June 4

JUNE 4
by Warren Finch

As we read in God’s word:

Matthew 22:37 (RSV)

[37] And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. [38] This is the great and first commandment. [39] And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 

Romans 13:9 (RSV)

[9] The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [10] Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

1 John 4:19 (RSV)

[19] We love, because he first loved us. [20] If any one says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. [21] And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.

I, along with several of my friends in law enforcement, past and present, were totally disgusted with what took place in Minneapolis the other day.  It was a demonstration of how the actions of a few can impact many.  What took place was not done with love or even concern of others.  Sadly, in this broken world there is too much hate, greed, selfishness.  We, as Christians, are supposed to be “above” this.  However, we are human.  It is difficult for us to live in this world, without being a part of this world, but that is exactly what we are called to do.  We have laws that we are to obey, both laws of man and laws of God.  It is hard to know all the laws that were given to Moses, more than 10, and all the laws of man and try to keep our sanity.  Jesus made it simple for us.  His answer to the Pharisees did not change the laws given but simplified them for us.  His first statement tells us that we are to love God, period.  We are not to have any other gods before us (money, celebrities, sports figures, stuff, etc.).  His second statement covers all the laws of our behavior towards others.  Think about it.  If you love your neighbor as yourself, you will not do anything that would offend or harm him/her.  

The passage from 1 John is very convicting to me as a Christian.  If we say that we love God and then treat our neighbor as was done in Minneapolis we are liars.   We might think that we should just live our lives, then, without mistreating others and not associate with people who do not think like us.  When we are told to love our neighbors, that does not mean we should ignore them.  I do not believe it is possible to love someone without knowing something about them.  We do not necessarily have to invite everyone into our home, but we need to treat others as if we would.  Having worked in law enforcement for many years, there were times that it was difficult to maintain a non-judgmental, unbiased attitude.  We were expected to look at the person as an individual that had problems that we were trying to solve regardless of who they were.  God calls us to love this person.  If we remind ourselves that we are called to love our neighbor, not necessarily agree with them, we will go a long way in treating others as we want to be treated.  One other thing that God said we were to do is love our enemies.  That does not give us much wiggle room to make excuses for how we treat each other.

Lord, we ask you to give us the strength to love our neighbors as ourselves.  This is exceedingly difficult for us as human beings, so we need your strength.  We pray that you comfort the family and friends of George Floyd.  We ask for protection of those on the front lines during this time.  We ask you to help guide our leaders at all levels to have the wisdom in handling the protests, the guidance to give us regarding the virus and how to help keep us safe.  We ask for your guidance in how we should prepare in getting back together when it is safe to do so.  Keep us safe and help us to remember that you are Lord of all.  These things we pray in Jesus name.  Amen



June 5

JUNE 5
by Marley Romero
Hope In God
 
Sometimes in life, it’s hard to see how God is working, especially in hard times. Having hope that he will answer every single prayer and fix all the troubles you might be facing can be difficult. You might feel like it’s not worth it to keep on praying and trusting in him because he may not be answering your prayers the way you thought he would. But, you should always stay trusting in God no matter what.
 
“Be still and know that I am with you” Psalm 46:10
 
While this verse may be short, it is also very powerful. This verse helps to reassure you that God will be with you no matter what. Recently, someone close to me came down with COVID-19 after being exposed to it at work. This was very unsettling news to me. I prayed to God every day hoping to see a significant change within the course of just a few days. I tried to understand and see just how God was doing good in my life when someone that I know and love is sick with this virus. I had told Pastor Jonna and my youth leaders about my problems and they promised to keep me and my loved one in their prayers. It made me feel better knowing that I not only had my family praying for that loved one but also my church family praying. But, it was still so hard for me to see that everything would be okay. I stayed praying and hoping that God would heal that person and soon enough he did. Fortunately, my loved one didn’t have the worst case of COVID like so many others around the world. They were able to go back home after isolating for 14 days and I couldn’t be more relieved. But my point in all of this is that whatever hard time you are going through, make sure to put all your trust in God and know that he is working in your life, even if it’s not how you expected him to, and he will always be by your side.
 
