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“But I’m almost done with college and God still hasn’t done anything,” protested the young woman across from me in the campus coffee shop where I often held “office hours” as a campus pastor (many years ago). Her voice was louder than she had intended and people at nearby tables cast a glance in our direction. Heedless of what others were thinking, she went on.

“You say that God has a plan for me, but I don’t see it. I want to be with someone so badly and it feels like God doesn’t care,” she said.

“But He does care,” I replied. “Just think of His promise in Romans 8:32, ‘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?”

“Well, I don’t know,” she responded. “I feel like I’ve got to do something.”

We talked a little more, then prayed and parted company with very little resolved, unless it was the resolve that she already had in pursuing a relationship that was not Christ-centered.

My heart hurt for that Christian woman, partly for the pain of her loneliness, but mostly for the pain I was sure that she would suffer in forging her own path outside of God’s plan for her: it seemed to me that her life was about to turn a tragic direction.

Sadly, it did go the way I was afraid it would for her as it has for some other men and women I have known in the last twenty-five years. The paths that they have chosen have been full of heartache and brokenness although, I am glad to say that in some cases, God has brought good out of tragedy.

Still, I pray for those who suffer from the snare of loneliness that besets men and women today (and not just college-age ones) and the strength it has in turning people’s hearts away from God.Dont throw away your confidence2

Trusting God with our relationships seems to be a tricky thing. I imagine that it is in part due to the fact that the world (the devil’s megaphone) likes to tell us that if we are single then something is wrong with us, either in looks or in personality. We are filled with impatience as it seems that everyone around us has “someone special” with whom he or she is living life. Impatience mutates into desperation which, in turn, becomes blinders upon our eyes, and leads us from the path of faith.

But singleness has the potential of being a very special place to experience the love of God. First, it allows us to celebrate the “centrality of Christ”. I simply mean the fact that there is no relationship that is even remotely as critical (and wonderful) as our relationship with God. Remember that the “Greatest Commandment” is to “love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, soul, and mind” (see Matthew 22:38) and it is to a true relationship with God that you have been called.

The fact is that many people are looking to another man or woman to provide what only God can. Unconditional love and acceptance, however, cannot be truly found in any human relationship (no matter what movies or songs tell us), unless they are first grounded in the love of God Who HAS loved us unconditionally and accepts us with all our faults – as Jesus’ dying in our place proves.

But secondly, our singleness will be a place where we exercise the faith to which we have been called. Consider what is at stake. God has a plan especially crafted for a “special you” and your spiritual enemy (the devil) would like for nothing more (and wants nothing less) than for you to be derailed from that plan, partly to steal your joy and peace, but also to try to sabotage your fruitfulness for God.

Solomon’s wisdom was known far and wide, but he gave his heart away to women who did not share his love for God (it just made sense from a worldly perspective). In consequence, his heart turned away from the Lord and he forfeited, wise as he once was, the fullness of God’s blessing in his life and the lives of his children (see 1 Kings 11).

I am not saying that if you are single that God is necessarily going to bring the man or woman of your dreams into your life, but if you will not succumb to the unbelief that impatience and desperation will foster in you, then you are infinitely better positioned for God to bless you and increase your joy and peace.

Besides, if the Lord has in His plan for you that “special someone”, then that “special someone” shares your calling… a common vision and a common mission to know God and make Him known.

“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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I was recently working on a series of devotions and happened to be reading from 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (ESV).  This started a line of thought and reflection for me in regard to the subtle ways that people utilize fear in their relationships with even their loved ones.

As Christians, this should not be – particularly in how our relationships with each other play out in daily interactions.  Relationships with others, whether with spouses, children, friends, neighbors or even co-workers, fall short in God’s eyes when their motivating quality is fear.

For some, this is what they perceive as necessary to survive in our sin-ladened world.  An excessive emphasis on control and retribution characterizes the way they interact with their spouses and children.  To not utilize fear runs the risk, in their estimation, of allowing people to do the wrong thing or to do them harm.

Please understand that I am not saying that we should not recognize the appropriateness of fear inasmuch as it is an essential ingredient in a right understanding of God (as in overwhelming awe of His majesty and holiness) or that is the right response to our sin condition apart from Christ for there is only condemnation for us if we are not saved by Him.  Fear should be our response to God’s judgment if we did not have Jesus’ blood to shield us.  “For in Him (Jesus) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:19-20 ESV).

