Friday, December 4, 2015

Pursuing what is Good

I met with a friend recently, and like a growing number of people I’ve discovered he no longer believed in the God of the Bible. My friend is still a “good person” by the world’s standards, and relative the majority of people I’ve known, I’m privileged that we’re friends. I’m glad that he was honest with me, but I’m saddened. I am committed to being a friend still, but I recognize that we now come from two different world-views. This difference is more than simply having different opinions; we have conflicting beliefs about what is true and good. And I’m saddened that we live in a post-Christian society.

Our society has a confused sense of what’s “good”. Without anything higher than ourselves, how can we call anything “good”? Is it by general consensus or perhaps by what has been traditionally accepted as “good”? If so, then there is nothing truly good, intrinsically good. Rather, the ideal of “goodness” morphs over time. So who is to say that what we call “evil” today won’t be called “good” in the future, and by giving it a new label flip the moral polarity?

I don’t hold to a relativist view of good and evil. I believe that “good” is not just a qualitative concept and that “goodness” is an objective moral reality. I believe that pursuing “good” means “doing good” and not just “feeling good”. Our actions reflect what we really believe, and consequently our belief is reinforced by an experience. The first chapter of James encourages us to be doers of the word and not just listeners, and it’s been my experience that faith is only real when we act upon a belief that can’t be proven until we’ve taken the action for it to become visible.

Doing good is more than acting on our feelings. Feelings aren’t inherently good or evil, but they can be misleading. I view them similar to indicators on a dashboard saying everything is okay or something is wrong. When I see a light flash on my car’s dashboard, I need to take notice and determine what the appropriate action is. Emotions and reason were always meant to be partners in the decision-making process. The pain I feel after starting a new exercise routine is a both a reminder to keep exercising and to be smart in how hard I push myself. We need to stay sensitive to feelings but not make decisions apart from reason. A decision to continue exercising with prudence can’t be reached on feelings alone, and a person who acts on feelings alone is likely to make bad decisions: e.g. – stop the painful experience and grab some chips to eat while watching TV.

“Feeling good” is another name for “pleasure” and seeking to feel good is pleasure-seeking, a.k.a. – hedonism. Seeking to feel good is doing what is right from our perspective (a good feeling, pleasing ourselves, and feeding our egos). When the Bible talks about people doing what is right in their own eyes, it uses this phrase to describe wickedness. It’s the same foundational sin from Genesis when the knowledge of good and evil was ingested in the pursuit of self-deification. In essence, it is simply rebellion against God and His ways, deciding what is “good” rather than following what God has declared to be good. The God of the Bible is Fully Good, and all His ways reflect goodness. So lawlessness is rebelling against God’s Law, which is good and which reflects His Nature. Obedience is pursuing a God’s Law even when it doesn’t feel good or when it doesn’t reflect what we understand.

If you’re still reading, you should be aware that some people would call my line of thinking as “legalistic” or out-dated. There is a voice in Christian culture that decries obedience and holiness as concepts for small, legalistic minds that don’t understand the message of Grace. This voice espouses the same theology that Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to as “cheap grace”. This rebellious philosophy masks itself as “freedom”, shouting down the real truth about God’s grace: Mercy and Grace are two sides of the same coin (http://mitchellmalloy.blogspot.com/2012/05/two-sides-of-coin.html): Mercy is not getting what we deserve and Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. God’s Mercy withholds what we deserve, but we are nonetheless still deserving of punishment. God’s Grace bestows what we are unworthy to receive. But while He looks past our transgressions to see our worth, our actions have still made us unworthy of His love and goodness. The Law is still true and it still reflects God’s Goodness even when God’s love is made manifest in Mercy and Grace.

As Jesus pointed out, He did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. (Matthew 5:17) The Law requires Justice and Justice requires payment. So in love, showing mercy and grace, Jesus paid our debt to Justice for a Law that continues to be true and good. The greater our debt to Justice, the more God’s Mercy and Grace are revealed. But as Paul asked: “Should I continue to sin so that Grace may abound? Of course not!!” (Romans 6:1-2)

It says in the last days that Lawlessness will increase and that the love of many will grow cold (Matthew 24:12).

If you are still reading and if your heart feels the truth in these words I’ve written, then you will stand firm. God is calling His people to repent, to stop leading double lives that present different faces in different settings. He is calling us to live in obedience to His Lordship. He is calling us to receive His grace, extend his grace to others and to live in obedience through the Fruit of the Spirit that only grows on us when spend time in His presence on an on-going basis. You aren’t expected to live perfectly, but you are called to be perfect in His Grace, responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

Proverbs 24:16 says that a righteous man stumbles seven times, but he gets up again. So get up again, and again, and again, daily picking up the cross and following the lead of Jesus. Seek to obey His leading on a moment-by-moment basis, because it’s only in His Presence as He shows us what is truly Good that we can actually do good. (John 15:5) Be intentional in how you are going to follow Jesus, because the time is short.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-25
Copyright © 2015 – Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Worship and First World Problems

In the context of church, American Christians typically think of worship as the songs we sing. Depending on what church you attend, the word “worship” may have some greater meaning, but church music is typically what comes to mind. It has become the center of so many criticisms: it’s too loud / soft, too traditional / new, too slow / upbeat, etc.

