Recent News

Prayer for JCC

During the Fall of 2019, the JCC board committed to sharing in a time of prayer –  every night at 9:00 p.m.  Each in our own location, we would stop and offer a prayer for our church. The prayer we prayed together is the one found below. Two years have passed since that time…. and we would like to invite you as a part of our church to join us again in this prayer….each evening! It is a prayer for God’s blessing and guidance for our congregation. Of course, it’s easy to miss and forget…. don’t worry! If you don’t get to it on a certain evening…. just pray the next day. Or commit to praying it once a week. It’s not homework…. it’s a resource we offer in order that the Holy Spirit may tune our hearts together as we move forward in making decisions that are both filled with great potential…. as well as some anxiety.

Prayer for JCC as we consider our Future

GRATITUDE

  • God, we thank you for walking with us and leading us throughout our history.
  • Thank you for the many who have gone before us and for their faith and service. Thank you for their example of love and sacrifice.
  • Thank you that you are with us now, and that you desire to communicate with us.

CONFESSION

  • Forgive us for the times that we have not earnestly sought your will, or when we have failed to accurately hear your voice.

PETITION

  • We ask for oneness in spirit… not that we will all have the same opinion, but that we will all sense your spirit leading us.
  • When we talk together as a board, help us to truly listen and hear each other.
  • We have considered many options to date – but “doing nothing” no longer seems possible or prudent. Show us Lord the direction that we should go. Are we to stay? Are we to sell and continue in a different place? Are we to close our doors and turn our assets over to another group? Are there possibilities that we have not yet imagined? Help us to see this situation as you see it…Give us wisdom.

CLOSING

  • Finally, Lord, help each of us to place our own desires and wishes at your feet. We are each willing to give up our own opinions in order that Your will for JCC may be done. Please make clear to us what that is.
  • We pray all of this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

日本人組合教会の祈り

感謝

  • 神様、私たちの歴史を通して、私たちと共に歩み、導いてくださったことに感謝します。
  • 私たちの先人たちに。先人たちの信仰と奉仕に感謝します。彼らが示した愛と自己犠牲に感謝します。
  • 今ここに共にいてくださるあなた、私たちと共に語らおうとしてくださりありがとうございます。

告白

  • 私たちが、真にあなたの意見を求めていなかった、もしくは正しくあなたの声に耳を傾けることができなかった、その時の私たちを許してください。

願い

  • 私たちが心を一つにして、たとえ私たち一人ひとりが同じ意見を持つことではなく、私たちを導くあなたを感じることができますように。
  • 役員会で、話し合うとき、互いの意見に耳を傾け、理解しようと努めます。
  • 私たちはこれまで多くの選択肢を検討してきましたが、今は「何もしない」ことは慎重な選択でもありませんし、それはもう可能でもありません。主よ、私たちが向かうべき方向性を示してください。私たちはここに留まるべきでしょうか?ここを売却し、他の場所で継続する方が良いでしょうか?私たちは教会を閉鎖し、資産を別の教会に引き渡すのが良いのでしょうか?または、まだ想像できていない他の選択肢があるのでしょうか?あなたが見えるように、私たちがこの状況を見えるように私たちを助けてください。解決できるように知恵を与えてください。

終わりに、、

  • 最後に、主よ。私たち一人ひとりが、私たちの願いと希望をあなたの御許に置かせてください。JCCに対し、あなたが何かを行われるために、私たちそれぞれの意見を放棄します。ですから主よ、私たちにそれが何であるかを示してください。
  • イエスキリストの御名によってお祈りします。アーメン。

Prayer for Peter

Acts 12:1-17

This was a tough time for the young church – one of their leaders, James, was executed by King Herod, and Peter was put in prison.  The church feared for Peter’s life and fervently prayed to God for him

An angel of the Lord visited Peter in prison one night and Peter’s chains fell off. The angel guided Peter out of the prison.  Although at first, Peter thought this was a vision and it wasn’t really happening, once he was outside and the angel left him, he realized that it had really happened, and that he had been freed.  Peter proceeded to Mary’s house, where many were praying for him.

