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*This story is adapted from John 8:1-11.

 

The bruises on Rahab’s arms ached as rough hands dragged her mercilessly through the dusty streets. But more stinging than the fingers that clamped like claws were reproachful stares of those whom she passed as she was forced along. Jeers and insults were thrown at her like barbed javelins dipped in the poison of hate. “Adulteress!” some shouted. “Harlot!” cried others.

She kept her eyes down, partly so that she could focus on not stumbling as she was driven along, planting one cut and bleeding foot in front of the other. But partly she did so to avoid the mocking look in scores of cruel eyes. Occasionally she could not keep from allowing her eyes to furtively look up, searching and pleading for some shred of compassion or mercy. But there was none. Even the one whose arms from which she had been ripped now mocked her and betrayed her with cruelty as he followed along with the others.

Fear gripped her more tightly than the men who half dragged and half shoved her along and a weight of despair hung like a millstone from her heart. They took her to the temple courts where a great crowd had already assembled. A man was waiting just inside the gate, long, flowing robes dragging the dust at his feet. “You have her, I see,” he said in a low voice to one of the men. “Good! Now let’s take this sacrificial lamb and see if this ‘Teacher’ steps into our little trap.” As he laughed a cold laugh, his prayer tassels seemed to quiver in agreement.

“But what if He doesn’t, Abihu?” asked the lover who had betrayed her. “What if He upholds the traditions and says we must stone her?”

no stones came 2

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”
Psalm 32:1-2 ESV

The other man sniffed scornfully. “If He does, He does. Why do you care, Achan? You’ve been paid well.” He looked at the woman and sneered. “Besides, she’s just an adulteress. She deserves to die.” He started to turn towards the crowd. “But I don’t think you need to worry about losing your plaything. This Jesus isn’t bound by the traditions our elders passed on to us. He’s spoken all along of the Holy One’s forgiveness and I’ve no doubt that He’ll place His foot right into the snare we’ve laid out for Him… right in front of all these witnesses. And then His blood will be ours!” With that he strode towards the crowd, people parting right and left for him as he purposefully marched to the Man Who had been sitting in the center teaching.

 

Abihu stood in front of Him, a mocking smile on his lips. He nodded his head and Rahab was dragged to his side.

“Teacher,” he said the word with obvious disdain. “This woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.” He eyed the gawking people in the throngs around them many of them holding heavy stones in their hands. Oh, this was too fun! Too easy! He was about to tear down the idealism of this… this Messiah and discredit Him. News of His discomfiture would quickly erode His reputation and maybe even stop the madness of the multitudes flocking to His call. “Now what do you say?” he said with pretend reverence (see John 8:4-5).

Jesus looked at Abihu for a moment, His gaze penetrating into his soul. Abihu suddenly felt unsure of himself and took a step backward as if he feared a blow. But Jesus looked away towards the woman standing beside him, her head down, hair spilling messily around her shoulders and her hands clenching and unclenching feebly.

Then Jesus knelt to the ground and began to scratch letters into the dust of the ground. What was He writing? Abihu waited, his anger and impatience growing, like a floodwater rising inside him. He turned his head, trying to look as if he weren’t interested, and finally could make out the words.

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2 ESV).

Abihu felt the sting of those words almost as fiercely as if he had been flailed. “Who does He think He is?” he thought.

“Well-l-l-l?” he finally retorted, ignoring the writing in the dust. Others began to murmur. “Yes,” said one especially loud. “What do you say?” Soon at least a dozen voices began to prod him with variations of the same question.

Jesus stood up and the murmuring was silenced as His deep eyes looked at them. “If any one of you is without sin,” He said, “let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (from John 8:7). He then bent down again and resumed writing in the dust. Rahab gasped and clenched her eyes tightly, her heart pounding in her chest.

