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Thanksgiving is an enormously wonderful time to stop and intentionally offer up the praise of a heart full of gratitude to the One Who has not only created us, but surrounded us with an abundance of blessings. How tremendous also is the privilege of honoring our being blessed by God by using our abundance to bless others, as we pour the overflow of God’s grace from our lives into the lives of others around us!

On the other hand, if your holiday season is characterized by difficulty and loss, Thanksgiving may seem an especially difficult occasion to express thanks. After all, it isn’t easy in your human nature to be grateful when you are frustrated or burdened by your circumstances. Nor is it easy when the uncertainty of the future wheels over your head like a giant bat of worry casting its dark shadow of fearfulness over your path in life. Neither are we quick to be grateful when pain or loss come to roost in our homes.

But take heart! It is no trite thing to say and believe that “God is in control!” You have One in your corner Who is bigger than the universe, cheering for you even if no one else is. In a day when a lot of people felt forgotten by God, Jesus came along and announced that “My Father is working until now, and I (also) am working” (John 5:17 ESV). Human nature hasn’t changed all that much: we still wrestle with that same doubt, the same temptation to think that God has forgotten us, the same inclination towards despair when we’ve used up all the “liquor of self-sufficiency.”

In the early 1600s a young man named Squanto (also called “Tisquantum”), a member of the Patuxet tribe of Native Americans along what is now the coast of Massachusetts, was tricked and kidnapped by an English captain named Thomas Hunt. Along with 23 other Patuxet and Nauset Indians, he was cruelly treated and stowed down in the dark and dank hold of a ship and taken to Maluga, Spain, where Hunt attempted to sell them all into slavery. Some local Friars in Maluga, learning of Hunt’s plot, took Squanto into their care by which they “disappointed this unworthy fellow (Captain Hunt) of the hopes of gain he conceived to make by this new and devilish project.”

Although far from home and his loved ones, Squanto learned about hope in Christ as he was taught from the Bible and as he witnessed the loving and selfless work of those in whose care he resided. Eventually these Christians found a way to get him started towards home and secured him a place to stay in England. While staying in the home of John Slaney in London, he attended church and learned the English language. In 1619, he returned to North America accompanying an English trading expedition. But when he arrived, he found only the ruins of his village and no signs of his people anywhere. He learned from neighboring tribes that a plague had killed everyone in his tribe: he was the last of the Patuxet.

storm-at-sea

It is hard to thank God in all circumstances, but He is the only one Who can turn great tragedy into great good.

Meanwhile, an English ship carrying 102 colonists (mostly Pilgrims seeking religious freedom) sailed for two months from England, anchoring after a tumultuous journey in what’s now called Plymouth Harbor in November of 1620. It was a long, cold few months for the Pilgrims who were not prepared for the harsh New England winter. Forty-five colonists died and 8 of the 30 Sailors would never return home.

 

What was their surprise when an Indian named Samoset strode out of the forest to greet them with halting English phrases! How much greater was their astonishment when he returned a few days later with Squanto who spoke nearly perfect English! Squanto chose to remain with the Pilgrims, adopting these newcomers who now lived on the ruins of his old life (figuratively but also literally for they had built their settlement on the remains of the old Patuxet village). He taught them how to find food on this land that in the gray of winter had seemed so inhospitable and helped them make peace with the Wampanoag Confederation of Indian tribes surrounding them.

Who would have guessed that Squanto’s hardships and trials would prepare him to be the instrument of grace that would help establish and preserve a new nation? And who could have guessed that God would meet Squanto’s own loss and brokenness by bringing into his life a new people with whom he could start again? And who would have thought that this little band of people would produce the first genuinely American document in the “Mayflower Compact” which would set the stage for American democracy, that is, “government by the people for the people?”

Is God still working today? Yes indeed! The same God Who created the Cosmos from nothingness with just His Word, is the same God Who provided a helper and preserved the lives of members of the Plymouth Colony. The same God Who sent His own Son into the world to bear its sin so that those who place their faith in Him might be saved is the same God Who lives and works today in the universe with no person too small that He doesn’t see them and know them.

