Friday, January 30, 2015

Who Do You Really Work For?--by Linden Malki

There is a man who used to work with me who grew up attending a local church.  As a teenager, he was offered a job by a man active in his church, whom he saw as a godly man.  He discovered that what a person is on the job during the week can be totally different than what people see on a Sunday morning.  This applies to anyone at any level in the organization,  or as your job interacts with with the rest of us.  My mom once worked in the financial office of a small college in the Pacific Northwest, and at one point during an economic crunch, they were approached by a local farmer about paying part of his daughter's tuition in potatoes for the college dining hall.  They made the deal, but when the potatoes arrived, they were small, scruffy ones that were obviously the ones the farmer hadn't been able to sell.  And then the daughter came in asking for a part-time job.  So Mom set her up to work in the kitchen--peeling those potatoes. 

The combination of work and money shows what is important to you. You may have lots of money, or very little,  but what is your attitude about money?  Do you see everything in relation to how much money is there in it?  I've been in conversations with people whose whole conversation is how much they make (or grouch about how little),  how much somebody else has, what their neighbors' houses are worth, and how much money their friends and associates have.  I recall a party where the host had invited a whole bunch of supposedly wealthy and influencial people, and some people he was trying to impress with the hotshots he knew.  What I noticed that the hotshots sat together and talked about themselves and ignored everybody else--including the host, whose food they were happy enough to eat, but whose company they didn't care about. Even people without much money can be obsessed with it; the most compulsive budgeter I ever knew turned out to be an embezzler.  And people who grew up poor can become obsessed with having money. I knew two brothers like this, one of whom spent money to show off, the other lived poor and squirreled a lot. Both died with their affairs in a mess and their families squabbling. 

This is nothing new. Jesus was approached by a man once who asked him to "tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."  Jesus' reply: "Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for  life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”  And He warned against amassing treasures in this world rather than being rich in the things of God.  (Luke 12:13-21)

Yes, we need to work; not only for the real needs of everyday life, but also for the real values of this life.  We need to feed and shelter our families; to work with others in our community and world to accomplish things beyond our individual strength, to learn from and teach each other, to do our part in meeting the real needs of those we share this world with.  What does our everyday work show about our values, our character, and our God? 

Thursday, January 29, 2015


This Sunday we are beginning a three week series on prayer.

Knowing God's Love
Experiencing God's Love
Sharing God's Love

The main passages are found in Ephesians 1, 3, and 6.  Paul the Apostle is calling out in prayer that we might know God, experience God, and share God.  That is my prayer for this series.  That individuals, families, and our church will Know, Experience, and Share God in new and powerful ways.

People have needs in their personal lives that only God can fulfill.
Our return to Sierra Way creates opportunities for us that only God can fulfill.
Don't miss this opportunity to gather with your church family and call out to God!

I believe He is ready to meet you!

Friday, January 23, 2015

God Has a Target for Each of Us--by Linden Malki

Some people seem to have been born with a life target and the talent and drive to go straight for it. Most of us weren't.  And that's OK.  Most of the time what we think we want to do as children comes from a romantic picture and limited knowledge.  Even so, we are fortunate to have the freedom to dream. 

 Opportunities may be limited by where we live,  the expectations we grow up with, our physical abilities or disabilities, the economic conditions we find ourselves in.  In fact, none of us have unlimited options.  Not even riches or power can make everything possible.  There  is a story of a royal prince, who, upon being asked what he'd really like to do, said "I wanted to be an engine driver, but realized that I'm kind of stuck."   The power to do anything one wants does not create happiness; the most dramatic historical illustration of that is Caligula, the third Roman Emperor (AD 37-41), who rejected any limits upon his behavior or power and insisted  being worshiped as a living god. He is considered to have become insane, and was assassinated by a conspiracy involving most of the government.

God is is not bound by what we see as limits. The One who knows best what  "all that we can be" really is, is the One who made us what we are. We do have choices, however.  The most important choice is to recognize this, and to accept His authority and wisdom.    As the writer of Hebrews puts it, "Anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that He exists, and that He responds to those who seek Him." (Heb 11:6b)

We were all created with a different set of gifts, talents, and interests.  Talents often show themselves young, but our understanding of our giftings and callings usually grow as our relationship with God and His community grow. Sometimes they get mixed up with a quest for status and attention, and our human ego. Often others recognize our gifts before we do.

The story of our calling can be very simple and straightforward, or very surprising and convoluted.  I found out my first year in college what I was not called to do, and my interim plan was to learn as much as I could about whatever available interested me, so as to be prepared for opportunity when it appeared.  As it turned out,  God dropped me into a place and a job that I could never have predicted nor expected. Over the years, talents and interests that I had growing up have developed into callings that again, I would not have imagined.  (This blog is one of them!)

Learning to recognize who we truly are, and who we were created to be, is  part of learning to be open to God, and listen.    Or, as a very wise man put it, 'Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. " (Psalm 19:14)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Courage: Fear on its Knees--by Linden Malki

In a perfect environment, there would be no need for fear. In Eden, there was only one feat that Adam and Eve could have needed--and they didn't have enough of it: the fear of displeasing God--until they were already in the soup. The result was being sent out into a world full of risks and dangers. To live in this world, we were created with the potential to fear. The problem is not the existence of fears in our life; the problem is the proper evaluation of our fears.