But no stones came. She heard a dull thud and dared to look up. An old man had dropped a stone and was quietly slipping away. There was another thud as another stone hit the ground. Another accuser was gone. One by one the stones fell from their fingers and one by one they each left silently until only Achan and Ahiju were left. Achan glanced at Rahab’s face, but then he too dropped his stone and disappeared. Ahiju stood alone, bristling powerlessly. The venomous hate in his eyes was met by the strong and graceful gaze of Jesus Who now looked up at him. Ahiju turned on his heel and stormed out of the temple area.

Rahab stood alone before the Lord. She looked at what He had written. “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing Your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever!” (Psalm 30:11-12 ESV).

Jesus stood up and faced the woman. As she stood before Him, she was tortuously aware of all of her past guilt. Her shame clung to her like rags and she could not make herself look into His face. What would He now say to her, this Judge who had judged her judges?

“Woman, where are they?” He asked as if in answer to her thoughts. “Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, Sir,” she quietly replied.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” He declared, a righteous warmth glowing from His face. “Go now and leave your life of sin” (from John 8:10-11). He looked at her knowingly for a moment as she stood blinking in her astonishment. He then turned and quietly walked away.

Rahab also turned and made her way back home, nearly stupefied over what had just happened. She had met something in Jesus she had never known before… something called grace. It was like she had been in a vast bog into which she had willfully wandered, the stench of which was overpowering. Instead of being allowed to just sink into its mire, to be lost forever, a strong hand had pulled her up and out and set her feet on a good path lined with fragrant flowers. This path, she knew, led not to disappointment but to complete joy and peace because it led to God Himself. She realized that she had been given a new life.

There was no doubt in her mind or in her heart: Jesus had truly been sent by God to pull people out of the mire of their sin. He Himself had chosen to not accuse her but to give her another opportunity to know God and be given a second chance. She smiled as she entered her house. She looked around and nodded to herself. Now that He was Master of her life, there were going to be some changes made! And in the knowledge that she had been forgiven, she began to clean her house.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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A man who was both very successful and widely admired was approached by his young daughter, Allison, during a brief (and all too rare) moment between his vigorous business trips. She climbed into his lap and hugged him with the earnestness that only a small and adoring child can effortlessly muster.

“Daddy,” she began, her large brown eyes searching her father’s face. “You travel so much, I’m afraid you won’t come home one day. If something happened… to you I mean, would you go to heaven?”

For a moment he hesitated. Caught off guard like that, he was suddenly aware that he didn’t really know the answer to that question. “Well sure, honey. I’d go to heaven,” he finally replied, trying to be reassuring, but inwardly feeling a twinge of guilt as if he were lying. He knew he wasn’t a bad person as people go, but he also knew that there were places in his heart with corresponding moments in his past that had left a stain that he wasn’t sure God could overlook if that moment were to arrive. “Yes, I’d go to heaven,” he said again.

“That’s a relief, Daddy,” Allision chirped. She hugged him, climbed down and ran away to play. Her father stood up and quietly began packing for his next trip, profoundly disturbed.

That night, in his hotel room, he found a Bible. He opened it and began reading, his eyes finally running across Jesus’ parable in Luke 12 about a rich man who had big plans. When he read verse 12, his heart skipped a beat. “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’”

He lay in his bed that night finding it difficult to sleep. Eventually, drowsiness overtook him and his eyes closed in slumber. Then he began to dream.

He dreamed that he was traveling along a highway with many lanes of traffic all moving in the same direction. At first the sky seemed clear but the farther he traveled the darker and gloomier it became. He looked to the right of the highway and occasionally saw exit signs which seemed to indicate a safer road to travel to a surer destination. Every so often he could see people taking such an exit to that surer road.

At first, he laughed at them and thought them foolish for missing out on all the opportunities that the fast-paced and well-traveled road offered. He glanced around him and felt reassured that he was not alone but was surrounded by countless others all traveling as he was. He noticed that those around him were accelerating and so he too began to speed up as he strived to keep up with the others. But distant voices seemed to call to him, appealing to him to leave the road he was on and to take the exit to the safe road. He ignored them, but noticed that the exits were becoming fewer and instinctively felt that the other drivers about him were determined that he remain in their midst.

