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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, January 30 2015

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.  My heart leaps for joy, and I will give thanks to him in song. 

-Psalm 28:7
 
As a young child, one of my all-time favorite Vacation Bible School songs went like this ... I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart (where?) ... down in my heart (where?) ... down in my heart to stay!  We all sang with great gusto as we marched down the crimson carpet to our appointed wooden pew.
 
Oh, to again experience innocent joy as only possible through the eyes of a small child - sheer, unadulterated joy, not bound by the burdens of a life filled with grown-up responsibility.  But inside this adult heart still lives that free-spirited child, for the joy of the Lord is my strength!  That strength has helped me smile through many tears.
 
How about you?  Where is your joy?  What did you do for yourself today simply for the joy it brought to your life?  What have you recently done for others to bring joy into their world?  Or is your joy buried underneath all the other "stuff" of life?  If today is a day when you need a lift, click on the link below and allow this infectious song to minister to your heart!
 
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart!
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z29h7HUcJus&list=RDZ29h7HUcJus&index=1

Prayer for Today 
 
Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love!  Joyful music leads us sunward in the triumph song of life.  Amen.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 08:30 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, January 29 2015

Be still, and know that I am God!
-Psalm 46:10

As I walked into my 91 year-old dad's dementia care facility in Buckhead this past weekend, I found him in the common area behind all the ladies playing bingo.  He was sitting upright in his chair with his eyes closed.  I approached him, grabbed his hand, and said "Hello, Dad."  Immediately his eyes opened as he said, "Hello, Son."  It was obvious as I stirred him from his slumber and that there was a lot more pep to his step than usual.
 
We talked for a few moments and expanded our conversation circle to include all the ladies playing bingo.  While doing 90% of the talking, I peppered the conversation with remembrances of years gone past. While it was obvious that Dad didn't remember, by the grin on his face, he clearly was taking delight in just hearing the stories.
 
After a couple of hours of sitting together, I said, "What do you now want to do, Dad?"  He said, "C'mon."  Helping him off the couch, I grabbed his hand as he then slowly led me down the hall.  I had no idea where we were going or what we were doing.  Hand in hand, we walked, until we got to the end of the hallway.
 
Then Dad said, "Let's turn around."  So we reversed course, grabbed opposite hands, and step by step continued to walk about as slowly as two people can walk.  At first, I found myself a little impatient, wanting to walk faster.  But that wouldn't do, so I relaxed and simply went at Dad's pace.  We walked to the end of the hall.  Dad said, "Let's turn around."  So once again, we turned back around and started over again hand in hand.
 
As we walked, I began to call out all the names on the doorways as we passed.  Many of Dad's neighbors greeted us as we walked by.  We also took notice of all the impressionistic paintings on the wall.  Much of the walking, however, was simply done in silence.  We walked for 30 minutes and did 20 laps back and forth until Dad was finally called to dinner.  I then hugged and kissed him and said good-bye.
 
The more I live the more I realize that "God moments" in life rarely come when we rush.  They come as we slow down and simply be still and listen.  I wouldn't trade those moments with Dad for anything, especially the walking.
 
Prayer for Today 

Dear God, we thank you for our parents, who mean so much to us in so many ways that we don't fully understand until later in life.  Help us to be still and know that you are God as we "be still" with those we love.  Amen.  

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 08:53 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, January 28 2015

A few years ago, as I was driving up to Montreat, North Carolina for the Montreat Youth Conference, I was listening to a program on National Public Radio. It was one of those programs in which some very intelligent and witty people answer questions about words and their origins. The panelists were asked to define the word "theic." One panelist with a fake Southern accent jumped in and said, "Where I come from back home, it's the opposite of thin!" (If you don't get that, you're probably not from the South -- so try saying "theic" out loud.)
 
