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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, October 30 2015

You may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith . . . may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. -1 Peter 1:6-7

In the book of Mark we read about a terrible storm.  The disciples were with Jesus on a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee.  When a "furious squall came up," the disciples, among them some seasoned fishermen, were afraid for their lives (4:37-38).  Did God not care?  Weren't they handpicked by Jesus and closest to Him?  Weren't they obeying Jesus who told them to "go over to he other side?" (verse 35) Why, then, were they going through such a turbulent time?

No one is exempt from the storms of life.  But just as the disciples who initially feared the storm later came to revere Christ more, so the storms we face can bring us to a deeper knowledge of God.  "Who is this," the disciples pondered, "even the wind and the waves obey him!" (verse 41)  Through our trials we can learn that no storm is big enough to prevent God from accomplishing His will. (5:1)

While we may not understand why God allows trials to enter our lives, we thank Him that through them we can come to know who He is.  We live to serve Him because He has preserved our lives.

Prayer for Today

Lord, I know I don't need to fear the storms of life around me. Help me to be calm because I stand secure in You.  Amen.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 07:19 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 29 2015

As I once heard, a consumer church is seen as a dispenser of religious goods and services.  People come to church to be "fed," to have their needs met through quality programs, and to have the professionals teach their children about God. 

A missional church is a body of people sent on a mission, who gather in community for worship, community encouragement and teaching from the Word in addition to what they are self-feeding themselves throughout the week.
 
A key distinction here is that "I go to church" is different from "I am the church."  May the trajectory of Johns Creek Presbyterian Church point us more and more toward the latter as mission become the heart and soul of what we are about.
 
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.   -1 Peter 2:9

Prayer for Today

Equip us, we pray, O God, with the courage to be the people you have called us to be. Send us into your world on a mission to be faithful in all things.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 07:05 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, October 28 2015

A while back I heard Scott Weimer, pastor of the North Avenue Presbyterian Church, talking about a woman who was one of their international members from Kenya. She came down front after a service and she told Scott that she missed some parts of the worship from Kenya. Scott asked what she missed. The woman said that she missed how they gave the offering. In her country, they placed the offering plates down front, and then people danced down the aisle while carrying their gifts up to place them in the offering plate. I wonder how that "offering dance" would go over here at JCPC.

This Sunday is the last in our Stewardship series. In the past, we have asked members to wait until Dedication Sunday to bring their "Estimate of Giving" cards forward at the end of the service. This year we are doing it a little differently. For the last two Sundays, I have invited members to go ahead and return the "Estimate of Giving" card -- or to go online to our website, click the box marked "Giving 2016 - To Boldly Go . . .", and make their pledge that way. If you have yet to do either, I want to encourage you to plan to bring your "Estimate of Giving" card to worship this Sunday, or go online and do it soon - especially if you can't be here this Sunday. We will not be doing what we usually do -- inviting folks to walk down front and place their card on the Communion table. But we will encourage you to place your card in the offering plate, or you can mail it to the church office. Thank you for your generous giving that enables us To Boldly Go and make a difference in our world.

One word of warning: the final hymn, "When the Saints Go Marching In" will be played by a Dixieland Jazz band that may make some of you "wild and crazy" Presbyterians want to dance down the aisle. See you this Sunday for a great day of worship at JCPC!

Prayer for Today

Thank you, God, for giving us all we need to live. Touch our hearts so that we might share a generous portion of what we have been given with others. In the strong name of Christ we pray. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 10:45 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, October 27 2015

Let us make man in our image. 
-Genesis 1:26

Whenever we read the creation story, I think we often focus on the second part of this sentence, we are made in the image of God. The first part, "let us" first tells us a little more about who God is. Before the creation of the world began God dwelled in perfect, loving harmony as a threefold being: Creator, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is community: one God, three persons.

Since we are made in God's image that's why our longing for community seems so deep and primal. It's how we're made. 

I was recently reading an article about brain development and why it's important to connect children with a worshiping community of faith. 

One part of the article really struck me. It said, "Positive feelings are rarely the product of isolation. Many positive emotions (empathy, gratitude, acceptance) actually require others... Communities can experience emotion and feeling together in ways individuals cannot." The article went on to discuss why it's important for children, as their brain is developing, to experience these emotions in community in order for them to know and then understand these emotions.

What are some of the communities that you are a part of? How do your experiences in them help you better understand empathy, gratitude and acceptance?

These types of relationships are at the core of who we are as human beings. I would encourage you to make time to connect with a community this week.

