Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Joy of People--by Linden Malki

It's a time when the basic truths of life and death hit us in the face. It's amazing what you learn about folks at memorial services--I found out things about my own husband that I hadn't known. Some of my favorite family stories I heard at these times; and I really enjoy hearing stories about lives of faith. 

So many of our happy memories are about people in our lives.  People can bring joy, people can bring sorrow. God said in the beginning that "it is not good for man to be alone." The first relationships we have are in our family; at their best, families are good for each other and bring joy to our lives. The most recent service I attended was for a lady who had lived a long and happy Christian life. One thing that was said, was that for her, "every day was a good day!" She had parents and sisters that were an important part of the joy of her life. She had not married, but she still had children in her life that were important to her, and to whom she was important. One niece told me that "she was my best friend." She was a special source of joy to her many nieces and nephews; grand-nieces and nephews, and even grand-grands. She was a long-time schoolteacher, whose students who said she was the best teacher they had had; who had good and grateful memories. She had had good friends and neighbors in her life. What I heard was the story of someone who had been blessed and been a blessing in a long life, and was looking forward to the joy of her Lord. 

This made me think of the aunts and sisters-in-law who were special in my own life, as well as my own nieces and nephews. Being the youngest in a spread-out family, my nieces and nephews run from my age down to almost my kids' ages, and I grew up with some of them. I thank God for the many good folks that He has given me as family, and the many good and joyful memories with which I have been blessed. 

One of the main messages of I John is that loving God and loving people are the two sides of the same coin. He loves us, and He gives us people to love and to be loved. If we are connected to Him, we are enabled to relate in love to those who share faith, and be a witness to God’s love to those who have yet to find it.  

Sunday, January 24, 2016

NorthPoint has a Kingdom Vision!

Several weeks ago our worship leader Jonathan shared with Pastor Chris and I that a large church in Salinas, California had offered he and Jessica positions.  He shared what an awesome opportunity this would be, but telling NorthPoint would be very hard.  He told Chris and I that his experience at NorthPoint prepared him for his next ministry position.

Chris and I both shared with Jonathan the importance of hearing God's voice, and following His will.  Ministry is not about guilt, shame, or obligation.  Ministry is about joyfully serving Jesus in the place of His leading.  It is about celebrating what God is doing in believers, and in His wider Kingdom.

Today NorthPoint made me proud.  As Jonathan was sharing the door that God is opening I heard comments from the congregation behind me.  "We will take care of your mom."  "Wow, what a great opportunity."  "Praise God."  And of course, "We will miss you!"

That is the spirit a church should have.  An empowering spirit.  A freeing spirit.  An equipping and releasing spirit.  A spirit that rejoices when God lifts up and sends out his servants.

Now let me be clear!!!  Will I miss Jonathan?  Heck yes!  Has he been awesome as our worship leader?  Oh, yes!  But is our ministry to hold, or release?  Is our ministry about NorthPoint, or the Kingdom of God?  You all know the answer to those questions.

Next week will be Jonathan's last Sunday leading worship with us.  February 7th will be a farewell party right after church with the taco team!  Come and share your love with Jonathan!  Come and tell him how his leadership has blessed you!  Come lay hands on him as we bless him, and send him to his next place of service!  As much as I have loved his ministry with us, I can't wait to see what God has for him next.  He is going to serve a congregation with thousands of members, and many experienced musical leaders on staff.  God is getting ready to stretch Jonathan into a whole new shape, and he will continue to be in our hearts and prayers as he grows through it!

I love you all,
and the Spirit God is building into you,
Pastor Paul

Growing in Christ--by Linden Malki

God's creation is a process--it had a beginning, and His  followers have learned more and more as He works in history.  The Christian life is also a process; we're not born fully grown and in armor like Athena from the head of Zeus.  John, in I John 2:12-14, gives a quick overview of the process. 

As we are physically born as a small, helpless baby, we  start as spiritual children.  Our first step is to recognize God as Father, and be willing to give up our sins and be forgiven.  As we grow stronger, and have the Word living in our hearts and minds, we are ready to do battle with evil, and overcome through His strength.  As we mature in the faith,  we grow to know Christ more and more, and understand that He is from the beginning to time, a part of God Himself.  We will never know Him completely on this earth, but we do know that we will know Him, as He knows us, beyond time and space.

