Saturday, April 25, 2015

Climb That Mountain!--by Linden Malki

"Because it's there!" was mountaineer George Mallory's answer to a reporter who asked why Mallory wanted to climb Mt Everest.  Many of us can understand this; the Earth's mountains are, on the average, big enough to be challenging but small enough to look climbable. And there are a wide variety of shapes and sizes, offering our imaginations both serenity and challenge. 

Our lives are like that--designed to be challenging. When Adam left the Garden, he left the peaceful and easy life behind. But if life is too easy, we get soft and sloppy.  Even our muscles are made to grow through stress. When stresses hit, sometimes we are tempted to think that God is somehow to blame; we think He's neglecting or ignoring us, or punishing us, or being "mean" to us. I think it's more likely to be that He's waiting--giving us a chance to deal with the stress, or learn something from it, or learning that we can't deal with it alone. 

The Israelites under Moses faced mountains along their journey to the Promised Land--which itself has a variety of mountain ranges and dramatic vistas.  Elijah challenged the priests of Baal on Mt Carmel.  Some of Jesus' northern ministry was in the shadow of Mt Hermon; we have records of his Sermon on the Mount; the Transfiguration event is traditionally identified with Mt Tabor. The most difficult night of Jesus' life was on  Mount Calvary.  The Mount of Olives was the site of both His agonized prayer and Hiss ascension back to His Father.. 

Mountain climbing requires strength, conditioning, planning, equipment, and more--not something that you should do on the spur of the moment. (My niece and I did that once, when the family was picnicking near Mt Baker. Fortunately, we didn't get lost or fall; we came to a sheer wall and went back--to very stormy mothers!) We run up against "mountains" of different kinds in our lives; this world is a challenging place. 

We as a church have spent five years in exile on a mountain. Beautiful location, gracious hosts, but now we are being led to tackle a mountainous task—making a new ascent on the neighborhood at Sierra Way. We are facing the mountains of a challenging property; a dysfunctional city and a world that seems to get more corrupt and dangerous every day. Do we have the strength; are we being equipped for this climb? Some of our women are having a mountaintop experience this weekend. Are we willing to learn and grow and put our fate in the hands of a the only capable Guide?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Thank you to all of our awesome members who absolutely blessed my heart on Sunday!  I sensed God stirring in my heart as I shared Acts 17:16.

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens,
he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city.

When we opened it up for sharing I was blown away by the passion and vision that God is giving to you!  It blessed my heart to hear your willingness to engage the city where God has put us.  It is OK to be provoked in our spirits by what is happening around us.  It is not OK to disengage.  I think there were times when the disciples looked at one another with expressions of wonder!

Did He say we are going through Samaria?
Whose house are we having dinner at?
Is that woman, like, touching His feet?
Is this a graveyard?
How many demons does that guy have?
Eat pork... What?
 Is that a ghost?

It went on, and on, and on.  Jesus made a habit of taking His followers to new places, to meet new people, and do things they had never done before.  But since we are salt and light, we do not go to be changed, but we go in the name of Jesus to be agents of transformation.  It is not how much we know, or what we do.  It is simply our willingness to follow Jesus, and let Him do through us!


Thanks for letting me take the ride with each of you!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Jesus Sees Differently--by Linden Malki

"Zaccheus was a wee little man..."  What do we really know about Zaccheus?

He is described as being a "chief tax collector" in the district of Jericho, and was rich.  This indicates that he was smart, probably reasonably well educated, and good at his job.  However, tax collectors in that culture were loathed and distrusted, as they had a reputation of being political clients of the Roman imperial government, not religiously observant, and financially corrupt.  And of course the observant, religious folks enjoyed looking down on those who were thought to be less observant of the Law, and who associated with people who were not Jews and especially with occupying imperialists.

 Jesus was less likely than most people to judge individuals by their reputation.  One chapter earlier, (Luke 18:9-14), Jesus tells a story of two men praying in the Temple: one, a high ranking member of the religious establishment and totally convinced of his own righteousness, telling God how observant and worthy he was.  The other was a tax collector, assumed by most people--including the "righteous" man--to be unrighteous, unobservant, and unworthy.  However,  Jesus' judgment was different.  God is not impressed with the self-described righteous, but honors the man who admits he is a sinner and throws himself on the mercy of God.

Luke also tells the other side of the coin (Luke 18:18-24), with his story of the "Rich Young Ruler".  This young man also claimed to be totally righteous. Jesus told him that there was "one more thing needed": he needed to give away his wealth and follow Jesus. Again, Jesus is not impressed with claims and wealth; He is concerned about attitudes and obedience.

Zaccheus here is the next one in this line.(Luke 19:1-10)  He obviously knew something about Jesus; he may even had heard John the Baptist's preaching--which had been in the Jericho area. Luke tells us that even publicans--tax collectors--came to John to be baptized, and for advice.  John's answer: Collect no more than what is required.  And Zaccheus may have been one of those.  In this light, look at Zaccheus' statement to Jesus: "I give half my income to the poor"--the literal translation is present tense, that he is actually doing this routinely; and "If  I have defrauded anyone, I refund four times the overcharge"--again, present tense. (Think about it--if a significant part of his income was obtained through overcharges, he couldn't make those refunds.)  Jesus recognizes Zaccheus as being saved, and being a legitimate "son of Abraham" .  And BTW, the name Zaccheus means "pure" or "innocent".

