwithstanding, it is when we spend ourselves in this very activity that we most resemble our Father in heaven as well as find ourselves being groomed for full and unfettered fellowship with Him.

“Then Peter came up and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. …Forgive your brother from your heart…. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 18:21-22, 35b; Matthew 6:14-15 ESV).

Frankly, Jesus Himself is the embodiment of forgiveness – literally! He not only lived forgiveness in the daily wear and tear of life, He demonstrated it perfectly in interceding for His haters and persecutors while dying at their hands.

“When He (Jesus) was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him Who judges justly (His Heavenly Father)” (1 Peter 2:23 ESV).

It is not an illogical assumption then to move on from His forgiveness for those who were physically involved in His suffering and crucifixion to the realization that we, too, are culpable (guilty) of His death because it was our sin (mine as well as yours) for which He laid down His sinless life as payment (restitution) to God the Father for the breaking of His holy Law. And if He, sinless and guileless, could pray, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 ESV), then we can be expected to employ that same attitude towards others.

forgiveness

When we forgive we resemble our Heavenly Father, but are also cultivating a great joy in our future.

We do, after all, belong to Him once we have placed our faith in Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord. We are therefore intended to partake of His nature by submitting to the lordship of His Holy Spirit and allow Him to transform our character as well as our hearts.

We are consequently expected to forgive. This is where we must attempt to clarify what we mean by forgiveness. Forgiveness in the Scriptures had a strong connotation associated with financial dealings between people. If you borrowed money from someone, then you owed that person a debt. If you could not repay the debt, the one who made the loan could “forgive’ that debt, canceling it so that recompense would not be pursued and the fact of owing him would not be held over your head. If the debt was not forgiven, failure to repay could result in imprisonment, slavery, or forfeiture of something very dear and near to either your heart or your survival (like your livestock, your land, or even your own children).

Forgiveness in the relational sense works pretty much the same way. When you have been hurt or “sinned against”, then the one who has injured you has incurred a debt to you. This is why we often struggle with a temptation to “get even” or “settle the score” when someone hurts us (physically, emotionally, or materially). It is important that when someone has hurt us that we not dismiss it or rationalize it, but acknowledge it to the Lord, so that we can then forgive.

Some opinions on forgiveness argue that we pretend that nothing ever happened. That’s not forgiveness in the biblical sense. Our Lord never dismissed sin as a trivial matter but in extending forgiveness to others, exhorted them to stop sinning and live transformed lives (see John 8:11 as an example).

If you have been hurt by someone, you are not called upon to willfully hand him the means to do so again when he will likely do so. Nor is it expected that if someone has fallen morally that we, in forgiving her, place in front of her again whatever it was that tempted her in the first place. It would be a bad idea, for instance, to have someone who has been convicted of embezzlement handle your money without very close monitoring. And it would not be wise to allow someone who struggles with narcotic addictions to have access to your painkillers. And forgiveness does not mean that we pursue relationships that are abusive or endanger our lives or the lives of our loved ones.

Forgiveness is simply the releasing of someone else from indebtedness to you. It is taking the position that the offending party is not going to be held to account for his or her actions (by you at any rate) and you will offer to him or her the same kind of love that Jesus has shown you. Forgiveness is when we let ourselves off the hook of trying to make others pay for their misdeeds or hurtful words. Instead, we just let it go.

Furthermore, forgiveness is something that we give even when it has not been requested by others. Note that Jesus sought forgiveness for those who had not sought such forgiveness. Forgiving others who may not care one bit whether or not we forgive them, is not about taking on an air of spiritual superiority, but is a matter of quietly releasing them from indebtedness to ourselves and entrusting their behaviors, attitudes, and actions to the Lord.

Forgiveness is, as you might have guessed, a key arena in which we employ faith in God. Forgiveness both frees us from a bondage to anger and hate, but also helps to move us “out of the way” of God’s redemptive work in the lives of others. Forgiveness even allows us to be entrusted by God with a ministry of intercession (praying on the behalf of others) and might, perhaps, be the very means by which the seeds of God’s grace can enter the life of someone else who needs God’s help as much as we did before we were forgiven by God of our sin and given the prize of salvation.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:13-14 ESV).

