From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
Today we need your help...we need to draw upon your wisdom. We're not very patient people. We always seem to want what we want...and we want it now. Therefore, we're willing to take up the task to learn the fine art of patience. When we often feel powerless...because we're waiting for something to happen...and in waiting...we're not in control...we'll focus on the power available to us by learning to wait, and to know you are always faithful to help us! You have ordained patience as holiness and we know there is purpose in waiting. We won't always be perfect in our pursuits, but we're sure you'll understand. Amen
We continue to live each day with the pandemic all around us. We have all had to sacrifice and conform to some degree or other in meeting the multiple challenges of our time. These are days to consider issues of justice, mercy and law-enforcement. Political issues keep us all on edge to some degree or other. We ask ourselves the question:
During the Second World War, General Douglas MacArthur is famous for saying, "I shall return!" He waited patiently for years to finally return to the Philippines. General George S Patton, Jr, as tough as nails, a believer, asked his chaplain to pray for the snow to melt, and waited for the Lord's answer, which came on time for his tanks to pursue the enemy into Germany. Saint Monica (Santa Monica) prayed constantly for her wayward son, Augustine, for forty years without any anxiety or doubt. She knew the Lord would work in the life of her son, and as a result, the Lord presented the Church with one of the greatest theologians.
The people who are most successful in truly loving others are those who have learned to wait on the Lord to bring about change. Most give up after while...it often seems a hopeless case...but the "truly faithful" keep praying in assurance. The Lord will not give up on those who seem hopeless or what circumstance seems a waste of time. God's timing is perfect. Some persons we have kept in prayer for decades. We don't plead. We don't get frustrated. We don't get mad or profoundly disappointed at the setbacks. We'll let the weeks and months and years go by. God is faithful---He knows what He's doing! You have to leave it up to Him. Wait. Trust in the Lord. Carry on with your life. Sometimes his intervention is immediate. Sometimes intervention takes place after what seems ages, but remember that God's timing is always perfect. We can always trust in the Lord when we commit ourselves into His perfect plan for our lifes. That's what faith is all about. Note the best definition of faith we have:
"....now faith is being sure of what we hope for... and being certain of what we cannot yet see..." (Hebrews 11:1)
[...please note these key words......sure.....certain.......we don't see anything written therein regarding the words..."maybe...if...perhaps"...this sentence from the Bible does not suggest that, first, we have to be morally perfect, fastidiously correct in all the affairs of our lives, and so forth. Be yourself. Do your best.]
There aren't too many people I know who "enjoy waiting" and there aren't too many people who enjoy the art of being patient. Waiting is a powerful tool that helps us to accomplish a lot of good. A person needs to sincerely and conscientiously work at it. The result is...Godly patience is a true sign of genuine faith.
There is one thing we've learned from life. We can't always have what we want when we want it. Often in life, what we want to do doesn't happen. What we want to have doesn't materialize. Most notably, what we want to be in life, indeed, doesn't happen to us. What we want to accomplish on our time schedule doesn't happen and we get frustrated. Let God have His day. Follow your personal vision. Also be prepared to abandon our personal vision for some unexpected opportunity which comes up you could never have anticipated. In that sense, it is a matter of "letting go" of ultimate control of our lives. God always has something better for us.
In the course of our lives, we often have dreams and aspirations about what we will do and what we will be.
Yet, these dreams seem beyond our reach, at least, in our present situation. However, as we dream, working actively on things we wish for ourselves, we are able to envision...with patience...a future reality for ourselves and as well as those we love and pray for.
Priscilla and I found ourselves with our three daughters in Berkeley in 1972. We strongly sensed a Call from the Lord to serve in Pakistan as missionaries. For four years, we sought a visa from the Pakistani government without success. They were not encouraging missionaries to come. It was hurtful to me that my father, who never questioned me or my decisions, suggested that I was lying to him about going to Pakistan. We couldn't help but be discouraged. A lady who prayed for us from time to time, received a Bible verse to share in this time:
"...being confident of this that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ." (Phil. 1:6)
---- the key phrase here was "...carry it on to completion..." ----
That put us back on track.
Meanwhile, not long after that, on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, where I was working, we had a special guest speaker, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the Honorable Javad Iqbal, also the son of Maulana Mohammad Iqbal, the great Muslim political philosopher and poet of India, whose idealism created the notion of Pakistan. I attended his lecture and afterward had an abundance of questions about Pakistan and it's relationship with Islam. He seemed impressed --- and asked if I would like to join him for supper. We had a great time and then returned, down the street, to his hotel. He asked, "Why don't you come to Pakistan? You need to come to Pakistan!" I replied, "I would love to come to Pakistan, but I can't!" He asked why not. I answered, "We have tried for years and the foreign office refused to allow us to come!" His response, "Outrageous!" "Wait," I said, "...you don't understand...we would come as missionaries..." Iqbal replied, "It doesn't make any difference...As soon as I get back to my room I will call the foreign office and you will have a visa immediately!"
And that was that!
God put one of the most important, best known Pakistanis in the world into our backyard to usher Priscilla and I into the land of Pakistan...and as missionaries! If you have a vision, if you have a dream...God has a way to fulfill it! In our case, except for the Lord, we waited without any assurance whatsoever for years. God came through for us. The Lord brought the most distinguished Pakistani half way around the globe, within our very neighborhood, to provide a way to do, what was for us, had been impossible.
