Sunday, April 28, 2019

What is a Soul? (and other related questions)

Ok, let’s be honest, who has ever heard a clear definition of a soul. It’s a mystical, ethereal thing that is somehow the same as and yet different from our spirit (Hebrews 4:12). I’ve heard it described as the mind, will and emotion, which is both true and says absolutely nothing. The best definition I’ve heard is that it’s our habit of thinking, those thoughts we think without realizing that we are thinking, and that concept finally opened doors for me to understand how the soul is indeed the mind, will and emotion all tied up together in a way that describes the essence of who we are. 

And that understanding opened many more doors to see how this battleground of the soul is where Satan operates. If he can get us to think wrongly without even realizing our self-sabotage, then the battle is almost won (by him… bad for us!). He can neutralize our efforts by the self-sabotage of our habits of thought. He can create discouraging feelings when God’s Word tells us to be bold and walk by faith. It is only by an act of will that we press forth against the feeling toward a goal that we cannot see, taking captive every thought for the victory that Christ intends for us. (2 Corinthians 10:5) Our mind knows how God wants us to live, but segments of our soul have been manipulated by the Enemy to work against us, creating feelings that don’t represent the truth or perceptions that cry out “you’re going the wrong way!”. So we walk by faith and over time that walk teaches us and repetition creates changes in our soul rendering the Enemy’s words as ineffective and over time, even laughable! If God is for us, who can be against? (Romans 8:31) 

There’s a book I highly recommend called R.A.R.E. Leadership (see on Amazon) that offers so many practical tips for training our brain to become the leaders who can change lives, starting first with our own. The time is short (1 Corinthians 7:29-31), so we need to be sober minded (1 Peter 5:8-9) – intentionally pursuing a transformation from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18) I’m not saying that our soul is merely a physical attribute of the brain (read the book for context), but I believe like the Israelites that the physical and spiritual are both equally real and tightly intertwined. 

What, then, does it mean to save a soul? It starts with saving your own soul by agreeing with everything that Christ tells you is true and acting on it. We lead ourselves first, and we are inspired to lead others. R.A.R.E. Leaders start with becoming that R.A.R.E. Leader while at the same time reaching others. When we live by faith and not by the way of the world, we are changed, and that change is a beacon to people enslaved by fear. Out of fear and pain, they may reject the message, but they are watching and hoping that despite their words and actions to discourage us, we can show them the path to eternal healing. Truly they need God and us to forgive them, because they don’t know what they do. (Luke 23:34) 

The Word of God instructs us through the leading of the Holy Spirit and we can speak directly to spirit in each person we meet in a way that treats them as a valued brother or sister rather than a project. We find a freedom that we can’t keep to ourselves because we remember the kingdom of fear, afraid of the righteous judgement coming our way. We see the captives longing for delivery while not daring to hope it’s even possible. But perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18), and Satan needs to flee from the battleground where confidence in God’s loving grace has cast out all fear and anxiety. 

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10:4 - NIV) 

So don’t fight with the weapons of this world and ask for creative ways to lead others, taking God’s truth into the workplace, the neighborhood, the school, the gym or wherever you happen to be, because you born for a time such as this! (Esther 4:14, Acts 17:26)

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Who Is This Person, Jesus?

Who is Jesus?” That was the question I asked on Good Friday 30 years ago. I had come to doubt all that I had learned growing up in a Christian church. My first degree was in Philosophy, and my definition of a Philosopher was the same as Gandhi’s definition of Hindu: a seeker of Truth. I was a young naval officer who had just come off a miserable 6 week mini-deployment and in preparation for the six-month deployment brought along only “positive” things. I only brought music that I believed would be positive, and I only brought books that would be positive. I read several Hindu books in my search for truth, and I brought a Gideon’s Bible that had collected dust since being handed to me 4 years earlier. I had been praying that if God was real, for Him to reveal Himself to me. I was ready to throw away the concept of God or change it to whatever I discovered. After reading from the Hindu books, I reluctantly picked up the Gideon’s Bible. It only had the Proverbs, Psalms and New Testament. As a philosopher seeking truth, I had just put down a book on Hindu proverbs, and it seemed only right that I should start in the Book of Proverbs. 

So I was hit with the truth. As I started reading, I was confronted with words telling me that I was acting like a fool, and I understood in a very awkwardly heartfelt fashion that I could either embrace the Truth or run away from it. In either case, I knew in a very real way that it was the Truth. Truth with a capital T, absolute and unarguable. It wasn’t a relative truth or subjective thing. And I was a fool. I didn’t like what I read, but I couldn’t argue with it. So, I chose to embrace the truth that I had found. 

I continued to read through Proverbs, more and more convinced that God was real and speaking to me through this book. I was on a six-month deployment in the Mediterranean Sea reading Proverbs and the only One teaching me was God Himself. I don’t know of anyone who has met God first through Proverbs, but that is how He reached me. 

Completing Proverbs, I decided to continue into Psalms. I believed in God with greater conviction and wasn’t ready to start reading the New Testament yet. I knew from my upbringing that Proverbs was from the Old Testament, part of the Jewish Scriptures. As I continued to read from Psalms, I changed my prayer. I said: “God, I believe You are real, but who is Jesus?” 