His car sped up more and was then forced to the lane farthest from the exit ramps. Many of the drivers around him who had told him that he was wise in choosing the broad, well-traveled way now laughed openly at him, while a few others seemed to be as trapped and as frightened as he felt.

He noticed that the voices from the other road seemed either to be growing fainter or were being drowned out by the roar of cars charging along on the broad way. His eyes caught sight of another exit ramp and he realized that he could just make it if he would only turn. A pair of hands floated above him ready to take control and guide him to safety if he would simply release control to them. But he hesitated. After all, most of the other drivers were still traveling the broad path apparently without worry and he didn’t wish to look foolish to them. And he wasn’t sure that he was quite ready to give up control of his direction to anyone. He passed the exit sign.

Suddenly the road ended. He was alone and surrounded by nothing at all except gloom and an eerie silence broken only by the faint echo of mocking laughter from a shadow that had hidden in his back seat all along, urging him along this path to destruction and away from the safety that the guiding hands would have granted him had he only yielded.

He wanted to blame the shadow for encouraging him along the path that he had chosen. He wanted to blame the other drivers for trapping him in the lane away from the exits. He wanted to blame those who had taken the safer road for not warning him soon enough or loud enough. He wanted to blame the hands above him for not grabbing control and taking him to safety.

He wanted to and even tried to. But he knew down deep inside that he was the one to blame. He was the one who had made the choice to remain on the wide and easy way. The darkness intensified until it was an inky blackness. It surrounded him and began to smother him in painful tentacles of regret and grief. He realized that he was alone, utterly and inescapably alone and would always be so forever after. He cried out in despair.

He awoke screaming. His eyes opened and he sat straight up in bed. He looked at the alarm clock. One thought flashed through his mind. “I can still get off that road,” he thought. He remembered the cross of Jesus Christ and realized that he had found the exit ramp. He yanked the covers off himself, knelt down beside the bed and began to pray. “I don’t really know how to pray,” he said aloud, clenching his eyes shut. “But I know that You can hear me. I’ve avoided You all my life, trying to do what I thought best on my terms. I thought I could put You off or that maybe somehow I could measure up on my own merits. I know now that I was wrong, that I was rejecting You and what You did for me as You died on the cross. Please forgive me and be Lord of my life now.”

He stopped and took a deep breath. He opened his eyes and glanced up at the bed side table on which he had placed the Bible the night before. He picked it up and opened it to a verse that he had read earlier.

“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 ESV). He glanced at the alarm clock. It glowed 7:15 in bright red numbers. He smiled and picked up the phone and dialed his home.

“Good morning, honey,” he said when his wife answered. “Yes, I know it’s a bit early but I wanted to let you know that I just switched roads.” He chuckled at the sounds of confusion on the other end of the phone. “No, I’m in my hotel room. I just mean that I’ve given my life to Jesus…. Yes, I’m serious. Thank you for being patient with me… and for your prayers. Will you tell Allison when she wakes up? Tell her that I know for sure that one day I’ll definitely be going to heaven.”

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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There are times in many people’s lives when something is said or done that sets for them a course of pain and regret. Perhaps looking back on your life, you see that you have somehow lost your way and are now somewhere in a valley of heartache, a million miles away from where you always dreamed you’d be. Maybe you wonder how you got into the place you are and have sadly resigned yourself to a fate of hopelessness. It could be that there are images engraved in your memory with etchings of sorrow so deep that you shy from remembering, becoming numb to life and the world around you.

If so, you’re definitely not alone. Mistakes in the past often reap a harvest of bitterness and pain. Materially or physically or even socially, things may be so utterly out of hand or are so rapidly heading in the wrong direction that despair has crept into our hearts like a slow, cold poison.

