Posts Tagged ‘transformation’

A few weeks ago, while in a very warm room just outside of Washington, DC , with several hundred other people in a conference dealing with the prevention of drug abuse, my phone suddenly vibrated indicating that a text had just been received. Normally, I wait for an appropriate time to read it, but I was strangely moved on this occasion to check it. I quietly pulled my phone out and read the message.

It was from a precious member of our church letting me know that a member of her extended family had just passed away from an overdose. I immediately began to pray for the family and texted back our love and prayers.

The loss made me very sad the way it does every time I learn of someone in our community who has lost his or her life to drugs. It always stabs my heart with grief and horror. On the other hand, every time I learn of someone who has had enough and sets out on the long path of recovery, I celebrate, knowing that while it may be a hard journey, the destination is definitely worth it.

When asked about the relationship between faith and recovery, many folks think of instantaneous transformations. I have very rarely encountered this, but have discovered that transformation is usually a process with its roots in perhaps one initial step, but is only realized through the hard work of applying the principles of God’s Word in progressive stages in all areas of life.

Faith and recoveryGod is the God of transformation. That transformation is bequeathed through 1) hope (that God can and will change us if we let Him; 2) peace (that we have peace with Him through His gift of forgiveness if we truly are willing to turn away from what holds us enslaved, as well as peace inside ourselves as we relinquish the need to try to control and manipulate others, ourselves, and maybe even God); 3) direction (though we cannot see very far ahead, we can find the one step we need to take right now); and 4) strength (He gives us the will to turn away from temptation if we are willing to turn away from it consistently and persistently – long before we encounter it).

Learning the Word of God (through Bible study at church and in small groups) helps to rewire our minds as we learn the thoughts of God, while prayer (conversation with God) puts us in touch with His almighty power! While we have wonderful resources in our community to help the recovering addict, never underestimate the healing and life-giving power of Jesus Christ!

“You have… been taught in Christ… to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:21-24 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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As we enter once again another presidential election process, we can expect that one message that some will toss about is that of “positive change”. So people across our nation begin the process of waiting for the eventual election in order to see if the “good things” they’ve reaped might continue or that new things may soon come their way.

But I cannot help but look on all the impending furor and frenzy with a great deal of sadness for those who put their eggs in the basket of presidential politics. While the process of democratically electing our leaders is tremendously important and while I too feel strongly about the issues at stake and the candidates who will be running, the fact of the matter is that the persons appointed to the various posts of leadership in our government (including the top one) cannot meet the deepest needs of our lives.

What makes me sad is that we tend to collectively spend the energies of our passions on all sorts of causes and pastimes yet neglect the one thing that matters most: our own spiritual condition. Folks hope that those elected to office will somehow fix all their woes and make everything all right, but they still end up empty, frustrated and defeated.

Is it time for a change in America? Perhaps, but whatever changes take place on any political level are going to be incidental to you compared to your spiritual needs. For too many of us such changes are just deferments for the changes that should be taking place in our own individual lives that then bring about change in our small, but important circles of influence. The changes we generally pursue our mere smokescreens to cover gaping lacks of responsibility we each have for our own eternal destinies and the fact of our responsibility for others we could positively influence towards the Kingdom of God.

Is it time for a change in your life? Consider well the questions, “How has God changed my life?”  Or “Is God changing my life?” If we cannot answer either question with a “yes” or if the answer is unclear to you, let your heart open wide to the change that God’s love can bring to you starting now.

Such change fundamentally begins with the moment we surrender our sin and our self-will to God and come to Him in faith.

John chapter 3 records a religious leader named Nicodemus having approached Jesus to discuss the lofty matter of the Lord’s teachings. Nicodemus probably thought himself merely interested in conversing about some of the things that Jesus had been teaching.

Jesus’ response however was to get to the heart of the need of this theologically learned leader: “You must be born again,” He tells him in verse seven. Quite visible to Jesus was Nicodemus’ intrigue with the power and authority of Jesus’ life. Quite evident to the Lord was the man’s hunger for the same meat of meaning and victory in his own experience that he discerned in Jesus.

Have you had a “new birth?” Whatever Nicodemus thought he knew about the kingdom and the things of God, he hadn’t caught on to this basic and yet essential truth. Whatever good things Nicodemus had accomplished in the name of God for the sake of religion or even for the benefit of other people, he had nothing if he did not have this one thing.

Through the grace of God, we can put behind us the wretched and selfish persons we once were and become new creations!

Through the grace of God, we can put behind us the wretched and selfish persons we once were and become new creations!

