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Now that Valentines Day is officially behind us, yet still fresh enough on our minds to warrant some reflection, have you ever thought much about the gifts we give to one another as expressions of our love? If you haven’t, I invite you to do so. It might help you to “think outside the box” in the future and allow you to creatively approach your gift-giving practices to the loved ones in your life.

Gift giving is a statement of our affection for another as well as a statement of our own character and attitudes about life in general. Casual gift-giving, for example, might inadvertently express the subtle point that we take someone for granted. On the other hand, doing so with thoughtfulness indicates attention and interest in another.

Of course, it is important to remember that gift-giving is only one manner of expressing love and regard for others. There is also service, words of affirmation, and a few other things that, if you’re interested, you can learn more about in the The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

But gift-giving is certainly one important way that we will often choose to express our affection for another. It can be a good and powerful way in doing so and we should never be reluctant to do it when it is appropriate, helpful, and sincere. However, in our day and age, we might be prone to missing some of the finer points of gift giving. Here are a couple of things to consider as you either give gifts to someone else or are the recipient of gifts.Gifts of True Love

First, a gift of true love is never given to buy or win the affection of the beloved. It is given as an expression of delight and devotion of the one who gives it. It represents the sacrificial regard of the giver for the one gifted and is a way of saying, “I love you more than what this cost me.” Such gifts, therefore, represent some sort of sacrifice. The sacrifice may not be material (although it could be), but could be time taken to painfully seek out and acquire the gift for the sake of the beloved.

If the gift is slighted or rejected, the giver may persist in his expressions of love, yet every effort turned away runs the risk of being the last for there is little joy in spurned affection and only pain when sacrifice is held in contempt. One might suggest that one who has given such gifts also give the recipient the gift of choosing how to respond. If it is received well and in the spirit that it is given, then the joy of the giver and beloved is multiplied. If the recipient chooses to reject it, then the giver can choose to move on without the bitterness that comes from the sinful notion that giving a gift to another human being somehow indebts them to you.

Another thought to kick around about gift-giving is that a gift loved for itself, one that usurps the place of affection rightfully belonging to the giver, is misplaced and disgracefully received. Nothing is uglier and more a display of contemptuous ingratitude than love for a gift over the one who gives it. It would wound your heart indeed if another loved you only for the material things you handed him and, in the moment you had nothing left to give, dropped all interest in you and moved on to someone else who could materially provide for them.

So if any of these principles apply to our human relationships, then consider there spiritual implications. For instance, God does not give us blessings in order to win us over (to get us to “like Him”), but His doing so definitely serve as signs that we really are the “children of God”.

“Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father Who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11 ESV).

The blessing of being given gifts from God is not primarily in the gift itself, however wonderful and timely it may seem. It is not in the material things. It is not the new job or the better income. It is not the healing or that wonderful new relationship. Those are “gifts” from God, yes, but they are not the main gift He is granting us. The primary gift is that the Holy Countenance of God Himself is turned toward us… in love. He Himself, therefore, is the greatest gift of all. In token of this, He gave us Himself through the Person of His Son, Jesus, Who died on the cross that we might be reconciled to the Father. The giving of this gift continues daily as He gives us Himself through His Holy Spirit (God living in us and through us day-by-day).

So if ever we love “things” in place of our God, we can be sure that such things are at risk of being stripped from us. God is, after all, a jealous God (see Deuteronomy 5:11). Such things, these lesser gifts, are actually hindrances in our receiving His greatest gift. He would rather we be naked and hungry when finally we enter into the comfort of our eternal home with Him then for us, in this life, to be blissfully content with all manner of pleasures and conveniences as we stroll along into the waiting fires of hell.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17 ESV).

No one can out-give God because there is no greater treasure than Himself to give and there is no greater sacrifice than in His giving His sinless, perfect Son for you and me, sinners who do not deserve His love. Yet, the gift is given. The gift is yours and mine for the receiving through faith in Jesus alone. So let us receive His gift, Jesus, with humble adoration and gratitude and, in turn, give Him our lives and give Him our all. This gift we give Him is all that He asks and makes room in our lives for the precious treasures of knowing His love and power working in and through us.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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At least in one respect, the turning of the calendar page from one year to the next is not as positive an experience as we would like it to be. For one thing, it gives us the emotional equivalent of acid reflux as we pause to look back on the past year with all its thrills and joys or disappointments and regrets. We tend to feel the impact of the negative more than the happiness of the positive. For many, it’s as if we have a scale before us with the bad invariably outweighing the good. With such a sour taste lingering in our mouths, it is no wonder that so many of us look forward to finally crossing over the watershed of what has been to what we hope will be.