It sometimes appears on the surface that things seem all right, but when one assesses his or her heart’s condition, he or she can discern that things aren’t really so okay after all. As a result, a sense of being trapped takes hold, making one a prisoner of regret, shame, or pride. Relationships have been somehow spoilt and aren’t what they should be and joy stubbornly eludes one’s grasp.

What is one to do then when it seems that there isn’t any going back? Circumstantially speaking, it is true that when once we set in motion a series of events that we must “face the music” so to speak, harvesting the consequences of past decisions, attitudes, or actions. But it is not true that while we have breath on earth that we can so destroy the bridge of relationship with God that we cannot get back to Him!

First consider that no one at all can approach holy God deservedly. The result of our sin and the price to be paid was the giving of a life… which our God accomplished in the crucifixion of His Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, thinking that you have ongoing access to the Father because of your faithfulness is falling short of the full effect of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. Your faithfulness does not bridge your relationship with God. It is the faithfulness of God that opened the bridge in the first place and keeps it open for you.

Your faithfulness simply produces the happy fruit of allowing your heart and life to be filled with the good things of God: joy, peace, purpose, victory, courage, and love. It is because of grace that you can return in repentance and sweet fellowship over and over again with the Lord of glory!

Consider how God’s people, through the ages, wrestled with this time and time again. Hear a prayer of a servant of God interceding for God’s people: “You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the LORD my God. For after I had turned away, I relented, and after I was instructed, I slapped my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.” (Jeremiah 31:18b-19 ESV).

And listen to the Lord’s reply to this prayer: “Is not Ephraim My dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore My heart yearns for Him; I have great compassion for him” (Jeremiah 31:20 NIV).

So if you feel like you’ve wandered far away from God, remember that it is grace through faith only by which you were saved. Recall to your mind that the way is still open to you even if you’ve departed from the path of walking daily with Him.

“Set up road markers for yourself. Make yourself guideposts. Take note of the highway, the road that you take. Return… return…. How long will you waver?” (from Jeremiah 31:21-22b ESV).

When we are called to walk with God, He calls us in spite of all our imperfections and waywardness in order to demonstrate His perfection: His perfect salvation and His perfectly enduring grace that “keeps us” in His love. Know that He knew what He was getting into when He called you to be His child. So if your feet have wandered away, the way back isn’t closed to you after all. You’ll enjoy, like the Prodigal Son, a reuniting that, while you don’t deserve it, awaits you nonetheless (see Luke 15:11-31). To be once again “caught up in the arms” of your loving heavenly Father, you simply have to turn your feet back towards home.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Okay. I admit it. I am tempted sometimes to feel troubled by the times. From the point of view of someone who believes that there is such a thing as “truth” and that such truth has as its basis and origin a Creator, our culture seems to be waging war against the idea of a divine standard and, therefore, the One Who upholds that standard.

I am troubled that our society’s “drift” from God is now a complete freefall from any consciousness of Him and all conviction of moral uprightness. I am troubled by our government’s ongoing rabid support of anti-life (pro-abortion) legislation. I am troubled by the notion that Christianity has become culturally marginalized as if Biblical values have no place in public policy and are therefore interpreted as being irrelevant and now “offensive” and bigoted. I am troubled by the saturation of unrestrained sensuality that constantly surrounds our children, the reckless and senseless “normalization” of violence as being nothing more than entertainment (particularly when slash-and-gore movies make their rounds this fall), and attitudes of rebellion and dishonor to parents that are popularized in music and popular television. I am troubled by churches that claim to belong to God on the one hand and yet shrug off His Word on the other. And I am troubled by apathy and powerlessness that often characterizes Christians in general.

But although I may feel troubled, the promises of God have a way of reining my anxieties in. This is not the only occasion in which God’s people have lived in disconcerting times and have faced disconcerting circumstances. In fact, Christians today need to remember to Whom they belong, Whose blood was spilled for them, and Whose promises never fail.

We need not be afraid of the times, nor of policies that are contrary to God’s Word, neither do we need fear increasing disfavor in our society’s eyes. Instead, we ought to continue to fear the Lord Whose hand still governs the nations and holds the entire universe in its grasp.

