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Reflections

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.

Friday, November 28 2014

As Helen Simpson and I were delivering a Christmas tree on Tuesday evening, she began telling me about her recent trip abroad and how beautiful the Christmas lights were along the Champs d'Elysees.  I learned from her that since Europeans don't celebrate Thanksgiving, the Christmas season is in full swing early in the month of November.

Helen expressed that she wishes we could move Thanksgiving to another time of year because the day has almost become an afterthought sandwiched between pumpkins and elves.  Wouldn't it be nice if Thanksgiving DAY could become a season all unto itself?

Well, friends, today I am providing you a list of 28 Bible verses, one for each day of our newly formed SEASON of Thanksgiving!  I encourage you to print this out and put it in your Bible, on your nightstand, or somewhere that you will see it each day. 

Read the verse aloud with your family, allow time for everyone to share the blessings of their day, and then offer a prayer of thanksgiving together.  On the last day of our Thanksgiving Season, we will be giving thanks and celebrating the best gift of all - JESUS!

28 Days of Thanksgiving
 
Prayer for Today 
O Lord, instill in me an attitude of gratitude, giving thanks always for the abundant blessings in my life.  Amen.
 

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 07:54 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, November 27 2014

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!  Today, hopefully you are eating turkey and fixings to your heart's content, maybe watching a little football, and definitely being with family.  As many of us gather this week with kinfolk near and far, I ponder the question, does Jesus have anything to say about dealing with difficult relatives and bringing peace to families who struggle getting along?  Yes, he does, and from his own experience. 

Jesus was not born into a vacuum or just descend from heaven.  Yes, believe it or not, Jesus had a family.  He had younger brothers and sisters.  As the gospel writer Mark wrote, Jesus was "just a carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon, and his sisters are here with us" (6:3).

I think it is safe to say that his family was less than perfect.  I'm not sure how much really they appreciated Jesus.  But still he didn't try to control them or make them all agree with him or make it his mission to please them.  So take heart if things don't go as smoothly as you would like with your family.  Enjoy them for who they are and give thanks to God for them, even if they drive you absolutely crazy!

Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.
-Mark 3:35

Prayer for Today 
Dear God, I pause for but a moment of silence just to revel in the spirit of gratitude for the imperfect gifts of family around me today.  Amen.
 

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 07:51 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, November 26 2014

Today I am driving with my family up to visit with my sister in North Carolina. Going to her house on Thanksgiving used to be the norm for our family when the kids were younger. But when they hit college age, getting them home from school became the main focus. Jumping back in the car to spend one day on the road driving up and another driving back did not seem like the best way to use our time. But this year at least four of us will be traveling again to join with my sister and her extended family for Thanksgiving. We do the normal things - eat lots of turkey and dressing, watch football games, check out the sales, and nap.

More and more, I am grateful for times like these that remind me of the most important things in life. Slowing down to eat a meal, sharing in-depth conversations, and just being with one another are things that are becoming rare in our high-speed, digital world. So my Thanksgiving is simply for time to slow down and be present in the moment -- without worrying about what needs to be done next. In the Bible, we call this time "Sabbath."

My prayer this Thanksgiving is that you would find time to enjoy the present. The late Joan Rivers had a saying: "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is God's gift. That's why we call it the present." Enjoy the present and give thanks to God for that gift.

Prayer for Today 

If you are traveling, or if someone is traveling to visit you - here is a blessing and a prayer you may have heard:

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:13 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, November 25 2014

As the holiday seasons are approaching, I find myself overwhelmed by all of the stuff already in retail stores. All of the decisions and plans that happen during the next month can feel like a huge mountain to climb. In an effort to begin this time of year with a different mindset, I began to ask myself these questions:

  • Do you feel that each day is over-scheduled? 
  • Have you ever had to collect your scattered self so that you could make an important decision? 
  • Do you ever lay awake at night thinking about all you have to do? 
  • Do you ever ask why your life is so full?

Simplicity may sound like an oasis in the desert during this time of year. Living simply is not about deciding to get your life under control but about giving control of your life to God.

I think that in times like these, God calls us to assess our situation and take some time to retreat for a few hours, a day or a weekend to reflect and prepare for all that this season of the year requires. I would invite you to reflect on when Jesus talks about wealth and worries in Matthew 6, his message is simple: seek God, trust God, and receive God.

