From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
The season is changing, so let us remain open to how God is moving in all our lives. These are uneasy times, but God has never abandoned God's people. We are held. When you are ready to try a short Zoom worship, do let me know. It will be good to connect with you and those you serve once more.
Autumn blessings to you all!
This scripture often comes to mind when I get frustrated and think that life is just not going my way. Well, I guess I should say I think of this scripture after my frustration subsides. Eventually, I catch my breath and ask myself, "Where is my treasure? What am I trying to hold on to?" There are all sorts of things we try to hold on to: money, reputation, expectations, even our indignation just to start the list. However, we know life is changeable, and what seemed so certain yesterday may not appear anywhere near that secure and solid today.
Frustration usually is rooted in fear. We fear the loss. We fear what this means for our families and ourselves. Yet, the promise is that God is always with us. We forget that because God cannot be put in a box for safekeeping. God is not a thing to hold. No amount of worry of frustration will bring God any closer. We must let God be God.
However, life is richer for all of us if we aim for being calm, collected, and most of all grateful. There our treasure will always be found, safe and sound. What is our treasure? Love, of course. It really is all we have.
Our prayer today is a short reading from the Dutch writer, Etty Hillesum, written in July 1942. She died in 1943 in a concentration camp at the age of 29.
Rev. Sue Ann Yarbrough, Associate Pastor
San Lorenzo Community Church, United Church of Christ
SpiritCare Ministry to Seniors
We need the faith to know that things will get better, but nonetheless, we will still affirm that we willingly walk through that "valley" in confidence. Keep us from panic and fear. Keep us from despair. You are our redemption, and therefore you have become our song. We remember those in desperate times who proceeded us --- women and men of faith who trusted you --- and were uplifted in the midst of their struggles...and eventually blessed in a remarkable way. We therefore commend ourselves into your tender care and rest secure in your precious love. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Introduction to the Message
Today it's my purpose to go a bit beyond a regular Bible Study to what may well be called, "exegesis".
It's one thing to know your Bible and yet another thing to understand it with insight. Exegesis is the interpretation of any given text in the Bible. Some years back I heard a rather remarkable sermon on 1 Samuel 3:1-21. The sermon was presented by a rather well-known preacher and the thing that impressed me was the fact that the preacher had very little insight into the meaning of the bible passage. I was astounded and somewhat outraged. Today I would like to go into this particular portion of the Bible and demonstrate the power of the insight...as we "Unlock the Bible Narrative Timeline", starting with 1 Samuel.
For the time being, let us focus in on the importance of Samuel for any student of the Bible.
The text of 1 Samuel reads as follows, "The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare, there were not many visions..." (1000 BC)
We need to focus in on the phrase, "...the word of the Lord was rare..." and hold on to that statement.
This whole lesson will attempt to make clear what the phrase means and how we are enabled to interpret the events of the history of Israel...and even...go so far as to say...here...we are not talking about Jewish history...yet! I will explain that as we go along. At any rate..."the word of the Lord was rare".
For the time being...
Approximately the 16th Century before the Common Era...
"The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain, so Moses went up (Exodus 19:20)...and God spoke all these words...'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Eygpt, out of the land of slavery'..." (Exodus 20:1,2) [This is the giving of the the Ten Commandments.]
About a thousand years before the Common Era...
1 Samuel 3:2 --- "One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place..." Good: but then..."The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was..."
Samuel was the assistant to the High Priest, Eli...and yet...1 Samuel 3:7 says, "Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him..." Surely living daily with the High Priest Eli, Samuel would have been very thoroughly grounded in the Bible, at that point, in the Five Books of Moses. He would have known more about the Lord. Not so. At the end of the chapter, we discover that Samuel receives "revelation" from the Lord and not exposure to the written word. In 1 Samuel 3:20, we note "...and all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord..."
The prophets from the time of Samuel will then say directly, "Thus saith the Lord..."
It should seem strange to us that Samuel is not exposed to the Torah (the Five Books of Moses) in his relationship to the God of Israel, but rather, Samuel receives "direct revelation"...and the Office of the
Formal Prophet is established in Israel. Where is the Torah? Where are the Five Books of Moses?
