Saturday, February 28, 2015

Joshua and God's Circle--by Linden Malki

Jericho is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is located west of the mouth of the Jordan river as it flows into the Dead Sea.  This is a fertile valley, but roughly 800 ft below sea level, which makes a tropical climate.  Archeologists have found fortifications going back 7-9000 years.

When Joshua and the Israelites faced  the Jordan river on their return to the land God was sending them, the next obstacle they faced was the fortified city of Jericho.  The inhabitants of the area at that time were Canaanites, possibly people who had migrated there from the coast. Their religion was characterized by gods and goddesses who were worshipped with fertility rituals--the Israelites had already encountered this east of the Dead Sea on their migration, and knew it was not compatible with the Laws given by God.  The people of Jericho had already heard of this large migratory group of tribes moving into the area, and knew they were next on the agenda.  Joshua sent spies across the river to see what they were facing.   They encountered in Jericho a woman described as a "harlot" (who appears to have been an innkeeper) who not only had heard stories of these migrants but understood that they were under the care and calling of God. In return for working with the spies, she asked for mercy for herself and her family when the invasion happened.

We know the story--crossing the Jordan on dry riverbed, and Joshua being met by a messenger from God who gave him God's instructions for dealing with this challenge on their way to the Promised Land: march around the city for seven days, on the seventh march around seven times, and then let loose with trumpets and shouts and watch!  There were two major  instructions: no looting (there were many times this was required; they were not in this for the goodies), and find Rahab and family and get them out safely. We know that they got out, because there is a note of "Rahab" marrying an Israelite and becoming an ancestor of King David.

Jericho is one of the most interesting archeological sites in the area. There are ruins near the modern city that have collapsed walls that appear to be from the right era, and which have one small section of intact wall.  I found some archeologists and scholars who think the dates are wrong for Joshua; others who see it as a match. Personally,  if there there are remnants of a city with mushed walls at a reasonable dating,  I'll factor it into the other historical info.

What I find interesting is that Joshua didn't seem to have made his own plans for the invasion.  What we find in the book of Joshua first is God's promises to Joshua, and then he told the people to get ready to move out.  The plan was given by God, and executed by Joshua. And then his next campaign failed: they didn't check in with God first, and found out that they had looters in the group.  Our circles need to be God's circles; our plans His plans, and it only works if we do it His way.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

ONE MAN..WITH GOD--by Linden Malki

It started with one man, from an ancient Syriac Orthodox family in a small town in southeastern Turkey. His beloved and beautiful wife had died. He packed his three small sons on a donkey, and moved out to the seacoast. In the small town of Karadash on a peninsula facing Cyprus, he met a missionary from America, who brought him to know God in a new and deeper way. He became a teacher, and raised his boys in a mission school.

Tragedy struck again. As the Ottoman Empire died during and after World War II, the Turks and Kurds turned on the Armenian and Assyrian Christians, who shared the religion of the Western imperialists. Two of the boys, now young men, got out; the third brother and their father were killed. Years later, a witness to the massacre told of the father being begged to save his life by saying the words that would make him a Muslim. He refused, saying that he would not give up his Christ.

The two surviving brothers found their way to Lebanon, then under French governance. The younger one, Aziz Malki, married a young lady from an Orthodox village in the mountains of Lebanon. Aziz was known as a lay evangelist, and their 11 children were raised in Protestant mission churches and mission schools. (The oldest was my husband John.) When his fourth son Elias was 10, his father prophesied that God would use him to be a minister of the Gospel.

Elias later met an American Pentecostal missionary in Beirut, who discipled him and arranged for him to go to America for Bible school. He married an American girl, and after he graduated from Life Bible College in Los Angeles, his first ministry job was to revive a small church in Highland.

Elias found a way to go back to Lebanon to preach. He eventually had a church, a summer camp and a Bible school there. When civil war broke out in Lebanon, his sponsors insisted that they come home. As this door closed, his Bible college classmate and close friend Jack Hayford helped them them set up their own nonprofit ministry, Middle East Gospel Outreach. The Holy Spirit led him to an opportunity to broadcast the Gospel in Arabic on a radio station in Cyprus, and later was asked to do an Arabic-language program similar to the 700 Club on a TV station that Pat Robertson of CBN had acquired in southern Lebanon. The "Good News Program" led to speaking tours and pastors' conferences in the Middle East, as well as the US, England and Australia, which often included taking tour groups to Israel, and neighboring countries when possible. He also established a training school in Cyprus to disciple converts that could go back to Middle Eastern countries with the Gospel. The next step outward was in 1996, when satellite time became available on an uplink in Kurdistan--not far from where his father was born, and owned by people of the same nationality that had killed his grandfather and driven his father to flee to Lebanon. This satellite reaches most of the Middle East and Europe with the Good News.

