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.