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Forlorn and lost and bereft of hope,

            Embraced by fear and pulled down the slope

Of pain and fear and desperation

            And dying from our separation

From our source of life, the God of love

            Who supremely rules from above.

 

In His holiness, He judges all.

            Yet to the sinner, He sends the call

To turn aside from all pride and sin

            And through Christ’s blood he is ushered in

To His presence! Be cleansed and made new!

            Pardoned and changed completely through!

 

O come and find His forgiveness now!

            And set yourself to discover how

Great and good is Jesus’ love for you!

            How beautiful and perfectly true

Is Jesus Who died to set you free

            But lives and reigns eternally!

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Ya Got Yer CallinAlec MacNeal had had a reputation for knowing the waters off the coast of his little New England village like no one else around. His father had been a fisherman, as had his father before him. Alec had grown up on the waves, and knew exactly where to drop his nets and when to do it. He had weathered every storm that had ever aimed its winds his way and had enough sense to get out of the ones that he couldn’t weather.

But now he was overcome at last by a storm which he couldn’t steer clear of, a storm that wasn’t in the blowing wind or stinging spray of the open sea, but in his own flesh as cancer irresistibly continued its advance.

He reflected a bit over his life, scenes of joy and sorrow alternately flashing across his mind. He was waiting for his son, Richard, to arrive and as his wait dragged on, his mind dwelled more and more on the weed bed of regret that his own pride and selfishness had cultivated for him.

He and Richard hadn’t been close for nearly two decades, since Richard was a very young man. Alec had always considered himself a good man, perhaps even better than a lot of churchgoers in their little coastal town. Attending church was never something he had ever faulted anyone else for doing, but given the need to be out even for days at a time on the water, he reasoned that he rarely had a Sunday free to attend church and even when he did, he usually used it as his day to catch up on other things.

But he didn’t object when Richard announced that he was going to attend a church meeting with a friend who had invited him. It was, after all, a much better track than sneaking a bottle of whiskey or smoking who knew what on some back road in the country.

But Alec was mystified by Richard’s strange attitude when he returned home and in the following days. He was quiet and reflective as if deeply pondering things. When Alec asked what it was all about, Richard quietly replied that he had become a Christian. Richard went on to explain that at church he had heard about Jesus coming to show the way to God the Father, that He had died as a sacrifice for everyone’s sin so that they could be forgiven and go to heaven. Richard shared that he had asked Christ into his life and was now going to try to live for Him.

Alec simply stared at Richard. He finally shrugged his shoulders and muttered, “More power to you.” And it neither troubled or in any other way affected him until Richard’s new found relationship with God began to affect Richard’s part in the family business.

The older fisherman had always assumed that Richard would simply continue in the family business as Alec had done. But the first clue that assumptions were dangerous things was Richard’s asking to not go out on the boats on Sunday. As far as “needing” him, Alec had plenty of employees to take care of the boats, but he still bristled a little bit when Richard made his request.

“You know, Richard, that this is a very busy time of year for us,” he said crisply. Richard nodded respectfully, but continued to look his father in the eye.

“I know it, and I’ll work all the harder the next day and the rest of the week to make up for it,” he said. “Besides, you’ve got Carl, Edward, and Mac to help you. You could do without me for one day.”

Alec sighed, and then grunted his assent. Richard was as good as his word, making up for the one missed day with extra energy and enthusiasm for the rest of the week.

“Richard is a good lad,” his father thought to himself one day, as he watched him working with the other men on the engine of the boat. He was far more a positive influence on them than they were a negative one on him. Even their language began to get tamer whenever Richard was around. Nevertheless, Alec kept a watchful eye on his son, riding him hard about his work and requiring a level of perfection and performance that he himself doubted he’d have if Richard had not become a Christian.

But one Sunday, he returned home to find Richard once again in his strangely pensive mood as if he had something to say but was afraid to say it. Alec was tired after a long day of disappointing results so, after a somber meal, he turned to Richard and said, “All right. What’s on yer mind?”

Richard looked quietly at the table and then at his father. “I believe that God is calling me into the ministry,” he answered. “I’ve gotten information about a Bible college and seminary and plan to go there at the end of the month.”

Alec’s sunburned and wind-blown forehead crinkled into a thousand lines of agitation. He spluttered a few syllables but didn’t manage to say anything. He stood up suddenly and strode to the wide window that looked out over the bay. His little fishing vessel was well into the shadows that the gable of his house cast eastwards. Two of his ship hands were still inspecting nets before they stowed them away.