Peter was knocking on the outer gate and calling out to let him in.  Rhoda came to answer and recognized Peter’s voice. She was surprised and overjoyed – so much so that instead of opening the gate, she excitedly ran into the house and announced that Peter was standing at the gate.  No one believed her, thinking that she had lost her mind, or that it wasn’t really Peter, but his angel.

Peter kept knocking, and they eventually opened the gates and were amazed that it really was Peter.  Peter explained to them what had happened, and then left.

The situation was such that kings had great power and could basically do whatever they wanted to do on a whim.  The same king who had John the Baptist beheaded because of a dance that he liked decides to go after the church.  He kills James and intends to kill Peter. Ironically, he imprisons Peter during Passover, when the Jews commemorate being freed from slavery.

Would the church now rise in protest, take up arms and try to free Peter? No, that kind of resistance was already ruled out by Jesus when His followers tried to resist Jesus’ arrest, by saying, “No more of this!” (Luke 22:51). The church turns to the most powerful weapon that they have – prayer. Even though at times it feels like something not so powerful, the church turns to prayer.

When the most optimistic outcome comes true, and Peter is outside of the prison and freed, the church, including Peter himself, can’t quite believe it.  This results in the rather comical scene at the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where they leave Peter out where he is still in danger, to discuss if the man pounding on the outer gate is really Peter.

The fact that they were so surprised and overjoyed makes one wonder what they were praying for?  Had they already concluded that even though Peter’s release would have been the outcome they most wanted, that was most likely not going to happen? So, were they praying for courage and comfort for Peter as he faced his execution? Were they praying for guidance for the church after Peter’s execution?

If it were us, we would probably be praying for all these things.  We too, would probably be skeptical of Peter being released, even though we would wish it to be so. And we too, would have been unbelieving and overjoyed once Peter was freed.

Sometimes we just don’t know what exactly to pray for, so we pray for the best outcome, but we also pray in case the best outcome doesn’t happen.  This is the nature of prayer. We know that we are commanded to pray, and in prayer, there is power of God behind it. So, anything is possible, even the least likely optimistic outcome. It doesn’t mean the outcome will always be what we want the most, but there is hope. And we have faith that God will move according to His plans, even though for the short term, it might not be the outcome we are hoping for.  But every once in awhile, the outcome surprises and overjoys us.

Instead of praying, had the church risen up and tried to free Peter by force, the outcome would have been less than joyful.

When the church is confronted with injustice or persecution, what is our response? There is a lot of pressure today of taking political action or physical demonstration. We’ve seen a lot of this in the past few years, even with some from the pulpit encouraging such action. We have witnessed members of Christ’s church involved in these activities.

There might come a time where the church is called upon to take such actions, but that is not the solution Luke writes about in his two books – “The Gospel According to Luke” and “Acts.”  The solution Luke writes about for the church facing problems is prayer.

Even if we don’t quite know what to pray for, the church should pray. Even if the world tells us that “prayer is not enough”, and we may even feel that is the case, Luke tells us to pray.

So how is your prayer life, as individuals and as a church?

(the above is a summary of the message shared by Shun Takano during our worship time on October 10, 2021.)

Psalm 11

Have you ever been in a situation where you want to run away?  Where everything seems hopeless and the future looks bleak? Many people today feel like fleeing and actually move out.

King David was in one of those tough situations in this Psalm. People around him understood the dangers surrounding David.  Their advice?  “Run away!  You’ll be killed.  Fear for your life! There’s no hope in sticking around!  Everything you’ve built is torn down. Run!”

But, David questions their advice.  His first words in response are,

”In the Lord I take refuge.”  In those words, you can see David’s faith.  Those words are also proclaiming that the Lord is:

  1. Protector
  2. Provider
  3. Comfort 
  4. Strength
  5. Father, God

David then goes on to explain WHY he will trust in the LORD.

  • The Lord is Sovereign/Rules
  • The Lord sees everything
  • The Lord tests the hearts of men
  • The Lord will bring about justice in the end
  • The Lord is Righteous

These are more than enough reasons to put our trust in Him.  We need to overcome our fears with faith.  Let us:

 “Trust in the Lord with all our hearts and do not lean on our own understanding; in all our ways submit to him, and he will make our paths straight.”

