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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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Valentine Day ReminderMany years ago, our daughter was preparing Valentine Day notes the other day for some of her friends, when she snatched up a “Sleeping Beauty” card with a great big, red heart on it and held it up in her hand, waving it around enthusiastically.

“This one is for Jesus!” she announced. Sleeping Beauty ranks number one (at the moment) of her favorite princesses. “I’m going to give Him this one!”

Her mother replied, “Oh, you are, are you? How’re you going to do that?”

“When I go to Heaven, I’m going to take it with me and when I see Jesus, I’m going to run up to Him and give it to Him!” she explained carefully.

What can you say? Her mom smiled at her, commended her for wanting to give Jesus her best valentine, and moved on.

Later on, the subject came up again with two of her older brothers. She told them that she planned to give her Valentine to the Lord Jesus. They listened thoughtfully, and when she had finished, one of her brothers said with good intentions, “That’s nice, but I don’t know that Jesus will ever read it. Well, He can read it but it’s not like He’s going to come down and just get it.”

His younger brother interrupted, “Ah, but how do you know? He could!”

On that thought, my daughter began to whirl around the room like a ballerina, flitting about and waving the Valentine as if it were an oriental fan, singing, “Here it is, Jesus! Here’s Your Valentine! Come and get it!”

That evening, she was sitting in my lap while I sat in my chair, and she told me again about how she was giving her Valentine to Jesus. When she was done, she held it in front of me solemnly and then slipped it into my shirt pocket. “Would you hold it for me until I can give it to Jesus?” she asked.

I pulled it back out of my pocket. “I think that maybe you should take this and put it away with some of your other special things, sweetie!” She smiled and took it from my hand, running off to presumably place it with her other treasures.

There, she did it again. She, as do all of my children, has a way of coming into the hum-drum routine of daily life and lobbing “deep thoughts” my way with reckless abandon. Sometimes those “deep thoughts” blow in like bubbles, inspiring warm and comforting images of God’s great grace and patience; sometimes, like bricks, they break the windows of presumption of my heart and I find myself a bit rattled.

In this particular instance, I was not in any particular hurry to contemplate again the mortality of my children. I would be much less disturbed in considering my own. Nevertheless, the “brick” has been thrown. When our second oldest son was only eight months old and we had been told that he likely had Leukemia (which, I am glad to say, he did not), my whole world was shaken to its core. When our daughter was arriving and the doctor suggested that neither the baby nor her mother may survive, I was profoundly shaken yet again. In the same way, when life-threatening events seemed to “zero in” on our other two children, we have been forced to reconsider our priorities!

My daughter waxing on and on about giving her Valentine directly to Jesus painfully reminded me of her mortality, and then, as a result of that harrowing thought, of the importance of not losing focus on what is truly important. Frankly, I am glad for such reminders for they are opportunities for me to reevaluate how I am spending my life!

As you know, Valentine messages are generally either made in the shape of hearts or are adorned by them. Her dancing, with her Valentine held up high for Jesus, underscored to me the supreme importance that she truly gives her heart to Jesus, especially while she is yet a child. This weighs very deeply upon my heart… that she and my sons all come to a genuine and life-saving faith in Jesus Christ and then dwell in a deep and abiding relationship with Him.

I thank the Lord for such a gentle reminder that every single moment that I have with each of them is a gift given to me from God. Obviously I do not wish to squander these moments of enjoying them, but I certainly do not want to lose the chance that I have while they are young to do all I can to help them see God the Father’s love for them and the need right now for them to seek Him with all of their hearts, all of their lives!

“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’… before the silver cord is snapped… and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, 6a, 7 ESV).

If you are a parent, or have influence over little ones, ask yourself the question, “To whom is my child giving his or heart?” While you cannot decide for your child to accept God’s love expressed to us through Jesus Christ, what are you doing to be a catalyst in his or her life that he or she comes to know God’s love personally? What about you, your choices, your lifestyle, and your priorities is pointing that child to an abiding relationship with his or her Creator?