Lord, thank you so much for always being with each and every one of us and working in our lives. I know that sometimes we struggle to see that when we are going through rough times and we want an answer right here right now. God, we put all of your trust in you and know that you have great plans for us. Amen


June 3

JUNE 3
by Pastor Jim
But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds. 
Luke 10:33-34a

The Good Samaritan.  Actually, the phrase “good Samaritan” never occurs in the Bible, though it has become very popular in Christian circles and often applied to hospitals and even a Lutheran retirement community.

Why “good”?  Adding that word rather implies that some of them, perhaps many of them, were not so good … and that’s precisely what Jesus was getting at in telling the parable.

You know the story.  A man, robbed and beaten and left by the roadside, is simply passed by when a priest and then a Levite come along.  Then a Samaritan appears and tends to his wounds.  When I first heard this parable in Sunday School … many decades ago, now … the sense I picked up, and perhaps which was taught, was that the Samaritan was simply a lay person who was more caring than were the religious leaders who passed right by, crossing to the other side of the road.

Maybe the priest and the Levite were afraid that it was a trap … that the man who lay there on the road was a setup, a robber himself, and that if you came near you would suddenly be set upon by his robber buddies lurking behind a nearby bush.  That made sense to me as a child, and such things have been known to happen even today.

But that isn’t what Jesus was aiming at, and the “expert in the law” to whom Jesus spoke knew this very well.  This “expert in the law” had challenged Jesus with a “test” question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus, sizing him up, returned his serve by asking “How do you read the law?”  “Love God, love your neighbor,” the man replied with a deft backhand — a volley returned quickly by Jesus with, “Sounds good; do that and you will live.”

Well, that one definitely put the ball back in the legal expert’s court — yet he was ready once again with a smug forehand, “OK, but just who is my neighbor?”  And that’s when Jesus hits the pause button, leaving the ball hanging in the air mid court, puts down his racket for a moment and says, “So let’s talk about this.”  He then tells the parable in which the issue that really got in the legal expert’s face was not the matter of the priest or Levite passing by but rather Jesus’ use of a hated Samaritan as the “good guy” in the story.  Yes … hated Samaritan.

You may remember that Israel, at one point in the Old Testament, had a civil war and got divided into two parts, with Jerusalem the capital of the south and Samaria the capital of the north. Later, both got conquered, with the northern kingdom ending up an ethnic melting pot of Jews and invaders, such that the south considered them … well, not to put too fine a point on it … half-breeds, mongrels.  Samaritans. This led to really bad attitudes on both sides.

So who is my neighbor?  Jesus looks right in the legal expert’s eyes and says, “How about we start with the Samaritans?”  By the time Jesus gets done telling the parable, the legal expert was no doubt a bit squirmy and squinty-eyed — waiting for, but really not quite ready for, Jesus’ final drive across the net — which came in the form of a question: “So … which of these three proved to be ‘neighbor’ to the man?”  The legal expert just couldn’t spit the word out; he just couldn’t say the words “the Samaritan” and so, in defeat, he grudgingly mumbles “the one who had mercy on him.”  To which Jesus replies, “Go and do likewise.”

Today, if Jesus were to tell the parable in Israel, I have absolutely no doubt it would be “the Good Palestinian” — with the same point being made.  If he were to tell the parable here in America — today –, how might that title change?  And then, bringing it even closer to home, each of us can ask, how would it change if Jesus told it to me?

Heavenly Father, forgive us for when we disparage or even demonize others for whatever the reason.  Help us, in this oh-so-polarized age, to be part of your desired reconciliation and healing.  In Jesus Name.  Amen


June 2

JUNE 2
by Pastor Judy

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:9-13

How would you describe yourself?  Are you a glass-half-full kind of person, or a glass-half-empty sort?  Are you more – or less – successful in business/life?  Do you think of yourself as a left- or right- brain kind of person (more analytical or more artistic)?

Guess what?  It doesn’t matter!  When you look at biblical characters, you will find all sorts.  Some who were more faith-filled than others; some who had doubt; some who ran away from God and others who stood firmly for God.  All had their strengths – and their weaknesses.  One characteristic they all shared: passion. They were full of zeal – including poor Job, who struggled with all the problems this world can dish out, all at once.  He passionately defended himself from the rather simplistic right vs wrong theology of the day, and finally put his trust in the sovereign God – a position which God commended. 

