Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Heart of Father and Son--by Linden Malki

God is all about relationships.  God IS a relationship: as John put it, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it."  (John 1:1-5 ) As the story continues, we find that the Word of God, a part of God Himself, relates to God the Father as His Son. 
 He created the world to have people to love, and we are told that mankind was "created in the image of God." So we have souls and spirits like that of God, and when God arranged for His Son to live on Earth with us, the Son was one whose physical body was the one of which we are the image.  However, He was perfect and sinless, and came to enable us to resemble Him more perfectly.

When His impending birth was announced in dream to a Jewish man named Joseph, whose betrothed wife was found to be pregnant, an angel said "Joseph, son of David, have no fear about taking Mary as your wife. It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child. She will have a son and your are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."(Matthew 1:20-21) The name "Jesus"  used in the English New Testament comes from the Latin form of the Greek name Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous), a rendition of the Hebrew Yeshua (ישוע), related to the name Joshua. The other name that became associated with this Son is "Christ", from the Greek word  Χριστός, Christós, meaning "the anointed one", in Hebrew Messiah  מָשִׁיחַ‎‎,(māšîaḥ‎, sometimes spelled Moshiach), is the one chosen to lead the world and save it,  which we find in Old Testament prophecies such as Isaiah 9:6 "For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." 

I occasionally hear or read someone say that Jesus himself never claimed to be the Son of God in a Messianic sense. Actually, in the Gospels, there are 7 verses in John's Gospel where he refers to himself as the Son of God, and  in Luke, at his trial: "Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?” So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.”(Luke 22:70) There are also  22 verses in the four Gospels where other people, including demons, enemies and friends, call him the Son of God. There are also 51 verses in the Gospels (mostly Matthew and John) where Jesus clearly refers to God as "My Father", such as John 10:30: "I and My Father are one.”

The church has struggled for centuries to explain logically what this means;  churches have split and wars fought over attempts to reduce this relationship to human words. We are not called on to understand beyond what we see in Scripture; it is enough to know for now on this earth, in our heart of hearts, what Jesus told Nicodemus: "that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:15-18) There is enough here to give us a lifetime of study, prayer, growth, service, and learning what God the Father and Son had in mind for us when we were created. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Heart of the Father in His Children--by Linden Malki

We must never forget that we are made in the image of God--which means that we can learn what God is like by what He wants us to be like.  The prophet Samuel described God as looking for a "a man after his own heart", and He chose David to rule His people. Let's look at the heart of David. This is not a timid man who never did anything wrong, but when he did get off track, he admitted it and asked God to transform his heart.  Look at what it took for David to become that man:
Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind. (Psalm 26)
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. (Psalm 27)
I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.(Psalm 40)
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me (Psalm 51) 
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them. (Psalm 78)
Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. (Psalm 86) 
I will be careful to lead a blameless life— when will you come to me? I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart. (Psalm 101)
My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul. (Psalm 108)
I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; before the  angels I will sing your praise. (Psalm 138)
  Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. (Psalm 139)

This is a real challenge! And David knew there was only one way to have the heart that God intended: by humbleness and by the power and grace of God Himself. 

Jesus told us a parable illustrating this heart: we read it in Luke 15.  One of the differences we see between the two sons is that the younger son, though he was very selfish and irresponsible, did come to his senses and ask his father for forgiveness.  The older son complained, but may not have ever asked his father for anything beyond his "rights". The father, another man after God's own heart, forgave the repentant son, and reminded the older one that he still had his rewards to come.  In both cases, they got more than they deserved! 