This talk of "theic" and "thin" reminded me of what someone said at that Montreat conference. The person talked about Celtic Christianity and the idea of "thin" places on earth. "Thin" places are thought to be certain locations on earth where God feels closer or more accessible. The Isle of Iona is thought to be such a place. This person thought Montreat might also be one of these "thin" places, because so many folks talk about how near God seemed to be when you are there. Maybe you have experienced something like that at other places.
 
Now I don't know how to think about such "thin" places theologically, or how all of that squares with the omnipresence of God - that God is everywhere. And I don't know if you can try to make a place "thinner," or if "thinness" is all grace and simply a gift from God. But I did wonder if the Chapel of Johns Creek Presbyterian Church is, or could become, one such "thin" place - a place where God seems especially close. Maybe for some of us, it already is.
 
One thing we have been promised is that when we gather for worship, especially in the breaking of bread and the sharing of the cup we call Communion or the Lord's Supper, Christ has promised to be particularly present to us. So, as we gather to worship God and celebrate the Lord's Supper this Sunday, may we experience some of the "thinness" of this place and the presence of God!
 
But as for me, it is good to be near God. - Psalm 73:28a, NIV

Prayer for Today 
 
Gracious God, sometimes you seem very close to us, yet other times it seems like you are distant. Help us to remember that however we experience your presence, you have promised to be with us always - even to the end of the age. Help us to hold on to your promise - especially when things are difficult. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:40 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, January 27 2015

What does love look like? Those who have experienced God before us provide snapshots of God's love for us. This love speaks through their words. It speaks through their actions.

 As different as their lives and cultures were from ours, God's love remains the same. Love speaks to us on our darkest days and in our brightest hours. Love speaks to us through stories and snapshots. Love speaks to us through actions and words.
 
Who in your life has helped you to better understand the love that Jesus calls us to, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these.  -Mark 12:30-31

As different as their lives and cultures were from ours, God's love remains the same. Love speaks to us on our darkest days and in our brightest hours. Love speaks to us through stories and snapshots. Love speaks to us through actions and words.
 
In Jesus' early days of ministry, he read from the scroll of Isaiah and told the people what God's love was about, to bring good news to the poor, freedom to the captives, sight to the blind, relief to the oppressed, and proclaim God's goodness in the year of the Lord.
 
How does your love for God and your neighbor speak through your actions and words?

Prayer for Today 
 
Loving God, Help us to teach others about your love through our words and actions today. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 08:42 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, January 26 2015

Be 212. The other day, a friend of mine exhorted me to "Be 212!"  Do any of you know what that means to Be 212? My friend told me to YouTube 212 degrees and I would understand. So I did.

At 211 degrees water is very hot, but when it reaches 212 degrees it boils. Boiling water creates steam and steam can have enough force to power a locomotive. It only takes one degree more to create the power you need to get things done in your life. I must confess, I feel motivated when I hear that putting  one degree more in what I'm doing can make all the difference; one extra degree. Be 212.
 
I wouldn't have been motivated if I was instructed to do one thing more in my life. I think I'm like most of us who feels like I'm stretched to the max and that adding something more to my plate isn't all that appealing. Putting the extra degree into what I'm doing could make all the difference!
 
We get things done in our lives through effort, care, and attention. Rather than taking more on, what would happen in your life if you put one degree more into the effort, care, and attention in what you are already doing in your life? What would happen if you put one degree more into listening to a friend in the conversation in which you are involved?  What would happen if you put one degree more into the attention on your family? What would happen if you put one degree more into the care of your faith?
 
The Apostle Paul reminded the Colossian Church to Be 212 through a different exhortation:
 
You are God's chosen people. You are holy and dearly loved. So put on tender mercy and kindness as if they were your clothes. Don't be proud. Be gentle and patient. Put up with one another. Forgive one another if you are holding something against someone. Forgive, just as the Lord forgave you. And over all these good things put on love. Love holds them all together perfectly as if they were one.

What difference will it make in your faith when you give God your extra degree?!! Be 212!

