Sunday, June 28, 2020

God is Seen through Life’s Obstacles

I recently started a book written and updated in the early 1980’s by a man born in the late 1880’s. Imagine what this man saw in his lifetime: the gay 90’s during his youth, the last of the American Indian wars as a teenager, the “war to end all wars” (in theory), Spanish Influenza, the roaring 20’s followed by the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam War, Watergate, and finally the recession and rapid inflation of the 70’s. In the preface of his book, he wrote that man was happier working manually in the fields than he was with all the technological advances because the evils grew larger. Had he lived another 30 years, do you think his view would have changed?

With all the comforts modernity has brought us, is the world an easier or harder place? 

Moores’ Law says that processing speeds double every two years, and it has led us to an age of digital disruption where old paradigms are being replaced by new models faster than society can adjust. The computing power in my cell phone is thousands of times more powerful than my 1990’s PC, which was a thousand times more powerful than the tactical data system on my ship as a young naval officer. I have so much information at my fingertips! 

Through various websites and streaming videos, I have easily learned to do so many things: repair my dryer, lay new flooring and remodel a bathroom. The advances in information technology have crossed over into every area of life: medicine, business, education, etc. We are constantly on the move, constantly trying to keep up with a rapidly changing world, moving both mentally and physically. For a couple years, I traveled weekly across the nation for work, and causes me to wonder: how does this compare to Daniel 12:4, where God said to His bewildered prophet: 
But you, Daniel, keep these words secret, and seal the book until the end times. Many will travel everywhere, and knowledge will grow.
Knowledge has certainly grown, but so has foolishness. How much does Romans 1:18-32 apply to our current world, a promise of God’s wrath to a global community that shakes it’s fist in lawless rebellion. This coming wrath could be years from now or still decades away, but it is coming as surely as all the prophecies in Scripture unfold before our eyes. As I’ve said before, the Bible’s prophecies are one of the biggest reasons for its credibility

All that we’re seeing was foretold in Scripture as a testimony that the God of the Bible is truly an all-knowing, all-powerful and fully-good God, Who even now implores us to stop rebelling against Him. “Peace! Good will toward men!” was proclaimed by God’s messengers as He sent His son. (Luke 2:14), but man continues to rebel against God’s ways, choosing to do what is right in his own eyes. This infectious thought pattern is growing in the Church, and just as Jesus’ parable of the vineyard owner in Matthew 21:33-46 predicted the diaspora and beginning of the Church age, Paul’s explanation of the olive branches in Romans 11:11-31 predict the renewal of Israel and warn of the coming wrath upon a rebellious church. 

In all the obstacles we see, be sure of this: nothing happens that God didn’t’ predict and isn’t allowing to happen. In our petty short-sightedness believing that this world is all there is and afflictions increase, we may wonder where God is. How tempting to give into the comforts offered by this world, thinking that it is our home or surrender to the oppression. But for those who belong to the Kingdom, remember that we are just travelers in this world, ambassadors of God’s goodness and grace (2 Corinthians 5:16-20). Every affliction or privation is simply an annoying gnat and every temptation is only bait used by the enemy to distract us from our holy purpose, our calling. The enemy has no true power, and illusion is that he is winning. Stand firm and remember who you are and why you are here: you are light for others to see! 

In the end, every obstacle will be revealed as proof of God’s reality as we see each insurmountable barrier collapse; we take steps in faith to a God Who challenges us in the darkest moments with the words: “Do you trust Me?” As Blackaby points out, God takes us to crisis of belief to prove His faithfulness. The Darkness threatens to cover the light, but still the Light shines through, and the trust built through overcoming each obstacle gives us confidence in that which is unseen, an approaching Kingdom that will come in power just as the new Babel is completed. The lawless ones will rejoice in what they believe to be their ultimate triumph, but it is actually the signal of their defeat, all of it foretold thousands of years ago in Scripture. 

