Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Power of Healing Prayer

Simple does not equal easy. I wrote last week that if we want to see healing in our land, then God’s people are called to four simple things:

  1. Humble ourselves
  2. Pray
  3. Seek God’s Face
  4. Turn from our wicked ways
Simple, right? Easy? Not so much. 


Humility


Each of us tends to have an unrealistic view of ourselves. In pride, we compare ourselves to others, patting ourselves on the back when feeling elevated and shamed when we don’t measure up. But a realistic view, a humble view, of ourselves acknowledges that we don’t measure up to the high standards of God’s righteousness. In humility, we remain grateful for His never-ending grace poured out in ever-lasting love. We are who we are, and by His grace we stumble less over time because we are changed in His Presence. It’s not because of our efforts, but because He gives us the strength to do what He has called us to do. 


Prayer


It is in that humility that we turn to God in prayer. It sometimes feels like you’re swimming upstream or speaking to an empty room, but make no mistake, there is power in prayer. In my life, I have seen sudden healing from prayer, and I’ve seen slow healing when persevering in prayer over time. It’s true, we don’t always get what we pray for, but that only makes sense when you consider that you are praying to the One True God and not calling upon some genie in a bottle. God is Sovereign, and we see Jesus modeling prayer in Gethsemane with the words “Thy will be done”. 

Still, in the past month I have prayed for 2 people with fever and upper respiratory sickness and they quickly recovered. I write this not in pride, but in gratitude and as an encouragement for all God’s people to boldly do the same! 

Whether in intercession or by actively reaching out to others, pray as God leads you. Wash your hands and wear a mask or pray across some electronic media. Just pray… because it’s not in helplessness that “all we can do is prayer”, it’s in the power of the Holy Spirit that we pray with authority as God’s Holy Ambassadors to this world. 


Seek God’s Face


You see, God wants you to spend time with Him, to find Him in the secret place, and to turn to Him as our Provider and our Protector. He wants to show us that He can be trusted, that He loves us and that He is very, very real. If God is for us, then who can be against us, right? (Romans 8:31

All this world’s terrors are washed away when we keep our eyes on Jesus. Honestly, I would rather live without fear than never truly live. Fear is crippling and destructive. It brings out the worst in people. Living without fear, represents a complete trust in Him. To live and represent Him well is anointed, and when we die, it is truly our gain. (Philippians 1:21


Turn from Wickedness


In pride, we may look at wickedness as something that other people do. We look at the arrow piercing the heart of a person and call that sin, but the arrow that missed the bullseye is a better illustration. It missed the mark, and anything that falls short of what God calls good is then not right, or unrighteous. So we must turn away from anything that doesn’t line up with God’s will. 

This includes fear. If we truly believe, why would we fear? Now feeling fear is one thing, and we all experience the emotion. But acting out of fear demonstrates that we don’t trust God, and it does not represent Him well. It indicates that we don’t believe in either His omniscience, omnipotence, or benevolence. So we calm our feelings of fear by reminding ourselves of the truth, boldly living in expectation of that truth made manifest. God will come through as He always does, and while it might involve some momentary suffering, it will work out better for us in the long-run. 

On the other end of the spectrum, masquerading as fearless, is being foolhardy. Testing God’s grace and disobeying the authority that God has put into place is rebellious and does not represent Him well. We were made for such a time as this and the authorities that He has placed over us are no accident either. Can we trust Him to work through us as well as the governments He has appointed? 

All the messaging around COVID-19 is scary, and the reality may be worse than the messaging. It may also be grossly exaggerated. Either way, our country is in need of healing. 

Do we really want to see that kind of healing in our country? Then four simple but not easy steps await us. 
However, if my people, who are called by my name,
will humble themselves, pray, search for me, and turn from their evil ways,
then I will hear their prayer from heaven, forgive their sins, and heal their country.
2 Chronicles 7:14
copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Saturday, March 21, 2020

What is it Worth to You?

How badly do you want to see this COVID-19 coranavirus go away? Last week I wrote about how we reap what we sow. So what have we been sowing? Not just over the past month or past year. What have we been sowing over the past several decades? 

For some people, that seems like a long time, and there is so much that has changed over the past 30 years that I could almost agree. Last month, I celebrated an anniversary with my wife, traveling Orlando, FL for a long, wonderful weekend. We lived in Orlando 20 years ago, and it was amazing to see how much had changed. We drove to the Christian School where I had worked as well as the church the school was affiliated with. We found the apartment building where we lived when our first son was born, and the Backyard Burger that we frequented as a special treat with our oldest daughter. So much had changed: the streets, the buildings, the fields. What was once new construction had become weathered and was being replaced by the next generation… much like me. 

Life is a struggle, but I’m not ready to lay down my arms. I have experienced so much in my life, but there is so much I’ve yet to do. Like the song goes the musical Hamilton: there so many things I haven’t done; just you wait! Or maybe the lyrics from Les Miserables: there is strength within me yet; my race is not yet run! I’m inspired by music and stories more than any form of art, especially the stories of noble perseverance in doing what is right, finding a reward in the end. 

Ecclesiastes tells us that with much knowledge comes much sorrow, and I have learned a lot in my half-century. Among other things, I have learned that man is exceedingly selfish, yet God is wonderfully gracious. I walk through empty grocery store aisles and am reminded that greedy components will starve the system. Whether based in greed, like the man who bought massive quantities of hand sanitizer to sell at an exorbitant price on Amazon, or fear like the people who emptied the grocery store before it was emptied by other panicking mobs, our generation has revealed itself to be self-serving. 