Jesus looks on this tortured teacher and tenderly tells him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” What a tragedy then if you or I were to choose to continue to live our lives based on religious exercise instead of being “birthed” into relationship with Him! What loss and powerlessness is our doom if we never come to personally know the power and hope of the kingdom of God!

Let it not be so for you and for me! “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:14-18 ESV).

As Jesus proclaims what is ultimately our only hope for life and meaning, let us look upon this One Who was “lifted up, believing in Him that we may receive the gift of eternal life!”  And as we are then “born again”, let us know that we have been gloriously made new! “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).

Through the grace of God, we may put behind us the wretched and selfish persons we once were (no matter how cleverly we hid our wretchedness behind airs of self-confidence and good works) and become fully the new creations that God is making of us, enjoying the journey of relationship with Him through Christ.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to My chosen people, the people whom I formed for Myself that they might declare My praise” (Isaiah 43:18-21 ESV).

Once we allow the change of God to enter into us through a new birth, we can then allow that transformative power enter into our relationships, homes, workplaces, and culture to affect an enduring kind of change that carries us beyond the short-lived moments of our lives on earth into an eternity with God!

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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A long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away), while I was still a college student, I gave being a salesman a shot. It proved to not be one of my most successful enterprises in life. Frankly, it’s doubtful if I could have sold a fire insurance policy to a man whose house was on fire.

All these years later, I am still not a salesman. I am far more concerned with the substance of things than I am the appearance. Perhaps too much so. No, I may not be a salesman still, but, by God’s grace, I am a “sharer” who has something, not to sell, but to share in a world that has spent itself on cheap thrills that prove all too costly in the end.

Today, for example, with people running short on hope, wondering if talk about “faith” and “godliness” really means anything, and worrying about what tomorrow will bring, how can one not share with others about the significance of the resurrection of Jesus? How could one not wish to remind Christians of the implications of the resurrection for living life today? And how can one not desire to tell others who have yet to personally become recipients of that hope or not invite them to take that step of faith (no pun intended), trusting Him as their savior?

The resurrection of Jesus Christ should have tremendous significance to you. Why? Well, without the resurrection, our faith in Jesus is vain. While that may sound sacrilegious to you (though it is more sacrilegious in my mind to disbelieve in the resurrection), consider that the Bible itself declares in 1 Corinthians 15:14 ESV, “…If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

Because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, God's Word thunders with clarity and power as it continually echoes in our hearts!

Because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, God’s Word thunders with clarity and power as it continually echoes in our hearts!

First, the fact of God’s restoring Jesus to life authenticates God’s promises of forgiveness of sins for all who will believe. In other words, the resurrection is a physical demonstration of God’s satisfaction with the His Son’s atoning sacrifice. “Jesus paid it all… Sin had left a crimson stain; He washed it white as snow,” we’ll sing. In Isaiah 53:10-12 (written about 500 years before the life of Christ) the Bible says, “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush Him; He has put Him to grief; when His soul makes an offering for sin, He shall see His offspring; He shall prolong His days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the righteous One, My Servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the many, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

Secondly, the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ validates the significance of the Gospel itself. Gospel means, “good news”, but without the resurrection of Jesus, there is no clear sense that there really is any good news. Without the resurrection, we have no proof that Jesus’ words were anything more than “good words” and “nice teachings.”

But with the resurrection, His words thunder with clarity and power and echo in our hearts when we grasp for hope! God is alive and well today ready to bring men and women, boys and girls into a right relationship with Himself. When we pray, as Jesus taught, “Our Father…”, we may be free from the millstone of condemnation that is unforgiven sin and unashamedly enter His presence in prayer. Our own eternal destinies become clear, too, as we trust Jesus as our only means of entering God’s favor, and Heaven, as promised by God, is guaranteed. Good news indeed!

Finally, the resurrection of Jesus associates the love of God with practical living so that it transcends mere rhetoric. It isn’t just a lot of mumbo-jumbo about something that happened two-thousand years ago, nor is it merely a lot of hooey about something that we tell people happens when you die in order to placate them. It means something about how we live our lives now, too.

“We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4 ESV).  God’s intention for you and me is to “live in newness of life” here on earth. The power of sin and the dread of death have been defeated by Jesus through His work on the Cross and His conquest of the Tomb.

