Sunday, August 11, 2013

Man Up, Boys!

For years… no, really for decades… I've been frustrated with the portrayal of men, particularly fathers, in sitcoms. Foolish, selfish and immature, they act more like boys in adult bodies than men. So as I've blamed a faceless “Hollywood” all these years for what I've deemed to be a poor representation of manhood, I’m now having to reconsider that maybe “they” are only portraying the men they've seen, a man who lives more like a boy rather than the role model he’s called to be.

Admittedly, I can act goofy, make bad decisions and like to have fun, but I aspire to greater goals. And it’s my hope to inspire others to live as men, growing into their adult bodies rather than continuing to live as boys. Of course, Satan, the great Enemy of man, wants us to forget who we are called to be, and he uses many tricks and tactics to distract us from our true calling. We are in a war and failing to recognize that basic truth opens us to attack. I can fall into his traps as easily as the next man, but through the grace of God and the enabling of His Holy Spirit working in my life, I can and will be victorious. 

Scripture educates us about the full armor of God, which we are to put on daily. One key component of that armor is the breastplate of righteousness. Failing to live for righteousness and God’s ways, men will seek to live for something else, primarily their own pleasure. Seeking pleasure, men fall into adultery, physical abuse, and financial ruin for their families. Males have not been the role models they were called to be, and consequently, women have come to believe that all guys think with something other than our brains. It does not have to be that way, men! 

I believe that each of us is capable of becoming something better than what we are. I also believe that when we fail to strive for something greater, we will slide in the other direction. It’s very similar to exercise: a regular workout builds up muscles and coordination, but ignoring our body’s need for activity leads to its decline. Historically, we've seen men who have been worthy of our admiration, inspiring us to imitation. But we've also seen men who were less than beasts, so wild and destructive that only one word can describe them: evil. And evil men have always despised men of integrity, calling them “boy scouts” or looking for ways to defame their character. They will most certainly find chinks in our armor, because there has been only one perfect man in the whole history of the world. But a righteous man continues to get back up (Proverbs 24:16). 

For those who have accepted Christ, we are in the process of becoming that which God has already made us to be. We were called to run, but it starts with learning to walk first. The Enemy discourages us as we try, telling us we will never be more than a baby, falling every couple steps. But God, our Father rejoices in each step, knowing that it strengthens us in our path to maturity. As we start to run, we will likely fall again, the Enemy jeering as he tells us we were never made for more than walking, but Jesus serves as an example for us to follow, saying: “Come on, my brother! Follow me!” The World around us contradicts with: “No one can do this! Who do you think you are? You’re not Jesus! You’re not God! Just look around and see the natural order of things.” But the Holy Spirit comforts us and encourages us to move forward, pointing to the biblical examples of Enoch and Elijah. Men, we were made for so much more!

There is a line in the movie “Return of the King” that always moves me. In the face of an overwhelmingly powerful enemy, Aragorn gives a speech:
Stand your ground, stand your ground! … I see in your eyes, the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come, when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends, and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves, and shattered shields when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! For all that you hold dear, on this good earth, I bid you stand, men of the west!
I will continue to fight. Why accept certain defeat when victory only belongs to those who persevere?

Men, our families need us to become more than we are… more than we've been. We need to continue in our fight for purity, courage and integrity in every aspect of our lives. Our wives need to see husbands that refuse to despair, whether at the many times we've stumbled in the past, the hurt others have inflicted on us, or at the darkness of the world around us. Our children need to see examples of strong, righteous men, living today and not in some fictional story or legend of the past. The world around us needs to see something that contradicts the message that men are just weak, pleasure-seeking creatures. The world needs men of integrity and courage, and if all you can do is take one feeble step toward that today… then take it. Then take two steps, and don’t stop until you are able to run, becoming the man you were made to be. It doesn't matter if you are 13, 30 or over 50. Today is the day to act!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Whether we be many, few, or one: with God’s help I will continue to learn not just how to walk with Christ, but to run with Him as well. Choose today what you will serve: the weakness of your desires or the goodness of truth as revealed by God.

copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What Is Your Value-Add?

I was having a conversation with some people who were concerned about changes in their company and how that may impact them. They were worried that certain organizational changes could result in their job disappearing. It’s a legitimate concern. Businesses will often try to get rid of inefficiencies by reorganizing, and it’s not uncommon to see long-time employees let go because their skillset either isn’t applicable to today’s business needs or because the business believes it can get that need met in a more cost-effective manner. So having been a part of these scenarios in the past, I encouraged the group to consider how they add value to the business goals and how their skillset compares to overall market needs. But walking away, the thought occurred to me: “Most people just don’t know how to think that way.”

A guy shows up to his job for 20-30 years, sometimes working late and missing out on other life opportunities. He’s committed to the company and assumes the commitment is mutual. Then one day, he discovers that his job no longer offers value to the business. Perhaps Human Resources has determined that his activities can be performed by a much less experienced person or maybe technology has made the role obsolete. In short, there’s either no value add or a perception by the business that better value proposition exists. Pink slip in hand, the guy walks out the door to discover the rest of the world has no need for his services… at least not at a wage he can afford to accept. To make things worse, after a few decades in the work force, he’s probably also at a point where he has a family that’s relying on his support. How could this happen? 

Think about it: companies have replaced their Personnel departments with “Human Resources”. To them each person is just another resource in the company, and resources are used based on their perceived value. I’m not saying it is right, and in fact I believe just the opposite. The employer / employee agreement should have greater mutual loyalty, where the employer upgrades a person’s skillset along the way and rewards years of loyal service. But that is not the world in which we live. 

In today’s world, each employee needs to take responsibility for maintaining marketable skillsets and communicating his or her value add to others. It’s extra work, but worth the effort to mitigate the risk of job loss. In risk management, risks are prioritized based on the impact and probability that the risk will occur. If both the impact and probability of losing one’s job is high, then an updated resume and additional certifications are probably a wise idea. However, if the impact and probability of job loss are low, perhaps because of other income, then preparatory action is probably not required. The bottom line is that everyone needs to prayerfully assess their situation and ask the Lord for discernment, wisdom and faithfulness in how to prepare.
So why all this business speak and how does it relate to the things I normally write about?
Well, there are a couple answers to that question. The night after my conversation with these people, I was wakened several times by the Lord with this question: “What is your value-add?” His question hit me on multiple levels: what is my value-add in business; what is my value-add in my family; what is my value-add in my community; what is my value-add in the Kingdom? My initial response was to think as the world thinks, where a person’s worth is related to what they have to offer… in other words the value of what they can do. But that’s not representative of Kingdom values. The Kingdom values even the “least of these”, the little ones, the poor, the broken, the outcast. It is not necessarily the pastor of televised mega-church that will be honored in heaven – he has already received a reward on earth. Rather, it’s the man who, without anyone apparently watching, decides to live a life that’s pleasing to God: who takes time to help the stranger in need; who loses sleep to help his daughter with a school project; who doesn’t take moral shortcuts; who strives for sexual purity; who encourages others along this sometimes difficult but very worthwhile way. Our value-add to the Kingdom is determined by who we are and not by what we do; rather, what we do is determined by who we are. 

