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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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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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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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This week saw the passing of a renowned man of God, Billy Graham. The man, referred to as “America’s pastor” and described by some as “the most significant religious figure of the 20th century”, was a person with a single-minded view of humanity’s need – collectively and individually – that of peace with God through Jesus Christ.

It cannot be doubted that his well-established sense of integrity and personal humility were traits that model for us today the gentle, yet passionate spirit of one called of God. For one who spoke in person to over 100 million people and countless more over television, satellite, film and internet, and for being the “friend and confidante of popes and presidents, queens and dictator” (according to Randall Balmer, Columbia University historian), he was approachable by anyone and everyone and received them as though they, too, were royalty.

And perhaps that is because he knew their Kingdom potential in Jesus as well as his own poverty apart from Christ. It is hard to imagine what our world would be like today without him and hard to imagine what our world will be like now that the Lord has called Billy to his eternal home.

Having said that, I remember about twenty years ago a conversation I was having with a woman about the Lord in general and about Billy Graham, whose name had come up as we talked.

I remember her sadly shaking her head at the time as she said, “I don’t know what we’re going to do when he dies.” She was imagining all sorts of horrible directions for our country and having a hard time recognizing any hope for our nation once this man of God was taken home.

My response to her was that “Just as God raised him up for this season to share the hope of Jesus to our world, He will raise up others to share that same hope. Our hope is not in Billy Graham, but the Savior to Whom he bore witness.”

Today we remember Billy Graham as a faithful servant of the Lord. We can celebrate what God has done in and through that faithful life and thank the Lord for the anointed witness he was. What God has done through that humble servant’s life is incalculable.

I am sure that his family and friends grieve the immediate loss of their loved one, but that they are greatly encouraged by the assurance that comes from knowing that their father, grandfather, friend or mentor is standing now in the light of the glory of the Savior for whom he lived. Not only that, but they are doubtless encouraged, too, by knowing that he is again reunited with his dear wife who had gone on before him to meet their Savior in the place He prepared for them.

But even in death, by which Billy now is “more alive than ever before”, his life’s message is still one that challenges us. Are you prepared? Do you have peace with God through Jesus Christ? Are you still trapped in sin without any hope for change for your future, no clear purpose or identity?

Jesus is the solution to that. While it is true that each of us is a sinner by nature and by behavior (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23 ESV) and that the result of our sin is death – spiritually, socially, and even physically (“The wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23a), it is also true that God’s desire is for you to be given new life: forgiven, made new, and given a new destiny (“…But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23b).

Because it is a gift, it cannot be earned. It can only be received. It is received through faith in Him (“By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” Ephesians 2:9 ESV).

And how do you lay hold of this awesome opportunity? How do you step into the grace of “saving faith”? “…If you confess your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:10 ESV). In other words, you repent of your sin and turn from your old life and turn to Him, wholly committing yourself to following Him. Then you can trust His promise to save you and establish your eternal destiny in heaven with Him.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13 ESV).

That is what I believe that Billy Graham would have you know and what he would have you find hope in. It is true that he will be greatly missed, but we can look forward now to new things that God will do in and through His people in the days ahead – no matter how challenging they may be.

But please settle things with the Lord today while you have the opportunity.

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Forlorn and lost and bereft of hope,

            Embraced by fear and pulled down the slope

Of pain and fear and desperation

            And dying from our separation

From our source of life, the God of love

            Who supremely rules from above.

 

In His holiness, He judges all.

            Yet to the sinner, He sends the call

To turn aside from all pride and sin

            And through Christ’s blood he is ushered in

To His presence! Be cleansed and made new!

            Pardoned and changed completely through!

 

O come and find His forgiveness now!

            And set yourself to discover how

Great and good is Jesus’ love for you!

            How beautiful and perfectly true

Is Jesus Who died to set you free

            But lives and reigns eternally!

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Ya Got Yer CallinAlec MacNeal had had a reputation for knowing the waters off the coast of his little New England village like no one else around. His father had been a fisherman, as had his father before him. Alec had grown up on the waves, and knew exactly where to drop his nets and when to do it. He had weathered every storm that had ever aimed its winds his way and had enough sense to get out of the ones that he couldn’t weather.

But now he was overcome at last by a storm which he couldn’t steer clear of, a storm that wasn’t in the blowing wind or stinging spray of the open sea, but in his own flesh as cancer irresistibly continued its advance.

He reflected a bit over his life, scenes of joy and sorrow alternately flashing across his mind. He was waiting for his son, Richard, to arrive and as his wait dragged on, his mind dwelled more and more on the weed bed of regret that his own pride and selfishness had cultivated for him.

He and Richard hadn’t been close for nearly two decades, since Richard was a very young man. Alec had always considered himself a good man, perhaps even better than a lot of churchgoers in their little coastal town. Attending church was never something he had ever faulted anyone else for doing, but given the need to be out even for days at a time on the water, he reasoned that he rarely had a Sunday free to attend church and even when he did, he usually used it as his day to catch up on other things.