Are you living a new life today in Christ? If not, will you yield your will to Him and surrender pride, fear, anger and selfishness to Him? Will you allow Him to “raise you up” with Christ in that newness of life? As the sun rises this Easter morning, celebrate the rising of the Son of God. Let this be a time for God’s love to dawn in your life today.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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“Going home is never easy,” I once heard someone say. I’ve also heard that once you leave and set out on your own path in life, “you can never really go back home.” I’m not sure that such sweeping statements apply to every situation, but they certainly applied to the Lord Jesus Who did go back to His “hometown” in the days of His earthly ministry. He was born in Bethlehem, spent a very brief time in Egypt (when Herod the Great was trying to find and kill the “little King”), and was occasionally in Jerusalem in accordance with the instructions God had given His people at that time.

But the town of Nazareth had the privilege of being the place in which Jesus “grew up”. Remember that the Lord Jesus had entered fully into the human experience (except without sin, Hebrews 4:15), so it was Nazareth in which the Lord would have cultivated His earliest human friendships and fond memories. Did He feel sentimental towards this small town and wax nostalgic whenever He heard the first century equivalent of the Springsteen song, “This Is Your Hometown”? I have no idea, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that He did.

Just think of the power that God could unleash in your life if you would turn wholeheartedly to Him and let Him into your heart!

Just think of the power that God could unleash in your life if you would turn wholeheartedly to Him and let Him into your heart!

What I do see, however, in reading of His experience in “going back home”, is His hometown’s failure to recognize just Who it was that they had in their ranks for nearly thirty years.

“Jesus… came to His hometown, and His disciples followed Him. And on the Sabbath He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this Man get these things? What is the wisdom given to Him? How are such mighty works done by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.’” (Mark 6:1-4 ESV).

What a shame! Here was a whole town of people who thought that they had Jesus figured out! A whole community who thought that they knew Jesus, but didn’t really know Him at all. And in “dismissing” His divine identity, they were dismissing the very hope and only source of life that each and every one of Nazareth’s citizen’s so desperately needed.

“He could do no mighty work (miracles) there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief” (Mark 6:5-6 NSV).

A great many people have taught a great many things about verse five, saying that somehow God’s power was curtailed by the hard hearts of the people of Nazareth. But that isn’t so. Refusing to recognize the glorious identity of Jesus’ Person cannot in any way diminish His essence. What it DOES do, however, is tragically limit what we could have otherwise hoped for in knowing Him. If we choose to not recognize that from Him flow life-giving waters, we’ll not be able to quench our parched souls’ thirst for something more than what this physical life alone can supply (John 4:10, 14-15; Jeremiah 2:13). Or refusing to accept that He has the authority to forgive sin prevents us from having that cursed burden lifted from our shoulders, liberating us from crushing condemnation (Matthew 9:2, 5-6; John 8:10-11; Romans 8:1).

What miracles then couldn’t He do in the little burg of Nazareth? Well, His power over the physical realm was clearly unhindered for He was still fully capable of bringing healing to physical bodies (and did so for some). The people of Nazareth spiritual diseases, however, remained with them. The people’s collective refusal to accept Jesus for Who He was closed their hearts to His power over their sick souls and the spiritual hunger that only He could satisfy. In fact, Matthew 13 says that they “took offense at Him” (verse 57) and Mark 4 records that they not only were offended but just about “lynched” Him. And why? Because they didn’t like the fact that this “carpenter” forgot His place and was “meddling” with their personal lives. People don’t like people who point out their depravity, especially if the people pointing it out are their own people.

We’ll say things like, “Just who does he think HE is anyway? Why that hypocrite! Where does HE get off telling ME how to live my life!” and so on. And how do I know that the spiritual realm is where Jesus “couldn’t” do His miracles in the hearts of the Nazarenes? Because of what happens next in Mark 6. When Jesus leaves Nazareth and begins to reach out with the love of God to the neighboring villages, He sends out His disciples with the message that “people should repent” (Mark 6:12).

Again, Jesus’ essence cannot be diminished by lack of faith on your part or mine, but we are rendered “unreachable” if we refuse to climb down off of the pedestal of our pride or relinquish our selfishness. Rejecting His right to our lives as Lord or refusing to acknowledge the truth of His Word as applied to our lives (e.g., that we need to forsake sin and follow Him) leaves us shut out of the grace that He would lavish upon us if we would simply humble ourselves and turn to Him.

Just think of the power that God could unleash in your life if you would turn wholeheartedly to Him and let Him into your heart! Such power can transform you, your family, your community, and your country!

“If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV).

We as a people need miracles. We need the miracle of lives being changed from self-serving to serving God and others. We need the miracle of hearts being set free from hopelessness and despair, given instead a new destiny filled with purpose, peace, and joy. The fact is that God is wanting to do just that in our lives. The only thing He is waiting on is for us to really start believing that He is Who He says He is, repent, and turn to Him.


Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Like anyone else in the world, God’s people today frequently find themselves in the midst of changes and feelings of being out of control. As long as they look at their circumstances from any perspective other than God’s, they will also fall victim to such internal calamities as discouragement, despair, worry, anger, bitterness and resentment.

On one occasion of great change in old Egypt, a new Pharaoh coming to power (see Exodus 1), the people of God found themselves suddenly faced with a hostile power that was determined to control them or even wipe them out entirely.

“…There arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.’ Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves…. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live” (Exodus 1:11-14, 22 ESV).

An evil plan from an evil man, meant to thwart the purposes of the Most High…. When will we ever learn?

The one thing that does not change is God. His love and power cannot be conquered. Time cannot erode them, whittling them to false hope. Nor is the promise of them for us ever forgotten by the One from Whom they flow. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 ESV). “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8 ESV). “For I said, ‘Steadfast love will be built up forever; in the heavens You will establish Your faithfulness” (Psalm 89:2 ESV).

Now, even though the worldly powers-that-were in Egypt were weaving a web meant to snare and destroy the people with whom the Lord had established a special covenant, God was also at work behind the scenes. He was moving in the lives of those the world had branded unimportant. And He did it specifically through a mother.

“Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him” (Exodus 2:1-4 ESV).

Through this woman, God secured two provisions essential to this nation that would be the line through which the Messiah would come. These things that He provided are the highest achievements of motherhood and define what it means to truly be a “mother”. The first provision was in the guarding of the life that God had entrusted to her in her son. In granting her a child, the Lord was giving her a part in the shaping of the future.

Keys in the Hands of MothersShe could have shirked that responsibility, walked away from it, made excuses as to why she could not fulfill it in a time when it was very possible that she also could have been killed for harboring her son. But she didn’t turn from the responsibility. She shielded him as long as she could and then, in placing him in the floating basket on the Nile River, trusted God to protect him when she could no longer do so, and then had her daughter stand nearby so she could still watch over him. And because she did all these things, her little baby boy was “given back” to her when she is “hired” to be nanny to her own son as he grows up in the house of the princess who pulled him out of the river.

“Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it.  When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying.  She took pity on him and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrews’ children.’  Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’  And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Go.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother.  And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed him” (Exodus 2:5-10 ESV).

So, in addition to the awesome task of guarding the future in the guarding of her son, she was also given the privilege of fulfilling another facet of her motherly calling by being a vessel through which God brings about His second great provision: the establishment and handing down of a godly legacy. The Scriptures do not actually say what she may have specifically taught her son, but we have a tremendous clue given us when we read later that, “One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people” (Exodus 2:11 ESV – emphasis mine). He knew where he came from. And in knowing it, both a courage and a loyalty were stirred up within him to respond to the injustice that he saw taking place.

While the way Moses initially responded to what was going on in the world around him was a human way of dealing with problems resulting, of course, in failure, the foundation that his mother had laid within his heart would get dusted off again in later years and be the very ground upon which God Himself would build His great work of deliverance for His people from bondage and oppression.The Hands of Mothers

Today is no different in this respect. It is true that cultures change and that societies shift in their values and morals. It is even true that things that seem immutable can be gone in a flash: skyscrapers collapse, cities are nearly wiped off the face of the planet by wave and wind, governments are toppled and replaced. Even here in America, things can change in an instant.

But God is even now preparing for the future and is at work behind the scenes as He always has been. Today He has given the keys of the future into the hands of mothers. So let us thank God for His provision of godly mothers and let us pray for them that they might be instruments in His hand to guard the future and to hand down of a legacy of hope and holiness through Jesus Christ.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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In an age characterized by massive transference of information (or “false-information” as most of it proves to be) from one entity to another, it has become a culturally accepted notion that one must learn the skill of multi-tasking so that one can navigate the complex and perplexing responsibilities and requirements of today’s dizzying pace. I suppose, to a degree, there is some practical truth to the idea that one must know a little about a lot of things just to survive our technologically driven world.

That being said, however, a huge mistake that many make is to believe that one can “multi-task” in the sense of living a life of faith while at the same time living according to the whirling whims of a world that marches according to its own agenda.

Why, when we're called to live in a new and wonderful land of light and joy, would we settle for living merely along its borders... the sad and lonely "hinterlands"?

Why, when we’re called to live in a new and wonderful land of light and joy, would we settle for living merely along its borders… the sad and lonely “hinterlands”?