Just so you know, forgiving others is not something that we can necessarily do on our own. When one has been deeply hurt, or hurt repeatedly over time, it requires more than an effort of our own will to disentangle ourselves from the complex web of emotions that are spun from our anger, grief, and fear. In other words, there will likely be occasions when you will need the help of God’s Holy Spirit to be successful in forgiving others – even though you “try” with all your might to do so on your own. When in such straits, cry out to the Lord to deliver you from the terrible bondage of unforgiveness and trust that He will give you the same heart for others that Jesus has for us.

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Wind in Your Sails

When I was wakened one night by the rushing sound of branches being tossed in the wind, I found within myself a stirring of different thoughts and emotions that paralleled the sounds of the troubled night outside. So as I began to pray. My prayers centered at first on thankfulness for the goodness of God and His faithfulness especially; and then I moved on to a plea to Him for His help in keeping me alert always for His activity so that I can be ready to obey Him promptly.

The sounds of that night prompted me into drawing a comparison between the wind that I heard and the movement of the Spirit of God in the life of His child. For instance, I had heard from friends before I went to sleep that night, that the wind could pick up in the very early morning hours, but I did not know the minute or even the hour when it might come. It made me think of sailors of the “tall ships” whose lives and livelihoods depended on such winds to move them from port to port and from harbors of rest to nets full of fish.

Such a dependence on the wind is like the dependence that we have upon God’s daily filling, promptings, and empowering. The need for a sailor’s ongoing readiness to catch the wind in the unpredictable days of yore is not dissimilar to our own need for perpetual vigilance to seize the opportunities that the Lord’s divine appointments present us.

In Matthew 25:1-13, the Lord Jesus speaks of the kingdom of heaven, comparing it to ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom. The fact of multiple virgins was not, by the way, an endorsement of multiple spouses but a picture of the many Christians in the world that the Spirit of God has called out to attend to the bride of Christ, the Church, assisting, as it were, her preparations for her grooms arrival (see Revelation 19:6-8). It so happens that in this parable, five of the virgins were in an ongoing state of waiting and readiness, whereas five were not. The five who were ready responded quickly when the groom came and entered along with Him and His bride into the perpetual fellowship of joy. The five who were not ready tried too late to get ready, but the door of opportunity was lost to them and they never experienced the bliss that could have been theirs.

While this story is in part an admonition for us to be ready for Christ’s return, it is also a warning to be ready for such encounters with Him as He has in store for us in this life also.

There are many today in whose lives the Lord is actively at work as He calls them to experience His love and power. There are many in whom He would do a miraculous work of hope and spiritual healing. But their sails (of faithful expectancy and trusting obedience) are down and the wind of His grace blows over them in vain.

When our sails of faithful expectancy and trusting obedience are down, the wind of God's grace tends to blow over us in vain.

When our sails of faithful expectancy and trusting obedience are down, the wind of God’s grace tends to blow over us in vain.

Much of the despondency of those who are Believers is due, no doubt, to stubbornness on our part to believe that God works in such ways today. But why should we expect Him not to work in those ways? At what point does the Scripture indicate that He has ceased being involved in the affairs of His creation, especially those who are called by His name?

And it could be that some of the reason that we miss out on God working in and through our lives today is that we believe that God either cannot use us or that we are too weak, small, unimportant, or messed up for Him to bless. Those who feel this way are evidently unfamiliar with the Bible’s instruction regarding our unique potential in the eyes of God.

“God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 ESV).

But the main reason we miss out, I fear, is that we, in spite of our good intentions, get tired of waiting, get bored with delays, and get distracted by the busy things of life. We are too busy to adjust to the divine appointments that He lays at our feet and we give Him hardly more than a, “Just a second, God. Let me finish this first.” Or, “Oh! Was that You, Lord? Sorry! I was too busy to notice that open door!”

Well, whatever the reason, the result is the same: we fail to unfurl our sails and we are consequently not ready when the wind of God’s power and love comes. How often have we missed miraculous empowerings of God, monumental provisions from His hand, and merciful protections from harm and discouragement as He shields us from the consequences of our own limited perspective?

But don’t give up on waiting on Him… even if you’ve messed up before. Don’t fall asleep at the helm unaware that at any moment the breath of God might begin blowing through your life, carrying you on to great things only He could keep in store for you.

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (Jesus in John 3:8 ESV).