 Look back at David's relationship with God, and think about how blessed we are in our heavenly father, and be thankful that David left us a legacy of seeking the heart of God.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Process of Reformation--by Linden Malki

                        Martin Luther's challenge to the church in 1517 was the match that set off a movement that had been brewing for several centuries in Europe.  One of the first preachers we know of who challenged practices and the authority of the Roman Church was Peter Waldo, in Lyons,  France, who also translated the Bible into the common dialect of  the south of France. He was excommunicated by the Church in 1184, and his teachings condemned in 1215. His followers fled into the mountains of northern Italy.  At about the same time, in England, the Archbishop of the church in England was murdered in his own cathedral in a power struggle with King Henry II. In England, John Wycliffe translated the Bible into English in 1384, which was illegal, and his preaching influenced a Czech priest, Jan Hus, who was burned at the stake by a church council in 1415. His followers became the Moravian church, which still exists. There were others with the same concerns about the sale of indulgences and corruption within the Church organization, who were emboldened by Luther's preaching, in a number of places in Europe, and challenged the authority of Rome. By the end of the century, there were Lutheran churches in Germany, and the Scandinavian countries, who, like the Church of England*,  had similar worship and organization to the Catholic tradition, but with a relationship with their ruling powers but without a relationship to Rome and theology based on their own teachings; there were Reformed churches in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Scotland, who had their own churches without priests and ruled by ministers and laypeople but recognized and shared power with  political authorities.
            The third wing of the Reformation was a number of "free churches" with no central authority, no set rituals, and no political relationships, with the primary distinction of stressing "believers' baptism"--baptism, usually by immersion, of only those who expressed a commitment to the Gospel. This was extremely controversial, because even the other Protestant churches baptised all babies and expected the entire community to be part of the church.  The idea of a church comprised only of baptised self-expressed believers was scary to a lot of politicans and other churches.  The result was voluntary groups of churches that shared a belief in believers' baptism, separation of church and state, and the "priesthood of all believers", which means that all Chrisian believers have the privilege of direct communication with the Father, Son, and Spirit, without any other human beings in the loop.  The major surviving churches of this type include the Mennonites, Amish, and the various Baptist churches. Most of the churches that have developed in the last 200 years--Pentacostals and independent churches--also share these basic principles in addition to the common Reformation principles that go back to the 1500's: Sola Scriptura: the belief that the Scripture alone is the final and only infallible source for matters of faith and practice; Sola Fide: the belief that salvation comes through faith alone; we cannot "earn" it; Sola Gratia:the grace of God alone is the source of salvation; Sola Christus: Christ is the only mediator between God and man; and Sola Deo Gloria: Christians are to be motivated and inspired by God's glory and not their own.

  "The Baptists" by Baron Gustaf Cederstrom was inspired by a baptismal service on Midsummer Night in  1886 in Sweden.

 *notes on the English Reformation
I have heard it said that the only reason for the Reformation was that Henry VIII of England wanted a divorce. It is true that he did, and that it was a factor in the Reformation in England (but nowhere else), but the issue of the divorce came up in 1527, ten years after Luther's original posting of his Theses, and the upheaval was in full bloom by this time. 
There had long been issues between the Church in England, the Vatican in Rome, and the English royal family. There were already an English translation of the New Testament, inspired by Luther's German translation, published by William Tyndale, in 1526.  There was already controversy in England on many of the same issues that were on the table on the Continent, but the political meddling of Rome in English politics and the taxes demanded from England were issues as well, and there were English church officials ready for independence from Rome.   The legal declaration of the independence, declaring that the Head of the Church in England was the King of England in 1534, was the first step in a continuing dispute  that involved two queens, two kings, a Puritan Commonwealth, and two more kings, which was not settled until 1688.  

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Making Godly Decisions for a Godly Life--by Linden Malki