AMEN!

(The above is a summary of the message shared by Richard Nakamura during our worship on September 26, 2021.)

Poetry – Part II

About a month ago we posted some poetry written by Jon Honeycutt, one of our faithful members. Here are a few more examples of his work – part 2 – that we want to share with you.

The Good Book

The more that I read it

The more it makes sense

And the more understanding

The more recompence

For the more I am given

The more I can give

The more it’s reflected

In the love that I live

I’m a solit’ry star in an unending sky

Looking ’round without hope but an inquiring eye

Surely others are hidden, yet still to be found

Is my faith not enough, Is my prayer unsound?

There is always the chance of a meeting to be

While away from the fact of this reality

Possibilities countless, though not for us all

Have I come from such good graces but have nowhere to fall?

An Enemy

Let him harden his hate

In his heart, If he wishes

For the Lord knows our thoughts

Whether peaceful or viscious

He can blame me for anything

Real or not….

But he never will steal

The joy that I’ve got

Let me know that you love me

While I can still hear you

Let me share in your friendship

While I am still near you

And I’ll take that remembrance

To heaven with me

Let me know that you care for me

Before I am gone

We so often regret our lack of embrace

Give me something of love

That I might carry on

That reminds me of somebody’s

Volunt’ry grace

Let me know what I mean to you

While I am here

I would rather it more

Than memorial praise

Your thoughtful expression

Is welcome and dear

For the sun goeth down

Yet its influence stays

(July 2008 – but even more applicable today….)

Africatown Community Home @ Keiro

(Letter to our congregation from Mary Flowers….)

Please share information about the Africatown Community Home at Keiro with members of the Japanese Congregational Church. There will be a series of virtual meetings that will provide neighbors an opportunity to engage in a 3 part series to co-design a successful project and to answer questions about the project. The 3 part series will be offered virtually for COVID-safety and an open house will be held Oct. 14th at the Keiro Building. COVID safety practices will be followed. Thank you for any assistance you can provide to share this information. Please contact me if you would like a PDF version of the information in this section.

Mary Flowers
Sr. Grants & Contracts Specialist
Homeless Strategy and Investments Division
City of Seattle, Human Services Department
Email: mary,flowers@seattle.gov

—————————————————–

Africatown Community Land Trust & City of Seattle
Opening Community Home for
Unsheltered Community Members

Keiro Building 1607 Yesler Way, Seattle 98122
Anticipated Opening – Mid October 2021

Africatown Community Land Trust (ACLT) is partnering with the City of Seattle to address the system-wide challenge of unsheltered community members. ACLT’s program design is focused on the cultural, social, and emotional strengths and practices of African American people. Guests of the program will be welcomed into an environment offering opportunities to participate in moving into the vision for a thriving, healthy and just neighborhood and community.

ACLT will provide a safe and respectful space for people to stabilize, access health, recreation, education, employment, and housing resources and participate in co-creating a community hub that promotes brilliance and creativity. Guests will be involved in an ongoing process with community to grow in understanding and respect for the history of the Central Area community, including the Keiro facility and Japanese culture, the experience of Indigenous Duwamish people and the ways in which other groups came to subsequently occupy this community.

About Community Home at Keiro
• 24-hour operation • Good Neighbor practices
• Case Management • Cultural & Behavioral Health Services
• Male identifying adults • Access to Employment Opportunities
• Housing Navigation • Social and Recreational Activities
• 24-hour on-site security • Public Health Partnership

The Community Home at Keiro will be located in the Keiro Building, a facility created in 1986 by the Japanese community for the care of Japanese elders. The building was sold to developers in 2019 who planned to build market-rate housing on the site. ACLT’s intention is for the property is to ensure that groups who experienced racial redlining and displacement have opportunity to remain or return to the community.

Through mutual adherence to the City of Seattle’s Community Good Neighbor expectations, ACLT will provide program operation in a safe and respectful manner and will develop a process for community engagement and communication to address neighborhood concerns effectively.