We can trust that everything we dream and anticipate is "on schedule". Waiting is not wasted time. The person with the mindset of faith knows that something is always being worked out. The Scriptures suggest that the Lord doesn't abandon us or our dreams. One of the great dreamers of the Bible was Joseph, one of my favorite Bible characters. In faith, with God's help, he always turned impossible situations into realities.
The Lord is at work in the minds and the hearts of those who have placed their trust in Him. He has a plan for us within the context of a real world. He honors our dream which honors Him. He honors our aspiration which honors him. His timing is perfect and we can depend on him. To the person of faith, the art of waiting is essential for our personal walk, day by day, and year by year.
"He makes everything beautiful in His time. He also sets eternity upon the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men and women to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his or her work...this is a gift from God..." (Ecclesiastes 3:11-13)
We don't put our lives "on hold" while we wait. We tell the Lord we trust the vision He has given us that will become evident in His perfect timing. We also direct our attention elsewhere for the time being. We become confident in acceptance of our person. We practice gratitude, not as a feeling, but as an attitude---
It becomes for us "the attitude of gratitude". We live an abundant life while we are waiting. We go about living that great life. In the midst of waiting, the dream has a way of realizing itself.
Deal with your frustration. Deal with your impatience...learn how to wait...
Address your frustration. Don't keep it in. Your frustration and lack of patience will poison you. Seek out another faithful person to share it. Dr. Fritz Perls used to say, "We are our secrets." When we keep our feelings inside and we don't share them, they have a tendency to proliferate, and become a permanent part of who we are. We can look reasonably good on the outside but be unwell deep within. Eventually we become transparent to others. When we share our negative feelings we release them and they flee from us. The reason for communities of faith is to have faithful friends to share our burdens and give us hope,
Learn how to be patient. Make it a goal to be very adept at waiting.
I'm thinking back to the Rolling Stones lyrics, "You can't always get what you want..." It just isn't always true.
Often, in our lives, we can get what we want, and might I say, especially the desires of our hearts, if we learn patiently to wait. We would follow a long line of patient believers in learning and practicing this important lesson in life and faith. When we do this, others notice a new maturity in our faith lives in the Lord Jesus.
May the Good Lord bless and keep you in these challenging times. Be safe. Be healthy. Be well.
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
Hello Everyone, and blessings as August comes to a close. We continue to pray for you, and those you love. In September, we will begin experimenting with offering worship services via Zoom. If and when you have interest, let me know. The written meditations will continue regardless. Let us know how we might be of service to your community in these times. Grace and peace to you all.
Scripture: Psalm 119:105-108
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.
I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word.
Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me thy judgments.
I generally do not teach from the King James Version, but I do make an exception for Psalm 119, the longest Psalm in the Psalter. In the 176 verses of the Psalm, we hear the Psalmist committing himself to following God's teachings as humanly possible.
Early this morning, I was viewing a modern icon of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. As I gazed, I realized that Jesus came to full fruition in Christ, and so did Mary Magdalene. On Resurrection morning, it was she who was able to announce to the grief stricken disciples, "I have seen the Lord" John 20:19. We, too, can find our place in the love and light of Christ, and that love and light can guide us all our days and nights, both here on earth and throughout eternity. That light will never be extinguished. Like the psalmist, may we, too, in gratitude be willing to let our love be our freewill offering, given with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind. Jesus called such surrender the greatest commandment. He knew first hand that such surrender would open our hearts to God. We can trust this lamp we call Christ, a Holy Lamp that will never lead us astray.
For our prayer today, I leave you with the first verse and refrain of a hymn entitled, "Longing for Light, We Wait in Darkness." The hymn was written by Bernadette Farrell in 1993. Let us remember that Jesus asks us to let our own light shine.
Rev. Sue Ann Yarbrough, Associate Pastor
San Lorenzo Community Church, United Church of Christ
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
1 Corinthians 1:20
"Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?"
"...and so God condemned sin in sinful men..." (i.e., God didn't condemn sinful men)
1 Corinthians 1:25, 27
"...for the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom and the weakness of god is stronger than man's strength...God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong..."
Dear Lord, this morning we would like to praise you for those in our midst who have put themselves "on the line" for the our benefit and the benefit of others, many times, at the risk of their own lives and their individual welfare.
In the midst of selfishness, greed, and self-interest, we want to thank you for your servants who just go ahead and literally become your divine hands, your feet, your heart, and your intellect. May we learn from their sacrifice in that Christ-like presence of mind and purpose...to follow suit...to be more compassionate, more willing to help, more dedicated to be there for those in need. Thank you for your message in the Holy Scriptures that free people like us from guilt regarding our shortcomings and encourage us to know we are loved and valued by you. We are your grateful people. Guide us and encourage us today. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Is there anybody out there feeling the way I am feeling today? We are in the midst of the greatest pandemic of our life-time. We have been confined to our homes for over half a year.
The so-called prophet of the Old Testament, Habakkuk (approximately 605 BC) is a source of wisdom...or rather, should I say "shock"...and as well, insight for us as he writes in Habakkuk 3:17-19, "...though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen, and no cattle in the stalls...yet...I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God, my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength, He makes my feet like the feet of a deer...He enables me to go on the high-places..."
What is about to happen to Habakkuk? He doesn't know what will actually will happen to him, but he is going to know eventually how he will react. History tells us --- he will be prepared for the worst to come in the best
possible way. Let us journey with Habakkuk as we find out...