Keep your eyes, ears, and heart open to the working of God and allow Him to make you a vessel fit for the waters He has charted for your life! With the seas of the world raging all about us, you need the help of the only One Who knows how to keep you on course for the safe harbor of His will.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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A Sheep Before Shearers

In the long and tortuous hours between His betrayal by Judas Iscariot and the moment in which He finally breathed His last breath, the quiet and calm demeanor of Jesus was baffling. His attitude was strangely quiet in the face of crowds who clamored for His crucifixion, liars who leveled fiery darts of slander against His innocent love for them, and haters who hastened to heckle and harass Him while He simply prayed for the Father’s forgiveness for them.

One wonders why and how He could keep His cool (God though He was and is) in the face of such horrific hatred and malice. But of course, centuries before He was born and ministered, before He was betrayed and mocked, before He was tortured and crucified, the Scriptures foretold Jesus’ indomitable engagement with His persecutors.

“He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7 ESV).

He did not defend Himself and we are hard pressed to comprehend why. It was not natural… or at least it was not what our own natures would have recommended. It was not normal… in the sense that the typical person could not be expected to behave similarly. And it was not expected… the people around Him had no clue as to what He was up to, and you and I would never have thought of such a plan or ever really intended to carry it out even if we had.

But then, most of the ways that Jesus handled things are so different from the ways we would have had we been in His place. Jesus was consistently reluctant to explain Himself to Pilate in John 19:9; He refrained to answer His accusers in front of either the Pharisee’s phony court in Mark 14:61 or later when they petitioned Pilate to execute Him in Matthew 27:12-14; and He flat out refused to even acknowledge Herod and humor his petty amusement in Luke 23:9.

There was something going on deep in the heart of Christ that allowed Him to stand strong though we would have wriggled and writhed to escape the same predicament. Though dread and sorrow surely hung about His shoulders like some cumbersome weight, He was buoyed up by an invisible strength of resolve that was fueled by His passion for accomplishing His Father’s will (John 4:34) and His compassion for those who sought an end to His holy audacity.

Now, it may seem to be an almost paradoxical observation, but His silence was far louder than any objection He might have raised vocally. Consider that the Son of God could have, at any moment, summoned 60 to 70 thousand angels to dispatch the mob that came to “arrest” Him (see Matthew 26:52-53). Consider further that at His word the sun could be made to stand still, the earth be forced to open up and swallow its inhabitants, or all of creation be reduced to dust.

But He held His tongue. He pronounced judgments upon none of those who accused, beat or mocked Him. He rendered no condemnation upon those who sought His life, neither those who called for His execution nor the ones who literally drove spikes into His blessed flesh.

There was a focus within Him that rendered all the distractions of hate around Him null and void. Righteousness prevailed, love was victorious, and now forgiveness of sin and life with God forever is ours through faith in His Son.

Amazed as I am by the awesome mercy and grace that kept Jesus from “reacting” and allowed Him instead to “respond” to the situations about Him, I am humbly reminded how difficult it can be to “forgive” those who have no real desire to be forgiven and maybe cannot see the need for it in their own lives. As much as we would like it to be otherwise, there are going to be people in our lives who will hurt us, some without malice or intent, but some who intend to hurt and wound us.

When tempted to last out when you're hurt, remember to first keep Jesus’ glory your primary concern. He'll take care of the rest!

When tempted to lash out when you’re hurt, remember to first keep Jesus’ glory your primary concern. He’ll take care of the rest!

If and when such occasions do arise in your life, remember first to keep Jesus’ glory your primary concern. Then let His grace heal your heart and renew your hope. After that, simply let Him live His life out through you. Remember to love as He has loved you. Forgive… even if others do not ask for it and remember that forgiveness is not the same thing as enabling sinfulness and selfishness on the part of others. It simply means to no longer hold over the heads of others their mistakes or misdeeds.

Keep in mind that Jesus was silent against His accusers because dealing with the distractions of their hateful attacks would have compromised His purpose in redemption. But He is not silent forever. Remember that a moment is coming when there will be “a white horse! The One sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems, and He has a name written that no one knows but Himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (Revelation 19:11b-15 ESV).

We need not fear that justice will not prevail. Let us instead rejoice that there is yet a season of grace for those who have not yet accepted His gift of forgiveness. His silence right now is a moment of mercy for those who do not yet believe.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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