Archive for the ‘Grace’ Category

In the midst of great divides, the treasure of sharing a special connection with others is increasingly precious. It cannot be overstated that much of the suffering people face today is in the feeling of being cut off from others. In many ways, we were already sliding down that slope. In pre-pandemic months and years, isolation fostered by mere illusions of connection offered us by technology were already gripping with an icy hold the hearts of people, freezing their sense of hope and true connection with others.

How is this possible when the means to connect with others has only become increasingly easy? Because with that ease has come the ease of pretending to be something one is not. What we see in our shallow connections with others over social media and video technology are carefully packaged presentations of people who put on display either a semblance of perfection to show how “together” one is or the outlandish deviations people can concoct as they attempt to draw attention to themselves and feel special and unique.

What we are not getting are authentic connections. We are not getting real love and acceptance, but likes and shares that grant us illusions of love and uniqueness. How very lonely then for us since just as surely we only share our pretend selves with others, others only share pretend selves with us. There is no true “knowing” of another in this way.

How precious then is what the child of God has in Christ and shares with other Christians as we let down our masks of whatever we think we must pretend to be. When we courageously admit how weary, broken and hurt we are and, yes, even our guilt as fallen individuals, we experience a moment of truth in which we can confess that while we are each sinners, we share a common forgiveness in Jesus Christ which binds us eternally with one another. “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:4-5 ESV).

Not only that, but we share so much in Him that any “joining together” we experience in the world outside of this special bond pales in comparison. “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, Who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6 ESV).

Perhaps this is why the Scripture in Philippians 1:7 resonates with us as the writer speaks of how he feels about other Believes, no matter the miles that separate them. “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace”.

When mostly what we hear about is that which would divide us, I hold to my heart that there is something infinitely wonderful at work, binding my life to my brothers and sisters in Christ: the grace of God in Jesus. The world and its troubles may try to drown out that beautiful truth with the noise of hate, fear, and despair, but as I turn again and again to the Bible, the Word of God, I see that I share with each Child of God something greater than all the temporary treasures and pleasures of the world.

Will I always agree with everything another Christian says or does? No. Will other Christians always “feel” close to me and I to them? Again, no. But these things cannot alter the truth of the special bond that I share with others who have received God’s great gift of forgiveness and eternal life through Christ. This truth is a special truth that Christians must especially hold dear and demonstrate for the world around us now. As people feel increasingly “cut off”, the authentic connection that only Jesus can bring to His people is a life-saving promise those around us need to see, hear, and experience. So let us cherish it, commit to experience it more and more, and let us share it. The time to do so is now.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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In a world full of people who have not cultivated the discipline of listening to others before judging them, Christians have the unique opportunity to model the guiding principles within Christian faith that we call grace and compassion. In a time when it seems that we are increasingly likely to hear of violent reactions of a person or group of people toward another because of the perception that the other is evil or inferior in some way, God’s children have a special calling to do more than just react.

Human wisdom and conventional, worldly logic tell us that it is time to fight, to take, to oppose and to exact revenge. Fear, hate, and violence are heaped upon fear, hate, and violence. Yet God interrupts us today with a different outlook and a different path.

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:38-41 ESV).

This is addressing our tendency to react. This is not addressing the call to bring what is wrong in our society into alignment with God’s Kingdom. We MUST oppose racism. We MUST oppose the wrongful oppression of others. We MUST oppose the taking of the lives of innocents.

But, as God’s people, we also must NOT allow the evil of others to be the agents of our thinking, saying, and doing of evil things. The Lord Jesus was addressing the evil in us as we take into our own hands the parceling out of judgment on others who have in our minds offended us. And He reminds us that He does not treat us that way. Instead, He patiently works to bridge the divide that exists between us and Him because of our sin and graciously bring us out of sin’s bondage into a genuine relationship with Himself even though we do not deserve it.

One test for whether or not our reaction to the harm that others have caused us is in whether or not that reaction is ultimately redemptive. Will my response help us to overcome what divides us or will it only drive us farther apart? To those who are tempted to say, “We must get others back for what they have done,” they clearly do not understand – or trust – that God is on His throne and will ultimately call every single deed, every thought and every word, into account. How very sobering because every one of us ultimately must stand before Him (see 1 Peter 4:5).

