Monday, June 29, 2015

This past Sunday our church voted to update and revise their constitution and by-laws.  The vote was all yes with two abstentions.  This was exciting for two reasons.

First:  It aligns our written polity with the way we actually govern the church.  It puts our conviction that marriage is between one man and one women into our legal documents.  The traditional practices that tended toward division are gone while accountability is present.

Second:  Strong yes votes by secret ballet confirm the unity and vision of the body.

NorthPoint is a body of believers
committed to raising up
Soul Winning-Disciple Making-Christ Followers.
We believe in the Biblical history of 
Celebration, Life Groups, and Mentoring.

A growing number of believers are going through the sixteen session JumpStart curriculum.  They are going through as a mentee and preparing to be a mentor.  When NorthPoint returns to 3701 N. Sierra Way on August 1, 2015 we want to be ready for those God gives us to disciple.

Join with me in praying for NorthPoint.  We believe that God is leading us into the next, and very exciting, season of life and ministry.  If you do not have a home church, come and join us!  We would love to meet you!

All our love,

Saturday, June 27, 2015

God Our Father--by Linden Malki

How often to we look at a baby and comment something like "he's the spittin' image of his daddy!"   And of course, we all got our DNA from our fathers, mothers, and their fathers and mothers going all the way back to God's initial  creation of mankind in His own image.  So we do carry the image of our Father God in every cell of our bodies.
  I find it interesting that we find very few references to God as our Father in the Old Testament.  The two references I could find (Isaiah 9 and Psalm 89) have a Messianic context.  Where we do find God described as our Father is in the teachings of Jesus and the writings of Paul.  We see God as Father in two ways: one is as the Father of the Son, Jesus, and other as His followers as children of God,  the Father.  In the Sermon on the Mount, (Matthew 5-7) Jesus continually speaks of "your Father...", and tells us to pray to "Our Father...".   The God that Jesus describes is not a remote, impersonal power out there somewhere, but a Person,  who relates to us as a Father, and whom Jesus also continually calls " My Father." 
Paul, in writing to the churches he mentored,  begins each of his letters with a reference to "God our Father."  This relationship is tenderly described in Romans 8:15: For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 
We see a wide range of fatherly or unfatherly behavior in this world. There are fathers who do a good job of the calling to raise a child "in the way he should go",  and some who are missing in action.  We can look at God as the source of wisdom  for the fathers in our lives; finding the Godly mix of standards and tenderness, and for the strength to carry through on it in good times and not so good times.  In the long run, we all have a loving father available: the Psalmist praises God as  "A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation."

Saturday, June 20, 2015

GOD WITH US--by Linden Malki

"Gott Mit Uns" has been used on German Army insignia for at least 400 years; and was also on insignia of Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus in the Thirty Years War of the early 1600's. It goes back to the late Roman Empire logo "Nobiscum Deus" (God With Us).  During World War I, it became common for British soldiers who spotted this logo would add their own , irreverent answer: We got mittens, too!
I think this response is more than simply a flippant bilingual play on words. I see it as a recognition that nobody has a monopoly on God's presence.  Unfortunately, in the history of the last four
thousand years, there have been times when God was seen as a supporting player to man's ambitions. 

Yes, there are times when God is very much with us.  But tragically, too many times there have been conflicts where both sides believe in God, and both believe that their side of the conflict is the Godly one.  Sometimes one side is mistaken, sometimes both are off the true center.  We have to be very careful!

When Moses came back from Mt Sinai with the instructions for the Ark, the people needed an illustration of their calling to be a nation saved and dedicated to God. Unfortunately, it became almost a “magic” talisman, to the point of in First Samuel 4, they got the idea of picking up the Ark from Shiloh, to take into battle—and Eli’s corrupt sons gave it to them. The battle, and the Ark, were lost to the Philistines. Finally recovered at the time of David, they discovered that it could be a dangerous thing. There is the story of the first attempt to bring it back, in a cart, that led to Uzzah touching it and being killed by the attempt. One tends to think of a “zap” from above, but I wonder if it was probably something inherent in the Ark itself—and the people of that day believed that God Himself lived there, so it would have made sense to have the power come from it. It was placed in the Holy of Holies in the Temple when it was dedicated, and disappeared at some point in the last days of the Kingdom of Judah.  It was time for the people to realize that God was not localized in a box. There are several theories of what happened to it; it may have been taken by the Babylonians; there are mentions that indicate that the priests of the day may have hidden it either under the Temple or somewhere outside the country. The Ethiopians believe that they have it, in a church under guard, and they have processions on holidays where replicas of tablets are carried. The “Last Word” is in Revelation, where it is seen in the Throne Room with God.

The Jews learned that God was with them, wherever they were.  We know that as well.  But we sometimes still use the idea of God’s Presence as our own property.  The question is not whether God is with us—He is with all who know Him—but are we with God?  Do we recognize and follow Him wherever we are?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Walled In or Walled Out? by Linden Malki

Most of us have never lived in a walled city.  We do, though, fence or wall our living spaces.   Why  do we do this?

 In many parts of the world, and through many centuries, cities were defined by their walls.   Jerusalem has had a whole series of walls in its history.  We first see it at the time of Abraham,  with a mention of Melchizedek, King of Salem. We don't know anything else about the city itself, except at this time, it had a priest king that knew God. 

 When the Israelites came back to the land, it was a fortified city of a tribe known as Jebusites.  It was not conquered until King David saw it as a good central location for the capital of a unified federation of tribes, as it was not part of any tribe's territory.   David and then his son Solomon expanded the city and its walls.  Over three thousand years, it has been attacked 52 times, besieged 23 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, and destroyed at least twice. 