The conspicuous proof that this is so is the cultural phenomena of making New Year’s resolutions. These promises that we make to ourselves for the New Year suggest an acute awareness of our inadequacies which were only too obvious to us in our failures of the previous year. We think to ourselves, “Life was not what it should have been and I have not done what I should have done. To correct this, I will just make a plan. like losing weight, being kinder to our neighbors, fixing what is wrong with my house, ironing out my relationship issues, or just being a better man, woman or Christian. I will do better.”

But then we do not do better. In fact, we hardly get out of the gate in our trying. According to U.S. News and World Report (“Why 80 Percent of New Year’s Resolutions Fail”, Joseph Luciani, 12/29/2015), 80% of our resolutions are routinely foiled by the second week of February. So much for human resolve! And what we do manage to get done does not result in what we had hoped for. It is not what we planned. It is not what we wanted. And when the end of the year eventually rolls around, we do it all over again, making New Year resolutions that we will once again not keep as matter of habit and tradition… like singing Christmas Carols, only a lot less fun and significantly less meaningful.

The secret is not in our will power. Will power cannot save us, change us, or carry us very far into the good intentions we have. In fact, we have already fumbled the ball of commitment in the moment we make the statement, “I will…!” I will? Will I? I may want to do this or that, but those good intentions are not strong enough to become the reality I wish for myself. Why? Because my problem is my will. I forget (or choose to ignore) my tendency for laziness, my natural bend to serve my selfish desires, and the corruption buried deeply within my soul, buried so deep that I do not realize that it is there.

And I will continue to suffer at the hands of my fallen and weak will until something fundamentally is altered within me. It is not my perspective, although my perspective is shaped by it. It is not the way that I think, although it is easy to think that it is. As unfathomable as it may seem, it is far deeper than either of these things. It is my heart. It is my soul. It is the true essence of my being that must be changed. And it must be radically transformed so that what flows from it may produce the changes in my thinking and conduct that ultimately produce the fruits that are worth possessing in the days to come. Without a change of heart, a change of mind is weak and pointless, and only sets one up for failure.

This is why the implication of following Jesus is much more than a mindset. It is a surrender. It is not our committing ourselves to Him that will carry us into spiritual victory and eternal harvests, but a submitting ourselves to Him that places us in the position of reaping spiritual life.

“Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it…. Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Luke 9:24, John 3:3, 6 ESV). Lose my life to save it? Be born again? Be born of the spirit?

I fear that much of our Christianity today is cut from the same cloth as our New Year’s resolutions. We resolve to do good. We decide to abstain from evil. But we always fail. We set our will to be what we are supposed to be as if we can do it on our own and that it is all up to us. But then we are surprised and depressed by the fact that we cannot. Worse, in our shame of failing yet again, we deny our sin and hide our true selves from God and from others for fear of the pain of rejection.

But, my friend, this is not God’s plan. It is not His will that you, in your own finite strength walk the walk that Jesus did, Who was just like us yet without sin (see Hebrews 4:15). It is indeed God’s will that you break free from your sin and no longer walk in its power. “He (Jesus) appeared to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning…. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:5-6a, 8-9 ESV).

This means that when you and I are born of God, a supernatural event has taken place that changes the inclination of our hearts from that of sinning (serving self) towards serving God. As children of God (adopted into His family through faith in Jesus Christ), we are bequeathed a new nature that is shedding worldly and fleshly habits just as surely a caterpillar sheds its chrysalis when it finally breaks free into its new life as a butterfly!

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come…. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 12:1-2 ESV).

Real change in 2019 is possible, but it will take more than your resolve. Real life is attainable, but it takes more than a commitment. Real joy is yours… if you surrender your life to Jesus, trusting Him as Lord and Savior. And that means a daily surrender that you may sometimes stumble with, but will teach you the power of grace as you draw from Him the love and courage that will make a new you reality. Happy New Year!