As a new believer, I was advised by a mature Christian to “not just do something; sit there.” It was a comical twist on a common saying that implies everyone needs to be productive. The advice I received helped me to understand that sometimes we need to stop and reflect, to draw close to God in prayerful meditation, before we can be truly effective. But the question “What is your value-add” brought back another truth from the advice I had received: I have value just by being. It’s like Immanuel Kant pointed out (roughly translated): no man is a means to an end, but every man is an end in himself. Each generation of believers needs to be reminded of this fact: God loves us for who we are and not what we do. 

One of the other answers to God’s question “what is your value-add” is something that calls for reflection and action. This is a time of preparation. Although everything seems to be well on the surface, there will be an abrupt end to the America as we know it. Each person should prayerfully seek wisdom on this and act accordingly. It could still be decades away, but it could also happen within the year. Along the way, we should probably think about it in risk management terms, letting the impact and probability drive your preparation activities.

copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Very Special Recipe

I heard a story years ago about a father and son conversation. The dad was trying to help his son understand the importance of being sexually pure, but the son thought his father was being unreasonable: 
“C’mon, Dad! Your standard’s a little unreasonably high, don’t you think?”
“I don’t believe so, son. God wants our best, and He doesn’t want it mixed in with anything else.”
“Yeah, but seriously, Dad, what’s a little bit of fun going to hurt? I mean, it’s not like I’m going to hell for a little action. I’m pretty good. You may not think so, but compared to most kids my age, I really am.”
“It’s not a matter of how you compare with others, son; it’s about living for God’s standards. And notice I said ‘for’ His standards, not ‘up to’ His standards. That’s where God’s grace come in…”
“Well, I think God’s grace is big enough for just a little bit of ‘sin’ so I don’t live a completely boring life, don’t you think, Dad?”
Realizing that the conversation was going nowhere, the father took a tactical retreat to think through some way to help his son realize that God's desire for our perfect obedience was for our own good. That night, the father brought a plate of freshly baked brownies out after dinner. The son loved brownies and immediately picked one up to devour it, but the father stopped him, explaining:
“Before you eat that, son, I want you to know that I made these with a special ingredient and that I made them with our earlier conversation in mind.”
“Thanks, Dad. No worries… glad you understand that a little bit of fun is okay.” 
“Well, yes, and just a minute before you eat that, son. Don’t you want to know the special ingredient I put in the brownie?”
At this point, the young man slowly put the brownie down, his curiosity obviously piqued. 
“I started thinking about why God wants us to strive for purity, and I confess that I had a hard time putting it into words. But then I had this idea. I know how much you like brownies, and of course you know God loves you even more than you enjoy brownies, right son?”
“Umm… yeah, so what’s your point?”
“But God wants you to be pure, right? He wants your perfect obedience, but after all, why wouldn’t just a little bit of impurity be okay? I mean, how could that mess up the whole thing, right son? That’s your point, right?”
“What’s in the brownies, Dad?”
“Well, it’s just a little bit. You won’t even taste it.”
“Dad… tell me.”
“If you can’t taste it, what does it matter? It’s just a little bit of impurity… just a secret, special ingredient. Why would a little, tiny bit of dog poop in the batter make a difference?”
Why indeed, does a little bit of impurity matter? I remember that story and for me, it hits home more than any argument. But I think the analogy would be more accurate if that special ingredient were a slow-acting, highly-addictive poison. That’s what sexual sin really is: it tastes good at first and it makes us want even more. It draws us in deeper than we intend to go: a long glance becomes a recurring thought; a compelling day dream drives a search for more gratification; a step into gratification pulls one into patterns of behavior… and so it goes until the unhealthy behavior patterns result in shame and betrayal. But in any given step in this process, there’s a way to step out and return to a pure lifestyle; the pressure, no matter how strong can be resisted and overcome. 
But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right… None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them… Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? (Ezekiel 18:21-23)
God delights in our turning back to Him and His ways. If you are reading this, I would say it’s no accident. Maybe you’re looking for freedom and a renewed purity. Maybe you know someone that is. Or maybe you’ve been hurt by someone who has been pulled down so much further than they ever thought they’d go. There is hope and there is healing. 

Live in purity. If you’ve strayed away from that, it’s not too late to return. If you know someone who has gone down the wrong path, you have an opportunity to encourage them in doing good. And if you’ve been hurt, you can learn to forgive… for your sake as much as for the sake of another.
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Who is Jesus?

When I was young, denominational lines between churches separated the Body of Christ in America. A person was encouraged to never talk about religion or politics, and the denominational walls remained intact. In my life, I have seen a lot of change within the church. People have been searching for something more than a set of traditional beliefs and the interaction across the former boundaries has changed the Christian landscape in America. And while it’s great that believers from different denominations have been able to interact and pray in unity, I’ve been saddened recently by a realization that the Church’s transformation may have some undesirable consequences. In many ways, Christianity is being watered down and as a result, doctrinal victories are being forgotten.

Take for example the deity of Jesus. Once an incontrovertible tenet of Christianity, I was surprised to find it challenged on separate occasions by a couple men with whom I’ve met with in Bible study and prayer. One of these men, I’ve known for over ten years.  I don’t doubt the good intentions of these men, but “the road to hell is filled with good intentions”. And without an understanding or appreciation of church history, we are vulnerable to falling back into deceptions that have already been exposed.