How can we live simply in a consumer focused culture?

In the midst of all of the busyness, how can we focus our lives on seeking God, trusting God, and receiving God?

How might these responses effect the way we enter this season of holidays?

Prayer for Today 
Gracious God, may we who have plenty live simply. Guide us so that we will seek you, trust you and receive you each day.   
Amen

 

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 11:23 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, November 24 2014

Thursday is our big day to give thanks. My prayer is that your Thanksgiving is full of joy and a renewed sense of gratitude. The following Thanksgiving blessing is a prayer that holds special meaning to me. It can be prayed 365 days a year. After all, Christians don't settle on one day of thanksgiving. We are called to give God thanks and praise all year long.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Prayer for Today 

Thanksgiving Blessing

O God,

We thank you for this earth, our home; for the wide sky and the blessed sun, for the ocean and streams, for the towering hills and the whispering wind, for the trees and green grass.

We thank you for our senses by which we hear the songs of birds, and see the splendor of fields of golden wheat, and taste autumn's fruit, rejoice in the feel of snow, and smell the breath of spring flowers.

Grant us a heart opened wide to all this beauty; and save us from being so blind that we pass unseeing when even the common thorn bush is aflame with your glory.

For each new dawn is filled with infinite possibilities for new beginnings and new discoveries. Life is constantly changing and renewing itself. In this new day of new beginnings with God, all things are possible. We are restored and renewed in a joyous awakening to the wonder that our lives are and, yet, can be.

Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 08:09 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, November 21 2014

"Don't you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize?  So run to win!"  1 Corinthians 9:24 (NLT)

As we once again embark on the journey known as "the most wonderful time of the year," most folks are making lists and checking them twice, gearing up for the race ahead, and counting down the days and minutes to the finish line on New Year's Day.  Another holiday season in the bag, the rushed feeling subsiding - but were you really ever in the game?

My conventional mindset at this time of year is to intentionally slow down, to give thanks to God for the many blessings in my life, and to prepare myself for the expectant waiting of the Advent season.  However, Scott's devotional at staff meeting last week was about, of all things, a race.  His words were particularly thought-provoking and meaningful to me, and I would like to share excerpts here.

American English is always on the move.  The word "game" isn't just a noun describing an athletic event or an interesting diversion with cards or a board.  Now the word is often used as a synonym for ability, as in the question, "Have you got game?"

Coach Lad (from the movie WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL), is known for his expectation - not that his players will produce perfection, but that they will commit to a perfect effort.  The game stands tall when those playing the game rise above their abilities and appreciate the larger life that surrounds the field and can be changed by the game.  Throughout the movie, the point is made in many ways that what's most important isn't the game itself but the people in the game and what the game brings out of them.

The apostle Paul didn't just believe in participation in the life of faith.  He encouraged those who entered the race to run to win.  At the very least, he wanted followers of Jesus to run to finish.  When he wrote what could have been his epitaph, he said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

We have all experienced a Black Friday trip to a crowded shopping mall that didn't necessarily bring out the best in us or those around us.  This holiday season, I am choosing to enjoy the best of all that sparkles in the commercial rat race, but to keep my eyes fixed on the prize that will never fade.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 07:56 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, November 20 2014

In Luke's gospel, 10 lepers come to Jesus seeking healing.  Jesus sends them to the priest, and as they go, suddenly they are healed.  Only one returns to Jesus to praise God and say, "Thank you." 

Are you a thankful person?  What are you thankful for and do you make it a habit to express your thanks?  I am thankful for a good dose of Tylenol when my head is spinning and a late-night bowl of Moose Tracks ice cream.  I am thankful for the freedoms that we enjoy in this country and for the privilege to be a minister in this church.  I am thankful for both of my children.  What blessings they are!  I believe gratitude is very simply the purest measure of one's spiritual condition.  It is both a clear expression of our Christian faith and a clear measure of character.  Surely we all have our lists.  Giving thanks is good medicine. 