In the book of Revelation, Jesus charges one congregation with the sin of luke-warmness (if such a word exists).  They were neither cold nor hot, and Jesus says, “I wish you were one or the other!”  Of all the choices we may make, the one that Jesus seems to disdain the most is a mediocre, passionless response.  Passion seems to be something God can work with.  Even passion against him is something God can turn around and re-direct – as he did with Paul.  But someone who cares little, who shrugs God off – this is a far greater, though subtler, danger.

God is passionate.  On Pentecost Day, he sent a “rushing wind” inside the house where they were gathered, distributing on each a tongue of fire.  These are not pansy-like images.  Fire and wind connote energy, passion.  God filled his people and then sent them out with an urgent message, delivered in such a way that over 3000 people turned to faith in the Risen Christ that very day.

We live in troubled times.  Times like these call for a godly passion, the passion of love.  Paul says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”   And then he gives ways to do that.  Today, you and I are called to serve God and others — with a passion.

Lord Jesus, fill me with your zeal in love and service.  Fill me by your Spirit and send me out.  Today, send me someone I can serve, “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  Change me, Lord, so that I can serve you better in this troubled world.  For I pray in your name, Amen.



June 1

June 1
by Pastor Jonna
Read: Genesis 4:2b – 16
 
In Genesis 3, sin came into the world, promising the painful consequence of death. In Genesis 4, death became a reality. Brother killed brother. Cain killed his brother, Abel, because his brother’s offering was accepted and his was not. His jealousy, anger, and dejection turned to hatred. He is warned by God not to let sin master him and to do what is right. But his calloused heart will not listen. His brother must die.
 
He takes his brother out into the field, attacks him, and kills him.
 
The Lord pursues Cain and asks where his brother is. Cain responds that he doesn’t know, and then asks the selfish question we all have asked, “’Am I my brother’s keeper?’” (Genesis 4:9b). His cruel answer is “no,” but the Lord’s answer is a resounding “yes!” The Lord says in verse 10, “’What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.’”
 
Throughout Scripture, God’s people are reminded that they are, that we are, our brother’s keeper. We are our brother’s keeper. Jesus goes on to further describe that we are the keeper of those who aren’t our brothers and sisters, the keeper of even our enemies.
 
Last week, the Christian community lost a brother, George Floyd. His life and the good that he did for the kingdom of God were truly gifts to everyone he encountered. His life is mourned by many, but the Scriptural truth is that even if he weren’t a fellow Christian, the Christian community has reason to grieve his loss. Pastor Patrick Ngwolo of Resurrection Houston, in George Floyd’s hometown made this statement, “The fact that you have to build a narrative for a man to be loved and given justice is repulsive to me. Even if he was a capital criminal he deserved to be treated as someone created in his image.” 
 
As a Christian community, we are called to love and to keep our brother, our enemy, and all people. We mourn the loss of George Floyd and all who die, justly or unjustly, and confess that we often fall short of our calling. We are called to so much more.
 
Let us pray. Heavenly Father, You have created us in Your infinite wisdom and love, and we have turned so far away from You. We confess that we have not loved our brother and have hated our enemy. Forgive us for our lack of love and continue to shape us into the likeness of Jesus. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 Christianity Today


May 29

MAY 29
by Joe Hill
Romans 8:35-39 says,
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
 
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
 
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 
One of the things I love about reading the letters of the apostle Paul is that he walked the walk. His deep love for Jesus inspired him to do great things, but it also led him to and through many difficult times. Romans 8:35 does not contain an arbitrary list of challenging experiences that some people might have: it contains a list of Paul’s personal experiences. Paul was not an ivory tower Christian, writing intellectual letters from the comfort of his home. He wrote about what he knew, and one thing he knew well was hardship. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 contains an incomplete list of his sufferings. And so these words of Paul have some gravitas for me.
 
Paul’s experience of hardship is a reminder to him that, in Christ, he has already overcome these things- he is already victorious in Christ Jesus who won victory over sin, death and the power of the Devil through the Cross and the empty tomb. And so it is with those whose faith is in Christ today. You are victorious in Christ over the challenges of life, even in the midst of the challenges of life, because the one who calls you His own has already defeated death. If we cannot be separated from Christ’s love, then that means that He is with you through all things.
 
