Monday, April 29, 2013

A Little Bit About Michael Weiss

Hello Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am Michael Weiss, North Points missionary to the international military community. Since this is my first blog I was asked to provide an introduction. I grew up in Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley, and graduated from Van Nuys High School in 1976. It was during my junior year that a couple of my high school classmates shared the Gospel with me. After much wondering, drugs, parties and an arrest for stealing I decided I needed God’s help. So, soon after my graduation I gave my life to Jesus while serving as a camp counselor at Camp Whittle, a YMCA camp near Big Bear Lake. At first my Jewish parents were not very excited about my decision since they thought I was abandoning their religion. But after following Jesus for about nine months my parents gave me permission to be a Christian because they saw a noticeable change in my life. Before this time they thought I would be dead or in jail by the time I was 21 years old.

The following year I joined the Army to become an Airborne Chaplain Assistant. After my initial training I was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Home of the Airborne, and assigned to 7th Special Forces Group with duty at John F. Kennedy Memorial Chapel. I was here, in February 1978 that I met Sergeant Paul Reinhard, a Special Forces Soldier who had been tasked to work at the chapel until is Army commitment was over later that year. Needless to say we became close friends and partners in sharing the Gospel with our fellow Soldiers. Many years, and stories, later Paul and I are each other’s oldest friend.
Susie Masters Grad

I met and married Darlene, daughter of an Army Chaplain, in 1980 and we were blessed with our first child, Susie, in 1982. In 1985, while stationed in Hawaii our second blessing, Michael Jr., was born. Time, nor this blog, permits me to share all the joys we have being Susie and Michael’s parents. Susie is currently an Elementary School Art Teacher in Colorado Springs and Michael is an Infantry Lieutenant stationed Fort Bless, Texas with his wife Elizabeth, a Physical Therapist.

We have been stationed at numerous Army bases in the United States, in Heidelberg, Germany and I did an unaccompanied tour in Korea in 1993. Everywhere we went we connected with the Body of Christ at our local chapel where Darlene would serve in various women’s ministry leadership positions. Throughout the 90’s we were Associate Staff Members with the Navigators.

Michael Jr. Infantry Grad
Upon my retirement in 2007 I attended Regent University; I completed a Master in Theology in 2011, while developing an international military and discipleship ministry. I have provided ministry training in Europe and in a number of African countries. I am meeting with a number of men weekly to include connecting with Patrick in Malawi and Osman in Sierra Leone via Skype. Later this year I will train military ministers in Ukraine, Liberia and Cameroon in addition to events with the U.S. Army.

Last May Darlene completed a Masters Degree in Conflict Resolution from Abilene Christian University and is working as a Family Deployment Coordinator for the U.S. Navy in Norfolk, Virginia. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cleaning Up Our Acts--by Linden Malki

"Following Jesus" does not mean "being good", it means "being obedient." Back at the very beginning of mankind's relationship with God, we find that disobedience breaks this relationship. Restoring it, from Genesis forward, invoves sacrifice; and we find in Exodus 19 that the people are told to prepare for an encounter with God by washing. We see throughout the Old Testament the cycle of disobedience and restoration, over and over again. As the children of Adam, we are incapable of perfect obedience. And when God sent Jesus, the Messaiah, He provided in His own death the perfect and permanent sacrifice, once for all.

The other requirement for coming back into God's presence was ritual washing. Every procedure in the Torah, the ancient law (the first five books of the Bible) ends with a bath. Over the centuries, this became formalized with descriptions of basins in the Temple, and requirements for a pool with running water. One of the features of the ruins of the first-century fortress of Masada, overlooking the Dead Sea, is their mikvah, the pool, and the elaborate water channels that fed the pool there on the top of a sheer-walled mesa. To this day, Jewish communities have a mikvah, used for ritual purifications, and for the initiation of a convert to the community.

Our Gospels each begin the story of Jesus' ministry with his cousin John, the prophet who preached as he performed the ritual bath of the crowds who came to him at the Jordan River. Jesus Himself came to participate in this, not because He needed purification, but in obedience to His calling, and an example for His followers. But as the sacrifice of the Cross, which we have just celebrated in the Easter season, was once for all, our obedience to this command is also a watershed moment in our life as His disciple: a symbolic sacrificial death and resurrection with an immersion in water, coming up to a new life and new enabling through the Power of God.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Believing the Impossible--Linden Malki

 "Faith" is sometimes thought of as deliberately believing something impossible or untrue, just by an act of will. I've heard people brag about "having faith" in someone they actually know to be totally undependable, or walking into situations that have "disaster" written all over them. 