The quote is from the very end of this book in the Holy Scriptures. There is a Spiritual journey that is necessary for Habakkuk to take in order to make his affirmation. It is not an easy journey for Habakkuk. Initially Habakkuk is a proud, intelligent young man. He thinks he can figure out anything by himself. In the words of Simon and Garfunkel, he is "a rock and an island". He's going to deal with things on his terms. Indeed, the Book of Habakkuk is not really a book of divine prophesy, but rather, a book about the "making of a prophet", or a spokesman for God. It is my purpose today to share with you the journey of Habakkuk, because it is the journey of a person who spiritually exemplifies the majority of our people in the twenty-first century of our present era...
"...the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned..."
1 Corinthians 2:14
At the beginning of Habakkuk's journey we find that he is a "skeptic" about life, in general, and the existence of God, in particular. In the first chapter he asks three classic questions...these are questions I hear every single week in counseling or in conversation with those in trouble who contact me. The questions are:
How long is it that I have to cry out to God, but He does seem to listen? WHY is this? (Habakkuk 1:2)
Habakkuk not only questions God and His wisdom, but kind of "Sticks it to the Lord" with outright sarcasm...
As we used to say in the Marine Corps, he not only stuck the bayonet in, but also twisted it a quarter-turn...
WHY is it that You are silent as those who are bad swallow up those who that live righteous lives?
Well, we can all understand these questions. The key point that we get to later in the text...is that we can continue to ask the question WHY --- and we will get nowhere! It's kind of like knocking your head up against a brick wall in order to get what you want. Who or what wins...your head or the wall? There are no given answers for the most pertinent questions. Yet, those questions are often quite reasonable. With some of the great questions in life, it is important to rise beyond "reason" in order to gain understanding and then overcome. The answer is found, not in the pursuit of reason, but rather in adopting a "mindset of faith"...
As we get into the book of Habakkuk we discover an astounding fact. You know, in fifty years of ministry, I have never heard any preacher, Catholic, Protestant, or Evangelical, speak on the content of the book of Habakkuk. Nonetheless, note that the entire thrust of the theology of the New Testament is based upon one single verse found in Habakkuk. Let me share that verse with you. In Habakkuk 2:4, Habakkuk writes, "...but the righteous will live by faith..." On this verse alone, the 16th Century Reformation took place and became the cornerstone of the restoration of solid bible scholarship and Christian vision. I am fascinated at how important Habakkuk was to Saint Paul, as he reviewed what he had learned prior, now as a Christian.
In short, the primary focus of the follower of Jesus Christ is not upon the demands of divine law, but rather upon trusting in God above all things. Hebrews 11:1 makes clear what faith is, "...now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see..." This does not dismiss the Ten Commandments or any other ordinance God has given us. It does mean we do not focus upon our self. Whether we have been a good person and have a great reputation, or whether we have been less than perfect (making a fool out of ourselves and putting other people out), we neither focus upon our righteousness (apart from God) nor upon our guilt, shame, and regrets. Focus upon "self" is out. We take care of ourselves for sure, but we do not dwell upon ourselves. We don't "pat ourselves on the back" nor do we cower in the shadows of former life.
I like Saint Paul's affirmation in 2 Corinthians 5:16, "...so from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view...therefore...if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come..." We don't dwell upon ourselves, but we do celebrate "life" as extravagantly as possible.
Returning to Habakkuk, we turn to the second chapter. Habakkuk can't find answers from his neighbors, so he seeks out beyond the world he knows. In a sense, he reaches out to his "Higher Power" as a member of a 12-Step group would. He stands at the "Watchtower" peering out beyond the city walls. Habakkuk stops talking about God philosophically and starts talking to God...and he gets a response. Hmm!?
Will wonders never cease?!
God (Yahweh) tells Habakkuk to write down the insights he gets and the experiences he will have. Indeed, he will in truth receive answers (revelations, in fact) for his inquiry. He consequently receives the revelation that becomes the cornerstone of what will become Christian theology, "...the righteous will live by faith..." Habakkuk 2:4b
[Note the influence this will have upon Saint Paul six centuries later...Romans 1:17, Romans 3:28...wherein
Saint Paul credits Habakkuk, a spokesman for God. ["...just as it is written..."]
In the second chapter, Habakkuk starts to give God praise for His mighty works instead of questioning the person and efficacy of the Almighty. What is happening here? What happens with Saint Augustine later happens to Habakkuk in the text...a softening of the heart...an understanding...an open door to God...
"...for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God...the Lord is in His holy temple. let all the earth be silent before Him..." Habakkuk 2:14, 20
Finally, we arrive at the third chapter. Habakkuk has changed. God (Yahweh) has become very real to him. In his new-found knowledge and awareness of God, Habakkuk has become respectful. It may well be true that Habakkuk thinks this present relatedness is all there is in the Spiritual life with the Living God. He has another lesson to learn. He has one more thing to experience. That experience finally occurs in the third chapter at the sixteenth verse, related as follows:
"...I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound...decay crept into my bones...and my legs trembled..."