Prayer for Today 
 
Loving God, we thank you for choosing us to be your holy people.  Through your Holy Spirit inspire us to put that extra degree in our walk of faith, so that will become the people you are calling us to be in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 09:14 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 23 2015

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. 
-Romans 8:24-25

Last night, I was honored and blessed to serve as a volunteer at a fundraising event at City of Refuge in Vine City.  Much of the surrounding community is in a state of decline - rotting houses, graffiti-covered store fronts, crumbling sidewalks - one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city.  But at the center of the decay, the mission and ministry of City of Refuge offers light, hope, and transformation to Atlanta's last, lost, and least.
 
The guest of honor for the evening was Keshia Knight Pulliam, best known for her role as precocious Rudy Huxtable on The Cosby Show to the 50+ crowd, and for her work with Tyler Perry to the younger generation.  During her presentation, Keshia spoke about her non-profit, the Kamp Kizzy Foundation, a free mentorship camp for youth ages 11-16 in Atlanta.  She founded Kamp Kizzy, Keshia said, to offer hope to young people who cannot envision success for themselves because they don't even know what that picture looks like.
 
As believers, we are saved by faith, not hope, but hope accompanies salvation.  Though we may not have a clear picture of what lies ahead, hope sustains us in times of suffering.  The certainty of Christian hope is a cause for joy!  Our God is a God of hope, and it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to persevere and endure, to wait eagerly for what we do not yet see.
 
Scripture passages adorn the walls of City of Refuge, but the verse most commonly displayed is from the gospel of Matthew:  "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."  City of Refuge, where GOOD WORKS and hope transforms lives!
 
http://www.cityofrefugeatl.org/

Prayer for Today 
 
Lord, we give thanks for the ministry of many faithful servants offering hope to those who are hopeless.  May they feel the presence of your Holy Spirit at work in their lives and hold on in faith that you journey with them.  Amen.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 03:02 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, January 22 2015

Jesus said to his disciples: I am the vine, and you are the branches.  If you stay joined to me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit.  But you cannot do anything without me.
-John 15:5
 
Though it may be a cliché, it is so true: the Christian faith is about relationships-to each other and to God.  That is the heart of what we are about, as we gather for worship or Bible study or mission or any of the wonderful, life-giving things we do as a church.  We do it together!  Jesus affirmed that point in his final self-describing metaphor in the gospel of John.  Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches.  We connect with the vine, we produce fruit, we are pruned, and we are dependent upon God, our gardener.
 
This theme will be fleshed out this Sunday in worship, which will be Youth Sunday, when our young people lead in every aspect of our service.  It is safe to say that this Sunday is unlike any other.  Something may happen that is not even printed in the bulletin!  I invite you to use this opportunity to invite outsiders to worship this morning.  What a wonderful asset and blessing our young people are to this church!

Prayer for Today 
 
O God, we give you thanks for Youth Sunday, and we pray for something to happen in worship that is transcendent.  May your Spirit be felt throughout the congregation, such that our lives are impacted way past noon.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 10:38 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, January 21 2015

If someone were to ask, "What is the world's largest organism," what would you say? Maybe the giant sequoia or the blue whale? Some scientists are suggesting that it may be a 106 acre, 6,000 ton stand of genetically identical quaking Aspens that have been cloned naturally from a single root system in Utah. There are no breaks in the interconnected filigree of roots from which some 47,000 Aspen stems grow. Dr. Jeffrey Mitton of the University of Colorado said, "If you could look into the soil and trace the roots of all these things that look like independent trees, you would find that they are in fact connected by a common root system." The result he said is a single organism "that can literally climb over mountains and across meadows."

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
- Ephesians 4:3-6, 16, NIV
 
The words above written by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians speak of the unity and the diversity of the "one" church of Jesus Christ. In thinking about images for what the church is like, maybe these Aspen trees remind us that while we all have different expressions of our Christian faith, we are all interconnected at our "roots." No matter who we are or where we come from, we share a common bond because of our faith in Christ.

