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Archive for April, 2017

The End of the Tunnel

One day several years ago, my family and I spent an afternoon at a park that had, along with its wooded walking trails and sandy softball fields, a colorful playground set made of heavy plastic complete with a deck from which various slides sloped down. One of the slides was attached to a tall platform, spiraling down in a long tunnel until it opened again above a pile of mulch.

Our children who were very young at the time, very much enjoyed climbing to the top of the “tower” only to disappear through the tunnel. My daughter especially loved sitting at the top of the slide, unable to see below, while I would call to her through the tunnel. Although she could not see me, she loved to hear my voice speaking to her from some unseen location below.

I thought of that afternoon this one day when chatting with a dear pastor friend, Lyle. He and I had gone on a mission trip together one fall to Ghana, a country in West Africa. We spent nearly two weeks there, encouraging and training pastors who do not have access to opportunities for formal education. While on that trip, we became burdened for these pastors, and were given a vision for something more than the occasional pastor training conference. We saw a need for a place where pastors could come and spend an extended period of time in intensive training in an environment that would supply pastoral mentoring, preparing them more adequately for the rigors of spiritually shepherding a congregation.

On our flight back to the U.S., we discussed the vision, scratched out ideas for a curriculum and even drew rough plans on napkins for a building that would facilitate it. Even as we considered it, somehow we knew that the Lord would cause it to come to pass. But it took nearly four years for sufficient funds to be raised so that construction could begin and about three years since then for sufficient monies to be raised to nearly complete it.

As the project neared completion, having taking several years longer than anticipated, we were discussing God’s faithfulness and how close the project was to being done, when Lyle remarked, “It’s come to the point now that I feel like we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”

When I considered that conversation, I was reminded that not only is the life of faith itself a journey through unknown lands, but is made up of various opportunities to choose to obey the leading of the Lord in our lives, and thereby experience His love and power in intimate and profound ways.

That particular mission trip itself was one such experience for me. It was an extremely inconvenient time to take a trip like that for many reasons and doing so was difficult on a lot of levels for my family. But the participation of Lyle and myself in that trip was a key aspect in the development of a pastors’ training center that has made a huge difference for the Kingdom of God. Since then, the center has nurtured and assisted churches not only in the rural villages north of the cities of Accra and Kamasi, but in all the countries surrounding Ghana as well. Not only that, it has been a strategic center for reaching out in Jesus’ love to the people of West Africa through even the Hunger Challenge food that people in our community sent last year!

And so goes the Christian life as well. Did you know that much of what awaits you in your own pilgrimage with God will be a little bit like my experience? He is inviting you to trust Him and calls you to “step out in faith” in a relationship with Him that will lead you through many narrow valleys that feel like tunnels that have no end. Ultimately, He calls you to trust Him with your eternal destiny.

Incidentally, that particular conversation with Lyle was prompted by the passing of a mutual Christian friend named Pete. Pete, with whom Lyle had been especially close, was also a man of generous spirit, great vision, and humble devotion to His God. That very week he stepped through the shadow of death into an eternal inheritance kept for Him by His Savior and Lord.

Death, which Jesus has conquered, is the ultimate “tunnel” through which we each must pass. But whether one is speaking of that final step into eternity or of a test of obedience that our God has placed before us here and now, His voice calls to us more certainly than did mine to my daughter as I encouraged her to slide down to me.

But I guess that that’s what makes faith the beautiful thing that it is. God invites us to walk with Him and experience His faithfulness. If we accept His invitation and place our hand in His, He leads us safely through dark valleys of sorrow, over tall peaks of impossibility, and right on through bogs of discouragement until we reach the other side and all His promises are fully vindicated. It’s true that much of the time we just can’t see the “light at the end of the tunnel” but the voice of our heavenly Father calls to us through His Word, the Bible. Our God is faithful and we will see it if we just don’t give up.

“Love never ends…. Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:8a, 12 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Sowing a Lot of Seed

One  of the family projects that our family maintained in years past is the garden. Naturally our children would join in different aspects in gardening from helping to prepare the soil, weeding, and watering. While they would once in awhile mildly object to the tedious nature of gardening, they enjoyed those moments when they first saw the green of budding sprouts emerging from the soil. And we would look forward to the experience of seeing those sprouts come to full maturity, finally reaching the point when their fruits are ripe for picking.

On one occasion, we were planting corn, with our expectations of our children’s success in keeping with the age and ability of each of them. Under their mother’s supervision, they soon had three rows of evenly dispersed corn seeds along each furrow.

But as the fourth row was being planted, with my wife taking more direct involvement in it, our enthusiastic daughter (very young at the time) took the stick for making places for the seeds, and very passionately and liberally dotted the furrow with extra holes, dropping extra kernels in most of them (more or less all behind her mother’s back who had temporarily become preoccupied with other aspects of the garden). When I came along and looked at how things were going, my wife laughed and said, “I have no idea where the seeds have actually been planted in her row.” Together we counted about four or five times as many seed holes as the other furrows possessed.