Regarding this verse, Jesus, six hundred years later, in John 3:3, 3:6, will say, "...I tell you the truth...no one can see the Kingdom of God unless that person is born again...flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit..." Indeed, Habakkuk in the Old Testament became "born again" in same sense as Jesus will have come to mean it in the New Testament. Habakkuk indeed had been an "inquirer" and a "speculator" in spiritual matters...and now...he had become a spokesman for God, a Prophet. He had acquired a personal relationship with God. He has received the "mindset of faith". Now he is ready anticipate all and to allow anything that might happen to happen willingly in his life...and yet...praise God for the circumstances.
Saint Paul, reflecting upon the spiritual insight of Habakkuk through the Holy Spirit, wrote, "...and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose..." Romans 8:28
In addition Saint Paul also writes, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident unto all. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7
Saint John writes, "...perfect love casts out fear..." When our hearts have been conquered by the love of Christ, we do not become fearful as others do. We are in God's loving, caring hands. Although it doesn't always seem that way, the Lord is involved in the give-and-take of events of life. All situations have their divine purpose and we volunteer to become involved in its eventual goodness. That is the practical basis of true faith. Mere religion is different. Bad things happen to punish us. We will pay for what we have done... God is our righteous judge. He will give us what we deserve. This kind of ideology does not fit into the life of a genuine Christian.
It doesn't come from the latest "catch-all fad" or from mere religion...but from the God grounded in our reality through Christ...with the message that we are more than conquerors through Him who has loved us Romans 8:37.
As we "...walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." Psalm 23 with the Covid-19 pandemic...a crushed economy...concerned about basic security and providing for our family...dealing with issues of justice and equality...and very much aware of impending disaster with local wild-fires next door...we remain mindful of the experience of Habakkuk.
We understand his ascendency to faith in God, and not depending upon reason alone. We take on the challenges of the realities about us, but nonetheless, we have the assurance that God will make things right for us---and those we are concerned about---and we will participate fully in God's plan to demonstrate His love for all of us, not in spite of, but because of the scary things that keep us on our toes. We are in the world, but we are not of the world...we don't turn our backs to the facts, but are graciously given the human courage to face the difficult times, because the Lord would not allow it, unless it were part of His perfect plan for this world that He loves.
God bless you and yours. Cordially, Tom
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
Grace and peace to you always! I pray you and those you love are healthy and safe. We continue to hold you in prayer, knowing that these times are not easy. Please remember to take your Sabbath time for rest and relaxation. If I can possibly be of help, please let me know.
We will not be ignored. We will find our way over whatever threshold we need to cross. No matter where we need to go, or what we need to experience, let us look for the Christ who is always waiting for us to show up. The door to God's love is always open. Let us seek and find. It should not take too long. The door is always open.
Holy God, you who opens all doors, we thank you for your loving attention. We thank you that our place, our home is with you, and with you we find the safety of love. We pray that those who are searching will learn that your door is always open and that all are welcome to come and be with you. Forgive when we forget to extend your extravagant welcome. Help us to be as present to one another as you are to us.
In Jesus' name we gratefully pray. Amen.
Rev. Sue Ann Yarbrough, Associate Pastor
San Lorenzo Community Church, United Church of Christ
Romans 7:15, 22
"I don't not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate about myself, I do...
for in my inner being I delight in the God's law...but I find another principle at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind...making me a prisoner of the n principle at work in my members..."
"...so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God...strengthened with all power, according to His glorious
might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience...joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light."
Dear Lord, today I'm going to acknowledge you as a great God of grace, a God of undeserved favor. In a powerful way I can feel your unconditional love for me. You have been faithful in answering my prayers. I don't deserve your kindness, your consideration, and your forgiveness. I don't understand why you are so faithful in dealing with me in view of my lack of faithfulness in return. I thank you for your grace because I simply need it. I'm just not that well-put-together. However, through the confidence I have in the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, I'm really going to put my best foot forward. Help me to be compassionate, understanding, and productive. In Jesus' name. Amen.
A few more funnies like last week...the winner from last week was the Darth Vader line...
"Never give yourself permission to hide behind grace as a cover for disobedience." Chuck Swindoll
"You belong to the power which you choose to obey." J B Phillips
God grants you and I grace...
We can choose Him to have mastery over us, or we can go back and choose to be lawless and without principle. J B Phillips was definitely right when he wrote, "You belong to the power which you choose to obey." The idea is simple. With every moment of every day we have the power to choose whom we are pleased to follow. If it is Jesus, the benefits are manifold. If we choose our own way, the consequences are destructive and miserable.
You belong to the power which you choose to obey...
Literally, sin is falling short of the target, and sin (in terms of our human intention and conduct) is falling short of God's standard for our lives. Falling short...
Don't fall short! Aim for the Bulls-eye and hit it! ...that Bulls-Eye is God's intention for our lives...
I've got some good news for you...and...I've got some bad news for you. You know something! I wish I could actually guarantee all of us freedom from sin for three-hundred and sixty-five days out of each and every year. But, sadly, I cannot do so. Not for me. Not for you. That's the bad news. The good news is that...we don't have to sin in a constant, day-after-day basis. Grace gives us the strength to be freed to obey Christ. With each and every choice we make in life, we either move closer to God or we go further away.
Some fellow Christians would say it's a gradual thing. I say, No! It's a decision by decision progression.
