Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Best Advice--by Linden Malki

Our world is full of advice. We are constantly being told what to do, what to think, all in our best interest, of course. Everybody has an answer. Going all the way back to the beginning, even a snake had an answer. What is interesting is that he also asked the question! A formal tournament debate is always set up in two parts: first, is there a need for change? Second, does the proposed answer fill that need better than the present situation?

Underneath the flood of advice we are swept up in is the assumption that somebody knows better than we do what we need and what we should do about it. However, we all want to think we know what we're doing! I've been dealing with a lot of change in my life in the past ten years, and I thought I knew what I was doing. It's one thing to recognize that some things aren't working, and something else altogether to deal with it. It's not easy to recognize what should be saved, and what should be let go—especially for a congenital packrat.

Jesus asked people to do one thing: Follow Him! One of my favorite glimpses of Jesus is right at the beginning of His ministry, at the end of John 2. As the crowds began to gather, He would not entrust Himself to people like us, for He knew what is inside of us. His original disciples struggled with this for the three years they were with Him, and then the rest of their lives. The advice He gave them as He was preparing to launch them into showing the world His answers for life boils down to two things: love and obedience. The world offers gives us all kinds of advice as to how to love and what to obey, and all kinds of people to follow. Our job is to put these in the context of what we know about God's love, and obeying God. How do we need to change, and what does He need to do in our lives? And how do we recognize others on the same journey, and whose advice we should be willing to entrust ourselves to? And how can we build each other up into His image? That is what we as His followers are seeking to do through doing His life together!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

We Need Humans by Pastor Paul

I am amazed by the multiple levels of computer menus that exist to keep me from talking to another human being.  The same is true on the phone.  My favorite is when I am six or seven levels deep in my conversation with the mechanical voice and things go silent.  Hello?  Hello?  Hello?

Rabbi Lapin says that major companies actually computer screen calls.  They sort between customers who pay their bills on time, and those who do not.  Good customers get to a human quickly, bad customers are routed in never ending circles.

I have been reloading my computer these past three weeks and have spent hours on the phone with tech support.  The words, "Do not worry, we will do everything necessary to resolve your problem." are ingrained in my subconsciousness mind.   Then the tech begins reading from line one of their script.  I have a feeling that if I told the tech a giant lion had just entered my home with the intention of eating me that he would say, "Do not worry, we will do everything necessary to resolve your problem."  I am certain those words would comfort me as the lion pounced.

This blog finally emerged when I went to the web site of my computer security firm.  I pressed the live chat button.  A pop up emerged and let me know that I needed to download and run the virtual tech before I would be allowed to speak with a human.  One more layer of separation.

Even when you go to a "real place" the bank teller is behind bulletproof glass and the person taking your fast food order is on the other side of a speaker.

God did not design us to argue with computers and talk to other humans through a plexiglass shield.  Yet, that is the world in which we live.

In this context Life Groups offer an amazing opportunity and a serious challenge.  They give us the opportunity to eat, pray, laugh, cry, share and socialize with other humans.  They give disconnected people an opportunity to connect.

The challenge is teaching people how to have an honest person to person, face to face experience.  The challenge is getting peoples eyes off the screen of their "device" and into the eyes of another human.

This is not an easy journey.  As annoying as machines can be, there are advantages.  If I cuss them out or turn them off they don't get there feelings hurt.  If I say or do the wrong thing I can simply hang up and redial.  Even if I am on the phone with another human, I can mess up, hang up, call back, and most likely get another person, probably in a different country.

Long term face to face interaction with other people is fraught with danger.  What happens when we say the wrong thing, do something inappropriate, or fail to meet an expectation?  In the world we just disconnect!

In the Kingdom we confront, repent, forgive, discuss, hug, love, laugh, cry, and move on together!  Doing business with humans is never easy... but it is awesome!  Get ready to look away from your devices for a couple hours each week.  Get ready to lock eyes with some of God's amazing children.  Open your heart to the tremendous things God has planned for you.

Be praying now for the Life Group you will join in August!
It is almost time to connect!

Pastor Poppie Paul

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

My Most Memorable Vacations--by Linden Malki

I spent a part of every summer growing up climbing mountains knee-deep in cold water with a flyrod in my hand. My dad spent most of his working time talking to people. His ideal vacation was to get as far into the woods of western Montana as he could pull our camping trailer, and not talk with anybody he didn't want to. The trailer itself was a family project; he had originally built it with a friend when I was a baby, but over the next ten years kept thinking about how he would have done it differently. Being the last kid at home, one summer I was the one who helped tear it down, all the way to the axle, and we build it different. It was wood, pretty heavy, and had beds and cupboards and drawers inside. On the outside, a slide-out counter, with storage space and a Coleman stove; and a table that folded down and benches that pulled out, and a frame for a tarp--a complete kitchen. The camp  population varied--friends and relatives were always welcome. I recall looking around one Sunday morning and realizing that we had the whole Board of Deacons up in the woods. Dad always built an outhouse, and tables, and one year my middle brother built a hot shower. And he always left the campsite looking just as we had found it, but there may have been an extra table hidden back in the trees for next year.

We didn't do "campgrounds", he always checked in with the forest rangers to let them know who we were and got permission to camp, always next to a river or creek. Dad had found the area when my brothers had summer jobs with the Forest Service, and we went back to one of the same two or three spots every year. If it was on  private land, he would get permission from the owner, and some of them became long-term friends. About 20 years ago, I went back up to Spokane for a reunion of my old church, and took my younger son David. We drove up and spent a couple of days in the area, and stopped at a general store out on the highway. Chatting with the owner, I mentioned where we had camped area years earlier, and it turned out that she had grown up in our favorite valley--and remembered her mom putting fish in her freezer for my dad. (The picture is that valley, taken on that trip. Our favorite campsite is in the woods off to the left.)