But what grace and mercy He has shown us in that while we all fall short, we may experience His forgiveness and, as we do so, we may extend that same mercy and forgiveness to others. This is what God’s grace does as it grabs hold of us and sets us free. As Christians today, the platform has been given to us to now show what real grace and real love look like. After all, we have the best picture of all in the sacrifice that Jesus did on the cross when He gave His life for sinners like you and me.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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One of the most amazing aspects of what it means to become a Child of God through faith in Jesus Christ is the fact that we are not merely changed, but that we are “born again” (John 3:3). This is to say that what change has happened in us spiritually is so radical and revolutionary to what we are that we cease to be what we once were and are now, in our essence, a completely new thing.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 and 18, we are taught by God that “If anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God Who Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

The application of this today is two-fold. First, we must understand that what we once were, we no longer are. No longer are we just breakers of God’s Law, we are forgiven. No longer are we merely sinners, but are regarded by God as saints. No longer are we spiritually dead, unresponsive to the grace and majesty of God, but we have been brought to life. No longer are we enemies to Jesus, but are now counted as His brethren. There has been an inward change in us, that I must point out must be accepted by faith as having taken place (since our emotions don’t always keep up with what God has revealed to us through His Word).

Secondly, because we have been so radically changed, we look at others differently. We now, by God’s truth working its effect in our hearts’ attitudes and agendas, see others as God sees them (or at least we desire to and commit ourselves to His opening our minds to them).

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer” (2 Corinthians 5:16 ESV).

We see other people as the bearer of God’s image. We look at them and realize, no matter how different they may seem to us on the outside, no matter what their past has been, mistakes they have made, or perhaps how they have harmed us, they have the potential, as God ordains it, to be as radically transformed as we are if we truly have been saved by Christ.

In others words, we stop looking at others through the human lenses of our limited perspectives, and look at others through the lens of God’s truth and love which does not change or serve our selfish agendas.

In a time of great division and misunderstanding, we need the unity that only Jesus’ love and transformation can bring. And for it to enter our little corner of the world, we must be willing to let that love and truth grab hold of us and flow through us into our actions, words, and attitudes. To do anything else is to fall short in being transformed inside and out. And without individual people being transformed, our homes, community, and world cannot be transformed. So let the love of Jesus do its work today in making you new.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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A Choice to Make

You and I are continually confronted with choices. Granted, a lot of our choices are in the general area of small decisions such as do I go with the blue shirt today and khakis or maybe the cream shirt and black? Or do I want hamburger or chicken for supper? Or what show do I feel like watching tonight? The vast majority of decisions we make are ones we are not even aware that we’re making. These range from the tone we subconsciously use in speaking to our children, spouse, or coworker in any given conversation to choosing to scroll just a few more seconds on Facebook before we get back to work.

Most decisions are not “big” decisions in that any one of them make or break us or drastically alter our future (although some can and do such as choosing to run a stop sign or drinking before we drive). Most decisions have cumulative effects and direct our lives in general trends: there is a big difference between out-of-character acting irritably towards someone when we are tired versus habitually criticizing or berating another; a relationship marked by ongoing negativity is bound to be riddled with all sorts of relational problems and negative long term effects.

There are some decisions, however, that are enormous ones and our futures are determined by them. Marriage, for one thing, is a big deal. A lesser one, but still important, is what college or trade school we attend. But one decision in particular is crucial and must not be treated as anything less.

In the book of Matthew, the Bible records for us an encounter that the Lord Jesus has with a man whose soul is hungry. The man has lots of material possessions, seems to be a moral and upstanding citizen, and appears to be quite successful. Yet he knows in his heart the futility of such things. So he goes to Jesus.

He asks Jesus what he still needs (see verse 20). Jesus, knowing that the man has placed his hope in finding peace and purpose in his worldly possessions and position, counsels the man to let go of those things and to follow Him.

The Bible tells us that “when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:22 ESV).

Perhaps the man went away, thought about what Jesus said, and came back eventually, choosing to trust Jesus as Savior and Lord. Perhaps. The Bible doesn’t tell us. It simply records for us that in that moment, he chose something over Jesus. It is very possible that the man did not come back to Jesus. He may well have been involved in a chariot hit-and-run later that same day and did not have another opportunity to come back to the Lord. Or maybe he lived a long life, but his heart became increasingly hard and bitter as he continued along the path his decision determined for him. We don’t know.

But what we do know is that the same decision that confronted this man is a decision that we all must make. And just as he may not have had subsequent opportunities to repent and turn in faith to Jesus Christ, we should not assume that we can put Jesus off. A moment in which we make the decision to not trust Him as Lord and Savior may be the last chance we had to do so.

So if your heart is hungry and you are stirred up to seek out Jesus, know that His grace has brought you to this moment so that you can yourself receive His gift of peace, love and joy. Be careful to not turn away, taking for granted the opportunity you were given by His grace, but wholeheartedly embrace His love and forgiveness and power to give your life purpose and peace. Some choices are more important than others; but no choice is more important than this, to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Most people in Jesus’ day did not recognize Him. And because they did not recognize Him, they did not understand Him, His mission, or His motives. This paved the way for their rejection of Him, their mistreatment of Him, and their missing out on receiving from Him what they needed most – the gift of eternal life that only He could grant them.