In the Eighteenth Year of the Reign of King Josiah --- 622 BC...
We read in 2 Kings 22:8, the High Priest at the time, Hilkiah (note Jeremiah 1:1) informed King Josiah's secretary, Shaphan, "...I've found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord..." Eventually Shaphan
read from the book in the presence of King Josiah. The date is precisely 622 BC. [...meanwhile...remember the narrative of Samuel in the temple, approximately 1000 BC...] We are beginning to get what had actually happened....Israel somehow had misplaced the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. We still need to find out when and how this could have possibly happened. Anyway, the narrative continues, at verse 11, "...when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes." The king continued, "Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord's anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book...they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us."
Now that he knows about it, King Josiah gives the order for all Israel to celebrate the Passover.
So...this gives us a clear idea of what portion of the Scriptures were first discovered in 622 BC. Formerly, it was determined that the text was Deuteronomy, chapters 5 through 11, because this section deals with the Ten Commandments in chapter 5, the "Shama" in chapter 6 (verses 4,5) quoted eventually by Jesus as the most important verse in the bible, and "the Jewel of the Talmud" in chapter 10 (verses 12-22).
This would be incorrect. Why? Because Josiah gave the order to celebrate the Passover...that is found in the section under Deuteronomy, chapters 12 through 26. The Passover "details" are found in chapter 16.
The other reforms of King Josiah are covered in that same section, Deuteronomy 12 through 26.
How long had the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, been lost? ...for approximately eight hundred years...
We turn to 2 Kings 23:22-23 to read the astonishing passage, "Not since the days of the Judges (16th Century) who led Israel (Othniel through Samuel), nor throughout the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah, had any such Passover been observed. But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah (622 BC) this Passover was celebrated to the Lord in Jerusalem."
The exception was the brief time of Reform under King Josiah. It was in Babylon, from 586-516 BC, that a new faith-form developed within Israel, wherein a new religion developed (same God) named Judaism. One of the new establishments of this faith-form was the synagogue. During this same period of time, a new name came into being for a Hebrew person...Jew... appearing in Scripture in Jeremiah 32:12...for the first time..586 BC...the beginning of "Jewish" history...
[As a sideline, let us consider who the Holy Bible thinks was the greatest king --- Was it David? --- Solomon?
2 Kings 23:25: "Neither before or after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did --- with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses."]
So what can we learn from this attempt at exegesis in the Hebrew Bible...
First of all, it's important for each and every Bible student, every person of bible-faith, not only to know the Bible, but also to know how to interpret the Bible...the best way to do that...is to study the Bible with others at church, or in fellowship, around a table, hopefully with a cup of coffee. There are too many ways to go wrong in interpreting without others to help keep things straight and correct...I like the commitment of our church denomination to have the guidance and the leadership of men and women ordained and called by God, who receive the extensive education to present an accurate exposition of Scripture.
Second of all, it's important to recognize that our Enemy, Satan, is much more knowledgeable about the Bible than any of us mortal humans, so we need to see the importance of an obvious commitment to the Lord, from the heart. James, the brother of Jesus, says, "You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that...and that's what makes them tremble." James 2:19. So, the point here is, we need to consider that Satan and his demons believe in God as well as sound, well-established Christians or Jews. The difference is we have a heartfelt commitment to the Lord. We not only need to have a knowledge of the Scriptures, but be fully committed to be on God's side. Obviously, from this quote from James, bible knowledge is not enough.
In the third place, the lesson for today regarding the careers of Samuel and Josiah alert us to the huge difference between religious organization, on one hand, and a true, solid, informed, heartfelt faith on the other hand. One designation is "form", the other is "essence". We can very easily get caught up in the elements of spirituality that we see with our eyes. The church building. The preacher. The robes and other dress. The music. The fervent people. The impressive television worship service. It is yet another thing to establish in our heart and mind the things we don't see as being more real to us than that which is visible.
Also, the lesson from bible history is that religious traditions all too often have the habit of "going through the motions" rather than making our spiritual concerns essential to our existence...putting Christ first...