This is not Biblical faith!  One of the most powerful verses on the subject is Romans 1:17, where St Paul says speaks of the righteous living by faith. He is quoting the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk, who says it this way: "The righteous shall live by faithfulness".  (Habakkuk 2:4)  We are not called to blind stupidity, but to deliberate commitment. Faith is better defined as believing on the testimony of someone or something you know to be dependable. This is part of our calling to witness: being faithful people whose story is true. 

In God's world, a true story can look impossible! Jesus' followers saw Him do things that were, by the standards of a skeptical world, impossible.  We have records of God's having done the apparently impossible throughout His relationship with His people. When God set about moving a whole bunch of people into a promised land, who did He use? The ten guys who believed it couldn't be done, or Joshua, who had been faithful to God's leadership?  How likely was it that a bratty little brother who got dropped in a well would become the prime minister of Egypt? Who did God use to build his earthly kingdom--the boy who was willing to face a giant, or his grandson who thought he could outdo his father and believed the wrong advice from the wrong people, and lost the larger part of the kingdom? Or the biggie of them all: using an unjust death to break the power of death--and a resurrection that we believe because there were credible witness that were faithful unto their own deaths. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

On Balance--by Linden Malki

"I just need to know what comes in and what goes out, and we can make sense of it from there."  This is what John's tax guy told me when I first started doing the bookwork for our auto repair business. This made sense, because I had had enough math to know that everything has to balance. Whether it's a checkbook, or a ledger, and now a spreadsheet, there is a point where you push the magic button and the number that appears has to match another one. This is also the way the physical universe runs: physical and chemical processes can only produce the equivalent to what is put in. 

Sir Isaac Newton, one of the giant figures in the development of our understanding of the physical universe, distilled his observations and calculations into a short list of "laws", one of which is: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."  It seems to apply to our own lives as well. Even small children seem to want fairness--how often to we hear a kid scream "That's not fair!" In our desire to be "fair", it's easy to think that all questions and disputes have two sides, equal and opposite. Even our classic personification of Justice is a goddess holding a balance scale; the evidences are put on their appropriate side of the scale, and one will overbalance the other. Some traditions even see God's judgment as a similar scale: our good behaviors go on one side, bad stuff on the other, and our eternal fate depends on which is greater. 

This is not how the God we see in Scripture works. In His eyes, there is no equivalence between Good and Evil. God's first relationship with His creatures was based on His scale: This you must do, and this you must NOT do. On this scale, anything in the "NOT" side tips the scale against us. Whatever is not compatible with God's presence cannot be in God's presence. If this were all there was to it, we are all doomed to be banished from His presence. 

However, this is not what God wants. He made us so that we could be in a loving relationship with Him. He makes us an offer: If we are willing to give up everything on the negative side of the scale, He will  take it all and give us Himself on the positive. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

His Wind At Our Back--by Linden Malki

A couple of friends are hiking in the the woods, and suddenly a bear appears. They both take off running. Gasping, one says "Do you think we can outrun the bear?" The other replies. "I don't have to outrun the bear. I only have to outrun you!" That's one way some people look at being "good"-- they just need to be better than someone else.   I've heard people say "I'm OK-I don't do anything really bad; don't rob people on the highway or anything like that!" Does God really "grade on a curve"? 

Recently I read a comment by the son of a minister who had turned his back on God. When no thunderbolts appeared, he figured he was home free--either God wasn't really there, or didn't really care.   I believe that He is there, and that He does care--enough to respect our rejection, if that is what we really, really want. But there will come a time that we will see what we have done: we will have missed out on what He created us to be in this life, and we won't have a ticket to the next. We really won't have gotten away with anything.  

Yes, God did make the rules of this life, and it is to our advantage to follow them. Life really works better that way. But because we can never do it perfectly on our own, He is also a God of mercy. If we truly seek Him, even if we are on the wrong road, He will find us and put us back where He wants us. Saul of Tarsus really thought he was doing God's will by trying to stamp out the early Church--but because he truly wanted God, God knocked him down, dragged him out, pointed him in the right direction, and used him mightily. Then God could turn Saul the persecutor into Paul, the apostle. 

We are not called to outrun someone else. We are called to run our own race. If we run it His way, we will have  His wind at our back, and we will be amazed at where this can take us.