Yes, it is hard to thank God in all circumstances (see 1 Thessalonians 5:18) but He’s the only One Who can take great tragedy and turn it into great good. Are you shut up in a lonely and dark place in life? Are you far from the home that His love is for those who will receive it? Are you deep in a pit of sorrow and pain? Has loss and grief beaten you down until you feel nearly overcome?

If so, place your hope in God because “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” and that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us” (Romans 8:28, 37 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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It happens at some point for most parents, that harrowing moment when a child presumed to be safe and sound is not where he or she is expected to be. A mother will turn and see an empty place where a daughter should have been. A father will “count heads” and come up one son short. Worry sets in, panic is unleashed, and all the fear that one’s imagination can conjure up is set ablaze.

It even happened to Mary and Joseph, the mother and step-father of Jesus our Lord, as they were returning home from their annual visit to Jerusalem for the Passover (see Luke 2:41-49). Thinking that Jesus was with others in their group of travelers, they went a whole day before realizing that He just was not with them. They did not actually find Him until three whole days had passed, after searching for Him throughout the city and discovering that He had been at the Temple the whole time. It is clear that they were terrified that they had lost Him.

Families are like that. They are endowed with a sense of interconnectedness and responsibility for one another that leaves members feeling incomplete and even wounded when one or more of their family is missing.

Even when children grow up and become adults, the connectedness and need for one another does not cease, but just becomes more abstract and complex as they learn to still be a family even if and when miles and circumstances separate them from other family members and prevent them from physical closeness.

Of course, evil in the forms of selfish attitudes, bitterness, and unforgiveness can tear and even destroy the fragile fabric that binds us to one another. But we are nonetheless wired in such a way as to be pained by such voids that are formed when a loved one goes missing.

This is true of the Family of God as well. If you are brought into a relationship with God by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ, then you are like the lost sheep of which Jesus spoke in Luke 15:3-7. You are brought not only into a “fold”, but also a “family in which no one else can possibly take your place. You are of unique worth and purpose to the One Who has saved you and placed you in His family.

If you are not in daily fellowship with Jesus, then there is an empty place in Jesus’ heart.

If you are not in daily fellowship with Jesus, then there is an empty place in Jesus’ heart.

In other words, if you are not in daily fellowship with Jesus, then there is an empty place, so to speak, in Jesus’ heart. The absence of your fellowship wounds Him. Not only that, but there is a vacuum created in the Family of God as well.

The Father has created you and me to be dependent upon each other. Correspondingly, He has gifted us so that we complement one another as we both individually and corporately walk with Him through life. If you give up attending a Bible-teaching and Holy Spirit-led church, then you are forfeiting the blessings of support and encouragement that God gives to His children through the Church. Worse yet is the fact that the biggest and best revelations of God at work in your life are always in the context of His Body, meant to be a blessing to all His Children and not just for individual Believers. Demonstrations of God at work in the world are vital to those who are lost around us. Our obedience to Christ in our fellowship with each other gives testimony to the fact that we do indeed belong to Him. Our love for one another is the biggest and best means we have to validate the truth of what we share in the Gospel of Christ.

“As I have loved you,” said Jesus, “you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 14:34b-35 ESV).

Basically, this means that the fruitful sharing of the Gospel is intimately tied to our relating to each other as family. If we truly share the heart of Christ, then we deeply desire to proclaim the Gospel to the world around us so that the hope that we have in the Son of God can be realized in the experience of those who do not yet know Him. And if we truly share the heart of Christ and long to see the “one lost sheep come into the fold and family of God, then we desire the fellowship of His people.

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many… God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose… that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 18, 24b, 25-27 ESV).

If you have been missing from the fellowship of your church family, then make it your priority to return so that both you and they may be more deeply blessed by God and that the pain and hurt created by your absence might be healed by the hand of God.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Relationship is as vital to the human soul as is water to the human body. And just as the quality of water will have direct bearing on one’s overall physical health, so too will the quality of our relationships influence the health of our soul.

In some places in the world, good water is taken for granted (and the sound of me clearing my throat and nodding subtly in the direction of the closest drinking fountain will not be lost on you). On the other hand, in some places “drinking water” is unknown (at least to the extent that we would define it as such) and, if any water is to be had at all, then mud and disease must be tolerated by those who have no other option than to drink what we would be appalled by.