Prayer for Today 
 
Thank you, God, for calling us together to be united as your church. Enable us to celebrate how you have made us different, while remaining connected to one another through Jesus the Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:31 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, January 20 2015

God, the one and only- I'll wait as long as he says. Everything I hope for comes from him, so why not? He's solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, an impregnable castle: I'm set for life. My help and glory are in God -granite-strength and safe-harbor-God- So trust him absolutely, people; lay your lives on the line for him. God is a safe place to be.
Psalm  62:5-8 (The Message)
 
The imagery in this translation of Psalm 62 was very reassuring to me. Deep down, I know that God is a safe place to be. Often, I get so caught up in my own agenda that I don't take the time to enjoy that wonderful gift.
What would happen if we, in every part of our lives, took time to breathe or pause, to take time to respond and see what happens? Where is the silence in our lives that gives us space to trust in God who speaks in the silence and guides us in how we respond?
 
While there are times we need to respond quickly, there are other times when it's best to slow down, take a few breaths, offer a prayer, and then act. I would invite you to find a moment or two to slow down today so that you can listen and pray. 

Think about how you respond, when you have to make a quick decision... and when you have time to think it through. What would you do differently? How can you invite God into that process?
 
Stop. Take a few breaths. Take a few more. Listen. Wait. Pray. Then respond.

Prayer for Today 
 
God, I am listening to you in this place of rest. Open my eyes, ears, hands and heart to respond to your calling. In Christ's Name, Amen.
 

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 11:15 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, January 19 2015

Back in 1967, I was a frightened 10 year old. It wasn't that I lacked confidence in myself that led to my anxiety, rather it was the National Guard tank that tore up the asphalt on my street that scared me. You see, we were in the midst of a race riot and the National Guard was being deployed along with a 6:00 p.m. curfew. Buildings in the Akron/Canton/Cleveland area were being set ablaze and when the first responders arrived, they were being shot by snipers. As a 10 year old, I didn't understand the hatred and violence that was shattering my sense of security.

One man who helped me regain my lost sense of security was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. On television, I had watched him speak with a calm confidence that both soothed my soul and fed a nascent faith that was searching for heroes. Each time I heard him speak, I felt a deep sense of AMEN arise in my soul.
 
I heard other messages from what seemed like hate mongers to me; Gov. George Wallace, Malcom X, the Black Panthers, and the KKK. None of their messages seemed to ring true to my impressionable mind. However, when I remember first hearing Dr. King's I Have a Dream speech, the bar was set to heavenly heights here on my confused and confusing world.
 
I still get chills when I hear recordings of his voice proclaiming, I have a dream that one day my four children will not be judged by the color of their skin but on the content of their character. He's right I thought. As a 10 year old, even I knew what was fair and wasn't. But his message was more than an apologist's version of what is right and wrong. He shared a strength to love as he walked the walk of the talk he talked. Whether dogs were unleashed on his marchers, fire hoses knocked his followers to the ground, or he was arrested or he was thrown in jail, Dr. King showed me how to love in a hate-filled world. Thank you God for your servant, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King!

Prayer for Today 
 
We thank you God for all your servants who proclaim your gospel and live for your kingdom. As we remember the life of Martin Luther King we pray that you bless us with inspiring dreams and courageous faith. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 11:30 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 16 2015

Faith Is ...

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  
-Hebrews 11:1
 
American poet Emily Dickinson once wrote:
 
"Faith" is a fine invention
                For Gentlemen who see!
                But Microscopes are prudent
                In an Emergency!
 
And a portion of another of her writings ...
 
                Faith - is the Pierless Bridge
                Supporting what We see
                Unto the Scene that We do not -
 
Though Emily was brought up in a Calvinist household, attended religious services with her family, and received her first Bible at the age of 13 - a gift from her father - Dickinson did not join the church and ultimately stopped attending services altogether.  Despite this, her poems reveal a keen interest in issues of faith and doubt.
 