Our daughter, wearing soil on her clothes and in her hair as proudly as if it were a badge of honor, stood by the garden beaming proudly as if she had just sown the whole thing herself. Her mother and I looked helplessly at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and then congratulated her on her hard work. In time, we had quite a row of corn, not just of stalks, but of clumps of stalks. The harvest from that row was quite an interesting experience!

Our garden adventures (or misadventures as the case sometimes was) sometimes reminded me of things that Jesus taught. The Lord often compared the workings of the Kingdom of God to the workings of a garden. In John 4:34-38 Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him Who sent Me and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

As I watched our little girl “running amuck” with the seed, I saw someone who was sowing literal seed as we ought to sow the seed of the Word of God. Naturally, the preparing of the “soil” of hearts is chiefly done through the cultivation we invest in relationships that God affords us in our families, co-workers, neighbors, and every other “life-on-life” engagement we have with others. Love, courage, and integrity are powerful farming tools that break up even the hardest of hearts. And as we “till the soil”, we sow the words of God as we go, pointing out His holy attributes, His will for living life, and His promises for those who will trust Him with their hearts as they repent of sin and allow Him to be Lord of their lives.

In time, our daughter did indeed have a measure of success in her labors in the garden as those stalks sprang up and produced fruit. In a much more profound and important way, when we liberally and generously sow the seed of God’s Word, we may not know which seeds will ultimately bring a harvest, but we do know that some of those sprouts will come to full maturity, finally reaching the point when their fruits are also ripe for picking.

When they do, those who have sown and those who have reaped will together rejoice just as God Himself rejoices in the harvest. It’s a hard, hard thing though… the waiting. I was very impatient at times with the apparently slow rate at which things would grow in our little garden. How much more so were our children. But their mother patiently reminded them that things worth having are things worth waiting and working for. So we continued to wait and work among our little plants, weeding and watering, pruning and tending as needed.

The golden fruit of faith is far harder to wait on and work for than are the fruits of the garden. But it is worth so much more than the reddest and juiciest of tomatoes, the largest and coolest of cucumbers, and biggest and sweetest of apples!

In the fields that surround your life, are you tending the soil of others’ lives through the relationships with which God has entrusted you? Do you grip the “garden tools” of love, integrity, and courage as you live life, trusting God to use you to spread the seed of His Word in the hearts of others around you? Consider how barren things would be if there were no seed sown. Think of the famine in the land for a lack of knowledge of God’s love if you and I were faithless in our Lord’s fields?

If things seem dark and hopeless to you and the times are troubling, take heart in knowing that God is yet Lord and is still at work. He continues to use circumstances to strip people of their confidence in things that cannot eternally save them and create an opportunity for the seed of His Word to be sown into their lives and perhaps result in a harvest of eternal life! His Spirit continues to soften hard hearts and heal wounded souls allowing His grace to come and make new and whole what was once broken and ruined.

Join other Believers in the world today who recognize that they have been sent into this day and age to be messengers of God’s hope! Like Jesus Himself, find your nourishment for daily living in the doing of His will for your life! Are you about your “heavenly Father’s business?” Is His agenda, YOUR agenda? If not, take a good long look at your priorities and prayerfully allow God to reshuffle them for you so that you do not squander your brief stay on earth on things that will not and cannot follow you into eternity.

Make your goal in life to “finish His work” (John 4:34) and just wait and see what God can and will do through you!

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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My schedule like that of many, many people today is proving to be so crushingly crowded that I have a tendency to feel overwhelmed. It isn’t simply the number of things to do but also the diversity of things that need to be done. So little connects these things that making sufficient prioritization of those competing “to do’s” is more like juggling a dozen flying China dishes than a nice, neat process that always works as it should.

ArtOfJugglingMy oldest son learned to do a little bit of real juggling several years ago – a feat that I was never able to manage. The skill necessary to do so was simply beyond my ability.

Juggling multiple responsibilities and demands isn’t an easy feat either. In fact, in our mad effort to try to keep a dozen plates in the air, we often lose sight of the fact that some plates we are tossing up are plates that we definitely don’t want to drop.

Just think about it a moment! Would you want to risk your great-great-great-grandmother’s ultra-rare banquet dish that came over from the “Old World” and has been in the family for generations? If you could juggle plates, would you allow that family heirloom to be treated as if it were as common as the inexpensive dishes you could easily replace in a quick trip back to Wally-World?

I doubt it. But that is the very thing we do with the treasures of God. Chief among such treasures is the intimacy with God that Jesus’ atonement has purchased for us through the cross of Calvary.

In a lifestyle of juggling too many activities and responsibilities the one plate we (at best) try to juggle as if it were one among many, or (at worst) the one we drop altogether, is the one that is the most precious of all: that of attending to our relationship with God through private time with Him in the reading of His Word (the Bible) and in prayer. The second plate that we often endanger or neglect is maintaining time with and for our family and the third is that of corporate worship and service with other Christians.

These are three plates that we should neither keep in the air with the others nor drop them from the focus of our efforts and energies. We should treat them as non-negotiables, holding them near and dear to our hearts as well as at the top of our schedules.