“The LORD spoke thus to me with His strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: ‘Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, Him you shall regard as holy. Let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. And He will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling… And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.’ Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. I will wait for the LORD… I will hope in him” (Isaiah 8:11-17 ESV).

For many today, the Lord is very much “a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling” (see verse 14) because a genuine faith in God that compels people to make radical choices for their lifestyles and values is just too much to ask for some. True disciples that establish boundaries for what is acceptable and what is not, choosing obedience to His Word over comfort and convenience, are rarer and rarer in a world that worships freedom from restraint and responsibility. Many have indeed stumbled (see verse 15) and live now only a watered down spiritual life. And so they have become snared (also in verse 15), taken by the whims of society and fearful of taking a stand for the values of God.

“For wickedness burns like a fire; it consumes briers and thorns; it kindles the thickets of the forest, and they roll upward in a column of smoke” (Isaiah 9:18 ESV).

Nevertheless, if you are His child, then do not fear. It may seem that the shadows of our times have lengthened to a twilight of hope. But if you walk a life that is humbled before the Lord, trusting His promises, and strive to be obedient to His Word, then you can expect the light of His love being shed abroad in your experience.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Isaiah 9:2 ESV).

Be reminded that the light of Jesus Christ is greater than the darkness of human sin. Be comforted in knowing that the willful and wanton rebellion of a nation does not trump the grace of God which covers His people for all eternity. Yes, we continue to proclaim and hold fast to the truth of Christ. Yes, we continue to seek godliness in our homes, for our families, and even in how we conduct ourselves at work or in school. Yes, we will frequently be derided for faith in God and godly conviction. But our eyes are not on our circumstances, they’re on God. Our ears are not open to the public opinion, but to the voice of God. Our hands are not quick to win the favor of those who do not know God, but are ready and available to serve the One Who not only always speaks truth but IS truth.

“The LORD loves justice; He will not forsake His saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and His tongue speaks justice. The law of His God is in His heart; His steps do not slip. The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death. The LORD will not abandon him to his power…. Wait for the LORD and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off” (Psalm 37:28-34 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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I am often convicted that the key misunderstanding among Christians that produces qualities of apathy, confusion, legalism, and pride is in the matter of what it is to which we have basically been called. It is true that you and I are called to serve God, but it is not our primary calling. It is true that you and I are meant to learn of God and His Word, but the reason we do so is not so that we can just be impressive reservoirs of useless information. It is true that we are to not live like the world or buy into its value system, but the reason is not that we might be able to look down our noses on others or point to our spiritual superiority. And it is true that we are called to lives of great value and worth, but it is not so we can revel in our own uniqueness or squander our gifts and opportunities upon our selfish desires.

It is to love that we have been called. We are called to be loved by God (living according to His pleasure and purposes for us) and enjoying the delight in which He lavishes upon us; and we are called to love God with all our being, rendering to Him a passion and devotion that usually only appears in counterfeit forms in Hollywood love stories or sappy songs that make us groan inwardly. Far different from our shallow ideas of love is the love God intends for us. The love relationship for which we are made is not an imaginary apparition that we chase in vain nor is it simply an emotional by-product of wishful thinking. The love to which we have been called is both real and true.

First, consider the “realness” of God’s own love for you. It exists whether or not you recognize or accept it. It is there even if you do not believe in it, hence the need for the Bible to remind us of it.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…. No, 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 8:35, 37-39 ESV).

If that promise of His love is not enough for you, then consider the “proof” (or demonstration) of His love.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.…. By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us…. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (John 3:16, 1 John 3:16a, 4:9-10 ESV).

In other words, God’s love for you is so “true” that He gave His only Son for you, sinless and perfect though He is. Furthermore, His love for you is so “real” that it has tremendous power over your life, your circumstances, your past and your future.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32 ESV).

It is to love that you have been called: to be loved and to love Him in return.