The walls were destroyed by Babylonians in 586BC, rebuilt under Nehemiah in 445BC. Those walls were enlarged and rebuilt several times, but destroyed again by the Romans in 70AD.  Rebuilt as a Christian city under Constantine, it was taken by Persians in 614, Muslims in 637, Crusaders in 1099, and by Saladin in 1187. In 1219,  his successor had what was left of the walls removed, so that the city would have no value as a fortress to possible returning Crusaders. (Interesting thought: vulnerability as a defense!)   After the Ottoman Turks took the city in 1517, they rebuilt the walls that stand today. 

The most cherished piece of wall in Jerusalem is not the city wall, but the last remaining wall of the First Century Herodian Temple area, on the west side of the Temple complex. The original wall is made of cut limestone blocks, 2 to 8 tons each.  Smaller courses have been added later, during the Arab rule and later Turkish period.  It is said that the Roman soldiers who demolished Jerusalem left this wall to demonstrate the size of the walls they destroyed.  It is revered to this day as a connection with the last Temple, whose place today is occupied by Moslem shrines.

Walls can work both ways.  They can make attacks more difficult (but not impossible);  they can make a siege possible, isolating those inside from help and sustenance. They can be conquered by stealth, as in the stories of Troy,  and King David's midnight invasion of Jerusalem.  Our last century also had a famous Wall--but the Berlin Wall was not built to repel invaders, but to imprison its residents. When it fell, it was not attacked from the outside, but from the inside.  There are still a few places in the world where there are walls of guards and wire isolating people from the outside world.  

Walls are not always visible. We often construct walls in our minds,  that keep things out, or keep things in.  Sometimes walls can be very comfortable, helping us avoid hard questions, or keeping us safe. Some of our walls are uncomfortable, keeping us from things that might be good for us.  Walls can be a trap. Walls can be an invitation to an attack. Finding the right walls is one of the challenges we face in our lives.  Nehemiah's walls could be locked against outsiders; the story of Ruth was retold in that period as a reminder that outsiders are not always dangerous; they can be a healthy addition to our community, and we are called to reach out of our comfort zone.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Going Back--by Linden Malki

I once read an historian's description of Moses as the luckiest revolutionary leader in history: he had 40 years and a handy desert to turn a motley group of clueless slaves into a nation of people who had grown up self-sufficient.  Not only that, but the handy desert just happened to be one he knew how to live in. Without his 40 years with Jethro, Moses would not have been able to cope with the scope of what God was doing.  Nothing less drastic than Moses' temper tantrum would have gotten him out of  the comfortable life he had been living. God gave Moses those years with a great mentor and friend, in a place he never would have dreamed of living on his own.   And Moses did it--under the orders and strength of God. The  people learned, and raised a generation that had seen the power of God (even though sometimes we wonder how much they understood). They were still the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but with a different attitude.

This is typical of revolutions.  Change happens in stages; the first one is the questioning of the situation at hand. When i was involved in debate in high school and college, the first part of a formal debate was : "Is there a need for change?" The second part is a discussion of what changes are needed, appropriate and practical. The first part is often obvious--the Israelites were in a bad situation.  Similarly,  in our own revolution, being ruled by a distant goverment that saw their own advantage  led to a determination to take charge of our own affairs.  We don't usually think of the fact that the Revolutionary War ended in 1781, and the Constitution was adopted in 1789. The Articles of Confederation were a stopgap answer to an immediate need, but it wasn't long before the problems became apparent. The original purpose of the Constitutional Convention  was a revision  of those Articles; it soon became obvious that they needed to start over, knowing some of the pitfalls, and to draft something new.  France took a little longer: their Revolution began in 1789, the first attempt at defining a new order was the First Republic of 1792, and they are now living under their Fifth Republic, established in 1958.  The original Russian Revolution was in May of 1917, and was overturned by the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1789, which led to the USSR. This was dissolved in 1991, and we are still watching its death throes today; some of the pieces are doing very well and some are not.  You could trace similar patterns in many parts of the world; there is a constant tension in human societies between anarchy and repression; isolation and expansionism.

In February of 2003, we noted that we were celebrating the end of 40 months of worshiping and working without our Sanctuary.  . I remember our 75th Anniversary commemoration in 2000, out in the courtyard. Our speaker was Rev. Mark Lambert from Transformation Ministries, our regional association. He mentioned that churches, like societies and people, go through generational changes, and that the average church goes through a transformation at about 80 years. In 2005, our 80 year point included a name change and the unveiling of a new sign out front, as well as the first steps into cell ministry.  By 2010, the stresses of dealing with the aftermath of the rebuild and the financial difficulties of the school, and the stresses of a new DNA of ministry, led us to regroup in another place. Now with 90 years coming up this fall, we are coming "back"--circumstances and a lot of prayer are leading us back to Sierra Way--but not to the "same place." Most of our leadership, like Moses, are familiar with where we are going; some of our church family are looking at something new.  No matter how familiar it may seem to some of us, we know "you can't go home again." God isn't an escape from hard things; but He is the source of strength, vision and wisdom to cope with them.
By 2010, the stresses of dealing with the aftermath of the rebuild, and the financial difficulties of the school, led us to regroup in another place.  Now circumstances and a lot of prayer are leading us back to Sierra Way--but not to the "same place." Most of our leadership, like Moses, are familiar with where we are going; some of our church family are looking at something new.  No matter how familiar it may seem to some of us, we know "you can't go home again." God isn't an escape from hard things; but He is the source of strength and wisdom to cope with them.