Obstacles remind us to trust God and pray about next steps. 


copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Reflecting Light in Growing Darkness

The year 2020 has been one crisis after another, and I feel the burden of it all. It’s exhausting and so easy to just wonder what can be done or how to respond. It feels like the darkness is growing, trying to overpower the light, and it feels like Darkness is winning. It can create anxiety and a sense of hopelessness, a despair that cripples. That is just what Satan wants: to discourage you from being light in this world and to convince you to give up. 

But as long as there is life, there is hope! 

The assault of fear combined with the empty promises of this world is a giant enemy that is growing bigger. But take heart: our God is a giant-killer! The lines between light and darkness are growing sharper even as the arguments blur the lines. It is a battleground for our minds, our emotions, and our very souls, and what happens in this world will reflect the aggregated outcomes of battles within each of us. In other words: if the light wins in each of us, the darkness will fade. 

At some point the Bible tells us that the love of many will grow cold (Matthew 24:11-13), but as long there is life in us, we are called to represent God’s Kingdom, regardless of the outcome or the threat of destruction. (Matt 5:11) Whether designed by rebellious man or demons, we know that there will be a new world order, a global government led by a man who shakes his fist in rebellion against God. I see so many power centers being centralized and overtaken: “deep state” control within governments, media, educational systems, & big business, now advancing on social media and church. But I find hope in the book of Psalms: 
Do not be preoccupied with an evildoer who succeeds in his way when he carries out his schemes. 
There is nothing new under the sun, and my God is not surprised by anything that is happening. I don’t know the day nor the hour when God will finally say: “Enough!”, but when that Day of the Lord comes, it will come quickly. It will come when people are openly scoffing at those who believe in the Truth, (2 Peter 3:3) when there is partying in extravagant pleasure, celebrating the power of man. They will believe they have created a world of peace and security and have no need for any god other than themselves and what they have created, mocking those that so weakly hold onto the need for God. 

So how should we respond as wicked schemes come to fruition? 
Trust the Lord and do good things. 
Live in the land, and practice being faithful. 
Be happy with the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 
Entrust your ways to the Lord. 
Trust him, and he will act on your behalf. 
He will make your righteousness shine like a light, your just cause like the noonday sun. 
It can feel so hard to delight in God, to trust in Him, and to believe that He is present in midst of our struggles, but we must persevere! We need to be intentional in our response, to scream in our thoughts and possibly aloud that we trust in a God Who is bigger than the circumstances we can see, Who controls the unseen and Who knows the details of the future. We must remind ourselves of the Truth, the full Truth, and surrender ourselves to the Truth, refusing to succumb to the lies of half-truths that the father of lies uses to discourage. Regardless of how we feel and against all apparent odds, we can stand up to the giants, and like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, we may find ourselves in the visible presence of God in this world! (Daniel 3
Surrender yourself to the Lord, and wait patiently for him. 
In the midst of fear and temptation, we surrender our anxiety and our desires to the One will win the final battle, and we trust in Him to be our ultimate Provider and Protector. A couple years ago, the Lord led me to memorize Psalm 37:3-7, knowing how much I would need it in the dark hours of my life. Consider memorizing these verses. With His help, may each of us reflect the Light of His Presence to a world who so desperately needs to know the full Truth! 
Lord, close our ears to the words of the enemy, and cleanse our hearts, our minds and souls  from the echoes of the enemy. Fill us with Your truth and Your love! 

Remove the clouds that keep us from seeing Your Face, knowing that You see us, You love us, and that You are working all things together for good! 
copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Healing Our Culture with Love

“I’m giving you a new commandment: Love each other in the same way that I have loved you. Everyone will know that you are my disciples because of your love for each other.” John 13:34-35 
It’s undoubtedly Jesus’ heart that we love one another, but do we really know what love is? Love is a feeling, a very powerful feeling, but it’s so much more. I’m told by people more knowledgeable than myself that there are three words for love in Hebrew, and that Greek, the original language of the New Testament, has seven words that translate to “Love” in English. Of all those words, one is singled out as the highest form of love, an unconditional love that is an act of will, doing what is in the other person’s best interest even when they don’t want it and the lover doesn’t feel like doing the loving thing. That word is Agape, the word for love that Jesus uses in the quote above. 