In general use, the English word for worship can be thought of as a noun (“the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.”) or a verb (“show reverence and adoration for [a deity]; honor with religious rites.”). The origin of the word was “worth-ship” or “weorthscipe”, which is basically an acknowledgement of worth or worthiness. While God is certainly worthy, the English definition just seemed to fall short, so as I did a search on the Internet, I came across this quote, which summed up my feelings:
In some ways an etymology-based definition can be a helpful start. God’s worth is infinite, so we can never give back enough – a fact that leads us toward the glimmer of a biblical (rather than etymological) definition: a life given in service of God. (http://thinkingworship.com/2011/04/25/worship-theology-101-what%E2%80%99s-in-a-word/ worth reading!)
I was further prompted to look into the Hebrew words for worship. Since I’m not a Hebrew scholar, I need to lean on the expertise of others, such as this site that lists and defines Hebrew words for praise (http://www.justworship.com/hebrewpraisewords.php). And as I consider my understanding Scripture, I believe that worship is more than music, sound or action. 

We are called to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. (Deut 6:5 and as quoted by Jesus in the gospels). He is worthy of all our love, adoration, action and praise. We worship when we love; we love when we obey (John 14:21); we obey because we spend time in the Presence of God (James 4:8, John 15:5, Proverbs 16:3). All that we have, all our resources, are not enough to worship Him, but we offer Him so much less than “all” of our resources. 

Sometimes we feel like we have nothing left to give, but everyone has resources at their disposal. True, it has been handed out in different degrees to different people and there are seasons where it is more abundant. Breaking it down: everyone has some amount of time, talent or wealth to dedicate to God, and regardless of where we are, God is there and He is doing something. How can we see what He’s doing if we aren’t looking for it or asking Him to reveal it?

How are we spending our time? In the case of one youth I know, he went to bed late playing video games, and upon waking up, he went immediately in search of his game controller. But is that any worse than the person who checks their social media an hour before and after bed? Or their work email? How are we, God’s people directing our energy, spending our time, talents and treasures? I’m not saying that video games, social media, or work email are evil, but we were made to take dominion over the world and to bring every thought captive to the truth and authority of Christ. Instead, how are our minds being captured? Where is our thought life? Do we make the time to listen to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit?

I’ve heard it said “I don’t have time for a daily quiet time with God” from people who find hours for a sitcom, movie, football game or electronics. Again, these things aren’t inherently evil, but are we sacrificing our time at the wrong alter? How we spend our time, talent and wealth is an indication of what we value. An unbelieving world looks at the disparity between our words and our actions and rightly calls western Christians hypocrites. How are we spending our resources? What altar do we pay homage to? Materialism? Hedonism? Laziness? 
“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land…
“But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples.”
1 Chronicles 7:14, 19-20
Don’t think that the above reference only applies to Israel. As Paul wrote:
After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!
Romans 11:24
As believers, our bodies are living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), and we need to determine on a daily basis to worship God with our time, talents and treasure. It says that lawlessness will abound in the last days and that the love of many will grow cold; it also says that people will mock the Day of the Lord’s Coming. The time is short, certainly closer today than yesterday. Draw close to God. Please pray for me and my family as well, that we will be faithful and true individually and collectively. And draw close to God.

Copyright © 2015 – Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

An Outpouring of the Spirit

I was driving to church on Sunday November 1st, All Saints Day by the church calendar, and saw what looked like a white dove. God sometimes gets my attention through things I see, and prompts me to pray. This was one of those occasions. As I’m sure all of you are aware, the Holy Spirit is often represented as a white dove, so as I have continued to seek Him and His Will, I believe He has given me a word for you, His people, who are reading this message: God is planning to again pour out His Spirit on his people, on those who seek Him. I believe this will come “soon”, being immanent in God’s timing, and is associated with Biblical End Times prophecy.

No man knows the day nor the hour, and with God’s help I will never fall into the trap of saying “when”. According to Jesus, ONLY the Father knows the timing… not even the Son. It’s always been His plan to pour out His Spirit in the last days, and the time is closer now than it has ever been before. So unless you insist on a preterist interpretation of Scripture, in which case you are in error, I can tell you that it lines up with the Bible. He has given us this word in Scripture, both in the Old Testament and as reminded in the New Testament:
No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” — Acts 2:16-18 
As I’ve prayed about this over the past week, the Lord led me as well to Isaiah 44:3, reminding me of a song He gave me as a prayer, abbreviated below: 
Won’t you shed a tear for My land, Arabah?
Come and shed a tear for My people, Arabah!
Won’t you shed a tear… come and say a prayer…
won’t you say a prayer for my people, Arabah!
Arabah means ‘”desolate and dry area” in Hebrew. We, His people are dry and in need of the Living Water that flows from Jesus. Our prayers are tears that water the dry and thirsty land that is the natural state of our hearts. God is moving and ready to pour His Spirit out on His people, on anyone willing to trust and obey Him, on anyone who is willing to seek Him. 
For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. —Luke 11:10
Seek Him and pray for His people, Arabah.