It is as if a man, called to live in a new and wonderful land, settles for living merely along its borders, a sort of “hinterland” (a remote or undeveloped part of a country) wherein he celebrates the light and the glory of the new kingdom from afar, while still not quite free from the enamoring boasts of the old life.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus met such a man who queried, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16 ESV).

Jesus countered him with a question of His own, one intended to give pause to a quick and easy solution to the man’s dilemma of wanting to live in two worlds simultaneously. “Why do you ask Me about what is good? There is only One Who is good” (v 17a).

The very fact that Jesus asked this question is, in my opinion, evidence that Jesus had (and has) an uncanny ability for seeing into the heart of a person and knowing how to deftly tackle the idols and issues that hinder his coming fully into God’s light and life. It is as if Jesus was asking him, “Are you willing to acknowledge My authority and will you truly hear and receive what I am about to say to you?”

Jesus then mentioned to this searching soul what all shallow seekers already know to do. “If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (v 17b).

But there was the rub. The man had already been keeping them. Well, he had at the very least been keeping them externally. He had obeyed them with his hands and possibly with even his bank account (so far as the Law required). Yet, he was unsatisfied. He was unfulfilled. He was seeing from a distance that glorious light glowing and was hungry for what it represented, yet he was merely in the margins of the realm, and had not fully disclaimed citizenship of his old country.

“The young man said to Him, ‘All these I have kept. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect (as in “whole, complete, or fulfilled”), go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (vv 20-21).

What a quandary for that young man! He wanted the joy and peace of Jesus’ life, but found himself forced to make a choice: he had to either surrender the few places in his affections that he had reserved for his own comforts, so that he could run unencumbered headlong into the life God had reserved for him; or he had to choose to continue as he had been doing, and never completely cross over into the land of promise.

“When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (v 22).

It evidently was too a hard choice. In the moment of crisis, when forced to choose between continuing as he had for years (never quite in the light) or denouncing his citizenship of the world by surrendering the one thing of that old world he loved most (his stuff), his stuff won out.

Rather, his love for stuff won out. Keep in mind that owning possessions was not sin; but those possessions were his idol. But Jesus, loving him as the Savior loves each of us, brought to him the invitation to enter into the lovely meadows and fruitful groves of spiritual abundance that life in Christ is to those who whole-heartedly respond to His call.

By calling him to give up those things by giving them to the poor, Jesus invited him into a new life complete with new purpose and new meaning.

Today, the call to follow has not changed for those who are hungry for more than the mere phantoms of joy and pleasure that this world offers. We must still choose Him over pleasures and comforts; we must still decide between pleasing Him and forgoing popularity and good will; and we must still acknowledge Him as Lord (by which I mean we must obey Him) over following attitudes and philosophies of the world that are contrary to God’s Word.

But many of us will continue to dwell sorrowfully, knowing that we are missing still the glory and gain of the Kingdom of God while we remain on the borders, prisoners of the hinterlands of heaven, chained still to our old lives. Though we attend church and do our good deeds, there are “possessions” in our lives which still hold the place of supremacy, which still hold our allegiance.

Do not settle for the hinterlands, beloved. Fully surrender to the Savior your life and will and see if He will not fully satisfy your soul’s deepest needs. He invites you to come in and desires for you to be filled with the joy and peace of His presence.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Who-o-o-o are YOUWho are you? Seriously… who are you? What makes you what you are? Where do you fit in the great big picture puzzle of the cosmos? Where exactly do you belong? And how do you define your worth on a planet teeming with over six billion other people?

Chances are really good that your first response to these questions is any of these three: 1) stunned silence (“Uh-h-h”); 2) stammered exclamations as you try to articulate the fragments of ideas that are popping into your mind (“Well, um… naturally I feel that I, uh… that is to say…”); or 3) stilted statements that don’t really jive with what the One Who made us has to say about who and what we are (“I’m the MAN!” or “I’m such a loser: nobody likes me; everybody hates me. Guess I’ll go eat worms”).

Not knowing who you are is a crisis. Men and women experience a cognitive form of that when they literally forget their own names, their addresses, and their loved ones as cruel dementia dims their minds. Christians experience something spiritually akin to this when they’ve either forgotten or are ignorant of the incredible identity change that is theirs when they turn to Jesus in faith, are forgiven of their sin, and are made spiritually new.