Nor am I saying that establishing appropriate boundaries for ourselves and our loved ones isn’t necessary:  it is.  As is the need to justly enforce those boundaries with whatever consequences are right.

But it isn’t God’s design that we use fear to lead others to lives of devotion to Him.  Instead, His plan is that we live with His love shaping our dealings with them in such a way that we inspire them and invite them into a “safe” emotional and spiritual closeness to us that opens the door for them to perceive and receive our Heavenly Father’s invitation to come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ.

As far as how this plays out in our day-to-day relationships and how we should connect with others under our influence, ask yourself these questions:  “Are my relationships characterized by other people’s worry in regard to how I may act or react?  Do they relate to me based on the fear that I won’t accept them if they don’t please me?”  If so, there may be a bit of selfish manipulation working in you in an effort to control others’ according to your selfish desires.

Before you dismiss this out-of-hand by saying, “I would never treat someone else that way!”, consider that almost no one who does it realizes he does it.  Instead, allow the Holy Spirit of God to reveal to you any felt “need” within you that doesn’t quite trust God with the hearts of loved ones giving you the temptation to feel as if you need to help others with threats and “ultimatums”.

Think of how our treatment of others and our use of fear to influence them may affect their perception of the God we say we serve.  Might people have the idea that God is waiting on them to mess up?  Are people around you under the impression that they must never “mess up” because God will reject them if they do?  Is it possible that they get that idea from others who actually do accept them or reject them based on those superficial ideas?

While it is sometimes true that a boss, teacher or parent may have to “spell things out” for others in regard to the consequences of choices, our goal is to establish a more genuine Christ-like relationship with others that is characterized by grace and love.  After all, isn’t that how God wants us to perceive Him?  Isn’t what we truly desire a genuine relationship based on a Christ-like regard for others?  Do we want people to “behave” more than we want them to “be His” in love and affection?  Isn’t what God really wants from you and me a relationship based on our sincere love for Him?

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Couple in rain

Sex, within sacred parameters, is intended by God to be a joyful and pleasurable expression of the union of the lives of a husband and wife as well as a celebration of a loving Maker Who delights in His creation.

With the high-profile release of the movie version of the best-selling book Fifty Shades of Gray timed to ride in on the coat-tails of Valentine’s Day and with hordes of other such movies, books and ideas marching down upon us in the near future, it strikes me that confusion surrounding human sexuality is at an all-time high and likely to soar even higher.  Porn remains a multi-billion dollar “industry”, boundaries and morals are constantly being challenged and redefined, and controversy pervades attitudes towards sexual habits and identity.  Sadly, people even in the church either do not concern themselves with what the Bible actually does say about sexuality… or they do not care, no matter that our Creator created sex and intended it, within sacred parameters, to be a joyful and pleasurable expression of the union of the lives of a husband and wife as well as a celebration of a loving Maker Who delights in His creation.

The Bible paints sexuality with brilliant and wonderful colors, portraying it as a truly beautiful expression of love and intimacy when it is observed within the boundaries laid out for it by the Maker of our bodies, minds, and souls:  it is the sacred consummation of a unique and special covenant between one man and one woman who have joined their lives together, becoming one flesh (see Matthew 9:5-6, Mark 10:7-8, Genesis 2:22-25). “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled…” (Hebrews 13:4a ESV).

It is interesting that the nature of sex makes it somewhat unique among human interactions and activities. It is not something in which one can involve only a single facet of him or herself no matter how hard one may try to do so: when one connects sexually with another, he or she involves the whole of him or herself – more so than in any other activity.

Giving us a “for instance,” the Bible asks the question, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh’” (1 Corinthians 6:15-16 ESV). Thus, sexual union with another isn’t just a matter of gratifying natural urges. It is more than that; it is an investment of a certain amount of one’s essence as a spiritual and emotional being.

Tragically (and I definitely mean “tragically), our culture simply fails to see the spiritual dimensions of human sexuality. And muddying the water even further for minds estranged from God is the fact that participation in sexual activity outside of a loving marriage places the person in a spiritual posture before God as either one of two things. One is either a “taker”, degrading his sexual partner (no matter how consensual the act) to no more than a means of temporarily satisfying one’s lust. Or else one is submitting himself to another in ways that are outside parameters that are acceptable to God, degrading him to a position below the esteemed being of worth that God has made of him.  Fifty Shades of Grey, therefore, can only offer a very warped version of what God intends sex to be.