ACLT and the City of Seattle are eager to engage with community to provide more detail, address questions, solicit ideas and suggestions and build relationship. ACLT has scheduled a three-part virtual meeting series. An in-person Open House is scheduled October 14th. CDC guidelines will be followed, including requiring masks, safe distancing, and other Public Health recommended practices.

We invite community members to join us in codesigning our strategy for success in a three-part series (encouraged to attend all sessions):

Introduction: Thursday, September 16, 2021 6-8 PM

Considerations: Thursday, September 23, 2021 6-8 PM

Tactics and Solutions: Thursday, September 30, 2021 6-8 PM

Open House Thursday, October 14, 2021, at Community Home at Keiro
1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

To Register: https://bit.ly/3E5j7B5
QUESTIONS? CONTACT:
Kevin Mundt-City of Seattle, Human Services Department
homelessness@seattle.gov

Letter from the UCC / Neighbors in Need Offering

Dear Japanese Congregational Church UCC,

Wow! What an intense year we have each had to endure. I pray you and your loved ones are finding ways to face the many unique challenges forced upon us due to the pandemic.Truthfully, much has changed in the world since the Neighbors in Need Special Mission Offering of 2019. Justice issues – from women’s rights to racial bias to income gaps – continue to be laid bare, making the Neighbors in Need Special Mission Offering, on October 3, 2021, even more critical.The United Church of Christ’s history is rooted in supporting justice work. Through virtual settings, we continue to bring programs and services to our communities in need of assistance. We are presenting weekly webinars that inform and uplift on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. In July, we even held our first-ever special edition General Synod 33, where nearly 3,000 members participated. I am confident in stating that “a good time was had by all!”

This year’s campaign will place a spotlight on “the unhoused aka homelessness.” As a group, they have already faced much. With many Americans losing income due to the coronavirus, this vulnerable community will likely grow.Therefore, we invite your congregation to renew its commitment to Neighbors in Need on Sunday, October 3. Please take a moment to learn more about some of the wonderful programs funded by Neighbors in Need Grants on the NIN online webpage. Importantly, all of this year’s resource materials are downloadable at www.ucc.org/nin. Due to the resurgence of the virus’ variant, many churches are returning to worshipping online. Therefore, we have again chosen to not mail any of this years’ materials. However, we will gladly mail you a Neighbors in Need poster and/or envelopes per your request. To place an order for a poster or envelopes, email store@ucc.org or go to www.uccresources.com.

In service with deep gratitude,
image
Rev. Dr. Bentley de Bardelaben-Phillips,Executive Associate, Justice and Local Church Ministries

The Good News

Acts 10:34-48

Can non-Jewish people be saved? Today, we can say with assurance that, “anyone can be saved, through faith in Jesus Christ.”  When the events depicted in Acts 10 were being played out, this was not the case. The New Testament had not been completed yet, and the Old Testament did not give sufficient guidance to overcome traditional beliefs and expectations.  God uses two men to definitively answer this question – Cornelius and Peter. The first part of Acts 10 tells us what happened.

Acts 10:1-8 – Cornelius was a Roman military leader, part of the occupational forces in Judea. He was not a Jew, but a Gentile. We are not told how it came to be, but Cornelius was a devoted believer of the God of Israel spending much time in prayer. God tells Cornelius to send men to Peter, who is in the city of Joppa, so he sends two slaves and a devout soldier.

Acts 10:9-16 – The next day, Peter is up on the roof praying and God sends him a vision. A sheet containing all sorts of creatures which Jews were not supposed to eat comes down and Peter is commanded to kill and eat. Peter refuses, citing the Jewish laws that forbade him from eating these creatures. A voice tells Peter, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane”.  This vision happened three times.

Keeping the old dietary laws was important to Peter and other devout Jews. They were under Roman occupation, and the empire would like nothing more than to get them to assimilate into the culture. For the Jews to keep their identity as God’s people, it was important to keep these laws to differentiate themselves.