And I have learned that Christians do not represent their God well. I write that an inconsistent Christian myself, who can give into his own desires rather than choosing the better thing. I don’t represent my God as He deserves to be represented. His people should be holy, which means to be set apart for Him completely and exclusively, but do we truly live that out? I know I don’t. I haven’t wanted it badly enough. I have to admit that I want to desire this more than I actually do. We need to want it badly enough to truly live it out without inconsistency or hidden hypocrisy. Like the DC Talk song goes: I’m still a man in need of a savior. 

I know I’m not alone in this. The apostle Paul wrote that he continued to do the wicked things that he didn’t want to do and he often failed to the good that he wanted. Like Paul, I am grateful for the grace of God that accepts me just as I am and yet works in me to become more like my God, to be an ambassador of His grace to this world as He continues to transform me into the man He has always desired that I become… the man I want to be and who I strive to be. But we need to want it badly enough to not let anything get in the way, even the things that would otherwise be considered good and healthy. 

So speaking of healthy, this brings us back to this global COVID-19 crisis. I’m not convinced that a large part of the problem wasn’t caused by man’s selfishness, but I am convinced that God will work this together for good for His people. That is what He does. Despite our hard hearts, He continues to work all things together for good for His people, the people who bear His name. That includes Christians throughout the world as well as Israel. We bear His Name, and we represent Him to this world. We are ambassadors that will either represent Him well or not, and we bear the responsibility to take action during this crisis that He promises will yield a benefit. 

He says that if His people, who are called by His name, will 1) humble themselves and 2) pray, and 3) seek His Face and 4) turn from their wicked ways, that He will A) hear from heaven B) forgive our transgressions and C) Heal our land. Four simple things that are not necessarily easy: 

  1. Humble ourselves 
  2. Pray 
  3. Seek God’s Face 
  4. Turn from our wicked ways 

God has promised us that (A) He is listening, waiting for us to turn to Him so He can (B) forgive our sins and (C) bring healing into our lives. If we do this, He will not just bring healing into our lives, but He will heal the land in which we are living. Four simple things we can do. Four action steps that as His people we should want to do, and He will fulfill three magnificent promises to each of us… for all of us. Regardless of where you are, this is a promise for all those called by His name. It is our responsibility to the world around us, our family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Do you want it badly enough? 

copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Reap the Panic or the Prayer

You will reap what you sow. At least that’s what Galatians 6:7  says, and I have no doubt that it’s true. The media has been sowing panic about the Wuhan coronavirus, and we are seeing empty store shelves as people have panicked and stockpiled. And looking at this website, I’m reminded that people will be filled with the fruit of their schemes and ensnared by their wickedness. (Proverbs 1:31, 5:22) Isn’t that what’s happening in our world right now? 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt encouraged a Depression-afflicted America that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, an affliction that is paralyzing the world right now and possibly leading to the same economic condition that Roosevelt was trying to address in his first inaugural speech. The scariest thing about the COVID-19 coronavirus is what we don’t know, which is a terrifying concept for a people that have come to depend on their technology and understanding. We have deified man, and we have worshiped our creation. All the experts have come together with their models for exercising extreme caution to this threat and sounded an alarm. 

I’m not convinced we are taking the appropriate action. Is there any action sufficient to protect us all completely? And at what point is the treatment worse than the disease? I’m sure someone will yell at me for not taking this seriously enough or for not being sensitive to the lives that will be lost if we don’t take these extreme measures. 

I don’t want to minimize the importance of heightened practices for good hygiene at this time or to suggest we ignore the warnings of our leaders. I also don’t mean to sound callous to all the concerns for the lives that could be lost, but death is part of being human. Peace and security are overrated. And let’s be honest: there is no true peace and security in this fallen world. 

But I’m reminded that we are told not to be anxious about anything and to present our requests with thanksgiving to God in prayer. (Philippians 4:6) The most appropriate decision I’ve seen in America to date is the President’s declaration to make Sunday March 15th a National Day of Prayer. Some people will scoff at this very important declaration, but they are fools. They have come to depend on the false gods of man and technology. They are afraid right now because their gods are failing them and they have no hope beyond this world. However, we who believe have a confidence beyond the visible world. 

I know I will live beyond this life, because I can trust the truth of Scripture. I can trust the Bible because God has given me unshakable proof through the prophecies already fulfilled throughout history. I will live forever, and I have no fear of what may come. 

Can you say the same? How does the reality of death impact your life? Do you know Christ as your Lord and Savior? Is that coming through in your actions? Every man dies, so how will you live? 

If you are a believer anywhere in the world, please join in America’s National Day of Prayer for all nations and all peoples. God has a promise that if we, His people, will humble ourselves, pray, seek His Face and turn from our wicked ways that He will forgive our sins and heal our land. (2 Chronicles 7:14). We should take Him up on that promise. 

copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Peace & Security

News sources traditionally focus on sensational topics because it draws people’s attention: war, pandemics, gun violence, elections, etc. This is true for both conservative and liberal news media. And it works.

If you’re like me, you’ve been reading about the latest sensation: the new coronavirus that was first observed in China that has spread to every continent except Antarctica. We are constantly reminded that there’s so much we don’t know about this new coronavirus but that it has the potential to kill large numbers of people.