“Whoever has My commandments,” said Jesus, “and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21 ESV).

This basically means that we are to go beyond lip-service and Sunday morning religion and enter into a daily love-relationship with God that supersedes all other priorities, passions, and pursuits. Loving God and enjoying His love in return is more than just going to church. It is more than just living a moral and (self) righteous life. It’s about giving your heart away to the One Who made you and died for you. It’s about romancing the heart of God with a passionate clinging to Him, His Word, and His leading by His Holy Spirit.

Do not settle for mediocre and ho-hum Christianity. Chase after God and let the power of His love change you. Are you in doubt about whether or not He can love you? Then go back to what His Word says. His love for you is not founded on your appearance, your finances, your ability to do “great things” for Him, your not having miserable failures in the past, or even your good intentions. He loves you simply because He is love (see 1 John 4:16).

And as you allow the soothing waters of God’s love surround you and flow into you, with cleansing and healing power, let them flow through you that the love of God which has rescued you from sin and death, reach the parched desert shores of lives that have not yet been reached or transformed by this love that has been revealed to us through Jesus Christ.

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:16-18a ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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The Measuring of Grace

So often in life we can be found hesitating upon the brink of obedience to God. In one sense, it is perfectly understandable given that our spiritual “eyes” are clouded with a haze of spiritual confusion and the temporal mixed signals that are constantly broadcast to us by the world. It is no easy task to decipher the billions of nuggets of information (mostly false) that come our way through the doorways of our senses, especially when our own flesh is allied with the world in its assault upon us.

For instance, our eyes can see all the obstacles that stand in our way of a life of fruitful peace and joy, such as a lack of material wherewithal, illness, or the disapproval of others. Or they behold the glittering distractions that lure us away from the only true Hope that we really have (e.g., new cars, scantily clad models posing sensually, or the promise of easy, low-cost solutions to the aforementioned obstacles).

Our ears, in their own right, hear the voices that speak subtly distorted alternatives to Truth, perhaps whispering defeat and failure on some occasions, selfish “entitlement” and arrogance on others. Such voices cast the appalling shadow of doubt and suspicion upon our interactions with others, thereby robbing us of the joy and peace that you and I were intended by God to receive.

Our bodies, too, can process signals from the world that raise up for us all sorts of reasons to fail and falter as we journey through life, tired as we tend to be, discouraged as our hearts often feel, and weak as our hands sometimes seem to be.

No. What we see with our earthly eyes tends to be only a very small part of the real picture. What we hear with our ears of flesh is very often a pipeline for all sorts of “white noise”. Even what we feel can run counter to the realities of the Divine Presence and interfere with His call for us to join Him in His activity in the world.

Yet, as “understandable” as all this may be, especially to the One Who really understands everything anyway, it is not excusable at all. God has not been and is not now deterred from His pursuit of you and me. But just what is it that He wants? Why does He not relent, give up, and just make a new and more cooperative creation that isn’t so fraught with moral weakness and character deficiencies?

It is because of His marvelous and amazing grace that He has set His sights upon you and even now awaits your acceptance of His awesome love and mercy.

A measuring of grace

Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. – Ephesians 4:7 ESV

“…Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:7 ESV).

“…Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:7 ESV). It is this grace, the quality of mercy and compassion that moves His hand to rescue us from the deadly grip of sin and selfishness, that also prompts the heart of God to not leave us as spiritual orphans, but establishes for us an eternally enduring relationship as child and loving Father.

 

It is interesting to note God’s determination to send His people into a land that had been promised to them over four hundred years before (as told in the Bible book of Joshua). It was a land, mind you, that had long been overrun by a people who not only did not know God but also sneered at the mention of His name, even as they tossed the living bodies of their own children into the merciless flames that paid homage to entities that evidently were masquerading as gods. It was their vain hope that these phony objects of worship would somehow summon a plentiful yield in the following year’s harvest or grant them a series of victories over either those who would conquer them or those whom they planned to conquer.

