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With this year’s Valentine’s Day comes another round of… what is it? Shades of something? If audiences’ responses to the last two episodes are anything to go by, this one will also likely have a wildly enthusiastic reception and viewers will once again be exposed (no pun intended) to confused and distorted messages about sex, relationships, and love. It’s too bad that folks are so eager to accommodate an easy message of pleasure that they’re willing to overlook a genuine message of love… one that these movies essentially ignore or, perhaps, are incapable of even understanding.

Some might argue that the movies somehow, in the end, redeem themselves by trying to convince us that their characters eventually come to a place where they genuinely understand love itself, the movies themselves reportedly take (as the books on which they are based allegedly also do) such a circuitous path through hazy messages of sensuality and perverted sex, that viewers will be victimized by the notion that such interactions between two people are not only normal, but are desirable. 

But that argument is a stretch anyway. I cannot help but believe that the primary engine driving the production of the movie itself is greed which, in turn, exploits lust, the engine that is driving those who will eagerly attend the movie.

All the emphasis of these movies – all the sex, all the need to control others, and all the using of others to build ourselves up – are sad counterfeits of the greater pleasures of knowing God and experiencing His love and power in our lives. They threaten to ruin the God-given point of sex in the first place: the joyful consummation of the uniting of the lives of a husband and wife in a covenantal relationship.

It’s a sad thing when people, in whom the image of God resides, relinquish the high and beautiful purpose granted them by their Maker as they twist a gift He has given them… a gift that would ultimately deepen their love for Him and each other as it teaches them to love as He loves.

The love of the Bible is first-of-all a giving kind of love, not a taking. Just as God gives His love to those who place their faith in His Son, a husband and wife express their love for each other by giving themselves emotionally and spiritually to the other. The physical act loses all its meaning if it takes place outside the context of marriage and is a mockery of true love because sex without the commitment of the covenant of marriage is merely a taking from the other. As one uses the other for his self-centered urges, or allows herself to be used selfishly because she believes the lie that this is how one is loved, they miss the mutually edifying and sacred union that marriage represents when fleshed out as God intends it.

And aside from that, the very idea that physical pleasure is the greatest goal to pursue in this life misses the point entirely of what this life is about. God is not God to us when we capitulate to the lie that a mere physical pleasure is our greatest good. Nor can we accept the natural counterposition of this idea: that pain is our greatest evil. When we believe these lies (even subconsciously), we are unable to make sacrifices and put the needs of others before ourselves.

So watch out. Let your ideas about sex, love and marriage be shaped by the Bible, which is God’s Word. Don’t fall into the lie that God’s great aim in creating you is to deprive you of the joy of sex, but understand that He wants you, when the time is right, to enjoy it in the way it is intended to be enjoyed: in the confines of a God-centered marriage.

Jesus is the supreme example of what love is and what love does. He proves that love is not a mere emotion. It is the following through of the determined resolve to raise you up into His divine life. But just so you know, when you believe that truth and finally surrender your life to His holy sacrifice for you and His divine lordship, that love does bring forth a harvest of emotion: joy, peace, comfort, courage, affection, and hope. Indeed, when we finally surrender our passion to something as truly great as He is, we find an amazing grace sweeping us up into the wild abandonment of seeking Him, pursuing Him, discovering Him, and knowing Him. Only in Jesus are we truly freed to live and love and experience the myriad of experiences and fantastic encounters with Him awaiting us… and there are infinitely more than fifty shades!

“Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek the face of the God…. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (Psalm 24:3-6, 1 John 4:15-16 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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One evening, when our boys were still very young, our family shared together an evening devotion before bedtime. As we read the Bible together, we came to the place where it says, “… I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:11b-12 ESV).

“What’s the difference between a ‘need’ and a ‘want’?” I asked. Our sons thought a moment, and then, after waiting a moment to give his younger siblings a chance to respond, our oldest one replied, “A need is what a person must have to live.”

“Yeah,” answered our second oldest son. He then gravely began to list off several examples, “Like water and food.”

“And air!” chimed in our youngest son.

“That’s right,’ their mother said, “and we can think of even a few other things that we should consider ‘needs’, too, like shelter and clothing.”

Someone else chimed in. “And cash!”