I said this prayer on Good Friday, as I opened up to Chapter 22 in Psalms. And I saw it there. I understood from my upbringing that Psalms was an Old Testament book, pre-dating Jesus. Yet here I read the story of the Messiah’s crucifixion, a prophecy of that first Good Friday. I did not, and do not, believe in coincidences. If God exists as I believe He does, then He was speaking to me and saying: “Yes, Jesus is the Messiah, My Son. Listen to Him.” 

That day changed my life and led me one night to say to God: “I believe You are God. I have made myself to be my own ruler, but I realize now that my control over my life hasn’t been leading me to where I need to be. I make a pretty poor god over my own life, and I ask You to be not just my Savior, but my Lord. Lead me!” 

So Who is this Jesus? When I read that chapter in Psalms, I learned that God Himself planned for Jesus to go to that cross, and I subsequently believed in the rest of His story: He died for my sins (past, present and future). He proved He was God incarnate by rising from the grave on Easter. I now believed that both the Old and New Testaments were relevant to my life. How could I understand Jesus as the Pascal Lamb without knowledge of the Jewish Passover Celebration? 

Easter is a celebration of Life, a remembrance of both His resurrection and His promise that He did not come to change the Law of the Old Testament, but that He came to complete it. (See Matthew 5:17) He completed the Law by paying the price for our violations of the Law. His mercy and grace don’t negate the Law, but they emphasize how the Law is still good and true, exacting the price from God’s own Son for our violations of the Law. His grace declares His undeserved love for us, His proclamation of peace and good will toward man as announced by angels when Jesus was born. (Luke 2:14) 

Paul was awed by God’s amazing love and boundless grace, but he was quick to point out that God’s love and grace are not an license to continue in sinful lifestyles. (See Romans 6:1-2) Rather, it’s an invitation to grow in holiness as we imitate Christ (1 Peter 1:16, 2:21), Who came not just to save us but to show us how to live. We are not required to live our lives perfectly; we can’t live it perfectly! Rather, we are called to walk with Him daily in a relentless pursuit of Truth that is ridiculed by men and discouraged by demons. 

Who is Jesus? He is our Lord, our Mentor, and the very Model of a life in relationship with God the Father. He is alive, risen from that grave, working in the lives of men who are tenacious enough to follow Him in a world that prefers darkness over light. And He is the King that we represent daily as Ambassadors of Grace, changing us from glory to glory as become more like Him. (2 Cor 3:18) 

Jesus is my Lord, God, and Brother, and with His help I will serve Him and rule with Him through all eternity!

copyright ©2019 Mitchell Malloy

Friday, April 19, 2019

Prayer for Revival on Good Friday

As I write this, I would really like to go to bed, but the Lord told me to get up and type this prayer and then to schedule it to be published on April 19th, 2019. This date has a special meaning to me: it is the 30 anniversary of when I asked Jesus to be Lord of my life. But it has special meaning to believers as Good Friday, the day that we remember Jesus’ death on the cross when He assumed all punishment for our sins, our many, various and repeated sins. 

And yet the Church today is sick, giving little thought as to how far we are from Christ and His ways. We need to repent. And so I offer this prayer:
Lord, let there be a revival in America and a renewal in Your Church throughout the world. We have let You and the world down. We have not lived as we should. We have sought to entertain ourselves rather than to find joy in Your Presence. We have sought our own comforts over the needs of our brothers. We have acted spiteful toward others instead of loving our enemies. We have not represented You or Your Kingdom well. We have not led well and for that we are truly sorry.
We are no better than our ancestors and prone to the same weakness. We focus on self and even look to You as the Provider of all our wants and desires, mistaking Your love and grace as a sign that You are our personal genie in a bottle with unlimited wishes. We follow in the steps of Adam, believing that we can choose what is good for ourselves rather than turning to You as Lord, God and Father, Who knows what is best for us, even if it is hard. We whine about your correction instead of thanking you, understanding that correction is a sign of a Loving Father. 
So change our hearts, minds, and habits of thought to make us as You want us to be. Change our habits so that we find pleasure in You. Draw us into your Presence and change us; fill us with Your joy. Let Your joy truly be our strength, and fan this flame in our hearts to pray, so that we pray just to be close to You and so that we pray for Your good and perfect will to be done in our lives and in the world around us. Rekindle in us the fire of Your Love and inspire us to join You in the work You are doing. Open our eyes to see that work, but don't let the work overshadow why we work or for Whom we work. 
Bring into our lives seekers and give us the words and actions to represent You well. We have no hope apart from You, and the people in this world need to know that You are the One True Hope for all mankind and for all the elect. So open our hearts, minds and souls to Your good and perfect will. Change our request from "Help me, Lord!" to "Show me how to best serve You, Lord!" And help us to pray. To set aside time to pray. Lord teach us once again how to pray and lead us into intercession for a worldwide revival! 
It's Good Friday, a day to remember who we are and what Christ has done for us. May we all truly turn toward God in a new and more tenacious fashion!

And all God's people say: Amen!