“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV).  When we “take” another to be used for our pleasure (and this includes those who are victimized through pornography and sex-trafficking), we not only sin against God, we also sin against those we use, and even sin against (or defile) our bodies which God has entrusted to us for holy purposes.

Thus, the person (man or woman) who goes lightly into the realm of expressing himself sexually however he likes, makes of himself something less than what God intends, whether this person engages in adultery (thereby watering down the spiritual and holy union that he has with his spouse), partakes regularly of casual sex (thus rendering his partners as mere “things” and not sacred beings created with divine purpose and value), or cohabitates with his partner (wanting the “perks” of marriage without its responsibilities and obligations).

The Scriptures are quite clear on this point: the degree to which we define and interpret sexuality however we choose is the degree to which we declare to God our rejection of His will for our lives. If we therefore justify homosexuality, pornography, or any of the other sexual immoralities mentioned above, we yank from the hands of God our lives and our world. We are saying, “Here, God, is an area in which You have no say.” And when we as individuals run from under the protective and loving limits given us by God, we run headlong into self-destruction (emotionally, physically, and spiritually). Even our culture suffers the effects of disintegration as families become unsure of what they are, fathers and mothers become confused as to their roles and responsibilities, and children become caught up in the moral tempests that rage across the societal landscape.

And if the Church is afraid to engage these issues, afraid to say “right is right and wrong is wrong” and that there are many things that are just not acceptable to a holy God, we can expect the Church also to become riddled with the same confusion that keeps a stranglehold on the world and expect that families within the Church to become just as confused as those outside in the world.

Again, sexual sin is a “sin among many sins”, but it is still sin. To play it down as anything less is to do no service to the world and does nothing to remedy an area of human life that is deplorably ill and corrupted. Worse, the travesty that our post-modern world has made of sex leaves countless millions with millstones tied around their spiritual necks, never knowing what it is that hampers them in having a fruitful and joyful relationship with God.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV).

If one has found him or herself ensnared by sexual “improprieties”, he or she may take great comfort in knowing that God can bring healing and cleansing to his or her heart. Inasmuch as you are willing to admit to God that you have left God’s ideal for your life, and place your confidence in the power of His grace, which led Jesus to the cross of Calvary, you can experience a fresh start and a new beginning.

“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 ESV).

Copyright © 2015, Thom Mollohan

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A Letter to my Wife on Mother's Day

Diane, you are, as my wife, the best of friends and an enduring and lavish blessing to me. As a mother to my children, you are an amazing provision from God!

Dearest Diane,

Of all the blessings entrusted to me by God, after Jesus’ atoning work, the gift of His indwelling Spirit, and the Father’s eternal acceptance of me through Christ, you rank as chief.

It’s been said that “a good woman is hard to find,” and Proverbs 31:10a asks the question, “An excellent wife who can find?”  It is abundantly clear to me with the rising of every sun, that I have indeed found (rather, I have been given) a most excellent wife.

You remain to me a treasure far, far “more precious than jewels” (Proverbs 31:10b) and brighten each day a “the delight of eyes” (Ezekiel 24:16).

Your faith, as a precious well-spring of instruction to me and inspiration to those who really know you, flows like a bubbling mountain spring, refreshing those it touches.

Your character as a godly woman is a model of what true womanhood is really about.  Not only are you a truly beautiful woman on the outside, your beauty as it flows from your heart is of “the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very beautiful in God’s eyes” (1 Peter 3:4).

I have watched you time and time again overcome trials, hurts, disappointments, and loss with wisdom, dignity, and faith.  It amazes me how you’ve endured grief and persecution, as well as hardship and even betrayal, with a patient spirit, Christ-like forgiveness, and redemptive grace, thinking not of the harm you’ve received, but of the spiritual need of another.

Thank you for being you, for loving the Lord Jesus, and for honoring and supporting me in our life together (Ephesians 5:22).

I know that you’re not one to look for (or even feel comfortable with) the recognition I would lavish on you (if I could), but, as a truly “virtuous woman”, how can I not praise you “in the city gates” (Proverbs 31:31)?

You are, as my wife, the best of friends and an enduring and lavish blessing to me.  As a mother to my children, you are an amazing provision from God!

In love,

Your husband,

Thom

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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