The Lord could intervene in our lives, but rather, He permits us the freedom to make a choice. When we fail to see the errors of our ways, the promptings of God's Spirit are ignored and disobedience becomes a lifestyle. God will allow that to happen...because we must "choose" Christ...and the His ways. The alternative for us is terrible...it involves mental anguish, a guilty conscience, hurting and offending others and finally bringing reproach upon the name of Jesus. The scars of bad decisions mark us for life. We are told that the Lord (indeed) will forgive us, but the scars we retain cannot be erased.
Let me tell you something! God is a gentleman and He is not going to force religion or good behavior on any of us. We must choose to accept His undeserved grace and act accordingly. The Holy Spirit will give us the means and the strength to live our lives in a Godly way, so that life is a blessing for us and we are richly rewarded. It starts simply with one decision, one act, to obey. God never means to communicate to us we're free in Him to live any way we want to live, whatever the circumstances. Life doesn't work that way.
Grace in this regard means I don't force or manipulate or judge or attempt to control others in that accountability, nor should others try to control me. In a unique and workable way --- personal growth in Christ --- involves breathing room, deliberately "letting go" of attempts to control (so very tempting for the deeply religious) so that each person can grow and learn on his or her own. Letting go of control can be painful...It's so hard to watch others falter along the way...we want so badly to shape others in our mold. We need to release our tendency to control, to be in charge, as though the touch of the Master is not sufficient enough...
Therefore, being a Christian who takes God's grace seriously, this anonymous poem is so very helpful:
To let go doesn't means to stop caring, it means I can't do it for someone else.
To let go is not to cut myself off, it's the realization that I can't control another person.
To let go is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.
To let go is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.
To let go is not to try to change or blame another, I can only change myself.
To let go is not to care for, but to care about.
To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.
To let go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.
To let go is not to be in the middle arranging outcomes, but to allow others to effect their own outcomes.
To let go is not to be protective, it is to permit another to face reality.
To let go is not to deny, but to accept.
To let go is not to nag, scold, or argue, but to search out my own shortcomings and to correct them.
To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day as it comes.
To let go is not to criticize and regulate anyone, but to try to become what dream I can be.
To let go is not to regret the past, but to grow an live for the future.
To let go is to fear less and love more.
"...there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin an death..." Romans 8:1-2
The very next time you and I are tempted to yield to the "old master" we will need to remember this. God's grace always invites us to return and find forgiveness and healing and wholeness. The scars along the way are the earmarks of our eventual victory in Christ. They show us the price the journey has cost us. There is a great and powerful truth released to us through the gospel we have received in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no more perfect way to live and find true reconciliation in our lives. If there were "a religious way" or "a way of wisdom" that dealt with truth the way "life in Christ" does --- I have not found it. Underneath the lure of other spiritual ways there are always "good works" at its base, not grace. It's an open-door for all of us to find perfect peace and joy meant for imperfect people, like me, and maybe you, also. I'd like to ask... receive that great peace and joy in your life today, especially if this has been a special time of struggle for you in these challenging times. There is hope for you today. There is reconciliation. There is abundant life.
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
I pray this email finds you and your loved ones well, and that you are taking time for your Sabbath rest. Do let me know if there is anything I can be of assistance with. We will be offering Zoom services when your community is ready, so do keep me posted! May we be able to come together soon.
Rev. Sue Ann
Scripture: Psalm 86:11
"Teach me, Lord, your way
that I may walk in your truth,
single-hearted and revering your name.
I will praise you with all my heart,
glorify your name forever, Lord, my God."
In the Book of Acts, we learn that the early Christians were known to be followers of The Way. In John 14:6, Jesus says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." It seems like it should be easy to know the way. We know the Ten Commandments. We can look to the Beatitudes for guidance. We certainly have at least some knowledge. However, I think there is a deeper issue we may want to explore. Surely we yearn to be able to live this knowledge. We want to take it to heart and make it our own. We want to deepen our knowledge into wisdom.
He writes, "We are sent along the path he has chosen for us, but we cannot see it, and nothing we have read is any help to us. Were we acting on our own, we should have to rely on our experience. It would be too risky to do anything else. But it is very different when God acts with us. Divine action is always new and fresh, it never retraces its steps, but always finds new routes."
Holy One, help us have the courage to surrender to your love. Help us to entrust our very lives to you, because you have given us life. May we realize our own worth, and the worth of others. May this knowledge be transformed into love as we follow The Way of Jesus. This is how we can love you, love our neighbors, and ourselves. May we remember that this is what we are called to do. May love be our new way.
In Jesus' name we boldly pray, Amen.
Rev. Sue Ann Yarbrough, Associate Pastor
San Lorenzo Community Church, United Church of Christ
SpiritCare Ministry to Seniors
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
...just a touch of humor as we start...
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:11
"You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God."
We want to thank you for the gift of life. We want to thank you for a certain fullness in life that is much more than just existing...or living in constant fear...or living without loving or being loved...or living as one in bondage . We thank you for the freedom to make decisions for ourselves and those we are responsible for. We acknowledge your leadership in guiding us. You are molding us day by day. Teach us your ways, that we may say YES to the good things of life, and NO to the harmful things of life. We trust that you will continue to guide us into the completeness that Jesus promised for us. Amen.
1 Peter 2:19
"You are a slave to whatever has mastery over you..."
2 Corinthians 1:17-20
"...do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, YES, YES and NO, NO ? ... but as surely as God is faithful our message to you is not YES and NO...for the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy was not YES and NO, but in Him it's always been YES...no matter how many promises God has made, they are YES in Christ."
