Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Christ Follower Votes

Let’s start this by acknowledging that the Bible does not say anything about voting, electoral colleges or which party is truly evil. You will not find the concept of democracy anywhere in the Bible. Some Christians would therefore steer away from how the Christ follower should participate in the election process. They may point to a separation of church and state or to the fact that we belong to another kingdom. They may state that the election process is corrupt or that their vote doesn’t matter for a variety of different reasons. They may be sincere in their belief on the topic, but they are sincerely wrong.

Just because the Bible doesn’t talk specifically about an issue doesn’t mean that it hasn’t provided the framework for understanding how to act. Biblical literacy establishes principals by which we can boldly and prayerfully know 1) the Christ Follower is called to vote and 2) how the Christian should vote.

From as early as Genesis and as reinforced in the New Testament, we understand that we were made to rule, to take dominion of this world. We understand that we represent the Kingdom and that our reign is part of and aligned with Christ’s reign so that the laws we establish visibly represent the order and values of the Kingdom. “The heart of the king is in the hand of the LORD” and likewise the outcome of this election as well as the decisions of those who will consequently govern. A wicked people will be given over to wicked rulers and a godly people to godly authorities. In a democracy (or a democratic republic), WE the People are part of the governing authority.

One of the lies that satan uses to limit our godly influence in the world is to whisper that somehow our efforts don’t matter or will be ineffective; he wants to discourage us from bringing God’s order into the world by driving us to inaction, and as Edmond Burke so rightly pointed out: the only thing for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing. However, we aren’t called to be effective and we aren’t responsible for the outcome… we are simply called to be faithful, trusting in God for results. Participation in the election process is a responsibility that we can be faithful to fulfill.

Being a Christ Follower means letting the Kingdom reign in us and through us, bringing the Kingdom into this world. What is the Kingdom? It is the reign of God in our lives. It is the values and principals of Yahweh, the very Law of God which is good despite our sometimes refusal to follow it, and as ambassadors of His Kingdom we both reflect and promote the order of God’s ways in how we live our lives as well as the order we establish for the world around us. We take dominion of every area within our sphere of influence to reflect the very thinking of God and the goodness that comes from Him alone. 

The rebellion in our hearts and in the world around us as reinforced by the lies of the enemy says: don’t do it! Who are you to impose your will upon others? But we wouldn’t condemn a parent when creating order for their children or a manager for fostering an environment that facilitates productivity. It’s their responsibility. Likewise, it’s our responsibility to represent the Kingdom in all our earthly activities, including participation in the governing process. 

So we look to those principals that will guide us so that it’s not our will but God’s will be done. We recognize that we don’t seek our own gain but rather we seek to secure the rights of others, especially the innocent who have no voice. The main purpose of government is to protect its people and to establish an environment that is safe for individuals to pursue their dreams, to establish the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. This is why the Pro-Life vote is so important. Who is more innocent than an unborn child and what right is greater than life itself? The right to liberty (pro-choice) does not extend into the freedom to take another’s life. It is the very reason we have government: to protect people. 

The purpose of government is not to provide for the needs of the people but rather to facilitate an environment where people can provide for themselves and each other. As pointed out by multiple respected thinkers: democracy fails when the people believe they can vote themselves more money. We have the responsibility to vote, but not for our own gain. We vote to establish goodness and protect the innocent, to facilitate an environment where people are free to pursue and extend goodness. The Christ Follower votes in ways that reflect Kingdom principals.

copyright ©2018 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Monday, October 15, 2018

How to Fight

I saw a sign in a coffee shop today that said, “Life is Good!”, and I had to ask myself if I really believed that. I’ve had a good life, better than I deserve, but as I was reading the sign I thought to myself that “Life is Hard”! Even though I can see all sorts of good things in my life, life is often a struggle. I know that despite how hard life can sometimes be, God is good and will carry me through the hardest times, but while I know this truth in my head, I don’t always feel it in my heart. 

As I was reading that “Life is Good!” sign, I was also reading in Matthew 22 where Jesus said: “Put your sword away! All who use a sword will be killed by a sword.” (v.52) When life gets really hard, I have the tendency to fight back, which can be good depending upon on I choose to fight. There were times in the past where I’d say to myself (or even out loud!): “I wish we could go back to battle axes and fight this out the old-fashioned way.” And I meant it. It felt like an easier, more decisive way of getting rid of disagreements and frustrations, but there are many types of battlefields and simply fighting isn’t always the path to victory. Knowing what to fight, how to fight, where to fight and when to fight are key to winning any battle. 

When and Where do we fight? It’s a balancing act that takes wisdom to know when being decisive is counterproductive or when a contemplative approach creates a missed opportunity. The simple answer to this question is: whenever it’s necessary and when the situation is most likely to result in victory. If the situation isn’t conducive, then the first objective is to establish the best possible circumstances for success without delay. 