Critical analysis of the first allegory commonly refers to Ms. Dickinson's life-long struggle to reconcile her family's traditional Christian beliefs with newly emerging scientific concepts.  Yet, in the second poem, it is most interesting that she equates faith with the image of a pierless bridge.
 
As Christians, we affirm that Jesus Christ is made the sure foundation of our lives, in whom we put our confidence alone.  Our faith is not a state of being, but a process of becoming what we are called to be in relationship to God, other people, and the world.  To the unbeliever, faith may not hold any substance in the real world because the eye cannot perceive it.  But that pierless bridge of faith is solid and takes us to something far beyond our sight, a foretaste of glory divine!

Prayer for Today 
 
Lord, our faith looks up to you, and we are wholly thine.  Our hope is built on nothing less than Christ the solid Rock.  Help us to rest in the blessed assurance that Jesus is ours, as we grow in our journey by faith and not by sight.  Amen.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 08:25 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, January 15 2015

This past Sunday I visited my dad in his dementia care facility in Atlanta.  As I walked in, I found him in the common room sitting upright with a dazed look on his face.  Next to an elderly woman, he was watching a shoot-'em-up 70s Charles Bronson movie, something he normally would never do.
 
As Dad is in the late stages of Alzheimer's, I always have to introduce myself, so I gave him my common greeting: "I'm Scott, your youngest and favorite and best looking son!"  Such a response usually brings forth a snicker from Dad, but not this day.  He seemed more troubled, even more confused.  He mumbled an unintelligible response. 
 
I engaged Dad in conversation, struggling through some small talk.  I made him a bag of popcorn, which he voraciously devoured. I then suggested we go for a walk.  I helped him up, took his hand, and began to slowly walk him down the hall.  We headed for his bedroom.  Upon arrival, he seemed fatigued, so I suggested I put him into his bed.  I helped him remove his jacket, took off his shoes, laid him down, and put a pillow under both his head and his knees.  As we continued to talk softly, it was as if Dad was speaking a foreign language.  Doggoneit, this disease has not only ravaged his memory, but now also at times his speaking. 
 
I held Dad's hand as he lay down and began to fall into a deep slumber.  I found myself speaking tenderly to him, lulling him to sleep, as I recall doing with my own children when they were very small.  Only this time, I don't even think Dad could distinguish me from one of the nurses.  When it seemed like he was clearly asleep, I got up to leave.  My parting words I softly spoke were, "Love you, Dad." 
 
And in an amazing moment, as if to stir momentarily from both his slumber and his incoherence without even opening his eyes, Dad clearly spoke back, "Love you, Son."  So much beauty and so much pain all in one encounter.
 
As I left his room that day misty-eyed, I was bemoaning the loss of my dad, as he succumbs to an ugly disease that is slowly ravaging each lobe of his brain.  At the same time, however, I was also celebrating the memory of who he was as well as the small remnant of who he still is.
 
In the midst of all the pain that life brings, may we celebrate the places of joy in our lives and never let go of that deep, abiding hope that someday soon as God's kingdom comes, there will be no more death, no more pain, no more heartache, no more Alzheimer's.  Thanks be to God.
 
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.  For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime.  Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.         
-Psalm 30:4,5

Prayer for Today 

Thank you, O God, for the love that binds us all together and makes us family.  Even in the midst of the pain, may we celebrate that indeed, joy comes in the morning. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 10:53 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, January 14 2015

And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. - Mark 1:17-18, NIV

A few years ago, Pam and I went to Beaufort, South Carolina, for the weekend. One day we decided to take a walking tour of the city. Our guide was a former actor who had settled there. As we walked through the town, we would ask questions about what we were seeing. Our guide always answered our questions with this phrase: "Wait, for all shall be revealed." After he said it a number of times, we realized this was part of the way he told his story. Sometimes good storytellers have favorite words or phrases that help move the story along.
 