In a very similar way, if we have not yet met Christ (by which I mean, if we have not personally trusted Him as our Savior and invited Him into our lives) we have an identity crisis of another kind. On the one hand, God’s Word (the Bible) paints us as people hopelessly separated from the Holy Creator of the universe. Having either obviously or subtly transgressed His Law, we are incapable of conjuring up enough righteousness for ourselves in order to be accepted into His presence. Refusing to place our faith in Jesus’ work on the cross leaves us with a grim future indeed. “Our destiny is destruction, our god is our stomach, and our glory is in our shame. Our minds are on earthly things” (from Philippians 3:19).

On the other hand, this same Bible paints God as being filled with compassion and sorrow over our estate and not content to leave the matter be. “…The heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Peter 3:7 ESV), but we have hope in the fact that “the Lord… is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9b ESV).

God’s amazing compassion for humanity is keenly evident when Jesus, God’s Son, confronts those who are spiritually “lost” about Him. Comparing such “lost persons” to lost sheep and Himself to a “Good Shepherd”, Jesus lets us know in no uncertain terms that He is searching out the lost in order to bring them safely home – home… a sweet daily fellowship with Him as well as an everlasting destiny prepared for us by His side (see also John 10:1-18).

On the day that I realized who I was apart from Jesus (a lost person, reserved for destruction) I also realized that I could become someone new, complete with a new identity, a new purpose, and a new destiny.

“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, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith….” (1 Peter 1:3-5a ESV).

So… if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, do you really know who you are? Do you know that you are a citizen of heaven (Ephesians 2:19)? A conqueror (Romans 8:37)? A child of God (Romans 8:14, 1 John 3:1)? Members of a “royal priesthood and a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9)? If you know that you are all these things, how does your life demonstrate that knowledge? If you are really confident that He is truly master of your identity and has made a new person of you, do you then live accordingly? Or are you defeated, broken, and enslaved still to worldly patterns of thinking? Are you convinced that you have no value and are unimportant in the grand scheme of things?

If so, allow God’s truth to dispel such lies and set your mind and your spirit free. You have unimaginable worth! Just consider what it cost God to set you free from the prison of sin and its dreadful offspring, death! God would not have given His own Son up for you if it were true that your life were not important to Him!

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24-25 ESV).

And if you haven’t yet turned your eyes to Jesus and allowed Him to wash you free from sin and make a new person of you, it is good to know that He can and will set you free from your destiny of destruction if only you’ll let Him come into your life as Lord.

“…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. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame.’” (Romans 10:9-11 ESV).

Copyright ©  Thom Mollohan

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If you have really heard the “Call” of Christ, His love and His holiness sinking into your awareness through the murky night of the soul, then somehow your life has become different. The Call of Jesus in your life, if allowed to have its way, cannot help but whisk you into a new reality, one that is completely different from what life would be like had He never sent you the Call or had you not hearkened to it.

Don’t think for a moment that you can “meet” God, and just walk away as if nothing has happened. Folks often see the salvation of God as simply a means to escape punishment for wrong-doing. And while it IS true that we are released from condemnation forever once we have placed our faith in Him (“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” [Romans 8:1 ESV], Jesus’ invitation to you is so much more than a mere escape hatch from hell .

Neither is the Call simply a matter of getting your reservations turned in for your after-life. Although God Himself has indeed promised us a “forever after” life with Him (“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him” [1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 ESV]); even so, Heaven is not just a Hilton Hotel for all eternity.

The Call of Jesus Christ in your life is an appeal for you to leave what you once knew, to cease to be what you once were, and to become something completely new… recreated with a new position, a new passion, and a new power. “…If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God, Who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18 ESV).The Call of Christ

When you turn in faith to Jesus, your new position is that of “child of God”, citizen of His heavenly kingdom, servant to the Lord, and ambassador for the King of kings. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-20 ESV).

Your new passion is a hunger for more of God’s glory to be revealed through your life and in the world and a forgetting of the spiritually trivial priorities and goals you once kept for yourself. “…Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-9 ESV).

And tapping into the new power that is yours only in Christ, you have an eternal hope given you through His victory over sin and death. You’ll find yourself unconquerable as long as you keep your eyes upon the Savior and discover that He faithfully calms either the storms in your life or calms you in the mist of those storms as you walk with Him. “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 ESV).

The Call of Jesus pulls you out of the despair of a life that may seem beaten down and oppressed by tragedy and heartbreak and places you squarely in the arms of the One Who is all loving and all powerful. The Call takes you by the hand, leading you from the drudgery of a pointless existence and mere survival mentality and puts your suddenly eager feet upon a path full of new purpose, meaning, and worth.

If you cannot say that you have in the past “heard the call of Christ”, God may even now be initiating a relationship with you, one in which He beckons you to join Him, leaving behind your sin, your selfishness, and your plans. Trust Him. Try Him. “Taste and see that the LORD is good!  Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8 ESV).