Copyright ©  Thom Mollohan

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As Christmas makes its final approach on the runway of our calendars, it may be that we are dangerously close to being swallowed up by the angst and stress of trying to coordinate holiday traditions or by the crushing pressure of trying to appease the tyranny of Christmas lists of our children or other family members. If you find yourself being hurried and harried by trying to make sure that it is “the best Christmas ever”, don’t allow the bullying of unrealistic expectations be a thief that steals from you the opportunity to draw from heaven the joy of God.

There is a danger, even in the church, for us to not understand joy and to not know how to experience it. What we too often settle for is a kind of contentment that is founded upon circumstances in our world which, at best, is fragile and subject to an instant’s nullification at any moment if and when trouble comes or tragedy strikes. A pseudo-joy such as this is dangerous because it anesthetizes us against the hunger for God which moves us to receive His grace and be transformed by His Spirit. 

But joy – true joy – is of God and He delights in our experiencing it and cherishes its aim which is for us to know Him and know His eternal love for us. And there are a number of “mechanisms” in which our appetite for it can be taught to recognize it and, ultimately, to savor it. One of these mechanisms is the relief that comes from the healing of persistent pain (physically or emotionally) which invariably results in joy. For example, a person afflicted by physical pain for any length of time can become consumed with the need for relief. Hence, one’s propensity to turn to things that mask pain or distract one from it. It is easy to see how despair from not receiving healing can be allowed to trigger a person’s settling for counterfeit experiences, learning only too late that such alternatives only breed new hurts and sorrows. But when that person experiences for the first time that the weight of pain has been lifted – and lifted for good – he or she experiences a surge of joy.

Another way in which we become acquainted with joy is through the reversal of misfortune or failure. There are perhaps a few exceptions to this, but generally we are all somehow and at sometime touched by failure. Failing to achieve a sought after goal, whatever that goal might be, depending on how we have labored and sacrificed for it, can be so disheartening that some people do not recover from the experience. After dreaming with all one’s heart, striving with all one’s strength, and sacrificing all one has, the dark night of soul that comes from failing to win what seems utterly important and even necessary can turn into glorious day when such failure flip-flops unexpectedly into success, especially a success that surpasses what he or she had hoped for.

Yet another is the return or finding of something that seemed hopelessly lost. Jesus illustrated this kind of joy in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15, in the parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost (Prodigal) Son. In each instance, the restoration of what had been lost resulted in a joy that bubbled over into celebration!

One that is hard to explain, yet is extremely profound for the one it blesses, is the recognition of the sublime which is why art and music can be so powerful in affecting our emotions. This is the kind of joy that I believe C.S. Lewis refers to in his auto-biography, Surprised by Joy, which describes his journey from atheistic skepticism to his eventual experience of faith in Jesus Christ. In it, he relates how such rare yet vital emergences of joy ultimately helped him to recognize the authenticity of Jesus as true Lord and Savior.

Finally, receiving what the heart desires most is cause and catalyst for experiencing joy. There is innately programmed into each of us a hunger for more than anything that this world can supply. We are so confounded by it, yet so ignorant of what it is we truly crave (namely, authentic relationship with God through Jesus Christ), that we try to plug the hole in our souls with all sorts of things that promise fulfillment, yet cannot deliver the goods.

Indeed, happiness in the wrong things can be spiritually lethal and seal our eternal destruction because it lulls us to complacency in regard to our spiritual need for Christ and His atonement for us. This kind of “joy” is not the joy that God has in mind for you. When Jesus spoke with His disciples in the Gospel of John, the occasion being the eve of His crucifixion, He promised them, that after a season of grief, their sorrow would turn to joy (John 16:20). The joy He promised them was otherworldly and supernatural for it in no way finds either its source or its end in this temporal life, but flows from His eternal Being. This joy has enormous power to make a difference to you and me in this life and serves us like an anchor when we face trouble, sorrow, or pain in the here and now.

And here is the point: Jesus satisfies perfectly every condition for joy that you and I have. He brings us relief of the pain we feel in our souls by accepting and comforting us with His precious presence; His grace serves as a balm for every hurt of our hearts. He achieves for us the reversal of our failure by succeeding in our stead both as a sinless man and perfect sacrifice for us on the cross; through faith in Him, we have victory. Because He came and died for us on the cross, we, the lost sheep, coins and sons, are reunited with our heavenly Father, Who does not turn us away as we deserve; He takes us out of our lost condition and places us where we belong as children of God. In Jesus, we see that which is truly sublime, perfect and pure in every way; “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15 ESV). And when we receive Christ truly as both Savior and Lord, we finally receive what our hearts have truly desired; we obtain that for which we have hungered and thirsted even when we did not know what it was we needed.