I'm talking about a profound sense of God's presence and person without any form or image to assist our spirituality. A moral compass that allows us to be just and merciful even being pressed hard by the world and surrounded by corruption. Divine Order in the midst of chaos. Seeing the divine complexion of God on a smiling human face. Taking to heart the commission Saint Francis of Assisi to his Franciscan monks to "...preach the Gospel constantly...and sometimes...open your mouth to speak..."
Often people confuse the essence of faith with the form of religion...the two come together and touch at times...but we need to set our heart upon "the unseen essence" and visualize it with the inner eye of faith...
When the time is right for visitors to return, I would be happy to lead a small group conversation or service as well. I would love to talk with you about what is possible either now, or in the future. In the meantime, blessings to you all as we move into autumn. May your fall harvest be abundantly blessed.
Imagine you are Elijah. Despite your reputation as a prophet (or a teacher, pastor, director, or some other respected role), you are afraid. There are those who have vowed to take your life for your beliefs. Imagine the cave where you are hoping to hide. Imagine hearing the question, "What are you doing here?" At some point of our life, in the midst of struggle or worry, we can all become like Elijah. We just want to run and hide. Yet, we know that God does not call us to live in fear, at least for long.
Yes, even in a storm, if we listen closely, we will hear God asking, "Why are you hiding in fear? I need you to take part in love." These words are for us all.
There is much going on in our state, our country, and our world. I share with you a prayer from the beautiful book, Earth Prayers from around the World. This prayer was written by Helen Weaver, an American writer. Let us join her in prayer for our wonderful Earth.
Almighty God, who are mother and father to us all,
Look upon your planet Earth divided.
Help us to know that we are all your children,
That all nations belong to one great family,
And all our religions lead to you.
Multiply our prayers in every land
Until the who Earth becomes your congregation,
United in your love.
Sustain our vision of a peaceful future
And give us strength to work unceasingly
To make that vision real. Amen
Even if we cannot "work" in the way we may have in the past, let us remember we can always pray. Let us do so with courage, conviction, and love.
Rev. Sue Ann Yarbrough, Associate Pastor
San Lorenzo Community Church, United Church of Christ
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
just a touch of humor as we get started...
"...do not hate your brother in your heart...do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your
people, but love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord!" Leviticus 19:17a,18
"...if the light within you is darkness, it is, indeed, a most profound darkness..." (Jesus). Matt. 6:23 b
"...forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us..." (Jesus). Matthew 6:12
"...but the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate,
submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere..." James 3:17
"Dear God, please make all bad people good...and all good people nice...Amen!". (a little girl's prayer)
Today --- I will be as angry as I need to be, with a goal of taking care of my unfinished business with others, especially those who have sorely offended me. Once I have released the hurt and anger I feel, I am going to strive for healthy forgiveness...that is...forgiveness with boundaries. I have come to understand that boundaries, coupled with deep-riven forgiveness and the compassion poured down upon me by the Holy Spirit will move me forward. I thank you for the divine wisdom that truly frees me from feelings that used to imprison me. Continue to teach me your ways, so that I may overcome in all things, and live your truth. In Jesus' name, Amen.
"...there is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us--that--it behooves none of
us to say anything evil about the rest of us..." (Anonymous)
No matter how long we've been a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ...no matter how solid our Spiritual grounding may be...it's my hunch, not only as a pastor, but as a human being, we still feel an overwhelming desire to punish, or get even, with the very person who's offended us.
Even otherwise extremely sophisticated individuals fall into inappropriate behavior, sometimes to the extreme, because they have not been exposed to the freeing nature of God's Word and the teaching regarding anger and revenge.
I've been working at a "faith life" for seventy-seven years, and I hate to say it, but it is true...we want to see the other person hurt the way he or she has hurt us. We want to see circumstances deal that person their just rewards. In fact, we'd like to "help" those circumstances out. We not only want somebody to be punished...we want to assist in dealing out the judgement.