Pagan propaganda in recent years has challenged Christ’s deity, claiming it was all just a strong-arm tactic of the emperor Constantine, that it was used to solidify his political powerbase through the church as it met in Nicaea. Now it is true that hundreds of bishops convened at the emperor’s invitation to meet on the topic of Christ’s divinity; some participants even came from outside the Roman Empire. Most of these bishops had lived under years of persecution and had repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to die for their faith; this is a fact that pagan propaganda conveniently leaves out. Also, there were no quick decisions. It was not a short meeting, but it took place over a couple months at the end of which an overwhelming majority affirmed the teaching of the apostles: that Jesus is both divinely one with Father God and yet somehow separate. The council decided to document their position so that all of Christianity could unify under this statement of faith. This document has become known as the original Nicene Creed, and of the reported 318 bishops, only two refused to affirm these words:
We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance of the Father, God of God, light of light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of the same substance with the Father, through whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth; who for us men and our salvation descended, was incarnate, and was made man, suffered and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven and cometh to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost.
Those who say: There was a time when He was not, and He was not before He was begotten; and that He was made out of nothing; or who maintain that He is of another hypostasis or another substance [than the Father], or that the Son of God is created, or mutable, or subject to change, the Catholic Church anathematizes.
(see http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11044a.htm)

The church leaders of the time felt this truth about Jesus’ deity was so important that they “anathematized” anyone who refused to subscribe to it. An anathema is a formal ban or excommunication, so the decision to anathematize anyone who refused to subscribe to this belief meant there could be no Christian fellowship with a person who refused to believe in Jesus’ deity.  

At the time, there were some leaders who thought this last part of the Nicene Creed was extreme, and had I been in their position, I think it would have been difficult for me as well. But then what is the alternative? Without a strong statement, what would prevent the errant teaching? This was a different age, where information travelled slowly. And in essence, the Nicene council was simply reiterating what the original apostles had taught and which is described in Scripture. But more than that, they had spent time trying to explain the truth to these men, to listen to and understand their perspective and ultimately concluded that their differences were too great to be considered as one. The deity of Jesus was just too essential to the Christian faith and fellowship was not possible if it watered down the message.

The council of Nicaea affirmed what the apostles’ writings had already clearly stated. John, friend of Jesus and one of the original church leaders, did not leave anything to wonder about Who he believed Jesus to be. He opened his gospel account with a clear description, asserting that Jesus was actively involved in creation. Using a literary tool clearly reminiscent of Genesis 1. John wrote:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)
It’s clear reading through the rest of John 1 that the “Word” is Jesus and that He is both God… and yet somehow separate. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (v. 14) As prophesied by Isaiah and clearly explained in Matthew’s gospel account, Jesus is both God and man… Emmanuel, which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). 

There’s so much more I could write about Who Jesus is: the King of all the universe, the perfect Lamb Who was sacrificed to pay the price for sin… my sin, my legally appointed representative in an eternal courtroom whenever an accusation comes up against me, and my big brother who has always watched out for me. As both God and man, His authority can’t be questioned and His understanding of the human situation can’t be denied. 
copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Not a Chicken or Egg Question

I've recently heard comments from different Christians that God’s wrath will be coming to this nation because of the recent decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the resultant federal sanctioning of homosexual marriage. I think this statement distorts the truth a bit, and I believe God wants me to write about this issue. I don’t want to come across as critical of others or to close doors on relationships for both now and in the future. However, I do want to be faithful to my God and King and I want to share truth with those who are, like me, seeking to live in truth and love.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes… (Romans 1:16)
It all started when as a nation, as a culture, and as Christians, we forgot the power and importance of truth. We decided that, at least in some areas of our lives, it would be more convenient to live as if “truth” were relative rather than absolute. Now, it’s true that it’s not always easy to discern the truth, but it’s out there and can be found. The scientific method is based on this assumption, and for the believer, the belief in truth extends beyond natural laws and into moral law. But culturally we have increasingly become more agenda-driven, more likely to cover up a fact that doesn't support our agenda for fear that it would weaken our attempts to win an argument. We've reached a point where we can’t talk. But this behavior doesn't allow the truth to set us free or let the healthy conflict grow our understanding of the truth. (Proverbs 27:17) In covering up the issues, we can’t work to resolve them.

We have failed to love our brother: the minority, the exploited, or simply the person who struggled with a sin that was different from the familiar one that plagued us. And because we didn't want our argument weakened, we ignored or minimized our offending behavior, never really apologizing and turning away from our wrong actions. So people started questioning Christianity and started accusing Christians as hypocrites. If we are completely honest, we will concede to the truth behind many of these accusations. If we are afraid that it will weaken our arguments, then we need to more fully believe in the power of the truth. It will make itself known, with or without our help. God will become more visible in our weaknesses than in our strengths; replying “I don’t know” is simply more powerful than “don’t ask those kinds of questions”.

But even if believers in this nation have been poor witnesses, anyone who rejects God can only blame it on themself, because the truth always makes itself known. And because we as a nation have rejected God, He is rejecting us. Who can look at this past year and honestly not question if God might be trying to get our attention: the drought of 2012, Hurricane Sandy, horrific shootings, tornadoes in Oklahoma, secret government initiatives to spy on the American people, and weakening of the 5th Amendment? And in our arrogance, we proclaim: “We are strong and resilient! We will rebuild!” Instead, we should be seeking God and crying: “Have mercy! Turn our hearts toward You and Your ways! Forgive my brothers! Have mercy and bring healing, Lord!”

The wrath of God isn’t coming upon America because DOMA was repealed or because we've been greedy as a people. These are results of a wrath that has been unfolding for decades to a people that have refused to listen to His voice and allow the truth to free both them and the world around them. We cannot suppress the truth of God; He will not allow it. 
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. 
(Romans 1:18-32)
There is still time for us to turn back to Him. He will be true to His nature and will avert His wrath if we just return to Him. But if we don’t, His hand of protection will be removed quickly and this nation will fall. I can’t say when this will happen, but I know that the urgency of this message is increasing. 

copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Day of the Lord’s Wrath

I remember hearing a conversation years ago:

     “The early Christians believed Christ was returning in their lifetime, but that was 2000 years ago. How can we think that He’ll return in our life?” said the younger man.

     “That’s true,” responded the older of the two, “And scripture tells us that no man knows the day nor the hour of His return. But we DO know His return is closer today than it was yesterday.”

That conversation impacted my way of seeing things. The simple truth is that He will return, and it doesn’t matter how long we’ve waited. The day of His return is looked forward to by believers, but there’s a side of it that we need to consider: a day of wrath is also associated with His return. It’s a day when there is no longer hope for those who have refused to yield to His authority. 
Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice… (Proverbs 24:17)
Revelations 8 describes the intense solemnity when the seventh and last seal is opened; heaven is completely silent for an half hour. My interpretation is that this is a time for grieving, a time of sorrow because God, Who knows all, has determined it’s time to destroy His work because what remains has no restorative value. None.

My take-away from this is that we should rejoice in this present day, because there is still hope. There is hope that this darkness around us has not become so black as to shut down God’s plan for restoring the lost ones. There is hope that we can reach those around us with a supernatural love that is reflected from the love our heavenly Father has for us. We should rejoice that despite any degree of pain, oppression or discomfort, the Enemy has not been allowed to destroy us, God’s emissaries to the world. And we rejoice that His power is supreme and He will return.