“Now hold on a minute,” I cautioned. “Is ‘cash’ really a need? Or is money a tool we use sometimes to have a need met?”

“Don’t you need money to get other things you need?”

“Well, it is true that money is usually the way we have a lot of our needs met,” I answered, “but it isn’t a need in of itself. Don’t you think that God can meet our needs without the use of money?” Several heads nodded slowly as if considering the thought. “Can you think of a time when God met a need in our lives without money being involved at all?” After a few moments, there were several mentions of different ways that God had taken care of us without money ever changing hands.

“Now what about ‘wants’? Has the Lord supplied our wants, too?” I asked.

“Not all of them,” said our youngest.

“Right, but then some of the things we want aren’t what God thinks are best for us. But what wants has God granted us?” Again there was a great deal of conversation about various ways that God has gone above and beyond our need. “So how do we know that our heavenly Father loves us so much that He not only takes care of what we need, but also sometimes things that we simply want?”

There was silence for a moment so I went on with an answer. “Because His Word tells us so.” I then read Philippians 4:19, “… My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

“How should we respond to God’s kindness to us?” I asked and then followed up with another question, “What makes you feel good when you give something to someone?”

“When they say ‘thank you’?” one ventured. “When I can tell that he likes the gift?” suggested another.

“Those are good answers,” I responded. “So what are ways that we can ‘bless’ God when He has blessed us?”

They thoughtfully answered. “By telling Him ‘thank you’.” “By using His blessings in a right way.” And “By being generous because if we’re selfish then we’re not showing that we appreciate His generosity.”

Their mother and I exchanged glances and then nodded encouragingly. “Yes, those are all part of showing God our gratitude. We don’t want to be slaves to worry about our needs, do we? That’s why it’s so important to know that we can trust God.”

“It’s also important that we don’t become slaves to our wants. We’ve learned from Philippians 4:11-12 to be content with the blessings that God has given to us. And if ever we have trouble being content, finding that we don’t have a lot of things that a lot of our friends have, we know that we can ask God to help us with contentment… and He will!”

And then I read Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me!” We bowed our heads together and prayed, thanking our God Who loves us with an everlasting love!

This weekend we celebrate freedom. Be sure that your celebration rings true with the “inner freedom” that can only be known in an abiding relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. If you receive His gift of salvation, you are at once set free and are made His child, receiving all the privileges associated with being a part of God’s royal family!

True freedom is the privilege of entering into God’s presence without condemnation because His Son paid the price your sin.

True freedom is the privilege of entering into God’s presence without condemnation because His Son paid the price your sin.

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by Whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15 ESV).

Not only are you set free in Christ from the bondage of sin and selfishness that lead to spiritual death (separation from God forever), but in Him you are also released from the ranks of ‘spiritual orphans’, adopted into God’s family. As such, you are made free from the slavery of worry. And in learning to be content in Him, whether in a season of plenty or of scarcity, you are set free from the tyranny of “want.”

Let this “Independence Day” be a lot more than a simple summertime reveling or a rejoicing in our ability to do as we please or live as we choose.

Instead, let it be the occasion for solemn reflection as you meditate on a great gift given to you. And remember that true “freedom” hinges more on the condition of your heart before God than an abstract political affinity or even the unimpeded opportunity to act out whatever impulses fill your heart and mind, fear among these but also other compulsions that may prey upon us if unchallenged and cultivated.

True freedom, dear one, is the privilege of entering into God’s presence without condemnation because His Son paid the price your sin. Please consider turning then from your sin and receive His gift of freedom, His give of love, and His gift of Himself through Christ.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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“My country, ‘tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing: Land where my fathers died, Land of the pilgrims’ pride, From every mountainside Let freedom ring!” So penned Samuel F. Smith in the 19th century as he reflected upon the origins of a nation still young and fresh and still near to its roots in God’s gracious providence.

Let freedom ring! May this anthem swell again in our hearts and be proclaimed upon our lips until the sweet refrain of liberty is achieved for all men and women everywhere! Is this too much to ask for every American? I think not. Is it too much to ask for any man or woman anywhere in the world? I truly hope that we would never sell any human being so short as to think he or she was not entitled to freely be all that God would make him or her, no matter how different from us or far removed from us he or she may live.

He who does not know how to spend his freedom nobly is not truly free at all.

