Thursday, October 31, 2019

End Song

The Darkness threatens to enter my home 

And proclaim the great things that man has done

These hands of men and their great rebellion

That have finally removed the need for God

Imagine there’s no future 

Beyond the hardness of man’s heart

The rich and haughty, smart and mighty

Declare that they have won

And it appears that they are right

For no man can overcome their stronghold

“Join us!” they say, “We are strong, and we are one!”

No giant ever seemed so large 

Or logic seemed so sound



However



I know of One more mighty

His great strength beyond compare

His knowledge of this moment 

Preceded both limb and hair

He laughs at the rebellious 

As they scheme toward a defeat

So easily avoided

Had they simply given heed 

To words from the beginning 

His declaration of peace

For anyone so humble 

As to acknowledge their need

Now we wait His grand return

Though the world around us laughs

And pray that they will likewise 

Before seven trumpet blasts
copyright ©2019 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Is There Room for Women Pastors?

We shouldn’t steer away from difficult conversations or controversy, and it’s important to understand opposing views if we are to influence the world around us with the truth of Scripture. This is a hard topic, and I ask that you don’t assume where I’m going with this subject. So here it goes…

What’s wrong with this scenario: in a public forum, a prominent minister was asked how he would respond to a certain woman’s name. (https://youtu.be/NeNKHqpBcgc) His response was direct and cutting: “Go Home!” From the response of the crowd, he obviously knew his audience. They laughed and applauded his response, creating a reason for a post-Christian culture to become outraged. In this case, the woman is wildly popular as a Christian teacher, the head a ministry that has inspired countless people. 

Let’s suppose for a moment that he had every reason to criticize her teachings as unbiblical. Was his response appropriate? Did he respond in a firm, clear and loving fashion to another believer? In other words, did he speak the truth in love? (Ephesians 4:15) Did he treat her as Christ treats His Bride? I believe the answer is clear; even if he was entirely legitimate in criticizing any wrong teachings, did he treat her as another person of great worth, created in God’s image? Remember in Genesis: male and female He created man in His image. (Genesis 1:27) He attacked the person and not the issues and by doing so did not represent God well. I would argue that for this minister’s public transgression, he should publicly apologize for how he conveyed the message. His apology should not flow from a utilitarian perspective of how our society perceives this jab, but he should acknowledge how important it is for each of us to repent when we do something wrong, especially godly leaders.

To be fair, there are reasons why people believe women should be pastors, and they reference both Deborah in the Old Testament (Judges 4-5) as well as Phoebe, Aquila, Pricilla and others in the New Testament (Romans 16) as precedent for women leadership. They look at when the Bible was written and point out that the culture wasn’t ready for women leaders, arguing that the Church fathers were pushing the envelope as far it could go to drive equal rights. 

But is that how we should look at Scripture? Are we like a Judge reviewing a law and examining precedent rulings to discern how to apply it? Should we read it in the context of our cultural environment, or should we look at all Scripture as timeless, God-breathed and suitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness? (2 Timothy 3:16) If we try to interpret the Bible in the context of relevance to our current culture, we will go astray. Instead, Scripture should be interpreted in the context of Scripture.

How can we pick and choose what we’ll believe in Scripture and expect that any of it is from God? If a person doesn’t believe the whole Bible, their belief system does not have a firm foundation, and it is based on whatever argument can sway them. Sure we may struggle in understanding certain concepts, but that is an invitation by God to press into Him for better understanding. If we conveniently avoid certain verses to fit with what we want to believe, we will be in error.  When righteousness is based only on what we choose to believe, it reflects the old testament description for the wicked: each doing what is right in their own eyes. They may be well-intentioned, but they are in opposition to God because they are not in agreement with His Word. They could be extremely sincere, but they are sincerely wrong… not because I say so, but because God says so in His Holy Word. (Hosea 8)

If I’ve offended you in these statements, it’s not because I’m insensitive. It’s because I am speaking truth to you with the loving intent that you understand and change the direction in which you are going! The entirety of the Bible is divinely written and inerrant; it is His chosen way to communicate truth clearly to us, truth that changes us.

