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/)