"...for the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people. It teaches us to say NO to ungodliness and worldly passions...and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope---the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ..."
"...and let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds..."
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we have told you, so that your daily life may win respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent upon anybody."
There is the story of the man traveling from Washington City (Washington, D.C.) to the State of Virginia in the Spring of 1805. Between Washington and Virginia there is an insignificant stream which becomes a raging river---late in the Spring---most difficult to traverse on foot, if indeed, not impossible. The man came to the "stream become raging river" thinking he had not expected this to happen. He threw up his hands in complete frustration. He knew he could never get across without some kind of help. And where might that come from...He paused there...trying to figure out what to do...
He then noticed five horsemen who had come up over the crest of the hill behind him. He thought, maybe they're considering crossing the river themselves, on horseback. They came down from the hill and assessed the situation before them, hardly noticing the man...
The man walked up to one of the horsemen and asked if he could hop on the back of the man's horse and use the horse to wade across the raging river. The horseman told him to hop on the back of his horse. The horseman and the man traversed the river with the other four horsemen.
On the other side of the raging river, one of the other horsemen came up to the man and asked the question,
"How did you have the nerve to ask President Thomas Jefferson if you could ride across the river on the back of his horse?" The man was a bit astonished, looked up at the President of the United States of America in amazement. He turned to the other horseman, and said, "I really didn't know he was President Jefferson...I just looked at all five of your faces, and I picked out the gentleman who had the YES face."
Do you have a YES face? Do others know instinctively that you are the "go to person" for counsel, for help, for support, for friendship? And, on the other hand, how do you know you are being the YES person to really help out...Or could it be that people take advantage of you because you are a "soft touch"...Could it be that you need to help out because you feel you will be abandoned if you don't help out. It's good thing to be confident in knowing when you are truly helpful and when you are actually condoning some situation or behavior that makes it impossible for a healthy person to say, NO!...I think Jesus would want each of us to become confident (maybe "wise" is a better term) when if comes to the necessity of saying "Yes" or "No".
You and I are afraid people won't like us, especially those whom we love, or we want to impress. We sometimes feel guilty saying NO! We may even believe that a good person, especially a person of faith, never says NO! The problem is, if we don't take "the bull by the horns" and finally learn to say NO, we stop liking ourselves, and indeed, we stop liking the people we are always trying to please. Some experts tell us that we may even punish others out of resentment.
When do we say...NO? How can we confidently proceed to know when the word NO is appropriate. The answer is quite simple! It is...when NO is what we really mean! It needs to be said. When we learn to say NO we stop lying to ourselves. No wonder it finally feels good to come to terms with what we've struggled with for decades. The people in our lives may not like our new assertiveness, but they will come around, because now, people know they can really trust us in terms of where we are coming from, and in addition, we can trust ourselves, to be who we are. How refreshing, especially in Christ's Church!
All sorts of good things can happen when we say what we mean.
If we are still afraid to say NO, we can work on it in our heart and mind. It isn't always automatic. We can think it over. We can rehearse in front of the mirror. We can practice it. It's probably good for us not to think that NO is always combined with some sort of the emotional explosion. Just say NO if you mean it.
In addition---extremely important to keep in mind..We don't have to offer all kinds of long explanations for the decisions we make. I don't know if you are in the habit of doing this...I know I am...but when people finally understand that when we say NO---we mean it---they will no longer question us, and we will no longer think we need to explain. I love the expression, "What part of NO is it that you don't understand?"
We can learn to say YES asking for help. We need to surround ourselves with others who are willing to say YES. We can learn to say YES to healthy relationships, to say YES to people and activities that are good for us. After all, it is one of the purposes of the church, to provide friends and ministry partners in our lives who are YES people...people who have the same kind of face as Thomas Jefferson had, a YES face. People instinctively knew they could count on him. That's probably why Mr. Jefferson was elected the President.
We can learn to say YES to ourselves---to what we want and need---as well as saying YES to the direct leading of our God. I look forward to the testimonies of those who finally decided that it was...YES...okay to allow the Lord to direct their lives day by day...and trust Him for their future. What if the Lord were to present you with a missionary call to serve in Outer Mongolia, would you at all be inclined to say YES? Indeed, what is the Lord saying to you today? It may not be to Outer Mongolia...what is the Lord calling you to do and be today in you life? No matter what other plans may have been there for you...would you say YES?
We can learn to say YES to our "intuition" and "instinct". There is what we know for one thing...and what we sense on the other. One of the great shortcomings of Christians in the post-modern era is the lack of "Spiritual Imagination". Often, there is a void of concern and care devoted to the sensitivities, that is, the creative humanity of the women and men (and girls and boys) touched by the Spirit who are part of the fellowship of a local congregation. We pray (perfectly correct liturgical) prayers. We live out our lives all too often as "cookie-cutter Christians". We think we have nothing more to add to God's story of salvation here on earth. We think we need to do everything "by-the-book", and I guess that's okay, if that book is the Holy Bible.
I question the inspiration of a lot of Christian literature available these days. At times I get the notion that if the Holy Spirit were to peek His head into many our church buildings, it would cause great offense to many folks, even though the Spirit would bring a sense of freshness and vitality. The Spirit would say NO to the lack of uniqueness and enthusiasm...and YES to the power and grace of the living presence of God providing creativity not only Sunday worship, but the daily life in the local congregation.
