Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Love Pyramid - Part 1


The Foundation of Love 

Some of the best things in life are easy to understand but hard to implement, and when the simple things get difficult, our tendency is to over-complicate the simple. Love is a great example. It is both a decision and a feeling, and because it is often made up of such conflicting desires, people sometimes give up on understanding and refer to it as a great mystery of life. 

There are seven Greek words for love and three Hebrew words, but we only need to be focused on divine love. Paul wrote about this kind of divine unconditional love that is often quoted at marriage ceremonies: 
Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn’t jealous. It doesn’t sing its own praises. It isn’t arrogant. It isn’t rude. It doesn’t think about itself. It isn’t irritable. It doesn’t keep track of wrongs. It isn’t happy when injustice is done, but it is happy with the truth. Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up. 
Love as described above is truly divine, and it doesn’t come easily for us; however, it is possible when we can look to a visible model of that love. Tragically, some people have never seen love modeled for them, and if any of us look to a human being as our model of love, we will be disappointed because imperfect people love others imperfectly. John the Apostle gives us hope as he tells us that God’s demonstration of love enables and inspires us to reflect His love. 
We love because God loved us first. 
Love is simple; it is a decision to give of oneself to another. We were created to love and to be loved, and because it is part of who we were created to be, we are filled with so many good feelings when we choose to give of ourselves and love someone else. But our feelings can be misleading, and therefore we need to be cautious to not be led by our emotions even if we are often rewarded by them. 

We are filled with so many conflicting desires and seeking to fulfill those desires ironically leaves us strangely unsatisfied with an ever pressing need to fill that growing emptiness. It’s like eating food that is nutrient deprived. Feeding our appetite never satisfies so we eat increasingly larger servings. It is also like a drowning person who in their panic for air is likely to drown any potential savior. This is the nature of lust, which desires nothing more than to receive. It is passion without reason, emotions that promise an empty reward. 

Understanding the nature of love is easy, but our desires make it hard for us to live a life of love. It’s easier to say we can’t understand love than to admit that we don’t feel like loving, and so we complicate love. Understanding this foundation of love is essential to understanding the Love Pyramid that I’ll describe in a future blog. If we grasp this foundational understanding of love, it changes our concept of God, His love for us and all the structures of religion. These structures fall away as unnecessarily complicated rules once we understand that they only implementations of love. There is no need for rules when we love as we were made to love. (see Mark 12:28-34
“Don’t ever think that I came to set aside Moses’ Teachings or the Prophets. I didn’t come to set them aside but to make them come true.” 
copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Focus Now!

I’ve been around for over a half-century, and I’ve learned a few things. Some of them I’d like to unlearn, which I’ve found is significantly harder than learning. Unlearning is not as easy as forgetting, which happens all to easily. Unlearning takes a lot of concentration, to deliberately not think a certain way after having questioned it and found it lacking without letting go of the elements of truth that were useful. 

Athletes sometimes have to unlearn bad habits to build up good habits. Being raised Catholic was a good thing for me that God used to develop my relationship with Him, but for me to grow in my relationship with God and others, I needed to unlearn certain things. For example: my 16 years of Catholic education had taught me to ignore the Old Testament scriptures as part of the Old Covenant, but the New Covenant as described in the New Testament was all I needed to learn. While I’m sure that not all Catholic education teaches this, it was something I needed to unlearn so I could learn so much more about the God Who created me and wanted a relationship with me. 

I’ve focused on many things through the years in my pursuit of Spiritual growth, and I’ve discovered that my focus was often on the wrong thing. Even things that were good became a distraction that hindered my walk with Christ. Scripture says we should desire spiritual gifts, but we should pursue something greater. God has given me both ordinary and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, but I’ve been in church circles where the emphasis was on the gift and not the Giver. Better to seek the Fruit of the Spirit and rejoice as the Gifts emerge! Often the focus can also be on Spiritual Warfare, and I can tell you that all sorts of warfare grows in those circles! Strange things that can’t easily be explained in the natural start happening with increasing intensity, justifying the need for greater focus on spiritual warfare! 

Spiritual attacks are real, but I discovered an amazing truth when asked to exorcise a home where demonic manifestations were occurring: to fight the demonic, our eyes need to be focusing on something else. I have seen churches that focused with great intensity on studying Scripture, but their focus led to spiritual pride and intellectual conceit. I have seen churches that focused on stewardship that led to materialism. I’ve seen churches that focused on a prosperity gospel that didn’t develop true Christian character and a fortitude that could endure the hardships of this world. 

I’ve seen where the pursuit of righteousness becomes the self-idol that criticizes others. The Old Testament explains how wickedness grows when everyone does what is right in their own eyes. Adam and Eve ate a fruit so that they could decide what was right and wrong, being like God. But who created what is “right” and called what He created good? Only the Author of creation can tell us what is right and by living in His ways, we are righteous. 

I hear a new false gospel being spread today, and it sounds right at first. Yet every misguided object of focus I’ve mentioned so far is a good by-product of that greater thing we should focus our eyes upon; spiritual gifts, studying scripture, stewardship, and righteousness are simply by-products. Likewise the new idols of unity and social justice are wonderful by-products of focusing on the greater thing. But what is the consequence of focusing on unity and pursuing social justice? The national church of Nazi Germany focused on unity as it overlooked the horrific actions of the fatherland. Can unity really be the secret sauce that makes a good church? The blood purge of Russia executed the social justice of a godless, Marxist dictator and slaughtered millions to establish a new regime. 