He who does not know how to spend his freedom nobly is not truly free at all.

Just think! As surely as our nation was once under the power of a truly oppressive government, so were we all once oppressed under the iron fist of sin and death. But “… just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.  When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed?  The end of those things is death.  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:19b-23 ESV).

And so we have given to us through Jesus a great “Declaration of Independence” from sin and self, sealed through the shedding of His blood on the cross. “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!… There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Romans 7:24-25a, 8:1-9a ESV).

It has been said that it is difficult to define what it means to be American. Yet I believe it is clear that the common thread that binds all Americans everywhere is the liberty we celebrate. While we struggle at times to define even what it means to be free, let us each concur that he who does not know how to spend his freedom nobly is not truly free at all. “What sort of persons ought we to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness?” (from 2 Peter 3:11).

In like manner, let us who call upon the name of Jesus and consider ourselves to be free, follow in every way the leading of the Savior. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…. Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:31-32, 34-36 ESV).

Perhaps you spend Independence Day reflecting deeply on your identity as an American and the entitlement of fellow human beings across the globe to freedom. Be careful to not neglect the need to consider whether you are still in bondage to sin and death. If you are not already so, seek to be set free into God’s life and peace and become the new creation He has had in mind all along.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

 

Copyright ©  Thom Mollohan

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In grim and gloomy cells, prisoners were forlornly locked. Emptied of hope, they sprawled on the filthy floor of their prison or warred amongst themselves, madly scrambling for the few crusts that their dungeon keeper tossed their way. Little had they known of light or life and many even believed that the whole of the world was contained within the gray walls of their dismal existence.

At times, though, there were some who escaped, helped by One from outside. These would return to the others with messages of hope, a light in their eyes, and a fragrance that clung to them, the sweet vestige of fellowship with the One Who had liberated them.

Shackled and chainedBut some had become so accustomed to the fumes and stench of their imprisonment, the new fragrance of freedom and hope caused them to gag and so they clung to their shackles of pride and selfishness. Mistrusting these emissaries of hope, they turned their backs on those who had come. At times, they would even rise up and attack them, calling them “liars and frauds who sell false hope for personal gain.”

Still, those Keepers of Hope, went from prisoner to prisoner, holding forth the message of light and life for those who would receive it. With them went One, hardly to be seen in the mists that swirled about the dungeon. With a key that only He kept, He unlocked any who would receive His gift of hope. This Giver of Hope would kneel down beside each wounded and weary prisoner, and offer them the balm of forgiveness and the elixir of grace, lifting them from the nasty pool of their fallen nature, bringing them out into the clean and clear airs of glorious fellowship with Himself.

And the story continues. We are ourselves caught up into that same saga. The story of Christmas is the account of how the Great Giver of Hope descended into our fallen world, and brought with Himself power to overthrow shackles of sin and selfishness in the lives of all who will place their faith in Him. “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).

The world presses in upon us and we come ever so close to toppling off the brink of discouragement into the abyss of despair. Though we become convinced that there is no hope and that all the evils of the world and all the pains we’ve endured will never be cleansed or healed, hope cannot be conquered for those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).

People who have lost all hope are people who have already died. Yet God specializes in bringing people “back from the dead”. And though we may be shackled by the deadly weight of chains of sin and selfishness, He holds the key to our freedom and desires to set us free into fellowship with Himself.

How about you? As He reaches down with nail-scarred hands full of forgiveness and restoration, will you receive the healing that only He can provide? Will you seize them and allow Him to place upon your fingers “rings of joy and peace” and upon your shoulders the “mantle of dignity and worth?”

Now is the time to be set free and made new. This Christmas season, celebrate the coming of the King into the world by receiving His gift of love.

“The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:9-14).

 Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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If there were ever a time that we as Americans were sliding down a steep and slippery slope of cultural implosion, now is that time.  Our moral confusion has produced for us a political climate in which evil is upheld while those who hold to a standard of right and wrong are villanized and are held in contempt.

For one thing, gone is any semblance of a collective adherence to a biblical interpretation of marriage (by which I mean a holy institution created by God for His divine purpose, a uniting of a man and a woman exclusively to one another until death parts them).  For another, brutal and savage go the “Pro-life and Pro-choice” wars (but how can they not be with the lives of millions upon millions of innocent babies and misled and oppressed women continually at stake?).  Not only that, but our own government spies upon its own private citizens and can act with apparent impunity upon anyone who disagrees with it (through the strong arm of its Internal Revenue Service and, conceivably, its Department of Homeland Security).