Once before, when faced with characters of this ilk, they had made a choice to not to trust God and faced a terrible penalty: that of an entire generation having to miss out on seeing God’s promises fulfilled (see Numbers chapters 13 & 14). When the forty years had passed, God sent out the invitation again, and this time His people were ready to go with Him.

Instructing them in preparing for their entry into this places that God Himself had set aside for them, He spoke with His divine voice to the man that He had appointed to lead them, spelling out for him and for all the people their great hope in finally receiving the blessing that the Lord had promised them so long before.

“…The LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, ‘Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses…. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” (Joshua 1:1b-3, 5 ESV).

And then, as the words of that tremendous promise, “… I will never leave your nor forsake you…” sink deeply into our psyches, consider their inconceivable magnitude and the weight of them in the heart of the man appointed to lead in that hour. “You want ME to lead them?!?” Joshua may have wondered as doubt undoubtedly raised its ugly head. Nevertheless, he got ready to go, packing his bags and ordering his people to do the same.

Quite a different reaction than forty years earlier. Maybe their feet hurt and they had holes in their socks, but, whatever the reason, they decided that they must now listen to God’s invitation and have ears to hear God’s loving remonstrations.

“Be strong and courageous!” He says in verse six, as He then declares a special promise for Joshua. “Be strong and very courageous!” He repeats in verse seven, laying before their feet a specific path to walk in the keeping of His holy Law. “Be strong and courageous!” He commands them again in verse 9 as He wonderfully caps off why they can go into the “wide, wide world” and know that they will succeed, no matter the obstacles before them and the roadblocks raised up against them. Why should they be strong and courageous? How can they so “sure of themselves” as they go into this extremely dangerous situation?

They simply know God has promised to walk with them if they will come to Him through faith and yield themselves to His lordship… trusting indeed His promise to be with them wherever they go.

And so you and I are also compelled to leave our silly ideas about what God can and can’t do behind us. Let us now go into the inheritance that He has provided us, empowered by His promise to accompany us, resting in His provision for our salvation, and trusting in His plans for our futures. Let us, like Joshua, also be strong and courageous for we know that He Who saved us, also sustains us.

“Let us hold fast our confession. For 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 4:14b-16 ESV)

This is precisely the time for a generation to finally stand up and collectively choose to believe the promises of God. It is our time, dear one, to be strong and courageous even IF our senses aren’t necessarily convinced. It is our time and it is our turn to rise up and make a difference, going in life where God would lead us.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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He has just finished counting the “profits” from the past week when he hears a low murmur from outside. Zacchaeus looks out the window and sees people who normally are busily bustling about their daily business but at the moment seem collectively distracted. Their gazes are fixed on something down the street, beyond his line of vision.

He sighs as he closes up his money bags and then places them carefully in their hiding spot, sliding a basket full of old blankets over them to complete the camouflage. He stands up and runs through the door out into the street wondering what the brewing excitement is all about.

Shorter than most, he can see only the backs of others as they make their way towards their goal. He listens carefully now to those around him and soon hears someone excitedly say to another, “It’s Jesus, the Nazarene!”

“Jesus? Here in Jericho?” A tiny spark of soul hunger is ignited in an aching void down deep inside his soul. As well off as he is, Zacchaeus has yet to feel whole. There still seems to be a missing piece inside. Collecting taxes for the Romans, he has made a profit and contributes to society, yet as the community’s opinion of him has turned from disapproval to dislike and even lately to real enmity, he cares less now about doing something meaningful with his life and settles for simply making a living. Lately, he’s not been able to resist overcharging his clients just a little bit to line his pocket just a little more. So what if his former friends call him a thief? They’ve already made up their minds that he is a traitor.

He draws near to the crowd and finds it so thickly mustered together that he cannot see Jesus as He walks into town. The men and women who notice Zacchaeus pointedly ignore him, muttering something about cheats and traitors. He chews his lip nervously and then spies a large sycamore tree with a few low hanging branches. The faces of the crowd are turned still to the right: Jesus hasn’t yet passed by.