Richard came and stood by his father, gazing out across the relatively calm waters. “Dad…” he started to say. His father turned a cold eye towards him.

“Ya got yer callin’,” he growled. “Just go ahead then and follow it. Just go and get out!” With that, Alec turned, yanked his jacket off its peg. “I mean it! Get out!” he barked over his shoulder and then stormed out of the house down to the boats. Richard watched for a few moments, standing as if he had been slapped in the face, and then made a phone call to a friend. He packed some bags, grabbed his Bible, and quietly slipped out the door.

When Alec returned, several hours later, he came home, slamming doors and muttering curses. He cast a quick glance into Richard’s room and shook his head. “After all I’ve done for him, too!” Alec realized that he was incredibly angry… angry at Richard, but angrier at God for stealing him away.

But now, years later, he was dying. Richard frequently came back, but Alec would never receive him and never quite forgave him. Their visits were generally prolonged exercises in strained and awkward moments. Richard had even the audacity on a couple of occasions to try to talk to Alec about a relationship with God. Each time, Alec would just hold his hand up and tell him to mind his own business.

Alec’s heart now weighed heavily with regret. “What was I so angry about?” he now wondered. “If he really did become a Christian, how could I not expect him to want for me what he says he found?” Alec mentally kicked himself now. What if Richard didn’t make it back in time? What if he never made peace with his son? What if he never made peace with God?

But the outer door opened. There were voices in the outer room where the nurse who took care of Alec had been waiting. Footsteps. And then Richard’s familiar form entered the room.

“Dad?” Richard said, his voice a welcome sound to Alec’s ears. Alec smiled and reached for his son.

“Hiya, Dickie,” he said, using Richard’s childhood nickname. “I’m glad you’re here.” There was a pause. “Would you… Could you tell me again how to become a Christian?” Richard’s heart leapt to his throat. He nodded and began to share with his father about Jesus, glad for the peace that now lay between them. Moments later, Alec MacNeal received Jesus as his Savior. Days later, Alec MacNeal went to heaven.

“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. And going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him” (Matthew 4:18-22 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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What wonder and awe is there in the miraculous promise given us in 2 Corinthians 5:17! “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, and the new has come!” We are not only cleansed and forgiven of our sin, but are also transformed in our spiritual essence (see 2 Peter 1:4)! Furthermore, as we are invited to join God as instruments in His hand in transforming the world, there is bestowed upon us divine purpose and meaning!

How awesome is His mercy towards the children of humanity that although we have collectively departed from our Creator, those who trust in Him are given the promise of hope in Christ Jesus! “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His (resurrected) life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:10-11 ESV).

The modern era of politics has been one long saga of division and enmity between Americans. Now that we’ve turned another page and come to the end of yet another chapter (and the start of another), many speak of a desire to somehow see the chasm between the two sides bridged. A truly admirable goal. But while I too hope and pray for such a reconciliation, let us not overlook a far deeper and immeasurably wider gap that separates men and women all over our planet and all through our community from a genuine relationship with God. Nor can we overlook the unthinkable price that the Lord Himself paid in bridging that gap.

“But (God) shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV).

“All this is from God, Who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 ESV).

We are therefore agents of reconciliation, provided that we ourselves have been reconciled to God through faith in Christ Jesus. Being transformed on the inside (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 12:2) and united with Him as His presence in us takes root and bears fruit (John 15:5), we boldly lay down our grudges, lest they return to haunt us. We swallow our pride lest it overpowers what loving words our tongues might have spoken. With our own hands we reach out to others though they may have turned their backs on us in the past, before they slip from our reach and restoration is forever lost.

 “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” - 2 Corinthians 5:20

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” – 2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV

We go in the love that moved Jesus Himself to leave Heaven’s glory in the first place (see Philippians 2:6-8) that people like you and me may be set free from sin and self into a loving relationship with God and that we might forever enjoy an eternal fellowship with each other.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV).

There is only one thing that can set the stage for peace in the hearts of Americans. It is peace with God and thereby receiving the peace of God’s loving presence within our hearts. Such magnification and exaltation of Christ in the heart of a Believer prepares the way for humility and graciousness to bubble up in our hearts, overcoming the fear, bitterness and resentment of those on whom they’re lavished.