Yes, we should take precautions and be more attentive to healthy behaviors: wash our hands often, refrain from touching our faces, disinfect doorknobs and counter tops, etc. I don’t want to see anyone die from this or any disease, but I don’t mean to be insensitive when I say I’m not overly concerned. It never helps to panic, and even if someone gets sick, there’s better than a 96% chance of full recovery. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take precautions, but at some point you need to let go of what you can’t control. 

In fact, there is only One in control, a Sovereign God, and He has promised to work all things together for the good of His people. That isn’t to say that we won’t have troubles in this world. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. His people can expect all sorts of troubles, but He tells us to be encouraged because He has overcome the world. The hardships we go through in this world are temporary. If we look at the end-time prophecies of the Bible, the coronavirus threat is nothing by comparison and the news media won’t be able to keep up with the horrific tribulation the world goes through at that time.

Ecclesiastes tells us there is nothing new under the sun. The people of Israel thought that a king would give them the peace and security they desired, rejecting God as their King. So God gave them Saul. God will often give us what we want to show us what we really need. We don’t need a human king or a bigger government; we just need God. He is the only source of the peace and security we desire. Anything else is a counterfeit. 

People look for answers everywhere but God. When it is bigger than we can handle, we look to our respective governments to protect us from this pestilence and blame them for not doing it perfectly. And when it’s too big for our government to resolve, we look for a bigger, more powerful coalition to save us from our troubles. Eventually, we will up with a single, worldwide government to discover that even a united coalition of nations will fail to save us. 

If I get sick, I’ll take more vitamin D and zinc, start a regimen of Echinacea and submit myself for testing to see if I’m infected with the virus for quarantine. But my trust is not in best practices for medicine, it is in my God and Savior. Someday, my body will fail. I’ll breathe my last breath in this frame, but that is not the end of my story. 

I have confidence in God and His promises, but you may wonder if God is real. I encourage you to ask Him yourself. He will answer any sincere question as the loving Father Who wants us to spend time with Him. He wants a relationship with us and longs to take us under His wings of protection. And He will bring healing if only His people do as He asks:

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV)

copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Is God Real?

Have you ever asked yourself this question: “Is God real?”. Be honest. I know I have. I can honestly say I’ve asked it more than once. I asked it as a youth, and I asked it as a college graduate. Although to be fully transparent, I asked it differently; I asked: “God if You are real, then…” 

I don’t know if that difference is important or not, but in my case, in both instances, I received an answer. It wasn’t just an intellectual curiosity, but a matter of importance for me. To be honest, someone who is simply intellectually curious does not deserve an answer. I don’t mean to be offensive, but consider this: there either is a God or there is not and that reality makes all the difference. 

Someone who is merely intellectually curious hasn’t stopped to consider the gravity of this question because the reality of God changes everything. First, we have to consider what is meant by the term “God”. Looking at last week’s blog, there are two possible “gods”, one of our own choosing or a for-real-all-powerful-all-knowing-creator-of-everything. I could have clarified last week that it doesn’t matter how much more powerful a being may be than man, if they don’t fit the criteria of my previous sentence, they are simply a more powerful being and not God. 

Now we encounter people more powerful than us and we naturally demonstrate a certain level of respect. Think about it: a parent, a teacher, a boss, a senior executive, a public official, a king, etc. Some people get all tongue-tied in the presence a just another person who is in a position of power over them, and some people go out of their way to make the best possible impression. And why wouldn’t they? 

So the question about the reality of God should impress us with a sense of awe and respect unlike any other. If God is real, then we need to consider how that changes everything. If there is no God, then we are a chance happening in the cosmos, a chemical computer that has evolved to the point of self-awareness with no real meaning or purpose other than what we choose for ourselves until our hardware fails or until we have found a way to transfer our consciousness into a more durable structure. 

But if an All-Knowing, All-Powerful Creator made the universe, then you are no accident; you were made for a purpose in a grand scheme by a Brilliant Dreamer, Who dreamed of you! The importance of that fact changes everything about your existence. It becomes the greatest sign of disrespect to only have a casual interest in the One who made you part of His Plan as the foundations of His universe were laid. Even the very nature of “purpose” changes significantly. It is no longer a question about what I want, but a challenge to be who you were made to be.

So the question of God’s existence is foundational to who we are! He is either real or not. Whether we can perceive Him is a different question, and to be honest, any philosophical discourse on the proof of His existence doesn't matter if He is not real. But if God is real, it demands a response, begging the question of “Why did He create me?”

So maybe that’s why when I asked Him if He was real that I got an answer. The first time it was with an inexpressible knowledge of His Presence, and the second time it flowed from the wisdom and truth of His Word, the Bible. He has shown Himself to me through both sense and reason, and He wasn’t offended that asked to know for sure.

If you aren’t a believer, I can’t argue or persuade you into His Kingdom. If I do, someone else can just as easily persuade otherwise. But if you are serious about knowing the answer to “Is God real?”, and if you are humble enough to allow the answer to change your life, then I challenge you to ask Him to prove Himself to you. I don’t know how He’ll answer you, and I guarantee He won’t bother with a mocking inquiry. But to those truly and humbly seek an answer, He will reply. 

Praying the greatest blessing in your life! I would love to hear how He answers you: send an email to mitch @malloyclan dot com (written out so I don’t get accidentally added to some spambot). 

copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Saturday, February 22, 2020

A Tale of Two Gods

I heard someone once say that from a philosophical perspective, the atheist has a greater challenge than the theist. He went to describe how the theist only needs to prove the existence of his god, but that the atheist has to disprove every possible god, of which there are multitude. But to be honest, I don’t believe there are really more than two gods: 1) a God Who is truly almighty and all-knowing and 2) the god of our own choosing. The god of our own choosing may be a collection of numerous gods that mutually rule over all reality or it may be the belief in a single ruler higher than all other beings. 

