Saturday, June 24, 2017

GOD AS FATHER--by Linden Malki

   The role of Father is built into Creation.  All living creatures were created to be self-replicating; even the simplest single-cell creatures exchange genetic material and reproduce. The continued existence of every form of life on the planet is dependent on its ability to leave descendants. (Yes, not all of them do succeed, but that  is part of the dynamics of constant change that we see.)  The first human beings were created with the ability and responsibility to have children. It is interesting that people were not given the programming that most other creatures have; we were expected to teach our children.  The other half of the story is that we also have the ability to choose our behavior.  Hopefully, our parents instruction will enable us to make good choices. We find that Adam's record was't that good. Of the first two sons, one did it according to the instruction, and one didn't--and didn't seem to understand or pay attention, other than to take it out on his brother. 

          It is interesting that almost all references to God and fatherhood refer God as "the God of your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."  The only referrals to God as our Father that I could find are in Psalm 89:26 "He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior.’"; Isaiah 9:6 "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace;" and Malachi 2:10 "Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us?"  The coming of Jesus, prophesied in the Isaiah passage, refers to Jesus as the Son of God the Father. At the very end of Jesus' time on earth, we find  Jesus saying, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

          St Paul is very specific about this relationship; every single one of his letters, begins like this:" Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (I Corinthians 1:3) You could make an interesting study just from these verses--all slightly different in emphasis. Also, Peter, John, James and Jude say something similar as well.  I especially noted this:"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better" (Ephesians 1:17)  Think about the role of father: one of the main jobs of a father is to teach; not only his children, but his community.  Paul says here that the source of wisdom, revelation and knowledge come from God through His Spirit.  

          An important way that He communicates with his children is through prayer. Think for a moment in how we usually pray; and also how we communicate with our parents. Most of our prayer time is spent telling God what we want and what we think He wants to hear. Is this how we usually talk to our parents, grandparents, and others? If we want to learn from our parents, the best way is to listen to them. I recall when I was a kid out camping with my family, Dad would make a bonfire on the riverfront near where we were camped, and we'd sit around and Dad would tell stories of his life, and other family and friends and their stories. Dad loved to listen to people, as well--he would say that he'd never met someone he couldn't learn something from. He'd even ask me questions that come up in things he read.  This makes me thing that prayer needs to be more like this--more listening than talking.  It's not an easy thing to learn, we tend to be afraid of "dead time".  I find one question, or observation, or even a tree to stare at, and then wait for a response. If something comes into your head, give to to the Spirit see what He does with it.  Praise isn't meant to be flattery or an attempt to get something in return, but thankfulness and acknowledgment of who God is and who we are.  This is God, the power behind everything that is, and He loves us and wants His best for us. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mentoring for Life--by Linden Malki

The practice of "mentoring" is basic to human society. The term goes back to Homer's Odyssey, roughly 900BC; where an old man named "Mentor"(assisted by the goddess Athena) guides a young man through a crisis.

We are created knowing very little, but gifted with the potential to learn. We all have a different mix of the ways we learn, but we start out in life with built-in mentors--our parents, grandparents, and other people who are part of our lives. We spend good part of our early life watching,listening, imitating and growing. We learn different things from different people in different stages of our lives, but very often there are one or more special people in our lives that take specific interest and time with us to help us learn. One of the most important thing in the lifelong journey of learning is the people we learn from. Good parents and friends will teach us good things we need to know, irresponsible parents or friends can teach us things that are not good for us. We need to recognize those people who have the good knowledge that we need. Most ancient cultures have a traditional story of a supernatural wise and poweful being that appeared to their ancestors with wisdom, instructions, and rules. We believe that a creator God is the ultimate source of wisdom and knowledge; in some cases it lost its connection and got off track.

Back in Eden, God told Adam what he was expected to do, and one thing he was not to do. This is was the first step in the having to deal with the results of doing what put us all on a path that has its wide and narrow, its goals and pitfalls. We see that our faith tradition goes back to a man who had the best mentor of all: God Himself. We see Abram/Abraham's calling in Genesis 12, which includes his obedience as well as his mistakes. We find that God gives Abraham both promises and instructions, a covenant that still recognized. We have a Scriptural record of what God told Abraham and his descendents to learn; the record of a 2000 year story of people who have mentored others, some of whom were listened to and some who weren't. We still have this record of what we need to know to be in a right relationship with our Creator. We also have had another 2000 years of people teaching others--some for better, some for worse. It is amazing that the story of God and His people has survived, but it is the plan we were given in the beginning. We also have the responsibility to learn what He has to teach us, and teach others in turn in gratitude for His love and patience.