Although His return is sure, we need to make best use of all that He has given us, ready for both His immediate return and prepared for a long stay in this world. We are like Israel while exiled to Babylon, confident of both His promised redemption and resourceful in using what He’s provided in this present day.
“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:5-7)
And while we are here, we are to make every effort to do the best with what we have, no matter how small or large. We should build wealth so as to use our greater influence to reach out and minister to others… keeping the perspective that we are in this world yet not of it… knowing that all we have belongs first to God, to be used for His purposes. 
Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. (Proverbs 11:4)
We need to keep the right perspective on the wealth God brings us. It is no shield from the day of disaster. It offers no security and brings no real happiness. I sometimes wonder just how different this world would be if believers prayed before spending money on anything, especially comfort items? I don’t do this all the time, but I should… we all should. We should consider how to use what we have as a resource for the Kingdom rather than a rightful privilege of our hard work.
Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3-4)
But to be sure, Christ is returning and there is a day of wrath. That day is sooner now than ever before, and I when hear people scoffing about His return, I am even more convinced of the wickedness of this present day. But we should not be praying for God’s wrath on the wicked. Rather, we should be praying for grace, for renewal, and for revival. Because there is hope that God can still bring restoration.

copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

An Abrupt End

I've been encouraged over the past year to look at the statistics on who reads this blog. Now, I don’t have insight into specific people who access the page, but I do see a summary on the number of readers from different countries. I've seen a growth in international readers, and I want to let you know just how much this has encouraged me. There have even been times when the number of readers from Germany or Russia exceeds that from the U.S. 

I am so very encouraged by my friends across the world, but I’m also a little saddened when the number of Americans reading this blog is less than Internationals. I have a specific message for America that is going unheeded. So I ask for all your prayers: that I am heard and that this message will drive a change in hearts and minds so that the Remnant in America will listen, repent and increase. I believe the Lord has told me that the time is short. As a man, I don’t have a complete understanding of what exactly that means, but I do know that the message is urgently needed.

There is a book call “The Harbinger , which centers on Isaiah 9:10 as a warning for America. Although written in a very melodramatic way, the message of the book rings true to me. Even before I became aware of the book and its message, the Lord led me several times in my quiet time with Him to read Isaiah 9:8-21 as a warning for America.  He has repeatedly told me of His coming wrath since my post of 2009. Before Hurricane Sandy, the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, or the Boston Marathon Bombing, the Lord let me know that a time of greater oppression was being unleashed. Things are not going to get better unless we correct the root issue.

The core problem in America isn’t Corporations, the Military or the Government as often depicted in Hollywood blockbusters. It’s not War, Terrorism or the Economy as the nightly news indicates. It’s not that Divorce is common-place or that we choose to medicate with our addiction of choice, such as Drugs, Alcohol, Sex, Wealth or Work. The root problem is that the American Church is like salt that has lost its saltiness. Salt preserves and salt brings out the flavor in things. Salt can’t be watered down to be effective. It also can’t be isolated to bring out the flavor in other things. Salt needs to be different yet still connected to fulfill its intended purpose. But if the Body of Christ in America looks no different from the rest of America in how we live, then God’s hand of protection will be removed from the United States just like it was from Israel. The biggest threat to America is that American Christians have lost their First Love. (See also The Biggest Threat to Christianity)

As a youth, I used to hear: “Hate the sin; love the sinner.” But as a culture, Americans have deliberately forgotten that the sin is separate from the sinner. The sin and sinner are too often falsely identified as one; therefore, to rebuke the sin is considered a condemnation of the sinner. Likewise, to accept the sinner incorrectly implies that the sin must be accepted as well. We are all broken people, each with our pet sins, but we need to put these unhealthy pets to death. What need is there of repentance if there no acknowledged sin in our lives? So if we remain blind to our sins, there is only a death spiral and quick destruction, but if we acknowledge what is unhealthy in our lives and if we take steps to be healthy, there is restoration!

“Rebuke the sin so the sinner can be saved!” This is a message for the believer entangled in sin more so than for the unbeliever. Salvation is the undeserved offer to the unbeliever, but restoration comes through the obedience of the believer. Just because you've seen the doctor doesn't mean you’ll get better; follow the treatment plan! Stop the unhealthy things that are killing you and start living the healthy lifestyle that will bring you energy and joy! 

America is close to an abrupt end, and the world will wonder at the sudden destruction that comes upon this nation. Still, if the believers in this country turn back to our First Love and do those things that we first did, I believe God will be gracious and restore health to us, both as individuals and as a nation. And if only a small number return to Him, as individuals, we will still see evidence of His protection and provision in our lives. Seek the Lord while He may be found; trust in Him and don’t lean on your own understanding. It will not be without trials and temptations, but it will be worth it!

copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/) 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Presents


Every year, my wife and I celebrate Easter with our kids in a typical, American fashion: baskets, eggs, candy, etc. We also throw in an inexpensive gift. I’d like to say there’s a deep, spiritual reason behind all this, but the truth is: we just love to celebrate and see the joy on our kids’ faces.

But maybe this gift-giving tradition in our family points to something we all need a little more: a sense of wonder and joy at Easter. I’m not trying to say that everyone should start exchanging gifts at Easter (Christmas is more than enough commercialization for me). No, I think we need to be more mindful of the reality of His Presence as our great Present.

I was reading the Easter story from John’s Gospel before writing this blog, and I was struck by the emotion of Jesus’ first interaction with others after His resurrection:
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
John 20:15-16 NIV
Despairing and confused, Mary understands that Jesus’ body is missing, and the only context she can grasp given everything she’s learned about life and death is that someone must have stolen His body. Why would anyone do that? Certainly the past couple of days have been bad enough, but to now have His body stolen? Poor Mary…  until she hears Him say her name! What joyful surprise as she recognizes the Master’s voice! What a great Easter present!

I’ve asked the question “Why Easter?” and acknowledged a certain absurdity to the celebration. But the truth is that none of us fully appreciate the great gift we received on that Resurrection Sunday. 
Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
John 20:29
“Hallelujah! The Lord is Risen! … Christ is risen indeed, hallelujah!”

copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Dark Saturday

I woke up and started to cry again, eyes welling with tears as I recalled the events of the previous day. In exhaustion, I had finally ended the day with a restless sleep, awakening repeatedly to a cacophony of emotions and inner voices:  Gone. Empty. Worthless… Meaningless! Three years of my life… lost! It had all been a lie!!