This Christmas, open your heart to God and receive Him as Lord and Savior. In doing so, you’ve opened the door to true joy, “… and no one will take your joy from you” (from John 16:22b ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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There is currently a great deal of discussion among many churches across the country revolving around the issue of abuse of women in the home. There are, for example, instances where the abuse of one’s wife is “tolerated” (if not condoned) in “christian” homes (as anti-Christian as that seems to me).  This tragic fact has a bit to do with the general lack of dialogue due to what some consider to be “none-of-your-business” for anyone outside the immediate family. But it is also more than that.

It is not just the result of a lack of conversation or even a lack of understanding by men, but rather a sinful disposition in the heart and the working out of rebellion against God. It is therefore necessary for us, if we are truly committed to a right relationship with God, to confront it, confess it, and repent of it. God maintains an expectation that men be the antitheses of “misogynists” and no woman should bear the ungodly burden of fear for her life and well-being. If a woman is in actual danger because of abuse, the Church has the responsibility of being an agent for her safety.

Let us be clear on this: abuse (mistreatment and/or harming of another, especially one entrusted to you relationally such as a spouse or a child) is unacceptable at all times, under all circumstances. No one “deserves” to be mistreated even if the Church seems, in many people’s experiences, to not only be vague about this, but to endorse certain forms of it.

Perhaps one of the chief sources for confusion on God’s expectations of how husbands and wives treat one another is found in the mishandling of Ephesians 5. A crass and superficial reading of some verses in the passage notwithstanding, the point and premise of Ephesians 5:25 is, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”

Clearly, the idea of love here is personified in Jesus’ tender regard and whole-hearted pursuit of the welfare of His people, the Church (which includes you and me through faith). The welfare of His people and His laying down of His life was and is paramount in our understanding of how men and women are called to relate to each other. Accordingly, this principle should completely eradicate any illusion of an excuse for men to mistreat women (wives or otherwise).

Nor are men licensed to maintain a condescending and “superior” mentality to women or their gifts and callings. Even though the Bible consistently implies different roles and callings typically associated with men and women respectively, only a mishandling of 1 Peter 3 would be interpreted to mean that men are “more important” in the grand scheme of things than are women (just as it is not correct to assume the opposite either!). After all, wives “are heirs with (husbands) of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).

Too often, we inflate our own sense of importance and use distorted interpretations of Scripture to support it. In the case of men and their attitude and behavior towards women, this has too often been true.

To my sisters in Christ, I am sorry for the ways that you have suffered abuse and that the church has failed in hearing you, supporting you, and protecting you. I am also sorry for those moments and occasions when even well-meaning Christians downplay your value in the Kingdom of our Savior and Lord. Your presence matters. Your calling matters. Your voice matters. The Church must learn to appreciate your role and your contributions. The Church must learn to recognize your many areas of gifting and serving, valuing you as dear daughters of God. I hope that I, as well as my other brothers in Christ, will uphold you and support you, believe in you and in God’s working through you.

We are not only blessed by you, but also through you as our Heavenly Father has pressed forward in the building of His kingdom. Thank you and thanks be to God for you.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Many years ago, when my family and I had an opportunity for a little bit of vacation one late spring, we elected to spend a few days in Chincoteague, Virginia. We did so in part because, at the time, we had never been to the beach as a family, but also because we deemed that Chincoteague was a tad bit more family friendly than some of the high paced “touristy” beaches that often feature price-gouging vendors or attract vacationers who are into hard-partying.

Chincoteague was also the featured location of the story, Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry, and had the added bonuses of being between the national wildlife preserve on Assateague Island, and NASA’s original headquarters on Wallops Island. Thus, these islands provided plenty for our family to do and see during our brief stay while still allowing us a peaceful atmosphere for resting emotionally and spiritually.

In the mornings, we went out early to the beach and enjoyed the sun as it slowly rose above the eastern horizon. The cool breezes and the gentle sounds of the ocean waves rolling up on to the beach greeted us soothingly as we walked bare-footed on the wet sand, looking for seashells, our children, who were very young at the time, laughing every so often when the ocean water would lap at their feet.

On the first morning, while our kids were distracted, my wife and I “wrote” their names in the wet sand with our feet. Then, when they turned and saw what we had done, they smiled happily as they were reminded of how special they are to us.