Look at the chain of individuals that were used, often through tragedy and sorrow, to bring one man to a place where he has been able to bring the Good News of God to an astonishing number of people in one of the most difficult parts of the world. Each time a door closed, it led to a wider opportunity opening up. One of the things Elias kept saying as his health was failing was "It's not over yet!" Looking around the chapel today at the people gathered to remember and thank God for him, I was thinking that no, your assignment is not over, even though God has taken you Home, because you inspired and discipled and trained so many others that are already out there spreading the Good News in the places that God laid on your heart--and they are discipling even more generations of messengers. This is how God has always worked--empowering people through His Spirit to pass on the Good News.
In Loving Memory of Elias Malki, 1931-2015;

Saturday, February 14, 2015

JUST BEING THERE by Linden Malki

Not long ago, a customer in the store commented that he used to come pick up parts here for an uncle who had had a repair shop some years back. And then he said, "I still remember that you came to Uncle Bernie's funeral."  All that I had actually done was be there--but that had been noted and appreciated  by Bernie's family. I have come to understand that often the most important thing you can do is to simply be there.
I've been to several funerals just in the last few weeks, and believe that one of the reasons for funerals is to connect people.  When you come right down to it, most of what we do all day is what we do all day, but this is reality.  I recall a time during my husband John's last few months he commented that "God gives us lots of choices...this is one we don't get."

Births, weddings,  funerals--what I remember most is the people who shared the occasion.  I still remember Sue Bell, one of the longtime Calvary Baptist saints, who came by our house the day we brought my first baby home from the hospital, with lunch and baby things she knew I'd need. I remember the missionary cousin in Beirut who was at my wedding with her small daughters--and that one of those daughters was at my daughter's wedding with her small daughter.  I remember on John's last day ten years ago the room at the hospital being full of his nieces and nephews, who stayed with us all day. And last Sunday, my kids, kids-in-law and I were  at a hospital in Upland with John's brother Elias and his family; and my daughter and I spent Tuesday evening with them after Elias went to his eternal home. I treasure a picture taken at my son's wedding of his father, his Uncle Elias, and Frank and Madge Pipitone, long-time Calvary folks; Frank was one of the first people Elias met in San Bernardino when he had a small church out here, and we all became life-long friends.    

We know that God loves us, watches over us, does amazing things in our lives.  I don't think He is there to "make us happy", give us stuff, protect us from all pain and suffering.  I believe He is there to BE THERE;  to teach us, to keep us on track (if we listen), see us through the hard stuff. We not only know that He is there, but also that we can experience His presence.  The summer my Dad died and my life got picked up and shaken and pt down somewhere totally different, I remember hanging on to the realization that when St Paul says that "all things work together for good for those who love God.." (Romans 8:28) it never says that any of those "things" are good, or easy--just that in them we can experience Him, and it will be for our good.  The final result should be that we are, in the words of an old Christmas carol, "fit for Heaven to live with Him there"--to Be There, with Him.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Do We Know God?--by Linden Malki

 "Everything I have, I worked for, I made myself! I don't owe anybody anything!"  Typical American self-reliance at its best!   When I heard someone say this the other day, the first thing I thought of was "Very good; you made air, you made water, you made sunlight, you made some great trees..."  Like the story of the scientist who said he could make life in a laboratory. You just take some dirt, and... A Voice boomed out--"No, that's Mine--you have to make your own dirt!"

A lot of folks don't find it too hard to think that there might be Something Out There,  behind the Big Bang.  Maybe even made the Big Bang. Maybe even had something to do with making other stuff.  Yes, hard work and taking responsibility are a Good Thing--but not the only thing.  St Paul, writing to a church in a city that included some people who didn't know about our God, said "that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has showed it to them. For the invisible things of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made".  The problem is that taking God seriously is not easy for your basic, self-willed, self-centered human being.

Looking at the world and trying to explain the unexplainable leads in all sorts of places.  The history of "world religions" is the search for something that people sense is out there, beyond themselves. The story we find in the Bible is different-there is a God who looks for us, even when we are afraid that He might ask uncomfortable things.

We read of people like Abraham, jacob, Job, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah and others who not only knew about God, but knew Him personally.   There is a thread that runs all the way through from beginning to end--His promise that  He will make a way for us to know Him in a way that no other philosophy or belief system can provide.

A man named Philip in the first century asked to be shown the God, the Father.  He had been a follower of Jesus for three years at this time.  Jesus gave Philip this amazing answer: "I have been with you for a long time, and don't you know Me? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father! .. Can't you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? That the words I speak are not my own, but the Father that is in Me does it all."  Jesus spent three years demonstrating God to folks in a limited geographical area, but what God said and did in these three years were so powerful that within a century this knowledge of God had spread to a good part of the then-known world; and today still has the power to change lives.

Despite the many ways we have available to learn of God, there have always been a variety of opinions and beliefs about God. Obviously, they are not consistent with each other, and not equivalent.  It is our responsibility to  open our minds and hearts to God's truth , and pray for ourselves and each other as St Paul prayed for the Ephesians (who were living in a busy, prosperous but corrupt city--the first-century Roman Empire was in many ways like the world we live in today) for spiritual wisdom and insight; light and hope of His calling, and understanding of the mighty power of God working in our lives.