A life without fear is a life without the opportunity to learn to deal with danger. We tend to think that protecting ourselves and our children is wise, which it is--to a point. Too much protection can be self-defeating; "helicopter parents" who hover over and run interference for their children run the risk of raising a child who doesn't do well in a crisis, because he has learned how to fear, but not how to overcome it.

It is fitting that Jesus told his followers that if they are in the right relationship with God, they only need one fear: the one that Adam didn't understand. Yes, we have other fears; we also have a proper companion for fear: courage. Courage is not fearlessness; courage is acting on a recognition that in the situation in question, fear is less important than the goal facing us.

God's plan may very likely put us in a potentially dangerous situation. When Joshua was facing the invasion of a land full of iolatrrous and dangerous people, God told him not once but three times: "Be strong, and of good courage;fear not, nor be afraid...for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." There was, however, another side to this coin: "..that you may observe all the Moses taught you". Again, there is one appropriate fear: the consequences of not doing what they were commanded to do.

Life in this world has its dangers. There may be times that we overthink the danger. There may be times that we not adequately understand the danger. St Paul, as he faced the calling God had for him, Much of it was not easy; but he was a living example of courage. This is his conclusion: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13) Even the pagan Romans understood that a man of courage is also a man of faith. (Cicero).

Paul's courage extended much further than just his own survival. It has been said that there are times that standing against evil is more important than success in defeating it; the greatest heroes stand their ground because it is right, whether or not they themselves survive.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The End of the Rope--by Linden Malki

When you come to the end of your rope, what do you find?

For one thing, a lot of advice.
The classic answer, attributed to Franklin D. Roosevelt, is to "tie a knot and hang on."

The problem with it is that you're still at the end of your rope, just a little more securely.  There are times that just hanging in there is the appropriate thing to do, but how do we know for sure?

Much of  the advice boils down to things like: know yourself, recognize your feelings, try to figure out how you got there, persevere, encourage yourself, think positively, do something!  Better than wallowing in self-pity or trying to find someone to blame, but still limited to your own strength. I also found some offbeat ideas: if you're going through hell, don't stop, keep moving!

A next step can be to begin to look outside of yourself. One interesting suggestion was to get a "new rope".

Thinking about that, there are at least two ways to look at that. Maybe the rope is the problem--
but is blaming the circumstances ("the rope") itself appropriate or an excuse? What is the other end of the rope attached to? These are things you need to know.

Moving outward, reaching out to someone can be a real positive step. But not just anybody; make sure they are trustworthy and up to the challenge. And Who is the most trustworthy person available? The Message puts it like this: "You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and His rule." (Matthew 5:3) Sometimes we have to come to the end of our own rope, and there we find God with His new and better rope, ready to splice us into Him.

Whether to persevere, make changes, or drop off and start over, what we should find at the end of our rope is God, waiting for us to stop depending on ourselves and ask for strength, wisdom, willingness to follow, faith, and the hope of His Kingdom.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

It Just Keeps Linden Malki

When God created the universe, He also created Time. He made for us an earth that spins, creating light and darkness. He arranged the sun, moon and earth all in motion, which gives us day and night, seasons of the year, and a bonus: a moon to give us an awareness of this deceptively simple dance. He created us with bodies and minds that require downtime to refresh and reorganize. Even animals and birds have biorhythms based on time; probably the first alarm clock had feathers.
Some of the oldest artifacts we have of ancient people are time-related. Many ancient stone constructions and carvings have connections with astronomical time markers. Marking hours with sundials is a very old accomplishment; we find a mention of a shadow time-marking device at the Temple in Jerusalem about 700BC (2 Kings 20). Mechanical clockworks were invented about 1300AD, and the precision with which we can measure time has constantly improved. More and more, we depend on knowing what time it is.
We also find God using time markers to teach His people and remind them of the basics of their history and faith. The festivals of Passover, Pentecost, Rosh Hashona ("head of the year") and Yom Kippur are tied to the calendar and shape the life of the community. Over the years, other commemorations were added to the calendars. Our calendar is tied to a 5th century computation of the probable time of Jesus' birth; the holy seasons of Christmas and Easter are important markers not only in churches but in the wider culture as well.
The clock has just ticked over to a new hour, a new day, a new week, a new month, a new year. We live with the knowledge that time keeps ticking along, inexorably, and there is nothing we can do about it. What we've done is done; for good or bad, and we hopefully deal with the consequences. There are always consequences, good, bad, whatever. If we try to ignore them, they have tendency to crawl back out from under the rug and trip us up. We have been reading about Peter's experience with this: when he denied knowing Jesus during the events that led to the crucifixion the cock crowing was the trigger to his realization of his guilt. But he did acknowledge it, and rather than avoiding the issue, actively sought reconciliation and forgiveness. And we see him not long afterwards preaching the message of Jesus at the crowds in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost.
The ancient Jewish celebration of Rosh Hashona involves looking back and seeking forgiveness and reconciliation, going into a new year. Our New Year holiday is a good time for us as well to learn from our failures and replace them with hope.