Posts Tagged ‘discipleship’

At least in one respect, the turning of the calendar page from one year to the next is not as positive an experience as we would like it to be. For one thing, it gives us the emotional equivalent of acid reflux as we pause to look back on the past year with all its thrills and joys or disappointments and regrets. We tend to feel the impact of the negative more than the happiness of the positive. For many, it’s as if we have a scale before us with the bad invariably outweighing the good. With such a sour taste lingering in our mouths, it is no wonder that so many of us look forward to finally crossing over the watershed of what has been to what we hope will be.

The conspicuous proof that this is so is the cultural phenomena of making New Year’s resolutions. These promises that we make to ourselves for the New Year suggest an acute awareness of our inadequacies which were only too obvious to us in our failures of the previous year. We think to ourselves, “Life was not what it should have been and I have not done what I should have done. To correct this, I will just make a plan. like losing weight, being kinder to our neighbors, fixing what is wrong with my house, ironing out my relationship issues, or just being a better man, woman or Christian. I will do better.”

But then we do not do better. In fact, we hardly get out of the gate in our trying. According to U.S. News and World Report (“Why 80 Percent of New Year’s Resolutions Fail”, Joseph Luciani, 12/29/2015), 80% of our resolutions are routinely foiled by the second week of February. So much for human resolve! And what we do manage to get done does not result in what we had hoped for. It is not what we planned. It is not what we wanted. And when the end of the year eventually rolls around, we do it all over again, making New Year resolutions that we will once again not keep as matter of habit and tradition… like singing Christmas Carols, only a lot less fun and significantly less meaningful.

The secret is not in our will power. Will power cannot save us, change us, or carry us very far into the good intentions we have. In fact, we have already fumbled the ball of commitment in the moment we make the statement, “I will…!” I will? Will I? I may want to do this or that, but those good intentions are not strong enough to become the reality I wish for myself. Why? Because my problem is my will. I forget (or choose to ignore) my tendency for laziness, my natural bend to serve my selfish desires, and the corruption buried deeply within my soul, buried so deep that I do not realize that it is there.

And I will continue to suffer at the hands of my fallen and weak will until something fundamentally is altered within me. It is not my perspective, although my perspective is shaped by it. It is not the way that I think, although it is easy to think that it is. As unfathomable as it may seem, it is far deeper than either of these things. It is my heart. It is my soul. It is the true essence of my being that must be changed. And it must be radically transformed so that what flows from it may produce the changes in my thinking and conduct that ultimately produce the fruits that are worth possessing in the days to come. Without a change of heart, a change of mind is weak and pointless, and only sets one up for failure.

This is why the implication of following Jesus is much more than a mindset. It is a surrender. It is not our committing ourselves to Him that will carry us into spiritual victory and eternal harvests, but a submitting ourselves to Him that places us in the position of reaping spiritual life.

“Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it…. Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Luke 9:24, John 3:3, 6 ESV). Lose my life to save it? Be born again? Be born of the spirit?

I fear that much of our Christianity today is cut from the same cloth as our New Year’s resolutions. We resolve to do good. We decide to abstain from evil. But we always fail. We set our will to be what we are supposed to be as if we can do it on our own and that it is all up to us. But then we are surprised and depressed by the fact that we cannot. Worse, in our shame of failing yet again, we deny our sin and hide our true selves from God and from others for fear of the pain of rejection.

But, my friend, this is not God’s plan. It is not His will that you, in your own finite strength walk the walk that Jesus did, Who was just like us yet without sin (see Hebrews 4:15). It is indeed God’s will that you break free from your sin and no longer walk in its power. “He (Jesus) appeared to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning…. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:5-6a, 8-9 ESV).

This means that when you and I are born of God, a supernatural event has taken place that changes the inclination of our hearts from that of sinning (serving self) towards serving God. As children of God (adopted into His family through faith in Jesus Christ), we are bequeathed a new nature that is shedding worldly and fleshly habits just as surely a caterpillar sheds its chrysalis when it finally breaks free into its new life as a butterfly!

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come…. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 12:1-2 ESV).

Real change in 2019 is possible, but it will take more than your resolve. Real life is attainable, but it takes more than a commitment. Real joy is yours… if you surrender your life to Jesus, trusting Him as Lord and Savior. And that means a daily surrender that you may sometimes stumble with, but will teach you the power of grace as you draw from Him the love and courage that will make a new you reality. Happy New Year!

Copyright ©  Thom Mollohan

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For a moment, consider Jesus’ call for you to follow Him as Lord of your life. For a minute, consider how you’d respond if He came to you, placed His nail-scarred hand upon your shoulder and invited you to “get up” and follow Him. Would you do it? Is His eternal love for you sufficient for you to desire to please Him? Is His holy majesty enough for you to bow your head before Him and say, “All right, Lord. Not my will but Your own be done in and through my life”?