But I also admit there are moments in life I don't feel thankful.  This past week I assisted my step-mom in putting my dad into a dementia care facility. I admit I felt more pain and sadness than gratitude.  In everyone's life, there are times when life is rough and the world feels like it's caving in.  When it does, here's a little secret I once heard that I want to now share with you.  Look down at your hands.  Stretch out your fingers and start to count your blessings.  I like to say to myself, "I have 10 fingers...1-2-3-4-5.  I can move all of them.  My skin is clear.  I can see.  I can hear.  I can talk. I can walk.  I have a family.  I have a home.  I have friends.  I have a job.  Not everyone has these.  I am blessed.  I am whole, and I can cope with setbacks."  Try it sometime, especially in your darkest hour.  Count your blessings this Thanksgiving by beginning with your fingers.

Jesus asked, "Weren't ten men healed?  Where are the other nine?  Why was this foreigner the only one who came back to thank God?" Then Jesus told the man, "You may get up and go.  Your faith has made you well." -Luke 17-17-19 

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 11:13 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, November 19 2014

Last Sunday was Commitment Sunday here at JCPC. I am always moved by the part of the service when we invite everyone to come forward, presenting their Commitment Cards and "Estimates of Giving" at the Communion Table. It is one of those gestures of self-offering that we don't do very often in life. I want to express my thanks to everyone who made a commitment during that service.

Last Sunday I talked about the offering Paul collected for the poorer Christians who were part of the church in Jerusalem. In regards to this offering, he encouraged the folks in Corinth with these words:  But since you excel in everything . . . see that you also excel in this grace of giving. . . . Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.  -2 Corinthians 8:7, 11, NIV 

Paul's words about giving could be summed up this way: Finish what you started. Those words speak to us. We have talked about our vision for new buildings to reach out to others in the name of Christ. Now it is up to each one of us to "finish the task" by making a meaningful, significant, and sacrificial gift. If you have yet to do so, please make your commitment as soon as you can. You may have already received a letter in the mail inviting you to go ahead and make commitments to our Capital Campaign and/or annual ministry and mission budget, if you have not done so. If you could do this before Thanksgiving, or at least by the end of November, it would help our Session know the amount pledged so we can make a wise and faithful decision about how to move forward.

On Sunday, December 7, we will announce the total amount pledged. We will also share briefly with the congregation our Session's decision about how we plan to move forward. In addition, we will invite those who wish to go ahead and make a gift to the New Building Fund to do so.

Please continue to pray for our church family - that we will all "finish" what God has started at JCPC!

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:17 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, November 18 2014

As I look back over this past weekend, the word that comes to mind is thanksgiving. I spent the weekend with 37 women from JCPC in Amicalola Falls for our Women's Retreat. As I reflect on my experiences from the weekend and my time here at JCPC, I continue to be grateful for the warm welcome that we received upon moving here. I am thankful for the constant support that this church family provides each week. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the ways that this cloud of witnesses has begun caring for our son, Will.  I am blessed to have the opportunity to grow in my faith with this community of believers.

I believe that thanksgiving is all about what God has done us. Since faith is our response to God's presence in our lives, then expressions of thanks are at the heart of our spiritual lives. From a very early age, I learned the practice of showing gratitude and sharing thanks for others. My mother spent time each year at Christmas and my birthday teaching me to write thank you notes. Anytime that we received a gift, not long after opening it, we sat down at the kitchen table and wrote our "thank yous".

What would you write in your thank you note to God today? Over the past few hours, days, weeks or months, what are you thankful for?

Many of the Psalms provide prayers and songs of thanksgiving. I was reading Psalm 100 this morning and found it to be meaningful prayer of praise and thanksgiving.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 09:14 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, November 17 2014

My daughter has a poster that hangs on the wall of her room. The poster stops me in my tracks every time that I read it because it has an inspirational quote that has been a favorite of mine throughout my life and its meaning changes as I grow.

"I can do all things through him who strengthens me!" Philippians 4: 13

When I was in high school, I leaned on this inspirational quote for motivation as I strove to be an All-State award winning athlete. When I enrolled in seminary, the inspiration was comforting as I engaged a process of discernment to understand my sense of calling to the ministry. Now, Paul's words capture my imagination as my graying hair sense of self longs for the contentment he speaks of while in prison.

"I have learned to be content with whatever I have." Philippians 4: 12.

How does a chained man in jail speak of contentment, let alone a peace that transcends understanding?

The poster in my daughter's room is a stark contrast to the room from which Paul penned his love letter to the church at Philippi.

Look at a Roman jail cell and wonder this with me.