 If you have heard the Call in the past and have yet to really answer, perhaps you hesitate for fear that God will let you down. But know this: those who really trust Him, allowing that trust to result in faithful obedience, are the ones whose lives matter most in the eternal realm. “Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed” (Psalm 34:5 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Shyrah was a Swallowtail caterpillar not quite like all the others. She had been hatched first of all her one hundred brothers and sisters and had been the first one to try anything new ever since. Fun-loving and social, she lived life on the wild side. She would climb up the highest, in spite of the ever-present danger of predatory birds. She would journey out into the back yard the farthest, no matter that it might be Friday and the lawn was always mown on Fridays. And she would always eat the most, no matter that her appetite, voracious even for a caterpillar, was carrying her far and away beyond what others felt was safe and comfortable.

One day, however, she began to feel strange. A joy and thrill were so powerfully bubbling up from within her that she began to sing hearty and loud notes with her tiny caterpillar voice. Oh, and such thoughts were taking shape in her mind! She began to dream of flying, longing to take wing and be lifted up over the earth and soar in the grand and glorious sapphire-blue sky!

She began to dream of flying, longing to take wing and be lifted up over the earth and soar in the grand and glorious sapphire-blue sky!

She began to dream of flying, longing to take wing and be lifted up over the earth and soar in the grand and glorious sapphire-blue sky!

And so her songs floated on to the other caterpillars. Some who listened found in themselves a similar stirring and a tiny gleam of hope for something more was awakened within them. Others, though, heard her songs and were angered. They were at first annoyed with Shyrah for they thought her too preoccupied with her flighty fantasies to stay focused on what they felt was her supreme duty… that of carefully and consistently eating and digesting. Then, in their pride, they became jealous of how others were touched by her melody of hope and her dreams of being lifted out of the mud and mire of only the “here-and-now.”

But she still sang, undaunted by their looks and their words, undeterred from the great longing in her heart. Peger, one of Shyrah’s brothers, heard her sweet refrain and found in himself a yearning also to fly and so he began to sing, too.

But when he saw the sneers and heard the snickering of those around him, his song would fade and a worried and wearied look would turn his handsome caterpillar countenance into a study of awkward ambivalence.

As the hours passed into days, Shyrah sang and waited for the day when her dreams would be realized while Peger fretted and wondered what others were thinking of him.

Finally, as the early morning sun began to peep just over the pale eastern horizon, a distant droning was heard. No one knew what the sound was, nor did they know what it meant. Shyrah and a few others were too busy to pay any attention: so many wonderful things were taking place inside themselves that they had begun to spin silk and were wrapping tiny threads about themselves until they were completely robed in a white garment. And, while in this incredible chrysalis stage, the transformation continued.

The droning grew louder and louder.

The droning grew louder and louder.

Meanwhile, as the droning sound grew louder and louder, Peger hesitated. He had seen Shyrah completely cover herself in her cocoon of webbing. As his eyes remained frozen on her unmoving form, he wondered if she had finally lost her mind and had ultimately deluded herself and others into an early death. And while he hesitated, wondering about all of this, he failed to notice a small Trichogramma wasp hovering closer and closer behind him.

Suddenly, his back was ablaze with piercing pain. His body curled up and nearly fell from the leaf he had just been eating but he managed to regain his hold just in time. “Ouch!” he exclaimed, looking around wildly. As his eyes surveyed the leaves about him, he saw some other chrysalises but also saw some other caterpillars looking as surprised and as pained as he.

Peger sighed heavily at the loss of his sister, Shyrah, and of others. He even shed a tear or two. But then he shrugged his little caterpillar shoulders and resumed eating like nothing had happened. Well, at least for a little while. It wasn’t long until he began to feel strange inside again, only this time it was NOT a good thing. Something was wrong but he didn’t know what. Pain began to radiate out from the sore spot on his back but soon gave way to excruciating agony within. Quickly, his strength faded and he would have fallen from his leaf had his little caterpillar toes not been embedded in the leaf’s surface. He could eat no more and soon became completely listless.

He could only watch passively when something inside finally cut through his skin and emerged onto the leaf beside Peger’s broken and ruined body. It was the larva of a Trichogramma wasp. Looking quite happy and healthy, it ignored Peger and began busily wrapping itself in threads stolen from Peger’s own body until it had completely cocooned itself in silk, humming to itself all the while it worked.