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we are loved so dearly by our God. So much so that nothing can separate you from Him. Nothing in all of creation is stronger than the love that God has for you in Christ Jesus.


May 28

MAY 28
by Jenny Dittmer
Like most people who live in the Bay Area, I enjoy the luxury of being able to interact with people from all walks of life, including those of different ethnicities, socioeconomic status, and with varying religious or non-religious beliefs. Unfortunately, far too often I find myself in the trap of judging those around me that don’t hold the same political ideology, ethical values, or moral standards that I keep. A few years back my eyes were widely opened, once again, to this blind bias as I traveled with my family in the Northwest.
 
I’ve long held, and still do hold, the belief that those with minimum wage positions equally deserve to have their basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing met; just as those employed in higher paying positions have their basic needs met. Having worked as a vocational counselor for individuals with mental health disabilities, I often saw the disparity of the “haves” versus the “have nots.” The majority of my clients, who were ready, willing, and able to work, could typically only manage to hold part-time minimum wage positions due to no preventable shortcomings of their own making. For obvious reasons, government assistance was a necessity in covering the gaps of their fundamental needs. Most of my clients were individuals with little or no supportive family and/or friends, and they were bordering on becoming unhoused. Likewise, most were CA natives without ties or connections outside of the state; and, despite lower costs of living elsewhere, leaving CA would likely have caused them greater hardships than not.
 
I am a homegrown Californian, born and raised locally. Growing up, I had the opportunity to travel for one year in the Midwest, to gain some outside perspectives on life. Other than that, my views have mainly been shaped by my upbringing in the Silicon Valley. In my marriage I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel further and see greater parts of our country. As mentioned before, one family road trip took us through Yellowstone National Park and into a very tiny town in Wyoming. We stopped for lunch and the four of us ordered burgers, fries, sodas, and a few milkshakes. My jaw dropped when the check arrived. I squinted, grabbed my glasses and looked closely at the hand written numbers that totaled $20.00. How could that be!? Was this 1960!? No, it was one of the many thousands of small towns scattered throughout the USA in the year 2017.
 
In that moment, my perspective shifted, a lot, and I realized that a worldview based solely on my own upbringing, moral, ethical, religious beliefs, and personal experiences is limited at best. As one pretty smart philosopher once put it, “the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.” I do my best now to listen rather than react when someone with a differing opinion or view shares their standpoint. I believe that this is what Jesus wants us to do too.
 
Jesus surrounded himself with, or rather, people from every walk of life gathered around Jesus. He welcomed each individual and spoke truth to them on the authority of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. This truth was based on love and in order to draw people closer to Him. Shouldn’t this be our model of speaking to all those that we come in contact with in our own lives? And, as Christians, shouldn’t our perspectives also encompass a worldly view that goes well beyond our own circumstances and life experiences? God welcomes and wants all to come to Him and to partake in the eternity of His kingdom. He encourages us to lead others toward this path with a love that entails the fruits of the Spirit. He asks us to speak to others as Colossians 4:6 eloquently states, “with conversation always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” I pray that you’re encouraged to engage with others whose views may not fully align with your own, and to listen earnestly, and with patience, before sharing your perspective via Jesus’ ears and eyes.
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your love, mercy, and unending grace. Please help us to see through the eyes of those both near and dear, in addition to those who are far and seemingly different. Please help us to draw others to you through the gentle, caring words of Your truth and let us walk humbly as Your servants at all times. In Your holy and precious name we pray, Amen.


May 27

MAY 27
by Susan Lovelady

For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” Psalm 108:4

 

 “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by.” Psalm 57:1

 

I am finding these days that certain worship songs are popping into my head more often.  I catch myself humming a tune, singing the lyrics of those songs that have become so familiar to me over the years.  Maybe it is God’s way of speaking to me.  Or maybe during this very challenging time we are facing, my heart is yearning for those words that will give me answers and bring me comfort.   So many of these timeless hymns we all know and love, and the new contemporary worship songs we have learned, are based on scripture.  How lovely we can be reminded of scripture in this way. 

 

“Our love, oh Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness, stretches to the skies….I will lift my voice to worship You, my King, I will find my strength In the shadow of Your wings”.   This song “Your Love Oh Lord” by Third Day has been sung by our worship team and is usually led by that incredible voice of our very own Angel Lopez.  I miss hearing our worship band live and praising God at church on Sunday mornings as we worship Our King.   What an amazing celebration it will be when we can all be together again.

