NEWS NOTES September 12, 2021 
“But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. 2 It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. (Ecclesiastes 9:1-2 ESV)
Welcome to our in-person worship service at our physical building.  Other services continue to be virtual via GoToMeeting.  September Songfest (9/19) is at La Verne next week.  Bring your own lunch; no potluck is planned.   Singing starts at 1:30 PM.
Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
Adapted from a message by Jay Graham
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.  But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (I Peter 3:12 ESV)
I was recently asked the question— “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  Now I cannot give a complete answer in this short article.  Here is one answer to this common question. 
First God does care about and hear his children when they pray.  But Earth is not Heaven.  Before the advent of sin, it was a literal “heaven on earth.”  But with sin’s entrance bad things began to happen.  An innocent animal had to die.  Eve experienced pain at childbirth that the Creator promised would happen.  Then Cain murdered his brother Abel.  The murder probably included a literal loss of blood, for the Lord said in Gen 4:10-- "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground.”  As soon as sin entered the world bad things began to happen, even to good people like Abel.
The Old Testament has many examples of God intervening for the righteous.  Sometimes He prevented bad things from happening or He caused the effects of bad things to lessen or disappear.  But this was the exception.  Even under the Old Law, God did promise to His faithful people certain special blessings of protection, but bad things still happened to good people.  People grew ill with diseases and died as a result.  Accidents happened to good people.  Even in the time of Christ and the 1st century church bad things happened to good people.  There were exceptions when the Lord intervened, but generally speaking, bad things happened.
Consider Epaphroditus as specifically mentioned in Phil 2:25-27.  He was a fellow worker of Paul who grew gravely ill.  Apparently, he was close to death.  Certainly, the apostle Paul had the miraculous ability to lay hands upon him and heal him from his affliction, but he did not.  Probably because it was not the purpose of the miraculous gift of healing to simply do away with illnesses and even death.  Its purpose was to assist in preaching the gospel as used in Acts 3 by Peter and John as they healed the lame man.  Epaphroditus was already a believer.  It apparently was the Lord’s will the illness take its natural course.  Paul was thankful of the Lord’s mercy that allowed Epaphroditus to recover from the illness.
Bad things happen to good and bad people.  Also good things happen to good and bad people according to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:45. We live in a physical world that is marred with sin.  Good people will continue to suffer with those who are bad in this physical world.  This will continue until Jesus returns.
It is for this reason His return is called our “blessed hope”.  Truly our ONLY hope is found in the spiritual world through the life and death of the Son of God and accordingly through the power of the gospel of Christ.

NEWS NOTES September 5, 2021
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)
Welcome to our in-person worship service at our physical building. Jay Graham is our guest speaker. Sunday afternoon, Wednesday evening, and Thursday ladies study continue to be virtual online meetings. Tomorrow is the national holiday, Labor Day, set aside since 1894 to honor workers.
September Songfest (9/19) is at La Verne. Bring your own lunch; no potluck is planned. Singing starts at 1:30 PM.
Labor and Brotherly Love Labor
9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. (I Thessalonians 4:9-12 ESV)
Adam was not on vacation when he was in the Garden of Eden paradise. God put Adam in the garden to “work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Just as Adam needed Eve (Genesis 2:18-23), he also needed some sort of creative/physical labor. The ugly part of labor - hard on the body and/or spirit with little or no benefit/ feeling of satisfaction - came after Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:17-19). In the beginning good works were a joy, part of paradise.
Jesus, when he came to earth promised: “28Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29). A yoke harnesses work animals so they can pull loads and plows. Christ isn’t promising no work; he’s promising work that rests our souls.
Christianity is a physical and spiritual labor. We are commanded to work to physically provide for ourselves (I Thessalonians 4:11-12) and for others: “28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” (Ephesians 4:28 ESV)
Just as good parents model in their own actions and teach with instruction, God and Christ have taught us to have an unselfish concern for others and to do things for their benefit. Christ made it clear in the Parable of the Good Samaritan that our neighbor is anyone who needs us (Luke 10:25-37).
Being a good neighbor, doing good for others, may at times seem like a physical job that is too demanding. But Christ has promised help and rest if we will lean on Him: “9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10 ESV)
It’s “as we have opportunity”, not “if we have opportunity.” God gives predictable and unpredictable opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ, to work physically and spiritually, and to share our blessings with others. Happy brotherly labor day!