It was like this last night, wavering between grief and anger: sorrow at his death, angry that he let it happen… and disappointment… so disappointed in my actions. “No sir! I’d never abandon you!” Yet within hours, I pretended as if I never even knew him. So disappointed… but what was he thinking? I tried to defend him! I was quick to grab the sword away from that fellow and strike, but the Master reprimanded ME… and then healed the guy that took him away! All those miracles that he performed, but not one for himself, not even when he needed it most. Not even then!

And if not for himself, what about us??? Surely he knew that we needed him!! I wonder how the others are doing? Aww… I don’t know if I even care. I don’t want to see anyone right now. I’m not sure how I’m doing. I want to sleep and I want to run away. I want to forget, maybe go back to fishing. Just get away from all this. But I should check on them first. I’m sure they’re just as messed up as I am. So disappointed…

I wonder how his mom is doing? And John? John was as close to him as any of us. I really don’t want to see anyone, but it would probably be better if I got us all together. Maybe it would help if those of us who… miss him… so much… maybe it would help if we all got together.

But we’ll need to be careful. I’m sure they’ll be looking for us. Probably want to gather all of us up to make sure they’ve properly handled the big “threat” we are. Yeah, we’ll need to be careful.

So disappointed… what if I had spoken up? I’d probably be dead, too. But to be honest, I feel dead already. Three years wasted! King of Glory? He was more like a sheep going to be slaughtered… no, not even a sheep. A lamb… a lamb like the one we ate at our last supper together. So innocent… so dumb and innocent! What did he do that was so wrong anyway that all those religious leaders wanted him dead? They were just jealous! They saw the potential, they understood that he was bringing a much needed change, saw him as a rival, and had him eliminated! And he let them!!! 

Leaving us alone. And what do I have to show for three years? Just my cynicism. Yeah, it would take a miracle for me to ever trust again. I really need to sort this out… somehow find a way to put this in the right context. But I should go find the others...

copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Contextual Friday


Context. It frames up a conversation so the dialogue can be directed and efficient. It provides both the boundaries and the background of a conversation: draw the lines too narrow and the topic may never be explored enough to understand the key issues; set the boundaries too wide and conclusions become elusive.

Context: a 25 year old sailor in the middle of the Mediterranean privately reading a Bible, asking the Lord to reveal His truth. Believing that God will answer his questions, the young man is bold enough to ask: “Who is Jesus?” Having been raised Roman Catholic, this particular sailor was familiar with the liturgical year, and on this particular morning, he knew what day it was: Good Friday. But although he was raised in a church, the sailor had come to doubt many things. Over the preceding months, he had explored different world views: atheism, agnosticism, Hinduism, etc. But most recently, the sailor had started reading the Bible, coming to the realization that God was and is a Reality. In the most unlikely-to-be-recommended book of Scripture for seekers, this sailor was drawn close to God through the book of Proverbs. In it, he had found a haunting truth. The book was telling him that he was acting like a fool and in the face of this piercing truth, the sailor had come to key decision point: either embrace the truth and change his ways or run from the truth, knowing deep in his heart a deeper reality beaconed. 

Embracing the new and awkward truth of the book of Proverbs, the young man continued reading the Bible, diving into the poetic pages of Psalms. Praying for both understanding and direction, the sailor asked God to reveal: “Who is Jesus?”, and upon finishing his prayer, opened his Bible to the next chapter in the happenstance reading of Psalms: 
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? ... All who see me mock me;   they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him… My mouth is dried up… They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment. (See Psalm 22)
Having been raised Catholic, the sailor recognized the scene from some Gospel readings he had heard as a boy. It was a depiction of Christ’s death, but the man understood the book of Psalms had been written a long time before Jesus was born as a baby. This prophetic description from the Old Testament scriptures was speaking prophetically to the sailor. It was God’s answer, clear and direct. 

Twenty-four years ago today, that sailor was me. 

Contextual question for Good Friday: why is it “Good”? The short answer, understood in part by Sunday School children everywhere is that the day of Jesus’ death is when He died for our sins. But let’s be honest, without the context of what happened on the third day following His death, Good Friday would be remembered as a day of darkness and despair… the celebrated King of Glory had been savagely tortured and killed. The same crowds who shouted “Hallelujah! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!” had now cried “Crucify Him!!” on that first Good Friday.  The man touted as the promised Messiah, was laid in a tomb. Without the context of Resurrection Sunday, Good Friday would have remained a day of mourning in the Church. The despairing friends of Jesus would have found deeper places to hide for fear that they would be next. Or perhaps a new leader would have risen up, inspiring followers while pointing to Jesus the martyr. But this was not a man-made movement. God brought the full context on Easter when Jesus conquered death, emboldened his disciples, and explained why His death was truly a great thing for us! 

Contextual application: the night before His death, Jesus prayed to His Father, asking to NOT go through the great pain of the cross. His understanding of the suffering He would endure was so clear that Jesus suffered in anticipation, sweating blood. (Luke 22:44) But in obedience to the Father and out of love for us, He traveled the path of suffering, setting his eyes on the glory that could only be attained after pressing through the darkness. 

We, the remnant of His church, are called to follow His example. To persevere through both trial and triumph as His representatives, holding onto the context that our suffering is not in vain and that the darkness is never so awful as to diminish the glory of our final victory. Easter is a season of new life… of new hope… a hope that refuses to despair because the certainty of our faith is that God wins in the end. And we celebrate that victory with Him, as His adopted children and co-heirs in the Kingdom.
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14
Happy Easter!

copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Abiding in Christ - Obedience

Ultimately, there can be no lesson about how to abide in Christ without also discussing the importance of obedience. It’s the foundational requirement of discipleship, but if I'm totally honest with myself, it's the hardest thing to do. Obedience is more than following the directions we agree with or that make sense, it's also stepping out on the water when He tell us to join Him. It's scary and unsettling; we tend to plead with Him: "Just give me the pattern you want me to follow, and I'll figure out a way that I can do it for You, Lord!" But that's not the way He's made for us. He wants us to stay close to Him, following Him step by step, often without knowing where that second or third step will lead us. 

We can't fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) unless we are first following the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:36-38) to be in a love relationship with God, remaining in Him... regularly... daily... ever more often... walking with Him. In religious zeal, we can tell Him: "I'd follow that uncertain path, but these are the plans I've laid out to serve You, Lord." But if we truly desire to transform the world so it reflects the Kingdom of God, it remains our primary mission to remain in His Presence, letting the uncommon way that He leads us change the world around us. It's not what we do but what He does through us. 

