Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas:The Image of God--by Linden Malki

Images are very powerful. God commanded the Israelites to never make images of Him; that anything they could make would be a snare and distraction from the true nature of God. Genesis also says that we, human beings, are made in the image of God. We debate what that means, but the real answer is what we are celebrating now.

The most powerful image that we see at Christmas is the classic Nativity scene. Historically, this was popularized by St Francis of Assisi in the 13th century, and one church historian has said that the "Christmas Crib conquered Europe for the Church." God sent us an image of Himself in Jesus, obviously not a complete image, but as much of it as we humans can bear. Jesus himself told his disciples that "if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father."  The question of images in the Church has been a hot topic over the centuries, but the reasoning has been that Jesus came as a real, physical person, and  was somehow an image of God, and so representation of Him is not unkosher.

I suspect that one reason that Christmas has become such a big cultural celebration is that on one hand it is a reminder that God did step in and change the history of the world, and on the other hand, babies are sweet and vulnerable and easy to deal with. We are genetically programmed to respond softly and lovingly to babies. But we also look at our babies and wonder who they are and what they might turn out to be. Simeon in the Temple, when Jesus was dedicated, praised God that his eyes had "seen your salvation,..a light for revelation for the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people, Israel." And then he told Mary that "this child will cause the rising and falling of many in Israel..and a sword will pierce your own soul too." All through history, babies have been seen as threats, not for what they are as babies, but what they could become. Herod saw this baby as a threat. Jesus recognized that His existence was seen as a threat to some powerful people.

Almost ten years ago, the Old Fire took my daughter's home, and among the ashes they found one piece of their nativity set: blackened by the fire, the smallest but most important piece, the baby Jesus. The rest of the set would have no meaning without this one piece. Mary is there because she was chosen to be His mother. Joseph is there as His guardian and human father. The shepherds are there because they came to see this baby. The Wise Men are there because they saw a sign in the heavens that led them to this place. The baby is there because God sent Him. As one Christmas carol puts it, "Man will live forever more, because of Christmas Day!"

Friday, December 21, 2012

Servanthood by Pastor Poppie Paul

Most artwork of the virgin Mary shows a very clean, saintly, and immaculate woman.  If you travel across Europe and examine the great cathedrals you will almost always find Mary in a position equal to or higher than God Himself.

Even when you see Mary in a stable, or holding the lifeless body of her son, she is clean.  I chose this piece of artwork because it had a more earthy vibe.

Mary did not lead a clean and easy life.  Mary traveled when pregnant, birthed in a barn, ran for her life to Egypt, raised her son, engaged his ministry, and accepted His wild circle of friends.

 She lived amid the drama and controversy.  She tried to get Him to back off and settle down.  Mary stood beneath the cross to watch her son die and joined her friends in bearing the spices to prepare His body!  Mary was anything but an ordinary mom with an easy life!

When the angel Gabriel delivered God's life changing message to Mary
she made a profound declaration:

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant.
May everything you have said about me come true.”
And then the angel left her.   Luke 1:38

I doubt if young Mary understood the far reaching implications of her commitment to servanthood.  What about you?  Have you asked or offered things to God?  Is it possible that the situation you currently find yourself in today is a direct result of the prayers you prayed decades ago?

If you are wondering what you are going through consider that God is busy answering your prayer and working His will.  Maybe He has a plan for you that is very different than the plan you thought God was going to have for you!

Has there ever been a time when you have offered your life to God?
Is it possible that God is answering?


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mary:The Ultimate Mom by Linden Malki

Mary has captured the imagination of the Church throughout its history. We have the description of her receiving an astonishing visit from an angel; prophecies from Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna, a visit from shepherds with a unique story, and a visit from travelers from far away who had seen a prophecy in the heavens. Twelve years later, she confronted a young man who was more concerned with the ultimate bar-mitzvah in the Temple than with his family's return to Nazareth, explaining that He was about His Father's business in His Father's House. When they were at a wedding and the host ran out of wine, she knew He could take care of it. Luke says that she kept all these things in her mind and pondered them.

He must have been a challenging child to raise! The writer of Hebrews says that He was deliberately made like us, that He was tempted in the same ways that we are tempted , but was without sin. I see this as being a normal kid, with the most enthusiasm and curiosity we can imagine; seeing the world that He had known from the Creator's point of view, but seeing it from the bottom up, like we see it. Any of us who have survived raising teenagers can just imagine raising this one--bright, active, enthusiastic, hardworking, being tempted but unlike our kids, never falling off the edge into real trouble. How would you like to have been his yeshiva teachers? But still, His Nazareth neighbors didn't remember Him as anything out of the ordinary.

But Mary knew better. The other kids in the family didn't know what to make of Him--they had seen Him do surprising and impressive things, but they taunted Him--"If you can do all these things, go down to the next celebration in Jerusalem and show off what you can do!" , but we are told that they still didn't believe He was anything special. (John 7) At one point, they thought He was a nut case, (Mark 3:21) and even Mary came with them to take Him home.

It took the Resurrection for them to understand. John tells us that she was there at what they all thought was the end of the story, but also at its transformation to the most significant day in history. She and her family were part of that group that waiting in prayer for the next act in the drama. Church tradition describes her as being with the disciples as she is taken to meet Her Son for eternity. We can look at her and see the very first person transformed by the presence of Jesus in her life.

Friday, December 14, 2012

God Given Stepfathers by Pastor Poppie Paul

 I was born in 1955 at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.  My birth certificate read Paul Alton Sandifer.  I deeply love and esteem my Texas family.  My grandfather, Perry Alton Sandifer shared part of his name, his love, and his blessing.  I cherish Perry Sandifer, his kinfolk, and all the good they have done for me.

But when I was five years old God did an amazing thing.  The man in the blue sweater, standing by the boy in the white shirt, married my mother, adopted me, and changed my name to Paul Martin Reinhard.

Paul came from my uncle who died in childhood.
Martin came from my maternal great grandfather.
Reinhard came from Frank!

And Frank Reinhard is the only man I have ever called father.
Because Frank Reinhard adopted me, loved me, raised me, and called me his own.
I will never stop thanking God for the gift he gave me as a five year old child.