We are always learning, one way or another. We need to choose the best, and recognize what falls short of that. For about the last 15 years, the Calvary/NorthPoint community has been learning how to teach, how to mentor, how to learn who God is and why we have been called to follow Him. It has been exciting to watch the passion for teaching the Word grow, with some ups and downs. We have seen the program that is now JumpStart develop and become ready to spread a new telling of an old, old Story here on Sierra Way, to San Bernardino, across the US, and to some amazing parts of the world. If you are interested, there will be someone available in the back of the church with information and sign-up opportunities. Come join the adventure!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Moses, Aaron, and God--by Linden Malki

Moses, on the shore of the Red Seal,  the Israelites with him, frightened,  and the Egyptians coming up behind them: "Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the Lord will win for you today...The Lord Himself will fight for you, you have only to keep still." And the next day, they crossed the sea on dry seabed.
When they got to Sinai, God told Moses to call the people together. They agreed that "Everything the Lord has said, we will do." Then God delivered ten commandments to the people, and dictated four chapters of instructions to Moses for the people.   God called Moses out of a cloud to come up the mountain for 40 more days.  Meanwhile, back at the camp, the people got restless, and asked Aaron to make a god for them.  God told Moses to go back down, as the Israelites were running wild, and He was ready to wipe them all out and make a nation from Moses. Moses faced up to God with the promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the Lord relented.
As they approached their promised destination, Moses sent a team of spies, one man from each tribe, to move up through the Negeb into the land beyond and check it out. The spies came back in 40 days and reported that the land was fruitful but the inhabitants were too strong. Amid the wailing and grumbling, Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the people with no reported reply, and it was Joshua and Caleb who stood up to the whole community and said, "..You need not be afraid of the people..the Lord is with us." The Lord told Moses, "of all the men who have seen my glory and the signs I worked in Egypt and in the desert, and who nevertheless have put Me to the test already and have failed to heed my voice, not one shall see the land which I promised on oath to their fathers."--except Caleb and Joshua.
After another attempted rebellion, they moved back into the desert to Meribah, where there was no water--and the usual complaining from the people. God told Moses and Aaron to gather the people, and tell the rocks to give water. They assembled the community, and Moses said "Listen to me, you rebels! Are we to bring water for you out of this rock?", and  struck the rock. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you were not faithful to me in showing my sanctity before the Israelites, you shall not lead them into the land I will give them."
Reading this by itself, it looks like this is a punishment out of proportion to the offense.  However, look at it in the context of the whole relationship between God, the Israelites, Moses and Aaron. After starting out speaking in the name of God, Moses more and more talked about his frustration with the people, and less and less about God. At Meribah, Moses did not even mention God when he came in front of the people; his answer was to do something himself when he had been told to command the rock in the name of the Lord.  They had not only failed to invoke God at this time; they had not taught the people to respect the plans of God and have faith in His promises. At the time of the golden calf incident, the people --and Aaron--had just a few weeks earlier heard God tell them to stay away from idols. When the spies came back, Moses and Aaron said nothing, and Joshua and Caleb said what needed to be said--and when God said that no one there except Joshua and Caleb would see the Promised Land--Moses was there.
We don't hear a lot about Joshua in the books of the Torah, but he's there when he needs to be. And it was Joshua who did lead the Israelites into the Land--with strict injunctions that they were not to profit by the conquest; that it was to be for the glory of God. A thousand years later, when the descendants of these people had been in captivity again, this time in Babylon and were coming back into Judea to rebuild, the prophet Zechariah said “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel (the leader of the returning exiles) 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty."*  This was true for Joshua; it has always been true for the people of God.                              *Zechariah 4:6

Saturday, June 3, 2017

One by One--by Linden Malki

God is the most amazing Creator--the variety of everything He creates is beyond our capacity to appreciate.  Look at a garden--each twig on each plant is different. Animals--there is an amazing number of species, and even within a species, each individual is different. Look at people--the possible number of variations on one basic pattern is mind-boggling. Even in a family,  everyone is a little--or a lot--different.  Even twins are slightly different. Someone recently posted a picture of my brothers as very small children--and it was possible to recognize which twin was which.  I think that within any group of people you can describe, the differences between members of the group are greater than the average between that group and another one.  That is why it is important to deal with people as individuals--judging people by a broad brush does not tell what you may need to know about any individual.

Jesus is our example here--at one point, there were scholars in the Temple that were amazed by a 12-year-old who wasn't like one  they'd ever known;  but when he returned to Nazareth, most of the neighbors dismissed him as just another one of the neighborhood kids.   Look at his experiences with Samaritans! The woman at the well (John 4) was surprised that this Jewish man would speak to her--a woman, a Samaritan, and someone with a checkered past, but he knew that she needed what he offered.   There was an incident where a Samaritan town refused to sell the disciples food, and they wanted to destroy the town, but Jesus reprimanded them and went on to another town. (Luke 9:51+) Then in the parable he tells shortly after this, the supposed "good guys" avoid the man in need, and a Samaritan shows mercy.  The result is that  the Samaritans responded to the Gospel more openly than Jesus' own people. (Acts 8).

The early church had to work through this: we find animosities between Jews, Gentiles, Greeks, and others, but we also see God working with all sorts of people, such as an Ethiopean official and  a Roman Centurion.  The church ever since has had its ups and downs--excluding people, including people, persecuting people, rescuing people. We are called to be wise in our dealing with people--evaluating them with His eyes, praying for His heart.

The church as its best answers His call to "go to all the world"--next door and across the oceans.  This last Thursday, we were honored to have  Jim & Cathy Abell, longtime staff members  of Mission Aviation Fellowship, visiting and sharing what they and MAF are doing. MAF was headquarted for some years at Redlands Airport, and the Abell family was active at NCF; they are now in Nampa, Idaho. MAF is an amazing arm of God, supporting missionaries and coping with disasters in many parts of the world.  They serve people who are bringing the Word of God to people who are in remote and difficult places, who may be of different cultures and colors, but each of whom is one of God's children.

MAF is one of the missions that our church supports; 10% of your offerings goes outside our family to those who are serving God in a special way.  You can learn more about MAF at, and can give additional support through our church by designating additional offerings for MAF.