But wait… how does this differ from option 1? If the god of our choosing is a single, omnipotent ruler, isn’t that the same as the God of Judeo-Christian religion? Not necessarily. A person could chose to believe in a single, omnipotent being that is different in nature from the God Who Lives.

Meanwhile, the atheist would argue that there is no god who is truly real and that believers choose to believe in a god of their own choosing. They assume a priori that God isn’t real and therefore simply a fantasy of people’s choosing. So assuming that God isn’t real they choose a god for themselves that is made in their own image. Perhaps it’s not just their image but rather the image of a collective mankind or an evolutionary vision for what mankind can become. Nonetheless, they have chosen a god of their own image while refusing to acknowledge the possibility of God, wherein the reality of His existence is simply ignored.

Great philosophical minds have argued for the existence of God, but these modern free-thinkers choose intstead to believe in their god. So John Lennon would have us “Imagine” and the mainstream, global media encourage us to join in that re-imagining of reality. 

I realize that an atheist would accuse me of a similar circular argument that they make about His non-existence, but even they acknowledge that all reality reflects an intelligent design; the order of the universe could not have occurred by chance. One of my favorite arguments for the existence of God is that the design of the universe points to an intelligent designer, and while the atheist tries to explain away any deity from the designer, they also conveniently ignore the manifestation of God’s divine hand in countless recorded miracles as mere coincidence. They also ignore the many Biblical prophecies that have materialized and assume coincidence. 

Yet despite the overwhelming evidence for a divine creator and the logical inference of Prime Mover, Who initiated all creation because something cannot come from nothing, the free-thinking atheists have chosen a god of their own. Meanwhile the true believer seeks to understand the essence of who God is. 

I decided as a teenager so many years ago that even if God’s existence was not knowable, the benefit of choosing to believe far outweighed the consequences of choosing to live as if there was no God. But as I searched for answers, I discovered that it takes greater faith to believe in no God. In fact, the treatise for atheism resembles a rebellious child who closes eyes and covers ears rather than understand the reality of our Creator. 

From the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly observed in what he made. As a result, people have no excuse. They knew God but did not praise and thank him for being God. Instead, their thoughts were pointless, and their misguided minds were plunged into darkness. While claiming to be wise, they became fools.
Romans 1:20 -22

The so-called free-thinkers have chosen not to believe in God and been given over to a depraved mind. Sadly, they have out-smarted themselves.

copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Best Prayer for Us

How do you pray, and by that question, what I'm asking is really: "How are you praying on a regular basis?"

Jesus gave us five things that we should pray on a regular basis. He lists these in Luke 11:2-4 in what we call the Lord's Prayer:
  1. Father, let Your Name be kept holy. 
  2. Let Your kingdom come. 
  3. Give us our bread day by day.
  4. Forgive us as we forgive everyone else. 
  5. Don't allow us to be tempted.
ONE

What does it mean to keep the Name of God the Father holy? It means we set it apart from all other names. It's in a class of it's own, and by our lives we should be glorifying it as the Name above all other Names. We honor the Father, when we praise the Son, glorifying Jesus' Name, which in Hebrew means: "Yahweh Saves!" And yet when we pray that God's Name be kept holy, we are praying for the culture around us to keep His Name holy, set apart. 

TWO

We pray for His Kingdom to come, a prayer for Jesus' triumphant return but also for the reign of His Kingdom in the here and now. When God rules in our lives, we change the world around us, influencing it in a supernatural way that brings it into alignment with God's good and perfect will for each of us and for those we encounter. 

THREE

We pray for His provision in our lives, both physically and spiritually. Jesus is the Bread of Life and the Fountain of Living Waters, We are eternally His with one taste, but like the air we breathe and the water we drink, we are dependent upon His continued presence in our lives. Our need for continued nourishment is a divine analogy to our need for a daily prayer time with Him. And yes, it literally means that He wants us to pray for our physical needs on a daily basis for continued dependency upon Him. (See Proverbs 30:7-9)

FOUR

I was so convicted of this as a child when I first realized that my forgiveness was somehow linked to my ability to forgive others, but as I grew in understanding, I came to realize that the ability to forgive others gives us confidence in God's forgiveness. I also came to understand that the only one I was truly hurting with unforgiveness was myself; the person who wronged me had moved on while I was stuck in the bitterness that held me back from experiencing God's love. 

FIVE

None of us are free from temptation and no sin is too great that any of us can't be tempted to take the plunge. Jesus understood this and gave us this reminder to pray for freedom from temptation.

I believe that temptation comes from inside each of us as a desire for something, but I also believe that we have an enemy who wants us to desire that which is not good for us. The Church fathers did as well, and so the Lord's Prayer often ends with "deliver us from evil". So I pray on a regular basis that God frees His people from all oppression: the oppression of the evil one and the oppression of man. 

And I also pray regularly for my family, friends, all believers, and countrymen that God close our ears to the words of the Enemy and restore us with His truth and love. The Enemy wants us to believe lies and half-truths that separate us from God and His perfect will for us. He wants us to forget all about God's love for us or to believe that God doesn't think about us. So I pray:
Jesus, close our ears to the words of the Enemy. Cleanse our minds, our hearts and our souls from the echoes of the Enemy, and fill us with Your truth and love. Remove the clouds that keep us from seeing Your face, knowing that You see us, love us, and that You are working all things together for good. 
Are you praying on a regular basis? If not, consider some of the things I've written above and ask God to lead you into a new and enriched prayer life, a time to spend with Him and getting to know Him better. 