If you are finding yourself painfully unable to answer this, then why not turn the direction of your life over to God right now and ask Him to help you to be the person your child needs you to be, even if he or she has reached adulthood? Take in faith God’s desire to set things straight and His will to turn things around if you will surrender yourself to Him. Allow God to set things right in your own heart and then, through your submitted will, allow Him to start making a difference in the life of someone you love.

Copyright ©Thom Mollohan

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The human heart, entrapped in night,

In sin’s dread grasp, no hope of light.

Sovereign grace stooped down to free

Those in sin’s captivity.

 

He came upon a midnight clear,

The Son of God, to drive out fear.

Laid in a straw-filled manger low,

So life of God we could know.

 

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Oh, tiny town of Bethlehem,

The Prince of Peace is here.

To drive out night and give us light,

God in flesh is near.

 

Hark how the herald angel seeks

To lift our eyes from strife.

He bids us keep this Babe asleep

As light of hope and life.

 

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Away in the manger, sweet Jesus rests,

This given Lamb of God,

Who on Calvary will die for me

To cleanse me with His blood.

 

Moved by mercy, moved by love,

The King of Glory came

To cast out sin and enter in

And take away my shame.

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Hope Spent Well

Christmas is doubtlessly a busy season for most of us. It can be overwhelmingly full of the chores of shopping for gifts, cooking for family get-togethers, and decorating our trees. Not that it’s all bad, mind you. We love the excitement and expectancy of the season as we sing our Christmas carols, hang our Christmas lights, and send out our Christmas cards all while we wait for the fun of receiving our gifts and enjoy (hopefully) the giving of them.

But perhaps what we love best about this time of year is the rekindling of hope in our hearts like a cold and dark fireplace suddenly springing to new life when a small and hidden ember bursts into a cheery blaze that once again warms a home.

Perhaps what we love best about this time of year is the rekindling of hope in our hearts like a cold and dark fireplace suddenly springing to new life.

Perhaps what we love best about this time of year is the rekindling of hope in our hearts like a cold and dark fireplace suddenly springing to new life.

Hope is an essential ingredient for life, its sweet savor making bearable and even pleasurable a dining table set with circumstances that we would otherwise find unappealing and even revolting. Without hope, peace is an illusion, joy is hollow, and faith is empty. Hopelessness can be a spectral wraith haunting not only our dreams but also our waking moments, draining our labors of purpose and our suffering of meaning.

It is probably obvious that hopelessness is rampant today. It not only wounds and wears upon those who have been overcome by sickness of body, but also men and women who are sound in body, but are afflicted with illnesses in hearts and minds that others cannot see. Hopelessness not only holds drug addicts in its ruthless and merciless grip, but also successful business people who have come to realize that they have acquired plenty of material benefits but have not acquired any lasting fulfillment from them. Hopelessness not only torments victims of years of cycles of abuse, but also those who themselves possess power and prestige but have found such baubles to be pointless in affecting change in lasting and meaningful ways.

Hope is something we desperately need, but so rarely find and sustain in the dark watches of winter and in the long seasons of trials of this life. It is like the hoped for oasis in a sprawling desert after finding only mirages along the way. Hope is essential to every one of us no matter who we are or where we’ve been. But ironically everyone who is now tortured by the pangs of hopelessness once actually had hope… but such hope was placed in the wrong things.

Our hopes are placed wrongly in our political leaders as we look to them to remedy our society’s hurts, yet they fail… either from their own corruption using our trust to advance their selfish ambitions or from their own limitations as we find them simply unable to do all that they promised.

We place our hopes in education, but we find that head knowledge cannot change hearts as it becomes clear that hurt, fear, prejudice, and violence continue. In a similar way, some of us place our hope in media in the belief that it can inform and inspire people to action. Often it does, but we have learned (from nearly a century of broadcast news) that often it is the wrong kind of action and that it is sometimes no more than a propaganda machine, uncommitted to truth but a skewed perception of things that leads us astray.