Imagine the disciple Matthew’s encounter with the Lord as described in Matthew 9:9. If Jesus is only the carpenter most people who’ve met Him think Him to be, the whole situation would be laughable. “Follow Me,” Jesus says. And not only does this Jesus person have the audacity to just waltz up to Matthew’s table and utter what seems to be the most ridiculous invitation he’s ever heard, the Man also just turns and walks away as if He really expects Matthew to simply hop up from his table and run after Him.

And yet… Matthew thinks of all he’s heard about Jesus. The famous Teacher heals sick people, gives sight to blind men, and even rebukes evil spirits with stern authority. “Yes, there’s something different about this Man,” Matthew muses. “He’s so much more than a carpenter.” He sighs as he looks at the money on the table before him piled up in neat little columns. Beside them are stacks of ledger parchment recording the taxes paid by his fellow Judeans.

The gold just doesn’t seem as shiny to Matthew anymore. Its yellow surface now seems sickly and pale compared to the light that he’s seen in Jesus’ face. He thinks about the direction his own life has taken and he isn’t sure that he likes it. Every day he gets up, gets dressed, comes to work, puts up with difficult bosses and faces down a hostile public. He sighs again. No, he definitely doesn’t like it anymore. What’s more, he doesn’t like who he is anymore either.

Accepting an invitation from Jesus to “get up and go" with Him will alter one's destiny from destruction and despair to that of life and hope.

Accepting an invitation from Jesus to “get up and go” with Him will alter one’s destiny from destruction and despair to that of life and hope.

His eyes slowly raise from where they have long gazed at piles of money on his little table. They now begin to focus on the figure of the only One Who holds the door to change. No, more than just a simple change. A transformation. Suddenly, Matthew’s mind is emptied of any more thought of gold. His eyes remain locked upon the Master, almost unable to look anywhere else. His body now seems to take a life of its own, separated from his previous shallowness, and slowly pushes away from his table and brings him to his feet. Unaccountably, he finds himself in pursuit of Jesus.

He would never have dreamed earlier that morning that he would abruptly be chucking his career to accept an invitation to go out into the wide world alongside the One that some called “Messiah”. On the one hand, it seems like madness. Matthew’s old sensibilities feebly attempt to deter him from what he is about to do. On the other, the rays of love and glory are unmistakable in the glance of Jesus. Matthew cannot now be deterred.

He picks up his pace, rushing through the crowd so that he may walk beside Jesus. Without a single glance behind him, Matthew leaves behind his old life, his old dreams, his sin and selfishness and starts out on a journey that will not only leave him forever a changed man, but will be used by God to change the fates of millions of others in generations to come.

Later, although the scope of what is happening in his life cannot possibly be realized, he knows simply that Jesus has changed his life forever. To Matthew’s mind come the images of his old friends and associates, “tax collectors” and “sinners”. Here indeed are people only too used to dislike, rejection and failure. Do they have any hope of being accepted by God? Morally and spiritually, they were the lowest of the low, traitors to God and to their own people.

But hadn’t Jesus accepted Matthew? Hadn’t Matthew’s faith in this Savior’s grace and authority to forgive sin made a new man of him? “If Jesus did it for me, maybe He will do it for them,” Matthew decides.

In short order, Matthew hosts a party with Jesus as the guest of honor. Matthew’s old cronies and old colleagues show up in force. Aside from the free food, these societal rejects have a curiosity of this Teacher Who doesn’t spurn them or find fault with them. He doesn’t need to point out the sin in their lives for they know it all too well. Instead, they come and, as Matthew had hoped, they find grace.

Oh, but then those who don’t seem to really understand grace crash the party. Matthew bites his fingernails nervously, hoping against all hope that they’ll just go away. Always they look down their long and haughty noses at him and his friends, sniffing contemptuously as if they aren’t even worth looking upon.

“Will they shame Jesus into leaving?” he tortuously wonders. “Will they embarrass my friends? Will my friends turn from God because of this? Will Jesus even forsake me?” A sick feeling emanates from his stomach and he feels himself turning pale, the blood rushing from his head to the bottom of his feet.

But Jesus glances over at Matthew, gives him a quick wink, and then turns to face the prickly party-poopers. “Why do I eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” He says, echoing their question. He smiles at them gently, grace radiating from His countenance to these who will not see it. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick,” He answers. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (from Luke 5:30-31).

His detractors blink stupidly for a moment, wondering if there’s a hidden rebuke in what had just been said to them. While they puzzle over their encounter with Jesus, trying to think of stinging rebuttals, Matthew smiles inwardly for he knows how true are the words just spoken by the Lord. Matthew had been, only a short time before, one of those who are “sick” – sick of heart, sick in their soul, sick both spiritually and morally. Only an invitation from Jesus to “get up” and follow had altered his destiny from destruction and despair to that of life and hope.