 

Until then, we can take refuge and find strength under the shadows of God’s mighty wings, and also be reminded (as so beautifully said in a sermon from our Junior High Youth Director), that God is Good – ALL the time.  Yes, His faithfulness reaches to the skies!

 

May you find God’s Blessings today…



May 26

May 26
by Tammy Phillips
At His Feet and In Whose Hands
 
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 NIV
 
At His Feet
For various reasons and even pre-COVID-19, I often have trouble getting to sleep. At times it is because something is weighing on my mind. I toss and turn as I mull over solutions and fret about worst-case scenarios. When this topic came up during a women’s Bible study I attended, one of the women suggested something that works for her. She imagines an ascending staircase with Jesus at the top. After putting all her fears and worries into a box, she carries the box and lays it at Jesus’ feet. She said this visualization technique of physically setting down her troubles and giving them to Jesus helps her release them. A peacefulness washes over her. Calm and relaxation follow.
 
The following excerpt was recently sent to me. I’d like to suggest that it conveys another visualization technique.
 
In Whose Hands
A basketball in my hands is worth about $19. A basketball in Michael Jordan’s hands is worth about $33 million. It depends whose hands it’s in.
A baseball in my hands is worth about $6. A baseball in Mark McGwire’s hands is worth about $19 million.It depends whose hands it’s in.
A tennis racket is useless in my hands. A tennis racket in Venus Williams’ hands is a Wimbledon Championship. It depends whose hands it’s in.
A rod in my hands will keep away a wild animal. A rod in Moses’ hands will part the mighty sea.It depends whose hands it’s in.
A sling shot in my hands is a kid’s toy. A sling shot in David’s hands is a mighty weapon.
It depends whose hands it’s in.
Two fish and 5 loaves of bread in my hands is a couple of fish sandwiches. Two fish and 5 loaves of bread in God’s hands will feed thousands.It depends whose hands it’s in.
Nails in my hands might produce a birdhouse. Nails in Jesus Christ’s hands will produce salvation for the entire world. It depends whose hands it’s in.
As you see now it depends whose hands it’s in. So put your concerns, your worries, your fears, your hopes, your dreams, your families and your relationships in God’s hands because…
It depends whose hands it’s in.
— Author unknown.
 
We can all take comfort (and sleep soundly) in these uncertain days. Jesus is ready, willing and able to take the cares and troubles of your day. Lay them at His feet. Put them in His hands. Purposely rehearse giving your fears and your future to Jesus.
 
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 NIV
 
Dear Jesus,
Please forgive us when we rely on our own resources to solve our problems or ease our anxieties. Help us to trust You and accept your invitation to cast our worries and cares on You. Let us freely and faithfully lay them at your feet, knowing that today and all our tomorrows are safely in Your hands.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen


May 22

MAY 22
by Joe Hill
English was one of my favorite subjects through high school and college. I love a good book, and the way that language can paint a vivid picture of a situation, give words to deep down feelings, and communicate ideas through story. One of my favorite conversations to have with people is talking about favorite books. Different stories, pictures, and images resonate with different people in different ways.
 
Perhaps this is why I love how many different ways Jesus is described in the Gospels. He is a Vine (John 15), a shepherd and a door/gate (John 10), the bread of life (John 6), the light of the world (John 8), and these are just a few from one Gospel! Figurative language gives us profound new ways to understand who Jesus is and as a result who we are. But sometimes Jesus throws off the figurative language and speaks plainly.
 
John 15:5 says, “ I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
 
Here Jesus does not use figurative or cryptic language. He does not use simile or metaphor here. He speaks plainly.He calls us his friends. How often do you think about Jesus as your friend? He cares about you. He likes you. He wants to hear from you.
 
What pictures of Jesus are meaningful to you? I have found this idea of being a friend of Jesus to be really meaningful lately. Sometimes I picture my prayer time as a conversation with my friend. He is here with me, and is happy to be here. He is a great listener, and he wants to know what I really think and feel.
 
Today, I want to encourage you to spend some time meditating on these words of Jesus, “I call you friends.” How do these words impact your relationship with Jesus, knowing that he calls you his friend?