O, I get it...you're just not that way at all...but I do admit that I've had those feelings...and I know...thanks to God's Word and the Holy Spirit...I have been freed to have wisdom about what hangs many people up in life...and that it is not necessary.
Unfortunately anger and the need for revenge are normal feelings. The thing is...we don't need to act on them. Ah, so then...we get it...it's perfectly normal to have such feelings, but it's not okay to act out on them. The question may be, how do we get to the point where we have mastered this technique.
(I'd like to call it a spiritual discipline.)
Everybody gets angry. Everybody. Even Jesus got angry - John 2:13-16 - and we affirm that Jesus was without sin...interesting! How freeing it is to understand this principle of human nature. In order to control anger, we need to accept it as one of the necessary realities of life and note that the Bible provides a way, once we have come to a point of acceptance about anger, that we can finally get a handle on it.
As matter of fact, the Bible teaches us "to get angry", but not to sin - Ephesians 4:26. Now how do we get to that...how do we accomplish that and put it into practice. Isn't this simply "bible double-talk"? The answer is...No. We allow ourselves to feel the anger and accept it without having to act out on it.
We pause...rather than act upon it with one of those automated responses.
We take time to reflect on what has happened.
The goal we strive for is to release the feeling --- by feeling it --- and be finished with it. In the process, God teaches us and we know better and much clearer, because He knows us inside and out, and would never give us anything that was unnecessary for us. Often it is indeed a hard lesson to learn. Once we admit and accept what is happening to us, being brought from darkness into the light through Scripture, we can simply let it go.
Take whatever time is necessary to do so. How refreshing it is to know that God understands and is guiding us with divine insight. We've been given the wisdom that anger is not a sin --- that is...not a sin...unless --- we act out on what we are feeling. Indeed, there is a direct connection between anger & wanting revenge.
This complex feeling...the connection between anger and revenge...is something we all experience, whether believers or not. Just because Dad or Mom may be a psychiatrist, it doesn't mean we automatically have a competitive edge in dealing with the "give-and-take" of life and what is natural for us as human beings.
The point is, it is not our job to deal out justice to those who have offended us. We need to learn that. We need to learn that it is natural to be angry, it is natural to seek revenge...and it is supernatural and attainable to know how to master it.
Note the process of dealing with offenses in Matthew 18:15-17: "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church, and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector."
Yes, we need to hold the other person accountable and responsible. At the same time, once again, it is not our responsibility to be judge and jury. Actively seeking revenge won't help us. It will eventually "block us up" and "lock us up" so we end up in our own unique style of straight-jacket. It will eventually make us strangers to our most intimate circle of close friends...and set us apart from our family members.
After settling into what another person's offense has done to us, put what has offended us in writing, and/or, go directly to the person who has offended us and reasonably explain what has happened. Please now refer back to the teaching in Matthew 18:15-17. Often we gain a new, reliable, understanding friend. Nonetheless, we need to be prepared for any kind of reaction...
In any case...
Walk away from confrontation. Let "game-time" take place on Saturday afternoon at the football stadium. Unhook. Learn a valuable lesson from the situation. In your mind, thank the offender for having taught you something valuable...and...be finished with it! Put it behind you as you keep that learning experience intact.
What have I learned about anger and the alternative to revenge? How has Jesus helped me?
Acceptance, to me, is essential. We need to rejoice in our victories in life, and we need to accept what has befallen us. What has been helpful to me through the years is Saint Paul's reflection:
"...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
It's not like the foreign notion of "karma" which teaches, "...you get what you deserve..." What I have come to understand from the Judeo-Christian tradition is --- we don't get what we may deserve from our loving, understanding, wise God...the Lord only provides good for us. We don't deserve it, but we get it anyway.
The difference between those who know this...and those who live in the darkness of spiritual ignorance...is that those who trust in the goodness of God in their lives don't have to question whether what is happening to them is either good or bad. Whether the circumstance in life is pleasant or unpleasant, they know it's all part of God's plan of remarkable goodness for their lives. It appears at times that we seem to be punished by those unpleasant and sometimes overwhelming circumstances, but when we take Saint Paul's verse to heart, trusting the Lord God in the midst of the unpleasantness, He will provide unexpected blessing to flow from the suffering and He will provide full understanding. The higher the barrier in terms of attempting to understand, the greater the amazement and marvel to our human mind and spirit in the final analysis.