If God is Who I know Him to be (eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, and fully-good) and if He has created me to be the object of His affection, overlooking all my many faults, what kind of fool would I be to turn away from this great offer? So if "grace" is being offered what I don't deserve, whole-hearted gratitude is the only right response. And if the gift of grace is a life and and a love that I could never earn, everything I have is a small price to exchange for that gift. Dietrich Bonheoffer pointed out that the only right response to God’s grace is obedient discipleship.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “Ye were bought at a price”, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
An obedient disciple is not legalistic, following a rigorous set of laws while simultaneously pronouncing the same unachievable burden upon others. It’s true, we cannot legitimately claim to be followers of Christ without obeying God, but this is not the same as obedience to an earthly pastor or to a set of rules. Rather, following a pattern for righteous living is an idol that keeps us from Jesus, a way of justifying ourselves and thereby excusing us from the one opportunity we have to truly abide with Jesus. 

Like the rich man that missed out on his chance to be made perfect (see Matthew 19:16-22), we are all in danger of losing Christ in preference to a set of rules. The biblical definition of sin is to “miss the mark”; it is being less than perfect. Now if I take the example of the rich man from Matthew 19 and expand it, I understand that simply following a set of rules in preference to following Christ is a way to miss the goal. It’s a religious focus on form over substance or on structure over content; it is incorrectly concentrating on the cup rather than the life-giving water. Obedience to Christ is the only correct response to the grace that has been given to us and is a more powerful witness than any legalistic set of rules. In the presence of our Master, we genuinely reflect God’s love and compassion for people who have wounded us.

So a follower of Christ quite simply obeys the Master. A disciple’s obedience to the Master is demonstrated by prayer before making plans. Disciples are also open to divine redirection that can lead down paths they would not choose for themselves. The disciple follows the Master, even to death, figuratively or literally giving up one's life. But like Christ, our death to self carries an eternal reward. In dying to ourselves, we embrace an eternal life with Christ. As Jim Elliot, a missionary martyred in service to Christ, pointed out: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” 

Obedience fuels the fire of faith in our hearts and draws us closer to the God Who loves us. So while sin hides God’s Face from us, obedience to God opens us up to a greater experience of His Presence. If we truly want more of God in our lives, we need to lean into complete obedience. In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Bonheoffer correctly pointed out: we don’t just obey because we believe, we believe because we obey. There's something in every act of obedience that makes our faith grow and that makes the reality of God more apparent. 

copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Abiding in Christ - Renewed by the Vine

As we spend time in His Presence, we take nourishment from His very life, just as a branch receives the nutrients it needs through it's connectedness to the vine. So eating and drinking the Reality of Christ fills us with an ever growing awareness of Who God is: He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and fully-good! I become emboldened by His love, the heart-felt knowledge His goodness is directed at me, and that his power and knowledge are working that goodness together for my benefit! (Romans 8:28)
Basking in the Reality of God soaks us in the awareness of His Presence. Where we see the Reality of God, then?
  • We know Him through the life and witness of Christ
  • We touch Him through the life and witness of Christ's Body, His people
  • We listen to Him through His prophetic speaking through dreams and visions or as a gentle voice in our consciousness
  • We breathe in His Presence through our wonder of creation
  • We experience Him through His coordination of our life's circumstances
  • We see Him like the wind, moving in all things, as our awareness of Him grows
  • We understand more about Him through the revelation of Scripture
And as we bask in the awareness of Him, His fruit grows upon us: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness and Self-Control. This fruit feeds the world around us and attracts a starving world to the Life that is within us. It cannot be imitated by the Accuser of Men or by his emissaries, who by the way, can appear as messengers of righteousness. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15 ) These servants of our Adversary have the appearance of being righteousness, but instead of life, they usher in death.

Now here's the really bad news: we can serve the purposes of the Enemy when we are not abiding in Christ. Without the nourishment of His Presence in our lives, we wither and die. Sometimes we feel the dryness and sometimes it sneaks up on us. It's like a cascading fountain that is capped off: the pool of water no longer overflows into the lives of others. Oh sure, we can throw more of ourselves into it so that the love still appears to flow, but working in our own strength to appear “loving”, the more our junk overflows into the lives of others. Maybe we recognize what's happening, and we just give up... we stop trying. And in that case, we evaporate into a hollow structure that’s devoid of life... we bear no light... we display no love. Without His love, how can we love? (1 John 4:19) Trying to do it on our own, we push a legalistic death pill, erecting an idol of our own righteousness. “Be like me!” we preach, leading others to a false idol.

The veil of sin in our life hides God's Presence to the point where we can doubt or disbelieve in Him. We doubt Who He is: Is He truly all-powerful? Is he aware of my circumstances? Does He even care about me? Our joy is far from complete when we stand so far away from Him. That doubt can become anger or despair, which in turn can develop into rebellion.

But the nature of God has never changed, and He is faithful to redeem! He does not forget His promises to us or His plans for us. Remaining in Him is evidenced by the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives. When do I sin? When I choose to be apart from Him, I start to fill the emptiness of my spiritual stomach with junk food. How am I set free from my desire to sin? I spend time with Him! Coming into His Presence uncaps the fountain and pushes all the junk, all the emotional baggage out of our lives, and fills us with a growing awareness of Who He truly is: to us, for us, and in us.

If we are to know a tree by its fruit, the first place we should look is at our own fruit. Although most versions of the Bible separate the following verses under different topical headlines, I believe we can join them together for a new understanding:

"How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. 
"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers.
Luke 6:42-44 (NIV)
Next: Abiding in Christ - Obedience

copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Abiding in Christ - A Transforming Consciousness


So jumping back to the first question: what does it mean to remain in Him? Somehow, our lives and His essence are joined. My very being, my existence is intertwined with His. My purpose, my identity, my... me, is one with Christ. The circumstances of my life are perceived in the context of this relationship with Him. It is my very life.

“I think and therefore I am” is a quote attributed to Rene' Descartes, a French philosopher, mathematician and physicist. Descartes exposed a fundamental truth about living, something completely personal, inward-looking and undeniably real: with life, there is an awareness of existence. The mere fact that I know I'm alive, proves beyond doubt that I am a being who exists. You see, this awareness... this heart-felt understanding that “I am aware” proves that I am alive. Am I aware of my environment? Am I aware of pleasure? Am I aware of pain? It's this awareness that makes my existence irrefutable. But there's a deeper, newer awareness that comes when we are in relationship with Christ. It testifies to a life in us that is more real than the life than we can have on our own.

