Archive for the ‘General’ Category

A Better Treasure

Carl (not his real name) looked at me in disgust. “What do you mean I shouldn’t expect to be thanked for my gift? Or that I shouldn’t want to be appreciated for what I did?”

I paused a moment, silently praying for wisdom and tact, unsure how to help this brother in the Lord. “I know how important it can be to us to be appreciated,” I finally began. “But what I am trying to say is that we don’t serve God, help others, give our offerings, or even just go to church because others reward us. We don’t do the right thing because we get a pat on the back.”

“I’m not doing that!” he retorted. “I just think that when I help someone, I should be appreciated. If they’re not going to thank me, then I don’t see the point in doing it.”

“So you’re saying that if you don’t feel appreciated, you’d stop helping someone?” I asked.

He faltered. It was difficult to admit the truth. Painful and ugly as it was, however, his refusal to accept it stood in the way of his walk with God.

“You said you’re not doing that, but isn’t the thanks you feel entitled to a reward? Something in return for something? And if you get mad because there isn’t recognition and you stop doing what’s right as a result, isn’t that proof that recognition was the reward you were in fact seeking?”

Carl turned a deep shade of red and blustered something that sounded like an accusation that I didn’t understand and that I was persecuting him unfairly. He left without changing his mind or position on the matter and made good his promise of quitting things.

He felt that I didn’t understand. The thing is, I understood all too well what he was feeling and knew intimately the temptation of doing my “righteous deeds”, if not for a material reward, for at least an ego-soothing pat-on-the back.

Don’t misunderstand. It is natural to want to be thanked, to be appreciated, and to be rewarded for working hard, making sacrifices, and helping others. And we should all endeavor to encourage and appreciate what others do for us whenever we have the opportunity.

But as far as being on the receiving end of it, we must never let the approval of others become the determining factor for doing what is right. More specifically, we should never let recognition by others be the criteria we use for serving God.

The bottom line is that the instant we do, we have erected an idol in our lives. What is that idol? The idol of self. And the praise of others that we demand for our deeds is the worship we covet.

treasureJesus explained this principle in Matthew 6 when He admonished His hearers to not conduct their spiritual lives in such a way that our deeds “may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Matthew 6:16). In fact, Jesus transitions from that thought to the dangers of storing treasures for ourselves on earth – material and immaterial (Matthew 6:9-21).

So whether I am serving Him now in order to materially benefit or in order to be noticed by others, I am in both cases missing the point of serving God. Serving Him should be the expression of our daily trust in Him as we delight in His glorious majesty. Serving Him should be the fruit of our savoring the intimacy that Jesus’ blood on the cross bought for us when He died for our sin. Additionally, in all things we owe Him everything, our thanks and faithful service simply the effect of gratitude within us.

The “why” of doing what’s right, particularly if you’re wanting to serve God, is at least as important as the “what” of your service. Consider the widow described in Mark 12:41-44 who “put in more than all those who are contributing.” When she gave, she gave out of her poverty, but did so unreservedly to God trusting Him for her needs. When the others gave, they gave out of their excess and only did it to impress those who were watching.

So whether we’re talking about the giving of financial resources or the giving of our time, energy and service, can we not lavish upon God what we have and what we are simply because He is worthy? Can we not give Him of ourselves because He is a greater treasure to us than all other things and His opinion matters to us more than anyone else’s?

Take in hand your attitude towards giving to and serving God.   Take hold of how you express that in helping others. Serving God, helping others, making sacrifices are noble things, but are noble only when done for noble reasons. Remember that your reward is not here on earth, but is one with your heavenly Father. In the end, to hear the Lord say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Luke 19:17) as He welcomes you, His precious child, into your heavenly home, is a reward with which nothing else on earth can compare. So live well today as you look to Him Who holds tomorrow.

A little caveat to our congregations regarding the pastors they call to lead them: take care of your pastor. Be as mindful of him and his family’s needs as you expect him to be with you.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan


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Keys to Rest, Pt. 2

In the last article, there was discussion regarding rest from a biblically spiritual point-of-view. As Hebrews 4:9-11 reminds us, “There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”

The works to which this passage refers have to do with what we cannot possibly do for ourselves, namely, the works of saving and sanctifying that Jesus accomplished once and for all for you and me upon the cross (see Hebrews 9:11-12 and 10:11-12). Our rest, therefore, is intimately and eternally tied to our trust in Him and His life-saving and life-giving grace for us.

So what then are the “keys to rest”? What are the practical tools by which we live in the peace-granting, spirit-calming, and soul-healing grace of God that He grants to anyone who will cease their tedious and tiresome pursuit of sin and self?Keys2Rest2

There are four things that together position us in that place of rest, the oasis of life that we each crave and require. These four things, if put into place, have a deeply significant way of allowing us to experience God’s Spirit’s presence, releasing us from the wearisome toil of merely surviving.

The first is that one reprioritize his life. When Jesus reminded His hearers that the “Great Commandment” is to love God with all one’s “heart, soul and mind” (in Matthew 22:37-38), He was indicating both the unimaginable worth of God and how that our well-spring of renewal comes only from God Himself. So Jesus invites us to again and again put down the roots of our affections and desires into the soil of intimacy of our Maker.

Not only that, but as He declared in Matthew 22:39-40, loving others at least as much as we love ourselves allows us to be drawn up into experiences of purpose that are infinitely greater than how we might selfishly lavish upon ourselves resources of time, attention, and material blessings. This is not to say that we don’t perform what is often called “self-care”. Indeed, for us to run the long marathon of life in ways that bear eternal fruit, we must attend to our relationship with God first, our family second, and then our “calling as servants” of Jesus.

But to squander our life on earth in indulging lesser dreams than knowing God and making Him known, is a poor and tragic end to a life that could have, with God’s help, been lived so differently.