"...even though He were to slay me, yet will I praise Him..." Job 13:15
This verse from the classic text of the Job narrative is a bottom-line in the experience of genuine faith.
Are you at a point in your life where you can make the same affirmation as Job in the Old Testament?
It determines the difference between the experience of mere religion and the edification of genuine faith!
Whether or not we deserve to be punished is not the question. When we trust in God despite our fallen humanity, we can always know God will only provide good for us. Sorry --- for those attempting to earn God's love and salvation by all those good deeds --- God loves those who trust in Him and those who love Him...we are saved always by His grace Ephesians 2:8-9. Sorry --- for those who are depending on God for exemption from the difficult, confusing, dangerous, uncomfortable and tragic things of life...
"..though now, for a little while, you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials...these have come so that your faith --- of greater worth than gold --- which perishes even refined by fire, may be proved to be genuine.." 1 Peter 1:6-7
Forgiveness, also, is essential. When I say this I don't mean the kind of forgiveness that will invite the offender to use us again. It is a forgiveness that releases the other person and sets him or her free to take another path. In the meantime, it releases our anger and resentment. This sets us fee to walk our own path without a residue of negativity to weigh us down and cause us to be less than joyful and at peace.
Saint James writes, "Remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of his or her way will save that person from death and cover over a multitude of sins." James 5:20
Conflict and offense are unavoidable. They will always be with us,no matter who we are. We have the pleasure of receiving the great spiritual message that it is no sin to be angry or to have thoughts of revenge. The offense comes in acting upon those feelings. I am so glad that Jesus got angry, and in of all places, the temple. I am relieved to know that when feelings of anger and revenge come upon me, I have a clear option to do the right thing, to do things God's way, and to eventually experience resolution and blessing, where without God's help, I would always do the wrong thing, and end up imprisoning myself by my words, by my actions, and by my eventual feelings of guilt over what I had said and done.
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
It is our prayer that you and those you love are safe. So much going on right now. Here in the East Bay our air quality is poor. I pray that the fires will cease and that the air quality will clear and that Covid-19 will soon pass. In the meantime, may we all know peace on this journey, confident that God is with us every step of the way. May your spiritual practices always bring you a sense of peace, love, and courage in this time. We are so grateful for you and the work that you do.
The translation of this Psalm is from a book entitled, Thirty-Six Psalms: Let Us Praise by Betty Bracha Stone. In her introduction she writes, "In the summer of 2012, I entered into a serious Jewish practice: strenuous introspection and prayer during the month of Elul (pronounced uh lool) in preparation for our High Holy Days - Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. During the month of Elul the faithful are encouraged to pray Psalm 27 twice daily."
She took that practice a step further and wrote her own translation of Psalm 27 and thirty five additional Psalms as well. Her book was given to me by her husband while I was standing in a parking lot. No, we did not know one another, and I was puzzled. However, as he was walking away, I realized that I was standing next to my car, which has a clergy sticker on the front windshield. I think I will always remember that moment and I am grateful for the gift of this book.
This year, Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year, begins on the evening of September 18th. I appreciate learning the spiritual practices of others, including those from other faith traditions. In these uneasy times, may we all respect and learn from one another. This will not weaken our faith, but rather make it stronger. May we celebrate one another's "glad songs" and listen to one another's prayers. God has made us all. Let us give thanks - all of us!
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 little bit of humor as we start...
Over the last several weeks and months we have been dealing with the attitudes and perspectives that "people of faith" develop in order to truly enjoy the "new life" (Galatians 2:20-21) we have in Christ. I enjoy this kind of ministry, because, although we are saved by God's grace in the Lord Jesus Christ, it's really good and proper to examine those aspects of living that eventually give us ease (as well as elbow-room) to be able to live our lives extravagantly and thereby, make choices we need to, in accord with God's will. We always need to "work on" the faith aspect of our lives. As James Joyce would suggest, "Knock your 'sconce' (head) up against it, but go easy..."