William Blake was so right when he observed that we become what we behold. Focusing on injustice, we become violent. Focusing on unity, creates an unhealthy suppression of dialog. The greater thing we should focus on was summarized as two commandments that encompassed all the law. We are called -- we are commanded -- to love God and love others. (Matt 22:34-40

If we focus our eyes on Jesus, loving Him and loving those whom He loves, then studying Scripture becomes a joy as He instructs us, learning about Him and His plans for us. Spiritual warfare is easily victorious when our focus celebrates Jesus and edifies others. Unity happens organically and true social justice is advanced when we are a people known for our love of God and love for others. 

Love is not just a warm, fuzzy feeling; rather, love is intentionally giving for the benefit of the beloved. Loving our enemies does not mean we give them what they want, but we give them what they need. Loving people around us means speaking truth in a loving and kind fashion. Love is patient, kind, etc.

We know that in the end times as lawlessness increases, the love of many will grow cold. (Matt 24:12) No one knows the day or the hour of His return, but I can tell you His return is closer today than it was yesterday, and we know that He has called us for such a time as this: to love God and love others. Doing so, His light will shine brighter in this world, and whether people listen or fail to listen the joy and privilege of being His ambassadors will be the highlight of our time on this planet. 

With great love and admiration to my fellow ambassadors, Mitch. 

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

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Independence for All!

I grew up beneath the poverty level in America; I recall watching the news one evening as the commentator stated the poverty level income for a family of four in America, so I walked into the other room to ask my mother how much “we” made that year as family of five, and she gave me a number lower than what I had just heard on the news. I’ve since seen abject poverty in this world and understand on many levels why my mom insisted that we weren’t poor; we never went without food and our utilities were never turned off from lack of payment. As they were devout Catholics, my parents somehow even found a way to send us to a Catholic school. 

Still, I felt like we were sometimes looked down upon by others. When it came time to think about life after high school, the guidance counselor did her best to convince me that I was not college material, despite my >4.0 GPA and high SAT scores. I was fortunate that Vice Principal Tully did not look at me as white trash like the school counselor did, and he showed me what I needed to do to apply for college. My wrestling coach, Mr. Craft, encouraged me to graduate a semester early to take advantage of college benefits for low income families that would disappear if I waited until the second semester to graduate.  

Perhaps because of this, I have always been sensitive to the rights of others and have empathy for people who have had to work harder to rise up. Regardless of race, gender or beliefs that differed from mine, I have used whatever influence I have to lift up and encourage my brothers and sisters, to open up opportunities and to be their advocate. I still believe in the ideals America was founded upon, despite the many ways that people have failed to live up to those ideals. That is why Juneteenth should be celebrated as widely in this country as July 4th. The two are linked and combine a common ideal. 

The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776 and proclaimed that every person had rights that were innate in every person. Sadly, some of those signing that great document were hypocrites, slave owners who declared an ideal for themselves that they did not extend to all men. The original document penned by Thomas Jefferson included an anti-slavery proclamation that unfortunately wasn’t included in the final document. You see, while some of the founding fathers embraced slavery, many were abolitionists: John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, James Madison, John Jay, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, and many more

The war against slavery was fought by white and black Americans before that famous declaration on July 4th, good people who sought to end the evils of slavery that came to the Americas through the British empire. Like many wars, it was a war of ideals that was fought with words and ultimately resulted in a civil war. As that war came to an end, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was announced by Union soldiers, freeing the slaves and finally acknowledging the inalienable rights of every American. The last place to receive this word was Galveston, TX on June 19th, 1965, now commemorated as Juneteenth. Yet as we know, while the ideal of liberty was proclaimed for all Americans, man’s wickedness continued and the rights of our black brothers and sisters continued to be violated. My prayer is that each of us stands firm in actively upholding the rights of all people, actively opposing evil for our collective well-being and living out the love Christ calls us to have for all people. 

People are imperfect and often conflicted; our conflicting priorities are often magnified whenever you pull a group of people together. Yet despite how we have lived this nation’s ideals imperfectly, those lofty standards continue to be a light, both for people within this country and throughout the world,. Our nation rightly and collectively recoiled at the senseless and brutal murder of George Floyd and we had a chance to unify in opposing this terrible violation of his rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. My mind still reels with how long it took authorities to bring the rogue cops into custody, and my heart is saddened by those who oppose the great ideals of this country, who are using this event to create greater division within the country. Some are actively driving an agenda that mimics Marxist revolutions throughout the world while others are being incensed into their narrative. Although it may have certain nuances, the story is always the same: a class struggle between the “haves” and “have nots”, the privileged vs the oppressed, the persecutors vs their victims. Likewise, the result is nearly always the same: a group of thugs that take totalitarian control and become magnitudes more oppressive than the preceding regime… e.g. – the blood purges of Stalin, the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia, and the assault-rifle-wielding occupiers of Seattle. 

Now is a time to use unifying language and collaborate under higher ideals, to acknowledge our flaws and seek to be better. Now is a time build trust and seek restoration rather than reparation. Nothing can possibly make up for the evils of the past, and bitterness leads to greater division. We can’t change the past as much as we all wish we could, but we can decide how to move forward as equals. Now is a time to remember who were meant to be: E Pluribus Unum! (One from Many) 

At some point, I believe America will fall from superpower status and a global authority will fill that void, and I believe much of what is currently happening in both American and abroad is a tension created by globalists trying to subdue nationalism. The ideals found in America’s heritage embody a rationale and structure that strive for the rights of all people. Someday, I believe and pray that America will be resurrected from its current state of splintering decline and be unified in brotherly love; I see Isaiah 18 possibly referring to the United States, and it promises a time when we will bring tribute to King Jesus in Israel. Then and only then, when the King sits on His throne will we truly be free! 
copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)