While you and I haven't been imprisoned in such dank and dreary confines, we have our own chains that constrict us that create worry rather than joy; conflict rather than contentment.

On Sunday, I will be preaching from the beautiful scripture Philippians 4. We will explore together what I have identified as the 3 Ps of the faith of Paul. Read the chapter and see if you can come up with your own list of the 3 Ps. I'm not going to tell you what mine are, so you'll have to come to worship and find out. I promise that you will leave the service knowing how to rejoice in all things. Oops. I just gave away one of the 3 Ps.

To God be the glory. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 09:07 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, November 14 2014

Check out our inspiring Capital Campaign Video.

1 Corinthians 8:9-13
"For you know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich."  (1 Corinthians 8: 9)

There it is - the reason for, the model for, the example for our giving - in the grace and the sacrifice of Christ himself. 

The most familiar, and perhaps most important, words in the New Testament are found in John 3:16.  "For God so loved ... He gave ... His only Son ... that everyone who believes in Him ... might have eternal life." 

God so loved ... you ... that He gave ... His Son ... that you ... might have eternal life.  Now each of us knows what "sacrificial giving" truly means.  In God's heart, you were worth it.

Has this church blessed and shaped and changed your life? Maybe you have never been a part of a capital campaign in this congregation.  If that is true, then this church exists with the tools and the facilities to serve you in Christ's name only because of the sacrifice and the gifts of others.  For them, you were worth it.

Maybe you have been a part of this church for a long time.  Maybe you have made sacrifices before so that this church could minister to people in Christ name.  If so, then you have seen the lives of many people change because of what you have given.  Was it worth what you have given?  You know it was worth it - and you know that this new commitment will be translated into stories of faith that you can scarcely imagine. You know it will be worth it.

God gave ... other people of faith have given ... now it is time for your faithful, hopeful, joyful response. "Now finish doing this, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has."  (1 Corinthians 8: 11-12)

Action item:  Follow through!  Make the pledge commitment that you feel right about and joyful about in your heart.  And over the next several years, as you see God's grace work wonders in people's lives, in part through your gift, ask yourself - was it worth it?

Posted by: Capital Campaign Daily Devotional AT 03:34 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, November 13 2014

Check out our inspiring Capital Campaign Video.
 

2 Corinthians 9:6-15
"Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7)

A capital campaign ... above and beyond giving ... sacrificial giving.  Someone will describe such capital campaign giving in this way: "I know what that means ... it means give until it hurts!"

Give until it hurts?  Making a sacrifice actually means giving up something of meaningful value to you in order to give to something that means even more to you.  It is giving something you care about to something you love even more.  The lasting effect of such giving should not be "hurt," but rather the joy discovered in giving yourself to those things that are most important to you. 

Give until it hurts?  Try giving until you discover some joy.  The joy of making a difference in a God-given calling.  The joy of aligning your life with God's grace and will.   The joy of a meaningfully and purposefully committed life. The joy of doing your part along with a whole community of faithful people.  The joy of helping to make miracles - large and small - happen. The joy of seeing people's lives change because of seeds you planted and nurtured. The joy of glorifying God. 

Indeed, as Paul says to the church in Corinth, "you will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God." (verse 11).

Give until it hurts? No one is being asked to hurt in this campaign. If that is where you are heading, then you are going about this decision in the wrong spirit.  Besides, giving until it hurts is far too easy. If you want a real challenge - and a real blessing in your life - try giving in ways that mean so much to you that you discover joy in your commitment.

Action Item:  Make a list of the reasons why you are GLAD to give - your own litany of rejoicing and thanksgiving.

Posted by: Capital Campaign Daily Devotional AT 03:05 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, November 12 2014

Check out our inspiring Capital Campaign Video.

Mark 14:3-9
"But Jesus said, 'Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me.'" (Mark 14:6)

Can you picture the scene? This was a tense setting.  Word was that the authorities were looking for ways to arrest Jesus.  This was a place for serious conversation and for invited guests only.

And then came this woman with the perfume.  Who invited her?  And who gave her permission to pour the entire contents of a perfume jar on the head of the guest of honor? Can you imagine the smell?  You know the way to use perfume.  Just a little dab will do.  But she poured out the perfume like football players dousing their coach with the Gatorade bucket.  And why waste so much expensive perfume?  As some said, it could have been
sold -- and the money could have been given to the poor.