Now, as our imagination returns to the here and now, I once again ask you to consider Jesus’ call for you to follow Him as Lord of your life. I again implore you to consider how you’d respond if He came to you, placed His nail-scarred hand upon your shoulder and invited you to “get up” and follow Him. Would you do it? Isn’t His love enough? Isn’t His majesty sufficient?

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Shortly after my youngest son turned four years old (many, many years ago), he approached me while I was reading on our sofa. A most solemn look shadowed his normally cheerful, often mischievous, expression.

“Daddy,” he said looking up at me. “Can I sit next to you?”

“Of course!” I answered, my heart jumping with joy at the thought of my little boy wanting to be with me but wondering what was on his mind. He climbed up and snuggled close to me and then sat still for a moment holding his little toes. He was clearly deep in thought.

“Daddy,” said he, breaking the stillness. “Yes?” I returned.

“God can play ‘Tag’ really good, can’t He?” he asked with utmost seriousness in his expression and tone.

“What do you mean, sweetheart?” I asked, looking into his big eyes.

“If you run away, God can catch you really easy, can’t He?” he explained. “Hmm,” I said.

“And He can play ‘Hide-and-Seek’ really good ‘cuz He can see you anywhere you hide, right?” “Umm,” I said.

“Maybe God could play ‘Freeze Tag’ sometime with us,” he mused thoughtfully rocking back and forth beside me. “Uh,” I said.

Though mysterious in His ways and in His reasons, God will lead you on the path that will most bless you and best reveal His glory!

Though mysterious in His ways and in His reasons, God will lead you on the path that will most bless you and best reveal His glory!

How to respond? I chuckled on the inside, but realized immediately both the important lesson of which God was reminding me and of the profound nugget of spiritual insight that He seemed to be already sharing with this little one.

In Psalm 139, verses 7-12 (ESV), the Psalmist sings, “Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to You; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with You.”

Just how often do we play games with God? Are we playing “Tag” with God when we run from His loving touch? “You’re not gonna get me, God! My life is my own!” Like Saul (later, Paul) of Tarsus in Acts 9:1-6 who thought that he was “It” in defending God, but found out that Jesus is really “It”, the Holy One, the One sent by the Father to redeem a lost humanity.

Maybe we instead play “Hide-and-Seek” with Him as we try to run away and hide, stubbornly refusing to believe that God’s way is better than our own. “No, God, not that! I’d do anything but that,” we’ll cry, bellyaching almost as much as Jonah who tried to hide from God but ended being a literal bellyache (see Jonah 2:10). Do you suppose that God sometimes gets “indigestion” from all our excuses and complaints?

Or do we try to play “Freeze Tag” with Him, thinking that we must live from one “spiritual high” to another, useless unless and until He “touches” us with a flood of euphoria? Too often we get stuck, “frozen in place”, whenever difficulty or opposition come against us. But, for some reason, in understanding our human frailty and having compassion on us, He touches us with His love anyway.

Remarkable, isn’t it? God’s pursuit of us is relentless and He loves us in spite of all our idiosyncrasies. “O LORD,” it says in Psalms 139:1-6 (ESV), “You have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”

The One Who made the stars, Who weaved the tapestry of the sky together and crafted the universe from His words alone, knows you, your activity and all your thoughts. Such knowledge is indeed too full of wonder for us to comprehend, but there it is: God knows who you are and loves you in spite of yourself. His hand comes upon you in mercy as He tugs at your heart to draw you to Himself. “Tag!” God seems shout as His hand touches our hearts.

“For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Psalm 139:13-16 ESV).

And what a life that God has mapped out for you! Though fraught with pain and sorrow at times, this journey finds its origin and destination at the same point of reference: God’s love! Though mysterious in His ways and in His reasons, He leads you on the path that will most bless you and best reveal His glory!

“How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with You” (Psalm 139:17-18 ESV).

Beautiful, isn’t it? “Still with Him.”

And, of course, that is the best part! Being with Him! Just as my heart overflowed as my young son longed to join me for the mere pleasure of my company, so the Father longs for you to “climb up into His lap” for nothing more than the pleasure of His company!

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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On an occasion when some friends and I were scrutinizing the calendar together, lamenting the rapid passing of years, we were left wondering, “where does all the time go?”

Isn’t it interesting, though, that for being just a bunch of numbers, the dates on our calendars have such a big impact on our thoughts? We are immensely impressed by measurable passages of time. Maybe this is a good attitude: in the end, it turns out that time is more precious than gold and quite likely our most valuable resource.

There was an ad campaign in the 80’s (or was it the 90’s? I can’t remember because it’s been too long). The Department of Education ads quipped, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” I agree. But, honestly, time is an even more precious commodity.

