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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.

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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If ever there was a time in which one would need a plan for actively avoiding being utterly sucked into a twisted and caustic atmosphere of hate, the time is now. The malignancy of unrestrained animosity as well as our collective inability to even pretend to be able to enter into civil discourse with one another is catastrophic in our society’s slide into greater and viler strife.

If you’re not yet convinced, then you are yourself either an agent of such strife (unwittingly, perhaps) or you simply are “tuned out” in regard to media, (anti)social media especially.

If you are a Christian, be advised that you are not created nor redeemed by Jesus in order to stoop to participating in the mudslinging spectacle which is blowing up Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, nor even the “legitimate” media moguls who are anything but legitimate in their agendas and methodologies. You are, in fact, an agent to counter that cultural flow, an ambassador of God’s own Kingdom and messenger of His will, Word and ways.

If you are a Christian and are understandably feeling overwhelmed or are tempted to feel despair over how not to be a part of the problem, and not knowing how to be a part of the solution, let me share with you five facets of foiling today’s foolishness.

The first step is to start filtering our newsfeeds. This means we must learn to be discerning as to what you believe and, consequently, what you act on. Keep in mind that the world at large is not in tune with God’s “big picture take” on world events. In fact, we are admonished in Ephesians 4:17 and 18 to not walk as those in the world do “in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.”

Knowing that the summation of attitudes, plans and ambitions which don’t take God’s will into account are futile (wasted and pointless) should energize us sufficiently to heed the counsel of 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and 1 John 4:1 which tell us to “test” what we hear and are told. In other words, don’t believe something just because you’ve been told it. Even “credible” news stories should be taken with a grain of salt. To carry that further, it probably is a good idea to wait a little while before responding to “news” (a day or so at least) so that there is more time for real facts to come to light and to allow yourself to do something more than an ugly emotional response which you later come to regret.

Even when something is “proven” to be true, something that is outrageous and unjust, the second facet to foiling the foolishness around us is that we flee hatred and hateful responses – yes, even towards haters. As a Christian, you cannot live in a state of hatred towards another. It is against the nature of the Spirit of God Who lives within the hearts of Believers. “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:9-11 ESV).

As part of a part of fleeing hatred, we must incorporate the practice of actively forgiving others. “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14 ESV). Forgiveness is not up for debate. If we do not forgive others (releasing them from our need to make them pay), we have forfeited the opportunity to personally enter into the power of God’s forgiveness without which we are lost.

A third facet in our strategy for fending off such foolishness is the flinging of our burdens into God’s care. Fear, worry and uncertainty have a way of fueling frenzies that we see almost every day. We are invited, in God’s Word, to shed our burdens, release our troubles, and lose our fears, knowing that what we were never designed (nor expected) to solve, He can… and will if only we will release our hold on them into His hands. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 ESV).

The fourth facet is to fill our minds with the positive things of God. One cannot simply “empty his head” of the garbage constantly inundating him. A vacuum will be filled. He must fill it preemptively with “Kingdom things”. We need to constantly be filled with (taught and reminded of) what matters, Who’s in charge, and the promises that keep us, as God’s children, secure. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9 ESV). A constant inflow of negativity into your life cannot help but overflow as negativity to others. Conversely, a pouring into your heart and mind the powerful promises of God will unleash through you wellsprings of hope and transformation – not only for you, but for others whose lives connect with yours.

The fifth and final facet is simply that we flesh out acts of love. Whatever our words may say, our actions speak louder. In fact, unless our actions demonstrate love and integrity, our words mean very little except to serve as ammunition for those who would ridicule us and the God we say we serve. “By this we know love, that He (Jesus) laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18 ESV).

These are confusing and difficult times, but as Christians we can be catalysts for hope and change. Never compromise the principles of the Kingdom in order to advance a cause no matter how noble it may be. The long road to real and lasting change for the better is worth our being patient, loving, wise and faithful in the here and now.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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It has become a deeply held personal conviction of mine that most of the money, energy, time and passion that we expend in pursuing what we think will fulfill us or otherwise make us “happy” is actually wasted. Not because the reaching of our goals will not, for a season, give us a sense of satisfaction or that every such goal is a bad thing in and of itself, but because our have entirely missed the point of our existence will eventually culminate in our eternal existence either one way or another.