Shortly afterwards, Peger finally died. He had only a vague awareness of what had actually happened to him and of the opportunity lost now to him forever. The might-have-beens would never be for poor Peger.

A few weeks passed. A couple of leaves away, a cocoon began to tremble and a tiny opening appeared halfway up its length. In only about ten seconds, a wet and crumpled Swallowtail butterfly emerged and climbed to the edge of its leaf. It was Shyrah. The excitement and thrill of finally coming out of her cocoon were very nearly too much for her to contain. She pumped her little wings up and down until they filled with fluid and had dried. Then, just as she was about to take her first flight, she paused, sad for all her brothers and sisters who were missing out on this amazing moment, yet glad for all those who were there.

Just as she was about to take her first flight, she paused, sad for all her brothers and sisters who were missing out on this amazing moment.

Just as she was about to take her first flight, she paused, sad for all her brothers and sisters who were missing out on this amazing moment.

She spread her wings and launched herself up and away from the leaf on which she had lived for such a long time. Exulting in her new and transformed life, she sped away into the sapphire-blue sky, the air about her filled with the song of victory that she sang.

“The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6b-8 ESV). But “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.  Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!  You have multiplied, O LORD my God, Your wondrous deeds and Your thoughts toward us; none can compare with You!  I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told” (Psalms 40:1-5 ESV).

 Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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One of the things I find truly remarkable about Jesus’ earthly ministry is the fact of His catalytic presence and the controversy that constantly followed. Everywhere He went, things were not only challenged, but were shaken to their foundations and changed. As He walked and talked, lives were met with an authority so absolute that those lives were never the same again. As He healed and appealed to the crowds that gathered around Him, complacency was stirred up to active response by His passionate zeal to usher men and women into the Father’s favor. Some accepted, by God’s grace. And some rejected, still by God’s grace in order that no one could claim that God coerced people into compliance.

A catalytic presence

Jesus’ life and death are still controversial to each of us today.

Rest assured that His presence continues to reap the same effect today. His Spirit moves in the lives of men and women and even children whispering in their ears, “Come, follow Me” (e.g., Mark 1:17) just as literally as did Jesus with lips of flesh prior to His lonely walk to the cross on which He would die.

His life and death, you realize, are still controversial to each of us. His life trumps our tendency to rationalize our condition. Through the testimony in His Word of His day-to-day living, we realize that there really is more to life than just “getting ahead”; more to the Lord than strict adherence to a moral code; and more to love than warm fuzzy feelings.

And His death? Well, it remains a grim reminder of the fact of our rebellion against God and the destiny that awaits us apart from His forgiveness and substitutionary sacrifice for us. It not only reveals that “certain something” about our hearts that we try desperately to hide from the world and from ourselves, but also clearly underscores our immense indebtedness to God should we avail ourselves of that sacrifice through faith.

Jesus died for you. Through faith in His death and resurrection, you may receive Him as Savior. But not Savior only. To receive Him as Savior, you must also submit to Him as Lord. But don’t be afraid. While the immensity of your indebtedness to Him would be unbearable (how could anyone “repay” Him for what He has done?), He shoulders that responsibility Himself by His own Spirit’s dwelling within us as we daily submit to His love and leading.

And as we do so, we find that His “catalytic presence” abiding in us is still challenging, shaking, and changing lives. Was this His plan all along? Naturally. Jesus Himself said, “”Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.…You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Luke 24:46-47 & Acts 1:8 ESV).

Of course, this message of which we are witnesses has a way of soliciting either of two responses. The first, obviously, is one of rejection. Perhaps in the form of out-and-out hostility. Perhaps a sneering condescension. Or maybe even an incessant attempt to postpone a personal response (which is still rejection) because of fear or a reluctance to “let go” of one’s own agenda.

But the second potential response is the sweet humbling of a person’s heart as he or she allows the strong arms of God to lift the weight of condemnation from his or her shoulders. It always has been and always will be one of life’s greatest experiences to see a human life come under the grace of God, transformed and set free from the weights of entangling selfishness and sin. And what is even more beautiful is the fruit of joy and peace that is harvested in a life as it abides under the Lord’s will for him or her.

It occurs to me, as my mind prayerfully considers Jesus’ invitation for us each to become genuine disciples, that there really isn’t any other option. Not because we are “being made” to follow Him, but because nothing else has the lasting appeal that knowing Him does.

Consider today what Jesus means to you. Does His love have practical meaning for the way you live your life? Does His presence come shining through you, influencing your decisions, attitudes, and priorities? If you’ve not yet received Him as Savior and Lord of your life, why not do so today and finally begin living the life for which you were created all along?

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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