Saturday, May 30, 2015

WHO, ME?? - by Linden Malki

Hey you, Noah!  Who, me? Yes, you. I've got a job for you.  Who, me? Yes, you. I want you to build a boat.
What's a "boat"? It's like a box that floats on water.
 Why?  There's going to lots and lots of water coming.
Why? Because the world is full of people who are doing bad stuff and not Listening to Me.Why me?  Because you are a righteous man, and I appreciate that. In fact, you're the only one I can trust.
We know the rest of the story...

Abram! O, Abram!Who, me?  Yes. you. It's time to move on out.Move where? To the land I have for you; where you will be a great nation!Who, me? I have no children, and no prospect of any. Don't worry about it; that will change. I can take care of that. 
We know the rest of this story, as well.

Moses! Moses!
Here I am!  Take off your shoes and keep your distance. This is holy ground!  I am the God of your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.(Moses turns away) I can't look!  I know what's going in Egypt, and it has to stop. And You are going go to Pharoah and get them out.
Who, me?  Yes, you. and I will be with you.
And who are you? What's your Name? I AM WHO I AM.  Go, tell the Israelites that it's time to get out.
We know this story, too!

We know these stories because there are so many of them.  Samuel, David, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah, Daniel, and more. And then Jesus. He called individuals--Peter, James, John and the rest of that bunch.  Nicodemus, Zaccheus, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Joseph of Aramathea. A thief on the next cross. His brothers James and Jude. And then hundreds and thousands of people--on hillsides, for lunch. By the seaside at Galilee. And Peter and the boys, on a street in Jerusalem.  And then Paul, and Paul in Ephesus, and Athens, and Philippi, and even Rome itself.  And Polycarp, and Nicolas, and Patrick; Boniface, and Martin of Tours. Francis, Wycliffe, Hus, Luther.Carey, Judson, Livingstone, Serra. Wesley. Newton and Wilberforce. Peter Marshall, Billy Graham, King.  And more, many many more,  some of whom influenced thousands, and some known only to a few--

And each of us. And very often, our first reaction is Who, me? And You want me to do WHAT?? And the answer usually is I'll show you, and I'll be with you.  A very wise man once said : We plan the way we want to live,    but only God makes us able to live it. (Proverbs 16:9 The Message)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

To the Uttermost Parts of the Earth--by Linden Malki

We as a congregation are blessed to have as part of our family our friend and associate Michael Weiss. Michael  is a retired member of the US Army Chaplain Corps with extensive experience training military chaplains.  He was ordained to the pastorate by Northpoint, and we have the privilege of supporting  his mission and outreach expertise.  He has amazing connections with military chaplains in surprising places, including Africa an Eastern Europe. 
This last Sunday we were able to get an update on his recent opportunities in West Africa, including training pastors and encouraging their local ministries.  Several of these pastors will be mentored by our own Pastor Paul via the internet, with the Jumpstart disciple training materials. There are also needs of worship and meeting places,  and our church mission budget recently subsidized a roof on a new church building in Sierra Leone.  There are also needs for education in countries that do not have adequate schools for the demands of developing countries.
The generosity of our church family and friends are making it possible for Pastor Paul to attend a cell church conference in Ivory Coast in August with his friend and mentor Dr Ralph Neighbour Jr, the director of the Cell Church Doctor of Ministry that Paul recently completed. He is also going to be able to see first-hand what we are supporting in Sierra Leone with Michael.
I have been asked how interested people can financially support Michael's mission activities. Our church operating budget does include support for his ministries, and we are able to accept donations and forward them appropriately. In addition, over-and-above donations for  Michael  or additional support for Paul's Africa trip can be made through Northpoint, by tagging them for "Missions: Michael Weiss" or "Missions: Africa Conference" .  
More about Michael:

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Strong Mamas--by Linden Malki

It was originally Sarai's idea., but there were things she hadn't expected. It was apparently not unknown for a barren wife to produce an heir through a dependent surrogate.  There are legends that Hagar had been given to Abram when they were in Egypt, for just this eventuality.  She didn't act like a respectful underling, and Sarai wanted her gone, not only before Ishmael was born, but later, as Sarai (now Sarah) had had, through a miracle, her own  son Isaac.  Abraham went along with it; he head to deal with both moms, both fierce and protective.  Sometimes I wonder if it would have been possible for these brothers to have grown up together in peace, but we still live with the reality of this rivalry. 