Of course, the concept of “freedom” is rapidly morphing.  In general, the term is associated today with boundless access to whatever privilege and pleasure we desire.  Such sentiment finds attached to it an idea of “entitlement”, an attitude that fosters laziness, irresponsibility, cruelty, and even insurrection (a rebellion to the traditions and values that ironically have preserved for us what we celebrate every Independence Day).  Such entitlement is nothing more than the institutionalization of envy and the political policies that are being employed are merely expressions of social jealousy.  Civil rights are one thing:  they are worthy causes if and when they hold to the standards that God has instituted.  But it is an insult to those who have spent (and lost) their lives for justice and equity when we apply the term “civil right” to anything that is ignoble and counterproductive to the ideals of honor, courage, integrity, compassion and self-sacrifice just as much as it is a farce to call “freedom” our tendency to have temper tantrums whenever we cannot possess what we have not earned, cannot take whatever we want from others, and cannot do whatever any inclination our passions and sloth suggest to us (no matter who we hurt if we were to have our way).

And just what does it mean to be free anyway? Does it mean I can have whatever I want whenever I want it?  Does it mean that the government bribes me with material promises at the expense of privacy?  Does it mean that I should consider the government my greatest friend no matter that I am compelled by the courts to compromise my religious convictions?  Does it mean that the government is a well-spring of justice and is the “big brother” that will see to it that all my needs (and the needs of my family) are met… as long as I cooperate with its policies – no matter that I am no longer permitted to speak out against social ills?  Is any of this or even some of it what freedom really is?

Certainly not.  What we have done is taken the high and hallowed concept of “freedom” and distorted it just as the serpent distorted it in the ears of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3).  We have chosen to take our eyes off the Giver of liberty and make it yet another vehicle of self-worship.  We have been given the opportunity, as private citizens, to put God first in all we do, but over the course of a couple of hundred years we have made it our license to bow down to our own greatness and idolize blessings instead of the Blesser.

Even now, we look to government (as an agency of our collective will) to do our bidding, not realizing that with every new policy and law it passes or mandates, we become entwined with yet another shackle.  And God permits it, allowing us to have what we think we want, while we fail to realize that He will at some point say, “Enough.”

“The LORD looks down from heaven; He sees all the children of men; from where He sits enthroned He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, He Who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.  The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.  The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.  Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love….  Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield” (Psalm 33:13-18, 20 ESV).

During this Independence Day weekend, consider what it is that you are really celebrating. Think well on what it means to be free.  Thank God for the opportunity that He has given you to worship and serve Him with all your heart.  And remember:  The surest path back to bondage is the abuse of freedom.

 Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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(Part Three: adapted from Exodus 4:1-18)

Although caught inextricably between terror and adoration, Moses yet found within himself holdouts of doubt and self-reproach that refused to completely surrender to God’s invitation to join Him in delivering His people from their Egyptian slave masters. He remained rooted to the same spot on which this curious conversation began, completely oblivious to anything but the flames within the bush which continued to leap up but still did not damage leaf or twig. There was a moment of quiet as if the Lord were giving him opportunity to voice his fears.

“But,” Moses finally said, “what if they don’t believe me? What if they won’t listen to me? What if they think I made it all up and say, ‘The LORD didn’t really appear to you’? I’m not exactly a shining example of credibility.”

The Voice spoke, resonating not only in the air and settling in his ears, but also in the ground on which the man stood. As that amazing Voice again turned Its focus to him, Moses was once again struck by Its “other-worldliness”, shedding into Moses’ dark mind and heart a glow of holiness and glory.

“Moses,” said the Lord. “What is that in your hand?”

Moses glanced down at his hand and saw nothing particularly interesting. It was just a wooden staff, well worn from its years of use as a shepherd’s tool. “A staff,” he replied.