Copyright © 2015 – Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Blood Moon Prophecy

There has been a lot of speculation around the Blood Moon Prophecy. Do a search and you’ll find many references, including some free videos to stream off the internet. One of my kids was very concerned, having stumbled across the Blood Moon discussion and thinking that the world would come to an end somewhere around Monday September 28, 2015. Well, I’m writing to give you my thoughts on the subject. Pure and simple: I don’t know. In fact, no one knows but God. But there are somethings I do know related to this.

First, I know that the world will not end on Monday. Biblical scholars who take stock in the Blood Moon Prophecy would agree on this because Jesus said that no man knows the DAY or the hour. Only the Father knows when the world will end or when the Tribulation will come. We also know that certain things need to occur. For example, the man of lawlessness will be revealed before the world ends. 

However, we are given signs so that we’re not surprised, and there are many signs that say a storm is about to begin. It doesn’t take a prophecy or in-depth knowledge of Scripture to see that persecution is growing. Religious persecution occurs when we silence the voice of a religious group, in extreme cases with death. There are work place pressures, including newsworthy events such as Hobby Lobby, Chik-Fil-A, and the firing (officially resignation) of Mozilla’s CEO Brendan Eich. We also see where Tim Tebow was marginalized and ultimately let go from the Eagles’ roster. Public proclamation of one’s faith is frowned upon in our culture. We have laws that require people to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies irrespective of biblically-based beliefs. Make no mistake, persecution is growing.

I believe there will be ebbs and flows of this sort, and history will support me on this. However, the thing that really concerns me is this:
“And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matt 24:12)
The word “lawlessness” can also be translated as “rebelliousness” or “wickedness”. This is growing on an international level. It is a rebellion against the laws of the Kingdom, setting up an image of mankind on the cusp of humanistic deification. In other words, mankind has become the pantheon of our global culture’s religion. Set in opposition to the reign of God in our lives, the secular man haughtily sets himself up as the final authority of right and wrong. The more powerful demi-gods in this pantheon twist truth as necessary to promote their agenda, establishing alliances with others so long as they are useful for self-promotion. Truth and love fall by the wayside as power, pleasure and status feed the increasingly hungry hordes of would-be kings. Sadly, this is as prevalent in “christian” organizations as in secular entities.

God will not let this go on indefinitely, and although He is quick to forgive and restore… even though He is patient and long-suffering… judgement will come. If we repent (a.k.a. – turn away from lawlessness and return to Him in truth and love), then His mercy and grace will freely flow on our lives and our nation. But if we don’t? Well, there IS a Blood Moon / Super Moon on Monday. Don’t say you weren’t given a sign of where things are going…

Copyright © 2015 – Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Reality of the Culture War

I heard something on the radio this week that I believe is true: we (Christians) have lost the culture war. Now that doesn't mean we roll over and adopt values that are counter to the life Christ would have us live, but I think it's important to acknowledge the reality of our environment.Understanding the issues allow us to work on resolving them. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease, and that truth combined with persistence to seek and live in truth has resulted in my being symptom free for over a year. 

So if we lost a "culture war", what is the truth with respect to how we contributed to the loss and what are the implications for those of us who live in America and are committed to following Jesus? First, I think we need to acknowledge that the "culture" was never the correct strategic objective. The culture changes when the attitude, values and prevailing mores of the people are morphed over a period of time. We called to create disciples rather than change a culture, and we were called to make disciples of Christ, not church or doctrinal converts.

We need to get a better understanding of the issues and a clearer perspective of the truth. Truth is absolute, despite the relativistic perspective of our culture. Some things are clearer than others, and some things are admittedly for God alone to know, but our inability to understand truth doesn't negate it's reality. 

We need to get better at explaining truth in a winsome and clear way, separating things that our society has lumped together in a convincing rhetoric that makes truth-bearers appear to be a "haters". 

For example: the sin and the sinner are separate. We can judge a behavior and determine it's unhealthy to a person or community. We hate the lie or the sin that brings death and yet we love the sinner with compassion, seeking to understand the wounds that have contributed to their current state in hopes that Christ can use us as instruments of His healing. Any of our arguments for truth need to be presented in ways that refuse to attack people with opposing viewpoints, regardless of rhetorical tools they may employ against us, respecting the person who publicly disrespects us.

In short, we need to speak the truth in love, and knowing that we are likely to repeatedly fall short, we resolve to get up, apologize when we realize our mistakes and stand firm in the truth that God is not surprised by current trends and continues to work all things together for good for all of us called according to His purposes. (Rom 8:28) 

Love without truth destroys as surely as truth without love. My concern is that acknowledgement of how the church has beat people over the head with a Bible (truth without love) will result in encouraging sin rather than appear "unloving" (love without truth). 

Resolve with me to speak the truth in love, trusting in God for the outcome.