NEWS NOTES August 29, 2021
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)
Welcome to our in-person service at our physical building.  Sunday afternoon, Wednesday evening, and Thursday ladies study continue to be virtual online meetings.  Jay Graham will be our guest speaker next week.
Songfests for the next three months are: September 19 La Verne (no potluck; singing starts at 1:30 PM), October 17 Norwalk, and November 21 here at Long Beach.
Helping the Lost to God - A Good Neighbor
Adapted from a message by Jeff Yost 10/13/2019
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:8-10 ESV)
Evangelism is helping people come closer to God.  Being a good neighbor is both a physical and spiritual service for Christians.
The theme song for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which aired on public television for 33 years was Won’t You be my Neighbor: “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, A beautiful day for a neighbor.  Would you be mine?  Could you be mine?”  Fred Rogers, seemingly the same on and off stage, wanted to bring a sense of community and caring to the children and adults who tuned into his program.
The apostle Paul took a similar opening message to the Athenians - we are all part of one community created by the one and only God.  A community that doesn’t stop with this life, but continues (Acts 17:22-31).  God intended community for good and synergy.  As Paul points out to the Ephesians, we were created in Christ for good works (Ephesians 2:10).
Adam and Eve were the start of both family unit and community.  Sin started almost immediately with miscommunication, discord, even murder.  Sin breaks up a community.  Cain was the first “bad neighbor,” ultimately killing his brother.  God tried to help Cain before his sin erupted, but Cain was overcome by his selfish anger (Genesis 4:1-16).
God says a lot about how to be a good neighbor: Exodus 20:6, 20:17, 21:14, 22:7-14, Leviticus 19:15, Deuteronomy 24:10-13, Psalms 15:1-5, 101:1-8.  Jeremiah alone has19 references to being a neighbor.  Most are negative, which is why God disciplined the Jews by putting them in a “bad neighborhood” (Babylonian captivity) and told them to improve the neighborhood and pray for their neighbors (Jeremiah 29:4-7).
Jeremiah foretold of a better time to come for the Jews and their neighbors: “33For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-35 ESV)
Being a good neighbor is not just about physical welfare; it’s spiritual welfare as well.  God has souls in mind.  Inheriting eternal life is at stake.  What kind of neighbor are you?  Are you a neighbor pleasing to God in your attitude and actions (Romans 13:8-10, 15:1-3)?

NEWS NOTES August 22, 2021
And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:30-32)
Welcome to our in-person service at our physical building.  Sunday afternoon, Wednesday evening, and Thursday ladies study continue to be virtual online meetings.
Lockdown Rules for Christians
Adapted from a message by Roger Wanassen 2020
God gave the Children of Israel both a social and spiritual law.  The social law included extensive hygiene practices unknown in their day that kept them healthier (Exodus 15:25-26).  Many are similar to what is required during the current pandemic.  God still wants us to mindful of taking care of our physical health, but Christ’s new law focuses on spiritual health.
Brother Roman (Roger) Wanassen in the Philippines created this list of rules early on in the pandemic to emphasize the spiritual.  It goes beyond COVID-19 and all its variants to the even more serious worldwide pandemic of sin.  Roger’s message is not to just observe the health lockdowns and government rules, but let us observe the heavenly rules as well.
* Wash your heart with Christ's blood: “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. (Psalm 73:1). “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
* Keep a social distance from evil: “And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’” (Job 28:28)
* Avoid crowds of wickedness and wicked men: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;” (Psalm 1:1) “Stay away from people who talk about useless things that are not from God. That kind of talk will lead a person more and more against God.” (II Timothy 2:16 ERV)
* Cover your mind from being infected from the sneeze of sin and hatred: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.” (Leviticus 19:17)
* Do not shake hands with abomination: “For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 25:16)
* Do not hug or embrace hearsay and false teachings: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” (2 Peter.2:1)
* Be safe so that you will be saved: “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise. (Jeremiah 17:14)
* Sanitize your life with the Word of God: “but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)
* In case you notice any symptoms of sin, call the helpline of Christ in PRAYER: “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
* Always remember to boost your spiritual immunity with Faith and the Power of the Holy Spirit: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” (Jude1:20-21[1])
God be with you all...Keep your faith!

