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Archive for November, 2017

I had thought that I would be writing this week on the matter of Thanksgiving or perhaps an admonishment to beware, this Black Friday weekend, the frenzied lures of greed and covetousness that turn relatively sane and civilized people into barbaric hordes terrorizing retail establishments (all to the liking of those same retail establishments).

However, the explosion in the news of stories of men in power who have reportedly sexually harassed and/or assaulted women, using their position and affluence to force compliance and then to buy silence, underscores the urgent need for dialog among Americans in regard to what it means to be a man and whether or not a man can be a man without also being a sexual predator.

Ultimately, sexual harassment and sexual assaults emanate primarily from what the Bible refers to as sin, a condition that is essentially intertwined with what it means to be human. From this tragic, but intrinsically human quality, flow thoughts, attitudes, actions, habits and lifestyles that erode what God intended for what was in the beginning the crown of God’s creation, humanity which alone among living things bears the image of its creator (Genesis 1:26).

Sexual sin, in all its forms, but certainly including those occasions when a man views and subsequently treats women as mere tools to expedite his own pleasure, is a deviation from God’s purpose and plan. In His plan, men treat women with dignity and honor. What some call “old fashioned”, “gentlemanly” behaviors did not come from out of nowhere nor are they merely quaint notions of how “cute couples” get along, but are born out of a biblical worldview. Holding doors open, standing in a lady’s presence and so forth were specific behaviors that expressed a man’s regard for God’s gift of woman.

So the question arises, is it “normal” for a man to sexually harass women? Is it “okay” and/or “natural” and therefore something we should all just overlook and learn to live with? I most certainly maintain that it is not. In fact, it is an insult to God for men to behave so towards women and an insult to God for us to accept it as a “necessary evil” in regard to men.

Happily, God grants provision for men to rise to a holier (and healthier) attitude towards women. First, there is the gift of His Word, the Bible, the lens of which He bids us view ourselves, our condition, and our need for His help in changing our hearts so that we are not merely at the mercy of any and every compulsion that besets us.

“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!… How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your Word” (Psalm 119:1, 9 ESV).

Secondly, there is the promise of God’s indwelling Spirit. It is, in fact, the Lord’s design for us to live life in cooperation (and in trusting obedience) to His Spirit which then empowers us to avoid the snares and promptings of flesh when our flesh is attempting to commandeer our lives.

“But I say, walk in the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:16-17 ESV).

Thirdly, we have the potential for cultivating relationships with others that would encourage a nobler and higher regard for women. There are those men in our lives who have not settled for the lie that men can be assumed to be perverts or predators and therefore strive to remain sexually pure, be maritally faithful, and respectful of women.

These men are placed in such a proximity to your life that they challenge and encourage you to live like men should, courageously and faithfully complementing the work that God does through women who also follow God’s leading for their lives.

Like Paul the Apostle, their lives say, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Philippians 3:17 ESV).

They can see the snares of adultery and sexual promiscuity. They have recognized the dangers of pornography and the travesty that it is and how it relegates women to the role of objects of pleasure and how it enslaves men to the pursuit of physical pleasure. Many men have failed at some point but have repented (and not just because they were “caught”) and now seek, with God’s help, to live out the higher calling of viewing others, including women, the way God views them, precious and empowered co-laborers in His kingdom. These men have come to the place where they have taken their sin (not just sexual sin) and placed it under the cross of Jesus Christ and found the forgiveness of God. Seek out such men. Spend time with them. Imitate them but learn, through God’s Word, to imitate Jesus, Who is the ultimate Man.

“… Let us… lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising its shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:12b-2 ESV).

If you have failed in the past, take it to the Lord and seek His forgiveness. Seek, where possible, to make right what wrong you have done. And then forsake that hellish mentality that not only turns women into “things” in your heart, but also chains you to a small-mindedness and small-heartedness that makes us look more like Satan than it does our Savior. And finally, seek to walk with God so that you find power to live above lust and pride and live out the love and kindness of Christ.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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In times of trouble and stress, the need for rest becomes all-the-more apparent. How rare it is for us today to make a space in the busyness of life that is reserved for breathing in the presence of God and breathing out His wisdom, love and will. Spiritual exhaustion seeps into every other aspect of life, including our emotions, our relationships, our self-image, our reliance upon God and the things we ultimately do and say (or don’t do and say, even when we should).