There are so many other things in which we hope, yet time and again we find that we have reached for mere phantoms. And each time we close our hands upon a promise that evaporates into nothingness, we are left a little more calloused and suspicious and even reluctant to endure the pain of once again placing our hope in something or someone.

The ultimate tragedy is that when we are finally met by the Source of true hope, we often dare not believe it. On the day that God shows up in our circumstances, wooing us by His Spirit to forsake sin and become His child forever, we feel so burned and disappointed by our pasts that we listen to the lie that, “Surely this is not true. God cannot or will not love me.”

This happens so often to us who have resisted His call and spent ourselves on things that appealed to our spiritually childish inclinations, flashier and easier substitutes for Christ’s call to forsake all and follow Him. The world is not lacking in its proposed alternatives to Jesus nor is the devil lackadaisical in inventing them.

Yet there is no path surer than that of Christ though it lead us through valleys under the shadow of death. The Living Word Who became flesh effectually offers you hope because He both desires for you to be His victorious child and also has power to achieve it.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made…. By Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together…. 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?” (John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16-17, Romans 8:31b-32 ESV).

Hope spent in what is eternally able to deliver us and fulfill us is hope spent well. Hope that is misplaced is always eventually a disaster. Christmas is a season of hope, not because of gift-giving, nostalgic traditions, and families spending time together, but because it marks the occasion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, leaving the glory of heaven so that you and I might be saved from our sin (*Matthew 1:21).

The Lord, speaking of Jesus says, “Here is My Servant Whom I have chosen, My beloved in Whom My soul delights…. The nations will put their hope in His name” (Matthew 12:18a, 21 HCSB, citing the prophecy in Isaiah 42:1-3).

So let the story of Christmas turn your eyes from mere temporary things to the eternal hope of heaven. If you will allow God to kindle within you His divine spark, it cannot be snuffed out however furious the winds of discouragement may blow. Hope, therefore, may be one of the greatest gifts given to you this season… or any season.

Copyright ©  Thom Mollohan

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Well, so far it’s not been much of a “wintery” winter, at least not here in southern Ohio. We are hearing, of course, of real winter weather in the west and the plains, but December here has not been typical at all.  But if it were especially wintery here, if we were being assaulted by artic blasts, frigid snowfalls, and freezing ice storms, we would likely be longing for a quick return of warmer days. And while it may not be especially cold and icy here in a meteorological sense, it is a cold, cold world in which we live… in a spiritual sense.  Worn down by the apathy and indifference of a jaded people, the corruption and arrogance of a broken political system, and the confusion and hate-mongering of religions that are warmed only by the heated conflicts that characterize them, one quickly begins to long for a touch of warmth from a heart of love.

What is it after all that thaws a frozen heart? What warms a frigid home? What turns a winter of despair into a spring of hope?

What is it after all that thaws a frozen heart? What warms a frigid home? What turns a winter of despair into a spring of hope?

What is it that thaws a frozen heart? What warms a frigid home? What turns a winter of despair into a spring of hope?

Love, of course. More specifically, it is God’s love that does this (lest we be confused with the inferior notions of love volleyed about in popular culture).

Love is not content with the status quo but of upholding the welfare and enrichment of those upon whom love shines its light.  Love is not interested in merely pointing out how another is wrong or unworthy, but with drawing one out from the tentacles of error into the wonder and freedom of God’s truth (see 1 Corinthians 13).

Once we begin to understand and come to grips with this amazing and life-changing attribute of God, we find ourselves being transformed by it. It grabs hold of us and we find ourselves woefully undeserving of it, yet it wonderfully comes to us nonetheless because that is what God’s love does.

It motivated the Father to send His Son as Savior for all who will receive Him so that the yawning gulf that separates us from God might be spanned. It motivated the Son to spend His own life on a cross He did not deserve so that the reality of a literal hell might be averted for any who would receive His gift of forgiveness. It motivates the Spirit of God to abide in we who are God’s children through faith in His Son, transforming us from mere sinners into the likeness of Jesus Christ today! And it motivates us as God’s Children, through the leading of His Spirit, to give ourselves away on behalf of those around us, undeserving though we may think them (but in truth no more undeserving than any of us).