Do you want to conquer an enemy? Love him or her to Christ Jesus. Are you yourself tired of being captive to anger, hurt and resentment? Do you yourself need to be set free and made new? Then turn to Christ. “Working together with Him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.  For he says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2 ESV).

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Good for the Soul

Of the many “church” words that often make us cringe, we find ranked highly them the word “confess”.  Chances are, when you hear it, you have an impulse to stick your fingers in your ears and sing the national anthem.  But it’s an important word.  In fact, it’s a GREAT word – provided it is understood correctly and lived out appropriately.  So just what DOES the Bible mean by the word, “confess”? And why is it important and even necessary for us to have learned how to confess in a Biblical sense?

As far as how the word itself goes (as used in the Bible), the word “confess” is a Germanic/English rendering of two Latin roots… “con-” (meaning “with”) and “-fess” (meaning to “say”); the Greek word from which this comes is “homologeo” which literally means “same word” and should usually be interpreted as to “acknowledge” or “agree with”.

While it’s entirely possible that you don’t really care about the ins and outs of translations, etc., you very likely DO care about the bottom line. The word translated in the Bible as “confess” involves an utterance of the mouth and outward acknowledgement of truth. It means, in a spiritual sense, to speak out. But what is it that one is speaking out?

Well, for starters, saying “I’m sorry” is NOT confession, nor is asking for forgiveness. These things might be attached to confession, but they are not confession in of themselves. For me to confess, I must openly AGREE WITH GOD about Who God is, and about my sinful nature. It means to declare that God is really God, and is the rightful Lord of both the world and of my life. “…If you CONFESS with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one CONFESSES and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10 ESV).

Moreover, confession candidly admits the wrongs that I have done, the hurts that I have contrived, and the sin that I have committed. I do not rationalize these things, nor do I excuse them. I simply own up to what I’ve done and what I’ve said, taking responsibility for them. Although this doesn’t necessarily mean airing all the details of our dirty laundry, it DOES mean that we no longer deny the corruption within our fallen hearts, that we “fess up” to God in prayer, and even learn the art of admitting our faults and failures to those we’ve hurt or to whom we are accountable.

And as bad a rap as confession gets, we would be making a terrible mistake to dismiss it as archaic or irrelevant, and hence miss out on its blessing. In a purely pragmatic sense, confession allows me to address destructive habits and attitudes that may characterize my own life and sets the stage for both change and release from cycles of failure and injustice towards others. Furthermore, confession opens the door to the restoring of relationships that have suffered because of the wrong I may have said and done.

But MOST importantly, confession is a manifestation of my openness to God’s grace when I admit that I have broken His divine commandments and violated His trust (whether outwardly and obviously, or secretly in the hidden places of my heart and mind). Through confession, I make no excuses for my sin and instead throw myself on the mercy of the highest court of all: the Judge Who eternally rules. In confessing my sin to Him, I allow His forgiveness to wash me and make me new. “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).

"Ultimately, confession is a manifestation of my openness to God's grace when I admit that I have broken His divine commandments and violated His trust.

“Ultimately, confession is a manifestation of my openness to God’s grace when I admit that I have broken His divine commandments and violated His trust.

Real confession cannot happen only inside your mind or heart but must ultimately somehow be articulated by the mouth… largely because SPEAKING the truth realigns the direction of one’s heart and will with that of the Father’s. But even so, there isn’t any sort of “script” to this… each example of “confession” in the Scriptures has its own flavor and is unique to each individual that Jesus called to Himself.

Consider Peter who fell at Jesus feet and confessed, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8) and then confessed to Jesus that He was indeed, “the Christ of God” (Luke 9:20). Or Zaccheaus who said to Him, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor.  And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Luke 19:8 ESV). Or the sinful woman of Luke 7 who stood behind Jesus at a Pharisee’s home and was so choked up by His accepting her in spite of her past that she could only weep and then wipe His feet with her tears in heart-wrenching humility. Or even the Samaritan woman of John 4 who also ultimately AGREED with the Lord when she appealed to her fellow villagers to, “Come, see a Man Who told me EVERTHING I EVER DID”.

Even the thief on the cross beside Jesus “confessed” when he recognized the Lord of lords and King of kings for Who He is, even as Jesus hung dying on the cross of Calvary. “One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Him, saying ‘Are You not the Christ?  Save Yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we justly, for WE ARE RECEIVING THE DUE REWARD OF OUR DEEDS; but THIS MAN HAS DONE NOTHING WRONG.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom’” (Luke 23:39-42 ESV- emphasis mine).