This helps us keep a proper perspective on our spiritual life.  We shouldn't be discouraged if we don't get the "whole ball of wax" at the beginning. If we are learning to know the Father, and allowing Him to deal with the sin that is part of our inheritance (both from innate self-centeredness and from the environment around us), that is a proper start.  Jesus used the term "born again" speaking to Nicodemus, who was a professional religious person, but there was something more needed: becoming a new creature from the inside out. It's not uncommon for someone new to faith to get depressed because life isn't suddenly perfect.  Or, to become content with a simple childlike faith.  One of my sisters-in-law taught an adult Bible study class for some years, and once had an elderly lady come to her and say, "Eloise, I have the same faith that I had as a small child."  Eloise told me that she had to bite her tongue to avoid answering "Oh, you poor thing!"

None of us is at the same place spiritually as anyone else.  Hopefully we are each growing, as Jesus did, "in wisdom and strength,and in favor with God and man."  At best, this means that we can all encourage each other, and learn from each other.  We can learn from the wonder of a child (I recall my kids having amazing questions and insights), and we can learn from the experienced saints. We can use our strengths to help those who need it, and mourn with those who are mourning; rejoice with those who have been blessed.  We can pick each other up as needed; and not be afraid to ask, and receive.  From babies to oldsters, we are all members of His family. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Love Fanatically (1 John 2:7-14)

One of the things I love about John is his passion for love. He wrote and spoke about it often, making sure we understood that to change a life or culture love must be at the center. The great example he would use was Jesus; a man who changed the world with radical love!
This week we honor a man who chose love as his weapon to change America. While many saw and wanted to change the racism that inhabited this country, one man chose love. There were many groups and people that thought violence and “hate for hate” were the only options. One man looked around, saw the darkness in his countrymen and brothers in faith, and he knew that in order to change hearts he had to bring the light.

What is great about the Martin Luther King Jr. example is that he stood strong and did not waiver in the face of defeat. Though abuses occurred, he knew what was right, and allowed love to win over others. Once people were won over they knew they had to change, they knew they also had to stand up to the wrongs that were being committed. If we truly show the love that Jesus showed, we too can make a difference.
It is easy in our culture to “try on” the love thing; but unless we relentlessly commit, changes will not happen. Whether we are aware or not, people are watching us; they know how committed to love we are, they know how consistently we love. If we want to win others to Christ, if we want to change this culture, if we want our kids to have a better tomorrow, we need to commit to a fanatical love.

My challenge to you this week is to commit to loving those around you. Smile at the people you meet and show that you care to those who need it. Pray for every single person on your Oikos prayer list and love as if they are watching you at all times. Commit this week and tell us your stories in the comment section. I guarantee that if you commit to a life of love God will do amazing things around you!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

WALKING IN THE DARK--by Linden Malki

"DARKROOM- Please make sure door is closed, so that the dark can't leak out."  We know that scientifically, "dark" is defined as the absence of light, but there are times that it feels like it is a thing in itself, with a palpable substance.  We know from Scripture and science that at the beginning of time, there is a point at which Light happens.  From this point, dark in most cases retreats from light. 

There several ways that darkness happens.  One is the obvious: the absence of light.  But light is sneaky--like in the case of a darkroom, a crack of light overcomes the dark.

Things can be dark for different reasons: as above, when there is no light.  Another is when something obscures the light--an enclosure,  a tunnel, a cave, or something similar.  Sometimes it is absorbed, as in a thick fog or a non-reflective surface. 

Darkness is a part of our life in this world--most obviously the cycle of light and darkness that we call "day" and "night."  Our physical lives are a constant struggle against darkness, which makes sense, because we are fairly helpless in total darkness.  We walk into a dark room, and look for the light switch.  If the lights go out, the first thing we do is look for flashlights and candles. We know the dangers of walking in the dark.  Even the Creator, whose design includes night, provided a limit to the darkness, and provided a reflective moon and light-emitting stars to turn night into a thing of beauty. 

The writings of John use the metaphor of light as an attribute of God, and Jesus came as an embodiment of this light (John 1:3-9).  He quotes Jesus (John 3:19-21) as pointing out that even this Light came into the world, there are those who preferred darkness as a cover for their sin. Jesus, on six occasions recorded in the Gospel of John, refers to himself as the Light of the World.  In the letter we call I John, we find him expanding the commandments of Jesus: Again, a new commandment I write to you, which is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shines He that says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness even now. He that loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he that hates his brother is in darkness, and walks in darkness, not knowing where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:8-11)

There are those in our world who prefer darkness and secrecy; there are those who are stumble around not aware that there is light available.  We, as His followers, should be aware of the light He has given us, and ask Him to use us to spread this Light to our world.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

NEW Every Day--by Linden Malki

'NEW' is one of the most powerful words in our language. Or at least, advertising agents certainly think so!