NEWS NOTES August 15, 2021
“…The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5-7 ESV)
Welcome to our in-person service at our physical building.  Sunday afternoon, Wednesday evening, and Thursday ladies study continue to be virtual online meetings.
Adapted from a message by Emery Wright 7/26/2020
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? …O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:25-33 ESV)
Anxiety, those feelings of uneasiness and apprehension about an imminent event of something with an uncertain outcome, is not just a spiritual problem.  If you neglect the practical matters of life, you can’t achieve the spiritual.
Here are 10 practices to deal with anxiety:
1. Let God be God. He is in control and we are not in control.  God gives us the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control - Galatians 5:22-23) and looks out for us: “33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 ESV; Psalm 46)
2. Pray (Philippians 4:6). Continual, bowing in prayer can stem anxiety and one-word prayers like “Help!” or “Thanks” can calm an anxious moment.
3. Keep your eyes on the present: 34“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34 ESV)
4. Pursue a “sabbath” in your routine.  We need a day of rest just like God did (Genesis 2:1).  Re-charge your physical and emotional batteries. Be still with no social media, work, chores, etc.  This will give you more peace (Psalm 37:1-11).
5. Choose a mindset of joy over spiritual obligation. Spend time loving God through walks, singing spiritual songs, being with God’s nature and other Christians. (Colossians 3:16)
6. Set healthy boundaries, learning to say “no” and “yes.” It’s easier to say “yes” than “no” but sometimes “no” is the right answer.  Say “No” to people, things, and situations that may tempt you to sinful activities.  “No” to overwhelming demands from others.  “Yes” in admitting a foolish mistake and asking others for forgiveness or help.
7. Anxiety can be an emergency signal - like in your car - that something is wrong (check engine light) and we need to do something. If we ignore the light, we end up with a bigger problem.  We should be grateful for the gentle reminder to see the mechanic quickly.
8. Anxiety is a symptom, not the actual problem. Get to the root of the problem.  Chronic anxiety can’t be prayed away.  Like taking an aspirin for a tooth ache, it may provide temporary relieve, but doesn’t fix the problem.
9. Get professional help. Like medication for high blood pressure, we may need medication for anxiety disorder.  Don’t be ashamed of being anxious.  Pray about it, let God guide you, share with other Christians, and act to do something about it.  Don’t be a prisoner of anxiety.
10. Distinguish between what the truth is, and what lies the anxiety is telling you.  “I’ll never be good enough.” “Bad things always happen to me.”  These are Satan’s lies that feed our anxiety.  Listen to Jesus:   So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 ESV). Also, be alert to those around you who may be anxious; your loving words about the truth of their worth and daily living can make a difference, “Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” (Proverbs 12:25 ESV)

NEWS NOTES August 8, 2021
“And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39 ESV)
Welcome to our in-person service at our physical building.  Sunday afternoon, Wednesday evening, and Thursday ladies study continue to be virtual online meetings.  Welcome to Jay Graham from Arizona; he is our speaker today.
By This All Will Know What You Are
Adapted from article by Jay Graham
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)
I was honored recently to be involved in a young man’s birth into the Lord.  This is a young man who had been attending the church of Christ in Arizona for several years.  He made the decision to be immersed into the Lord, and of course we supported his decision.  However, he very much desired to have his parents’ blessing, though neither one was a Christian as defined by the New Testament.
They had some concerns about their son’s decision.  Finally, after some time of discussion the parents gave their blessing.  When the time and place were arranged for this beautiful moment, his parents and other family members were there in addition to the entire congregation to witness this young man give his life and spirit to the Lord.  As expected, it was a glorious time.
That evening the parents and their son, who is now a Christian and a member of the Lord’s church, attended with the congregation in their regular assembly.  Certainly the parents heard the Word of God taught as is always the case when God’s people meet.  And I am sure that was an opportunity to plant further seed of the kingdom.
I do not know the parents’ thoughts on what transpired in the assembly, but one thing I am certain of is that the parents observed how much the brothers and sisters of the congregation loved, cared for, and appreciated their new brother in Christ.  It was obvious by the comments made and actions at the baptism, during the meeting, and after the meeting.
Their son was not like some “notch on someone’s Bible.”  He is loved and appreciated.  It was mentioned several times in the meeting that all glory and praise went to the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.  It was mentioned that the angels in Heaven were rejoicing that this soul came to the Lord in faith and obedience.  There can be no doubt God was glorified, a new soul was saved, and the brethren rejoiced at this great working of God’s grace.  The parents could not have missed this.  Perhaps seed was planted by seeing this as much as what was taught that evening.
How could the parents have known these were indeed God’s people?  Jesus said (John 13:34-35) the world will know we are his disciples by our love for one another.  Another Scripture that comes to mind is 1 Cor 14:24-25 -- But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you