After awhile, we became hungry and decided to go and get breakfast, leaving behind their names on the edge of the restless ocean. We had our breakfast and then went exploring (by minivan) the animal preserve on Assateague Island where over one hundred wild ponies lived just as they did in the 1940’s when Marguerite Henry wrote her book. Then, after lunch, we changed our clothes and went back to the beach. Our two youngest sons wondered if their names might still be there (although we had assured them that they would not be). Of course, their names were long gone, washed away by wind and wave, and trampled under the feet of beach goers who had since arrived on the scene.

But that mattered little to them for the beach wasn’t the only place where we had written their names. Daily kindnesses and encouragements let them know that each of them had his name indelibly etched into our hearts. So also had the entrusting of responsibility to them and the accountability that we required of them showed them that they were neither a mere “hobby” nor burdensome “duty” to us. Even the boundaries that we set for them over the years reminded them that we have been more than passive observers of their growing up, but were active participants as mentors, providers, encouragers, and guardians (physically and spiritually).

Although their parents weren’t perfect (and still aren’t), they sensed that they were loved and could find comfort in knowing that neither the waves nor winds of circumstances, or even the comings and goings of people throughout life could either diminish or eliminate that love.

But there is a far greater love than ours that has been at work in their lives. It is a love that is accessible to anyone whose heart would soften enough to believe and receive it. It is a love that does not grow old or weak no matter how much time passes. It does not wash away even though a thousand years pass by. It is not at the mercy of winds of change or the waves of whim. It is a love so powerful and so enduring that even though you might feel lost in the throngs of the human race, one among the billions of people currently alive or in the countless generations since our world began, you are singled out to be set free from bonds of sin, fear, and hopelessness if only you will turn to Him and rest in that love.

I am happy to report that our God does not simply write our names in the wet sands of the seashore, or even upon granite obelisks that finally succumb to the relentless march of time as eons slowly wear them down. Those whose hearts yield to the saving love of God as revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ, will find their names written upon something that is truly imperishable, subject to neither “chance” nor “change” of mind.

“Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted. But Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.’ Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands” (Isaiah 49:13-16a ESV).

Though this prophecy was written hundreds of years before Jesus’ crucifixion, it was a clear clarion call of the magnitude of God’s love for you and for me. A pen is not used to write your name upon His flesh, but the cold and cruel nails of the executioner’s cross claim you as God’s own on His Son’s own hands. Jesus’ blood is the permanent ink that has the power to grant you a place of eternal acceptance in the presence of the Father.

Just think! Once your name has been written upon His hand, no matter what paths your life may lead you, no matter what dark and doubtful moments may come your way, when your eyes open in glory and you look upon the Savior, you will see your name written upon His hand; you will see that the love of God is more than words.

This is a time in which many people are placing their trust in persons and things that will not, in the end, stand the test of time. To place your faith in something that will not last dooms you to disappointment and utter ruin. But don’t squander your opportunity to begin the adventure of walking with God and knowing for certain that your eternity is secured. Turn to Jesus today. Let Him be both Lord and Savior of your life!

“To all who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He gives the right to become the children of God – born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (from John 1:12-13).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Today, Friday, March 23rd, marks my wife’s and my anniversary. Having been married to her for almost three decades has been a privilege that I find hard to explain or even describe, yet it profoundly represents to me the grace (and hard work) of long-term commitment and the joy and blessing that can be found in it, not to mention the miracle of God’s presence when Jesus is made the center of the relationship.

The friendship that I have with her has been something that I have found warrants constant nurturing and is worth every effort and sacrifice that may present itself. I am particularly grateful to the long-suffering grace and patience that she has shown me over the years. I recall more occasions than I care to admit in which she has endured less-than-ideal challenges with me, yet she has hung in there and been for me a constant companion and partner through various trials, sorrows, as well as blessings I could not begin to count.

My heart goes out to families that do not have this experience and feel that God’s plan for marriage is so derailed by conflict and attempts to circumvent the demands of genuine commitment that few couples experience the joy of it. Many people will talk about “committed relationships”, but even this falls short of “covenant relationships”: the former can withstand many challenges, but the latter, by God’s working in them, can withstand anything.