Think about it. Have you ever felt that you’ve lost your mind? If so, you probably found it again eventually. I lose mine about once a week, but generally seem to find it again in short order. Sometimes I find it under a car seat, sometimes in the sofa cushions, and once in awhile it’s been carried off by one of my children or one of the house dogs and left abandoned somewhere in a pile of video games or chew toys. Oh, well.

But it’s worse to lose a moment. When you lose that moment, you’ve lost it forever. You won’t even find its remains in the lint trap of the dryer. Believe me: I’ve looked.

More precious than gold are opportunities to influence our futures and the futures of others!

More precious than gold are opportunities to influence our futures and the futures of others!

If only we’d realize how precious our moments are! More precious than gold are these small opportunities to influence our futures or the futures of others, whether we’re talking about a spouse, our children, our friends and neighbors, our co-workers, or even strangers. These “small opportunities” that we could be seizing daily to brighten a day, lighten a load or offer help in giving direction to someone adrift in life may make all the difference in determining the destiny of another human being.

But so often we choose instead to spend those moments counting minutes until coffee break, hours until we’re off work, days until the weekend, months until vacation, years until we find that job that will really let us spread our wings, and decades until retirement. Meanwhile, our moments slip away like children who’ve written with crayon on the wall. Too bad. For every moment we lose, we lose an opportunity, a “might-have-been” and a dream is diminished.

On the other hand, if we’ve already heeded such counsel and just downloaded the newest scheduling app, we could be susceptible to the lie that we have to keep busy just to keep busy. Frankly, doing something for the sake of merely doing something is just as bad as not doing anything at all.

“What” we do is as important as “how much” we do. It is right that we find things in which to invest our time and energy. But as we start finding things to do, we need to ask the question, “Is this where I want to leave my legacy?”

Instead of fretting excessively over exactly what mutual fund or stock option to buy into, we must begin to invest our moments in areas that ultimately matter (sorry to everyone who confuses the “afterlife” with a generous retirement fund).

First, consider your own spiritual life. Is it what it should be? Or are you “putting off” those things until a more expedient time? This is a terribly dangerous attitude for we often find that we don’t have all the tomorrows we had counted on. If there are unresolved spiritual issues in your life that need to be addressed, be wise and deal with them now.

Secondly, let’s invest in other people, particularly others who are in need. Look for folks in valleys of fear, loneliness, hunger or pain. Take a moment, consider its worth, and then plant it in the fertile soil of human need. It will bear fruit.

The Bible says in Ephesians 5:15-17 (ESV), “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” As the future opens its blank pages to the pen of your choices, be careful what you write.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Let’s face it. Spiritual things are hard to discuss with everyday words. In fact, they’re not only hard to talk about, they’re hard to think about! There are just some things about Faith and the Kingdom of God that make us sprain our brain muscles when we really try to understand them.

As a result of our difficulty in understanding such things, there is often a temptation for us to assume that because the spiritual realm is so “spiritual”, it is therefore unapproachable – that it is too mysterious for us to understand and consequently impossible for us to experience meaningfully.

For example, we sometimes feel too intimidated to make prayer a practical priority in our lives or we dress it up with so much formality that it ceases to be genuine prayer.

On the other hand, there is also a temptation to sometimes take prayer too much for granted and then approach it tritely (if we approach it at all). Prayer may seem to us either lacking in any real benefit or is a religious duty, a strict discipline with which we afflict ourselves.

But real prayer is neither of these things. First and foremost, prayer is the activity of a life which dwells in the presence of God. It is quite literally, “going into His presence” though we still stand here on this solid earth in the full light of the material world.

How sad then if we neglect that for which we were created! Remember that Jesus died so that your sin may be forgiven and removed from you so that you may stand in God’s presence without guilt or shame.

Prayer is simple child-like dependence and devotion of one who implicitly trusts in God

Prayer is simple child-like dependence and devotion of one who implicitly trusts in God

If you never trouble with going into His presence, then you cannot “come to know God”. If you are not “coming to know God” then you are not receiving eternal life (John 17:3). If you are not availing yourself of eternal life, why did Jesus then die?

If we do not pray, we trivialize the purpose of His suffering and death. We also surrender the abundance of joys and comforts that His presence affords us.

Prayer is a stance and attitude that we adopt signifying our reliance upon His love and awesome power rather than the foolish alternatives given by the world. It further declares that we have the strength and good will of Almighty God sustaining us though the weight of the world oppresses us.

Prayer is simple child-like dependence and devotion of one who implicitly trusts in God. It is a love song sent up from a heart overflowing with adoration and passion for its Creator. It is the soul-wrenching lament of one trapped in the mire of loneliness and pain. Prayer is the crying out of one life for the deliverance of another.

Prayer is talking with God but is also sitting silently before Him.

Prayer is the giving of thanks and praise to the Most High but is also the receiving of the blessings of His presence, joy and peace.