But, again, the chief “plate” that we should guard and cherish is that personal relationship that Jesus died to grant us. Frankly, all other plates are expendable in comparison. I am not saying that they are not important but that if keeping these other plates in the air means letting go of one that is in truth of more value, then we must learn to say no to even the “good” things that steal away our devotion to God.

Jesus replied: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37 ESV).

Love for someone, especially God, is not measured by good intentions but by the choices that we make. The time that we spend is our own to choose how to spend. If we spend no time with God then we are basically saying that we do not love God more than the other things that have crowded Him out of our lives. If you’re like me, that realization is definitely an uncomfortable one. Schedules that are too busy to make time for God are the non-verbal messages that we send to Him that we just do not love Him all that much.

We must therefore start right now to make time with Him a top priority. Get up fifteen minutes earlier so you can read some in His Word! You’ll be amazed at how you’ll suddenly begin to hear Him speak to you if you’ll simply give Him the time of day! Make serving Him and worshiping Him in the company of other Believers your Sunday non-negotiable (no matter how tempting it is to sleep in and catch up on the rest you missed earlier in the week). Give God a “first fruit” offering of your time and trust Him to bless you (not necessarily with monetary gain, but with spiritual riches of grace and strength, joy and peace).

Are you worried that doing so might mean you drop some of the other plates you’ve been trying to keep in the air? If you drop one or two, so what? At least the non-negotiable priority of your relationship with the Lord will still be there to help you put in perspective those things you spent so much time worrying about needlessly. This is why I think Jesus tells us not to worry.

“I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 ESV).

The modern-day equivalents of this passage may indeed still be worrying over food or clothing, but would also likely include our children’s well-being (even if we don’t get them into every sport this year), our yards and houses (even if we can’t manage to get that new paint job, or our not receiving that promotion at work (which would mean going from a fifty hour work week to a sixty-five hour one even if we got it).

Remember that Jesus teaches us to keep things simple and keep our lives focused upon Him. A little juggling is all right as long as we don’t lose track of what matters most. And what matters most is our relationship with God and the legacy of spiritual fruitfulness that He desires to cultivate within us, for ourselves, our children, and our neighbors. Make God the “main thing” in your life and then trust Him with the details.

“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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The Son is shining in the Kingdom of Ever After. A rainbow, the sign of divine promise, perpetually encircles His throne as His face radiates a holy light like an arc of lightning that never fades. On the crystalline plain about Him stand countless legions of knights in shining armor, men and women devoted to their King who stand with glittering swords raised high and polished shields mirroring the glorious radiance poured down upon them. Here sits the Eternal Victor, having established His plans and purposes before time even began, accomplishing a salvation so mighty that time cannot contain it (“… The Lamb Who was slain from before the creation of the world….” From Revelations 13:8).

From Him come the weapons and armor that are borne by His children as well as the strength to wield them in the conflict that even now wages about us. For dragons and giants walk the land indeed, devouring and enslaving the descendants of Adam with flaming whips, venomous darts, and poison apples. Setting up their petty domains in defiance of the great and glorious King, they lash out in rebellion against Him, spreading the insurgency of the great Serpent himself. To the fray, the great King has called His children, hidden heroes with courage that comes from the wellspring of fellowship with God.

Ever AfterCan all of this be merely a fairy tale? No. It’s the real thing. The battle wages around us even now. But who has eyes to see it? And who has ears to hear it? Here we are, encased in mortal flesh, wearing our everyday clothes, doing our everyday things. Yet, if one has been born again, he dwells at once in both worlds, a foot in the world of everyday happenings and one in the Kingdom of Ever After!

Let us shake off then the blindness that shields from our eyes the epic tale into which is written the story of our lives! Let us turn our ears to the clarion call of our great Captain as He rallies us to His banner of His love!

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV).

Our king invites us to join in the holy quest of seeking out slaves who are enthralled by the deceits of the enemy, imprisoned by snares of pride and selfishness. He sends us out to set free the forlorn captives of gruesome giants of despair, awful ogres of anger and bitterness, and devious dragons of fear. Just think! In the adventure before us are treasures of love, joy, and peace just waiting to be unearthed by faithful service to our God! And while we may all too easily dismiss such ideas as being fantastical notions of an overactive imagination, take heed that this is a reality that is more fantastic than fantasy!

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6: 12 ESV).

So clean the rust from your sword! Put on your armor! Polish your shield! One cannot do battle without weapons and one who attempts combat without armor is certainly doomed to be wounded.

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil…. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” (Ephesians 6:11, 14-17 ESV).

Let us take up the cause for which our Savior, the greatest of all heroes, gave His life! Let us embrace the power bequeathed to us that also raised Him from the dead! Let us bear the mantle of His Holy Spirit, which both marks us as God’s own (see Ephesians 1:13) and equips us for the quest!

Jesus read to everyone in the synagogue, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor….” (Luke 4:18-19 ESV).

And let us remember that for those who have been made God’s own children through faith in Jesus Christ, there is an eternal destiny of joy, peace, and healing. That is truly the land wherein we will live happily ever after!

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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