“Throw it on the ground,” God said, as the flames writhed in the branches of the bush. Moses only paused an instant as he wondered over this strange command. Why was God telling him to throw his stick to the ground? Why wasn’t God answering his question? Nevertheless, he raised his arm and cast to the ground the stout wooden staff that he’d been carrying for years.Encounter

The rod clattered to the ground, but even before it had come to a complete rest, it began to writhe and coil. Cold shivers ran up and down Moses’ spine and he began to step backwards, away from his staff. What had once been his staff lifted one of its sinuous ends and stared at him with cold, glittering eyes. It unrolled its coils and began to slither towards Moses as it spread its fanlike hood.

Moses backpedaled and instinctively ran to other side of the burning bush, his heart thumping like an earthquake in his chest.

The Voice of the Lord came to him again. “Moses, everything is all right. Reach out and take the serpent by the tail.”

“The tail?” Moses thought. “I can think of ways to pick up snakes and ways to not do it. This is one of the ways to NOT do it. I can’t see anything that will keep it from coiling up around my arm and biting me… more than once!” But the Lord’s voice prevailed and Moses cringingly found himself approaching its tail.

The viper attentively followed his movement, its head turning to face him, but otherwise didn’t react to his approach. Moses’ hand, beset with tremors of fear, reached slowly out. “Well, now or never,” he thought. His hand quickly grasped the snake by the tail, but instead of cold scales, his hand closed upon the familiar texture of the wood of his staff. He glanced towards the snake’s head and all he saw was the staff that he had always carried to care for his sheep.

“This is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has appeared to you,” said the Lord. “In this same way, I will fill your life with My power and authority, Moses, and you will seize hold of the destiny that I have crafted for you. It’s time now for you to care for My sheep.”

Moses stood numbly staring at the staff in his hand. “I’m so unworthy,” he thought. “I’m a rebel and a murderer. I’m even a deserter. I can’t be the one to send.”

But once again, the Voice spoke and spoke even to the deepest torments afflicting Moses’ heart. “Put your hand inside your cloak, Moses.” The man slowly slid his hand beneath the layers of his cloak until it rested against his chest. An icy chill began to creep into his fingers and the skin of his hand tingled and then settled into a strange numbness. He became acutely aware that he could no longer feel the cloth of his cloak pressing against his hand. He drew it out with a start and gasped in horror: the skin on his hand had turned completely white, pale as corpse’s flesh. “Put your hand back in your cloak,” said the Lord to the trembling man. Moses complied and then withdrew it once more. This time it was normal… as if nothing had happened.

“Unworthy?” he mused. “My past had left me as dead as the flesh on my hand a moment ago. I was mottled and diseased with selfishness, impatience, and murderous thoughts. Can the Lord heal my heart also? Can He cleanse my soul like He did my hand?” The flames in the bush danced and Moses understood that God could indeed heal his heart and restore his soul.

“These miracles will signal for My people that I am with you, Moses,” said the Lord. “They will strengthen them so that they will listen to you. And if these two signs aren’t enough, don’t worry: I will even do greater things than these.”

Moses then voiced his last objection… the only thing he could think of that might still excuse his going back to Egypt. “O Lord,” he said. “I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you started speaking to me. I just don’t talk very well.”

The Voice of God spoke again, but there was a subtle change in Its tone, a sternness that unnerved Moses. “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

A stubborn persistence welled up inside of Moses . “O Lord,” he mumbled. “Please send someone else to do it.”

With that, the fires in the bush whirled up and crackled angrily in the branches of the bush. “I have sent Aaron to meet you, Moses. I have prepared him to help you in this assignment that I’m giving you. I will help you both to speak and will teach you what you are to do.”

The Lord spoke with such insistence and majesty that Moses could simply refuse no longer… nor did he want to. After all those years of hungering for more than his marred past and lonely exile could promise him, God had met him in this unexpected encounter and changed the course of his life.

“Moses, take that staff in your hand and go. You’re going to be using it to demonstrate My power and My love to the world.” Moses walked away from the bush, but not away from God. As his feet carried him to the top of the hill, he marveled over his confidence in the Lord’s presence. As he crested the hill, he paused a moment. He took a deep breath and then stepped into destiny that God had waiting for him.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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(Part Two: adapted from Exodus 3:11-22)

Moses raised his head and peered at the blazing bush before him. With the impact of what he had just heard detonating all kinds of feelings of disbelief, terror, and good old-fashioned amazement, he simply couldn’t manage to find his own voice. The Voice of the Lord, however, had just pronounced an unexpected destiny for him and now there simply were no words to adequately capture the jumble of conflicting feelings and thoughts exploding within him.