To not pray is to be completely and utterly alone though surrounded by a sea of people. But to really pray is to be with God as we walk along through life.

To not pray is to languish in failure and futility however successful the World tells us we are. But to really pray is to be about our highest calling of all.

Let us be careful then to be a people who pray.

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ…” (Colossians 4:2-4 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Journey long on the trail of relationship with God and you’ll quickly notice that not everyone’s feet tread the path exactly the same as yours. We each have different personalities, different gifts, different memories and different life experiences that shape who and what we’re becoming. Thus, your walk may look a bit different from other Believers, but, inasmuch as you’re truly pursuing God with all your heart, that’s okay: that’s how God means it to be.

Entrusted to our care

Inside and out, each man, woman, boy, and girl is uniquely designed to be a unique creation in the Kingdom of God.

In fact, one can examine the makeup of the Christian people across the nation and around the world and rejoice, for the magnitude of the Kingdom of God is unfathomable as He not only works out a special and customized plan for each congregation that will trust Him and listen to His holy Word, but also for each individual Believer within each one of those congregations!

The Kingdom of God is mighty in length and breadth, full of a host of beloved individuals, each carefully designed and thoughtfully crafted by the hands of the Creator to bring a very special contribution to God’s creation. Just think of how unique you are, graced with a unique combination of specialized talents, skills, opinions, and convictions!

Look and you’ll see all kinds of men and women who have hungered for more than this life can provide, and have declared their willingness and desire to set aside and sacrifice their own agendas and receive Jesus as Lord. Look and you’ll find all sorts of boys and girls who have heard the resounding call of God to receive the gift of eternal life and have answered with a resounding “yes!” to the One Who has offered it to them. Look and you’ll discover people of nationalities from all over the earth who have truly felt the sweet invitation of the Holy Spirit to receive salvation through faith in Christ and are now walking with Him.

Some of these are young and some are old. Some are men and some are women. Some are white while some are black. Some are Native American and others are of Asian or Polynesian descent. Some have black hair while others have brown, blond or red hair. Some have long hair and some have short hair. Some have no hair at all.

Some have small noses and others have big noses. Some have freckles on their noses and some of these have freckles all over. Some are short. Some are tall. Some are thin while others may be stout. Some are athletic and some wished that they were, too.

Some worship with adoration for the Savior lavishly displayed for all to see, with hands clapping and feet stamping. Some are so smitten with love and humility under the standard of His holy grace that they worship with their souls stilled to quiet surrender. Some sing songs that have come down to us from long ago while others find that new songs best capture the joy and reverence of their hearts.

Inside and out, each man, woman, boy, and girl is uniquely designed to be a unique creation in the Kingdom of God. From the tip of their toes to the tops of their heads, each one is uniquely gifted for meaningful, joyful and fruitful living in this world until called home to heaven or until He comes again. Such design and gifting are not intended by God to be squandered selfishly upon our own ambitions or desires, tempted as we sometimes are to bring glory to ourselves instead of glory’s rightful owner: Jesus.

So, whatever we have in our checklist of things we can do and things we have, those things were given to us to bring a new dimension to the great family of God. If you do not receive God’s gift of salvation, then what hole is left in heaven and in the house of God because of your vacancy? If you, though perhaps a child of God, withhold the light of His love from others in need, then what shadows remain in the world for the lack of your light? If you were to channel all the talent or material blessings that He’s showered down upon you on making a name for yourself or accumulating wealth for your stay here on earth, in spite of all He’s done for you on the cross of Calvary, what soul remains spiritually parched, overcome by spiritual thirst with no refreshment in sight? What spiritual lives wither and die because your gifts and talents were not there to contribute to the work of the Kingdom of God?

God forbid that you miss out on how God would bless you with all sorts of spiritual blessings if you would only allow Him to use what you are and what you’ve been given. And God forbid that others also miss out on hope and renewal because your life was not available for the Lord to use and bless. You are needed and have been sent to this time and this place to “be all that you can be.”

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He Who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:23-25a ESV).

You don’t think you need to go to church to be spiritual? Think again. If you are not participating in the life and work of a local church family, then you are missing out on experiencing God’s great provision for countering the forces of darkness in the world and in individual lives: the local church.

Unless you’re being integrated into a church family, you can never be as developed and refined a servant in His kingdom as you ought to be nor can you ever fully inherit all the peace that He has on reserve for you.

And every time someone else looks into the window of your life and either finds an emptiness inside or discovers the shutters of selfishness tightly shut to protect your own interests, that person’s life has been diminished, lacking in those things that God could have accomplished through you. A little less hope than should have been there. A little less joy than God had intended. A little less courage, wisdom, strength, and love.