NEWS NOTES August 1, 2021
“Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.2 After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, That we may live in His sight. 3 Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.  His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, Like the latter and former rain to the earth.  (Hosea 6:1-3 NKJV)
Welcome to our in-person service at our physical building.  Sunday afternoon, Wednesday evening, and Thursday ladies study continue to be virtual online meetings.  Welcome to Kimber and Steve Wright who are visiting from Kansas.  Jay Graham from Arizona will be our speaker next week (August 8).
What God Wants is not a Mystery
Adapted from What God Wants by David F. La Rue
“6Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.  7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.  For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”  (Isaiah 55:8-9 NKJV)
God works in mysterious ways.  Although the phrase is not found in the Bible, we often use it when things happen unexpectedly.  When our best laid plans go awry, but things work out anyway, or when things happen against all odds.  It is a comforting feeling to know God is mysteriously and seemingly magically doing things for us, yet we continue to wonder how God works, how He does things, and why.
It is our responsibility to heed His instructions and examples and learn from the past.  It is our responsibility to know and do His will.  We only have to go to the Bible to get a clear understanding of what God’s will is for us today.  When we make ourselves acceptable to God, we will enjoy His goodness and mercy and grace forever.
Today the mind set of many people is to turn to God in order to learn how to feel good about themselves, how to please themselves and cope with life.  The real concern should not be about ourselves, but rather how we can serve and please God.  We should not wonder about this, because the Bible is very clear on God’s ways and intentions.
“8 Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, 9 for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. . . 15Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  (II Timothy 2:8-15 NKJV)

NEWS NOTES July 25, 2021
“24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (I Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV)
Welcome to our in-person service at our physical building.  Sunday afternoon, Wednesday evening, and Thursday ladies study continue to be virtual online meetings. 
We have two upcoming guest speakers planned: Steven Wright from Kansas (August 1) and Jay Graham from Arizona (August 8).
Running the Race
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV)
Our modern Olympic Games, which are currently in progress after a year’s delay because of the COVID Pandemic, were inspired by ancient athletic festivals in Greece.  When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about running the race for a prize, the Isthmian Games were still being held near the city every two years.  Paul compares the Christian to an Isthmian athlete and makes these points:
  *  Athletes prepare for their event with strict training and a thorough knowledge of the rules.
  *  Beneficial training requires the discipline to push through the pain to improve physically and to continue to practice not just to become skillful, but to continuously improve for consistent top-of-game performance.
  *  The best prepared athlete only wins if he/she shows up for the race, competes according to the rules, and finishes the race.
Christians similarly are living a purposeful and controlled life so they are fit for the imperishable prize of heaven.
The Hebrew writer focuses on the race itself.  Unlike Tokyo, we have a huge audience.  Satan is here and wants us to lose just as he is a loser.  But more importantly, all the people of faith who have lived before us and are living today, Jesus our role model, and our Father God are here, cheering for us to reach the prize.  Throw off the weights of envy, gossip, strife, deceit, malice, drunkenness, sexual immorality, etc. (Romans 1:28-30, I Peter 2:1, Titus 3:3, I Timothy 6:4, Galatians 5:16-21) God commands.  Don’t let Satan trip you up.  Don’t give up; stay focused on Jesus.  Troublesome times are the norm for life and Christians aren’t exempt.  Nonetheless, God does provide for us - a marked course we can follow without getting lost, a Savior who makes the race possible for us and who has already made our winning possible by bearing the worst of it.  Don’t get discouraged over setbacks and difficulties, you are on a winning team with Jesus.