My wife and I have friends who have been called by God to serve in some of those places. In the midst of poverty and spiritual oppression, these friends dig wells for the use of communities that are suffering from drought or arid conditions that make agriculture nearly impossible and even leave inhabitants parched and thirsty. As they help those in physical want of water, they often find that the Holy Spirit provides opportunities to also share in leading some to the ultimate wellspring of “spiritual water” – water that is healthy, wholesome, pure and good (see John 7:37-38).

As far as relationships in general go, none is as important as the one for which we were actually made, that of abiding in an ongoing love relationship with God Himself through Jesus Christ. If that one is not what it ought to be (or at the very least is not on its way to becoming what it ought to be), then none of our relationships can be truly sustained or be fully satisfying. In other words, let us remember to keep Jesus Christ first in our hearts, our plans, our hopes and our dreams.

Relationships have a way of being great sources of encouragement and empowerment for us. They also have a way of leeching from us health and wholesomeness, and in some cases of completely destroying lives.

Relationships have a way of being great sources of encouragement and empowerment for us. They also have a way of leeching from us health and wholesomeness, and in some cases, of completely destroying lives.

Having said these things, however, as human beings we have been designed by our Creator to “need” one another (i.e., “It is not good for the man to be alone,” from Genesis 2:18). We need one another’s company, we crave one another’s good opinion of ourselves, we depend on one another both in social and in physical endeavors, and nothing underscores the importance of relationship so much as the fact that nearly everything in the Bible either directly or indirectly deals with it, from God’s delineation of how to relate to Him and to others in the Ten Commandments to the very work of Jesus so that we could have relationship with Him through His atoning work on the cross and fellowship one with another.

“That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3 ESV).

Relationships have a way of being great sources of encouragement and empowerment for us. They also have a way of leeching from us health and wholesomeness, and in some cases of completely destroying lives. Like the little girl with the little curl, “when they are good they are very, very good. And when they are bad, they are horrid.”

Healthy relationships take time, trust, honesty, and good old fashioned hard work. Neglecting them lets them deteriorate into acid pools of frustration that can ruin us and damage others. We have the hope that with the help of Christ, our relationships can be made into beautiful vessels of honor for God whether we’re talking about friendship, courtship, spousal, or parenthood. Even business associations can (and should) be avenues of grace as God’s love and power flow through us into the lives of others because of our connectedness.

But what do you do when, in spite of all that you do and all that you pray, relationships break down and turn into ovens of frustration? When the yeast of discontentedness and miscommunication somehow filters into the dough of relationship from the broken world around us, relationships sometimes become seemingly capable of producing nothing but pain and sadness. So much can be (and needs to be) said to address this that this small article can do little more than touch upon it.

Yet, if you have found yourself suffering from the aftermath of a broken relationship, be reminded that you are not alone. The world around you has itself been reeling from the horror of such brokenness from its infancy, from Adam and Eve’s broken fellowship with God to Cain and Abel’s broken fellowship with God and one another resulting in the first murder.

Seek to humble yourself to God and allow Him to help you in being reconciled if possible: apologize for that which you ought and make right what you can. Then commit the matter to the Lord through prayer, trusting that God is at least as interested as you (and likely to be more so) in bridging broken relationships.

Sometimes, however, others are not interested in fixing broken relationships. Sometimes, you are a victim of unearned and unwarranted attacks by those who “should” love and support you. Again, you are not alone.

“It is not an enemy who taunts me – then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me – then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend” (Psalm 55:12-13 ESV).

Let the healing water of Jesus' love soothe your weary and scarred soul as you trust His promise to love you and make you His own forever.

Let the healing water of Jesus’ love soothe your weary and scarred soul as you trust His promise to love you and make you His own forever.

Because we sometimes suffer broken fellowship no matter how hard we have tried to mend things or compensate, we must remember that we need not be ruined or bound by our hurt. While it is true, as has been said, that we have been created for relationship, the one relationship that sustains us when all others have been drowned in the raging waters of disaster is our relationship with God. Fortunately, it is the one relationship that is not founded on our efforts or our successes or even our own personal worth, but is based on the love and righteousness of Jesus Christ Himself.

