Monday, May 26, 2014

The Invitation

An extremely wealthy man of great esteem was throwing the most spectacular party this world has ever seen. He sent invitations to all of his friends, noting that the invitation card would need to be presented at the entry gate to his estate. A man showed up to this extravaganza without the invitation and was turned away. Indignant, he hurled obscenities at the servants and asked that they pass on his sentiments to the wealthy man for having such stringent rules. However, those that presented the invitation were allowed entrance and praised the wealthy man’s generosity.

Did the man turned away at the gate have a right to enter the estate or was it within the wealthy man’s right to accept only those who presented his invitation? Of course, the wealthy man had no obligation to provide open access to just anyone and everyone. So why was the indignant man so embittered? Apparently, he felt entitled to be at the party despite the fact that he disrespected the wealthy man’s terms for entrance. The entitlement mentality reflects an over-estimated opinion of self; it’s prideful. 

Many people feel the same sort of indignation at another exclusive invitation. John 14:6 is one of the most hated, controversial verses in Scripture. It says, in essence, that no one has access to God the Father except through Jesus. Many people decry the exclusivity of this condition and challenge why Jesus is necessary? They claim that a devout Hindu, Muslim or fill-in-the-blank-religious-person should have equal access. They claim it’s arrogant to think that Jesus is the only way to heaven.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
But the invitation of Jesus is both freely given and undeserved. No one can earn it. A “devout” Christian, Muslim, or any-religion is simply not good enough to entitle anyone access to an all-perfect God. It’s prideful to think that by following some set of rules we can become “good enough” to earn our way to heaven. Because despite all our striving to be “good”, we still fail. And that is not just failing at God’s perfect standards, we fail at the rules that we set for ourselves. How many have started life with an intent to be sexually pure, always truthful, anger-free, loving towards others, without greed, etc.? And how many have lived up to it? And because we can’t live with the dichotomy between our behavior and our moral standards, the standards are redefined to be more attainable, yet ever elusive: We fail to remain sexually pure, so we redefine sexual purity to actions performed with a loving intent… or that don’t hurt anyone else… or that we didn’t “think” would hurt others. Finally, we start justifying that maybe if I do more good than bad, it will be “good enough”.

The reality is that the invitation of Jesus is open to everyone that is willing to just accept God alone is God and that they are in need of a savior. Why wouldn’t a devout religious-anything welcome this news? No more striving; just gratefully accepting. To say that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life is a gracious invitation to anyone and everyone who is willing to present themselves with this Invitation as their right to enter heaven’s gates. 
He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:11-13)
Why would anyone turn down this exclusive invitation except out of pride? The Invitation challenges everyone who has strived to reach perfection on their own… to acknowledge their pride and their need for a Savior. The Invitation only excludes the ones who think themselves above the need for a Savior. He is the Way… we need to just walk with Him. He is the Truth… we need to live in truth and not denial. He is the Life… the only life is through this free gift of God’s Love demonstrated powerfully in the life and resurrection  of Jesus. The Invitation is for all to join in relationship with God the Father through Jesus. 

My only access through heaven's gate is this Invitation, stripped of any pretense of entitlement. Have you received your Invitation yet?

copyright ©2014 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Values - Priorities in Relationships

Thinking about the Kingdom values we are called to represent, I’ve come to the conclusion that nothing is more important than relationship. God wants a relationship with each of us, desiring a close, on-going walk with us. Only He can fill me to overflowing with His Love (24x7x365!) while at the same time filling countless others... never taking His eyes off each of us... showing the same intense passion for all His children. It’s His desire for each of us to reflect that same love to others, especially other believers (John 15:12), but to non-believers as well… don’t forget the great commission to make disciples and preach the Good News of His love and salvation to all peoples, tribes and nations!

This world has so many needs, and while we’re each called to minister to the needs of others, no one can do everything. It’s true: I can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens me (Phil 4:13), and I can learn to be all things to all people (1 Cor 9:22), but we can only understand this concept in the humility of who we are. There is only one God. Only One Being is the All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Fully-Good, Eternally-Sovereign Lord of the Universe. We are finite; He is infinite. So in the enormity of need, we can easily feel overwhelmed, and in that sense of insufficiency become paralyzed, potentially becoming numb to the great need of others in an attempt at emotional self-preservation. 

There’s a secular myth that adds to this burden; it inappropriately elevates the collective power of man to eradicate the pain and suffering of others, but the reality is that only God is Savior. So we need to remember that both individually and collectively, the Body can’t do everything to meet the needs of others. Sometimes we are privileged to be used by Him, but He is still perfectly capable of working directly to meet the needs of others or to shore up any imperfect action on our part. Through God’s inspiration and strength, we truly can do anything that He’s called us to do. We can be anything needed to accomplish the purpose He’s given us in this present moment. The outcome is in God’s hands, but the responsibility to play our part in the solution cannot be delegated. 

Each of us, every Child of God (CoG), is like a cogwheel in God’s design and every little turn we make in His direction creates a change in the world that reflects His Kingdom. Every CoG is part of God’s design and is important in His purposes, playing a valuable role, but every CoG can still be replaced. (John 15:5-6, Romans 11:10-24) The disciple is called to act no matter how small or how large the objective seems to be. The reality is that it’s not about us accomplishing anything (that’s God’s part), we are simply called to be faithful in our part. Putting it another way: It's not about building a kingdom... it's about living in it!

Living in the Kingdom means we are obedient to the order of that Kingdom and its two, all-encompassing laws to love God and to love others. There is a priority in relationships. The first commandment is to love God. The second is to love others. And like a cog, we impact the pieces that are closest to us. Our healthy interactions empower those around us, while our misaligned activities can damage the cogs nearest to us. 

I’ve written before about the Undifferentiated Church and hinted to the values that I believe should be part of every church. The values of church need to reflect Christ’s message. They are used as a plumb-line for the activities that support the mission, keeping us on track. These common values are:

  1. Abiding in Christ
  2. Setting priorities in relationships 
  3. Living in the wisdom of Scripture
  4. Expanding the Kingdom
  5. Pursuing healthy lifestyles

The two driving values (#1 and #2 above) are what our spiritual walk is all about. The remaining, supporting values maintain a healthy, growing and sustainable community.

I have found it difficult these past several months to find the time to blog, but with God’s help I intend to explain and expand on these core values. Please pray for me that I find the time and words to convey this message and that it reach others who can make an impact on church cultures. Feedback is always welcome!

copyright ©2014 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Dirge of the Beloved


I’ll not rejoice when Ishobeth’s beheaded
     I will mourn his great loss and his betrayal
Though his father pursued and tormented me
     I will remember his brother as my friend
Though his hand held claim to my inheritance
     His sister was my first beautiful betrothed
His scepter is my burden not my birthright
     And his family I will shelter and protect
I’ll mourn the loss of Ishobeth my brother
     And portray the heart of God as I protect
I will not rejoice when Ishobeth is dead

copyright ©2014 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)