NEWS NOTES July 18, 2021 
“3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, (I Peter 1:3-4 ESV)
Welcome to our in-person service at our physical building.  Sunday afternoon, Wednesday evening, and Thursday ladies study continue to be virtual online meetings.  Masks and social distancing per the Long Beach Health Department are again required indoors. 
Prayers for all California in our drought and particularly those in the Central Valley where many wells are going dry with the terrible heat and drought.
Jay Graham
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8 ESV)
Do you believe in miracles?  As a child of God I am sure you do.  The Old Testament records miracles that were either directly done by the Lord such as Creation, the Great Flood, God’s calling of Abraham, God’s formation of Israel, etc., and there are those that were done by the power of the Lord through men’s hands such as Moses parting the Red Sea and through His prophets of old such as Elijah and Elisha.  The New Testament records miracles done by Jesus and through His apostles that laid the foundation of the church.  We understand that when the last person who had received the miraculous gifts of the Spirit through the laying on of the hands of the apostles died, those type of miracles ceased.  And I am not going to say God does or does not perform other miracles in this modern time apart from the two I will address later, for He very well may, though we are confident they are not through men’s hands as before.
God still performs for certainty two miracles in these post-Biblical times.  Both of these miracles involve births.  The first comes at physical birth.  Science can explain how physical birth happens, and I am sure it can give us the proper “facts” for such births.  But in spite of man’s apparent knowledge he cannot create life as he wished he could, and I am convinced that the reason he cannot is because life, at least in humans, is a miracle only God can perform.  Consider the absolutely important miracle that happens when a soul is born, that man cannot truly understand nor emulate.  God breathes into every body and soul that is born His Spirit—the Spirit of life.  It is this Spirit that separates mankind from the rest of Creation.
God promises and provides another miracle, a second birth that is spiritual.  This miracle is the forgiveness of a soul’s sins and the promise of a new life free of the bondage of sin.  Again, this is something man cannot emulate.  He may try through his philosophies and earthly wisdom to do away with sin, but he always fails.  Only God can perform such a working of His grace, and there is no other power under Heaven that can do such.  It is this power or miracle that Peter spoke of in Acts 4:12 – “… Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."  This Name is the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Yes, the Lord may perform other miracles.  But we can be assured of two miracles for sure—The physical birth of a newborn child and the spiritual birth of a newborn Christian.  Thank You Lord for these miracles in our lives.

NEWS NOTES July 11, 2021 
“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works." (Psalm 145:8-9 NKJV)
Welcome to our in-person service at our physical building.  Sunday afternoon, Wednesday evening, and Thursday ladies study continue to be virtual online meetings.  No Songfest in July, but one is likely in August.  Norwalk Congregation will sponsor the October Songfest and we will sponsor November here at Long Beach.
Prayers for all California in our current heatwave and particularly those in the Central Valley where many wells are going dry with the terrible heat and drought. 
We thank Anaheim congregation for the July 5 barbecue, which many of us were able to attend. 
Gracious Living
Adapted from lesson by Michael Manning 10/6/2019
“. . . Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.” (Joel 2:13 ESV)
In 1955 Columbia Record Company released a set of five LP’s (vinyl records) under the label of Music for Gracious Living.  The cover photographs encapsulated the ideal American family entertaining with a Barbecue, Buffet, After Dance Gathering, and even just the family in their Do-It-Yourself basement workshop.  The back covers had helpful hints and recipes for making every gathering occasion-perfect.  I remember two older Christian men regularly using the term "gracious living," usually to describe a meal with other Christians where tasty homemade food, especially desert, was served and everyone enjoyed an uplifting visit.  Ah, gracious living.  The term is in most English dictionaries - Gracious living (noun) - A way of life characterized by elegance, comfort and good taste.  Real Estate advertisements in the 1950's used the term to attract potential home buyers.  Things change and today we see advertisements touting "luxury living" - the new term means indulgence in and enjoyment of rich, comfortable, and sumptuous living.
Long-serving elder Paul McKenzie often opened his public prayers with "Gracious Heavenly Father." Indeed God is gracious to us, favoring us and showing loving kindness even though we don't deserve it.   Throughout the Old Testament Yahweh God is described as gracious, compassionate, merciful, and abounding in love (II Kings 13:23, Psalm 145:8, Joel 2:13).
The Apostle Peter uses the Greek version of the word when he writes, "if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious" (I Peter 2:3 NKJV).  Peter is writing to Christians - imperfect people who are changing their sinful and chaotic lives, not just for a taste but for a life now and forever of gracious living: "1Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious."
Graciousness looks outward, focused on being Christlike and on helping others in a loving and kind way.  Indulgence and sumptuous living are inward focused: selfish, extravagant, and oblivious to the needs of others.  Jesus criticized the scribes and Pharisees in the strongest terms for self-indulgence: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence." (Matthew 23:25 (NKJV)