Feeds:
Posts

Archive for the ‘Church Life’ Category

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

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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

 

Read Full Post »

With events in the world flipping by our eyes like pages of a book being turned by the wind, it is perfectly natural to ponder our generation’s place in the cosmic chronology of things. Not only that, but it seems also that questions are constantly arising as to the timing of Jesus’ return as King and Judge as well as other mysteries of what we like to call “the end time.”

Although my opinion is that we are far closer to such things than we generally like to think, I am reminded of an occasion in which one of those questions arose in the Bible.

“…When they had come together, they asked Him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6 ESV).

Consider it. Things had been skipping along pretty quickly, from the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry to His crucifixion and then His resurrection. It seems perfectly natural for Jesus’ disciples to wonder about “tying up all the loose ends” (as far as they were concerned).

But I note Jesus’ response to His disciples. It certainly wasn’t the kind of answer they were looking for. It wasn’t a “yes” or “no” but neither was it a rebuke for their having brought up the subject. He knew only too well the reasons for their asking it. Nevertheless, He established a mindset for them that would free them to hear next… something that they really did need to know.

“He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8 ESV).

So the answer was in essence, “Maybe. Maybe not.” But whether He was imminently overhauling the rule of the world or delaying it for as long as they could reckon, all they needed to know was that He is in charge, that such appointed times were in God’s keeping, and that they need not worry about it. Instead, they could simply focus on the task at hand, which was to carry their eyewitness accounts of what Jesus had done and Who Jesus is to every corner of the world that their lives would carry them.

This passage in Acts 1:8 is a little different than the one in Matthew 28:19-20 which says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This passage is what we call “the Great Commission”. It is a charge to His children to deliberately and intentionally lead people to place their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and to obey His teaching as Lord and Master. The passage is Acts 1:8 is not a charge, but an observation made by One Who sees what is to come with perfect clarity. It is a “prediction”, or rather, a “prophecy” regarding those disciples who physically heard those words from the Savior’s mouth as well as those who come in later generations who “hear” those words through the reading of His word.

In other words, you and I are a part of a generation raised up for such a time as this that we may be witnesses both of what Jesus has done in our lives and also of Who He is as both Lord and Savior, to every corner of the world that our lives will carry us.

This is an age in which there has been much said of “global thinking” and generally we tend to think that it is a recent concept. But God’s people, when awake and alert to His Spirit’s leading, have always been “global” in their thinking. Are you being a “witness” of Jesus’ love in your own “Jerusalem and Judea?” In other words, is your life a testimony to God’s presence, love, and lordship everywhere you are most at home? In your family? In your friendships? In your church?

And are you being a “witness” in your “Samaria?” At work? At school? In your civic organizations? All those places you frequently conduct the ongoing business of life?

If you feel that the answer is “yes” to the above, what about taking it further? Would you like to see just where God might lead you and what He might do through you if you’ll give Him the chance to do it? There is a whole world out there still in desperate need of the hope that Jesus Christ offers. If He has really made a difference in yours, whose life could He make a difference in through yours? If He really is your Savior and Lord, to whom could you be a witness that their destiny also might be changed from one of death to that of life?

Don’t be afraid that you’re being too forward by believing that God could use you to do such a thing. You’re already set forward. Remember that He says, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 ESV).

And don’t be afraid of not knowing enough or of being ineffectual. God has not called you to run in either your own strength or your own wisdom. Instead, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses… to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

If you’re a Christian, then look for opportunities to grow and serve in a local Christian church. Be hungry for more of God in your life. Be thirsty for His Word. Be eager for His Spirit to open doors for you to share and to make a difference in every relationship you have.

If you are not a Christian, then consider the price of not coming to Christ. Consider the heartbreaking loss of losing forever the opportunity to know the joy of knowing God should your life end without having made peace with Him. But also consider the diminished joy of a life that continually puts on hold God’s invitation to salvation even if you think that “one day” you’ll get right with God. Don’t let the future that could be yours become a collection of sad “might-have-beens” by putting off receiving His gift of salvation now. Simply confess your need for Him and that He died because of your sin. Accept in faith that God will grant you His gift of forgiveness and grace. And then, if you have really done that, begin to let Him live His life through you in the company of other, forgiven Believers. And then just watch where God will take you and see how God will bless you!

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

My children, over the years, have enjoyed my wife’s cooking immensely, almost as much as I do in fact. Comparatively, when their mother has on occasion decided to trust me with her kitchen, they could only tolerate mine. I enjoy occasionally trying my hand at various meals, but my experiments have usually involved lots of meat and potatoes (in other words, a bit more grease than is probably ideal). My kids could appreciate only so much of said grease, and even though they might politely sample the fare, they could sometimes do little more than pick at it. Alas, cooking has never been my forte! So when I would cook, you could definitely count on lots of leftovers!

I don’t really mind that they would just “pick” at what I set before them. I also would much rather eat my wife’s cooking than my own. But I think that it’s a real shame that God’s children seem to have a tendency to do the same thing with the banquet of blessings that has been prepared for them. When we do little more than pick at our spiritual food, we miss out on the exquisite feast of spiritual treasures that He has for us. By being just “church attenders”, for instance, we’re just “playing with our food”. As a result, we get little more than a few measly sips of the “spiritual basics” and miss out on the nutrients that build us into healthy spiritual beings. In fact, the Church, in our culture is as a whole rather malnourished and ill-prepared for the vigorous exercises of faith required of it in today’s world.