But once you begin to become involved, things begin to change. Your gifts, talents, resources, and personality characteristics all begin to take on an eternal dimension. And once you find yourself living in the company of other Believers, growing, learning, worshiping, and serving together, you’ll begin to catch a glimpse of how a uniquely wonderful person like you can be the very ingredient needed in a recipe of God’s making. You yourself show the love of God and His wonderful grace in ways that could not have been realized had you not “shown up for duty.” Therefore, as you tally what you have and what you are, always remember to, “…guard the deposit entrusted to you” (1 Timothy 6:20a ESV).

 Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Imagine for a moment the sun blazing furiously from its heavenly perch, beating on your brow as you trudge a long, dusty road. You come upon a lake and find yourself hoping to perhaps buy some fish, a real treat for you and your family, but are distracted when you see a crowd gathered on the shore.  You then hear a voice call out with a strange tone of authority.

“The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the Gospel.” The commanding voice somehow draws you closer with cords of curiosity. As you near the mass of people who stand almost silently with attentive gazes fixed upon a man whose own eyes seem to belong in a face far older than the one in which they rest, you slow down and nearly stop.

“Kingdom of God?” you muse. “I wonder what He means.” As your own stare joins the stares of those in the crowd, the Man moves to the lake’s edge and solemnly faces two rugged fishermen mending their nets. You recognize them as Simon and Andrew, having purchased fish from them on past excursions to the lake.

The stranger leans forward and says just loud enough to be heard by those standing around, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” He then simply turns and makes His way through the crowd. To your astonishment, Simon and Andrew immediately stand up and hurry after Him, attempting to maneuver through the men, women and children who’ve closed in behind Him. At first, your gaze follows the stranger, but then you glance back at the now empty boats pulled up on the shore, with the un-repaired nets draped over their sides, dangling in the water… forgotten (from Mark 1:14-18).

“The Kingdom of God is at hand,” you repeat to yourself. “Kingdom of God.”

Even today, we may have for ourselves a lot of questions about the Kingdom of God. For instance, “how does one recognize the Kingdom of God?”, “What does it look like?”, and, “If it was ‘at hand’ back then, where is it now?”

Jesus said much about the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven. Chapter 13 in the Gospel of Matthew alone has seven “word pictures” of the Kingdom, not to mention the countless other references throughout the rest of the Gospels. “The Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field…. It is like a mustard seed…. It is like a treasure hidden in the field…. It is like a merchant seeking fine pearls…. It is like a dragnet cast into the sea, gathering fish of every kind.”

The Kingdom of God is nothing less and nothing other than the power, provision and presence of God at work in His creation through His people!

The Kingdom of God is nothing less and nothing other than the power, provision and presence of God at work in His creation through His people!

Make no mistake. The Kingdom of God was nothing less and nothing other than the power, provision and presence of God at work in His creation through His people. Think of it! God’s Kingdom, knowing no boundaries in our hearts, transforming our character so profoundly that His presence in us is undeniable and His work through us is unmistakable!

Do you want to make a difference in the world? Then let God transform what you are into something greater than who you are in of yourself. “He must increase, but I must decrease,” said John the Baptist in John 3:30, beautifully surrendering the spotlight of God’s message to Jesus, the One to Whom it truly belonged.

“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened” (Matthew 13:33 ESV).

Like leaven? Though it is such a little thing it affects the whole loaf of bread; invisibly massaged through the dough, it changes every part by its presence.

Is the Kingdom of God still at hand today? It is… inasmuch as God’s people live lives surrendered to His holiness and love.

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death…. By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:14, 16-18 ESV).

I recall an occasion when I was talking with a friend of mine in a missions agency operating in different parts of the world. He mentioned that he had just been on the phone regarding the fate of six orphaned children from Nepal (ages 6-12). They had been taken to an orphanage in India only to be turned away for lack of room and resources. The one who had brought them nearly gave up in despair, prepared to leave them to fend for themselves in a train station. “After all,” he thought, “begging here in this station will be better than the life that they would have had where I had found them.

Then hearing of one orphanage that might yet take them, he led them there. Run by a little woman of God who has a big faith in Jesus, she simply said, “We have no means to care for them, but I cannot send them away. They may stay. Somehow, the Lord will meet the need.”

When I shared this true story from my friend with the people of our church, even the children were moved to begin to work towards meeting this need and began to give so that it might be met. For some reason they sensed that they were called by God to address the physical needs of these six children. And, of course, in the meeting of these physical needs, the love of God is now moving in practical ways so that the spiritual needs, the eternal ones, may also be engaged.

What needs is God wanting to address through you? Are you “tuned in” to God’s work in your life enough to recognize His invitation? Can you recognize the Kingdom of God when you see it? Can it be seen in you?

May it be seen ever increasingly more so in you as you “hunger for more” of God in your life.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Being passive doesn’t work well in the spiritual realm. Many Christians say that they want to have a more meaningful spiritual life and yet invest no significant effort in the cultivation of that deeper life.