When it comes to Mark's gospel, one of his favorite words is "immediately." Throughout his telling of the story of the life of Jesus, so many things happen "immediately" in response to something Jesus said or did.
 
I wonder how often we feel compelled to do or say something immediately because of our relationship with God. Sometimes we can get so use to the Biblical commands to "wait" and "be patient" that we may get lulled into missing the times when God says to us "now" or "immediately." What is going on around you right now through which God is calling you to do something right now? What is keeping you from doing that?
 
In the words above from Mark's gospel, all Jesus had to say to those fishermen was, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of people." And immediately they left all they had and followed him. What is God asking you to do immediately? Whatever it is, I hope you will do it - right now! Maybe this is one of the ways God is teaching you to "fish for people" -- so they can find a life-transforming relationship with Jesus.

Prayer for Today 

Loving God, sometimes you tell us to wait. Sometimes you tell us to do something immediately. Help us to hear your voice, to discern what you are saying to us, and to do what you ask. We know that when we do what you ask - it will make a difference in our world and in our lives. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:14 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, January 13 2015

The Lord said to Joshua, "This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses. You are the one who shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, 'When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.'" -Joshua 3:7-8
 
Can you think of a time when you were about to embark on a big challenge or new endeavor? Maybe you are in that place right now, at the start of a new year. God had some very important advice for Joshua as he is getting ready to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. Before he went ahead, God told him to stand still in the Jordan River. Why do you think he asked Joshua to do that
 
At times like these, it is important to know that God is present with you and position yourself to listen, to trust, to follow - even if you think you already know where you're headed. Sometimes when I have a clear sense of what I need to do next, I can have the attitude of, "Thanks for everything, God; I can take it from her.," But this part of the story reminds me God's ongoing presence and how Joshua is instructed to stand still in the water. God has a plan. Both Joshua and Moses are called to lead by following God first. I believe that we are called to do the same. Our first priority is to follow God.
 
Have you ever heard this ancient Jewish saying, "May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi"? It is meant to encourage us to be good disciples who follow your rabbi, your teacher, so closely that you get dusty from the dirt he kicks up as he walks. Follow not only what he teaches but also where he goes and what he does. I pray that you will respond to God's call to follow and as a result be covered in the dust of our Teacher, Jesus Christ.

Prayer for Today 

God our Teacher, Help us to stand still and listen for your guidance so that we can put our trust in your and follow where you will us. In Christ's Name, Amen. 

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 07:40 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, January 12 2015

If you were at JCPC yesterday morning you witnessed the Presbyterian Church at its best. The essence of what it means to be Presbyterian was on display for visitors and members alike. Here at JCPC we blend two mottos that highlight what it means to be a Christian.

Worship is the most important thing we do and
Not for us alone!  These are modern phrases that mirror Jesus' teaching of the great commandment; "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul...and love your neighbor as yourself."

The narthex was lined with tables representing the various missions that we support through our Outreach Ministry. Clearly our mission embodies our creed, not for us alone.
 
During worship, we welcomed new members and said thank you to ruling elders who have rotated off of the session. Christie DiPietro, Render Freeman, Karen Jordan, Steve Simpson, and Terri MacDonald deserve our appreciation for their service to JCPC. Presbyterian Church government honors God's call to men and women to serve in leadership roles in the Body of Christ. These elders embody the Presbyterian Church at its best.
 
Gray preached a powerful sermon identifying the leadership attributes of Moses and then we ordained and installed a new class of elders. Julia DeKold, Ross Johnston, David Lee, Connie Overby, and Tom Traylor experienced the laying on of hands as they received their blessing to serve as ruling elders on our session.
 
I was awed when all ruling or teaching elders in attendance were invited forward to bless these new elders. I'm not sure how many elders came forward but it surrounded the new elders like a cloud of witnesses.