We do not know this woman's heart. Perhaps she had experienced the forgiveness of Jesus and felt so grateful for him that she had to find some way to bless Him.  Whatever the reasons, Jesus defended her heart, and her lavish gift.

One could debate that the resources your church needs to invest in ministry could be spent on any number of things.  Sometimes people may grumble, " A capital campaign? I want to give money to people, not to bricks and mortar."  In truth, investing in bricks and mortar is an important way to invest directly in impacting the lives of people.  Doing such ministries effectively requires such tools.  But instead of arguing the point of all that could be done, perhaps we should ask a different question.  Is what we are doing honoring God?  Is what we are accomplishing furthering the gospel of Jesus Christ?  Does what we are doing bless Christ?     

Very soon Jesus was stripped of His friends, His dignity, and His clothing as He was nailed to a cross. That dark day the only thing His tormentors could not get off of Him was the smell of that perfume on His head.  As Jesus struggled to draw painful breaths upon the cross, did the sweet smell of that loving gift strengthen Him to be broken and poured out for us all?

Action Item:  Make a list of the ways that your gift - and these projects - might bless God.

Posted by: Capital Campaign Daily Devotional AT 02:31 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, November 11 2014

Check out our inspiring Capital Campaign Video.

John 3:22-30 
"The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice.  That joy is mine, and it is now complete.  He must increase, and I must decrease." (John 3:29-30)

John the Baptist was a great man.  No less an authority than Jesus said so himself.  John was the last of the prophets.  When people heard him preach, they trembled.  He attracted disciples, crowds, and the attention of the press.  He even attracted the attention of kings and queens. 

But when Jesus came, John never forgot his place.  Despite being goaded by his disciples to be jealous of the early success of Jesus' ministry, John remained steadfast in his sense of place within God's plan.  He rejoiced in the following that Jesus attracted.  He even helped his own disciples to join with Jesus.  John 3:22-30 is John's explanation of his own role to his disciples.  Now my joy is complete.  He (Jesus) must increase, and I must decrease.

Have you discovered this truth yet?  Most of us think that joy increases as we increase - as our wealth and our prestige, our influence and our power increase.  But in fact, just the opposite is true. Lasting joy is not found at the top of the corporate mountain or at the pinnacle of power.  Joy is not a reward of accomplishment.  True joy is found where John the Baptist found it - by finding one's place in relationship to Jesus Christ. 

Are you ready to find joy complete?  He (Jesus) must continue to increase in significance and Lordship of our lives while we (our plans and ambitions) must decrease.
 
Action item:  Make a list of the things that really bring joy to your life.  You will find that the things that bring joy are not things at all, but rather gifts given to you (like family, health, a sunrise, a friend).  Perhaps the way to discover more joy is to give those kinds of gifts more fully to others.

Posted by: Capital Campaign Daily Devotional AT 10:39 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, November 10 2014

Check out our inspiring Capital Campaign Video.

Acts 4:32-37
"There was a man named Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means "son of encouragement")." Acts 4:36

The name "Joseph" is such a fine name.  In Hebrew, the name means "God's added blessing."  This was the name for the cherished son of the patriarch Jacob.  This was the name for Jesus' earthly father.  So why would the apostles give Joseph of Cypress a nickname like "Barnabas?"

Barnabas, Acts makes note to tell us, means "son of Encouragement". Apparently, this Joseph was such an encourager that a new name was in order.  When the early church needed money to underwrite its ministries, Joseph sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.  When Saul of Tarsus (renamed Paul) needed a friend to welcome him into the church he once persecuted, it was this Joseph who was that friend who nurtured Paul into a ministry of his own. When the church needed to send someone to encourage the new believers among the gentiles, they sent this Joseph.  When young Mark needed someone to believe in him and to give him a second chance to serve as a missionary, Joseph encouraged him.  Any wonder that all of Joseph's friends called him Barnabas - "son of encouragement"?

Your church needs generosity to underwrite its ministry.  Your church needs leaders - people who can speak up, step up, and help encourage others to passionate mission and generous giving.  Your gift makes a difference to the church, but so does your faith, your story, your passion.  Be a Barnabas!  Look for ways to encourage the faith of others by sharing your witness, your passion, your faith.  In doing so you multiply God's grace and influence the faithful response of others. 