When you read in Luke 23 about Jesus in the presence of that time period’s leaders, Pilate and Herod, you should feel keenly their confusion and take heed that you do not fall into the same traps into which they did.

“Herod with his soldiers treated (Jesus) with contempt and mocked Him. Then, arraying Him in splendid clothing, he sent (Jesus) back to Pilate…. (Pilate) said to (the chief priests and the rulers and the people)…, ‘What evil has He done? I have found in Him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release Him.’ But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that He should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted” (Luke 23:11, 22-24 ESV).

Pilate, on the one hand, seemed to perceive Jesus’ innocence and the injustice that the crowds sought to carry out against Him. Yet Pilate shrugged his shoulders, more or less, and abdicated personal responsibility of responding to the uniqueness of Jesus. And Herod, in love with himself, did not find in Jesus anything that fed that selfishness, so he not only dismissed Him, but mistreated and mocked Him.

Both men, though failing to recognize Jesus as Son of God and Lord of Creation, were still accountable for their responses to Him. Jesus, Son of God, the Word made Flesh, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, stood before them and they missed it, rejected Him, and sent Him packing. They couldn’t afford to make that mistake, yet they did. I cannot fathom their reaction when they stepped into eternity without the forgiveness of Christ Jesus and realized the horror of not receiving Him as Lord and Savior.

You and I are in a similar boat. True, we are not in the positions of either Pilate or Herod and it is likely that our names are not going to be known throughout the ages, but our response to Who He is will be the most urgent decision ever before us. And our response to Who He is will be dictated by our recognition of Who He is.

Do we really perceive Him as the Son of God (Luke 1:32)? As the Word of God made Flesh (John 1:14)? As the One to Whom every knee must bow and every tongue confess as Lord (Philippians 2:10-11)?

If we do recognize Him as the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), then we must submit to that fact and make the decision of receiving Him accordingly. He is the Lamb of God who will take away your sin, if you will repent of your sin and turn to Him in faith (see Romans 10:9-10). The moment you do so, God “causes you to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3b-4 ESV).

This is the hope that Good Friday secures for us as we make our way to Easter Sunday’s Resurrection. Do you recognize Jesus? Do you see that He is Lord and Savior? Do you know Him personally?   He died for you and in your place so that you could have a place in heaven with Him. Receive Him today.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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You may feel powerless right now in the face of the pandemic and impact that it has had socially and economically upon you and our society. You may feel weak. You may feel scared. You may doubt that in the face of trying to stay away from others (at home or however you must do it) that you have anything to offer others let alone manage to get through this without losing your mind (or duct-taping the kids to the wall; please, don’t do that, by the way). The awareness of weakness is not something we enjoy intrinsically. But there is some tremendous value in it and there is reason to give thanks for it.

For one thing, our smallness is rarely clear to us until we come up against something bigger. For some, it is happening right now for the first time in the face of COVID-19 pandemic. Not only is it bigger than any one of us, but it has reared its imposing head over nations and their leaders and is proving to be unpredictable upon whom it inflicts its wrath and those it doesn’t. Only now are some realizing that they do not have all the answers and their stature is tiny in the shadow of a worldwide epidemic.

For another thing, our selfishness is seldom revealed until we find ourselves threatened. We could, on the one hand, fearfully look out only for ourselves, hoarding and hating anyone who competes for the resources we reach for. Fight or flight are instincts that we may be powerless to stop from taking us over as our adrenaline pumps throughout our bodies and we live as if we are at war with the world.

Additionally, our weakness is not typically apparent to us unless we are attempting something that we simply cannot do. In the case of the Corona virus, we thought we could stop it, some thought they could survive it, some thought they could cure it. While it is to be hoped that by God’s mercy a cure may yet be found, this sickness has surged throughout the world infecting and killing many.

But these same conclusions could happen to any of us individually at any time anyway. It does not take the virus to reveal our smallness, selfishness, or weakness. Those things were only invisible to us because of our complacency and our inclination to simply not think about it. It could be cancer that reveals these things. It could be losing a job. Or a spouse. Or a child. It could be failure to have lived the life we had dreamed of living.

In any of these crises (worldwide or personal), there comes a moment of reckoning when we have to deal with the fact that being merely human is sometimes a hard thing to be. But it is only as defeating to us if we only look so far. If we look beyond the bigness of life, of problems, of failure, and look to the God of creation Who is steering the events of history in accordance to a master plan and that He has our welfare in mind, we realize that the bigness of our problems are infinitesimally small in comparison to the God Who reigns.

