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.