Action item:  Make a list of your spheres of influence - people with whom you connect regularly and whom you have the opportunity to encourage.  Find at least one way to share your passion and your faith about these projects with the people in your spheres of influence.

Posted by: Capital Campaign Daily Devotional AT 10:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, November 07 2014

Check out our inspiring Capital Campaign Video.

Luke 19:29-35 
"The owners said, 'Why are you untying the donkey?' (The disciples) said, "The Lord has need of it." (Luke 19:33-34)

I already give to the church. How can I find ways to give more? 

Proverbs 3:9 encourages the faithful to "honor the Lord with your substance and with the first fruits of all your produce."   Your weekly or monthly income stream (your "produce") may not be the only resource in your life to make a gift from.  People often have valuable assets (your "substance") beyond their income stream.  By looking at all of your resources, not simply your income stream, you may discover assets or substance in your life which, if untied, can help you to give a far more substantial gift than you thought possible.

  • A retired family on fixed income could give only a limited amount per month.  That same family could also give the lakehouse used so less frequently now that their children and grandchildren had grown and moved.
  • An ex-fighter pilot and businessman gave the proceeds from selling his passionate hobby - an airshow airplane
  • A collector donated part of his art collection
  • A mechanic donated his Harley
  • A songwriter gave the rights to a song she had written
  • A family gave some of the property that they had inherited
  • Another family gave stock gains that they had speculated on
  • A family gave part of the retirement they had saved

Why did such people give things that they enjoyed and owned that had real value to them?  It is simple.  The Lord had need of it.  What they were giving to meant far more to them than what they were giving up. These people freed up resources that were tied up in the substance of their lives.  Untied, the "substance" which they had been blessed with could now be an even greater blessing as a gift.  Like the owners in Luke's gospel who provided Jesus with a way into the city of Jerusalem, these people had a donkey -- and the Lord had need of it.

Maybe it is time to untie your donkey, to free some of your substance and and bring it.  The Lord has need of it.

Action item: Do an inventory of your "substance."  Are there assets in your life that you could untie in order to enlarge your giving?

Posted by: Capital Campaign Daily Devotional AT 09:09 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, November 06 2014

Check out our inspiring Capital Campaign Video.

John 15:1-9
Every branch that bears fruit (God) prunes to make it bear more fruit.
-John 15:2

How can I find ways to give?  Maybe I need to cut back in some overgrown areas of my life in order to bear better fruit in my life for God's kingdom.

If you have ever grown grapes in your yard, then you will know that grapevines will naturally overextend themselves with prolific branching and leaf growth every year.  If grapevines are not pruned, all of the branching and leaf growth can completely cover an arbor in as little as two growing seasons.

Unchecked, branching growth, while great for simply covering up space, is terrible for bearing fruit.  Such overgrown grapevines will bear tiny, unusable fruit - if it is able to bear fruit clusters at all. The extensive branching and leafing drains the resources and energy of the vine from its primary purpose - bearing fruit.

Look at the pictures of a well-kept vineyard whose purpose is to bear good fruit.  You will see thick, decades old grapevines pruned back to no more than four short branches so that all the energy of the plant is focused on growing great grapes.  Pruning - heavy, regular pruning - is necessary to bearing good fruit.

How overextended is your life?  What all have you branched out into? We may think that wildly branching out everywhere as fast as we can grow helps us to cover all the bases in life; but in truth, such unmanaged growth just keeps us from bearing any real fruit.  Ask yourself, "Where could I cut back so I could invest the time and energy and resources available to me into bearing the kind of good fruit in my life that matters?"  If it has been awhile in your life since you paid any attention to pruning, you may be astonished as to how overgrown and overextended your life has become.  No wonder Jesus says that God will prune our lives to help us bear better fruit.

Action Item:  Make a list of areas in your life that are overgrown.  What branches can you cut out?  What resources does that pruning free up for you to invest in bearing good fruit?

Posted by: Capital Campaign Daily Devotional AT 10:04 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, November 05 2014

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2 Samuel 24: 18-25
I will not offer a sacrifice to the Lord my God that costs me nothing.
-2 Samuel 24:24

Finally we are heading toward home plate and getting close to being ready to fill out a pledge card. But this gift has become something more than a donation! We have first given ourselves to the Lord. We have prayed for God's will to be done in our lives. We have looked hard at our resources in order to find every way to make our faith real with our gifts. This gift has become a stewardship decision that re-shapes your life - you are growing in your discipleship!