All of life seems to resist such rest. Tragedy surrounds us on all sides as if we were being besieged by forces of destruction, whether disease, horrible violence in churches and schools, natural disasters, opiate addiction and overdose deaths, orphans and broken families and international dilemmas that blare constantly through our airwaves and digital spaces.

The world wonders, “Rest? How can you speak of rest?” And it hurries on its way through the trackless jungles of worry and doubt, trying to fix with the bandages and duct tape of wishful thinking and government policy what can only be cured by the power of God in the changing of hearts.

So before you and I get carried away by the monstrous vultures of fear and hate, remember that there is healing and hope even in a time of tears. Remember that there is life and light beyond the veil of shadow of doubt that afflicts us in the swirling mists of hateful and fearful messages that rampage about us today. Take heart that even death cannot conquer the child of God for even when our bodies are broken or are overcome with weakness at last, our hope is not in this life alone, but in the life to come.

“On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God” (Psalm 62:7 ESV).

There is no evil act that trumps the sovereign grace of God at work in our world. Evil will destroy and disturb, it will slander and obscure, but it cannot quench the hope that God’s children find in the life and ministry of our risen Savior.

“Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:7 ESV).

The alternatives to trusting in Him are, of course, to trust someone else who promises “the goods” (but cannot deliver anything beyond this life), to trust ourselves (until we come tragically to the end of our wisdom and strength and find that we cannot do or be all that we must do or be), or to trust no one at all and wither into bitterness and despair as we are swallowed alive by the very evil that we hate.

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13 ESV).

Happily, it is not necessary for us to come to such a tragic conclusion. It is our blessing, as we turn from sin and turn to Jesus Christ, to enter into a rest that has been reserved for us.

“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 11:28-29 ESV).

Such rest is a place of sweet release as we surrender our compulsion to “control” our lives and the lives of others (as if we really could), and learn how to, day-by-day, hear His voice from His word and how to, moment-by-moment, step with Him through the crazy labyrinth of life finding that He is indeed the only Guide truly worth trusting and the only Path that leads to life. Why would we want to live anywhere but in the place of growing in Him, knowing Him, and experiencing His love and power at work in our lives? And why on earth would we ever wander from it?

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God…. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall…” (Hebrews 4:9, 11a ESV).

If you have found yourself led astray by the devious distractions of hectic schedules, demanding expectations, or numerous disappointments, learn the simple, yet sweet, practice of daily seeking God through prayer, listening to God by reading His Word, drinking from the well of worship from among His people, and fellowshipping with Him in the sacrament of service. These are not given to us that we just have more things to do (and more things to feel guilty about if we don’t do them), but that we might be refreshed and renewed and strengthened to not only survive, but conquer.

“For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15a ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Many thoughts and prayers have been centered around the shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. Much dialogue, also, has (as usual) flurried around the matter of gun control and the answers to the questions of why it happened and how now to respond to it. There is so much heartache and brokenness emanating from this tragedy, so much that is horrific about taking the lives of the 26 people killed in what can only be described as a truly evil and cowardly act.

The day after it happened (Monday), I took a brief moment to pause and reflect on our own community and to consider its need for the hope in Jesus Christ that drew together believers there in Sutherland Springs, many of them for the last time.

As I looked out over Gallipolis and the Ohio River from Fortification Hill, my mind was filled with the thoughts of the people in our community, the men and women, boys and girls, their families, their homes, our schools and our churches and I prayed.

I prayed that God would open the hearts and minds of each of us to His presence and to His love. I prayed that He would open our lives to His power and to His hope. I prayed that He open our eyes to recognize that the only true hope that there is the world is found in His “only begotten Son” (John 3:16).

The terrible events of Sutherland Springs were insidious and contemptible in every way. Yet there is for Christians so much that resounds with an unspeakable glory and an unimaginable hope. The child of God has heard and accepted the truth that Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of all who repent and believe in Him (John 1:29) and that knowledge grants him a sure place to plant his feet and stand.

Truly, there is an unbearable pain being felt by the people of Sutherland Springs, a pain that we, in some measure, must each face. But it is not a pain that we must carry upon our shoulders; it is a pain that we find, if we will trust Him through the “valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4), that allows Him to lead us onward and upward to an eternal home in His presence.

“For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…. We ourselves… groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:18, 23b-24a ESV).