Again, confession of sin is NOT the same things as saying “I’m sorry” and, of course, any efforts on our part to justify or excuse our sin would be extremely offensive to Him. It’s interesting to note, by the way, that our word for “apology” comes from “apologia” which means “defense” and refers to a plea in which one attempts to clear oneself of guilt. Be that as it may, the Biblical principle is this: inasmuch as we defend or rationalize sin, seeking to justify ourselves, we will fail and fall short of God’s glory.

But, in contrast, when we “confess”, we agree with God that He is holy and just, and that we are, in fact, “poor in spirit”. When we can bring ourselves to do this, we can then expect Him to deliver on His promise to give us the “kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). So let us each then learn to pray honestly to the One Who knows our hearts anyway. And let us also seize the joy and victory He intends for those “who shall confess Jesus before Men, for Jesus will also confess us before the Father Who is in heaven” (from Matthew 10:32).

 

Copyright ©  Thom Mollohan

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Over the years, my sons and daughter have frequently enjoyed playing pranks on each other and so I have often seen their antics escalate like little familial arms’ races.  On one occasion my sons’ ran through the house, yelling and cackling as someone’s playful splash of cold water turned into militant attempts to slide ice cubes down someone else’s shirt. From that first small smattering into someone’s face came a step-by-step intensifying until no one seemed to be capable any longer of stopping – in spite of pleas to “hold it down: you’ll wake your sister!”

I clomped noisily through the house, deliberately attempting to add an ominous sound to each footstep and hoping to assert some restraint upon my sons as their mother worked to get them settled down enough for bed. My wife turned to me with a twinkle in her eye and said, “Why don’t you write about ‘revenge’? That’s how they’ve gotten so wound up: everybody feels like they’ve got to get everybody else back!”

It seemed very interesting that she had said that to me at that moment. I had just been remembering exploring a cave in the desert in the Middle East about eight years earlier, a cave that may have been very similar to the one that David, warrior of God, had used for refuge from his king. The heart of this king named Saul, although supported by David in every way, had turned in resentful jealously against this young and loyal subject.

David had been running from Saul for months, partly to protect his own life, but also partly because he was well aware of God’s promise of protection. Saul, a spiritual lemming if ever there was one, was apt to destroy himself in his reckless drive to murder David. And why was this? It was the result of an inward lashing out at God, as well as a kind of madness that besets us when we will not humble ourselves and submit to the lordship of Christ. His beleaguered vision, when looking David’s way, could only see the young man’s successes through eyes of rationalization and victimization. Consequently, each of David’s victories was interpreted through the prism of Saul’s jealous resentment, throwing fuel on the nasty suspicion that David was out to get him. So… with each of David’s imaginary conspiracies, Saul’s bitterness grew as did his dour-minded plots to dispose of him.

You might as well know that an innocent man makes a handy target. In innocence, his guard is generally down, making him very vulnerable. And the presumption that “all is well” permits him to walk a long way out on the thin ice of human relationships riddled with envy, unaware that his world might collapse beneath him at any moment. And when it does, such an episode can leave him feeling flabbergasted, exasperated, outraged, hurt, humiliated, and resentful. Before he knows it, unless great care has been taken to avoid this situation, he soon finds himself overflowing with angry thoughts towards the person(s) who hurt him and can fall very easily into a mindset of retaliation.

Such revenge, unlike the fun my sons were having, will do as much harm to the avenger as to the object of his vengeance.

David, on the lam for a long time, finds that the enemy has closed in on him. But, when it turns out that the older man doesn’t realize that David was in the same cave that he had chosen to uh… um, take care of a personal need (see 1 Samuel 24:3), David’s supporters, hiding with him in the back of the cave, attempt to provoke him to get his revenge upon Saul. The “natural” and “normal” thing to do would have been to do just as his companions urged. Nevertheless, vengeance was not the master of David’s heart or his head. The grace of God was.

“He said to his men, ‘The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the LORD’s anointed.’ So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul.” (1 Samuel 24:6-7a ESV).