We can learn to say YES when it feels right to help someone. We can learn to say YES to our feelings. We can learn to identify when we need to take a walk in the woods, take a nap, have our back rubbed, or to buy ourselves some flowers or pick up a bag of shelled peanuts.
There are a multitude of such questions we could ask that would get us to clear YES and NO conclusions helping to make our lives better, more productive, and more fulfilling.
Jesus said, "I have come that you might have life, and that you may have it more abundantly" John 10:10
We can learn to say YES to all that will nurture and nourish us. We can learn to say YES to the best that life and love can to offer to us. It is so very important that the Lord Jesus made this promise for us...
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
I pray this note finds you, your families, and those you serve well.
Just a reminder that SpiritCare plans to offer services via Zoom when it becomes feasible. When your residents and patients can gather together again, do let us know. Yes, this is a new time for us all. Remember, you are in our prayers and our hearts. Please do not hesitate to drop me a note or give me a call if there is a need.
Blessings, Rev Sue Ann
Scripture: Matthew 14:27
But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."
I woke Tuesday morning with this refrain running through my mind. I was grateful for two reasons. First of all, I love this hymn. Secondly, I went to bed the night before with the question, "What can I write about this week?" Emboldened by this hymn's words, I shall plunge into this week's meditation.
I chose the word plunge intentionally. This week's Gospel lesson comes from Matthew 14:22-33, the story of Jesus walking on water. It is also Peter's story.
There is much fear and worry in our world right now, and I do not think any of us are immune to that sinking feeling that this pandemic can bring. Yet, when we risk being swamped by our worries, we can look for Jesus among us. In an answer to prayer. In the reminder to breathe and keep going. In the voice of a friend or loved one who tells us we are not alone.
I have always believed that when Jesus asked Peter about his doubt, he did so lovingly. That, to me, is the grace offered to all of us. Like Peter, let us hear the invitation to step out of our unsteady boat into the unknown. Let us know that Christ will be there, guiding us and extending a gentle, loving hand. We will never be asked to go without Christ. Never. Let us turn and see this beautiful truth for ourselves.
Holy One, we thank you for those people in our lives who encourage us to believe that your love is for all. We pray for all families that they are being held in love. We pray for all communities that they be sanctuaries of health, peace, and most of all, your love. We thank you for the reminder to keep our eyes and hearts on Jesus. We need not fear.
In Christ we pray. Amen
Rev. Sue Ann Yarbrough, Associate Pastor
San Lorenzo Community Church, United Church of Christ
SpiritCare Ministry to Seniors
Today we will release the power that you have granted us to allow the Son (sun) to shine in our sometimes darkened vision of what we see before us. We are informed by your transforming Word that we have an important step to take in our faith lives, to give thanks, no matter what our circumstances. At times, that is difficult for us, because it is not natural for us. Understand, Lord, that we need to practice, and keep at it, until we have brought order and confidence into our daily living. We trust you, Lord, and we will proceed knowing this is the way we need to live in order to prosper. Amen.
Making the most of what we have turns it into being more. The Bible encourages us to give thanks no matter the circumstances. It sort of goes against our human nature, and therefore is properly called "supernatural". Say thank you...until your mean it. Our football coach in college used to say, "...fake it until you make it..." Get good at a skill because your practice that skill. Thank God...be grateful for the gift of life...and for the world...and the whole world...for everyone...and everything sent your way.
Gratitude turns denial into acceptance. We are actually much more healthy if we can accept and love the person that we are...with all our faults. We are more able to come to terms with our shortcomings and more able to love others despite the shortcomings they have, especially when it gets to the point where they disappoint and offend us.
Gratitude turns chaos into order. We get confused when difficult-to-comprehend information comes our way about human conduct in a very cruel and unmindful world. When we take to heart the ideology of Romans 8:28 (see below) we can cope and deal with any situation without withdrawing from the world. It is such a practical, liveable,
realistic, and profound way to live. We are in the world, but we are not of the world.
Gratitude turns confusion into clarity. I keep thinking about prehistoric humanity and how religious belief allowed humankind to contend with an overwhelming world all about ...the question then being..."How can I remain sane...and yet survive in such a dangerous place always making me afraid...and unable to function. The purpose of faith in our lives in a postmodern world remains the same as in ancient times...to encourage us to find meaning in life...to give us confidence to know that life is reasonably safe...worthwhile, rewarding and meaningful...keeping us free from fear and able to function efficiently.
Gratitude is a delight...but one needs to practice it in the heat of the day...every day! After all, it can turn a regular meal into a virtual feast. I have often thought lunch with a friend is not so much about the food as it is the richness of the fellowship. It can turn a house into a home. It can turn a complete stranger into a friend. It speaks to a deep part of ourselves that tells us...we are not alone...we are valued by some one we hold dear. Yet, another reason to be grateful. Loneliness is the great bringer of despair...
Gratitude can turn problems into gifts. It can turn failures into success. It is said that Abraham Lincoln failed at major things in his life sixteen times, but those failures were considered learning experiences, eventually leading him into the White House. If you think that Lincoln figured this out for himself, you just may be wrong. President Abraham Lincoln was an outstanding student of the Holy Bible. He took what he read to heart. To Lincoln the Holy Bible was a very practical book. To Lincoln the Holy Bible was a very sacred, holy book. His language is laced with biblical images.