Life is full of choices—sometimes we don't notice them and just follow the path of least
resistance, and sometimes we agonize over things that aren't worth much. We live in a time and place where we have more options that many people in many times and places have had.
Thinking about Biblical guidelines for decisions we face, small, middle-sized and large, I found some principles that will keep us out of trouble. We think of the big things that can go bad and mess up our lives, but some of what look like small things can turn out to bite more painfully than we expect. These are based on an important Scripture, can you recognize it?
Is there anything that would be put above God? We may not realize that one of the most dangerous things that we can think is that we ourselves don't need God because we are sitting on that throne. History is full of people who thought they were God, or at least a small-g god; and caused a great deal of suffering and then died. The problem here is that we are all mortal, and we're not that smart. Or it might be an ambition, or a job, or a something we love to the point of taking over too much of our life.
Is there any way God would be misrepresented? Do we throw around God's name to support our own opinions, or think we can manipulate Him? Do we realize that any image we try to make of Him falls short of the reality?
How does this affect the your use of your time? Do we do our own thing 24/7 and don't take the time to connect with Him?
Have you asked (and listened to) the advice of your family and other appropriate advisors? Do we recognize good advice from bad, ungodly from Godly?
Would anyone be hurt in any significant way? Do we disrespect others, take out our shortcomings and problems on other people, and leave a trail of broken people and relationships? Are we careless of other people's stuff, time, lives?
Is it real, honest, trustworthy, and of good quality? Can others depend on our word and our work? The “Golden Rule” probably fits in here, with the realization that not everyone wants what we do, and that we don't appreciate people ignoring that.
Have you searched your heart and mind for greed, envy, selfishness? Remember that everything we have in this world was created by God, and everything tangible depends on someone's effort for us to have it. Even the fruit on the tree has to be picked by somebody, and a lottery win is money other people lost. I told my kids when they were small: If it's not yours, and you don't have permission, don't touch it! Yes, there is a place for giving things to people, but even a gift costs something somewhere upstream. And the most valuable gift of all—our saving relationship with God, came with the ultimate Cost. This enabled the gifts that enable us to live spiritually healthy lives: the gifts of forgiveness, wisdom, strength, and the Holy Spirit. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017


When the Communist regime in Romania fell in 1989,  it was found that there were many orphanges with children whose parents had relinquished them because of poverty. These children had lived restricted and without the attention that children need, and they were found to be not only physically in poor condition, but mentally and emotionally as well.  Studies have been done of children's brains, and they have found that brains of children who do not get attention as infants do not develop properly, and are physically smaller.  This is another thing we can learn from, not only in the interest in children's health, but it gives us another look into the creative mind of God. God started the human race by saying that "it is not good for man to be alone." This is still true, has always been true.Each one of our lives was produced by a relationship between two people. That relationship can fail, but it is not God's intention.

Beyond good parents, a strong society depends upon healthy families, good communities, and people working together for the common good. Looking at history and Scripture, we find people living in families, clans, tribes, cities--in community. The original Law is written for people living in interdependent groups, who come together to worship. We look around and see people living alone, looking for relationships, often superficial.  Some of the trouble we see in our world comes from people who do not have good relationships and don't care about anytone else; some comes from people looking for community in the wrong places, and without knowing how to judge the messages constantly bombarding us.

We are commanded to love God, and love each other. This does not mean dominating others, doing things for others that satisfy our  desires but not necessarily that of the others, or being doormats in the hope of getting attention. We need to come together in the name and love of God, to pray together, study together, play together, be good company for each other, watch for ways we can bring glory to God through our relationships with others. We need above all to listen--to God, to each other, to Scripture, to good mentors and teachers, to strengthen the good in our world and discourage the evil.  Jesus brought people together in many contexts; his followers met together in His name and changed the world.  Can we work together in His Name and change San Bernardino, and the world?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Our Twisted Planet--by Linden Malki

Hurricanes, fires, shootings,  bitter accusations; much of the news has been bad. The physical world
hits us from one side, and we hit each other from the other.  We try to grow wheat, and find the fields infested with weeds. Those of us who are followers of Jesus can't help wondering why, and those who are not are screaming that God is dead, missing, or a delusion.

Christians are not immune to suffering and even martydom.  In my own family, my uncle was held prisoner in China for almost 5 years, my great-grandfather and his family were forced to leave Sweden, and my father-in-law's father and brother were massacred by Kurds in Turkey--all because they were known to be Christian leaders.  The results of these people's lives were the reaching of many  people with the Gospel; in all three cases some of their descendants also became preachers and missionaries, who led even more people to Jesus. Of the twelve disciples of Jesus, one fell away and suicided, one was sent to a prison colony on an isolated island, and the other ten were martyred. And yet they set the stage for the Gospel to reach much of the world and survive for two thousand years.