But he didn’t object when Richard announced that he was going to attend a church meeting with a friend who had invited him. It was, after all, a much better track than sneaking a bottle of whiskey or smoking who knew what on some back road in the country.

But Alec was mystified by Richard’s strange attitude when he returned home and in the following days. He was quiet and reflective as if deeply pondering things. When Alec asked what it was all about, Richard quietly replied that he had become a Christian. Richard went on to explain that at church he had heard about Jesus coming to show the way to God the Father, that He had died as a sacrifice for everyone’s sin so that they could be forgiven and go to heaven. Richard shared that he had asked Christ into his life and was now going to try to live for Him.

Alec simply stared at Richard. He finally shrugged his shoulders and muttered, “More power to you.” And it neither troubled or in any other way affected him until Richard’s new found relationship with God began to affect Richard’s part in the family business.

The older fisherman had always assumed that Richard would simply continue in the family business as Alec had done. But the first clue that assumptions were dangerous things was Richard’s asking to not go out on the boats on Sunday. As far as “needing” him, Alec had plenty of employees to take care of the boats, but he still bristled a little bit when Richard made his request.

“You know, Richard, that this is a very busy time of year for us,” he said crisply. Richard nodded respectfully, but continued to look his father in the eye.

“I know it, and I’ll work all the harder the next day and the rest of the week to make up for it,” he said. “Besides, you’ve got Carl, Edward, and Mac to help you. You could do without me for one day.”

Alec sighed, and then grunted his assent. Richard was as good as his word, making up for the one missed day with extra energy and enthusiasm for the rest of the week.

“Richard is a good lad,” his father thought to himself one day, as he watched him working with the other men on the engine of the boat. He was far more a positive influence on them than they were a negative one on him. Even their language began to get tamer whenever Richard was around. Nevertheless, Alec kept a watchful eye on his son, riding him hard about his work and requiring a level of perfection and performance that he himself doubted he’d have if Richard had not become a Christian.

But one Sunday, he returned home to find Richard once again in his strangely pensive mood as if he had something to say but was afraid to say it. Alec was tired after a long day of disappointing results so, after a somber meal, he turned to Richard and said, “All right. What’s on yer mind?”

Richard looked quietly at the table and then at his father. “I believe that God is calling me into the ministry,” he answered. “I’ve gotten information about a Bible college and seminary and plan to go there at the end of the month.”

Alec’s sunburned and wind-blown forehead crinkled into a thousand lines of agitation. He spluttered a few syllables but didn’t manage to say anything. He stood up suddenly and strode to the wide window that looked out over the bay. His little fishing vessel was well into the shadows that the gable of his house cast eastwards. Two of his ship hands were still inspecting nets before they stowed them away.

Richard came and stood by his father, gazing out across the relatively calm waters. “Dad…” he started to say. His father turned a cold eye towards him.

“Ya got yer callin’,” he growled. “Just go ahead then and follow it. Just go and get out!” With that, Alec turned, yanked his jacket off its peg. “I mean it! Get out!” he barked over his shoulder and then stormed out of the house down to the boats. Richard watched for a few moments, standing as if he had been slapped in the face, and then made a phone call to a friend. He packed some bags, grabbed his Bible, and quietly slipped out the door.

When Alec returned, several hours later, he came home, slamming doors and muttering curses. He cast a quick glance into Richard’s room and shook his head. “After all I’ve done for him, too!” Alec realized that he was incredibly angry… angry at Richard, but angrier at God for stealing him away.

But now, years later, he was dying. Richard frequently came back, but Alec would never receive him and never quite forgave him. Their visits were generally prolonged exercises in strained and awkward moments. Richard had even the audacity on a couple of occasions to try to talk to Alec about a relationship with God. Each time, Alec would just hold his hand up and tell him to mind his own business.

Alec’s heart now weighed heavily with regret. “What was I so angry about?” he now wondered. “If he really did become a Christian, how could I not expect him to want for me what he says he found?” Alec mentally kicked himself now. What if Richard didn’t make it back in time? What if he never made peace with his son? What if he never made peace with God?

But the outer door opened. There were voices in the outer room where the nurse who took care of Alec had been waiting. Footsteps. And then Richard’s familiar form entered the room.

“Dad?” Richard said, his voice a welcome sound to Alec’s ears. Alec smiled and reached for his son.

“Hiya, Dickie,” he said, using Richard’s childhood nickname. “I’m glad you’re here.” There was a pause. “Would you… Could you tell me again how to become a Christian?” Richard’s heart leapt to his throat. He nodded and began to share with his father about Jesus, glad for the peace that now lay between them. Moments later, Alec MacNeal received Jesus as his Savior. Days later, Alec MacNeal went to heaven.

“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. And going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him” (Matthew 4:18-22 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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