"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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." - 2 Chronicles 7:14

copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Saturday, February 8, 2020

America: Who Will Stand in the Gap?

In last week's blog, I promised to come back with some follow-on thoughts.

In some ways, I believe God sees countries like He sees a person (Jer 2-3, Ez 16, Hos 1), and in some ways, I believe He looks at people like He does a country. Take Israel for example: Biblical Israel is a divine analogy for each of us as individuals. He lifts us from the pit, from the muck and mire, and sets our feet upon a firm foundation (Psalm 40). He builds us up, slowly from our perspective. God blesses our attempts to follow Him, and He fills in our gaps and our imperfections, of which there are many.

Looking back to America’s origins, we see an imperfect attempt to follow God’s ways. Yes, there were deists among the founding fathers, but there were also true Christians, and they had a profound influence in the formation of America. For example, take a look at Washington’s 1st Inaugural Address, where He consecrated this country to the Almighty God saying: 
it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe… that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States… we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained
Some have argued that Washington was catering to an overtly Christian culture in his repeated deference to God throughout this inaugural speech, purely for political reasons. I don’t believe that. He could have stopped with the supposed charade, but upon finishing this address, he immediately attended a service at St. Paul’s Church. Yet even if I were to cede to the fact that only God knows the intentions of any person’s heart, but there’s no question to the biblical, Christian influence behind these first official acts of our first president, reflecting a culture that sought after Him with earnest. 

Again, I can’t read a man’s heart, but if you read through the entire speech you’ll see a humility that I believe was far from pretentious. The courage of youth often comes from not fully understanding the enormous power that is set against us, but the courage of later years flows from trust in a power greater than ourselves. The humility of Washington’s address indicates a keen self-awareness for his own shortcomings as he entered the new office of this emergent country, so I choose to believe in the sincerity of both his statements and his corresponding actions. 

I also join with others who believe America’s consecration to God set it apart from most other nations. Like Israel, America was formed from humble beginnings with a great dependency upon God. Both rose to great power and affluence, and unfortunately both became haughty in their prosperity. 

I believe the blessings and curses associated with obedience to God as described in Deuteronomy 28 follow any country dedicated to Him. So, if God’s blessings came to America as a result of our obedience, what happens when we move away from Him and His ways? The United States has certainly seen the blessings of obedience, but in 1962, God was removed from schools and since that time we’ve seen a steady decline in our culture, including a growing divide between angry factions. 
But suppose a righteous person turns away from doing right and he does evil things. He does all the disgusting things that the wicked person did. Will he live? All the right things that he has done will not be remembered because of his unfaithfulness and because of his sin. He will die because of them. 
Ezekiel 18:24 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW) 
There are two biblical approaches when facing opposition, and both take a great deal of moral courage and inner strength. The first is to turn the other cheek, to not take offense to either the insult or the insulter. The other is to oppose the evil that seeks to destroy that which is good. We need to remember that we do not struggle against flesh and blood but against principalities. These principalities can sometimes be so embedded within a person or a culture that the only way to resist the evil is to oppose it with physical force. For example, it was a moral imperative to wage a war against Nazi Germany. Although a country or person may say they seek peace, by observing their actions we can discern their sincerity. If their actions continue to belie their words, there will be a time to take up arms and fight for a greater good. 

America is close to a civil war, perhaps only one or two presidential elections away. We should be praying daily for this country and for our leaders. We should lovingly and respectfully oppose the cultural values that stand in opposition to Biblical truth with authentic example and articulate explanations that pull from facts and not just opinion. 

Some people and political factions appear to be beyond a loving confrontation with facts. However, as Augustine rightly pointed out, we don’t know who of those in the opposing camp will join the Kingdom and which of our allies will join the opposition. In truth, there are weeds sown amongst the crop of heaven and wolves in sheep’s clothing, but regardless, Our God is in control and His ways shall prevail. 

So, we struggle against principalities, prepared to fight the good fight through prayer, loving confrontation, divine discernment and physical force should it come to that. Yet we are mindful that physical force is always a last resort because once that line is crossed there is no turning back. A serious attempt to replace the Constitution or dismantle the Electoral College should give every patriot pause to decide where they stand and how they should respond. 

While the reconciliation of factions is well beyond any of us, God can bring healing through each of us. God fills in our gaps so that we can stand in the gap to defend this land from it’s enemies, both foreign and domestic. We exist, and God can use us despite our insufficiency. 
I looked for someone among you who could build walls or stand in front of me by the gaps in the walls to defend the land and keep it from being destroyed. But I couldn’t find anyone. 
Ezekiel 22:30 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW) 

copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Can You Repeat That?

This blog is not about the wickedness or virtues of America per se, but I believe America can be used for illustrative purposes. 

The America I’m living in is very different from the one I knew as a kid. As a society we valued truth and hated lies. While things were far from perfect, the adults I knew were more interested in personal integrity than advancing a collective agenda. It’s hard to find an unbiased report of Joe Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign, but I remember him as a top candidate who dropped out of the race because he lied. Back then, character mattered to the American people, and if someone lied, the America of 1988 wouldn’t accept them as viable presidential candidate. Things have changed significantly in 32 years.
But wait! Hasn’t America always been corrupt? For example: slavery and racial injustice were cornerstones of this country, right? It’s true that slavery existed in America from its very beginnings. It was a blight upon the British empire and a critical component of British agricultural colonies. After America found its independence, the institution of slavery continued. It lasted several decades past the abolition of slavery in Britain that was spearheaded by William Wilberforce. Although America had left the empire by the time Wilberforce formed the Anti-Slavery Society in 1787, Christians in America had been fighting against slavery since before the American Revolution. In fact, the State of Pennsylvania passed the first anti-slavery law in 1780, 8 years before the U.S. Constitution was even ratified and 7 years before Wilberforce founded his famous society. 