Thronged by people entranced by His talk of a “higher life”, Jesus was often met by folks who wanted only short-cuts and easy access into God’s favor.

But Jesus’ invitation to know God wasn’t at all an implication that God was ready to “wait” upon the table of our dreams and wants, taking our order for spiritual blessings while we sit and gab away our lives, asking us, “Do you want Me to ‘supersize’ that?”

Jesus’ invitation was always on His terms and on His timetable. Furthermore, His invitation always required a response… “Come and see” (John 1:39), “Follow Me” (John 1:43), “Fill the jars” (John 2:7), “Take these out” (2:16), “Give Me a drink of water” (John 4:7); “Go and call your husband” (John 4:16), “Go” (John 4:44), “Stand up” (John 5:8), and so on and on.

The response necessary for us to enter a position to grow spiritually and experience God is first a yielding of our hearts and minds and then a reordering of our attitudes, plans and activities. Real faith, after all, cannot help but manifest itself somehow in our physical lives.

Sadly, when we fail to actively receive His invitation to join Him and know Him, we put God off and miss out on experiencing His work in our lives. When we refuse to walk away from our pasts and our ambitions for the future and choose to live instead on our own terms and on our own timelines, we can simply not experience God as He desires us to and we can never fully know all He could have done had we allowed Him to get us into a position to bless us.

But if we thirst for God’s Higher Life made available to us through faith in Jesus Christ, we must respond and follow. We must get up off our proverbial posteriors and follow Him as He leads us by His Holy Spirit.

“(Jesus) cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38 ESV).

The most “trivial” act of obedience can be a “supersized” opportunity when in the hands of God.

The most “trivial” act of obedience can be a “supersized” opportunity when in the hands of God.

Let us understand that we are challenged to actively pursue a deeper and more vital relationship with God. Let us believe that there is more to this life than the routine of each day. Let us trust that the “trivial” can be “Supersized” opportunities when in the hands of God. And let us embrace the fact that it is the Father’s will for us to have a more exciting life at the hands of the infinite God of the universe then those of a finite world.

Are you ready then to believe that God has more in store for you than you can ever hoped for or even imagined?

As you earnestly and actively work to cultivate a deeper relationship with God (in the context of His Bible, prayer and a church family) expect God to work in your heart in such a way that He’ll lay before you an invitation to get up from what you’ve always been and always known and go with Him.

There will be times when He’ll “wow us” with His presence, love and works and we will hear Him say in the still, small voice He whispers to our hearts, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Clink, clink, clink! Is it the sound of coins being counted out or is it that of links of a chain rattling together? Perhaps it’s the one and the same. Strange, isn’t it? How can it be that the sound of what we believe can open the door to freedom and security is really the noise of our being shackled by greed and manacles of insecurity? If, when we have fallen victim to such bondage, we could step outside ourselves and see with a clear eye, we’d likely know at once the ugly presence of selfishness.

Are there chains in your life that weigh you down and restrain you from what God intends for you?

Are there chains in your life that weigh you down and restrain you from what God intends for you?

In some places in the world, idols are carved from wood or stone, overlaid perhaps with gold or silver. But false gods in America are often more subtle and clever than that. Some of our gods we lock away in vaults and add to them so that they grow and grow and grow. Sometimes we often drive around inside our gods and demonstrate our worship of them by spending more time and resources upon them than the needs of our world around us. Some American gods are even more abstract and have no physical forms, being instead a feeling of pride that we get when we win or succeed or are esteemed highly by others.

Should one assume then that money, cars, success, or the good opinion of others are bad things in of themselves? Oh, no. Of course not. It would be loony to say that wood and stone are bad things in of themselves. But neither are any of their middle-class equivalents bad in of themselves. These things only BECOME bad things, however, when we set our hearts upon them and give to them what should have been given to God. And when we divert towards our selfish dreams and desires what He’s given us to bring Him glory and help others, we have locked upon our silly selves links of the chain of selfishness, crueler than rusty iron and heavier on our souls than lead.

Perhaps that is why the “Rich, Young Man” recorded in Matthew 19:16-22, approached Jesus with his earnest pondering, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16 ESV). He was coming to Jesus with a hunger for more than his money could buy. And certainly he was coming in recognition that the good things he had done had not yet succeeded in procuring for him a real sense of peace with God.

On the contrary, he was a quite a driven man I gather, for when he heard Jesus sum up the Law of Moses in Matthew 19:18-19, the man hastily pointed out that he had kept all the commandments. But although he had been meticulous in observing the rules, he was still missing the point of the Law: the Person from Whom it came. Something was still not right. There were still chains in his life and a heaviness he hadn’t been able to shake.