The staggering implications of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-33 is that the strength and commitment of God in taking care of you is unimaginably beyond your ability to take care of you.

Furthermore, Jesus says in Luke 12:6-7, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” If God is taking care of little things, God will take care of you.

Our weakness is a blessing in this respect: it paves the way for us to seek God. Of course, it does not guarantee that we will seek Him necessarily for His own sake. We might content with being satisfied with merely hoping that He’ll help us in our problems, overcome our obstacles, provide for our lack, or protect us from what scares us. But what He desires to do instead and uses weakness to prepare our hearts for is that we look to Him, perceive His great love and power, and come to love Him in return. There may be times when He does not save you from your problem, but would still use it to teach you to trust Him and to lean upon Him, learning His strength and compassion.

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV).

It is not likely that we are going to quickly be contented with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities, but when we remember how such limitations can teach us to turn our heavenly Father, suddenly they lose their strength in our lives. Are you troubled? Turn to God; He is Lord. Are you anxious? Trust in Him: He is working. Are you weak? Yes, you are, but He is strong.

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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There is a profound danger for the one who calls himself a Christian, yet takes for granted the spiritual realities of God’s grace and righteousness. To neglect them is to lose the opportunity to avert the eternal disaster of judgement and to forfeit the privilege of God’s amazing grace and love.

There are many instances in the Bible in which the Scriptures underscore this point for us. For example, when I read and prayerfully reflect on the passage in Matthew 8, verses 1-13, I am deeply moved in two ways.

The first is that this passage tells us of an encounter that Jesus has with an “ungodly” man. This persecutor and oppressor of God’s people, ultimately humbles himself before Jesus, declaring his recognition of Jesus as Lord and Savior (at least in a partial sense). There is no need to convince this man that Jesus is Lord, nor is it necessary to motivate him to seek out Jesus as Savior. It is clear to him that Jesus is Savior so he comes to Him with his appeal; it is obvious to him that Jesus is Lord so he humbles himself utterly, emptying himself of any notion of his right to Jesus’ help or expectation that Jesus humble Himself by going to the Centurion’s home. Since Romans typically viewed Jews as objects of contempt and Roman soldiers in particular had no qualms about forcing the issue and taking what they could from their subjects, this man’s attitude toward Jesus is quite out of character.

This man’s earnest plea for Jesus’ intervention as well as his perception of Christ’s worthiness are so remarkable that Jesus contrasts the man’s faith with the lack of it (and faith’s inherent qualities) in people who had been given every opportunity and resource to demonstrate genuine faith, yet did not. Faith is like that. When it is real, it shows up tangibly in a person’s life. Not as evidenced by a lack of trouble, problems, or sickness. Nor by the presence of comfortable and lavish possessions and surroundings. It shows up in the way a man or woman turns to Christ and trusts Him no matter what their circumstances, content in God Himself and not merely in how it makes us look or makes us feel. True faith moves the heart of its bearer to seek out God and His mercy in the big things of life, but also the “little things” of every day.
Many in Jesus’ day were going through the motions of faith (religious talk and activity), but did not have the substance of faith (namely, a genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ).

But there you have it. Religious activity does not prove faith – especially the soul-saving faith you and I desperately need. This realization, which is the second main way that this passage moves me, goes further than illuminating Jesus as Savior of the World (even of the Gentile Roman Centurion). It also includes a point that we would be unwise to pass over: that there is an eternal judgement reserved for all those who have not placed their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior no matter what religion or philosophy they supposedly subscribe to. That includes you and me. No matter what church or religion or good cause I may give myself to, unless I have personally received Him as Savior and Lord, I have only the destiny of eternal darkness before me to which Jesus referred when he spoke with that Centurion.

As far as receiving Him as Savior, He alone can save. I cannot save myself from hell. My “good deeds” do not outweigh the heinous crime of my rejecting Him. As far as receiving Him as Lord, I must now follow Him, seek to be like Him, learn His heart and walk in His ways. There is no alternative. It is natural to one who has been saved to deeply desire to know the One Who has saved him. Nor do I wish there to be an alternative. Following Jesus is the sweetest path one can know. The destination is beyond anyone’s ability to describe its glory and the fellowship with Him along the journey of life is a daily filling of peace and joy.

There is therefore a choice that we each must make. We may receive His invitation of coming to Him today. Or we may reject it. Even a delay however is a rejection. It is to put off the outstretched hand of Almighty God. It is to spurn the welcome of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is to say “no” to light and life. But perhaps today you hear His voice and you are ready to receive Him.

“…The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:8-13 ESV).

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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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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