God gave Jesus a gift 2,000 years ago.
The Holy Spirit supernaturally fathered Jesus.

But Joseph named him.
Dedicated him at the Temple.
Fled with him to Egypt.
Looked for him when he was lost in the city.
And gave him a carpenters trade!

Maybe Joseph holds a special place in my heart
because I am really a Paul Alton Martin Sandifer Reinhard.

Anybody can make a baby,
but only a father gives you his life!

Jesus had the best of both worlds!
So did I!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Joseph:The Essential Father--by Linden Malki

Fathers are important. Jesus had the most important Father in the universe, but it was still necessary for Him to have a hands-on Dad. We don't know a whole lot about the man God chose to be Jesus' earthly father, but let's look at what we do know. Church tradition sees Mary as having been chosen by God before her birth, and part of His plan was the man that was destined to marry her even before either of them had any idea what that plan was. He is described as being a "righteous man", but not so self-righteous that he would throw Mary to the wolves when he learned about her pregnancy. He was willing to accept what his divine dream told him, and we see him wholeheartedly taking on a truly fearsome responsibility. He was well-enough known in Nazareth that the general identification of Jesus was as the son of an established craftsman, even after Joseph's apparent passing before Jesus began His ministry.

Everything else is conjecture, but we know that God worked in partnership with this man to raise Jesus to be the man He was. It wasn't enough for Jesus to have the most awesome Mom in the world; there are some things that kids need to learn from a Dad. God created men and women to be partners in the task of raising each generation of the human race, and it is another one of those things that God requires of us beyond our own human strength. Joseph listened to God, took on the task given him, and from what we know, did it well. What he had going for him was the knowledge and strength of God with him, the thorough grounding in God's Word that Jewish men of his culture grew up with, and the partnership of a strong and Godly wife. What does this tell us about God's design for our families?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Shepherds by Pastor Poppie Paul

1 Samuel 17:32-37 (NLT)
32  “Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul.
“I’ll go fight him!”
33  “Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied.
“There’s no way you can fight this Philistine
and possibly win! You’re only a boy,
and he’s been a man of war since his youth.”
34  But David persisted. “I have been taking care
of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said.
“When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock,
35  I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth.
If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death.
36  I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too,
for he has defied the armies of the living God!
37  The LORD who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the LORD be with you!”

I have shared this many times... but I will say it yet again.  I love the role the Shepherds played in the Christmas Narrative.  King David gives us a different picture of a Shepherd than we normally have.  He tells us that while watching the family sheep he killed a lion and a bear.  Not all Shepherds were like David, but they were a rough and wild group. 

You can read the story in Luke 2:8-20.  Two things jump out to me.  First is the angels appearing to the Shepherds.  Next are the Shepherds showing up in Bethlehem.  Scripture doesn't tell us what Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds talked about.  But I have a hunch that the biggest, roughest group of men in the area showing up to marvel at your son was very encouraging to the new parents.  What an amazing validation of the crazy story they had been told by an Angel and a Priest.

How fitting!  Lord Jesus and King David are both born in Bethlehem  David was a Shepherd before he was a King.  Jesus was born a King and grows up to be the Good Shepherd.  So God picks Shepherd from the field to hear the message, visit His Son, and then spread the story.  The Shepherds may have been the commonest and the coolest participants in the story! 

Don't be surprised if God uses some common and everyday thing
to touch you or teach you this Christmas!


Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Other Shepherds - Pastor Chris

Luke 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. ...15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

I wonder if the angel appeared to anyone else as well. I wonder if there were other people other places that missed out. These shepherds were willing to have their plans changed. Yes I am sure the moment with the angels was amazing, but they still had a choice. Imagine what they would have missed out on if they had decided to stay where they were. There were lots of reasons to stay, very rational reasons.

When God steps into our lives he always gives us a choice. The shepherds decided to "see this thing that has happened." We must be careful never to fall so comfortably into our current life and goals that we miss God completely when he tries to redirect us. We must be careful not to squeeze God into our little box, he may show up in a different way than you expected. How do you react when God changes your plans. 

Do you think the angels made this announcement to others, or just those that we are told about? Do you think all the shepherds went?

Pastor Chris

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Shepherds--and His Sheep by Linden Malki

God has a soft spot for shepherds. At the very beginning, Adam was given responsibility for the creatures of the earth. His son Abel was a shepherd, as were Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Jethro, and David. Throughout the history of Old Testament Israel, there is the constant presence of sheep. In Psalm 23, David illustrates the responsibility of the shepherd. In return, the sheep provide food, clothing, and even tents.

In the Gospels, one of the constant images of Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and we are His sheep. It is fitting that angels of God were sent to announce the coming of the Messiah to shepherds, who became the first witnesses of this pivotal event in the history of God's people.

Every year, as we celebrate Jesus's coming, the image of God reaching down to the shepherds reminds us that not only is He our Shepherd, but that we are called to take care of His sheep.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wise Men by Pastor Poppie Paul

Everything about the Christmas Story is very Jewish.  Mary is Jewish.  Joseph is Jewish.  Zechariah and Elizabeth are Jewish.  The angel Gabriel works for God, who is the ultimate patriarch of the Jewish nation.  Bethlehem was the City of David who was the greatest Old Testament King of the Jewish nation.  Jesus is the Jewish Lion of the tribe of Judah.  Everything about Christmas was kosher, except the Wise Men!

These pagan astrologers came out of the East following a star.  They did not seem to have solid training in the Old Testament scriptures or they would have know where Messiah should be born.  But they were called by God.  He spoke to them in a dream.  And they came to worship!  They brought amazing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Gifts which testified to the Divinity, Authority, and eventual Sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

I love the Wise Men because they remind me God can work outside of the box.  Just about the time I have things nailed down and figured out God can infuse new dimensions to the equation.  God can call people, lead people, teach people, and use people in ways that never occur to me. Gods work is never limited to my understanding or ability.  God has the ability to surprise us.  He can summon answers and resources from afar long before you even think to ask for them.