Acts 10:17-23a – While Peter was puzzled about the strange vision, the three men Cornelius had sent arrive, looking for Peter. The Holy Spirit tells Peter that He is the one who sent these men, and that Peter should go with them without hesitation.

Acts 10:23b-33 – The next day, Peter goes with the three men to Cornelius’ house. When Peter arrives, Cornelius falls to his knees and worships him. Peter stops him, telling Cornelius that he is a mortal. Peter informs Cornelius that the Jewish laws made it illegal for him to visit a Gentile, but he is doing so because God had told him to not consider the Gentiles as unclean. Cornelius asks Peter to tell them what the Lord commanded Peter to say.

Acts 10:34ff – Peter speaks to them about how Jesus is the Messiah, and that although he was crucified, dead and buried, He was raised on the third day.  Anyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name. The Gentiles then received the Holy Spirit and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

So as the head of the church, Peter now knows that salvation through Jesus Christ is now available to all people, not just the Jews. This indeed is the good news for the whole world.

It is clear from this passage that it is not Cornelius or Peter that are the main actors.  It is the Holy Spirit that is acting on them, and they are just being carried by the current that the Holy Spirit is providing. It is about repentance being available to all that are willing to turn towards God.

Repentance as presented here is not a courageous step we make toward Christ, nor is it a regretful  feeling for our sins. It is the divine gift of being able to be turned toward truth. Turning towards truth is beyond our power to accomplish. Like Cornelius, we cannot repent – turn around – on our own, so God does it for us. Repentance is more than a decision we make or some good deed we offer to God – repentance is the human response to God’s offer of Himself to us.  Repentance is an act of God’s grace.

Society today is populated with many people who are not living according to God’s will, and some of these are believers. Let us be reminded that God desires to give repentance to all people, even to those who are opposed to God.  Let us be open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to witness to these people, so that they will have an opportunity to respond to God’s graceful invitation to repent and be saved.

(The above is a summary of the message shared by Shun Takano at our worship service on September 12, 2021.)

The Power of Praise

Psalm 146:1-10

Two weeks ago I spoke on Psalm 84. “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” We saw that the psalmist longed for God’s presence …although he still had not arrived. He was still wandering in the Baca Valley of tears and troubles. We concluded that JCC was on a pilgrimage. That each of us were on a pilgrimage. And that our posture was to desire God more and more in our lives.

Today, the psalm we are looking at is another psalm of praise. It is one of the “final 5” songs in the Psalter…all with the theme of praise.

The outline is as follows:

Opening Doxology                                        verses 1-2

Personal praise

I will praise God with my whole self!  いのちのあるかぎり

Stanza 1                                                         verses 3-4

Don’t trust in human leaders  君主たちにたよってはならない

The fragility / temporal nature of humans  彼のもろもろの計画は滅びうせる

Stanza 2                                                         verses 5-9

Blessed / happy is the one who trusts only in God!

  • Creator of everything  主は天と地と海とその中のいっさいを造った方
  • Faithful forever  とこしえまでも真実を守る
  • Upholds cause of the oppressed しいたげられる者のためにさばきを行い
  • Gives food to the hungry 飢えた者にパンを与える方
  • Sets prisoners free 捕らわれ人を解放される 
  • Gives sight to the blind  主は盲人の目をあけ
  • Lifts up those who are bowed down かがんでいる者を起こされる
  • Loves the righteous  正しい者を愛し、
  • Watches over the aliens 主は在留異国人を守る 
  • Sustains the fatherless and the widow みなしごとやもめをささえられ
  • Frustrates the ways of the wicked しかし主は悪者の道を曲げられる

Closing Doxology                                        verse 10

Corporate praise to the Lord!    ハレルヤ

It’s been quite a week in the news and in our world hasn’t it?

  • Afghanistan – continuing trauma
  • American hospital ICUs filled with COVID patients
  • Haiti earthquake and politics
  • Wild fires across the west
  • Hurricane Ida across the South and Northeast

What does it mean to “praise the Lord” in the midst of these crises?

The ancient Israelites were also often in crisis… this psalm teaches us:

Praise is often an act of discipline.