There are some people who want to criticize America and pick apart its flaws. However, I’d argue that if we look hard enough, we can find imperfections in any person. And if we can find flaws in anyone, then it’s even easier to find the failings in a group of people, including America’s Founding Fathers. So I suggest we take a different approach. What if we judged them not by their missteps, but by their aspirations and accomplishments? What if we instead looked to their willingness to change for the better? Could we view them with respect and admiration without naivete or idolization? 

God spoke to Ezekiel and explained how He sees a person:
But suppose a wicked person turns away from all the sins that he has done. He obeys all my laws and does what is fair and right. He will certainly live. He will not die. All the rebellious things that he did will not be remembered. He will live because of the right things that he did. I don’t want wicked people to die.” declares the Almighty Lord. “I want them to turn from their evil ways and live.
Ezekiel 18:21-23 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)
Take a look at that again. God doesn’t want to destroy us for our wrong doings, He wants us to turn away from them and do what’s right. There’s a word for that: repentance. When I hear that word, my mind immediately goes to a street preacher or billboard that says something like: “Repent or you’ll burn in hell!” It sounds like an angry word or a self-righteous word, but all it means is: “Stop doing this awful stuff you’re doing! It’s hurting people, including yourself… you are on a path of self-destruction!” Do you see the difference? 

God is calling us to repent for our own sake. Sin doesn’t hurt God other than the fact that He loves us and wants the very best for us. When we love someone, it pains us to see them hurt, and it’s especially upsetting when we see someone we love harming somebody we also love. So God doesn’t want to destroy a person,  but He wishes they would change their ways and do what is right… before it’s too late.

Many of the people who are driven to criticize America have an agenda. Others are influenced by their poisonous words. America is far from perfect and we have had our fair share of bad leaders, but those leaders are reflection of our people, and if we are honest with ourselves, we need to repent.

Are we looking for flaws in others or seeking to build bridges? Hopefully, we are trying to build bridges, but there comes a time when we need to acknowledge a bridge cannot be built because the other side has determined otherwise. Yes, at some point there is nothing left to save but a diseased and rotting limb that spreads death, and at that point it is too late. 

More on that in next week’s blog.

copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Sunday, January 26, 2020

How Do We Measure Spiritual Growth?

We live in a world governed by metrics: we measure our kids as they grow; we measure how well we’re progressing towards our goals; we measure our bank accounts as they grow and shrink, hoping they grow. So when we set spiritual goals, how do we measure our progress? 
Churches will often count the people who attend, the number of people serving, or those who make a commitment to Christ. I’m not sure what I think about that. On one hand, it feels good to be part of something that is reaching out to the lost, and knowing the numbers makes it easy to tithe and invite other unbelievers in the hope that they will meet Jesus and come to know Him as Lord and Savior. On the other hand, I’m reminded of when King David took a census (2 Samuel 24). 
When David took a census of Judah and Israel, he wanted to assess the nation’s strength. Perhaps he was assessing his power out of pride. Or maybe he was fearful and comparing his strength against the surrounding countries. Or then again, he may have reached a point where he was assessing the nation’s ability to be self-sufficient. In any case, it’s clear that he was not thinking about relying upon God. He was not considering that God whittled Gideon’s army down from over 32,000 to just 300 so it would be clear that God brought the victory (Judges 7). David was not considering how God used him to bring down a giant (1 Samuel 17) or how his friend Jonathan and one other defeated 20 soldiers and created such fear that that the entire enemy army was routed (1 Samuel 14). I’m convinced that part of the early bond between David and Jonathan was their trust in God that was demonstrated in bold action. 
But experience and knowledge can create a fear in us, and when we focus on the obstacles instead of the One Who calls each of us into action, it becomes difficult to walk in faith. We ask if God will continue to be there for us (yes, He will!), and we wonder if we can take that step we think He is calling us to do. We may look to our bank account to see if it’s large enough for a day of trouble... or then again God could be telling you to save money just as He used Joseph to store up the abundance before the seven years of famine. It’s not WHAT we measure that matters, it is WHY. Do we trust God will be there for us or do we need to create a Plan B. 
Well, we never need a Plan B with God, and He encourages us to take risks while exercising wisdom. I look at the physical warfare in Israel’s history and believe it is analogous to the spiritual warfare in our lives. I believe that Israel’s territory that was never fully conquered is like the spiritual ground that we don’t fight hard enough to claim, and we only capture a portion of the entire land promised to us. 
I once asked a pastor about a conference he had attended. He was conflicted with what he experienced and wasn’t sure what he thought about it, so I asked him about the fruit from the conference. He immediately answered as someone used to measuring things in terms of baptisms and public commitments to Christ, citing this as the good fruit of the conference. However, the fruit I was asking about is difficult to measure and is usually only seen over a period of time: the Fruit of the Spirit. 
But the spiritual nature produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There are no laws against things like that. ~ Galatians 5:22-23
If you want to measure spiritual growth in yourself, your family or your community, take a look at the Fruit of the Spirit. Looking at yourself first ask yourself:
  1. How frequently do I demonstrate love for others? 
  2. Am I joyful? 
  3. Is my inner-life filled with peace? 
  4. Do I have the patience to work through a situation; do I have patience for others?  
  5. Am I kind in my interactions with others?
  6. Can God’s goodness be seen in how I live my life?
  7. Is my faithfulness to God’s ways consistent?
  8. Do I treat others gently? 
  9. Do I exercise self-control in private as well as in public? 
Likewise, we can assess our community by asking if the culture reflects the Fruit of the Spirit:
  1. Do we demonstrate love for each other? 
  2. Are we joyful? 
  3. Are our interactions peaceful or combative? 
  4. Do we patiently work through issues together?  
  5. Are we kind toward others?
  6. Is God’s goodness seen in our lives?
  7. Are we consistently faithful both toward each other and in pursuit of what is right?
  8. Do we demonstrate a gentle approach toward others, including when we disagree? 
  9. Are we collectively able to control ourselves in ways that reflect the power of God working through us? 