How and What do we fight? The easy thing to do is to lash out, verbally or physically, but that is usually not the best practice for long term success. Once we start on a path towards destruction, it’s extremely difficult to turn back. That’s not to say there aren’t times where it’s necessary, but resorting to violence is like starting a fire: even after the flames disappear, there is often smoldering coals under the surface. I truly believe the best way to destroy our enemies is to make them a friend. It’s much more difficult and infinitely more effective than pulling out the battle axes. 

Remember what Jesus said on the cross, something later echoed by Stephen as the first Christian martyr: “Forgive them, they don’t know what they do!” We tend to take it personally when people attack us, but we need to see things from God’s perspective. Wounded animals strike out without thought, often working against their own best interests. People aren’t much different. Now there are times when something is so diseased that it needs to be removed, and when that’s the case, it should be done quickly and decisively for the greater good. That is true for gardens and it’s true for communities: families, a churches, and businesses. But too often we confuse who the enemy is with the vessel that contains the poison.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Our fight is not against people. Rather our fight is FOR people. We fight for everyone who is caught in an unhealthy way of thinking, who has been convinced that their brother is their enemy, who has been entangled in a lie that squeezes out the truth and love of Jesus. We don’t fight against either believers or a non-believers; we fight FOR them! And it’s for ourselves, our families, our country and our world to let the truth and love of the Kingdom reign in our hearts, minds and souls. 
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
The first battlefield is our own mind, our own way of thinking. It’s like the flight attendant instructing passengers to put their own oxygen mask on before helping someone else. We strike out in our pain: the hurt, the discouragement, and the lies that the enemy whispers in our ear. But God is faithful, even when we are not, working all things together for good for His people.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:28-29)
I don’t know what your current circumstances look like, but I do know that even when life is hardest, God is there to carry us through, and His light shines most brightly through us at those times… when we trust in Him and His ways.

copyright ©2018 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Fulfillment

I was raised in a mainline, liturgical church. It was a good experience for me, and it laid a foundation for faith that was needed later in life. Since then, I’ve been a part of charismatic, evangelical and reformed churches, all of which were good for me in their season. Years ago, a friend of mine started calling himself a PresboEpiscoMatic, which sounded both unique and accurate enough to describe my faith. But recently I started thinking about how to describe my spirituality in a way that didn’t sound like such a mish-mash of wandering uncertainty and instead defined what I believed about who I am. 

I’m not liturgical. Every church has a liturgy (or a format) by which they live out their beliefs, and I’m no different in that respect. I appreciate the liturgical year and find it helpful to keep me focused on my own walk with Jesus. I appreciate how mainline churches formed a liturgy to bring biblical truths to illiterate populations, just as I appreciate the reformed thinkers who challenged the religious rituals that sometimes overshadowed the truths of Scripture. Likewise, I appreciate the evangelicals who passionately sought to bring the truth of Scripture to all people in every nation. 

But to be clear I’m not an evangelical either, at least not in the way it has come to be understood by both believers and non-believers alike. I live in what I believe to be a Post-Christian society, where the majority of people have been inoculated against the truth of Scripture through a misrepresentation by those who bear Christ’s name. Despite noble intentions and success in spreading the gospel, the evangelical movement has significantly contributed to our Post-Christian society. Many evangelicals have treated people as projects rather than an person of great worth, made in the image of God and worthy of love. When a person is treated as a means to an end rather than as an end in themselves, they naturally resent the group who offered such a bait and switch: “We’ll love you unconditionally so long as you meet certain conditions.” As a result, many evangelical leaders are choosing to dig in their heels to assert the truth of scripture in a bold, uncompromising and sometimes uncompassionate way. In contrast, others are watering down the truth to be more winsome to seekers, diluting the truth that people desperately need to hear. I believe there is a third choice: speak the truth in love. Our culture so easily confuses identity with behavior and has difficulty separating “being nice” from being kind or loving. 

I’m of the belief that you can’t love others without being truthful, and it’s not the full truth apart from love. In other words, truth in the absence of love is not the full truth, and love without truth is not the fullness of love. It reminds me of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:17 that Paul further unfolded in his epistles as the doctrine of Grace. God’s Law remains true even though we are incapable of living up to His high standard. The Law, which is truly good, reveals our need for a Savior. God’s Grace saves us and there is nothing we need to do other than trust Him for salvation. However, the Grace of God as manifested by Jesus’ life, death and resurrection doesn’t end there as some teachings have misrepresented Grace. God’s Grace prompts a response to live in truth and love however imperfectly we are able to follow God’s will. We need to both trust God and obey Him, having Grace for both ourselves and others as we live it out inadequately. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and show us our rightful place with respect to God’s authority, restoring our relationship with the Father through His Holy Spirit. 

It seems there are so many ways that our haughty race tries to elevate ourselves, to become god of our own world and judge all the others in it by a shifting moral standard we both create and adjust as suits our current desires. But there is only One God -- One Author of all Truth -- and He created that truth to be lived out in love, humbly leading others in truth as just one more sinner who has been saved by Grace. The early Christians were called “Followers of the Way” and Jesus referred to Himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life. The only Way is Jesus. It’s a relationship and not a set of rules. 