Some folks have suggested these weekly messages should mainline "focus" upon some of the pressing American and international issues, such as:
We really enjoy the fellowship we have with those who have come to faith recently---those who have begun to live their lives in God. These folks try very hard to live a good life, free from addictive and negative attitudes. Yet, they struggle at times because as people of faith we live a faith-centered, alternative life-style. Being a genuine Christian makes us essentially different, and yet, nonetheless, attractive to others. Therein lies the rub. We need Often, it may not be noticed at first, but eventually, others are able to recognize that "soul" regenerated by Jesus.
We don't live or hope the way others do. In addition, we prefer to live in the presence of those who inspire us by their graciousness, their knowledge of the interpretation of Scripture, their ability to fellowship graciously, and their seemingly natural good habits in life. We envy them and choose freely to emulate them. Trust me, those who have these qualities have worked on them. These qualities are supernatural, and yet, we, as a fallen humanity, can attain to them. The people who know Jesus don't actively seek, per se, to become richer or better than others. They know they are living the most rewarding life a person can ever live. It has nothing to do with how much money you make, or where you live, or what you own.
It is interesting to me that some church fellowships these days offer alternative incentives for participation. They teach a "good news" foreign to genuine Christianity. Authentic followers in Christ Jesus surrender themselves to Him unconditionally. As Christ gave himself for us unconditionally on the cross, we surrender our lives to him, and accept the life (and fullness thereof) He has promises to give to us. I have learned that, in Jesus, things only get better. The genuine Christian has an understanding.
Saint Paul expresses it this way,
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation...whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength and God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:12-13, 19)
This is the understanding...
As we turn further into the text of the New Testament, Saint Paul makes a comment that is as shocking as it is life-giving. At least, it certainly changed my life:
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me...the life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20.
LIVE WITH DIVINE ASSURANCE
Finally, I got it...the life I could've been living...no matter how desirable by worldly standards...was not meant for me...I now have a higher calling for my life...
This is has become a theology for my life and yours that is named "a theology of the cross". Within that understanding, I live a normal life, but that life is sufficient for me. It isn't necessarily easier or more glamorous. It may at times seem downright miserable for others as they look upon me. (Here I am thinking about Job!). However, I know this is the life that God has ordained for me. It is satisfactory for me. I am who I should and need to be. I have put the former life I've lived...behind me...for the one I now cherish. I have died to the compulsion of those human impulses that would give me false hope, false security, and unhealthy, inappropriate standards in life. I agree with Saint Paul Romans 8:28 "..all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.."
Let's go back to Job to take a "Spiritual Barometer Reading" at this point. Are you simply a mere religious person impressed only by the way the church building looks, or by the way the choir sings, or by the way the pastor of the church preaches...or are you obviously a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ possessing a genuine mindset of faith. Can you say with Job (Job 13:15) "...even though He were to slay me, yet I will praise Him..."
This is the bottom line of faith...all else is fluff...[and it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to happen to you or me that way].
This past week I came across an article in a well-known magazine that listed fifty mega-church evangelists in the United States who, according to the article, preach what is called "a theology of glory". The suggestion is...if you give generously to the ministry of the mega-church...God will bless you with extraordinary "things" (items) in life you normally wouldn't have, if you didn't give. Among these well-known evangelists, one of the most wealthy earns a mere $150,000,000 a year...another is worth $760,000,000. You probably know who they are. None of these fifty preachers have earned less than (on the average) $20,000,000. [Charles Stanley and John MacArthur are not included in this list...Praise God!] Many members of these churches discover that even though they "give and give", they still don't see that Lexus on the horizon....and for that reason...figure that Christianity is not meant for them. I'm going to pass (reluctantly) on judging these fifty evangelists, but I want to emphasize what the true church of the Lord Jesus Christ is and what our commitment to Him must be. On the surface, for many, the true Gospel is not attractive, or attractive enough, but I'm going to be Calvinist enough to say, that Yahweh, our Lord God, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a very jealous God and He will single out the person He wants for His Eternal Kingdom. That person is you. How much the Father loves and wants only the very best for you, because you are so dear to him.