It is not enough that the path we trod was a pleasant one. Or that it had wonderful views. Or even amazing experiences along the way. It is absolutely certain that we will all one day reach a destination of some sort, a destination determined by the path we have chosen and it will make no difference to us at all when we reach that point if we’ve had a good time getting there.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14-15 ESV).

Consider well how that, according to the Bible, there are only two eternities possible for you and me. One is with God for Whom and in Whose image we were made. The other is apart from Him… a sure destination if we do not enter the only “gate” to His favor and presence, which is the Son He sent for you and for me. 

“Jesus again said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly…. Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 10:7-10; John 14:6 ESV).

I would caution us all, therefore, to not waste our days. To prepare for eternity is the wisest priority we can undertake in this life. It will prove to be the greatest investment of our time, energy and resources, even if and when it results in a temporary suffering here and now. I fear that too few of us see the truth of this and are consequently forfeiting in eternity the only real treasure there is. To pour ourselves into knowing God through Christ and to help others also see the hope that Jesus is – the only hope, in fact – is the highest calling, the most satisfying purpose, and the greatest experience any of us can know. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18 ESV).

Furthermore, not only is Jesus a treasure we will enjoy in the ages to come, but by God’s Spirit, we can begin to savor His precious worth in this age as well. And just think! It is no loss when we endure a hardship or suffer rejection for His sake. “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8 ESV).

If you are a Christian, do not let your priorities get turned upside down, forgetting the vast mercies and grace that God has shown you in His Son, Jesus Christ. Do not become distracted from your calling to walk with Jesus by the hollow promises of temporary pleasures or misplaced priorities. Do not become dissuaded to follow Christ by the fake glamor of worldly treasures or misrepresented pleasures. Stay focused on your great love, the One Who has loved You to the cross, to the grave, and on… to eternal life.

If you have not yet personally received by faith the gift of God, which is eternal life, then do not waste the opportunity right now to repent of your own path, and surrender your will to His. You can trust that the God Who loved you so sacrificially will also work out in your life what you need most. There is no better day than today to receive that gift. There is no better time than now to turn to Him and ask Him to forgive your sin and to be your Lord. In doing so, you trade the small bits of broken glass that this world offers for the priceless diamonds of Jesus Christ our Lord.

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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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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In our area this week there is a special effort by many to extend a genuinely heartfelt expression of appreciation to people in our community who serve as a frontline response to the needs of people in crisis.

Those who serve as Emergency Management Technicians (EMTs), firefighters, and law enforcement officers, not to mention medical professionals serving in area emergency room departments, have an especially challenging, often heart-breaking, yet incredibly important role in meeting people in desperate situations.

Those that I have had the profound privilege of meeting and working with, make truly significant contributions that are rarely appreciated on a truly significant level. The sacrifices that they make, the tragedies that they mitigate, and the emotional woundings that they receive are not necessarily the things that they knew or could understand were part of the pathway they were signing on to, but even if they had known, they would for the most part, I believe, still have chosen that path of helping others.

In Romans 13:1-7, the Bible discusses how we are to respond to civil authority and how our handling of those who serve publicly reveals our heart attitudes towards God. Verse 7 specifically comes to mind when I regard those who serve us in our times of severe trial and calamity: “…respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:7b ESV).

The men and women who make up our “Corps of First Responders” are some of the ones the Lord has in mind when He commands us to render respect and honor to whom it is owed. The sacrifices that they make, the hardships that they endure, and the horrors that they too often must face, as well as the risks that they sometimes must take, are frequent and frightening. Yet, were they to shy away from the call of serving, because of the dangers or the risks, our community would suffer immeasurably.

Respect and honor of these community heroes come in a number of forms. The first is to affirm them and the work that they do, materially when possible. “The laborer deserves his wages” (from 1 Timothy 5:18b which is referring to support for teachers of God’s Word but is drawing from the principles found in Leviticus 19:13 and Deuteronomy 24:15). But our support isn’t just material, but is verbal and public as well. We can openly support and affirm them in our community, recognizing their special acts of courage and support for those they help. We can counter undue and unfair criticisms with praise and expressions of gratitude, working to promote a culture of positivity in what is otherwise a negative and exhausting work.