The second key in a person’s finding true rest is to reorganize her life. This is taking the practical steps she takes to reprioritize her life. It is the applying to the head the knowledge God has revealed to the heart. It is where we get our agenda or calendar and where we intentionally identify and plan the steps we will take to take God at His Word.

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33 ESV).

In other words, put first things first! Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness means trusting Him with your tithe (even when you “can’t afford it”). It means trusting Him in relationships (not that people won’t like you or not hurt you, but believing that taking time to express love for others as Jesus did is not in vain and has worth in God’s eyes and that His approval means more to you than people’s approval). It means trusting Him with your sacrifices in temporary comfort and pleasure (even when others do not notice or thank you). It is putting the “horse” of relationship with God back before the cart of your life so that He can lead you in eternal paths that have eternal benefits.

The third key is to release one’s life to God. Release is the active pursuit of God’s will, as one relinquishes “conditions” for obedience. It is “letting go” our agenda and trusting God’s. It is the follow-through to reorganizing one’s life around the priorities of the heart of our heavenly Father.

“Everyone then who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27 ESV).

The final key is for one to relax in God. That may not sound very spiritual, but it is very biblical. In Psalm 46:10 God says, “Be still (relax), and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Relaxing in God’s goodness, trusting that the One Who will be exalted in the whole earth begins by being exalted in one’s own life, is the ultimate expression of trust in God. To cease striving, to surrender anxiety (as if our worrying about things can in any way actually be productive), to “snuggle up” to God, confident in His embrace of grace that you are not only forgiven and secured a future in heaven, but are also upheld by His own hand and held dear to His heart as a treasured beloved child.

Begin your day with His Word. Get to know His voice as you read His promises and let His Spirit speak to you about Who He is and what He does for those who trust Him. Begin your day with prayer and, as you speak to Him, trust that if you have repented of sin and of living your life your own way, that Jesus’ sacrifice is more than enough to cleanse you and set you on the path of knowing Him. Become a part of His church where His Word is preached and His people pray and love and serve with the joy of God’s children!

Rest in Him.   Trust in His promises. Walk in obedience to His Word. Love as He has loved you. And come to know Him as you walk with Him and learn how great He truly is.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Keys to Rest, Pt. 1

We recently worked through an important spiritual principle at our church that is vital to the thoroughly victorious experience to which Jesus calls us. It is the principle of rest that Jesus refers to in Matthew chapter 11.

“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 11:28-30 ESV).

He invites, no, He implores us to rest. And the rest He calls us to is a life of trust in His promises of presence, protection, and provision. These promises are the mechanisms for sustaining us and keeping us in an attitude of peace and joy that He created us to experience.

rest01Once when I started to explain this to a group of people, I was approached afterward and told that “rest” is all well and good, but “you don’t rest from God’s work!” My response to that is that we must rest most of all in God’s work! Rest, as God intends it, is not a lack of activity or movement. On the contrary, it is an active abiding in Him and His Word, the Bible. It is a pursuit of more of Him in our lives which He generously grants to those who seek him. It is the cultivation of active trust in Him that the Bible calls “faith” which is essential to rest. Essentially, one does not have faith without rest in Him, and one does not truly rest without faith in Him. Rest, therefore, translates as faith.

Now faith, as God intends it, is first of all relevant. By that I mean that our faith is not somehow detached from the practical affairs of life. Obviously, this has bearing on morality (what is right and wrong in every day decision-making), but also upon those things related to the needs and cares that we carry from the moment we get up in the morning to when we close our eyes at night. If we cannot trust God with everyday needs, how can we trust Him with our eternal destiny? Happy, as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 6:33, we can trust Him. We are consequently invited to seek Him first and His righteousness so that we do not forgo the blessings of His faithful provision and protection that He has promised us.

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One Who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16-17 ESV).

Faith is also engaging. In other words, it grabs hold of us and draws us on to seek out God and His will for our lives, teaching us look to His leading for direction and our sense of purpose. While our Heavenly Father knows and cares about the details of your life, He is not side-tracked by such things. Rather, He is always drawing us to the big picture of His kingdom work in us and through us. He is at work even now in your life confronting those things that hinder your surrender to Him and your availability to His life changing promises. He changes us as we encounter Him in His Word, working in us so that we can experience more of Him.

“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 ESV).

Think of it! God wants you to have the very best He can give you of Himself and works to that end in your life! It is not enough for you to only sip at His love for you; He wants you to thirst for Him so that you will come and drink deeply from the wellsprings of Who He is and what He is about in your life. Not only that, it is not enough for you alone to taste His glory, but through you to draw others to the banquet table of His great grace and power as even you are drawn yourself.

Faith is therefore also satisfying. It calls us to step out of the smallness of mediocrity for which we tend to settle. Nor does it permit us to accept merely the best the world has to offer. It orients us to Him and nothing less than that because nothing less can fill the unquenchable need of our hearts except He Himself. Ironically, just as faith turns out to bring satisfaction our lives, it also brings satisfaction to God Himself.

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6 ESV). While we cannot hope to earn His favor by doing favors for Him, nor can we through works impress Him to the end of our being accepted by Him. We instead trust Him and then live accordingly. The resulting works are the fruit of our faith.

Finally, faith is true. It requires us to break free of presumption and causes us to admit that we don’t know everything. Faith leads us to truth, the reality in which we live whether or not we know or accept it. It leads us to discover God as He truly is, ourselves as we truly are, and life as it truly flows.

My hope is that in the next article, I may share some specific keys to access more fully the “rest” of God by faith in Him. His rest, the healing, calming, and fulfilling life He intends for you and for me, is ours through Jesus and what He has done for those who forsake sin and trust in His cleansing and transforming promises.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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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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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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