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
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
Editor: Tom humbly invites you to comment on his message in the Pacifica Tribune. He says Thank You in advance to anyone posting comments.
How about a little bit of humor...
A man called up a lawyer and said, "How much would you charge to answer three questions?" The lawyer said, "...four hundred dollars..." The man said, "...that's a lot of money, isn't it? The lawyer said, "I guess so...So what's your third question?"
Mark Twain is reputed to have said "...by trying we can easily learn to endure adversity, that is---that of another person...".
W.C.Fields is quoted as saying "...if at first you don't succeed, try and try again...and then quit...".
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1 What faith is...
"He has shown you, O Man, what is good---And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love
mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8 What religion is... What ethical behavior is...
"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. That person will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name so that the Son
may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." John 14:12-14
"...they claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him..." Titus 1:16 Are we praying with a mindset of faith?
"...the feeblest among them will be like David and house of David will be like God, like the Angel of the Lord going before them." Zechariah 11:8 Do we know how empowered we are by God to live out our lives?
"...for a person is a slave to whatever has mastered him or her..." 2 Peter 2:19 --- Are you bound by the your issues?
"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us..and if we know that He hears us---whatever we ask---we know that we have what we asked of Him." 1 John 5:14-15
"God, today I will forthrightly ask you for what I want and what I need. Now, Lord...I'm not going to demand of you --- I will respectfully ask. I'm not focused upon incredible wealth nor upon expensive toys to entertain myself. I am really focused in on my essential wants and needs, especially those to benefit others near and dear to me---then, Lord, I will let go. I will trust in your Word. In faith, I will pray once only. Or, in faith, I will pray constantly whenever I think of what it is I want or need. In the process, I ask for that which will make me a more effective servant of yours and a more useful citizen of your eternal kingdom. Boldly, I pray confidently, in Jesus' name. Amen."
Today I will boldly proclaim the Gospel of God in Christ Jesus...without condition. I will encourage you to bring any request you have to the Lord. I want you to understand that no request is too large. There is no request that is too small. There is no request that is insignificant to the Lord. He just loves to hear us call upon His name. He loves to hear from us when we are in need. He is waiting to hear from us. He is waiting to prove He is worthy of our trust, where other resources are unable to fully guarantee.
I remember a woman in great need, a lady who recently had come to the Lord...with a rather insistent personality -- tell me, "God is not listening...I'm hurting!" I replied, "May I ask, how did you make your request?" She said, "I want what I want, and I want it now!!!" I went on to assure her that God would fulfill her desire within His perfect timing. I suggested that sometimes God comes through for us immediately. At other times, it's done in a way that things needed...fall in place together. His timing is always perfect.
I remember, years ago, a financial prayer request of a lady in my neighborhood. Shortly after that prayer, an unexpected gentleman drove up in a Jaguar automobile, came into my office, laid that same amount of money she had prayed for, into my hands. He felt called by the Lord to give the money away. The man did so...and she received that large amount of money within the half-hour. Years later she moved out of town. After many years I heard from her just this last week. She has remained strong in the Lord...never quite able to forget the extraordinary way God had ministered to her need.
Another lady who I had known as a teenager, got involved in a drug habit, and through the years was severely addicted for decades. A year ago a good-looking lady in her forties came up to me in the presence of Priscilla, my wife, and gave me a big kiss on the cheek. She said, "Pastor, do you remember me?" I replied, after a moment's pause looking into her face, "Well...No. I don't..." She said, "I'm so-and-so...You have prayed for me for thirty years...when everybody else gave up on me...you still prayed on...that the Lord would preserve me and save me from my addiction. And so, here I am, free of drugs for three years, and in addition, I have turned my life over to Jesus!" Sometimes the Lord fulfills a prayer request immediately. Other prayers are answered much later.
God always listens to our prayers. God always answers prayers. Rev Martin, the old Southern Baptist preacher, from my days in Alabama, used to say, "God always answer prayer --- it's like sometimes He says Yes --- sometimes He just says No. Sometimes He says Maybe --- and sometimes He says Later".
We forfeit a great deal of personal victory in our life when we don't exercise our mindset of faith. We experience a great deal of personal pain --- totally unnecesary pain --- when we don't put a merciful, purposeful God in the midst of our suffering. We forfeit a great deal of peace by not trusting in God. Recently a dear friend was suffering overwhelming pain in the hospital. While I was visiting, he cried out to me, "Pastor, help me with this killing pain of mine!" I opened my mouth without thinking and the Holy Spirit filled it with His grace, "As a follower of Jesus, when you suffer, you share with Him - His suffering -for the redemption of the world..." My friend paused. Within a half-hour he was asleep...