  • We do it not because our circumstances are happy or easy…. but in the face of all evidence to the contrary. In a world gone crazy… God is still worthy of our praise.
  • All human plans and efforts are temporal – it is God alone that gives us life and breath and what we need.

Praise can be a form of defiance against wordly powers.

  • Despite this mess, we will praise
  • A decision to focus on the eternal and not the temporary picture

Praise has the power to change us and our circumstances

  • Crying, complaining, and lamenting to God is cathartic and deeply meaningful. But Praising God in tough circumstances has the power to change us in ways that nothing else can!
  • Praise isn’t for God’s benefit. It’s for our benefit. We are changed. We recognize again who WE are and who GOD is.

An Example:

Paul and Silas in Philippi

Read the account of Paul and Silas in Acts 16. They were beaten multiple times, put in prison, had their hands and feet put in stocks…. but around midnight it says that they began to sing praises – the prisoners around them were listening… and at the end of this account, they are miraculously freed by an earthquake. Not only that, but the account ends with Paul sharing the gospel with the Philippian jailor and his family.

What would cause Paul and Silas to “sing praises” in prison – in the dark, at midnight, while suffering from their beatings and open sores?! What were the other prisoners thinking when they heard these songs and praises? Does something in this account resonate deep within you? Wouldn’t we all wish to live in this power that sees and recognizes a bigger picture…rather than just the reality in front of us?   May we experience the power of praise in our own lives this week.

(The above is a summary of the message shared during worship on Sept. 5, 2021)

Poetry by Jon Honeycutt

Recently Jon gave me these examples of his poetry… during a visit to his apartment. I thought you would all like to read them. Enjoy! – (this is the first part…. there are a few more poems in part 2 that I will post later….) – Pastor Tim

From God to Good, just add an “o”

To evil add a “D”, and there you go

It’s as evident as the letters are

We bear His grace, He bears our scar

The living light awaits the eye

That looks to see it shine

I seek to find that Joy designed

And that decision’s mine

I’ll follow my father, and his before him

For my life is a cup that is filled to the brim

Can you not see it coming?

It is as plain as day to me

The trumpets herald drumming

For the battle come to be

As dark as it appears right now

There’s victory at the end

We can’t discern the when or how

But our brokenness will mend

The Lord is our shepherd

And we’re in his flock

On a journey well worthy

We willingly walk

Beauty for ashes I’m looking toward

My word is my sheath, my faith is my sword

Expectancy grows as I water my hope

And the doubt will depart down it’s slippery slope

I write down my dreams, then, patiently wait

But the answer will come, whether early or late

It comes down to wanting and asking for it

In the knowing which end of the candle is lit

So I ponder my chances I know will arrive

They’re as sure as the promise that love is alive

For this world, in blindness, just stumbles along

It’s ignoring what’s right and embracing what’s wrong

As apparent to me as it should be to you

Our reward will reflect what we willingly do

This may be as clear or as murky to some

But we stand in the knowing an answer will come

It is only a matter of time, take His word

Let His glory reveal what these words have inferred

The ashes we leave for the beauty we’ll find

Is the way it will be, it is heaven designed

I can give you the line but you must take the bait

And you’ll find revelation awaits at the gate

It’s as near as your next breath, it’s certain to be

And a gift to the reader, it’s God’s guarantee

Better late than never is a phrase I finally learned

And is a gift from God, as ever, even a gift I hadn’t earned

But I am thankful for His favor and the chance to know at last

That I may yet tomorrow savor while repenting of my past

I was as willful and as ignorant of all my life in store

Yet, like a child’s heart is innocent, He forgave and gave me more

And then somewhere along the way my path began to change

My ways were wasted anyway, and generally strange

By looking back I found that I was on an errant path

My thinking was unsound and I deserved the coming wrath

But providence was waiting, I thank the Lord that it was so

And it isn’t understating that at last I came to know

That He was always with me, though I seldom gave it thought

Now I see my past more clearly and another chance I got

God moves in ways of wonder, but it’s always for our best

As my “normalcy” was blunder I would have failed the coming test

So I pray you to consider where our former ways would lead

Whether glorious or bitter, like a flower taken seed

If I’d have opened up my eyes when I was young and strong

I would have known how fast time flies, and made my way along

A difference of direction and a finer end to find

And then I gave it my inspection, finally opening my mind

I know that He’d been with me, else, I wouldn’t be here now

My words are my propensity, while He provides the “how”