Revenge is a ghastly, double-edged sword. Of course, my children were simply playing a game, but if you take out the jovial and fun-loving nature of what they were doing, it would not have been long before their competitive spirits would have led them into hurting each others’ feelings. In a similar way, our pride and hurt often move us to quickly formulate strategies for retaliation against those who hurt us… but always to our own detriment. As long as we permit ourselves to be ruled by the compulsion to “get even”, we permit someone to have a power over us. We’ve given to our “adversaries” the keys to our own happiness and actually increased the potential for their damage against us, having given our attackers, as it were, the keys to our hearts.

Revenge is a ghastly, double-edged sword.

Revenge is a ghastly, double-edged sword.

But just because we have the opportunity to work out a little revenge in our words or actions, doesn’t mean we need to fall victim to our own bitterness and hand off to our “adversary” our capacity to be happy. Instead, “repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21 ESV).

1 Samuel, chapter 24 records David’s incredible opportunity to get even and get out from under Saul’s persecution of him. Yet, he chose a higher, more heavenly-principled path that, although much harder in the living in the short term, kept his conscience clean before God. Be wary of revenge. It promises satisfaction but only leaves an empty ache in us no matter how righteous it may seem. Besides… with the infinite beauty of the Lord before us to discover and celebrate, who has so much spare time that he or she can squander it by plotting out strategies to make someone else pay? Certainly not you… you have better things to do.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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While I can’t say that the children’s books of Maurice Sendak are exactly a wellspring of deep spiritual insight, but in honor of his 85th birthday today (June 10th), I would like to point out that his picture book, Where the Wild Things Are (published by Harper & Row, Publishers), is a masterpiece in depicting our general attitude towards God, what we think about ourselves, and maybe a little bit of our spiritual predicament.  Its pages have long reminded me of the story that Jesus told about another son (see Luke 11:15-35) also with a willful spirit, a rebellious wandering out into the wide world, and an eventual repentance and return to grace.

Little Max, when he “came to his senses” remembered where he belonged.

Max, when he “came to his senses” remembered where he belonged.

Sendak’s little tale begins with, “The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind… and another… his mother called him ‘WILD THING!’ and Max said, ‘I’LL EAT YOU UP!’ so he was sent to bed without eating anything.”

Although we loathe to admit it, there is within each of us an overwhelming impulse that passionately seeks to have its own way and, when yielded to, wreaks mischief of one kind… and another… and another. From the dawning of time when humanity first rebelled in the Garden (see Genesis 3), we have habitually exalted our own plans and ambitions above the loving directives given us by God. And so we don the wolf suit of selfishness, heedless of the implications of our defiance.

But there are great prices to pay when we choose to defy the loving plan of God. The first great tragedy of asserting our will above God’s is, of course, discordance in our relationship with Him and the breaking of our fellowship with our Creator. Our disregard for the Lord’s will and our wolfish pursuit to please ourselves disrupt His plan to enrich our lives, encourage our hearts, and envelop us with His peace and joy. Even subtle sins and passive rebellion to God’s claim to our lives as Lord contaminate our lives and make us unfit to “enter His presence.”

The second great tragedy results from the first. Having lost the immediacy of His divine presence, and bent on going our own way in the world, we are fated to find ourselves surrounded by terrors and monsters unleashed by such self-will. Fears enslave us, hatreds besiege us, pain and loss bind us as though they were great shackles forged in the heat of our pride and passions. Such woes and afflictions “roar their terrible roars, and gnash their terrible teeth and roll their terrible eyes and show their terrible claws.” We may have succeeded in “sassing” God, but our only reward is fearsome and awful friendship with trouble and woe. But perhaps it dawns on us that somewhere there is something better waiting for us, and just like Max in Sendak’s book, we long “to be where someone loves us best of all.”

When the willful son of Luke 15 approaches his father and begs an early withdraw on his inheritance, we can perhaps feel a little bit of the sorrow that wrenched the older man’s heart. Was that all he was to this beloved son? An easy way to a good time? The mischief wasn’t merely in the asking for the money of course. It was also partly in the son’s desire to leave the fellowship of his father’s house and to be lord and master of his own destiny. With a pocket full of cash, he could call the shots and be the big man for a change.

And so he, like Max, boards the “private boat” of his independence and sets sail through “night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are.” And there this wayward son reigns for awhile, having a “wild rumpus” of his own… at least until he runs out of money. And lo and behold, he suddenly has nothing and is nothing to even those he had once called friends. He is reduced to squalor and terrible jobs that no one else will endure.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ And he arose and came to his father.” (Luke 15:17-20a ESV).