God sees you as a person of extremely great value and He wants you to be completely forgiven of all your sins and to live forever. When He knocks on the door of your heart be sure to recognize Him and let Him come in---to bless you---and grant to you the great promises of Christ!
PRAY IN THE KNOWLEDGE THAT GOD ALWAYS ANSWERS PRAYER
God always answers prayer. Sometimes He says, "Yes". Sometimes He says, "No". Sometimes He says, "Let's Do My Way".
If you happen to be "a person with a mindset of faith---who has been worrying about a loved one, or another who has been living a miserable life, sick or otherwise, or living a destructive life-style---and you have been feeling powerless to be able to intervene in a constructive way---Please stop worrying---Please stop being overly concerned. Do not be burdened, except for the light burden we've been given to do God's will by taking all concerns to God in prayer. Remember, the Lord loves it when we call upon his name. He is faithful. He is just. He is trustworthy.
Please seriously consider the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ in John 14:12,14: "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing...I will do whatever you ask in my name...you may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."
LEARN ANEW HOW TO PRAY
Pray for that person without ceasing. Pray with assurance---not "IF it be thy will"---rather, be certain that his will is going to be done...and yet...you are making the request in Jesus' name. Rest in that assurance. Trust that Jesus will be good for his word. Pray that that special person will be saved from discouragement and despair...and given new and abundant life...
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough,
As Labor Day approaches, please know how grateful we are for all of your work. I do hope you will take some Sabbath time to rest and maybe even have some fun!
While I have been leading Sunday worship services on Zoom since March, this afternoon was the first time I have led a service in a care community. I so enjoyed it and I certainly felt God's Spirit holding us. Not only could we see one another, we could hear one another, even with their physical distancing, so we were able to have a conversation. If you are thinking it might be time to try Zoom in your community, please let me know. Also, when your community is ready, I would be happy to meet with a small group. We have options!
Blessings, Rev. Sue Ann
They began to yearn to return to Egypt. Yes, they might have been enslaved there, but at least they ate well. They forgot they had been praying for freedom, and that prayer was being answered in ways they could not yet see.
On one of my recent morning walks I came across some items packed in a box marked "Free." In the box, was a small note pad with pages that read, "Do more of what makes you happy." That seemed like both good advice and an item worth accepting. Frankly, the realtors' notepads that often grace our front porch are getting a little repetitive. The encouraging words and a bit of color and whimsy make me smile. The artwork on the pages also includes a picture of a bright red Vespa. No, I don't see myself hopping on one ever, but it is fun to dream of donning a helmet and motoring down the road, headed for freedom. It at least makes writing out the grocery list a little more entertaining.
Lately, I have been thinking about healing. While that does bring to mind the wonderful stories of Jesus healing those so much in need of his touch and presence, I am also reminded that God has been in the business of healing for a very long time. Furthermore, we need to remember that God is active and bringing us healing right now. We are all being healed into a new life that we may not completely understand. The restoration we see before us may not look like the healing we have been praying for. Yet, the invitation to wholeness, which I think that is what healing ultimately is, is always being offered to us.
Yes, in a time of pandemic and poor air quality we may have to put some of the activities we have enjoyed in the past on hold, but it is a good time to check in with God. How is God calling me to be present in my life today? How can I connect with others? There is healing to be found in those answers. Let us remember we have not been abandoned, but rather we are being led into a new time. Let us have the courage to not dream of returning to the way things were, but rather let us be on the watch for what is on the new horizon. We may not be able to see it clearly yet, but our faith leads us to believe we will see it soon.
Holy God of Vision and Wonder,
Help us to have the courage to willingly move forward with you. Where you lead, we will go. Forgive us when we grumble and cling to the past, and thank you for keeping us moving. Thank you for watching over us and those we love. We thank you for the freedom to love you and one another. We thank you for the courage to dream.
In profound gratitude we pray, Amen
Rev. Sue Ann Yarbrough, Associate Pastor
San Lorenzo Community Church, United Church of Christ