I found myself wondering about the rich history that each of these elders brought with them, mostly unspoken, but there none the less. How many different churches had they served, when did they receive their call to serve and how had they grown in their faith over the years as they served as leaders in the church? Please pray for our newest class of ruling elders and lets grow together in our faith through our worship of God and service to neighbor.

Prayer for Today 

Help us to hear your call, O God of Covenant, and ready our souls stretch and grow in the discipleship of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 04:16 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 09 2015

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world ... After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.  -Hebrews 1:1-2 and 2:3-4
 
When speaking of a "miracle," we are commonly referring to a supernatural event not explicable by natural or scientific law, such as a miraculous remission of a serious and life-threatening illness that mystifies physicians.  Both the Old and New Testaments are full of narratives relating the miraculous wonders of our Almighty God.  But what about the everyday occurrences worth rejoicing?
 
A good friend of mine sent me an email days before Christmas, wishing me a day of ordinary miracles.  At first reading, that seemed to me an oxymoron, but further into the message, I found myself thinking just the opposite!  Would a warm bed, something most take for granted, not be considered an "ordinary miracle" to a homeless person?
 
As you journey through this day, take note of the many ordinary miracles that come your way.  Perhaps a fresh pot of coffee that you didn't have to make yourself, an unexpected phone call from an old friend, or the fastest line at the grocery store are indeed ordinary miracles!
 
I wish for you a day of happiness and bite-size pieces of perfection that leave you feeling that the Lord is smiling on you, holding you gently and guiding your steps.  I wish for you a day of peace, happiness, and joy.

Prayer for Today 

Lord, we pause to give thanks for the many blessings we encounter this day.  Help us to rejoice in the ordinary miracles occurring all around us!  Amen.
 

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 10:02 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, January 08 2015

With both my children out of state visiting family and friends, this year was a nontraditional Christmas for me, to say the least. So on Christmas day, I visited my 91 year old dad in his new home, a dementia care facility near Lenox Square in Atlanta.  What struck me most upon arrival was the joy expressed by all the workers, especially the nurses and the kitchen crew.  The delightful waiter that served us lunch was from the island of Samoa.  He brought us a delicious honey baked ham lunch, and served with a smile on his face.  We learned a little of his story: this courteous, intelligent man was a doctor on the island but did not have the proper certification to be practicing medicine here in the States, so here he was, serving elderly people in need.  After lunch, Dana, the nurse helped direct my dad back to his room...with a smile on her face.  She had a hearty laugh, as well as clearly a special relationship with my dad.

 
After lunch, Dad began to experience more pain in his knee from a fall he had sustained earlier in December.  So I took him to the emergency room.  Upon our arrival at Northside, the hospital administrator checked us in...with a smile on her face.  We were then directed to a room, where my dad was given professional care by nurses and then a doctor, who all were there serving... on Christmas day...with smiles on their faces. 
 
It suddenly struck me that here folks were serving others in need on a day when most people are relaxing and hanging out with family.  And every one of them, most of whom make a very modest salary, was serving with smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts.  Spending eight hours on Christmas day split between a hospital emergency room and a senior living facility was not on my "bucket list," but encountering new friends who joyfully were doing God's work filled me with tremendous gratitude.
 
We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.  -Lucretius
 
Keep being concerned about each other as the Lord's followers should.  Be sure to welcome strangers into your home.  By doing this, some people have welcomed angels as guests, without even knowing it.  Remember the Lord's people who are in jail and be concerned for them.  Don't forget those who are suffering, but imagine that you are there with them.     -Hebrews 13:1-3

Prayer for Today 
 
O God, we are grateful for those in our midst who have sometimes thankless jobs, but who still do their work of serving people in need with a smile on their faces.  Bless them, O God.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 07:40 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, January 07 2015

Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy

Praise the Lord.
How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
-Psalm 147:1, NIV
 
When Johnny Carson ended his 27th anniversary program, he showed different video clips of the show. The clip he showed at the end of his program probably caught many folks off guard. You may have seen it. Johnny Carson was interviewing L.A. Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser. He had just pitched one of the great performances in the World Series.
 
