Thursday, August 29, 2013

WHY "BLESS THIS HOME?" by Pastor Paul


After surgery I spent a week face down.  One eye is useless, and the other is fuzzy.  Since it was nearly impossible to watch the TV I listened to news, scripture, and books.

One of the key issues under examination in the news is the condition of the family in American society.  This week several currents ran together to create a rather challenging thread of discussion.  The anniversary of Dr. King.  The court ruling on Stop and Frisk.  The absurd number of murders taking place in America.  The deplorable state of American urban education.  And the welcoming, in California, of people with boy parts into the girls locker room. 

As the statistics continued to emerge for debate they painted a frustrating picture.  Many urban centers have a 50% High School student drop out rate.  In New York the number of Black and Hispanic murders, and murderers ran into the 80 - 90% range.  30% of Anglo children do not have their biological father living in the home.  That statistic goes to 50% in many areas of Hispanic culture, and as high as 70% in parts of the Black community.  Divorce hovers around 50%.

I remember arguing the causes of these tragic social realities in seminary.  That was twenty years ago.  Things have only gotten worse. Today I am much less concerned with what caused these things, and more concerned with the means to fix them.  I realize that many will say you can't fix them, until you know what caused them.  There is truth in that.  The problem is that different groups will lay the blame on different factors and together they will never come to collective agreement concerning the cause.  People will continue to blame, or live as victims, without looking for a solution to the problems.  Neither blame nor a victim mentality will move us forward.

It was in this context that I lay, face down, and reflected on our upcoming sermon series.  The month of September is committed to the topic, BLESS THIS HOME.  Our homes need a blessing.  Families need to know what it looks like to follow Christ.  People need a solution for their pressing problems.

It does not matter how your ship became lost at sea.
If you can see the lighthouse, and hear the horn,
you can cut through the fog and know which way to go!

Mark your calendars now for the next four Sundays!
Do not miss any of these life changing messages!
Let the light of Christ encourage you,
and the call of His Word direct you!

9/1     Hunger and Thirst after Righteousness
9/8     Pure in Heart
9/15   Peacemakers
9/22   Persecuted
9/29   Family Barbecue at Lake Perris

CYA Sunday at the Elks Lodge @ 10:00am,

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

We are His Body--by Linden Malki

On Jesus' last night on earth, with His disciples, His final prayer lets them know that He has full authority over the people that God has sent Him to save. (John 17). He had already told them that the Holy Spirit would bring His truth.

How does this happen? St Paul tells the Colossians "We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way..." (Colossians 1:9b-10) So God fills us with wisdom and understanding through the Spirit; Jesus has made peace through His blood. In comparison, what can we do? Nothing--except to be open to what He does to us and through us.

St Paul takes this to a whole different level. He puts it this way:" ..He is the Head of the Body, the Church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy; For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in Heaven, by making peace through His blood shed on the cross." (Colossians 1:18-20)

He sees us as One Body, being presented to God by His Son, our Redeemer. He calls us to come together as one body in peace and worship Him. He also calls us to be parts of this body as individuals with spiritual gifts that the church and the world needs, and also in small groups who also have varied spiritual gifts and callings which complement each other, so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And we are also called to teach and disciple others, both within the fellowship and outside. In our physical bodies, parts that don't get proper nutrition and use become toxic to the whole body. This applies to the church body as well. Parts that don't stay healthy and perform their design function will damage or even kill the body. We are all in this body together!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Best Vintages by Linden Malki

A great sage was asked about the difference between Heaven and Hell. “Imagine a banquet,” he replied. Everyone around a great table, steaming bowls of delicious stew on the table, everyone there has a long spoon. The problem is that it is strapped to their hand in a way that the diners can't get the spoon to their mouths, so they are all sitting there starving. This is what Hell is like. Now imagine another banquet, the same table, the same stew, the same spoons. But here, everyone is happy and well fed. But here, everyone is feeding someone else. This is Heaven”.

Jesus told His disciples that the key to His Kingdom is that we are servants, each of the others. What are our family, or church, or organization gatherings like? Squabbling about who sits where? Is the “best” food intended to be admired or enjoyed? How much of the conversation is trying to impress others? Do we dress to be admired, or to be able to help out if needed? Do we do what needs to be done, or what we think someone ought to want done because we always know best? It usually boils down to whether our first concern is ourselves, others, or the best interests of all.

Underlying all this is our understanding of who we really are, and what are we called to do? If we are the center of our universe, and are entitled to what we want, and want to do it all ourselves, we are not truly connected the way we were designed to be.
God made us for His Kingdom, which involves seeking His Will and operating in His strength. But it gets better. Jesus began by preaching the Good News of the Kingdom. At the end, His last night with His disciples, He moved from a social relationship to a more integral relationship: I am the Vine, you are the branches. (John 15) Think about the difference: a Kingdom is made up of subjects. A vine is made of branches and leaves and grapes that are a living part of the vine.  Look at the vine: the roots and trunk suck up the water and nutrients from the soil. If that doesn't happen, the vine dies. But when the roots and trunk are sound, branches grow and support leaves and fruit. The leaves open to the sun and combine that energy with the water from the roots and chemicals from the air to make the good stuff that grows into grapes. We may be branches, the framework of the vine. We may be leaves, working to combine the various pieces God provides so that fruit may form. And we may be grapes, turning what the rest of the vine produces into fat, sweet, fruit--but the quality of that fruit is dependent on all the other things that go to grow the vine.