My most vivid memory, however, was not in the woods. It was about a hundred-mile trip from Spokane up into that part of Montana, and included a long bridge over Lake Pend Oreille at Sandpoint, Idaho. At that time it was reputed to be the longest wooden bridge in the world--two miles, two narrow lanes. One afternoon we were in the middle of the bridge when a wheel came off of the trailer--which was pretty wide for that bridge. Mom walked a mile back picking up lug nuts, and by the time we got the wheel back on traffic was backed up for miles. A beautiful but most unusual place to spend a summer afternoon!

At family events up in the Northwest, there are occasionally relatives from unrelated branches of my family, who became friends up in the woods with us.  Those days created special memories and connections that we still share.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fork in the Road by Linden Malki

We all have a story. Some of them are more spectacular than others. A friend told me today that he knew it was a God thing when he happened to be in a market near a liquor display and realized that the bottles didn't talk to him any more. For many years, on one hand I am grateful that I have never been in really bad trouble, but on the other hand, I didn't think that I had an earth-shattering story to tell.  Last Sunday, when Pastor Paul was sharing his dramatic testimony, I realized that those of us of us who grew up in the church still had a point in time where we had to make our own decision about God.  It could be something as simple as whether or not we would go to church on Sundays. It could be looking at our friends and asking if I really ought to be going some of the places they liked to go, or doing things they liked to do. We might even choose to go through the motions, stay within the Christian subculture, but without wanting to make the decisions that truly following Jesus would mean.  When Jesus was on earth, many people saw and heard Him. Some followed, and some turned away. 

I had a good college friend, a pastor's son, who decided that he just didn't believe it any more and was really rather noisy and annoying about it. It was obvious that he wasn't going to listen to anybody, so I just let him rant and beyond not agreeing, didn't say a whole lot. He graduated a couple of years ahead of me, and we had the same faculty advisor. One day, this professor told me that he had received a request for information from a seminary about him. Shortly afterwards, he came through the campus on a visit, and made a point to look me up--to apologize for all the nonsense he had dumped on me. A year of graduate-level physics had convinced him that there is more to the universe than the obvious, and that he wasn't able to be who he knew he needed to be on his own. I was also recently in touch with a very good friend that had grown up with me in the same church, and I had recognized when we were in college that he was walking away from God--and he has never turned back. I have friends who grew up in totally dysfunctional homes that you could barely call a family--and at some point God reached out to them.  

This is what is unique to our faith: God comes to us. We are not responsible for our earthly origins--but we are accountable for our response to the light we are given. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Our Father's World by Linden Malki

We seem to be living in an world where everyone wants free stuff. If you Google "free stuff", you get 1.5 billion hits. A young man who worked part time for us this summer asked me what kind of car I would want if I could get it free. That was a tough question, because I know there would be a hook in in somewhere--and it would still require gas, maintenance, insurance, and more. When we did fireworks sales for camp scholarship money, one of the big deals was the BOGO items--buy one, get one free. If you looked at it carefully, if you buy one for the price of two, you get the second one free. We get customers who are upset when their car breaks, and really want somebody to fix it for free and compensate them for their inconvenience. My usual answer is that if I could go out back, wiggle my nose, and make it happen, I wouldn't be working for a living.  Too many people seem to think that if they want something, somebody ought to give it to them, just because they are the most important person in their own eyes.

That, however, is not the world we live in. We are born into a world that God made, and He owns it. Even Adam in Eden had to take care of the Garden that fed him. We live in a world that needs to be taken care of. One afternoon when my husband and I were working around our place, I realized that a lot of what we were doing was trying to stay even--fixing things, cleaning things, feeding things, picking things up, dealing with things. God made the oranges on the tree-but they only turn into a glass of orange juice if we've watered the tree, picked the oranges, squeezed the juice into a glass that we have bought, stored and washed as necessary.  God lets us live in a world that has the potential to feed, shelter and clothe us--but He also made us with the brains and strength that make it happen. Too often, we use those brains and strength to short-circuit the process. I see customers who will work harder to make the wrong part work than find the right part. Too many people put their efforts into cheating or stealing to get what they want at anyone else's expense. I occasionally use my ring of keys as an illustration of original sin.

God has not only given us the privilege of living in this world; He offers us the privilege of His Eternal world. We cannot earn it; He has already paid the price. We can only do this by taking our eyes off ourselves and what we want, and look at Him.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Mission by Pastor Paul


This past week we heard a great buzz about
Starbucks commitment to diversity.

This next Sunday I will be preaching about
The Mission of the Christian.  


The message of the cross and the message of the world have never walked hand in hand.  We are no different than our Christian ancestors who struggled to live and witness in Roman or Greek cultures.  So what can we learn from those who have gone before us.

The great questions we must wrestle with anew, in our generation, are:

How can we be in the world,
but not of the world?

How do we live close enough to the world to matter,
without getting sucked in?

How do we live as followers of truth,
in a culture committed to diversity?

How do we work for companies,
or do business with companies,
or attend schools,
or watch movies,
or eat foods,
or drive cars,
or take vacations to places,
on airlines,
or hotels,
that disagree with our faith?

These are great questions that should challenge us deeply as we seek to serve the savior and share in The Mission of the Master.  This Sunday we will explore how to present challenging Biblical truth with perfect love!  We will pursue the process of holding unto the cross with one hand while reaching out to the world with the other!  Don't miss this great time of discussion!

See you Sunday,
Pastor Paul

P.S.  We may not have all the answers but we will wrestle together with some great questions!