We are constantly bombarded with new this, new that, as if something "new" is always "better." Until the next new thing, that is. I spend my days dealing with people who want a new part for their car, as if just putting on something new is magic. I find myself trying to explain that if they don't find out what's really wrong, new for the sake of new is a waste of time and money (and we can't return stuff that's been didn't work any better than the old one).

I think that we are biased toward "new" because we live in a universe that is constantly changing in some ways , constant in others. Change can be for better or worse; we watch things grow old and worn out; we see new things every day. "News" has become a big business. We can't escape it; except perhaps by living in a yurt in the woods. A good deal of our conversation is "Did you hear that...."; "Have you seen the new..."; "What do you think about...". How much stuff do we buy just because it's "new", with the message that the stuff we've got, even though it may do whatever it does just fine, just isn't good enough. And of course, a lot of the "new" stuff is old stuff redecorated; it actually is not easy to come up with something that truly is "new." Some of it is old stuff that has been out of sight long enough for a new generation to not know that it didn't work last time.

There it is: "new generation." Life is like that: we start out as new babies, and get older every day. Every day is a new one; and we may think we know what to expect, but unexpected things happen.

God is the master of "New." He created a universe that was new; with suns and planets and land and seas and life. One day the new people He had made did something "new" and everything changed. God told Noah that something new was going to happen, and Noah was given a design for a new boat. God brought Jacob's family to a new home in Egypy, and then Moses was told to bring everyone out on a new adventure. A good part of our Bible tells of a God that leads his people into new surprises. The biggest one of all is Jesus, who brought a whole new way of life. "And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creature is gone, and how the new one is here." (2 Corinthians 5:17) Are we ready to be God's new people?

Saturday, January 2, 2016


Children are full of surprises.  It's particularly noticeable during the holiday season, when we see more of our friends and relatives than usual.   One of the surprises is that some people look pretty much the same their whole lives, and some you wouldn't recognize without a name tag.  There are several sets of twins in my extended family, and most are not identical--in fact, in one pair people don't believe that they're related.

Resemblances are interesting; often at family events where people are gathered that I haven't seen for awhile, it's easier to identify people by who else they look like, more than what they used to look like when they were younger. Sometimes in looking at old family pictures,  you can figure out who someone in a very old picture probably is by whose kids look like that picture.  And sometimes it works the other way as well. Recently one of my sons made an unexpected connection with a nephew of mine who lives halfway across the country.  The cousin sent me a picture--and he's looking more like his dad and grandfather than ever. A few years ago I went to a reunion of the Swedish side of my family, and took a grandson who does not look like his Lebanese cousins.  He looked around that all these people, most of whom he'd never seen before, and asked , "These are all my cousins?"  So I told him yes, they are--and now he knows who he looks like.

Some of the similarities we see in families are genetic, and some of them are learned; and some of them are a combination of both.  My younger son has always been interested in airplanes and flying; he hung around small airports and general aviation folks with his dad growing up.  I've always been interested in history, especially growing up with family stories of how my grandparents got to America, stories of missionary relatives,  and then more stories from John and his family about growing up in the Middle East.  My dad grew up in the lumber business, and was always building or remodeling something--and my brothers and I (the last one at home)  were the apprentices, and we are all reasonably handy with tools and fixing stuff.

Listening to Joseph's story the last couple of weeks was a good reminder that Jesus was fully a "real boy" as well as being the Son of God. We have witnesses of that not only in the Scriptural note that he was obedient to his earthly parents, but the witness of the folks in Nazareth, who had a problem understanding that Jesus was anything special because they had watched him grow up as an ordinary guy.  They saw him as someone who had learned a trade and worked with his hands just as many of them did--and many of us as well. The other thing we know about Jesus' youth was that he was a good student (of course, he had had the best Teacher); and we can wonder if any of the scholars who were part of that amazing Bar-Mitzvah realized who He was 20 years later.

The family resemblance that is crucial to our understanding of Jesus is His resemblance to His Heavenly Father. On that last night,  Jesus told the disciples "To have seen Me is to have seen the Father...I am in the Father and the Father is in Me ... you will understand that I am in My Father, and you in Me and I in you." (John 14).  This is the core of the Gospel: "To all who did accept Him,  He gave power to become children of God."  (John 1:12) When the world looks at us, do they see the family resemblance?