Jesus even says that a branch that is not connected to the trunk is useless. Even a branch that may still be hanging on, if it doesn't support the leaves and fruit needs to be pruned. If the leaves don't get enough water, they will die. But there are times that the leaves are designed to turn beautiful colors and drop, but the vine will survive and produce fresh leaves in the spring. We may have seasons where we change and go dormant, but God can still bring a springtime.  And fruit!  One of the interesting things about grapes is that every season's fruit is different, and fruit that may not look as fat and healthy as another crop's may produce an outstanding wine; another may only be fit for vinegar. An expert can tell from the final product which vineyard and what season produced them.  The vintages that God produces are each distinctive, just like His Children.

Friday, August 16, 2013

CYA Sunday is Here: By Pastor Paul

Life Groups began this past week.  
Many of our children are back in school.  
People are coming home from vacations.
It is time to come together.

This Sunday we are inviting all of the NorthPoint family,
friends, Life Group members, and visitors to join us for our
Celebration worship service at 10:00am.
Then stay for a complimentary lunch.

This will be a great time to "check in"
and connect with your NorthPoint family!

Don't be late!

August 18th at the Elks Lodge,

Pastor Paul

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Character Counts--by Linden Malki

There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end is the way of death *
A Godly character is more than just trying to do the “right” thing. Trying puts the emphasis on our own effort, which puts ourselves first. Jesus pointed out that focusing on our efforts to keep the whole law can lead us to trip over small stuff and miss the big picture. The “big picture” has its own traps, however.

Some years back there was a lot of talk about “situation ethics”, which sought to justify exceptions to traditional values. There are times that the context is critical, but often it's an excuse for actually dismissing the Biblical ethics of the situation, arrogantly thinking we know more than God. What seems to be right and helpful in the short run can be damaging in the long run.

“Character” is one of those things that may be tricky to define, but we “recognize it when we see it.” I have noticed, in watching people over the years, that high ideals and a good reputation in one area of life may not be consistent with other areas. For example, we have seen many major public figures with great concern with making society better, fairer, etc., believe that their approach and their goals are all important, and any alternates or questions are inadmissible. Often, a good public image covers up shortcomings in everyday personal life. Occasionally an admirable private life is an excuse for evil and selfish public behavior. We're not surprised to find that people often don't have all sides of their lives in order; somehow it can make us feel better about our own shortcomings—but it's very difficult to live down the damage to a relationship. Ultimately, we can only maintain Godly character not by our own strength, but through the grace and mercy of God.
* Proverbs 16:25

Friday, August 9, 2013

Living His Way--by Linden Malki

There is a common image of the Bible as being full of “thou shalt not”s.  Last week I said that the first commandment in the Bible is God telling Adam and Eve eat from a particular tree. Our friend Michael Weiss pointed out that I had missed the original and earlier command: “God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28). How positive is that!  I noticed when choosing the daily Bible readings the last two weeks that there are a lot more positive commands and teachings than negative.  However, both the positive and negative commands are reminders or examples of the basic concepts: Love, for God and each other; and Follow Jesus.

Sounds easy, right?  If it were easy, we wouldn't need commands. It has been pointed out that if all the principles contained in the Ten Commandments were things we did without being reminded, there would be no reason to “command” them.  We also have to recognize that God is smarter than we are; that doing things His way leads to Him. Look at the positive commandments: putting God first, honoring His worship and His Name; and honoring those who are responsible for teaching us right from wrong. These set the stage for being able to love. The negative ones all speak of respecting and not mistreating each other, again a starting place for love.

It's pretty easy to see the point of Love, but not easy to do it without help. Other people are often unlovely, unloveable, annoying, selfish, hurtful, we all have our own lists.  But it all needs to happen in the context of God's commands. First, we recognize that we can't deal with it on our own; and be willing to give up our own hurts and impatience; and be a channel of God's Love rather than trying to dredge it out of our own limited souls.  And then we ask how our relationships live up to God's standards, which are not only guidelines for our behavior, but a guide for what we should be willing to live with, as well as a prayer guide—listening more than asking.

Living it out is where following Jesus comes in. His leadership leads to His Father. What does not lead us to God is someplace we should not be going, either on our own or following the wrong people.  Here is one of times we have to think about what we are willing to give up.   One of the common things that people may think—both inside and outside the church—is that God doesn't want us to have "good times". What He actually offers is Joy—and again, choices. Do we understand that in the long run, God's definitions of "good" are better than the world's? He's certainly spent a lot of time telling us that! The basic question is really if we are actually willing to live His way.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Choice to Obey--by Linden Malki

From the very beginning, God has made demands on His people. The very first example, of course, was in Eden, where there was just one commandment, and the reason behind it was for Adam and Eve to recognize and respect the authority of God to make the commandment. It was always tempered with love, which underlies the relationship.

We see everytime God establishes a relationship with people, there is a command. Cain and Abel are asked to bring an offering of their produce; Noah was asked to build a boat. God spent two thousand years explaining what He wanted of His people--to love them and teach them the best way to live.

Jesus' basic call was for followers. Think what it means to "follow" someone! It means keeping them in sight, and going where they go and doing what they do. The only time you can follow someone who is not in your line of sight is when you know where they are going and what they are doing. That was what Jesus was teaching! As St Paul once said, "Follow me, as I follow Christ." Can we actually say that to anyone? It's not as if we are expected to follow randomly, but we are given guidelines and instructions which will keep us on the path. It's not always easy! He never said it would be easy, just that it would be right, and maintain the relationship with the God who love us. Love and obedience are choices that we make, deliberately or by default. There are those who do quarrel with our obedience to God, but often it is that it shows the difference between their choices and ours. When we know the love of God, and love Him in return, it makes our choices more clear. Not perfect, because like everyone who has gone before us, we can't do it without knowledge of Him, the strength He makes available, His forgiveness when we get off track, and His love.