So that’s why I’m a Fulfilled Christian. I am convicted by the Law and saved by Grace to no longer be condemned by the Law, yet I’m prompted by God’s love to live out truth and love as an ambassador of His Grace. I can often fall into my own agenda, but I strive to follow God’s purposes in His ways. The only mission I have is to represent Him and His Kingdom well, and the only way I can do that is to remain close to Him… following His lead with each step. That intimate trust and obedience will lead me to make disciples of Christ and not of my own. 

I can’t call heaven down to earth the way some charismatic teachers have claimed, but the Kingdom is near when I obey the wisdom of Scripture as led by the Holy Spirit. Then, in true submission to God, the Kingdom reigns in my life and pours into the world around me. I admittedly do that imperfectly and inconsistently, so I’m regularly encouraged by the Word that I'm saved by Grace and not condemned by the Law. Like a toddler, I get back up again to walk a little longer, straighter and more nimbly each time while my Father in heaven cheers me on. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. 

Any other Fulfilled Christians out there? 
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." ~ Matthew 5:17 
copyright ©2018 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Illusion of Secularism

Too many people I care about have pulled away from their Christian beliefs. I’ve heard them referred to as god-free thinkers or just free thinkers, and this freedom is one that they want to share with others. I have been proselytized by these converts, who I have no doubt are genuine in their new faith and who I know to be completely misguided.

I’ve heard it said that if you can argue someone into the Kingdom, then someone can argue them out of it. So I earnestly try to introduce people to Jesus, knowing that a relationship with Him is really the best thing for them rather than being a disciple of my teachings or a follower of any other person’s doctrine. But as I’ve given it some further thought, I believe that even this approach isn’t enough. Oh, it’s not that Jesus isn’t enough or that I don’t trust Him to complete the good work that He begins in us. I believe that mankind is weak and easily fooled, and I believe that we each need to work out our salvation by guarding our minds, training our thoughts, leaning not on our own understanding but trusting in God – leaning on Him to prove Himself worthy again and again.

I came across a blog post a few years ago from someone who slid away from Christianity. She wrote: “Losing Jesus, someone I talked to both hunched over in prayer groups and in the darkness of my bedroom, felt like losing a friend, even if he was an imaginary one all along.” Being convinced that a relationship with Jesus isn’t possible, this woman now believes that it was all imagined. It reminded me of C.S. Lewis’ “Silver Chair” where the witch queen tries to enchant the imperfect heroes to believe there is no world other than the dark caverns she rules. Her spell persuades them that they imagined a better world. However, one of the characters makes a bold argument that belief in something better is preferable to the darkness and oppression of the witch queen, and that hope alone is enough for him to find the strength to break free of her spell.

Without realizing it, we have been trained to think and converse like secularists. Our culture tries to limit our arguments to secular boundaries and provides artificial rules by which we can assert truth. If we allow our mind’s ability to be constrained by these thought patterns, we are more likely to fall under the misguided illusion that a relationship with Jesus is all “imagined”. The secular illusion appeals to our intellectual pride, often portraying the believer as childishly imagining a reality without credible evidence. These free-thinkers limit the rules and definition of evidence to what can be proven by science, thus throwing out personal experiences as inadmissible, no matter how compelling or consistent a collection of diverse experiences may be. This illusory thinking can sound so rational. After all we’ve been trained to put our faith in the scientific method. Saying “it must be repeatable to be proven” seems to make sense within that narrow context. But being provable and being real are separate things. 

Reality exists beyond what we can prove. Oh, the secularist may argue that science just hasn’t evolved to that point yet (which sounds like a lot like a faith statement to me). But if we constrain our understanding to the rules secular culture imposes, then why do we admit the testimony of witnesses in a court of law? Well, maybe it’s because you can’t reproduce the crime in a way that proves who did it. Even if you can show how the crime was committed, it still might not link it to the perpetrator. So we accept the statement of witnesses. We listen to the nuances in their respective testimonies and seek to discern between contradictory accounts. We understand the bigger picture by piecing together supplementary information in the different testimonies to gain a greater understanding of the truth with minds that can comprehend more than what science has been able to prove. Science can only take us so far.

I am not knocking the scientific method, but it is just a tool in the toolbox for us to grow in our knowledge and understanding. There are other tools as well, and it’s blindly foolish to limit ourselves to just one. Reality exists beyond what science can prove and limiting both our beliefs and methods of understanding to just one method is brilliantly deceptive (as well as demonic). Ironically, the scientific method came from a desire to better understand the Creator from the world He created, but it’s now revered as deity by a people and a culture who have put their focus on the created thing rather than the Author of all creation. 

I have never met an atheist who wasn’t disappointed in God. Every person I know who has allowed themselves to walk down this dark path began with a tragic life event: the death of a father, the affliction of a child, or a dream that was destroyed. The suffering is great enough to create a shift in thought patterns. I understand that pain, and it’s easy to get mad at God, deciding to not look in that direction again. But God fully understands our hurts, and He can bring greater good from that pain than you can imagine… if you only let Him.

copyright ©2018 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

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