“What do I still lack?” he asked Jesus in Matthew 19:20. “What is it that I’m not doing? Why can’t my spirit fly? Why don’t I have freedom in my heart?” The shackles were cutting deeply into him and the weight of his bondage was stubbornly dragging him down still.

Even today, we can be really “good” people. We may generally try to get along with others; we might highly esteem hard work and honesty and helping others; we might even go to church and help out there. Still… just like this rich, young man, who was really very poor after all, we find something lacking, something that isn’t quite right, something that leaves us yearning and hungering for more. The chains grip us tightly and we feel their burden upon us.

Jesus looked at that man and saw his need. He saw a life with everything that money could buy but was still gripped in the terrible jaws of greed, comfort, and pride. “If you really want to be whole,” Jesus told him in verse 21, “take those things to which you are enslaved, and get rid of them. Kick them out of your life, and follow Me” (from Matthew 19:21).

I can’t help but pause here and reflect on how wonderful Jesus is. He didn’t give the man a religious answer per se, but He did give him a real answer. He didn’t say what religious dogmatists might have said if approached similarly. Neither did he say what the man wanted to hear just to please the man and win him over.

No, Jesus was not a particularly good politician (at least if one characterizes that title with modern examples): He didn’t get caught up in worrying how people might receive His message. He spoke the truth, spoke it with boldness, and spoke it in love. He told this searching young man what the young man needed to hear the most, whether he wanted to hear it or not. “Get rid of those things before the love of them overpowers you. Let go of them before they drown out the craving of your mortal soul for the divine life that God desires to give you

Jesus, looking into the man’s heart and mind, discerned the terrible hold that money and possessions had on him. He could see how that the man was giving his worship to things instead of God. The door was now open. This grave young man was being given an opportunity to have his shackles unlocked and the chains broken. Here he was, looking into the eyes of Jesus, God’s Spirit softening his heart so that he not only could sense his own need but could see that Jesus alone could save him.

But when Jesus presented him the open door of escape from materialism, the man turned away. It had never occurred to him that for him to really find that for which he was looking, he might have to give up what had been the center of his life all along. Maybe he had hoped that he could worship both… setting up two thrones, Jesus on one and the man’s belongings on the other. It had never dawned on him that God might expect and even require exclusive rights to the position of “first love” in his heart.

The man turned away. He turned away sad, but that feeling of sorrow or regret could in no way fill the ache in his soul nor mend his spiritual disconnect from God. Unless he would yet turn to Jesus and renounce his allegiance to any god besides Him, he would be left without hope for eternity.

“And Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God…. With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:23-24, 26 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Spirituality is a practical affair. Does that sound like a strange statement? Often, when talking about spiritual things with people, someone will express to me the notion that they like spirituality and think it highly valuable, but he or she does not make it too much a priority since it is so lacking in practical application.

When you allow God to live out His love and power through you, the ordinary becomes extraordinary and the mundane becomes mystical.

When you allow God to live out His love and power through you, the ordinary becomes extraordinary and the mundane becomes mystical.

“Well, it’s nice and all to believe that stuff, but it doesn’t work in everyday life.” And so they go on, oblivious to the countless ways that God would have interacted with them in their “mundane” living had they simply recognized that all of life is spiritual.

Every moment of every day is God’s workshop as He sets His hand to craft something of beauty in our character, chiseling into our countenance features of courage, integrity, peace and a heart for loving service: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV).

Every moment of every day is God’s parlor as He invites us into the inner chambers of knowing Him personally through faith in His Son. “For in Him 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).

Every moment of every day is God’s invitation to walk with Him along the path of life, participating in His redemptive work of unveiling His grace and love to a world that humanity has cracked and keeps on cracking.

What does it mean then to apply faith and God’s love in “practical ways”?

One way is to be attentive to the “spirituality of the average day” as we seek to recognize the presence and activity of God in the lives of others, ready to participate in His work of loving those about us.

If we pass by, for example, someone who is hungry or lonely, are we willing to dare believe that our infinitely powerful and loving Creator may have orchestrated our steps to intersect those of this person and that He would help him if our hearts would just yield to His loving authority? “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 ESV).

Do we dare believe that He Who is graceful beyond measure is leading others also to faith in Him, even those who may or may not have obvious signs of spirituality upon them? Do we boldly trust that God’s Holy Spirit can be hiding in the life of a dirty and bitter man, “in the thick” of their pain and brokenness as He seeks to apply the only healing that can fix the hurting in his heart?

“Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him Who sent Me” (Mark 9:37 ESV).

When you join with God by allowing Him to live out His love and power through you, the ordinary becomes extraordinary. The mundane becomes mystical. What a colossal adventure then if we would simply have eyes to see and ears to hear!

May this day be the day that you embark afresh on the great adventure of walking in faith with God. And if you have not yet entered into a love relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ, He invites you right now to join Him in setting out on the greatest adventure of all!

“We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him Who is true; and we are in Him Who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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