My hope for families today is that the covenant of marriage, as God has intended it, recaptures the sense of holiness which God instilled in it whenever it is pursued under the auspice of His authority, approval and blessing. Marriage, when it is framed from the perspective that it was God’s idea (as being His creation and not merely a social construct, an invention by people to be whatever people want it to be), regains some of its sense of divine sacredness and is therefore revealed as a noble pursuit and not just a relational afterthought.

And marriage, when it is viewed as being His provision for shoring up the united effort to bring the home under His lordship (as being an institution He ordained and not just a social contract subject to the ebb-and-flow of popularly accepted mores), is upheld as the front line of social engagement as children grow up in a home that demonstrates the biblical ethic of loving God first, loving others second, and finding that how we treat others is as important as how we are treated. Notice that I said, “biblical ethic” as opposed to the “religion’s ethic” which, historically, has distorted and maligned God’s design for marriage.

When I look upon the landscape of broken homes today, I cannot help but consider the devastation that is wrought through the cumulative effect of more and more betrayals, more and more broken promises, and more and more division in homes that divide the hearts of our young and vulnerable because parents have become divided.

Marriage should be a place where both husbands and wives agree to pursue with one heart and one soul the glory of God, the gift of each other, and the good of the family. Abuse and neglect aside, divorce is not good and foils God’s purpose for family. It is not easy. On some occasions, it is costly and even painful. But the reward of perseverance isn’t just in a wonderful friendship or a fun and rewarding experience; it is in a union that physically illustrates the spiritual dimensions of God’s union with His children.   This is a huge mechanism in perpetuating the conviction that hope in God and faith in His Word are rightly placed for the one who trusts Jesus as his or her Savior.

I am thankful for my wife and for the help she is to me. I am thankful for our friendship and how God has continually taught me about love through her. I am thankful for the story of our years (so far) together and for the story yet to come. I hope that story encourages others in their marriages and, more importantly, strengthens their call and commitment to trust Jesus as Savior and Lord.

If you are married (or are thinking about becoming so), consider the joy of pledging together, under God, your lives as you seek to become one. Let God’s Word be your standard for your relationship and the standard for your home.   “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:31-33 ESV).

If you have been married, but it was lost to you through divorce, consider the great and cleansing healing of Jesus. Jesus gives you the salve of His presence to mend your broken heart. If you were not faithful to promises that you made, allow Him to lift burden of guilt and shame and flood your heart with forgiveness and hope. Jesus’ death on the cross is sufficient for any and every sin we’ve fallen into or allowed to fall into us. It is good to get a new start and have a clean conscience. Let Him make you new and make you clean. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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A few weeks ago, while in a very warm room just outside of Washington, DC , with several hundred other people in a conference dealing with the prevention of drug abuse, my phone suddenly vibrated indicating that a text had just been received. Normally, I wait for an appropriate time to read it, but I was strangely moved on this occasion to check it. I quietly pulled my phone out and read the message.

It was from a precious member of our church letting me know that a member of her extended family had just passed away from an overdose. I immediately began to pray for the family and texted back our love and prayers.

The loss made me very sad the way it does every time I learn of someone in our community who has lost his or her life to drugs. It always stabs my heart with grief and horror. On the other hand, every time I learn of someone who has had enough and sets out on the long path of recovery, I celebrate, knowing that while it may be a hard journey, the destination is definitely worth it.

When asked about the relationship between faith and recovery, many folks think of instantaneous transformations. I have very rarely encountered this, but have discovered that transformation is usually a process with its roots in perhaps one initial step, but is only realized through the hard work of applying the principles of God’s Word in progressive stages in all areas of life.

Faith and recoveryGod is the God of transformation. That transformation is bequeathed through 1) hope (that God can and will change us if we let Him; 2) peace (that we have peace with Him through His gift of forgiveness if we truly are willing to turn away from what holds us enslaved, as well as peace inside ourselves as we relinquish the need to try to control and manipulate others, ourselves, and maybe even God); 3) direction (though we cannot see very far ahead, we can find the one step we need to take right now); and 4) strength (He gives us the will to turn away from temptation if we are willing to turn away from it consistently and persistently – long before we encounter it).

Learning the Word of God (through Bible study at church and in small groups) helps to rewire our minds as we learn the thoughts of God, while prayer (conversation with God) puts us in touch with His almighty power! While we have wonderful resources in our community to help the recovering addict, never underestimate the healing and life-giving power of Jesus Christ!

“You have… been taught in Christ… to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:21-24 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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