Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What Do We Know About the Bible? by Linden Malki

We hear people say that the Bible is "unreliable and has been changed over the years." Let's look at these claims.

There have probably been more scholars, most of them smart and very well educated , who have studied the history and text of the Bible than any other book or collection of writings in existence. What is really amazing is that most of the scholars have broad areas of agreement, and the differences found in manuscripts of wildly divergent places and times are very, very small in comparison. Breakthroughs have come from archeology over the past two centuries; more and older manuscripts and pieces of manuscripts have been found. We now have literally tens of thousands of documents and partial documents of the New Testament from those first few centuries. The most dramatic story, of course is the Dead Sea Scrolls--a collection of writings that were found in the area of the Dead Sea and surrounding areas in 1947 and later. Upon very serious study, which is still continuing, it was confirmed that these scrolls date from before 150BC, and contain at least part of almost every book in the Old Testament. What is significant is not only are they about a thousand years older than the oldest manuscripts known before this discovery, is that there are very few differences, none significant, between these writings and the later ones. They do clarify some readings and shed light on the historical and cultural background of their times. Other archeological finds from the Greek and Roman periods recently found, not only of Biblical writings but a variety of contemporary writing, have been important in understanding the Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew languages of the period. One thing I find interesting is that there are so many other very early writings--commentaries and related documents--that quote the New Testament that it would be possible to reconstruct almost all of the text just from quotations in these writings. And again, these very early witnesses demonstrate how essentially accurate what we have is, and that the text was basically agreed on within the first few centuries of the Church.

The whole study of translations is for another day, but for now I will say that scholars' understanding of the ancient languages, the number of available sources, and the constantly changing modern languages are factors that have led to the explosion of translations over the past hundred or so years. I like reading different translations, and find that each helps me understand what God has been saying to His people for at least four millenia.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Do It Anyway by Pastor Poppie Paul

I loved this past Sunday morning
at NorthPoint!  Frank was on the sound board.  Darren was leading worship.  Chris and Dougie
were team preaching!

After hours of practice and preparation Dougie went front
and center to deliver his first ever Sunday sermon.  I think he said, "Oh my gosh, I'm so nervous" at least four times!  But he kept on going!

He and Chris did a great job,
and left us with one clear message!
Read the Bible for yourself.
Let God speak to you.  Do it with a hardbound book.  Do it on your computer.  Do it with your Kindle.  Listen on your phone.  Just do it!

But there was another message for me this Sunday.  Our worship leader is learning the sound board.  Our guitarist is leading the worship.  A 60" flat screen upgraded our Sunday video presentation.  And a man who works with glass for a living stood front and center to deliver God's Word.  That's what God is doing at NorthPoint.  That's what equipping saints for the work of the Ministry is all about!

That's what happens when the Holy Spirit stirs up God's Word down in your soul
and Jesus invites you to do new and amazing things for His Kingdom!  You've gotta love it!

Have a great week,
Pastor Paul

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dark Night Of The Soul-by Linden Malki

The coming of the Holy Spirit into our life may be dramatic, it may be profoundly deep, it may be the still, small voice. The drama is less important than the connection with God. And we may not always "feel" the presence of God, but that does not mean that we have been abandoned. There is a not uncommon experience in the spiritual history of the church known as "the dark night of the soul", when God may want us to know Him by faith, not by feedback. Our relationship with God does not depend on an emotional high. I mentioned this in a Life Group discussion of the Holy Spirit recently, and one of the group members said "That's it! I've been there! And it was years later when I recognized how God got me through a really dark place in my life." In the Catholic tradition, this experience is common in people recognized as saints--part of the process of radically following Jesus.

  The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel had a vision of the Glory of God living with His people in His temple. However, this was a very bad time in Judah's history, as the people had turned from worshiping God to bringing the pagan idols of their neighbors into the Temple. In Ezekiel's vision, the Spirit of God left the temple, which was destroyed by invading Babylonians and the people scattered into exile. Later, he had another vision of a clean and restored Temple, and the Spirit brought him back to see true worship reestablished and the Glory of God return.

Five hundred years later, Jesus was sent to enable us to be temples where His Spirit can live; to let Him get rid of whatever is not fit for His Presence.  He assures us that He is with us, even if we don't have the warm fuzzies all the time. This is when we get through the dark nights by the knowledge that even though all we see is the dark clouds, the Light is still there behind them, and He will bring us through to the dawn. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Modeling Moms--by Linden Malki

"Mom, look how much I've gotten done on this! Reminds me of your mom saying hard work is fun when you can see where you've been." My kids never knew my mom, who died when I was 17.  But I'm glad that at least one of them picked up on something I had told them about her, and she also went on to say that her mind works the same way. My older daughter, a professional accountant, says she still does some things the way she learned from me when she ran my office when she was in high school--much of which I absorbed from her grandmother, also an accountant.  Our Creator has made us all different in many ways, but He also repeats Himself in many ways as well. It's like going over old family pictures--it's fun to look for resemblances across generations. 

