Welcome to the JCPC Daily Reflections Blog. Reflections are daily devotionals authored by JCPC pastors, staff and members and provide insight, guidance and comfort to help you make it through each day. If you’d like to receive Reflections each day via email, provide your email address.
Shirley settled into her recliner after a long day. She looked out the window and noticed an older couple struggling to move a section of old fence left in a yard and labeled "free." Shirley grabbed her husband, and they headed out the door to help. The four of them wrestled the fence onto a dolly and pushed it up the city street and around the corner to the couple's home-laughing all the way at the spectacle they must be. As they returned to get a second section of fence, the woman asked Shirley, "You be my friend?" "Yes, I will," she replied. Shirley later learned that her new Vietnamese friend knew little English and was lonely because her grown children had moved hours away.
In Leviticus, God reminded the Israelites that they knew how it felt to be strangers (19:34) and how to treat others (vv. 9-18). God had set them apart to be His own nation, and in return they were to bless their "neighbors" by loving them as themselves. Jesus, the greatest blessing from God to the nations, later restated His Father's words and extended them to us all: "Love the Lord your God . . . . Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-39).
Through Christ's Spirit living in us, we can love God and others because He loved us first (Galatians 5:22-23; 1 John 4:19). Can we say with Shirley, "Yes, I will"?
Prayer for Today
Loving God, thank You for the love You've shown me. Please, Holy Spirit, love others through me so that You might be glorified. Amen.
I grew up in a small Presbyterian church in Charlotte, NC. The youth choir was mandatory for middle and high school youth before dinner. Contrary to what recent research has revealed - that almost everyone can be taught to sing well and that the greatest barrier to this is not skill or anatomy, but being told at a young age you cannot sing - most of us young boys were told we sounded awful. Not by the leader, but by his followers - as so often is the case. Thus, it was a wretched experience, most weeks, to come and be mocked by high school girls as my voice changed from alto to tenor to bass in my middle school years. As if that weren't bad enough, we were called Joyful Noise.
Our phenomenal choir director was at least sensitive to our plight, having been a middle school boy at some point, I imagined. He filled our hour of torture with gifted instruction and humor. He silenced most of the snickering. And he never made us sing solos. He taught us music, and even a love for the music, if not a total assurance we young boys could make it. And he was probably my first theology teacher. He assured us repeatedly that a joyful noise was not the same as a perfect one and God desires joy. Everyone, he told us, deserved to be there and contribute.
That choir taught me some important lessons. I learned how to sing. I learned that people other than the leader could be influential...for good or bad. I learned that a leader, like Christ in the Church, can espouse inclusion and the giftedness of everyone, and emphasize the importance of joy over perfection and that their followers can drown that message out with derision and scorn. It has been important to me in every group I've joined or led to see that a message of that hopeful inclusion and appreciation and joy is central and practiced. I've seen that in the guitar group Mark Fallis formed and the people who have fostered that joy. And I saw it this week among the youth who gathered to play stringed instruments this Sunday night. I encourage you to make each group you join one that includes all who come and affirms their gifts. And if you want to make a joyful noise, we have places for you to do that at JCPC.
Prayer for Today
Lord, inspire me to joyful noise. And help me to encourage others to join and lift their gifts to you. Amen.
"The words are like an acorn from which an oak tree can grow."
On the side of our house is an oak tree. It is large and has a round canopy. It looks like the picture of a perfect oak tree. When I cut the grass and it is very hot, I will take a break and stand under its shade. The branches are so thick that it almost feels dark under the tree. It is certainly much cooler than being out in the direct sunlight. If there is any breeze, it is very pleasant. It reminds me of summers when I was a kid and we spent most of our days outside. We naturally gravitated toward the shade of large trees such as this one when we needed to sit down and take a break.
It takes a long time to grow an oak tree like the one in my yard. The words by Eugene Peterson above remind us that such magnificent trees began small - with an acorn. I find those words encouraging and daunting at the same time. When I am in the early stages of a new ministry or program, "acorn thinking" helps me to imagine what this acorn could grow to be - like a large oak tree. On the other hand, I realize that real growth takes time. This applies to humans, churches, and about everything else. Often I am impatient. I want maturity - and I want it now! But that is not the way it works. Maybe this is where faith can enter in. We can trust God to bring the growth over time where it is needed. So, we do not need to worry or be anxious. We can simply trust God with the outcomes of our lives, our work - even the whole world. So may God bless the good acorns you are planting here now, to become oak trees in the years to come!
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, show us where we need to plant and nurture acorns today that will grow into oak trees tomorrow. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.