This Christmas be looking for Wise Seekers of the Savior whom God has chosen to cross your path.  You may have something to give them!  They might have something to give you!  But if God arraigned the meeting it will be interesting and exciting!

May God richly bless you,
and use you to His glory,
this Holy and wonderful season!

Pastor Poppie Paul

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wise Giving--Linden Malki


From the tone of this weekend’s commercials and promotions, it’s all about “buy, buy, buy” and “stuff, stuff, stuff.”  And for a shopping season that traditionally has emphasized giving, it seems like the chief recipient of the stuff is ourselves, sometimes thinly disguised as a gift that we expect to share. One of my customers told me last year that he thought the emphasis on gifts has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus.

My own family has put less and less emphasis on gifts for each other in the last few years, but there has always been a connection between Christmas and giving. Gifts are included in the original Gospel Christmas story, as we read of strangers from “the East” coming to pay homage to the child Jesus and bringing gifts. There was even an historical incident in which the memory of those visitors saved the Church of the Nativity from destruction. The church had been built in the 300’s under the Emperor Constantine and his mother St Helena, on a spot that had been identified as Jesus’ birthplace for several centuries. There was a Persian invasion of the area in 614 with much devastation. The Persian commander saw in the church a mosaic of the events of the Nativity which included visitors in traditional Persian dress, and spared the church.

We don’t know much about these visitors, except that they are referred to as Magi, which would indicate Persian scholars and astrologers with special wisdom. (The word is related to our word Magic, which implies special knowledge and power.) I have read of traditions that give their origins in places as widespread as Afganistan and Ethiopia, and include Arabia,and Nabatea (whose capitol is Petra, in the desert south of the Dead Sea) as well as Persia. To be totally consistent with this tradition, our Christmas gifts should be given to God and His work.

The New Testament teaches that grace and salvation are a gift of God, given through Jesus.  So the coming of Jesus is seen as a gift to mankind. Our gratitude then spills over into expressing love to our family and friends through giving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks for Good Food, Family and Friends--Linden Malki

The last few days my email has been buzzing with my daughters and daughters-in-law plotting food--who is doing what and bringing what for Thanksgiving--with contributions as well from their cousins and aunts. One cousin asked one of my daughters who plans the menu, and the response: Divine Providence. But while food is major part of a Thanksgiving celebration, I am most thankful for the way this celebration has connected me with people. My earliest memories of Thanksgiving are of the long drives from Spokane to northwestern Oregon, to my grandmother's house, where my dad's family gathered. It was usually dark by the time we got to Portland; sometimes through the Columbia Gorge rainstorms that look like someone is pouring buckets of water on the windshield. Grandma often had a houseful, so we stayed with Dad's sister's family, just down the road. I usually slept in my cousin's room, which had a beautifully mounted frog skeleton on the wall. If we were able to come a few days earlier, I got to help stuff Swedish potato sausage: a long sausage casing with Grandma poking the sausage in one end and another cousin and I pushing it down to the other end; when we got packed in, it was time to pinch it off every inch or so and twist the casing to make a link. This was the chance to hang out with not only Oregon cousins, but some that came up from California. Being the youngest granddaughter meant that I was usually on the dishwashing crew, and if the bigger cousins went hiking after dinner they got stuck taking me along. Even though I don't see those cousins as often, we still value each other as friends as well. The years after my grandmother was gone, Dad. who was the Sunday dinner and holiday cook, would invite folks from our church family that didn't have extended family to our house. After my mom passed away and I was in college, we would spend Thanksgiving with my brother's family in Seattle. There was usually someone from Seattle who had room for a passenger headed north, and one of my most memorable rides was with a friend who was taking two other students to his home because their own homes were too far--one was from Hong Kong, and the other from San Bernardino. We found out that the one knew my cousin who was a missionary in Hong Kong, and the other one was from Calvary Baptist. I met his family when I came here, and we are still in occasional contact. After I was married, Thanksgivings started out at my mother-in-law's, but after a few years, the family parceled out holidays to different sibilings, and Thanksgiving became "ours". I have learned not to overstress; I do a turkey and have faith that everybody else does whatever is necessary to make a great family gathering. My sisters-in-law are great cooks, and we learned to have plenty of containers for sending leftovers home with everyone. One year, I recall two sisters-in-law facing each other in my kitchen with pots in their hands, each saying, "I made grape leaves just the way John likes them!" Each year there were more babies, and children getting bigger, and eventually spouses and grandbabies. The last few years my daughters and their cousins are wrapping the grape leaves and bringing their own specialties. It's gotten more complicated as the families grow, acquire inlaws and shared grandkids, but I've had some great phone visits with sisters-in-law the past few weeks who will be with other branches of their kids' extended families. It is fitting that food, family and friends are the center of our celebration of thanksgiving to God--these are central blessings of the lives that we are given on this earth.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Finding the Line--Linden Malki

Contrary to some people's thinking, faith is not for wimps.  There are days it would be a lot easier to think that God isn't real or doesn't care, and just do what we want or what think we need to do all on our own. Our world is full of people who think they're in control of their own lives, or even worse, everybody else's as well. We see too many people trying to totally eliminate risk from everything--helicopter parents who hover over their children and believe they need to "be there for my kids" no matter what; bureaucrats and activists who spend their time trying to protect everybody from everything risky. 

The problem is that it doesn't work. Things don't turn out the way we expect; life isn't as easy as it looks.  We see kids growing up with no idea how to deal with anything or think somebody needs to take care of everything for them. And we also see kids who look for risk in really dangerous places because they are bored stiff with safety, or have no sense of proportion for danger.  We see people who think they can make their own reality because there are no absolutes. 

On the other hand, there are folks who see God as the magic genie; it's easy to take the "whatever" as a blank check without seeing the context of "according to His Will." The problem is that we're not as smart at God, and don't have the capacity to know past, present and future. We live finite lives in a finite world, and we're not designed to live forever on this planet. 