How often we think we need to limit God...supposing we will be disappointed and lose confidence in Him if we boldly reach out, stretching ourselves way beyond the ordinary, allowing the Lord to fulfill His promise to us personally, through the words of Jesus in John 14:12-14. I keep thinking to myself, what if God does things like He does only if my human conduct was perfect and without blemish. There would be little point in being a follower of Jesus...no assurance of heaven...no answers to life-and-death issues...no confidence to live our lives with a multitude of earthly assurances along the way.
Once again, mere "do-and-don't" religion and human doubt bounce back into the divine place of faith. Faith is not about what we deserve. It's not about the so-called limitations of what we can accomplish as human beings alone. It is about, what we call in theological circles, the manifestation of God's undeserved grace and His ability to make any and all things requested happen. Trust me, no perfect people are going to heaven.
In the faith we have in Christ Jesus we can ask for it --- and if it is really something we want and need --- we will receive it. Make up your mind (John 14:12-14). Jesus is either telling the truth or He is lying. I made up my mind twenty-five years ago that Jesus was telling the truth. Doors were opened to me in ministry and my life that were sealed shut before. I have been criticized for this conviction. Other ordained clergy have actually addressed me by saying, "...bad things just happen...you can't do anything about it..."
Either Jesus Christ was telling the truth, or He was lying. I have made up my mind. Jesus was telling the truth. It was good for the time He had said it. It is good for today.
Turn your life anew into God's hands. Put your request in God's hands. Trust that you have been heard. After that, let it go in faith. Leave the decision in God's hands.
This is the way to care for your innermost being. Have the renewed assurance that God in Christ Jesus really does care for you. He loves to hear you when you call upon His name. He deeply cares that we, through faith in Him receive what we want and need.
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
July is underway. I pray this note finds you well, and everyone is staying cool during the warm afternoons. Blessings on your work, and may you be finding time to enjoy the summer season while tending to your work and caring for your families and yourselves. You are in our prayers. Please let us know if there is a need we might be able to help with. You are loved and held.
Scripture: Isaiah 55:12-13
Yes, you will go out with celebration and you will be brought back in peace.
Even the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you;
all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
In place of the thorn the cypress will grow in place of the nettle the myrtle will grow.
This will attest to the Lord’s stature, an enduring reminder that won’t be removed.
Aren't these beautiful images? I wish I were a painter. I would paint dancing trees, emerald green hills, and a beautiful river. I would include all kinds of flowers, and yes, the blooming myrtle. I just read that the myrtle is the Hebrew symbol for marriage. God is declaring that his relationship with us will endure the test of time. We belong to God and to one another forever.
We are often impatient for our time of exile to be over. However, in chapter 55:8, we hear God telling us that our ways and not God's ways. What I am hearing is that God is telling us to be patient, and to let God be God. We are often tempted to plead and demand our case with God. We feel we know exactly what we need. Yet, it is not God's way to always give us what we think we need right when we think we need it. That is the way of a child. We may be fussy now, but we will be brought back in peace. Let us not waste time in doubt and worry, but rather in prayer and preparation for the time when all will be revealed in song and celebration. Let us have the courage to believe these wonderful words of life.
Holy Eternal God, we thank you that you speak to us of encouragement. You know at times we struggle with patience, even to the point where our faith begins to fray. We thank you for your forgiveness, and your steadfast love that never lets us go. Holy One, continue to stir our hearts in this time. We thank you for those who tend to our care. May we remember that we all wait together. Yet in this waiting, you give us the bread of life and the cup of salvation. You offer us reconciliation at the table of Christ that is always set before us. May we be content, knowing that your vast love is unlimited, and such love can fill our hearts to overflowing if we say yes to the invitation to rest and trust completely in your love. In Christ we gratefully pray, Amen.
Rev. Sue Ann Yarbrough
Associate Pastor, San Lorenzo Community Church, United Church of Christ
SpiritCare Ministry to Seniors
From the Mathews Family
SpiritCare has some wonderful volunteers helping us. Here the Mathews family have made some videos to share. The first video sends a message of Hope with a lovely song.
Listen to the hymn Amazing Grace in this second video.
From Angela Hey
Christ Church Portola Valley's Music Director, Lauren Wittine, has put together some Easter Music for you to listen to on Easter Day. The music starts with part of Vivaldi's Gloria, a very energetic piece. There are some lovely Alleluias for you to reflect on the joy of Easter as we struggle with sheltering-in-place and worries during the corona virus pandemic.