We see another one, later.  Bathsheba was the last one of King David's eight wives. (I notice that when we read of polygamy in Scripture,  it is associated with trouble!)  When David was on his deathbed, his oldest surviving son Adonijah (son of wife #5) , set up coronation festival for himself in Hebron, his birthplace.  He did not invite Nathan the prophet and his half-brother Solomon.  Nathan went to Solomon's mother Bathsheba, who went to the King, and reminded him that he had told her that Solomon was to be his successor.  David abdicated in favor of Solomon; Bathsheba did try to do Adonijah a favor to smooth it over, but Solomon saw it as a threat.

Even Jesus had to deal with a pushy mama.  In Mark  11:.35, we read that James and John came to Jesus, asking for positions of prominence in the expected Kingdom.  In Matthew 19:20, we see their mother coming with Jesus with the request. We don't know if it was one occasion or two, but somehow it's not surprising that Mom had an interest. Jesus uses this request as a way of introducing a major teaching:  that His Kingdom is not about authority or precedence, but about service.  The Bible is amazingly honest about the people whose stories it tells; we see more feuds and power grabs than selfless service; just like the real world we live in--but Jesus came to change the world.  Which world do we want to live in? 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Refinishing Our Lives--by Linden Malki

One day a friend was showing me her newly painted living room. I mentioned that she must have worked hard to get it cleaned and prepped and painted in the few days since I had been there earlier. "Cleaned? " she rerplied. "I didn't clean it. That's why I painted it!" I cringed, thinking about how picky I am about prepping. Pastor Paul talked last Sunday about the job of scraping and sanding and patching the eaves at his house before repainting them, and compared it with our lives being cleaned up and patched and made right.

Too often we just want to slap a coat of paint on top of whatever's there, figuring that it's better than the way it was. Sometimes it is, but watching the dirt and stains underneath come back up through the paint is a real bummer. Sometimes our lives are like that, with a fresh layer trying to hide something we're tired of looking at or don't want to deal with. Some times we just need somebody to come along and slap the paintbrush out of our hands and help us scrape off the layers of stuff back to the beginning.

One of the meanings of the Hebrew word for "atonement" is "covering" , the same word that is used for the pitch that sealed Noah's Ark. We human beings are really good at covering stuff up. We had a car in the shop recently that had a nice pretty new paint job, but when we got a look at it underneath, the frame had major creases in it from a front hit, making the car about two inches short of original. Then we took a look at the insides of the fenders to see how they had been made to fit, and saw a couple of lines in the inside of both front fenders where they had been cut and resized. I'm not even sure how it would handle in an emergency!

Jesus introduces a new meaning: while the old sacrifices and offerings were "covering" sin and its penalties, what He came to do is to uproot sin, and get rid of it. There are times that I don't want to paint over a sound original finish. Painted surfaces usually require redoing sooner or later. My dad grew up in the lumber business, and the kitchen he remodeled in the house I grew up in was knotty pine with a clear seal. It could be cleaned occasionally and never needed refinishing in the 20-plus years I lived there--and looked beautiful. Of course, it has to be good material to start with, and finished properly. Old finishes can deteriorate, but I prefer, where possible, to clean the wood carefully and preserve a layer of the original patina if possible. rather than sand it down to raw wood. If our lives are built on a good base, we can let the quality of our original foundation show through.

Saturday, May 2, 2015


We all know, or know of, people who seem to be immune to God.
Some of them grew up in church-going families; some of them think of themselves as Christian, but God doesn't seem to have anything to do with their daily lives.
Some of them are angry or disappointed with God, who didn't follow their instructions.
Some of them see God as irrelevant and unnecessary.

Charles Colson was too busy with presidential politics to have time for God, until the Watergate scandal put him in jail. C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, and David Limbaugh are men of our times who had ignored (or dismissed)  God until He Himself and  His Spirit moved in their lives. With God,  they have become effective ambassadors to our culture. There are many more people who have come to a relationships with God after having ignored and disbelieved for many years. God can deal with that, if we give Him the chance.

Most "religions" in our world are a reaching out for God (or "gods"). In each of the cases I just mentioned, it was more like baby steps on the part of the individual, but God came to THEM and changed their lives. He also sent other followers to them to support and encourage and teach and disciple them.

Saul of Tarsus was raised  in an observant Jewish family in a Greek city. He was sent to Jerusalem for his education, and became well-known as a brilliant religious scholar.  He bragged of knowing the ancient law better than most men, and following it to the letter. He was sure that the things he heard about a dead rabbi named Jeshua were an affront to God and he took upon himself the task of closing down this movement. But God, who knew his heart better than he did, came to Saul, knocked him off his horse and his former life. He sent people into his life who could supply the pieces he needed to put it all together into a totally new life, and eventually a renewed empire.

Our job is not to change people. Anything we can do is pretty superficial, anyway. The change will come from God's end. We can help open the doors, but it is God who comes through those doors and makes a new creation.