Secondly, we support them with what secondary support we can, providing resources for those they serve so that the service of our first responders means something beyond the crisis (and are not mere “band-aids” that do not truly lead to lasting help). But this also means resources for the first responders themselves, these servants who at times need to be served (e.g., counseling, support groups and so forth). There is high price to pay emotionally as they work with things that are sometimes naturally occurring, are sometimes accidents, or are occasionally on purpose – yet rendering traumatic results for those directly involved but for our first responders as well.

And finally, we honor them by praying for them, interceding on their behalf for the power, wisdom, protection, and provision of God to fill them, guide them, guard them, and empower them in their work, their families, their lives, and their hearts. The needs that they seek to meet require more than is humanly possible to give, so they need the Lord’s help in being what they need to be for others. They need us to pray for them and their families: crisis is sometimes hard to not take home (as if our first responders can simply flip a switch and forget all that they have seen and felt when they walk through the doors of their own homes to greet their own families). And there is a kind of wounding and weariness that they experience as they serve over time. We must pray for their renewal and refreshment.

So please, when you meet a first responder, practice kindness towards them. When you see them, thank them. When they need you, support them. They serve us well and serve us faithfully. Accordingly, we honor God when we honor them.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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The days that followed Jesus’ rising from the dead, glorified and victorious, were undoubtedly overwhelming to His closest friends and followers. How they initially responded to it is very telling in regard to their humanity and, perhaps, to our own as well – especially when we consider how we react when we begin to truly grasp the miracle that God lavishes upon us the moment we become His children through faith in His Son.

“On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:1-6 ESV).

The disciples’ response to Jesus’ not being where common sense predicted He would be was predictable in itself. They were confused and then startled by the presence of those supernatural witnesses who God appointed to present them the news that the One Whom they thought as being dead and buried, was not a victim to tragic circumstance and human hate, but the victorious slayer of death itself.

Their difficulty was primarily rooted in the limitations that all their experience had taught them. They were well-schooled in seeing people rise up to do and/or say the right thing being silenced permanently as either the Jews themselves would squelch what they perceived to be religious opposition or the Romans who were at best only ever tolerating them and were always too-ready to kill anyone who dared to stand up to them in very public ways.

In a similar way, a newly-saved Christian may initially have difficulty in knowing how to live life from the framework of God’s forgiveness and Holy Spirit power because he is still mentally entrenched in old ways of looking at things and old ways of dealing with problems or coping with pain. But as he becomes immersed in the reading, exploring, and discovering of the promises of God and the principles of His Kingdom, he begins to discover, as those disciples of the first century church did, everything is changed and he moves forward by shaking off the chains of old assumptions, sins, fears and habits.

As the reality of Jesus’ resurrection became more “real” in the minds and hearts of His followers, the qualities of wonder, worship, joy and courage began to take root and germinate in the hearts of His followers that ignited the hearts of multitudes beyond them.

In a similar way, as Jesus’ forgiveness and lordship become more “real” in our minds and hearts, we too discover those qualities and we too may influence those around us towards the Savior we celebrate. Not because we are suddenly so charismatic or convincing in rational arguments, but because the presence of God is real to us and, therefore, real to others through us. We are genuinely and beautifully different because we have truly encountered Jesus Christ in our hearts and experience through faith.

The question then for you and for me is whether or not we have really met the risen Lord. Have we personally encountered His holiness and forgiveness? Are we engaged by how deserving He is of our love and adoration? Are we changed by the fact of His love? Are we gripped by His glory? If not, then let us turn our eyes to the Jesus of the Bible. Let us drink deeply of His promises for us and of His soul-saving and life-changing presence. Let us reconnect with Him through the reading of His Word, the fellowship of worship of Him in the community of His people at a local Bible-teaching church. Let us meet with Him again and again in the quiet place of genuine communion that prayer grants us.

If you have never encountered this wonderful Savior in a personal way, then waste no more time. Connect with someone who has and ask how you too can be saved. There is too much at stake to waste any more time. And Jesus Himself is waiting to welcome you into a personal relationship with Him that turns your destiny from spiritual death to eternal life.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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