Take heart. Jesus loves you, even if friends or family desert or betray you. Let the healing water of His love soothe your weary and scarred soul as you trust His promise to love you and make you His own forever.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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He Is Who He Is

In times as challenging as these, it may be some comfort to you to know that God is at least as interested in your well-being as you are. When jobs are lost, when health fails, when ones dear to us are taken, when our lives are rocked by hurt, pain, or rejection, we often will give up on God or we attempt to gang up on Him.

We give up on Him in the sense that we despair of His loving us in practical ways while we gaze at Him through the cracked lenses of our circumstances. “Pain is bad”, we instinctively begin. “God has allowed hurt in my life,” we further reason. Therefore, “He must not love me if He lets bad things happen to me,” we mistakenly conclude. And so we become “victims” in the version of our story that we have authored and recite for ourselves.

But sometimes we gang up on God instead by striving to bully Him with a crowd of demands and complaints. We launch missiles of accusation powered by pent up frustrations and suspicions as we strive with God to do things our way. We allow the disappointments that throng within our hearts to riot before His throne, forgetting that He does indeed sit upon a throne and not a folding chair in a complaint department.

Perhaps this is mostly because we are habitually underestimating Him. Oh, I don’t mean underestimating what He can do. While it is certain that we cannot fathom all or even the tiniest portion of what an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God can do, our primary deficiency is that we are consistently underestimating Who He is.

“Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is His name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”’… This is My name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations” (Exodus 3:13-14, 15b ESV).

He continually reminds me that He is not and never will be just what I want Him to be… unless I just want what He truly is. God does not bow to my limited understanding of what He should act, say, or do because He is in His being more than I can conceive in my own thinking or imagination and He is far more in His being than I can perceive on any level, intellectually, emotionally or spiritually. Besides, perspective does not make reality; it simply shapes my capacity to engage it. If I truly hunger for God, I want no counterfeit that my own selfishness would construct for me; I want Him as He really is.

he-is-who-he-is

A relationship with God is not so much a “connection” than it is a journey… of wonder and delight.

The Lord tells us in Exodus 3 that His “name is, ‘I AM WHO I AM,”. What does this mean? Just that God is Who He is. He is Who He is regardless of one’s refusal to acknowledge Him as such. He is Who He is in spite of countless (and groundless) inane theories as to His nature and attributes. He is Who He is no matter how many alternatives to Him the world supplies us. He is Who He is whether or not one tries to explain Him away. He is Who He is even though one believes that we have Him figured out. You see, no one can “figure God out” because He is infinitely greater in being than can be calculated, envisioned, or believed.

 

Personally, I am grateful for this realization. This means that I have an anchor that can withstand the most violent waves the world can throw my way. I have a light which guides my feet no matter how tall the shadows of life become. I am given a hope that no despair can conquer and no fear can overcome. He is Who He is though discouragement may hang upon my shoulders like a deadly weight and doubts may flood my mind. My world may crumble down around me, but He is the “Rock in Whom I take refuge” (Psalm 18:2).

Therefore, turn to the One Who does not lie or change His mind (from 1 Samuel 15:29). Come to Him on His terms and let Him show Himself to you as more than the “Big Guy upstairs”, more than a kindly Old Man to Whom we send our wish lists, and more than a Judge Who sits either in complacent coldness or in fiery fury. He is so much more than words can describe Him that knowing God is not about just an occasional “connection” but is instead a journey of wonder and delight. Come to Him through faith in His Son, Jesus, and see the wealth of joy and peace that He has set aside for you as you learn to delight in His presence. Come to this God Who has chosen to reveal Himself through the written Word of His Bible as He shows you what “amazing grace” truly is in the Person of His Son, Jesus, the Lamb of God.

Turn to Him and trust Him. He is faithful to receive us if we come wholeheartedly to Him and do so with a singleness of mind and purpose. “Call upon me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you. You will seek Me and find Me. When you seek Me with all your heart I will be found by you, declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 29:12-14a ESV).

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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