Our society, our world, is forgetting how to love. Love is not a desire for something; rather it is a decision to give. Love is not necessarily giving another person what they want, but it does value the person, their needs and their desires. The Black Community in America has not felt valued, and no wonder as many of their fundamental rights have been repeatedly violated! It’s created a perception that people whose rights have not been violated are privileged, which creates a greater divide within this country, where anyone whose rights have not been violated is perceived as somehow complicit in the acts of oppression. 

Please don’t judge me by the color of my skin for what others who look like me have done! 

If your rights have been violated, that does not make me privileged, and I commit to stand with you in upholding what is truly your right as my neighbor, my countryman, and my brother. All my adult life, I have shared Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream that all people in this country: "will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." I share Dr. King’s biblical worldview, and I see every person, regardless of race or gender, as an Image Bearer, someone who was created in God’s Image and therefore of immeasurable worth. Yet I also see how far we are from reflecting His Image in this world. 

In abusive relationships, it’s not uncommon for the victim to lash out as an abuser, sometimes becoming the very thing they despised in others. The cycle of abuse is perpetuated as the pain one person inflicts is multiplied, reflected by their victims onto new targets, rippling throughout society as wound upon wound grows and pain intensifies. Often the pendulum can swing, as a repentant oppressor becomes the oppressed, accepting this out of a belief that they deserve to be punished for all the harm they have done. None of this is healthy, and none of this is God’s heart for how we should love one another. Instead it can infect communities with codependent behaviors where people seek to avoid or smooth over the dysfunction rather than confronting it with loving kindness. 

So how do we love our brother when he is in pain? How do we communicate “you are respected; you are valued; you are heard” without taking on a false guilt? In healthy relationships, we establish boundaries of healthy behavior, and we continue the dialog within those boundaries so that trust can be built over time. Yes, we understand why some people are lashing out, but we don’t condone the inappropriate behavior. 

Stephen, the first Christian martyr, imitated Jesus’ words on the cross as he was being stoned: “Father forgive them; they don’t know what they do!” (Acts 7:60)  We aren’t seeking to punish people acting out of their pain and frustration, but we acknowledge certain behavioral standards need to be met if we are to find true reconciliation. 

Yes, we understand the pain, even if we can’t fully identify with it. We agree you deserve more, and we eagerly desire your rights to be upheld! 

We can continue the dysfunctional behavior that perpetuates the cycle of pain, or we can seek true racial reconciliation that is built upon mutual respect, kindness and collaboration, actively working together to build that which all but a few desire. Yes, unfortunately, there are those in every race that are actively working against true racial reconciliation. They see this as a power struggle rather than a [lack of] love problem. We must oppose the thought-patterns and divisional voices that seek to separate us, and we must join together in fighting this good fight. 

And we need to understand that we are not fighting against people, but against principalities. There are demonic forces that want to divide Christ’s Body, to keep it from the unity that only comes through Christ’s presence in our hearts, over-flowing as love into the lives of others. We need to keep the biblical perspective of who we are fighting, so that the captives in the war are not confused with the real enemy. 
This is not a wrestling match against a human opponent. We are wrestling with rulers, authorities, the powers who govern this world of darkness, and spiritual forces that control evil in the heavenly world. Ephesians 6:12 
My prayer is that we redefine “race” as the acronym “RasE”, where we “Reconcile as Equals”, comrades in arms against all that would oppress our heavenly family or divide us. We must hold our public servants to a higher standard, and we must commit to the moral character that Dr. King foresaw in his famous speech, a moral character defined by biblical standards. That vision is still within our grasp if we are willing to strive for it together, casting out every destructive word of speech that seeks to divide and conquer us. 
The weapons we use in our fight are not made by humans. Rather, they are powerful weapons from God. With them we destroy people’s defenses, that is, their arguments and all their intellectual arrogance that oppose the knowledge of God. We take every thought captive so that it is obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
NOTE: Appreciation for the current Northview Church One Another sermon series that started 07-Jun-20 that inspired the image used on this blog post. 

copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)