Encounter“Ah… um,” he finally managed to murmur. “You mean, uh… me? I, uh, well, um, You know that I ran away… don’t You? And also, You know that I killed a man over there… right? I mean, I just figured that You of all people would have known about that…. And besides, who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt? They probably won’t even remember that I’m a Hebrew. They won’t just welcome me back, I’m sure. Between them and Pharaoh, who probably still has a bounty on my head, I could get killed!”

There was a stirring sound and the flames within the branches of the bush flickered brighter, swirling out towards him as if reaching to him. The Voice spoke again. “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I Who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship Me on this mountain. When you have done all that I have in store for you to do, you will return here, along with your brothers and sisters, and you will all worship Me here.”

The implication of what the Voice was saying was not lost on the man who cowered before It. God had remembered His people. And He was now intervening in His creation’s mad race towards self-destruction once again and was, at the same time, reaching into Moses’ life. In this incredible encounter, God was announcing promises that would fulfill not only the ones uttered before for the people of Israel, but were personal and specific to Moses’ life as well. It was as if the Lord was squelching any suspicion that could possibly have arisen in Moses’ mind that God could ever forget His promises or forsake those who belong to Him. Not only was God sending him, He was also guaranteeing that Moses would survive, succeed, and then return to this very spot… the place that God had first spoken to him.

But as much as Moses’ heart leapt within him to the sound of God’s voice, little leeches of doubt clung to him and sapped his willpower. “But,” he pondered aloud, “suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ Then what shall I tell them? I just can’t go to them and tell them that ‘What’s His Name” sent me, can I? I know that there’s nothing to the statues, stories, and kings that the Egyptians worship, but they have names for all the idols to which they bow. And as far as we go, our own eyes have been looking inward so long because of our own troubles, that we’ve really gotten out of touch with You. We don’t even remember what You’re like.”

Although the flames were continuing to glimmer patiently in the deep shade of night while Moses was speaking, they seemed to burn a bit brighter and more glorious. God spoke again, but this time with a majesty at which had never even been hinted before in Moses’ wildest imaginations. “I AM Who I AM,” said the Voice. “This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

A sense of overwhelming awe came crashing over Moses and he hid his face again. Infinite and immeasurable, the perfect and holy glory of God Almighty flickered through those few words.

Utterly beyond earthly reckoning, they described the essence of the One Who was and is absolutely sufficient within Himself. Ageless, timeless, and limitless in power, knowledge, and love, this amazing and living God was now speaking with him in the back hills of Midian. God Himself was reaching forth His fingers to continue a work that had been begun hundreds of years before when His same Voice called to a man named Abram to set out from the land of Haran to “go to a land that He would show him” (see Genesis 12:1).

“Moses,” the Lord continued, “Tell the Israelites, ‘I AM, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.”

Even as God spoke to him, Moses was struck by how different the Lord was from what peoples around the world thought and believed about the divine. The Lord was so perfect, with such incredible glory, amazing power, and unimaginable compassion! And such REALNESS! God wasn’t simply different from what other peoples in the world worshiped, He was more than even Moses and his people had ever imagined or hoped. The Lord wasn’t just a god for only the part of world from which Abraham had come; He was alive and well in Egypt, hearing His people cry out. He wasn’t just a god of Moses’ ancestors or merely the god of a nation of people, He was here in Midian too and had met Moses, declaring His lordship over even his broken life.

“Moses,” God said. “The king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out My hand and I will do amazing things. Then he will let you go. And after all these years of their working as slaves for the Egyptians, I will even work in such a way that those who have oppressed My people will look favorably upon them and give them silver and gold. Even though they have been slaves, when they leave Egypt, they will not go empty-handed.”

Hope was now thoroughly awakened in Moses. “I can’t believe it,” he thought. “My people are finally going to find release. They’re about to wake up and see that the Lord has remembered them and has a special destiny for them!” But then, a nasty spark of doubt flared up in his mind again. “But why me?” he wondered. “Why do I have be the one? I don’t think I can do it.” But even as he thought these things, he sensed that the contents of his heart were already known to the One speaking to him.

To be continued…

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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