So, what does the Bible say about women being pastors? We know very little about Phoebe, Aquila and Priscilla, and the specifics about their roles are unclear. Regardless of their specific ministry responsibilities, it would be consistent with the rest of Scripture, especially in the context of Paul’s other teachings. What the proponents of women pastors often overlook is 1 Timothy 2:12. Paul clearly writes: “I don’t allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. Instead, she should be quiet.” 1 Corinthians 14:33-34 states it equally clearly:
God is not a God of disorder but a God of peace. As in all the churches of God’s holy people, the women must keep silent. They don’t have the right to speak. They must take their place as Moses’ Teachings say.
Romans 16 states clearly that Phoebe is a deacon (leader) while Aquila and Priscilla are co-workers in the service of Christ. Clearly, they had a leadership roles, as did Deborah in the Old Testament. And while the qualifications for a deacon are described in 1Timonthy 3, the responsibilities of a deacon are not. (https://www.9marks.org/article/biblical-qualifications-and-responsibilities-deacons/) In 1 Timonthy 3, Paul refers to the wives of deacons as well, implying that deacons are men. So we may wonder if the women of Romans 16 were an exception to the rule or if maybe their leadership responsibilities didn’t involve teaching or having authority over men? Did they teach only women and children? Did they have a hospitality ministry? 

This is consistent with the recurring theme of headship established in Genesis and reiterated throughout Scripture. It is the man’s role to be a spiritual leader both in the church and in the home. And if we look at the full story of Deborah, it’s obvious that the man in the story did not demonstrate the leadership that he was called to live out. Exploring the story further in the song of Deborah (Judges 5), it’s clear that the men of Israel were not standing in opposition to the evil in the land. 

I personally believe the story of Deborah tells us that when men abdicate their role as spiritual leaders, a woman may temporarily fill it, but that is not God’s first desire. This is true in the home as well as the church. Still, we did not see Deborah picking up a sword to fight Sisera. Rather, she was encouraging Barak to step into his role and lead well. There was no power struggle for dominance in this story, and the victory song belongs to both Deborah and Barak. They worked together as a team to line up with God’s will and rejoiced together in the victory that God gave them through the woman, Jael. 

To be clear, a leadership role in the Kingdom is not the same as in the world where people lord it over others. The worldly kind of leadership is an abusive and misogynistic oppression that created an easily divided people, looking to find fault in others. Also, we should all understand that a person’s leadership role does not indicate greater worth; it is simply what God has called us to do. Role does NOT equal worth. A godly leader is a servant-leader, seeking to bring out the best in others, unwavering in righteous conviction because it is founded upon Scripture, yet humble and gentle in how we treat others. 

I can tell you we all fall short of this model of godly leadership. There is only One who demonstrates this godly model perfectly, and it should be our aspiration to reflect Jesus’ servant-leadership as revealed in Scripture and as He patiently demonstrates in our personal walk with Him. He is asking us to actively join Him, submitting to His ways as He works with us to become more like Him.
My thanks to my own wife, Deborah, who offered many challenges and suggestions as I wrote this.
copyright ©2019 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Sunday, September 15, 2019

A Tale of Two Scrolls

The Book of Revelation talks about two scrolls. One is sealed and no one is initially found worthy to open it until finally Jesus is deemed worthy to open this important document. It is closed by seven seals, and as each seal is opened the long-foretold events of prophecy will be realized in our world. The first four seals are often referred to as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which I understand as: the peaceful victory of the Antichrist in establishing a global government, followed by war, famine and death. The fifth seal is a global massacre of the saints that continues “just a little while longer” until the remainder are martyred, followed quickly by the earthquake I believe will occur in the middle of the seven year tribulation period that marks the Rapture, the end of man’s rebellion and the beginning of God’s wrath upon the rebellious. The seventh seal is then broken as the Lamb has now reclaimed the earth for God and His people, and there is a great and solemn moment in heaven, which is completely silent for a half hour. Shouldn’t there be exultation rather than this great solemnity? 