We should remember that people will also see spiritual resemblances within our families. St Paul tells of seeing a faith in Timothy like that of his mother and grandmother. (II Timothy 1:5). Do we show the best from our own family's heritage, and would people recognize good things from us in our children? The other side of this coin is a tough one. One of the side-effects of Facebook is that I've seen both good and bad sides of friends and family showing up in their kids and grandkids. I worry about one young relative who is following some of her dad's less positive footprints, because her love for her dad blinds her to the reality she grew up with. 

Are we open to seeing our families as God sees us? Can we recognize lessons? Are we living the right lessons? Can we look back and see positive changes from where we've been? 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Death Into Life -- by Linden Malki

"You are all dead men!" was the thundering message from a speaker at a conference I attended several years ago. We have to be willing to surrender our human, sinful lives to God's eternal destiny for us. This is perhaps the hardest part of facing God's truth: that we, in our own strength, cannot be the people we were created to be. I am becoming more convinced each day that we have to be willing to let go of anything that is not fit for the presence of God. In Romans 6, St Paul tells us that when we are baptised in His Name, we die with Christ Jesus and our old lives die with Him. And if we have truly died to our sins, we need to bury them. It is too easy to let them creep back into our lives, stumbling blocks that pull us backwards.

But look at the end of the story! Jesus died; our sins died with Him. But what looked at the time as an end was truly a beginning of something new. "We were buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."* Look at how the glory of the resurrection blows away the sadness of death! We are not called to look backwards, but with St Paul, forgetting what is past and straining forward to what is ahead, to press on to win the prize for which we are called Heavenward in Christ Jesus.** He has told us that He is the Resurrection and the Life; that He came so that we can have Life and have it abundantly!

* Romans 6:4
** Philippians 3:13-14

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

When you hear the same thing three times! By Pastor Paul

When I hear something once it might slip by.
When I hear something twice I pay attention.
When I hear it three times in a row I fully engage!

Last week I was fully engaged three times by God's Word!

On Sunday our missionary Michael Weiss and I stood in the parking lot of the Elks Lodge prior to worship.  As we talked, Michael sensed that God was leading him to change the message and share about Gideon.

On Wednesday evening Karen and I taught our Life Group Kids Slot.  The material was several weeks behind because of unavoidable circumstances.  The lesson was on Gideon.

And on Wednesday, when Karen went to do her devotions... you guessed it... Gideon!

So what is the message?

Gideon was hiding under the ground when God called him a mighty warrior.  Gideon raised up 32,000 soldiers, God sent 31,700 of them home.  When three hundred Israeli's beat the massive forces of Midian it was for one reason!  God wanted to get the glory!

As NorthPoint prays about selling our Sierra Way property and buying 764 Inland Center Drive it is easy to connect us with the Gideon story.  On Easter Sunday several years ago there were 650 people.  This past Easter there were 100ish in the parking lot at Castaways Restaurant.  Before the financial collapse of 2010 there were 350 active people.  Today there are around 100 in Life Groups and 75 in Celebration.

So what is the point?  Eight years ago I was talking about moving NorthPoint down near the 215 fwy.  Eight years ago I stood in the Sierra Way parking lot and told God that "if something is going to happen here He will need to do it with His Spirit."  Now, eight years later, The Way is rocking the North End on the Sierra Way property, and NorthPoint is looking at a property one block off the 215 freeway!

Whatever happens next... you can be certain of one thing!
We did not do it and God will get the glory!

I can't wait to see what God does next,

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Mission in Music by Linden Malki

There were pilgrims from all over the world in the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem. The street outside was crowded with tour buses, and you could hear a babel of languages. There was a solid ring of people all around the edge of the main worship area. During a lull in the conversations, someone began singing "He is Lord". Immediately everyone in the room picked it up, with different accents and even different languages, but totally together. It ended with a total reverence, as everyone slowly, in silence, faded out the doors. This was 25 years ago, but I will never forget the power of the very simple music to bring this wildly diverse group of people together in worship and acknowledge of our common Heavenly Father.

We in the church have an incredibly rich heritage of music, all grown out of experiences of God's working in the lives of many people over not just centuries but millenia. We have a Scriptural record of a song praising God in Exodus 15, and it appears to have been something that was already part of worship. The Bible mentions singing or song in at least 254 places! We have the whole book of Psalms, that gives amazing spiritual wisdom in songs.  Music has always been a part of church worship, and it has spread outside of churches. Some of the greatest music ever composed has been for the glory of God.  Today we can find praise and worship music on any radio dial. It is hard to imagine worshipping God without music.

Music has always been a part of my own spiritual life. My parents met at a church choir party. I've been part of choirs, praise bands, children's music and musical drama. I am priviledged to be part of the NorthPoint Choir Team Life Group, and we have a mission for the music we sing. For three years now, we have been going out to a variety of care facilities all over our Valley, and presenting a program of traditional hymns, country gospel and traditional favorites for people who can't readily come out to worship, in the name of our Father in Heaven and of NCF. We have seen listeners in tears, we have been asked to repeat someone's favorite. We have been told that we have made a day that started badly into a good day, and have given someone a piece of their life back. This month we are scheduled for four programs, three of them at places we've been asked to come back to. We may have some new and exciting opportunites this summer! I will be posting them on the NCF Facebook, or you can call me for more information (909-844-1920). We'd love to have NCF folks come along, sing along with the residents, and offer a handshake and smile to people who don't have much contact with the outside world.