Any gift will make some difference to the church, but a stewardship decision is a gift that makes a difference in you.  Through this gift God is actually growing your faith and your commitment.

Such a gift will certainly cost you something.  King David had an opportunity to make an easy "sacrifice" (or offering) to God.  Araunah was going to give him the whole deal - the threshing floor (the place for the altar), the oxen, and even the wood for the sacrifice - for nothing.  What a deal!  But David realized that such a deal was really no sacrifice for himself at all, no worship that honored his Lord and God.  "I will not offer a sacrifice to the Lord my God which costs me nothing," David said.

Offering yourself to God - giving sacrificially - does not come easy.  It will cost you something.

Does your giving model the kind of commitment that would honor and worship God?

Does your sacrifice make a real difference to you? Are you giving in ways that shape your living? If you can answer "yes" then you are not simply sharing a gift -- you are sharing your faith.

Action Item: Reflect on this question - Does what I am thinking about giving make a difference in the way I live my life?
  

Posted by: Capital Campaign Daily Devotional AT 09:19 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, November 04 2014

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2 Corinthians 8:7-8
"Now as you excel in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in the love we inspired in you - see that you abound in this gracious work of giving also. I am not speaking this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love."  (2 Corinthians 8:7-8)

Praxis is the point where our faith and our actions intersect. Praxis is the point where what we believe and what we do join together. To put it simply, praxis means walking the walk as well as talking the talk!

Now that we have made a faith commitment, and now that we have earnestly sought God's will in prayer, it is time to turn what we have learned into what we can do and will do. We are rounding third - finding ways to practice what we believe.

Now is the time to take inventory. Now is the time to ask another question: "OK Lord, what have You equipped me and blessed me to do?" What resources do I have to give? How can I think creatively about giving - beyond the narrow box of my income and expenses - in order to give of myself fully? Are there assets beyond my monthly income that I can give? Can I create new resources to give with my talents, gifts, and time? Does my faith commitment lead me to change other priorities in my life, reducing spending and thus freeing resources for giving?

There is no one "correct" plan that is right for everyone. There is no formula for the right pledge.  Making faith real is a unique journey for every individual. Your praxis is your way of walking the walk. Talking to the church in Corinth, Paul knows there is no formula for giving.  In fact, he realizes that he cannot command anyone about giving.  Giving has to grow from the heart.  But, as Paul well knows, giving is a test of the heart in action, a test of the genuineness of love. Giving is where what we believe gets real.

It is inventory time.  Worksheet time.  Time to get practical about God's blessings in your life and what you can (and will!) do to financially support God's work in this project.  It is time to get real.

Action item:  Make some lists.  First, identify (and give thanks for!) all that God has blessed you with.  Second, come up with a list of as many ways of giving that are possible to you (for example: changing spending, monthly pledge from income, gift of assets, etc, etc).  Begin to think of your pledge as a worksheet, and use this list as you determine your pledge over the next week.

Posted by: Capital Campaign Daily Devotional AT 09:08 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, November 03 2014

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Matthew 6:5-19
This, then, is how you should pray. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.  Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:9-10

Are you still intent on making a stewardship decision?  When you have decided to make your decision a matter of faith, then the next step is to seek God's will. "They gave themselves first to the Lord, and, by the will of God, then to us." -2 Corinthians 8:5

Seeking God's will means getting God involved in your decisions and in your life! Seeking God's will means inviting God's input and guidance. It means genuinely asking, "What would You do through me, Lord, to make Your will happen in my church?"

Where does one ask for God's guidance and seek God's will? How does one invite God to participate in his or her life? Those things happen as we intentionally spend time in prayer.

A stewardship decision is a prayerful commitment. A stewardship decision invites God to the dialogue and involves God in the discussion. A stewardship decision becomes much more than just my sense of goodwill... it means discovering and acting within a sense of God's goodwill.

Taking the turn at second base will take much time for prayer... time for listening and learning and reflecting ... time for asking and searching and seeking.  Getting to second base means turning even further from what I am willing to do toward what God wills in my life.

Action Item: Listen well over the next week.  Make note in your journal what you hear and believe God is speaking to you.

Posted by: Capital Campaign Daily Devotional AT 09:41 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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