God’s love is what moves us to speak words of encouragement to one who is broken by fear or weariness of heart. God’s love is what moves us to share with those around us when they are in need. God’s love is what moves us to stand up for those who are oppressed and are victimized. God’s love is what is moving millions of Christians today in making a difference in the world around them! Because of His love, they are determined to show His compassion, share His truth, and shed His grace into the tear-ladened vales of calamity and crisis, warming hearts that have been frozen by fear, grief, and pain with fires of passion for the One Who loved them first.

“By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers…. 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us” (1 John 3:16, 4:9-12 ESV).

So let us truly love in this day of need. Let us love as Christ has loved us and thereby give Him glory and give the world hope.  Allow the warmth of God’s love even now to thaw your outlook for 2016 as He turns your heart towards Himself and others to His love through you!

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Christmas. A sweet celebration of the fact that God in His mercy chose to not abandon us to the consequences of our rejection of Him, His Word and His love!  What a joyful time for us to be made new or be renewed in our walk with Him by fully embracing His love and forgiveness!

No matter what era in which we live, if there is anything that we can conclude from the wonderful news of the birth of God’s Son, it is that no matter how ugly, horrible, or sad things seem in the world (and they do indeed seem ugly, horrible and sad), we can know for certain that God is not removed from us by the complacency of one who simply does not care. Nor does He hold Himself aloof from us in contempt which we, arguably, deserve because of our spurning His holiness.  No, He sees, He cares and He moves… in our world and in our lives.

But when we suffer and find ourselves accosted by unanswered questions, we lose heart.   When we tire of waiting for what we want and feel affronted by life’s twists and turns as if there is a divine conspiracy afoot committed to our inconvenience, we turn our backs on Him.

How prone we are to blame God for the messes that we make for ourselves! We resist His will, yet angrily accuse Him of nonexistence when He allows us to do our own will.  We object to His Word and then slander Him with claims of blatant cruelty when He allows us to refuse His interventions in our lives.

But the Christmas story is the announcement that God remembers us and remembers us in a spirit of compassion – with or without our consent. Why else would He endure the donning of flesh and blood with all its aches and pains?  Why else would take upon Himself all the limitations of human flesh when He Himself knit the fabric of our forms in the wombs of our mothers?  Why else would He forgo power and glory for a moment so that we could be forgiven and be given life with Him forever?  Why else would He suffer to let men drive cruel nails through His flesh and publicly hang His broken body upon a cross?  Why else does He today permit us a season of grace in which we can repent and turn to Him, forsaking our own ways and embracing His love and power?

The Christmas story is a wonderful story, but it is in truth part of a greater story: the epic journey of God’s Son to the cross of Calvary.  The Christmas story is about hope because God refutes our despair by refusing to stand idly by as we hasten to our own destruction.  The Christmas story is about peace because He took our sentence of death upon Himself so we might no longer be His enemies.  The Christmas story is about joy because while the manger did indeed lead to the cross, the cross was merely a doorway that led through the tomb to a resurrection that guarantees us eternal life through faith in the glorified, risen Savior Who intercedes for those who turn from their sin and place their faith in Him alone.

The Christmas story is the breaking dawn of light and life in a world of darkness and death.

The Christmas story is the breaking dawn of light and life in a world of darkness and death.

The Christmas story is the breaking dawn of light and life in a world of darkness and death. If your Christmas is only about presents, decorations, Santa, and family traditions, your Christmas is only a lump of coal.  But if you will let the fire of God’s grace ignite it, your Christmas can burst into a fiery blaze of real meaning that goes on when family and friends have moved on or when health or wealth have come to nothing for you.

December may be the darkest month of the year from a natural point of view, but it can be the bright start of a bright year when true faith in Jesus Christ is awakened in us!

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’… Behold, My servant (Jesus) shall act wisely; He shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted….  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, Who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient (to God the Father) to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Isaiah 52:7, 13; Philippians 2:4-11 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

 

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