And what I can say is “Thank You” to the one who gave us all

It is the best that I can do while I am waiting for His call

We’ll make it through these trying days

The seething heat, the smokey haze

We have the will, we’ll find the ways

For blessings come to he who prays

And look back on these times again

We know who runs his race will win

Though now, our hopes seem rather thin

We’ll find our peace and enter in

These are but temporary times

Where the temperature absurdly climbs

Endurance bears climactic crimes

Inviting even heated rhymes

Yet cooler days will follow these

With gentle rains and soothing breeze

The weather will how’ere it please

As only he who bears it sees

So don’t lose hope, we’ll get there yet

With grace we’ll gain the wind and wet

Just wait it out and place your bet

And we will what we pray for get

We’ve seen these calms and storms before

And guaranteed, there will be more

Who knows what waits beyond that door

It’s what we were intended for

So, brace yourself, you’ll pass the test

Today’s a temporary guest

We’ll carry on and do our best

These current trials will turn to bles’t

(August, 2021, 94ºF)

God, It’s Not Fair!

Psalm 10

The recent news in Afghanistan was so difficult to listen to with all the suffering that is taking place. Life has always been full of evil as we consider drugs and human trafficking. It’s overwhelming, and often hard to relate. But through movies and other media, we can catch glimpses of this world, and we realize that the reality is much worse. Real people are suffering from real bad people.

Why God!? Where are you? These are questions that we often ask ourselves. Today’s Psalmist understands our feelings. Verse 1 ”Why do You stand far away, LORD? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?” When we’re suffering, God seems so far. But God IS there. That’s why the Psalms are so important. It brings our real feelings and sufferings…and God. Look at how the wicked are described. They are: (Verse 2) Arrogant, Wicked; (3) Boastful, Greedy, Disrespectful to the LORD; (4) Haughty, with no God; (5) Successful in the world’s ways, (6) Proud; Full of cursing, deceit, and oppression; (7) Murderers; (11) Forgets God

Verses 4 and 11 talk about taking God out of a person’s thinking. Why is that so important for the wicked to do this? Without God, there is no judgement. That is also why they attack the Bible. It is God’s Word. Through it, we not only
know God, but we know His standards, His holiness, His justice, etc. Psalm 14:1 says “The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have committed detestable acts; There is no one who does good.” The fool thinks they will get away with their wickedness. They are only focused on the now and forget about the future judgement. If this life was all that there is, it would be unfair. But there is an afterlife that is more real and eternal that we look forward to. That is how Christians in the past, and those who are suffering now can endure. Justice will come. Relief will become a reality. We need to start by putting God first in our lives. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

And part of growing in Christ is to put our trust in the future promises of God. In the end, we will be victorious. 1 Cor.15:57  “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58  Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

So the Psalmist continues… 12  “Arise, LORD; God, lift up Your hand. Do not forget the humble.” He hasn’t seen justice yet, but he prays for those who are suffering. He helps us to know how to pray. In the midst of hardship, he focuses on God and worships. God hears our prayers. Believe it, even though you don’t feel it. In the midst of trials, it is difficult to feel God’s love. But He is there. Justice will come. The wicked will not be able to hide. And one day, there will be a new heaven and new earth. Jesus promises, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Remember this promise.

I think hard times may come in the near future. There is evil in the world. And there is a movement to take Christ and the Bible out of our culture. Believers must learn to stand in the truth, and trust God. 2 Tim 3:12 “Indeed, all who want to live in a godly way in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” The purpose is not to scare you, but to prepare you.

When things don’t seem fair, and the wicked seems to prosper, remember this Psalm. Know that our LORD hears our prayers. He will strengthen you, comfort you, and use you mightily in the midst of all this.

(The above is a summary of the message shared by Rich Nakamura during our worship service on August 29, 2021.)