Carson said that when Hershiser was pitching this amazing string of scoreless innings, he seemed to be talking to himself on the mound. Hershiser, a committed Christian, said that he was not talking to himself, but he was singing songs to calm himself down between pitches. Carson asked what kind of songs. Hershiser said that they were praise songs, and Carson asked him if he would sing one. In a very soft voice, Hershiser began to sing the Doxology in front of millions of viewers. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow. . ." Of all the video clips Carson could have chosen to end his anniversary special, he chose to end it with that one. Amazing!
 
Praise and the worship of God are amazing, not because of how well they are performed, but because they help center our lives on what or whom is most important. Today, I want to invite you, in your own way, to praise God. Maybe it is simply taking time to thank God for the good things in your life. Maybe it is singing your favorite spiritual song quietly to yourself -- or loudly! Whatever it is, praise God today simply because God is good and God is God.

Prayer for Today 

Thank you, God, for being good. We praise you for being the loving God you are. In the strong name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:22 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, January 06 2015

O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones. -Psalm 105:1-6

 
Have you ever experienced something so great you needed to tell everyone about it? Have you wanted to shout from the rooftops about something awesome that's happened for you? Take a moment to think of one experience you have had in the past month. Good things are worth sharing. So find a way to share that story with someone today or this week.
 
The Psalmist talks about the ways that God provides for the people of Israel as they journey to the Promised Land. God cared for Israel and provided what they needed. As you think about the story of the Israelites in the desert from Exodus, what things do you recall that God provided for them? God provided for their needs, but it doesn't mean it was easy.
 
However, just like the people of Israel, we are not alone. God provides for us in ways unexpected and, at times, unseen...but God always provides.

Prayer for Today 
 
Gracious God, each day you take care of me in ways seen and unseen. Help me to recognize you and celebrate the ways you walk with me each day. Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 10:57 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, January 05 2015

Happy New Year!

What resolutions did you make for the coming year?
 
The week after Christmas, a close friend of mine said that he was going to start a Biblical devotional and couldn't wait to get started. One Bible devotional a day was the goal. When I spoke again with him this weekend, he mildly chuckled and said, "I've been so busy, I'm already four days behind in my year through the Bible devotional!"  
 
What is it about the New Year that we think that through good intentions we can change ingrained patterns of behavior?
 
A 2007 study showed that 88% of us who set resolutions for the New Year fail even though the majority thought they would be successful.
 
I wasn't surprised that my friend's busyness continued to set the pace in his daily life. I think it is common place to read devotionals about slowing down and reconnecting with God these days. At times, it seems to me that the more we talk about slowing down, the more we speed up and continue to extend ourselves. Old habits die hard.
So should we refrain from making resolutions since 88% of us fail in the goals we set? Absolutely not! Goals are important for us to set even though many times we fall short of reaching them.
 
St. Paul knew something about falling short on goals when he wrote in Romans 7: 15 "I don't understand what I do. I don't do what I want to do. Instead, I do what I hate to do." Paul wasn't talking about New Year's resolutions, but rather he was speaking more about our human nature. We have good intentions but... for Paul, this is where grace comes in.
 
So for the New Year, I think I'm going to practice 2G: Goals and Grace. I have some ambitious goals and I'm sure that I will fall short on many of them. That's where the grace comes in. By the way, my friend called today and said he had caught up on his Biblical devotions. I suspect they are practicing 2G as well!

Prayer for Today 
 
Most Gracious God, fill us with hope and aspiration for the New Year. Help us to set our sights on goals that are pleasing to you and grant us the balance of drive and limitations, so that in all our actions, we will seek to glorify you and share your good news in our daily lives. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 10:42 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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