For those of us who have experienced the reality of God in our lives, we know that God does know and care what we do. We learn that He knows us better that we do ourselves, and knows what's good for us better that we do ourselves. We also know that He calls us to do amazing things, and expects much of us. He has given us gifts and abilities, and expects us to use them. The problem comes when we are faced with situations or decisions that we don't know whether to act on our own judgment, using all the information we have and all the guidelines we find in Scripture; or simply to do nothing, pray hard and wait for God to move in the situation. We have to find the line between depending totally on ourselves, or totally on God. I have had clear answers on both sides--in one circumstance, that there was nothing useful I could do and that He would handle it (which He did), and another time, that He gave me a brain and I should use it. I have also learned that when I cannot do what needs to be done on my own strength and abilities, that He can make  things happen. I have learned that often He supplies what I need, but not until I actually really need it; and His idea of what I need and when I need it isn't necessary the same as mine. Prayer isn't about begging and demanding, but about asking and listening. 

We are called to use His gifts and strength along with our own, to find the line between human arrogance and immature laziness. The Christian life is an adventure and a challenge; Jesus never said it would be easy; only that is ultimately rewarding beyond our wildest imagination!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What do we do about the election? by Pastor Paul

Many people are lamenting the results of Tuesday's election.  It would be easy to bury your head in the sand or run screaming into the night.  Neither of these is a Christian response.

Two thousand years ago the Apostle Paul gave us a clear and simple word!

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NLT)
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people.
Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 
Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority
so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.
This is good and pleases God our Savior,
who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

Pray that our President, Vice President, Governors, Mayors, Congress, Senate, Legislature's, City Counsels, and all the Judges will hear God's voice, know His ways, and walk in His path!  Pray that our leaders will embrace the principles and teaching of the Scriptures and apply them to the day to day decisions of governing.

Pray that all Americans may enjoy peaceful and quiet lives
marked by godliness and dignity!

Blessings to all,
Pastor Paul

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Kingdom, Power and Glory--Linden Malki

A "Kingdom" implies power. The point of being King is to exercise power over someone. When the Israelites came to Samuel and demanded a king (I Samuel 8), he described the demands that a king would make. (I think of this passage often watching modern politicians.) Political power is all about control, often with the best of intentions and ostensibly for our own good. The problem with that is that the root of political ambition is our own view of "good", which is never good enough. When the rich young man came to Jesus and called Him "Good", Jesus' response was that no one was truly good except the Father.

This puts the Kingdom of God in a whole different class than any earthly kingdom, or any earthly power. No human being can be trusted with power, while God is ultimate trustworthiness. So the Kingdom of God, exercising the Power of God, will be a Glory which is beyond our earthly imaginations.

God does allow us glimpses of His Kingdom tapping into His Power for His Glory, in the here and now. We had the blessing last Sunday morning of seeing a young man taking a step further into the Kingdom of God, pledging himself to operate only in the Power of God, and to do everything to the Glory of God. We at Calvary/Northpoint have been privileged to watch and help Michael White grow as a subject of his King, and now commission him to God's service in a new province of God's Kingdom.

We pray that the Glory of God be seen in the church family in Big Bear as they commit to serve with a new shepherd, that the Kingdom will grow as the Power of God works through His people. We also pray that Michael's passion for making disciples will bear fruit here at Northpoint as we also seek the Power and Glory of God in His Kingdom.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Call to Vote by Pastor Paul

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

The world is filled with countries where men are killed if they speak out against the rulers!  There are places in the world where women are killed for desiring to speak out at all!  God has blessed us to live in a nation where we are guaranteed the rights of free speech, religion, and assembly!

Tomorrow is our day to assemble as a people, speak our minds into the ballot box, and vote according to the teachings and dictates of the faith we claim.  Billy Graham recently posted a challenge to all of us in the Wall Street Journal.  As we approach tomorrows elections the words of the renowned evangelist are worth considering!

"As I approach my 94th birthday,
I realize this election may be my last,"
Graham says in the ad.
"I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates
who base their decisions on biblical principles
and support the nation of Israel.
I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life
and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman." 

You can add to Dr. Graham's list the far reaching questions of
foreign policy, financial policy, education, energy, defense,
healthcare, and potential Supreme Court appointments. 

We have heard the arguments, watched the commercials, and nearly drowned in the never ending polls and political commentary.  Now it is time to decide.  Say your prayers.  Double check your Biblical value system.  Run your sample ballot through your ethical and philosophical grid.  Then go to the polls and cast your vote.

Somewhere in the process pause and thank God for the privilege of living in a country where we can speak our mind, vote in safety, and follow the faith our Heavenly Father has given us!

God bless you for your vote,
Pastor Paul

Saturday, November 3, 2012

For Yours Is The Kingdom... -Dougie spence

“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”

                How often do we find ourselves in situations where we wish we had just listened to God? We knew full well what He wanted us to do, we heard His warnings, we saw His path away from temptation and evil, but continued on the road we were traveling.
                Last week I told you a story that could have ended much differently had I just listened to God. In all reality the fun I had that night does not make up for how I felt after the party was over.  I knew I let down myself, my parents and friends, and I knew I let God down.
                Something that I often forget (and I'm sure I'm not the only one) is that we are part of the kingdom of God. If He has a kingdom then He is our King, and as King He is the one we should be listening to. As I said in the last blog I kept arguing with God about my strength and my faith, earth to Dougie; He is your King!
                It is so easy for us to justify our actions by the world’s morals. Most without faith would think that going to that party was ok and the events that followed were out of my control. The fact that what happened at the party being out of my control is somewhat true, but that does not negate the fact that God didn’t want me there in the first place. Our King is full of power and wisdom, and for this reason we need to do whatever it takes to listen to His guidance.
                When we listen to what the King wants us to do amazing things happen. When amazing things happen we are able to show the glory of God.  When God’s glory is shown then we are able to help build His kingdom.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Deliver us from Buzzards--Linden Malki

We live in a fallen world. As much as we know that the world is God's creation, we also realize that He allows imperfection, unpleasant consequences, and downright badness. He has given us a choice: if we try to live life on our own wisdom and strength, we are going to blow it. He also offers the way out: Himself.