Watchman Nee, a Chinese Christian church leader and author, also wrote about awareness as it relates to life. He observed that when we become a Christian, when we place our trust in the power of Christ to reconcile us to the Creator Father, a new awareness becomes a part of us. He writes about this deeper life:
Now by the same token, the life which God has given to the Christian believer can likewise be known by its consciousness. Although we cannot take hold of such divine life and show it to ourselves or to other people, we nonetheless know we have this new life because there is within us an altogether new consciousness.... How does he know he has the life of God?... If the life of God is in him, the consciousness of that life must be in him as well... He feels restless when he sins. He immediately senses a veil between him and God after he has sinned and instantly loses his inner joy. Such manifestations as these are facets of life's consciousness, for because the life of God hates sin, therefore a person who has God's life must also have a certain feeling against sin. The very fact of his possessing this life's sense proves he possesses such life.
"The Body of Christ: A Reality", Watchman Nee (Chapter 1, emphasis added)
There is new Awareness that enters our soul, an Awareness that gently molds us into the people we were created to be. This new consciousness is both undeniable and deeply personal, challenging our thoughts and attitudes, prompting changes in our actions and ultimately bringing restoration into our lives as well as to the world around us. As a result, we are a peculiar people, a special people, who have been remade and are being remade into Christ's image.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (New American Standard Bible)
Next: Abiding in Christ - Renewed by the Vine

copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Abiding in Christ - Abiding in Joy

So as adopted children of God, what are our Family Values

Above all, we value the Presence of God’s love. We seek to live in His Presence. John’s gospel is often used to introduce new believers to the faith. John, friend of Jesus, often referred to himself as the beloved disciple. He understood the importance of basking in God’s loving Presence and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote:
"Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. 
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to My Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples. 
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
John 15:4-11 (NIV) (emphasis added)
There is so much in the above quote: so much to dwell upon... so much to understand... so many questions that flow from the verses! What does it mean to “Remain in” Christ? How do we remain in Him (once we understand what that even means!)? What does He mean by “fruit”? How do we “remain in [His] love”? And if I don't understand all this, how can my joy be complete?

I love the way that Jesus gives us the “why” here: “I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” It demonstrates the essential motivation behind all His actions: He loves us and wants the best for us! My joy is dependent upon His working in my life. For my joy to be complete, His joy needs to be inside me.

Now “joy” is different from “happiness”. Happiness depends on our circumstances. I'm happy when events go my way. I find happiness in those things that please me: a good joke, a movie, some appetizing food or beverage, recognition by others, and the list goes on and on. We are happy when something pleases us.

But joy is different from happiness. It is a fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22) (What's a fruit again??? I’ll describe it's relevance in a future blog.) And unlike happiness, it is somehow possible to find joy even in the midst of suffering; James exhorts us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2), and Peter writes that we should “rejoice that [we] participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that [we] may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13) Joy flows from a confidence in a reality that cannot be seen. In other words, it comes from “faith” (Hebrews 11:1), a gift that God provides to enable the flow of His saving grace in our lives. (Ephesians 2:8) It's an awareness of the invisible truth that comes from dwelling in the very Presence of Truth. Basking, soaking, and dwelling upon God's working in our lives brings a certainty to our hearts of Who He is for us.

Next: Abiding in Christ - A Transforming Consciousness

copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Family Values

In some ways, this is a continuation of a previous post, but I think it also stands on its own:

In the beginning God's love overflowed into an action: the creation of others for Him to love. Because of His love, we are continuing to learn how to love. But rebellion entered the world when those He created for love sought to become their own god rather than remaining in the peace and grace of His Presence. The rebellious forsook His provision and protection (as well as obedience to His divine direction) and pursued inflated self-gratification in all its myriad forms. So sin entered the world, and the would-be-gods became victims of each other, pawns of a great deception because a rebellious heart tends to use everyone and everything for self-gain… and because there is and can only be One True God, Who is all-powerful, all-knowing and fully good. 

God is love, and while He has loved us from the very beginning, He existed before “the beginning”. Since love only exists when there is both a Lover and a Beloved, God (Who is love) exists as both Lover and Beloved. In a way we can’t totally understand, the One True God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit: 3 persons in one God. And because God’s very nature is love, even in the midst of man’s rebellion, the Father reached out through His Son with Good News: He desires a relationship with us... we have ever remained the object of His affection! Those who embrace this message are transformed. They are no longer children of the Rebellion; they have become children of the Kingdom, children who return and promote the love of God. No longer do these people accept the values of the Rebellion, but as adopted members of the Royal Family, they embrace the Kingdom values. They have become the Church, a Remnant of people faithful to the divine order of a heavenly family.

We, the Church, are messengers of His love, only capable of communicating this message as we are frequently reminded of the life-giving gospel ourselves. Through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, Christ commissioned His Remnant to proclaim through action this Good News (a.k.a. – “gospel”): Love God, love others, and cultivate the same. Through our actions and words, we promote this gospel message for all those He has predestined for love. 

This is our all-encompassing purpose: to love God, love others and cultivate the same. We love as a reflection of His love. We work, joining Him in the work He is already doing. We live as travelers in this world, strangers to the Rebellion, and ambassadors of the Truth, a reality that is often hidden by the lies of the Rebellion. We seek to speak the truth in love, trusting in God for the outcome, never knowing the outcome ourselves but trusting that He will be true to His promise to work all things together for our good. Even adversity has been remade as an instrument for our good. Every adversity will be overcome as a demonstration of His power and love and to build up God’s people, even the great adversity of death… because at some point, each of us will leave this world to see our heavenly family clearly and to know Love fully. And that will be very good.

But until then, we seek to live in His love, extending that same love and grace to others and promoting the values of our Father.

To do this, we need to Abide in Him

copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Biggest Threat to Christianity


Why would anyone looking from the outside want to be a Christian? And why choose Christianity over the many other religions out there? In this ever-growing, post-Christian America, I’ve heard commentaries on all sorts of threats to Christianity: Secular Humanism, Islam, New Age Spiritism, Wiccan Paganism, etc. To be sure, these are all different world views, competing in each of us as well as the culture at large for our habits of thinking. But in reality, the greatest threat to Christianity in America is Christians. One of the most critical statements I heard about Christianity in America came shortly after the tragedy of September 11th. I read: “We went back to church after 9/11 only to remember why we left in the first place.” Ouch. Going along with this line of thought, I had read something years ago attributed to Mahatma Ghandi: “If it weren't for Christians, I'd be a Christian.” Or as C.S. Lewis put it: “Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst.”