There is an early church tradition that Zaccheus became part of Jesus' group of followers, and eventually became the Bishop of Caesarea.  And there is to this day a tree in Jericho that is reputed to be the original tree that Zaccheus climbed.
The obvious moral of the story is that Jesus has come to "seek and save those who are lost".  Beyond this, it is also a reminder that Jesus sees people differently that we do; that we tend to judge people by the labels put on them by society, which is not necessarily just nor accurate.  Jesus saw the rich young ruler as arrogant and selfish; he saw Zaccheus as what his name meant: pure-hearted. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Dark Side--by Linden Malki

"They're rioting in Africa. There's strife in Iran. What nature doesn't do to us, will be done by our fellow man!"   This song has been haunting me for the past few days. It's been around for 55 years, and the world hasn't changed much! Like it or not, we live in a world filled with unhappy souls. Read, listen, watch: the world has always had unhappy souls. Here and there, there may be light and contentment, but there are many things that we don't like and some that don't like us.

We were created for the presence and company of God.  He intended for us to value wisdom, The problem was that some things appear to be "wise" do not work.  It is tempting to say think that we could have handled that snake better; but that is just our own arrogance talking. We are created with greater power for good than we can use on our own; we have a greater ability to cause trouble than we can control on our own (especially when the evil loose in the world helps)!

I've seen, up close and personal, some of what the "dark side" (or stupidity)  of human beings can do. Our store was hit by a computer attack--the kind that locks up everything and demands "ransom" for unlocking it.  It's been a project to restore what was in that system, but I'd rather do that than cooperate with malice. When we lived in Devore, we survived two massive brush fires--the Panorama and Old fires, both set by arsonists. (We providentially escaped more than minor damage, but many of our neighbors, friends and family were burned out.)          The son of a Christian family who came from Iraq to get out of that dangerous environment some years ago was killed in a drive-by shooting in Hollywood--the man who was the target of the shooters came out from behind a parked car and apologized to my nephew, who was with the young man who was shot. Last year I had two cars totaled--one by a lady who came out of a driveway across the road and didn't turn into her lane--she turned into me. The other was someone going too fast, texting, and sideswiped me. We cannot avoid the recognition that we live in a imperfect, fallen world.

Our fallible human lives are not intended to be the end of the story. Our eternal selves are shaped by what we did, said, and thought here on earth; some of those things become part our growth; some are prunings, some will be gone in the process of becoming fit for heaven (if we are willing to allow the trimming and shaping and refining). Jesus allowed His human body to be destroyed utterly; we briefly saw His heavenly body. which still retained the scars of the ordeal he went through. He will purify us as well, from the inside-but we have to let Him in!
*"The Merry Minuet," The Kingston Trio, 1959.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

One To Many--by Linden Malki

"Good is only achievable one, by one, by one. Evil has a great advantage over good. One pilot can slaughter 149 people. But there is almost no one on Earth who can save 149 lives. Evil has the advantage. One can do massive evil, almost no one can do massive good." (Dennis Prager 04/01/15)  Sorry, Dennis, I disagree!
Yes, there have been air disasters involving many lives lost ever since the early days of flight; some of them were caused by malice, some by careless or ignorance, some by chance.  But there are a few illustrations of heroism and good, as well. One was an attempted hijacking of an Ethopian aircraft in 2014; all 202 passengers were saved and the hijacker arrested.  The Entebbe Airport raid in 1976 resulted in the rescue of 103 hostages with very little loss of life.  In a 1982 crash of Air Florida Flight 90, even though 79 people were killed, one passenger showed great courage in helping save four others at the cost of his own life. Even in the famous sinking of the passenger liner Titanic  in 1912, 1514 lives were lost--but 710 people were rescued.
There are many other cases of large numbers of people having had good things happen to them through the efforts of one person; over the past few weeks I've told several of these stories.  In its own  way, the writing of this blog  is an effort to inspire and bring a good word to a number of people at once.  Mr Prager's own writing, speaking and teaching are also one person doing good to a large group of people; every teacher and preacher in the world is trying to do good for people in groups. Each of Billy Graham's crusades brought life-changing good to hundreds and thousands of people.  Just this afternoon, Elden Smith and I brought enjoyment and the gospel message to over 30 people at the  Rose Garden Residential Care facility and over the course of a year we reach several hundred people with something good.  Many of us have jobs in which we provide some sort of good thing or good service to large numbers of people, some of them matters of life and death.  

This weekend we are reminded of one person who did the ultimate good for a huge number of people, at the cost of his own suffering and horrible death. This One Person, who during the course of His earthly ministry, had done good not to one person at a time, but on several occasions brought food to thousands of people, and many times brought truth and the knowledge of God to many people at a time. The ultimate Good, however,  is what we celebrate this Easter weekend: the sacrifice of Jesus' ONE life as the power to not only pay for our sin--for ALL who will accept; but to demonstrate that Death is not the final , ultimate End.