We don’t necessarily have to completely hit bottom for us to come to our senses. How much easier and better would it have been if this young man had had a change of heart before he had even left his father’s house? There’s no denying that it would have been an easier road for all involved. Still, it is clear that God is perfectly willing to go to unimaginable lengths to soften our hearts to His overtures of loving acceptance. You matter that much to God. And when your heart turns towards home, He is ready and waiting to receive you!

And don’t think that getting up and going home was an easy thing to do for this prodigal son… no matter how broken he was. It wasn’t. Wild feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and worry most certainly “roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws”, yet it was the right thing to do… it was the only thing to do.

“But while he (the son) was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:20b-24 ESV).

What an incredible reunion! Instead of glowering at him from under bristling eyebrows, instead of slamming the door in his face, instead of lecturing him on how he squandered his father’s money and brought shame upon his house, the father embraced him and said, “Welcome home, son. Let’s go inside and get to know each other all over again over a nice hot meal.”

Little Max, when he also “came to his senses” remembered where he belonged. He too turned towards home and “sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him… and it was still hot.” 

If your heart hasn’t yet “turned towards home”, let today be the day you also come to your senses and remember that there is a place “where someone loves you best of all,” too. That “place” is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Let today be the day your heart goes home.

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Grace!  What a lovely word!  It’s a sweet syllable that lingers in our hearts after it trips off our tongues in our talk of God!  It’s a tender and beautiful sentiment in our singing of sweet songs to our Savior as the wonder of His love saturates our minds!  The awesome majesty of God’s authentic grace is so other-worldly to our world that delights in fingers pointing at the fallen, snide snickers at the expense of the stumbling, and taunting “told-you-soes” to the temptation trapped.

Grace is that sunny smile of acceptance when a stern frown of disapproval is earned.  It is the helping hand that pulls another to his feet instead of the cold shoulder that shrugs him off.  It is the patient forbearance that persistently pursues something better for our stubborn hearts than the filthy trifles that so easily satisfy us!

In John chapter 8, a woman caught in sin was brought before Jesus so that the wicked self-righteousness of the proud and arrogant could “force His hand”, but Jesus refused to be baited.  He simply stooped down and began writing on the ground.

“Early in the morning He came again to the temple. All the people came to Him, and He sat down and taught them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.  Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.  So what do You say?’  This they said to test Him, that they might have some charge to bring against Him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground” (John 8:2-6 ESV).

The world, with its accusing fingers, writes for us constantly all the ways that we are guilty, fallen, and deserving of God’s judgment.  Grace, on the other hand, blows over the sands of our sin and shortcomings and gently blows it them all away.

The world, with its accusing fingers, constantly points to the writing in the sand all the ways that we are guilty, fallen, and deserving of God’s judgment. Grace, on the other hand, blows over the sands of our sin and shortcomings and gently blows them all away.

The Scriptures do not record what it was that Jesus wrote and there has been a lot of speculation about what it might been.  Some have suggested that He was naming in the dust of the street the “pet sins” of the accusers.  Perhaps so.  Perhaps even adultery was among the sins listed.  But whatever it was, the significance is at first lost on the accusers.

Imagine it, if you will, the unfolding of this living tabloid.  See the scandal and distorted delight of those standing there with stones in their hands as they sneered in derision at the one they brought to be judged and scoffed at the One Who, ironically, is the final Judge of all judges.

But after Jesus’ words bring home the indictment of the flawed spiritual condition and self-serving motives of Jesus’ enemies, grace that finds its source in a holy God also finds the woman at Jesus’ feet and raises her up.

“Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?’  She said, ‘No one, Lord.’  And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:10-11 ESV).

Just as surely as the breezes of the day wafted over and eventually erased the things Jesus had written in the sand, so too does His grace erase the eternal record of our sin if we turn from that sin and receive Him as Lord and Savior.  If you believe that Jesus came to die for you in your place to pay for the reality of your sin, the blood that He bled as He died on the cross is, in the mind of God, applied to your life.  His Spirit says to you, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

“[Jesus] entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.….  the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purif[ies] our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:11, 14b ESV).

The world, with its accusing fingers, points to the writing in the sand of all the ways that we are guilty, fallen, and deserving of God’s judgment.  Grace, on the other hand, blows over the sands of our sin and shortcomings and gently blows them all away.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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