We may live in a time and place where the answers to the above questions is depressing and uniformly: “no”. However, it starts with each of us individually deciding that we want to grow spiritually, acknowledging that we are incapable of changing ourselves, and tenaciously choosing to join God in the work He wants to do in each of us, laying claim to the inner land He has promised for those follow Him and trust in Him.
Remember: we are changed in His presence to be more like Him. How do we measure real spiritual growth? It is demonstrated by the Fruit in our lives. Be the change you want to see.
copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Doctor’s Orders

Everyone wants to be healthy, but not everyone is willing to take the necessary steps. A doctor can prescribe the medicine, but it’s up to the patient to take it. Thinking further about the Health Wheel this week (see https://mitchellmalloy.blogspot.com/2020/01/2020-vision.html), I’m considering the importance of physical health and how it plays a critical role in our entire outlook.

Maintaining our physical health is a matter of good stewardship. There are things that we can control and things that we can’t. My dad had Multiple Sclerosis, and there were times when he lost the ability to control his limbs. In my personal battle with chronic Lyme disease, I’ve also experienced times when I was literally crippled and unable to walk. However, even in the midst of that helpless situation, I was able to make healthy decisions: how I ate, choosing to exercise in whatever capacity was possible, getting my sleep and taking the medication that was prescribed.  

It’s easy to see the effects of healthy decisions on our physical bodies when we diet and exercise or when we take the prescribed medicine: our health improves, our fat melts away, our muscles grow, our endurance increases, etc. However, as Dr. Daniel Amen points out in the Brain Health 101 podcast, the health of the brain is much less obvious. There’s so much that we are still learning about this critical organ. Being able to think clearly is something that we often take for granted, but as Dr. Amen points out, there are things we can do today to have better brain health in the future. 

Likewise, the health of our soul is not clearly visible, and similar to our brain there are things we can do to nurture our souls (see What a is Soul?). How we choose to build our soul or tear it down is a series of actions and decisions. Ultimately, it is a simple matter of surrendering our will and embracing God’s, fighting against the inertia of our natural resistance until our continued obedience shifts inertia toward our benefit. 

Do you want good health? Then at a minimum you should eat well, get your sleep and exercise. Do you want to represent God well? Then surrender your will to His will: trust and obey. This mental discipline is the food for your soul that nourishes God’s people. Listen to God through prayer and scripture, trust that He is faithful, and obey. 
The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.. ~ Proverbs 27:12
Is God calling you to something? Are you listening? Are you willing to surrender your will to His? The Great Physician prescribes the medicine, but it is up to you to take it and experience the results. 

copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Godly Man No More

Thinking about a 2020 Vision for myself, I started first with the hub of the wheel, because everything else is meaningless without Spiritual Health. My immediate thought was: “I want to be godly man.” Admittedly this is a pretty broad and lofty goal, and I thought: “Wouldn’t everyone want to be godly?” This idea was quickly followed by: “No, but then not everyone stops to think about their Spiritual Health.” 

But as I contemplated about it further, I realized my desire to be a godly man reflected a lifetime of wrong thinking. It revealed vanity, a focus on self and self-righteousness. Now, I can look at another person and say: “He/She is a godly person!” and there is no vanity or wrongful in the statement, but how can I look at myself for godliness? The very act is both vain and self-righteous, an indication of spiritual pride. No, seeking to be a godly person is the wrong goal and is not a vision for Spiritual Health.

My 2020 Vision for Spiritual Health needed to change. Instead of focusing on self, I decided to focus on service. Rather than be a ‘godly man’, I choose to be God’s man, ready to be used by Him. To be God’s man is a humbling and a scary goal. It acknowledges my dependency upon Him and surrenders any and all goals to be redirected as He chooses, to do as He leads, seeking to trust and obey Him without hesitation. If He is God and we’re not, then this is really the calling of every true believer. 

The problem with service is that it can be exploited by others, so it’s important to know who you serve and that the person is trustworthy. I recall my anxiety decades ago over a decision to follow Christ, asking Him to be Lord of my life. To be completely honest, the daily decision to hand my life to Him is still done with some unreasonable trepidation. Can God be trusted? (Of course, He can!) Will He have me do something that takes me in a different direction? (Probably, but I will be all the better for it!) Can I really trust God? (Again and again, the answer is yes!)

In Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, the character Jean Valjean contemplates his own self-direction in conflict with his submission to the will of God. He has risen high above his humble beginnings. He is well-known as a godly man who has brought prosperity to the town which he now governs as mayor, but he hides the secret of his previous life as a convict. In an unexpected turn of events, a look-a-like is caught in a minor crime. Believed to be a repeat offender who is on the run, his doppelganger will receive a life sentence that will certainly kill the man. Sure, the man is guilty of a crime, but he will be suffering the fate that rightly belongs to Jean Valjean. The reluctant mayor thinks of all the good he can continue to do by remaining silent and staying in his current position. His reputation for benevolence and wealth is renowned. So much that even when Jean Valjean arrives at the man’s trial to confess that he, monsieur le mayor, is the renegade ex-con, no one believes him including his former cell mate! With great persistence, Jean Valjean convinces them, and his time as mayor comes to an end. However, his life is made all the richer as he follows God’s leading, and ultimately he is fully redeemed in the life of the girl he raises as a daughter. 

I decided decades ago that my self-direction had limitations and that I made a pretty poor god. My successes led to misery and my failures were anchors. Deciding to follow God’s direction changed everything. He transformed my failures into learning opportunities and successes into unexpected gifts on life’s journey. The idea of being a godly man reeks of self-righteousness, it creates a secret life where the image of godliness displaces our continued and humble need for a Savior. Our Savior, our God, daily redirects our activities to develop us into the kind of people that are useful for His purposes. His purposes are higher than any of our personal or professional goals and more grand than any New Year’s Resolution. I will be all the better if I can just be God’s man, ready to be used by Him.

A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. ~ Proverbs 16:9

copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Why Believe the Bible?

Why should any rational person believe the Bible? A common portrayal of a Bible-believer is someone who chooses faith over reason. Sometimes this person is depicted as irrational, blind to all the obvious facts, yet other times the person is super-spiritual, someone who calmly believes in a truth that others are incapable of seeing. While one of these caricatures is more offensive than the other, both illustrations are damaging.

It’s easy to see where the blindly irrational depiction maligns the character of believers, but the super-spiritual portrayal is just as destructive. It promotes spiritual pride in the believer and creates an obstacle for others, implying they just don’t have enough faith. Now it’s true that man is saved by faith, a gift from God, and faith is a confidence in something we don’t yet see. And while we are warned not to lean on our own understanding, I would still insist that faith is neither irrational nor limited to a select few. In fact, the Bible is a big reason why we can have confidence in our belief. Imagine the following scenario:

If I occasionally received a copy of tomorrow’s newspaper, telling me what was going to happen today, and the events in that newspaper happened just as they were described, I’d be a fool to not pay attention, right? I might wonder how tomorrow’s news could be delivered to me a day early, and I certainly couldn’t understand how it came my way or why I should be the one receiving that paper. Regardless, having regularly received tomorrow’s news and seen the results unfold as described, I would act upon the information. I might look through the stocks and invest in sure thing. I could choose to use it for my personal benefit, daily entertainment or to perhaps to help someone in need. For example, if I received the paper for September 12th, 2001 on the morning of September 11th, would it be irrational to try and save the victims of that fateful day? Of course not! People might question where I received my information, but it would immoral to not risk everything to help those who don’t have a copy of tomorrow’s news. 

The Bible is a lot like tomorrow’s newspaper. There are some smart, detail-oriented people who can give all sorts of reasons for why we should believe in the Bible, but I only need this one simple explanation: it describes the end of things from the very beginning. I’m not referring to all the unfulfilled prophecies of scripture and an irrational faith in future events that can’t be proven. Rather, I would direct your attention to what the Bible predicted: 
  • the rise and fall of Alexander the Great (Daniel 8)
  • calling out Cyrus by name as the one who would return the Jewish people to their homeland over 100 years in advance, before their exile (Isaiah 45)
  • Moses predicting how Israel would be made desolate and the people scattered among the nations for their unfaithfulness (Leviticus 26) yet promising that He would never destroy Israel completely (Deuteronomy 4), promising to restore Israel to the land God gave to them (Isaiah 14)

Yet there are still so many other realized promises, not least of which is the gift of a Savior, fulfilled in Jesus. A hundred years ago, who could have imagined that Israel would be restored as a nation? What people is dispersed from their land and 2000 years later returns to it, just as foretold? What other nations have been destroyed for countless generations and then restored? 

So let me ask: Would someone who regularly receives tomorrow’s newspaper have greater faith than someone who never received it? Only if they read the paper and see how accurate it is! It’s easy to think how we’d make use of tomorrow’s newspaper, right? And while our actions would be based on faith that the newspaper was foretelling today’s events, we’d be irrational to disregard the headlines. 

The pulpit has done a disservice to its congregants when not teaching about Bible prophecy. Sure, there have been some who overstepped the realm of teaching and crossed over to speculation, but rather than timidly avoiding the fullness of Scriptural instruction, leadership should have established guidelines for how to teach Bible prophecy as it continues to unfold. We have a copy of our future newspaper, but the date has been removed because no man knows the day nor the hour. We simply know it will happen, just as all the other promises were fulfilled. Pick up your copy today.

copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020 Vision

As I wrote on Christmas, we need 3 things to be effective:
  1. a vision for what “it” looks like (i.e. - vision for what we want to accomplish)
  2. awareness of both our inner and outer realities 
  3. walls / guardrails to protect us from distractions. 
I believe this is true regardless of what “it” is. With that in mind, what do you want to be effective in accomplishing in 2020? Make a list and prioritize it, putting the most important thing first. Take a few moments and before reading further.

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