We look around and see great evils, whole cultures whose values are not God's values. There is a strong element of Pride in the human heart, which is not of God. "For the devilish strategy of Pride is that it attacks us, not on out weak side, but on our strong. It is pre-eminently the sin of the noble mind … which works more evil in the world than all the deliberate vices. Because we do not recognize pride when we see it, we stand aghast to see the havoc wrought by the triumphs of human idealism. We meant so well, we thought we were succeeding—and look what has come of our efforts! There is a proverb that says that the way to hell is paved with good intentions. We usually take it to take it as referring to intentions that have been weakly abandoned; but it has a deeper and more subtle meaning. That road is paved with good intentions strongly and obstinately pursued, until they become self-sufficing ends in themselves and deified. … The higher the goal at which we aim, the more far-reaching will be the ultimate disaster. That is why we ought to distrust all these high ambitions and lofty ideals which make the well-being of humanity their ultimate end. Man cannot make himself happy by serving himself—not even when he calls self-service the service of the community; for "the community" in that context is only an extension of his own ego." (Dorothy Sayers*)

We also deal with evil on the personal level; with people who have only their own interests at heart. Several years ago, after Pastor Paul had preached on the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4), my friend Missy came to work and said "You know the birds in that parable? I think they're buzzards!" So at our place, "buzzards" became our code word for attacks of evil. I also began to notice, in dealing with some people, that you could almost see the buzzards sitting on their shoulders whispering destructive ideas into their heads--and that there is only one way to deal with it: prayer. Arguing doesn't work. Be specific: ask for God to remove the buzzard and its smarmy little voice. That has made a huge difference in my own life. ( I also noticed that the buzzards did not want me to write this blog!)

Jesus' prayer, I think, reminds us that only God can deliver us from the evils of this world, with the evil in people we have to deal with, and also the evil that wants to take over our own souls. HIs Word and His Presence in our life is the only real defence.
*Dorothy L Sayers, Christian Letters to a Post-Christian World, Grand Rapids, MI, Wm B. Eerdmans, 1969, p153-155.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lead us Not... - Dougie Spence

When I was 17 I was a theatre major in college. A common tradition in theatre is that after a big production everyone involved goes to a cast party. Another common thing with theatre kids is that they are very involved in pot and heavy drinking. I feel it is important for you to know that was not the case with me; I was very much devoted to my faith and had no desire to smoke weed or become a heavy drinker, especially at 17. Even while I knew this was the case amongst my fellow actors I decided to go to the party anyway.
When we ask God to not lead into temptation and to deliver us from evil it is important for us to evaluate our situation and not put ourselves in danger of temptation. This, I did not do. I knew the other Christian in the group was not going (for obvious reasons), but I decided that I was a strong enough Christian to handle any situation thrown at me. A little tidbit of information for all believers out there, never trust your strength so much that you think you can handle any temptation.
When I got to the party it was already in full swing; people were drinking, smoking pot, and just acting like idiots. Did I listen to God’s voice when he was telling me to leave? No, I reassured Him that I was strong enough (another thing to keep in mind, if you feel like you are reassuring God that you have made a good decision… run) for most of the night I just ate brownies and denied drinks. That was until a pretty girl decided she wanted to dance with me and offered me a drink.
Every guy already understands the dilemma I put myself into, but for you girls I will clarify: if a pretty girl offers a guy anything, he will usually be dumb enough to give the wrong answer.  So half way through the beer I came to my senses and got my butt away from the dance floor. But that does not mean I finally started making good choices.
I joined the group at the fire pit. They too were drinking beers, but this group also happened to be smoking pot. So I just sat back and kept eating brownies and watched these guys act like idiots. Every once in a while I would chime in with a joke or comment, eventually someone asked how much I had drank. I told them I only had half a beer and was now just eating these brownies till the alcohol was out of my system so I could drive home. He then asked which pan I had been grabbing brownies from. As it turns out the pan I had chosen from happened to be the brownie pan laced with weed!
The moral of the story is that we are not too strong for temptation. The devil is too cunning and evil for us to outsmart. When I prayed that God would keep me from temptation he gave me many outs, starting with the fact that I knew what kind of party it would be and God had made it clear to me that I had no business being there. Too often we pray for God to deliver us from temptation and from evil but we do not do our part in listening to His guidance.
God cares for us and never wants us to be in a position like the one I was in that night. We can ask for God’s help all day but until we are ready to listen to what He has to say our prayers will be in vain. I encourage you to not only pray, but to act upon the guidance God gives you.
Have you ever put yourself into a position of temptation knowing full well that God has a different plan?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lead Us..Away From Temptation--Linden Malki

"How close can we get to the edge without going over?"  I remember this from a sermon by former Calvary youth pastor Scott Paynton some years back. "Why are we even going there? Shouldn't we be seeing how far we can go the other way?" 

This is one of the ways I read this line from Jesus' prayer: That we will be led the opposite direction, away from places we shouldn't be, people we shouldn't hang out with, bakery counters we shouldn't be drooling over. As Pastor Paul often says, sin is fun--up to a point. We think we can "handle it", that we can turn back before that point. 

We usually think of temptations as significant moral or ethical failures. And this possibility is always with us, but we face a lot of seemingly small stuff every day. The cliff we skirt the edge of might be a biggie, but it can be as small as a toe-stubber. 

For example, reading labels is a scary thing. According to the big letters on the front of the package, this product will make you healthy, slim, energetic, whatever you think you need or like. But when you turn it over and read the fine print, as of the Peanuts characters once said, it's full of ingredients. Some of them we know are not good for us--but maybe just a little bit...? I've known people who think real, whole food tastes funny, because they're so used to the fake.

And sometimes it's just stupidity. Yes, of course, God can pick us up, dust us off, and we're ready to go; but there are still consequences that we have to live with; pain that could have been avoided. When I was about 13, I would try to take our five cement back porch steps in two leaps. One night I was coming home from a church youth event, and friends dropped me off on the side nearest the back door.  What I didn't see was that Dad had left the hose on the back patio. So where the Supergirl temptation led me to that night was slamming into the steps, and my left wrist has never been the same. Yes, it healed but not straight, and I did learn something, but I still live with it. 

God will lead us,  but first, we need to ask, and next, we need to follow. When we have our eyes on Him, our backs are to temptation. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Shredder and Forgiveness- Dougie Spence

When I was just a little tot I loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I watched the Saturday morning cartoons and had TMNT toys. I had some that I would just set up in my room to look cool, and others that I would allow myself to play with. It was clear that I was a fan.
Every summer my sister and I would take turns going up to my grandparent’s house in Crestline. We would each spend a week completely spoiled by our grandparents. One year it was decided that my sister and I would spend the entire week up in the mountains together. I’m not thinking I was completely on board with sharing my grandparents for a week, but at seven the choice really wasn’t up to me.
Of course as a small child it was extremely important to bring the correct toys with me. Nothing too big and distracting, but toys that I knew could keep me entertained while the elders watched the news. This time around I had decided to pick two of my favorite toys, TMNT’s Shredder and Rafael. Sadly I did not know the future, and these toys were chosen not knowing the impending doom that lie ahead.
On one of the mornings that week my sister and I were playing with our toys out on the second story deck. For the purpose of this story it is important for you to know that we were playing on complete opposite sides of the deck, in no way did the story between my toys and the story between her girly toys have anything to do with each other. As it turned out me being a little boy something came to my mind and I had to run inside the house. When I came back out I walked over to my toys but something was amiss. Shredder in all his awesomeness was missing. My sister was on her side of the deck acting as if everything was ok, but in my head I knew she had Shredder, but even my deepest fears did not compare to reality.
When I finally got her to confess, it turned out Shredder took a suicidal leap off the deck and into the unknown! My Grammy and I ran down stairs and outside to find little Shredder, but sadly he was gone. He was in the great abyss of ivy and would never be found again. Now this may seem trivial if you are in fact old enough to have read this blog, but for a seven year old boy this was the end of the world.
The reality is that in the grand scheme of things most sins committed against us are quite trivial. If we stack them up, they do not compare at all to the sins that God has forgiven us for. He forgives every time we sin, even the times when no one else knows we did anything wrong. He forgives us because he loves us, just as we should love those around us. It is important to for us to remember 1 John 4:20, If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
Let’s make sure we show the love of God to all those we come in contact with. And with love, let’s make sure we forgive just as Christ has forgiven us.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Forgiveness - But I Can't - Pastor Chris

"And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us."

Really? Did Jesus really mean this, do we really believe this? How can I even repeat these words with a straight face. In this prayer I would be comparing myself to God. I am going to forgive others the same way he has forgiven me.

I think about all the things that he has forgiven me for. Things that I have knowingly done and then the things I have unknowingly done, yet he has forgiven me for all of them. How can I ever begin to compare my forgiveness to his forgiveness. Yet this is how Jesus taught us to pray.

I love that there is no qualifications on this. It does not say, "As we forgive those that have sinned against us and properly apologized to us and repented before God." It does not say all that, it just says "As I forgive them."

That is hard, I still remember a kid in junior high that walked up to me in the church van, and punched me in the face. Sometimes I still think about that and have to hand it back to God. It is much easier to think that I am a lot bigger now, and I could give him a little payback. But it does not work that way, I guess this all part of being Christ like.

Christ knew that on our own we do not have the capability to forgive like he does. That means that this is just one more way we must rely on him. Remember that our goal as Christians is not to be so good that we don't need Christ anymore, it is to rely on God more completely everyday.

Who do you need to forgive that you cannot forgive on your own. In faith pray "Forgive me my trespasses, as I forgive those that have trespassed against me." Trust that God has heard your prayers and that he can do a work in you, that you yourself cannot do.


Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Forgiven as we Forgive--Linden Malki

Everyone is imperfect. Everyone has fallen short at some point. Sin hurts in three dimensions: Other people, ourselves, God. Because God loves us, anything that hurts any of His children hurts Him.
It's not that we don't know better. God spent several thousand years telling what He expects of us; we are supposed to have been passing this on not only by words but by our lives. St Paul told us that we can discern right from wrong studying God's creation and applying our minds (which He created) to the world. But our laziness and selfishness and greed get in the way. It's much easier to see where everybody else has gone wrong. That's one doorway into the necessity of forgiveness.

Forgiveness requires clarity. It doesn't mean that "everything is OK." If it was, there is no need to forgive. What it's all about is recognizing what is wrong, and choosing not to go down the road of retribution, grudges, and allowing ourselves to perpetuate a problem. We may be right, we may only think we are right. But only God can had ultimately solve the issue, in His own wisdom and His own way, and we need to get out of His way. I'm becoming more and more convinced that we need to clear our decks of anything that is not fit for His presence. Hanging on to "being right" when it is corroding our soul is not worth it
Asking God's forgiveness and being willing to forgive ourselves and others are two sides of the same coin. When we are honest with God and ask His forgiveness, it puts us in the right frame of mind to forgive others. And if our attitude is right, it doesn't make a difference if the forgivee appreciates it or not. If they do, a relationship can be restored. If not, we are at peace.

Forgiving hearts make healthy communities. I recently attended a college reunion where everybody was on good terms with everybody--no leftover grudges or snobbery or well-nursed resentments. Linfield College is a Baptist-related school, and many of my classmates are active in churches; several have been in ministries of various kinds. It was a delightful weekend, and helps me understand why Jesus was so adamant about the necessity of a forgiving heart.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread- Dougie Spence

This is my favorite time of the year. The weather cools down, the trees start changing colors, and the holidays are right around the corner. My favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is approaching very quickly. Most people will debate that Christmas is the best holiday, but I am quite certain that Thanksgiving has them all trumped. No stress about gifts, just family spending time together.
My best memories as a kid involve Thanksgiving. My sister and I used to go to my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Palmdale for the whole week. I loved spending time with my Aunt; she is the type of lady who can spend hours talking to you without any agenda. We would sit and drink coffee all day, the whole time she would give me her full attention as if whatever my teenage mind was thinking was completely important to her. In a way, her making me feel like I had a voice that matters helped shape the man I grew up to be.
My Uncle worked a cool job, but it kept him gone most of the day. By the time he got home all the other kids would be asleep, but I always looked forward to seeing Uncle Bill. He would take the time to teach me about science, cool movies, and always had an opinion on politics. When he got home he would pour me and him glasses of milk and pull out a bag of cookies. Then we would sit and talk for hours. One day every week that I was there he would take me to work with him. He would let me hang out with the other staff members, and they would always show me cool projects that they were working on.
Then thanksgiving would come. The house was always full of family and friends. We would play football, watch football, and just have a fantastic time together. After dinner was done the adults would play poker. The last year we were all together I had a coming of age moment, I was finally fifteen and allowed to play poker with the adults. With a lot of help from my Uncle I was able to do pretty good that night.
When we think about “give us this day our daily bread” we generally think about thanking God for our family and friends, the food He has given us, and the roof over our head. Thanksgiving in most Christian households will spend a moment thanking God for these things.
In John 6 Jesus describes Himself as the Bread of Life.  I think it is extremely important to realize that we need to be asking God for His grace and for His direction every day. We need to ask the Bread of Life to fill our needs in a way that makes man hunger no more. Every day we need to make a conscience effort to abide in the Bread.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Give Us This Day by Pastor Poppie Paul

We use money to buy our daily bread.  That is a simple fact of life.  I do not have a hamburger tree in my back yard.  IN-N-OUT takes ATM, Credit Cards, and Cash.  I have never stood in line and prayed down a double double animal style with crisp fries and a chocolate shake.

At the same time, I am totally dependent upon God for my life and opportunities.  God could put the "recall order" out any time He chooses.  God has given me every gift, talent, ability, and opportunity I possess.

So how do we connect prayer, work, our efforts, and God's provision.  A  man in our church used to say, "Pray like it's up to God and row like it's up to you!"  Both sides of the coin are valid.  Some people think they did it all themselves.  Others seem to think it's all up to God.

When we ask for our "daily bread" we are seeking God's blessing.  We are seeking His help.  We are asking God to move on our behalf.  We are acknowledging that we awoke this morning, in this country, with His blessing.  We are asking for God to lead us, guide us, direct us, protect us, empower us, and use us to His glory. 

We are remembering the words of Paul in Ephesians 3:20 (MSG)

God can do anything, you know—
far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!
He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us,
his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Paul was speaking uniquely of his ministry in Colossians 1:28-29.  However, I believe the same principle of Gods energy at work within us applies to all of our work and endeavors.

So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone
with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God,
perfect in their relationship to Christ. 

That’s why I work and struggle so hard,
depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.

 Bow your head as you humbly pray, give us this day our daily bread, and then grab hold of the work God has given you to to do with all of the industry, creativity, and power possible.  Then, when something special, wonderful, and unexpected happens take the time to thank Him for hearing your prayers!  Remember, row, pray, row, pray, row, pray!

Have a blessed and anointed day,

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Daily Bread: God's Provision

One of my earliest memories was being taught to say grace before meals. Sometimes it seems like just a routine, a habit that doesn't mean a whole lot. But thinking about this line in the Lord's Prayer, God is telling us that He made us to need Him at least three times a day. He could have made us to not need to eat every day, or to need to eat constantly like some of His creatures. But what does it take for us to have our "three squares"?

For one, God made an earth on which things grow. There is an amazing abundance of different things that God's green earth provides for us. Some of them we can eat right off the vine, but most of them require some effort on our part, and the effort can be a pleasure in itself. God does not drop sustenence in our face, we are responsible to pick it or raise it or cook it or what ever it takesl
I am reminded that the ancient provision for the poor was for Israelite farmers to leave produce on the edges of the field for those without land of their own to gather for their families. It's another example that God provides, but expects us to be responsible for each other.

This is life on a very fundamental level. Ultimately, a good deal of what fills our day is related to our need for daily bread. But even those things that are not immediately related to this need are provided, at their best, by the providence of God. That's a question for us: are the things we do daily worthy of a child of God? Being imperfect beings, we waste time and effort on useless or bad stuff, but we should strive to make the best of the ultimate provision of God: 24 hours each day.

Another side of God's provision is confidence: He tells us not to worry, that the Father that takes care of flowers and birds in beauty takes care of us as well. It's hard not to worry.It seems like a responsible thing to do; to take charge of taking care of ourselves. But our efforts are not as good as His. I had another flat tire on the way to work last week; we found a piece of box knife blade in the tire. I realized that I was not far from the warehouse of a customer I occasionally have delivered parts to. So I gave him a call, and he came to help, but I didn't have the right lug wrench in the car and he didn't have the right one with him either. So he went back to see what he could find, and while we were waiting a total stranger with a Psalm 91 t-shirt drove up and asked if we needed help. And he had the right wrench and got our tire changed; when I called the other guy he wasn't on his way back yet. My friend Maria who was with me commented that our attempts to deal with it were what didn't work; what God provided did the job.

There is an old saying, "Life is so daily!" We are blessed that God's provision is daily as well.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Your Will Be Done, On Earth As It Is In Heaven- Dougie Spence

When I was growing up, especially in my teenage days, asking my parents if I could watch a movie with my friends was an insane proposition. As much as it annoyed me, I’m pretty sure my dad loved the question.
He would instantly transform into a detective, I’m sure he works for the CIA, and he just tells everybody he works in “the glass industry”. The house instantly became lock down and then the questions would come fast and hard; “who are you watching it with”, “where are you going”, and “what movie are you watching”?
After the interrogation he would go off to his computer to spend hours analyzing every detail of my story, and the movie. After he had gone through scrutinizing deliberation he would return with a verdict. Sometimes he would come back and tell me to enjoy the movie, other times I would have to hear how bad the movie was and that it would be a poor decision to go see that movie.
Once I was out with my friends I had a decision to make; do I do what my dad wants me to do, or do I do what my friends want me to do? In the simplest form, this is what “your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” means.
At my parent’s house, we will call this heaven (and if you have tasted my mother’s cooking, it is not far off), the movies my dad told me not to watch were off limits. Whereas if I was away from home, earth, I was in a situation where I could make my own decisions.
This piece of the prayer is instructing us to seek God’s will in every decision we come across. We should be asking Him to show us His will. But asking is not enough; sometimes we need His strength to fulfill His will. In Heaven there is no sin, so His will is easy to follow, but here on earth we have decisions to make and sin to face. Ask God to give you the strength to do what He wants you to do.
Have you ever struggled with God’s will? What did you do? How did He help you?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

THY WILL BE DONE:On Earth, as in Heaven--Linden Malki

Hebrew literature is built on paradox, two lines with complementary or contrasting images. Psalms and Proverbs are written like this (and if you don't realize it, and pull half a couplet out of context, you can get some strange theology). This is the cultural heritage Jesus grew up with, and you can see it in His prayer. He uses the fathers we know and the Father He is showing us to illuminate each other. He equates holiness with the Name of God. The Kingdom has both an eternal and a this-world meaning. The next line brings up a concept that is not just difficult to understand--it's impossible. Churches have split, volumes have been written, and I'm not going to come up with the ultimate answer in 25 words or less. I think if we look at it as a classic Hebrew paradox in the context of this prayer, we may get at least a tiny sliver of light on the subject.

In following Christ, we find ourselves living in two worlds, because He lived in both. The easy one to look at in light of understanding God's Will, of course is the one in which God is at the center and everyone there has accepted the invitation, is willing to submit to God's total authority, and is willing to give up anything that is not compatible with the Presence of God. One exciting thing about that is that we are not only with God, but with people who have been cleaned up to be the person that God created them to be. Another is the absence of the Adversary, and there is no interference between God's Will and our own.

If that is a picture of Heaven, what about Earth? This is the hard one. This is where we live. If we know anything about God, or have read any of the Bible, we recognize that what we see here doesn't looks much like what we think God's Will is like. Why not? Why does Jesus even include this line in His prayer? After all, God is God, and can do anything He wants. But apparently, what He really wants is for us to do His will through the power of prayer. This also implies that He wants this to happen with our cooperation and willingness, and He has allowed us the alternative of being stupid and stubborn. One answer I don't have is how God weaves our stupidity, and even our acquiesence to the Adversary, into the fabric of the world He created. What makes it even more interesting is that realization that God is not limited by time and space. We can have a page on a calendar, and look at each day individually, all of them at once, or any combination of them, but we still are limited to living out each day one at a time. God can see our complete timeline, and that of the whole world, like we can see the whole page of a calendar, but He can also step in anywhen. I have experienced His nudges, I have experienced His slamming doors and opening whole new ones; I have been stupid but seen Him work with that as well. We realize that Earth is not Heaven, because none of the inhabitants are fully open to His Will--some of us want to be and some of us don't know and don't care. We are not asked to understand everything, but to be open to doing God's will in the little time and space He gives us.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Thy Kingdom Come"- The Marshmallow Man - Dougie Spence

By now you have probably realized that I am not a pastor, nor do I have a Doctorate in Biblical studies. I am just an average dude who somehow landed a gig writing for the church blog, I’m still not sure how it happened. I think that as long as I keep coming up with stories, the pastors won’t realize that an intruder is writing on the blog site. Well, that is until this week.
This week the section we are on is “thy kingdom come”. For the life of me I cannot think of a cute story or fun anecdote about my life that relates to “thy kingdom come”, in fact when I was thinking about how to write this blog I realized that I had no idea what that even meant! So I went into research mode. When I say research mode I actually mean hours of staring at a computer, where I eventually end up on Facebook.
When I finally got down to business I realized that there are many interpretations for “thy kingdom come”. Some seemed reasonable, some thought that it meant that we are to pray for this life to be over so we can be in heaven (which sounds a little morbid to me), and I think some weirdo related it to the marshmallow man in Ghostbusters… not saying it was, but that might have been my original idea.
When I started doing some word searching in my Bible I came across a crazy verse that brought a whole different perspective to me. Matthew 12:28,  “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you”. It sounds like Jesus is saying that we will experience the kingdom of God when the Spirit of God is at work in our lives.
When we experience healing, witness miracles, and see a life transformed by God, that is experiencing the kingdom Of God. I just got done reading the book of Acts; in it we see that Paul and Luke experienced the kingdom of God on a pretty frequent basis. I want to see that happen in my own life. I know that I will be praying “thy kingdom come” often and with boldness. I want God to use me to make an impact on the people around me.
If you have witnessed the Spirit of God working around you, please share your stories in the comment section.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thy Kingdom Come: What Kingdom?--Linden Malki

What does it take to make a Kingdom?

First, a King. By using "Thy Kingdom" in His prayer to the Father,  Jesus is making it totally clear that God is the ultimate authority. In the Old Testament, the authority of God is usually seen in a political context; His people and their leaders are accountable to Him. But in the Gospels, the main theme of Jesus' preaching is the Kingdom of God. What does that look like?

A King exerts his authority over some kind of community; a King without subjects is a joke. Most kings initially acquire authority by conquest. The subjects have limited choice: acquiescence, exile, or rebellion. Jesus talked constantly about the Kingdom, but never by conquest. He was building a Kingdom by invitation! On one hand, He says "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom." (Luke 12.32). St Paul told the Romans that "The Kingdom of God is not what you eat or drink [in the context of the Jewish law], but rightousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17).

On the other hand, there are requirements: to follow Him, to seek it first above all else (Luke 12:31); and to be reborn by water and the Spirit (John 3:5). In other words, this Kingdom does not merely require political allegience, but putting all that we are under His authority.

The Kingdom that Jesus preached confused many of his countrymen, who were hoping and praying for a Kingdom of God here and now,  expecting the Old Testament conquest and power pattern. Matthew tells of Jesus preaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. This takes the whole thing into a larger but less concrete form. Every kingdom anyone had ever experienced was defined by physical borders. So does this mean that the Kingdom is limited to a place called "Heaven", not on this earth?

Yes, it is obvious that there is an eternal Kingdom, directly ruled by God, that will have some kind of manifestation here at the final return of Jesus, as well as extending beyond anything we can comprehend now. But it isn't only "out there" waiting. Jesus kept saying that the Kingdom is somehow here, within, among us. He also describes it as being made up of the poor in spirit, the persecuted, spiritual children, those who seek and those who follow, growing like a seed underground and growing up to bear the fruits of the Spirit.