The church is meant to be a safe place; Christians are meant to be kind, sincere and caring ambassadors of Christ’s Kingdom. But the church has not always been safe and Christians often fall far short of their calling. It’s especially hurtful when a wound comes from someone who is meant to be trustworthy: a friend, a spouse, a parent, a pastor… We aren’t surprised when the world tries to exploit us. Companies try to get every last bit of sweat from their employees, and there are con-artist-types that we learn to be wary of. But when we extend trust and offer transparency to someone who betrays that trust it really hurts. Some people learn the wrong lesson from that experience and come to believe that you can’t trust anyone. The more discerning realize: “I can’t trust that person right now.” And the really courageous determine to learn who and how to trust while striving to be trust-worthy themselves.

But the root problem with Christianity in America is that Christians have forgotten who they are and how they’re supposed to live. We are called to die to ourselves. We are not called to plan a great retirement or to map out a life of comfort. We are at war, not with others, but with the old man inside us who seeks to draw us into a self-seeking life. We are called to a life of crisis, as Blackaby puts it, a crisis of belief where our relationship with God is strengthened each time we chose to respond in obedience to Him regardless of the apparent consequence. And as we respond in sometimes fearful obedience, the world around us observes the unlikely results… or at the very least admires our conviction.

I have believed for over a decade that the first pains of suffering for End Times Christians will be our rejection of things that are otherwise considered “good” out of an obedience to God. The world will laugh at us as it enjoys greater and increasing pleasures and prosperity while we refuse to take part in the party. Who wants to be a Christian in that kind of environment? Who can be faithful? But the believer willing to die to their own desires is the one that will find the Hope of their salvation! No one ever died for a lie knowing that it was a lie. At the heart of Christianity is repentance, turning away from our self-seeking ways and accepting God’s ways in hope and faith that He is both Sovereign and Caring. We repent in word and action, interceding for the world around us, including our family, the church, and our nation.

The greatest threat to Christianity is the professing Christian who refuses to yield to the truth of God’s Word in both trial and triumph. I don’t want to be that kind of “Christian”, especially when I read Paul’s warning to the End Times Church:
For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree?
For I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.
Romans 11:24-25
I believe that a partial hardening will come into the Church so that some natural branches will be grafted back on. Perhaps that hardening is already occurring. From the reports I’ve heard, we are starting to see a growth in Messianic Judaism, which both excites me and causes me to reflect on the importance of being a full-time Christian regardless of what the “Church” or other “Christians” around me are doing. 

And I plan to write about the basic values that I think should be foundational to every believer… stay tuned!
copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Imagine There is No Heaven


Shortly before the ball dropped in New York, signifying the start of 2013, Train sang John Lennon’s song: Imagine. I think the band, Train, is very talented, and I don’t want to sound critical of them or anyone who enjoys this song, but I disagree completely with the philosophy behind the lyrics. Now there’s a goal behind the song that I completely agree with and which everyone can get behind: aspirations of brotherhood and peace. And according to the song, the strategy for getting there is to eliminate those things that prevent men from attaining the desired goal: faith in God, patriotic affiliation, religious affiliation, and personal possessions. In other words, the solution to all the world’s problems is communism: “from each according to their abilities and to each according to their needs”, fueled by the understanding that “religion is the opiate of the masses”. These concepts are attributed to Karl Marx and are cornerstones of his vision for communism.

Now I believe it’s good to seek genuine brotherhood and peace, and I think it’s a solid strategy to pursue it by eliminating the things that get in the way. But we aren’t going to get there unless we come to understand the real obstacle. It’s not faith, patriotism or possessions; it’s man’s wicked desire. Greed and strife originate inside of man’s heart. 

Socialism, according to Marxist theory, is only a transitional state between capitalism and communism. (See http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/socialism) It’s no coincidence that communist revolutions have only resulted in socialist states, never reaching their intended goal. Ironically, history has shown that socialism is more likely to lead back to capitalism, leaving a bloody trail of carnage rather than the peaceful utopia promised by communism. History has also revealed increased tensions between socialist countries like Russia and China rather than a collaborative pursuit for a truly communist society. The road to communism is a bloody redistribution of wealth and power and the new, resulting authority has no desire to relinquish its newfound power: new system; new rulers; same greedy hearts.

Now while I agree with Marx that religious structures can be used to manipulate and subjugate people, I understand that this is just a symptom of the same root problem: man’s depraved heart. The truth is that religious structures can also provide a framework for authentic spiritual growth, a set of disciplined rhythms and exercises that enable a growing relationship with God. I also understand that spending time with God changes my perspective: it changes my heart. When I spend time with God, the Fruit of the Spirit grows on me… and conversely when I don’t spend time with Him, the Fruit starts to wither as the selfish desires of my heart strive to take control again. The Fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and Self-Control. (Galatians 5:22-23) When that Fruit is ripe on me, peace and brotherhood happen naturally, but when it starts to fade, the tendency of religious zealotry is to focus on the external rather than fixing the root cause: our heart problem. The zealot starts to criticize, manipulate and control others rather than yielding to God’s reign again. That is when religion is used in a negative sense and the benefits of the structure are turned into a weapon. 
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5 NIV)
A more modern analogy might be that of an airplane passenger, who is instructed to put on their own oxygen mask before attempting to help others. It’s true that our efforts may help someone else, but without breathing in our daily supply of God’s Presence, we may find ourselves empty and in need. Our present relationship with God enables us to effectively minister to others. A devoted follower of Christ yields to the authority of God in their lives on a daily basis. All their possessions belong to God for His purposes. All their abilities are submitted in service to the Kingdom. In obedience to Him, they give of their abilities to other men, representing the values of the Kingdom. So the first verse of Lennon’s song has it all wrong:
Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there is no heaven? That is the road to hell, both here on earth as well as in the eternal! Imagine there is no heaven, and you congruently imagine there is no God. Without God, who determines what is “right” and “wrong”? Imagine there is no God, and the one with the most power becomes “god”, establishing the rules by which less powerful beings must live. Imagine the person in power who recognizes no authority greater than himself, and ask yourself if that person would easily relinquish control to another? That’s why Russian and Chinese socialism never merged into a truly communist utopia. Imagine a world that rebels against the reign of heaven, the laws of absolute truth, and it’s easy to see the resulting power-plays and deceptions that people will use to work their way up the power pyramid of society, where agenda takes precedence over principal. Imagine the person in power who recognizes no authority greater than himself, and you have a glimpse of the Antichrist, the spirit of the Antichrist that seeks to manipulate and control others for his own agenda and self-gain. Imagine all you want, but without God changing our hearts, we will never find the brotherhood and peace we desire!
Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.
Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
(Psalm 1 NIV)
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV)
copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)