Satan’s enticements and the resulting enslavement of minds, lives, hearts and souls often erupt in obviously wicked and horribly violent ways at times and our initial reaction often is to shy away from God and question His goodness or His power. But when we remember that this life and its trials and pains are not about this life, but about preparing us for the life to come, even death loses its terror as its shadow shrinks in the light of hope in Jesus’ love and power.

Even God has suffered the pain of loss, yet He endured it so that you and I could have a hope that conquers sin and death. His Word delivers to us, by His Holy Spirit, a conviction that He Who faced down death yet rose from the grave, will be with us even today to strengthen us in our walk and fill us with joy, granting to us strength to carry on and to hold out that truth for others to hear and receive as well.

What happened in Sutherland Springs can happen here in Gallipolis, Ohio. But Satan cannot conquer the heart that is already conquered by the glory of Christ. He cannot steal what is eternally grasped in the mighty grip of God Himself.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He Who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-32,35-39 ESV).

And that, dear one, is reason for great joy.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

 

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One day, many years ago, my daughter and I were singing “Old McDonald Had a Farm”, going through an entire ensemble of barnyard critters. We went in order from mouse to sheep, then cat, horse, cow, dog, goat, donkey, chicken, duck, and goose. When we would come to the point where we sang, “… And on that farm he had a…” she would smile impishly and suggest “moose”. Not sure what a moose sounds like, I kept trying to redirect the song towards “regular” farm animals, only to have her suggest “moose” once again on the next round. I love that memory and loved her joy in taking such creative liberties with the song!

There was a mooseSo what does a moose sound like anyway? I seemed to vaguely remember a documentary or something in which I may have heard a moose making some sort of trumpeting noise, but I was not sure how one would fit that into a game of “Old McDonald”.

But something else occurs to me also. Did you ever notice how a “regular” sing-along of “Old McDonald Had a Farm” gives each animal its own unique voice? “Mooses” notwithstanding, each member of McDonald’s farm family has its own niche that no other animal can assume. Cows don’t “cheep” for instance. Nor does a horse go “quack”. If they did, Old McDonald would have gone broke with psychiatric bills for his very confused critters.

Singing that song with my daughter all those years ago reminded me of a story in the Bible in which something else apparently has a voice of its own.

“As He (Jesus) was drawing near – already on the way down the Mount of Olives – the whole multitude of His disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out’” (Luke 19:37-40 ESV).

Think of it! If the crowd had contained its praise, the stones themselves would have erupted in glorious tribute to the King of Kings with sounds that no human mouth could have uttered!

But the point was not merely that the stones would have broken forth into singing; although, as I become increasingly awed by the vast wonder of God’s boundless ability and creativity, I take His comment quite literally. I realize, as I read this passage, that of the men and women, boys and girls who made up the crowd shouting praises to Jesus, each one had his or her place that only he or she could fill. The voice of each one was not lost in the tumult around him or her, but was joined together with the voices of all those around them to produce a harmony that blessed the ears of the One to Whom they shouted. Each person present was different to all the others there. Each one contributed that day to the thunder of welcome that was lifted up to the Lord. And if any one of them should have held his or her tongue, no other person could have taken his or her place. He or she may as well have set up a rock along the road as it would have been as qualified a substitute as any other person.

In the same way, there is no voice created and included in all of God’s vast world that can utter the exact melody that yours can. You have been given your own spiritual voice, your own spiritual place and niche to serve and celebrate the God of Wonders Who placed you in His world.

Your voice has been given to you to render back to God a resonance of praise and thanksgiving. Don’t let a rock have to pick up your slack because you are withholding your worship. Your voice has been entrusted to you to serve Him by telling of His awesome love, revealed in His Son, Jesus. Don’t let the story be told only by lifeless objects that have no eyes to see with, ears to hear with, nor even hearts to feel with. Your voice has been bequeathed to you so that you may serve God in the use of your words in the privilege and duty of prayer so that His kingdom might advance throughout the world as He listens and honors your intercession for those who either do not know Jesus yet as Lord or for those who belong to Him yet need the strengthening of encouragement that only His Spirit can grant them.

How would the “Old McDonald’s Farm” song go if God were singing it and you were its subject? Would it be “Here a praise! There a praise! Everywhere a praise! Praise!”? I hope so. After all, you and I have so much to praise Him for that it seems a shame to let our opportunities slip by and hope that some stones somewhere will fill in for us!

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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