The little tax collector runs ahead, springs up as high as he can and catches hold of the lowest branch. With some animated kicking and clawing, he manages to pull himself up onto the branch. He looks around, wondering if he should be embarrassed but no one seems to have noticed him: the eyes of all are fixed on the Man entering the city.

The tax collector perches on his branch watching the approach of the Man so many have said must be from God. Hmm. He isn’t driving a fancy chariot or riding in on a royal steed. In fact, He seems dressed rather plainly. Yet, there’s something very strange about the Man. There’s a sense of something whole and pure about Him… something holy. Zacchaeus looks upon this Man and realizes suddenly that God is near. He is suddenly a mass of conflicting thoughts and feelings. On the one hand, he’s both relieved that he’s stuck up in a sycamore tree and not along the street. On the other hand, he feels terribly disappointed.

Although he had climbed the tree to see Jesus better, it occurs to him that he is also nearly invisible amongst the leaves. “It’s just as well,” he thinks. “I would have been too embarrassed to talk to Him… too ashamed.” He watches Jesus calmly walk through the crowd gathered about Him. “Besides,” Zacchaeus muses, “there were so many important people around that Jesus surely would never have time for me.”

As Jesus’ walk brings Him close to the sycamore tree, He suddenly stops and slowly turns His gaze upon Zacchaeus seated right above Him. Little beads of perspiration abruptly appear on Zacchaeus’ face and he can feel himself blushing. The deep eyes of the eternal Son peer into his own and Zacchaeus can feel his heart opening up before the Messiah like a book.

The thought takes shape and grows that Jesus will turn away in disgust from the selfishness and sin that He sees there. Zacchaeus’ own eyes shift uncomfortably down to the ground. “I’ve wasted too much of my life,” he thinks. “I’ve stolen from people and cheated them. I’ve been selfish and now I’ve got all this ugly junk in my past and in my heart: He can’t possibly want me now. He can’t even remotely pretend that He really loves me.”

But Jesus’ gaze remains fixed. He calls out loudly, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

Zacchaeus blinks for a moment as Jesus’ words sink into his mind. “Stay at my house?” He clambers down a bit clumsily but then hops beside Jesus as they head off towards his house. Others who witnessed what has happened murmur a little bit amongst themselves, as puzzled as Zacchaeus, although their comments are not even slightly favorable. “Humph!” they grumble to each other, just loud enough for both the tax collector and Jesus to hear, “Looks like He prefers the company of sinners!”

Have you found the one missing piece that will bring completion to your scarred heart and aching soul?

Have you found the one missing piece that will bring completion to your scarred heart and aching soul?

But Zacchaeus doesn’t care what they say… not anymore anyway. After all, this One called the Son of God has stopped in the middle of His busy schedule just to come and dine with him! It doesn’t matter that Zacchaeus is short. It makes no difference that Zacchaeus is a cheater, a thief and a traitor. The diminutive tax collector has finally found what he’s needed all this time. He has finally discovered the one missing piece that will bring completion to his scarred heart and aching soul.

They go to Zacchaeus’ house and celebrate even as the tax collector’s life undergoes the great transformation of salvation. What he once was, Zacchaeus no longer is. Those things he once trusted and believed to be true have lost their luster and are finally revealed for what they were all along: fakes, phonies and counterfeits. Money hasn’t been able to fill the empty place in his life; nor has the power of being in charge or the prestige of being a “business success”.

Only experiencing God’s gracious gift of the forgiveness of sins and walking in fellowship with his Creator matters now.

His heart welling up with gratitude and thanksgiving to the point that it feels like it might burst, Zacchaeus means to be sure that there is no going back. He pulls out his hidden treasure and sets it front of Jesus that it might no longer have power over him. “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).

Jesus smiles at the man before Him who is finally free of chains of sin and selfishness. The man has finally found in Jesus Christ the one piece missing from his life. “Today,” says Jesus, “salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:9-10 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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