Too often we come to our church meetings seeking to only nibble at the “desserts” of forgiveness and other positive language we do indeed find in the Bible, but we inadvertently cheapen them because we use them selfishly. As a result, we habitually fail to move on to the meaty but satisfying dishes of genuine discipleship. Sacrifice, perseverance, holiness, and mercy for others are all well and good, we deem, but we’d much rather have another helping of uplifting music and encouraging devotional thoughts.

Now don’t get me wrong! We need the “treats” as well as the “meat and potatoes”. My children, growing up, have known that I believe strongly that desserts make the meal fun and they are convinced that my passion for cookies and cake is off the chart. But I have always wanted something more filling than just desserts in my meals and I certainly want something more filling than a mere dabbling in Christianity can afford me.

By not giving God’s “meals” a chance, we miss out on deeper experiences with God, greater victories in our struggles, and wider opportunities for influencing others towards the kingdom of light!

Of course, the irony is that God is a great cook (if you will pardon the expression)! By not giving His meals a chance, we miss out on deeper experiences with God, greater victories in our struggles, and wider opportunities for influencing others towards the kingdom of light! It’s sad but our propensity to want to try and live only on either the basics of the faith or the “fluff” is that our spiritual lives become powerless and lethargic.

But if we truly do hunger for more, then let us allow Jesus to become our passion! Let us permit His Word to fill up our lives with His love for the Father! Let us drink deeply from the cup of grace and then share from its bottomless depths with those around us who are parched for hope and famished for truth as we prayerfully seek practical ways to touch their lives! Let us flex muscles of courage and wisdom as feeding on His Word “beefs us up”! And let the humility of Jesus grant us a daily grace that whets the appetite of those around us for the life-changing hope that we have in Jesus Christ.

The Church (which is made up of anyone and everyone who genuinely receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior) should want more than superficial spirituality. Many who leave the Church think that there isn’t anything more than the rut and routine of attending service or sparse participation. But there is. We’ve just barely scratched the surface. We’ve only begun to sample the meal that God has prepared for us.

Don’t be satisfied with the status quo. Seek out the infinitely satisfying Savior Who died but rose again from the dead so that you could have “life to the full” (see John 10:10). Discover what He longs for you to know, that trusting God with all aspects of your life is wonderfully filling and delightfully nourishing!

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst’” (John 6:35 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Read Full Post »

I was recently working on a series of devotions and happened to be reading from 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (ESV).  This started a line of thought and reflection for me in regard to the subtle ways that people utilize fear in their relationships with even their loved ones.

As Christians, this should not be – particularly in how our relationships with each other play out in daily interactions.  Relationships with others, whether with spouses, children, friends, neighbors or even co-workers, fall short in God’s eyes when their motivating quality is fear.

For some, this is what they perceive as necessary to survive in our sin-ladened world.  An excessive emphasis on control and retribution characterizes the way they interact with their spouses and children.  To not utilize fear runs the risk, in their estimation, of allowing people to do the wrong thing or to do them harm.

Please understand that I am not saying that we should not recognize the appropriateness of fear inasmuch as it is an essential ingredient in a right understanding of God (as in overwhelming awe of His majesty and holiness) or that is the right response to our sin condition apart from Christ for there is only condemnation for us if we are not saved by Him.  Fear should be our response to God’s judgment if we did not have Jesus’ blood to shield us.  “For in Him (Jesus) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:19-20 ESV).

Nor am I saying that establishing appropriate boundaries for ourselves and our loved ones isn’t necessary:  it is.  As is the need to justly enforce those boundaries with whatever consequences are right.

But it isn’t God’s design that we use fear to lead others to lives of devotion to Him.  Instead, His plan is that we live with His love shaping our dealings with them in such a way that we inspire them and invite them into a “safe” emotional and spiritual closeness to us that opens the door for them to perceive and receive our Heavenly Father’s invitation to come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ.

As far as how this plays out in our day-to-day relationships and how we should connect with others under our influence, ask yourself these questions:  “Are my relationships characterized by other people’s worry in regard to how I may act or react?  Do they relate to me based on the fear that I won’t accept them if they don’t please me?”  If so, there may be a bit of selfish manipulation working in you in an effort to control others’ according to your selfish desires.

Before you dismiss this out-of-hand by saying, “I would never treat someone else that way!”, consider that almost no one who does it realizes he does it.  Instead, allow the Holy Spirit of God to reveal to you any felt “need” within you that doesn’t quite trust God with the hearts of loved ones giving you the temptation to feel as if you need to help others with threats and “ultimatums”.

Think of how our treatment of others and our use of fear to influence them may affect their perception of the God we say we serve.  Might people have the idea that God is waiting on them to mess up?  Are people around you under the impression that they must never “mess up” because God will reject them if they do?  Is it possible that they get that idea from others who actually do accept them or reject them based on those superficial ideas?

While it is sometimes true that a boss, teacher or parent may have to “spell things out” for others in regard to the consequences of choices, our goal is to establish a more genuine Christ-like relationship with others that is characterized by grace and love.  After all, isn’t that how God wants us to perceive Him?  Isn’t what we truly desire a genuine relationship based on a Christ-like regard for others?  Do we want people to “behave” more than we want them to “be His” in love and affection?  Isn’t what God really wants from you and me a relationship based on our sincere love for Him?

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »