Friday, August 31, 2012

The Danger of Debt! by Pastor Poppie Paul


I begin this blog with the free confession that money frustrates me!  There are a hundred questions that I have and ongoing debates that dwell within my head.  How much is enough for a Christian?  Do I earn it, or does God provide it?  It ambition sin?  Is contentedness the path to laziness?  I could go on and on and drive us both crazy!  But there is one lesson that I have learned over the years.  It is a lesson our city, state, and country need to learn!

 If more water is running out of the dam,
than is coming into the dam,
it will eventually dry up!

I have had the terrible and painful experience of packing up a church building, and a house.  I know what it feels like to run out of money.  I know what it feels like to beg the Credit Union for another day on the church mortgage.  I felt the pain of Cal Vet taking my house key.  I watched my wife cry!

I have learned that debt is a dagger pointed into the center of your soul.  When you lose your livelihood it doesn't just break your wallet.  It breaks your heart, and it breaks your spirit.  I have sat with grown men and watched tears run down their face.  The tears flowed as they confessed the shame, guilt, and sense of failure that gripped their heart as they saw the devastation that their loss brought their wife and children.  I have cried those tears myself.  I have felt that shame, fear, and anger.

I know what it is like to beg God to save something,
then doubt His love when you watch it fail!

We live in a country that is buried in debt!
They continue to borrow!
We live in a state that is buried in debt!
They continue to borrow!
We live in a bankrupt city!
They have been cut off!

Over the past few years we have been forced to make painful decisions.  We leased our Sierra Way Church property to The Way, and moved to the Elks Lodge.  Karen and I gave our Cloverhill house back to Cal Vet and returned to the house we could not sell.

We have felt the pain of loss!
We have tasted the destructive power
of incurring debt you cannot pay!
When circumstances beyond your control begin to change
the danger of yesterdays decisions become all to clear!
I know that we are not alone.  
Many people have felt this pain, and experienced this loss!

So what am I learning?
What does our city, state, and country need to learn?  
It is very simple!

Tithe 10%
Save 10%
Live on the balance!

Don't borrow investment dollars that you can't reasonably and safely afford to repay!
Don't incur consumer debt with absurd interest!
Don't assume things will always appreciate!
Save, as the old saying goes, for a rainy day!

Most important of all...  DON'T QUIT!  I don't care how bad you have crashed and burned!  
DON'T QUIT!  Your family needs you!  Your church needs you!  

Admit your mistakes!  Ask God to forgive you!  Forgive yourself!  Press on!
Remember this!  You are not in this alone!  THE LORD IS YOUR SHEPHERD!  
Learn what He wants you to learn!  Make the changes He is calling you to make!  
Then trust His ability to RESTORE you and bless you!

I offer you this poem, which is carved in the stone of the courtyard outside the church where Karen and I were married!  Drink in it's words and let them feed your soul!


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Christ and Money: Too Often Rivals--Linden Malki

It was a fundraising dinner put on by a ministry organization I was not familiar with; we were there representing my evangelist brother-in-law who was unable to attend. From what they showed of the mission projects they sponsored and supported, they were doing good things for the Kingdom. Then the gloves came off. Of course it costs money to do what they do. The head of the organization said they needed to get a $5000 donation from this evening. After about ten minutes of an increasingly hard sell, somebody finally put up their hand to pledge the $5000. Then it started again, for several $2000 pledges, and more smaller amounts, committing God to blessing the donors in exchange for financially blessing the organization. I couldn't help thinking of Jesus saying in Matthew 6, that when it comes to charity, we should not let our right hand know what our left hand is doing, much less announce it to the world; and that if credit in this world is what you aim for, you will hit it--but that is all the credit you will get. At a similar event, different organization, I overheard one of the organization's people express disappointment in the Christian celebrity keynote speaker for not having gone for the hard financial sell. The world too often sees the church as being dependent on and demanding money, like the events I recall. Jesus saw money as a necessity of the world, but one that has to be kept in its rightful place.

Jesus spoke about money in several different contexts. One is Matthew 6:24, where Mammon, the pagan god of wealth, is a rival for God's place in our hearts. In Luke 9, the disciples are heard to discuss the cost of feeding the hillside full of people, when Jesus makes the discussion moot. The wealth of the rich young man in Luke 18 turns out to be what keeps him from following Jesus. And when Jesus is challenged on the subject of his taxes, he sends Peter back to his earlier job to bring in the coin, which is miraculously provided. (Matthew 18:27) The next installment of this conversation is the coin as the claim of the world, in contrast to the claims of God. (Matthew 22:18+)

As a church family, we have been through over a decade of financial crises that totally changed the focus of our fellowship. After more than ten years of dealing with the nuts and bolts of church finance, I never again want to be in the place where we spent that last decade. God is in the providing business, not the begging business. Sometimes I see myself on a tightrope between reality and faith; and need to remember that if God has me He will have a claim on whatever money I have--and in turn, I need God more than money..

Friday, August 24, 2012

Do Not Assume Christ is in the Church! Pastor Paul

When most of us hear the word Church we think of Jesus Christ.
We assume that Christ is the centerpiece of the Church.
He is the Head.  He is the Lord. He is the Savior.  That is our assumption.
But we assume wrong. Not all Church's view Jesus Christ the way we do.
This Blog is not about what everybody else thinks about Jesus Christ... 
It is about who we at NorthPoint believe Jesus Christ to be.

We believe Jesus is God,
He was with God at Creation,
He is the creative Word,
He was born of a virgin,
Lived a sinless life,
Taught God's truth,
Healed the sick,
Raised the dead,
Ruled the waves,
Died for our sins,
Pillaged hell,
Rose on the third day,
Appeared to His followers,
Returned to His Father,
Intercedes for us,
Is coming back to get us,
And will rule everything eternally!

It is pretty simple and straightforward...
He is the Alpha and the Omega,
The beginning and the end,
He is the bright and Morning Star,
The Lion of the Tribe of Judah,
Prince of Peace,
Mighty God!

In the words of St. Paul...   Colossians 1:15-20 (NLT)
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,  
for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.
Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body.
He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead.
So he is first in everything.
For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,
and through him God reconciled everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

To say it simply,
He is the Head,
we are His body.

The game is follow the leader,
we are His followers,
Jesus Christ is our leader!

Pastor Poppie Paul

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Christ and the Church:His Body--by Linden Malki

Jesus is recorded as specifically mentioning "The Church" only once by the Gospel writers, but the statement is very powerful. What He said is "I will build my Church". All of Scripture deals with God's relationship with a called community. Jesus did repeatedly talk of this community using the same image as the Old Testament prophets, the book of Acts, most of St Paul's books, and John's Revelation: a marriage. Revelation 19 describes the culmination of history: "The Reign of the Lord God the Almighty has begun; let us glad and joyful and give praise to God, because this is the time for the marriage of the Lamb. His bride is ready, and she has been able to dress herself in dazzling white linen, because her linen is made of the good deeds of the saints." (Rev 19:7-9).  I find it interesting that the perfection of the Church comes at the end of the book! The whole historical process of God's calling His People is one of preparing this community to be in this incredible relationship with Him. We should not be surprised if this community is not perfect! He's not finished yet. He is patiently loving, teaching, inspiring, disciplining, winnowing, washing, and forming us into a fit partner for Him, which will be completed at the end of Time and continue for Eternity.

The other image that Jesus gives us of our communal relationship with Him is His Body. St Paul speaks repeatedly of the Church being the Body of which Christ is the Head, the Controller. We are an obstreperous and not very cooperative Body much of the time! On our own, we do not know what or how to be what we are called to be. We are called to submit, to be willing to be built into this relationship. We see this with our own bodies. The recent Olympic Games have given us examples of what the human body can do--and glimpses of the training and discipline required to get that level of performance.

We are very blessed in being called to a personal relationship with God through Christ Jesus, but this was never intended to be only one-on-one. When Peter preached to Jerusalem in Acts 2, the result was not only individuals coming into this relationship, but the formation of a community, one that continues the pattern of His people coming together in worship. As human beings, we form all sorts of relationships, groups, assemblies, crowds, and some of them even call themselves churches. But if we do not give up our own efforts and designs, we will not be at that glorious Banquet. We are not called to "build a church"; that is what God sent His Son to do. We are called to Be the church: members of His Body, His Bride, His People, on His terms.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Christ and Government: Protecting God From America


Today's news showed a group of atheists filing suit to prevent the public display of the I-Beam Cross found in the rubble of ground zero.  At the heart of their shrill screeches is the cry "separation of church and state."  All across America groups demand that memorials with crosses be torn down, that God leave our money, and the symbols of religion be removed from the American landscape.

The sad truth is that most Americans
do not understand the origin
or intent of America's founding
and guiding documents. 

The Declaration of Independence begins with the assertion "that they [we] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights" and concludes "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence."  The men who gathered to found our nation forgot to erase the notion of God from our national birth certificate.

After the birth of our nation a concern arose that we had not limited government enough.  And so the document we know as the Bill of Rights came into being.  The Preamble makes it crystal clear that the Bill of Rights exists to "prevent misconstruction or abuse of its [the governments] powers" and to add "further declaratory and restrictive clauses."  The purpose was "extending the ground of public confidence in the government."  Our bill or rights exists to protect us from our government!

THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.

 The bottom line is that early Americans were deeply afraid of the Russian Czars, the British Monarchs, the German Kaisers, the Anglican Bishops, and the Catholic Popes.  Americans wanted to be free to live and worship according to the dictates of their own conscience.  It was against this backdrop of protecting people from government that the First Amendment to the Constitution was written.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Baptist pastors, and other religious leaders, did not want the government to adopt an official religion.  They did not want governors telling them how and when to baptize their children.   They demanded the freedom to worship according to their conscience.  So they deeply supported the concept that "no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" should be made or established by the government. 

Our founding fathers were protecting the church from the incursion of the government!
They were not protecting government from the presence of the church!

This clear and fundamental understanding of our founding documents has guided the interpretation and application of the law for the past two hundred years!  Sadly, in our generation, there is a profound effort to remove Christianity from the public domain.  For two hundred years crosses have appeared on memorials, prayers have been prayed in public events, and the right of Americans to practice their faith without the interference of government has been enjoyed!

It is imperative that Christians understand their American heritage and responsibility as citizens to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, both foreign and domestic!  We must use every peaceful means possible to reclaim our glorious American heritage of an unparalled religious freedom!

Blessings and peace to all,
Pastor Poppie Paul 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Christ and Government:Watch Out!-by Linden Malki

Hanging on a wall in the chapel at Vallersvik Baptist Conference Center on the west coast of Sweden is a door from a prison. At one time in the early 1850's, the man in the cell was F.O. Nilsson, the first Baptist preacher in Sweden. "In the year 1848 the first Baptist congregation in Sweden was organized after five people were immersed in the sea at Vallersvik [at midnight, on September 21] on the coast of Halland [Province]. In spite of the edict forbidding spiritual meetings outside of the Church of Sweden, people gathered for Bible study, prayer, and songs of praise.*"  F.O. Nilsson was named the first pastor, and he was arrested, tried, and in 1853 he was officially banished from Sweden. He came to America, where he preached and founded churches up and down the Mississippi River valley in Minnesota. His brother S.K. Nilsson, one of those original five, held church in his farmhouse in Minnesota. One of his daughters was my grandmother.

The following King did rescind the banishment, and over the years, free churches were increasingly tolerated and in 2000, the state church was cut loose from the government. Even though the state church had political power, it was not healthy, and Swedish society does not demonstrate much evidence of a Christian witness. A government does not make a healthy church, and churches do not make good governments. Even ancient Israel was not a theocracy; God's Word came to both the kings and people through the prophetic tradition. When King Saul got impatient and offered a sacrifice himself, it cost him his kingdom (I Samuel 13). Jesus refused to get drawn into political discussions; the early church grew and developed under hostile governments. Yes, we are called to speak truth to all people, which include those in every part of society. Those in positions of leadership and power are accountable to God, as are we all. But God's power in the world is not dependent upon man's political favoritism.
* Faith, Freedom, Fellowship: Swedish Baptists 150th Year Jubilee Proclamation, 1998.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Christians, Work, and Welfare by Pastor Paul

One of the great debates in our national political scene right now
has to do with the administration of the welfare program.
This week’s topic of Christians in the Workplace was chosen many weeks ago.
Therefore, the opportunity to write this blog is coincidental yet timely.

Before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit their mission was pretty simple.  Make babies and be in charge of the earth.  What a cool job description.  But they disobeyed God and found themselves kicked out into the real world.  And everything changed.

Genesis 3:17-19 (NKJV)
17 Then to Adam He [God] said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': "Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.  18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field.  19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return."
God created humans to do work.  It is the primary means God chose to use to provide our income.  It is the source of personal satisfaction for a job well done.  It is often a part of our identity.  God created us to rise up and meet the challenge of work.  He calls us to use our hands, our brain, and the awesome imagination He gave us.  Ephesians 4:28 (NLT)  If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.

God did not call us to subsist upon the government gravy train.  If we need help for a season, praise God for American government.  If we are honestly disabled, praise God for the safety net of insurance and government programs.  If we find ourselves unemployed because of circumstances, praise God for help.  Giving and receiving help is good, and right, and Christian.
However, government assistance is there to help when things go wrong!  It is not the norm for the child of God.  Public assistance is not a career goal!  Yet, for many people it is!
There were three people panhandling in the 40th St. Stater Brothers parking lot at 11:45 last night.  They were under the impression that the money in my pocket should be used to subsidize their addiction to alcohol.  And they became angry with me when I did not pay them what they obviously thought they were worth. 
I have had similar sounding conversations with Christians who are actively looking for a reason, or excuse, to tap into the government pipeline!  It is as if they are praying for God to give them an adequate level of pain, injury, injustice, opportunity, or disability to qualify for a lifetime of doing nothing!

God calls us as Christians to help those who need help.  The Bible is clear.  Give your shirt to the naked, your food to the hungry, and shelter to the homeless.  The widow, the orphan, and foreigner are constantly lifted up as examples of people we dare not oppress, cheat, or misuse.  We should help the least, the last, and the lost with as much as we can.

Nevertheless, the scriptures are equally clear about those who are to lazy to lift their food from the plate to their mouth. [Proverbs 19:24]    2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 (NKJV) says that  For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.   For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies.  Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.

With an unemployment rate of 17%, a public assistance usage rate of over 44%, and a city that can’t stay out of bankruptcy…  San Bernardino is a prime example of the consequences of a welfare mindset.  If you are in legitimate need of help then receive it freely with a grateful heart.  If on the other hand you are simply lazy --- repent, and ask your Shepherd to teach you how to find work.  And, if you are one of the unfortunate people who truly wants to work, but are laid off and suffering because of the general economic dysfunction caused in large part by inept and dishonest government… don’t give up!  Keep looking!  Keep trying!  Keep praying!  Get your life group and the church praying!  And I will believe with you that God has a great job for you!  I have seen Him do it many times, for many people!  He can do it for you!

May we all continue to grow in our understanding of God, work, government, and money!
In Jesus name,
Pastor Paul the Pirate Poppie