But hold that thought for a little bit while I talk about a second scroll in Revelation. It’s small and open for anyone to read, yet the contents are a bit of mystery to the reader. The scroll is announced loudly and echoed by seven thunders, yet when John starts to write down what has been said, he’s told not to write it down. The mystery is meant for the last days, when the angel is ready to blow the seventh trumpet. So John is told to eat the scroll, warned that it will taste sweet in his mouth yet will be bitter in his stomach. What could taste so good and yet leave him feeling so unsettled? 

In our brokenness, I’m sure there are many things that might be like this scroll, things such as revenge or justice dealt to our antagonists. It feels good at first, but would it feel as good if we knew the full story? Stephen, the first Christian martyr, set an uncommon example as his tormentors were stoning him, crying out: “Forgive them! They don’t know what they do!” And wasn’t he just imitating Jesus’ words on the cross as He slowly died: “Father forgive them! They don’t know what they do!”.

So what is the significance of the silence when the final seal is broken? And what is this small scroll that is open for anyone to read until it melts like honey in John’s mouth? I believe the silence and the bitterness of John’s stomach are related. Once that seventh seal is broken, no one else will enter heaven. We think of Christ’s return as our long-awaited victory, and it is certainly all that and more! But heaven has patiently waited millennia to pull in the harvest. It has tolerated the sowing of weeds next to the wheat, harvesting carefully so that nothing would be lost. While I’m grateful for this, I’m not nearly grateful enough… without God’s gracious patience I would be lost!

But what about this small scroll, the one that open for anyone to read, carried by a loud angel whose words are resounded by seven thunders? It’s obviously no secret yet the words spoken about the small scroll are stricken from John’s record. Could it be the list of people who still could have been saved? If so, I’m grateful that the list is small! I’ve no doubt the list is filled with all sorts of reprehensible people, perhaps even some of our past, present or future tormentors, people so reprehensible that heaven would be better without them, right?

Some of the most beautiful believers I’ve met were once totally depraved. Hearing the stories of how God redeemed their lives always fills me with such awe in God as well as a surprising compassion for person for all the events that led to their original depravity. As the saying goes: there but for the grace of God go I. Can you imagine what it would be like to see your worst tormentor die without being redeemed by Christ’s love? I bet it might taste pretty sweet at first, but in the light of eternity how will we feel. When we understand fully how our enemies are a product of how they were wounded, I believe it will leave a bitterness in our stomach and a regret for how we may have contributed to that wounding. Or maybe we’ll feel the shame for how we withheld our hand from helping them out of fear of being bit. 

No man knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return, but the time is short, shorter than it’s ever been. We can see the signs that Jesus gave us, that his disciples and the prophets have given us, so how shall we respond? Will we act the part of His Ambassadors to this world or pretend to be residents of this foreign kingdom? Will we continue to be willing to witness in love to the people who ridicule us, torture us, and someday martyr us like Stephen, or will we shirk away in fear and weakness? 

When Stephen died, there was a man standing in approval of his stoning. A rising star among the religious authorities of his day, this young man actively sought to destroy the early Christians, but his life was turned completely around as he met the risen Jesus on the road to Tarsus. We don’t know how Stephen’s testimony affected Saul as he meditated for 3 days in blindness, but I look forward to hearing Paul’s story from him directly one day. Likewise, we don’t know what seeds are sown through our faithful suffering, but we will one day! 

I don’t claim to have God’s heart or to see things as He sees them, but I desire to see as He sees and to feel as He feels so that every dark cloud I pass through fades and every giant shrinks. No one looks forward to suffering, at least no one who has a healthy mindset. Yet we all enjoy the victory received when we push through momentary hardships! 
Lord make us faithful in times of trial and triumph, praising You for every victory in the past, present, and future!
copyright ©2019 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)