In the current spate of pain and evil, we see brave people risk their lives rescuing the those in the paths of the hurricanes; fighting the brush fires and looking for those endangered, helping the victims survive their losses. I have not seen reports of arson behind any of the current wave of fires, but we here know arson's results personally, both in our city and in the destruction of our own worship center--and our experience may be the catalyst for an expansion of ministry in our community that we never would have believed. I recall thinking that our hanging in here and surviving would be a witness, but never guessed how it would play out.

The most depressing evils are those that people do to each other. Millions of words have been written speculating what mental, social and emotional twists cause people to become horribly destructive. I have been reading a number of commentaries on these twisted people, but noticed that in all these words, there are three that only appeared once each: "God", "church", "prayer."  These are not only missing from the explanations of what's wrong with the people in our country and the world, but missing from too many of our communities as well. But these are the way out of evil in our society. People can't get along on their own--it takes the love of God to give us the strength to love one another.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

92 AND FORWARD! by Linden Malki

Happy Birthday, Calvary/NorthPoint! Next Monday, October 9, is the anniversary of the founding of The Calvary Baptist Church of San Bernardino in 1925: 92 years ago.  San Bernardino was a very different place back in those days. The earliest inhabitants were the Serrano indians. In 1810, a Spanish  priest from the Mission San Gabriel  arrived on the feast day of  St Bernardine of Sienna, an Italian priest and Franciscan missionary who was a popular preacher in the early 1400's. The mission station known as the San Bernardino Asistencia was built in 1829.  In 1842, the Mexican governor granted a large part of the San Bernardino valley to the family of Antonio Maria Lugo, a former mayor of Los Angeles, who also had several other major rancho grants in the area.  The grants were honored in the  Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo,  which ended the Mexican-American war with the cession of California to the United States.  In 1851, the Lugo family sold the Rancho to a large group of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), who  laid out a 1-square mile city  system with 8-acre blocks, which became the basis for the existing city street grid. The city was incorporated in 1854 with 1200 citizens, most of them Mormons. The Mormons were recalled to Utah in 1857, and the city was disincorporated. The valley continued to grow commercially.  There had been a trading route through Cajon Pass, the Old Spanish Trail, was  established 1829-30. The first orange trees were planted in 1857, and gold was discovered in the Big Bear area in 1860.  The California Southern Railroad, part of the Atchicson, Topeka and Santa Fe system, was built through San Bernardino in 1873. The orange groves became a major industry by the 1880's, and the city was reincorporated in 1886. The first Orange Show was held in 1911, and Valley College was built in
1926. The 1930 census showed a population of 37,481.
The 1920s were an interesting time in the churches; there was a lot of theological and sociologial ferment in the news reports of the period.  In San Bernardino, one of the oldest churches in town was the First Baptist Church founded in 1866. There were reports of discusssions going on within this congregation in 1925, and when the dust settled, FBC was not affiliated with any of the Baptist conventions, and a group of about 70+ good folks had established Calvary Baptist Church and affiliated with the Northern (later American) Baptist Convention.  Calvary/NorthPoint has had changes, good and bad, over the years; as has the ABC. 
Again, there is a lot we can learn about God from observing His Creation. One of them is the constant nature of change, within the stability of the larger system. The weather changes; all living creatures change as individuals but they stay pretty much the same within their basic design. Societies change, but consistent patterns come and go and come around again with different actors on the stage. Looking back at the last 20 years at Calvary/NorthPoint, we have had a lot of changes and challenges, and it's not over yet. We are seeing God doing amazing and unexpected things in our lives and in the life of our church but He is always the same God, loving and challenging His people, showing us new things and new looks at old things. The city has changed and we pray for changes for the better; the churches have changed and we pray for the wisdom and strength to meet the challenges. The one thing we know is that God doesn't change; how we see Him may change, but in the long run--the very long run--we will see what was really going on and how He was really working in our lives, our church, our city.