It is most evident to us, not on account of those who wrote about him, but by his own writings. It is possible that practicing gratitude and praying often got him through the American Civil War. Indeed, it was the Civil War that brought him to his knees. He was the only person in the nation who consistently pressed for the absolute union of the United States of America without compromise and without slavery.
Because of Lincoln we are the nation we are. I acknowledge his attitude of gratitude.
Gratitude can turn disconnected situations into important and beneficial lessons. Situations come up for me as when I've felt so irritated that things were not going my way I was ready to give up. Darn! ...but wait a minute... I can remember letting go in the midst of things to discover that the Lord had His hand in those issues of the day. It wasn't up to me to fuss about it, although I was a part of the solution to take care of those issues. Gratitude can turn the unexpected into "perfect timing". It can turn mistakes into important events. In the final analysis it was discovered what part I needed to play, knowing that the Lord was at work, even though, I didn't have control.
Gratitude as appreciation can make opposition knell in your behalf. Gratitude for the ability to see goodness in the negative things of life can make you successful...
During the Second World War, General George Patton continued making tragic mistakes in his series of skirmishes and battles with German general --- Field Marshall Erwin Rommel in North Africa. Patton ended up reading Rommel's "classic" on battle logistics in German, realized the mistakes he was making, and planned using Rommel's logistics on Rommel. In the Battle of El Guettar in Tunisia, Patton routed Rommel's forces using Rommel's logistics. General Patton didn't give up because he was getting his pants beaten off of him...he used researching his defeats to finally defeat his enemy.
My father, as a football coach, always watched the films of his team, not to extol their strengths, but rather, to note weaknesses of his team's efforts, and improve on the mistakes, to consistently improve the team effort eventually during upcoming games. Patton was a spiritual man, and my father was a spiritual man...their mindset was biblical...and that paved the way for their success. At the heart of their efforts was an attitude. Good! These things happen for a purpose. Can we learn anything from this?
Gratitude can turn just existing into a real life, filled with "good things" and "excellent things". The verses noted above (Philippians 4:4-8) are accompanied by yet another powerful verse (Philippians 4:8): "...finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think of such things..." Often in this postmodern age, we get engaged in popular and attractive items...breaking news...for one thing...movies and magazines of questionable value...other things of curiosity that may not have any value whatsoever... We need to be on our guard! Those activities may just upset a delicate balance in terms of the way we view our lives and what seems worthy of our attention and time.
Gratitude makes sense of our past. It brings that deep personal biblical peace...shalom
...into the "actual time" of each day. You and I have heard people we know talking about what might have been in their lives. We may have also thought and communicated likewise.
I have learned that things past have always turned out the best, no matter what. It is useless to try to re-configure our past. We all know the expression, "to cry over spilled milk". It doesn't do any good, but we waste time trying to do so, all too often.
Gratitude makes things right. Saint Paul writes (Romans 8:28), "...and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose..." God has His ways. God's timing is perfect. God is wise. That wisdom surpasses our understanding and vision of what is, what could be, what has happened, and what meaning - the events of our lives have and will be. There is no failure with God. Trust Him...don't place so much trust in the latest round-up of world and local news and what the news is supposed to mean for our lives or the world. Give Him praise and thanks for what is happening...in the process...let Him know you know He is in control.
Finally, gratitude turns negative energy into positive energy. There is no circumstance or situation so small or so large that it is not susceptible to the power you and I have of being grateful. We can start with who we are...and what we have today...apply that good measure of gratitude, and then let it work - its great work - in our lives.
Think and say "Thank you", until you mean it. If you say it long enough, it'll become the only acceptable truth for you. Your life...what's outside and what's inside you...will be transformed and you will notice it first when others will say of you, "She's changed...He's changed...and it is really good!" You will have moved from mere religion into the mindset of faith. There is nothing like it to make our lives completely worthwhile and ultimately encouraging and meaningful. What an affirmation in a time of pandemic!
"I have come that you may have life, and that you may have life more abundantly." John 10:10
I am convinced, as I am sure Saint Paul was convinced, that the Lord Jesus was talking about, not only the forgiveness of our sins and the assurance of eternal life, but also, trusting in Him...so profoundly...we don't need to worry about complicated international issues. We don't need to get all tangled up in the difficult affairs of our lives. We have the knowledge to know (despite appearances) that everything is going to work out. We have the foresight to know the future lies in God's good hands and we will benefit and thrive. I am reminded of a great truth that says a lot about what effective faith is...
"...now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see..." Hebrews 11:1
Do you really have that assurance? Do you really believe this?
Is this what a perfect God has in store for imperfect people who trust in Him?
Such assurance comes to us when we live our lives with a bold attitude of gratitude. Gratitude is a great presupposition of Christian faith. So many followers of Christ Jesus get caught up in the attractive aspects of religion, the beauty of the sanctuary, the music and hymn melodies, the robes and wall-hangings, the pastor's comforting words, the great choir, the lunch fellowship after worship...all great, encouraging and lovely things to look forward to...but nothing without the basics...a grateful response to the sacrifice of Christ Jesus on the Cross, His tragic death and His victorious resurrection...forgiveness for my sins and all those like me who are sinners...the assurance of eternal life, based not upon my accomplishments, my personal charm, or my good looks...but based upon gratefully trusting in His purpose in my life presently and the unfailing assurance of everlasting life in the time to come.
Gratefully and cordially, Tom
Messages from our SpiritCare Pastors