Prayer for Today

Creator God, Thank you for creating in us a longing for community. Guides as we open ourselves up to connecting with others this week. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 07:22 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, October 26 2015

When I walked to the back of the church offices yesterday I was struck to by the void space that was left by the removal of the trailers. I both wondered what would fill that void space and what void spaces were filled by the meeting that took place in the trailers over the years. Lives were literally healed and saved by the thousands of AA meetings that filled our trailers. The biblical story of creation tells us that God fills void space with the Holy Spirit:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. -Genesis 1:1-2

Sometimes filling void spaces is a thing of beauty such as the Pumpkin Patch. I drove by the patch yesterday and a few dozen people were exploring the wonders of this magical space. For 11 months a year, the space is void, yet beautiful, and then it is transformed into a welcoming place of wonder.

Filling void spaces involves transformation. During worship yesterday, Gray's sermon was based on the story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector who had cheated his people. We can only wonder the void Zacchaeus felt in his soul, in his community and with his God. Seeing Zacchaeus up a tree, a strange space to encounter God to say the least, Jesus beckoned to him:

Zacchaeus, come down immediately! I must stay at your house today. -Luke 19: 5

The tax collector's life was transformed by his encounter with Jesus.

Today, salvation has come into this house... -Luke 19: 9

Whether it's through God's Spirit moving over void spaces in the beginning or Jesus entering into void spaces God enters into our world, our communities and our lives to fill our void spaces with the joy of salvation. How will you respond to the God of void spaces?

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, fill the void of our lives with your Holy Spirit, so our lives will be transformed and we will be filled with the joy of your salvation. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 07:38 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, October 23 2015

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.  But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 

-Philippians 1:21-22 (ASB)
 
Jesus Christ was the source of the Apostle Paul's continual joy (even while imprisoned), for Paul's life found all its meaning in Christ.  He would have gladly died to his earthly self as Paul's ultimate concern and most precious possession was Jesus Christ and his relationship to Him.  Paul wanted to be in the presence of Jesus, yet at the same time he understood that God still had a purpose for him on this earth.
 
You are now entering your mission field.  God has a plan with a purpose for you, for me, for all of us!  While it may at times seem easier to avoid the messiness of our mission in LIFE, we are called to invest in ministering to others, living a life that is true to the teachings of Jesus.  The "fruitful labor" Paul refers to is the spreading of the gospel!
 
Do you feel "alive" in Christ?  Are you living for Jesus, seeking the lost and bringing the weary to find rest in him?  Are you sharing the good news of salvation, or have you built a fortress of protection around your heart, allowing the shadows of a sinful and broken world to overtake your thoughts?
 
If you have a heartbeat, God still has a mission for your life and isn't finished with you yet!  It is still necessary for you to remain on this earth for the sake of someone.  I invite you to think of those in your world and how you might share with them your faith story, living for Jesus through earth's little while.

Prayer for Today

O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to thee;
For thou, in thy atonement, didst give thyself for me;
I own no other master; my heart shall be thy throne,
My life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for thee alone.  Amen.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 01:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 22 2015

Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you so. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also.  John 14:1-4

Late Monday night, my Aunt Dottie Wooten died from a heart attack.  I'm attending her funeral today in Snellville, as we celebrate her life, acknowledge her death, and entrust her to the care and keeping of God.  Between her and my dad, they had over 180 years between them, and they died less than five months apart.  Even at 89,  her mind was razor sharp, She still loved to play bridge and was doing so regularly with two of our church members, George and Pat Petros. 
 
She was always fiercely independent--and rightfully proud of that. She was a feminist before the term became popularized, or at least she believed in her own wherewithal and inner strength.  She also genuinely took an interest in other people.  Like most of us, she experienced some setbacks in life, but in the end she felt she had overcome them to make it successfully on her own. In her physically declining years, she continued to live by herself  at her home in Stone Mountain until this year.
 
I personally was blown away that she insisted on coming to Dad's funeral back in May despite her frailty and her own poor health. She barely could walk and most of the time was in a wheelchair. And you could readily see she was in acute pain whenever she got up or moved on her own. She did not moan and groan about her ailments. But she would not be stopped...at least not until death. She continued to live as best she could with incredible enthusiasm and gratefulness.
 
I confess that I am now feeling "old," as Dottie was the last living relative of that generation on either side of the family.  With the one exception of a stepmom,  I now have no more living grandparents, parents, aunts, or uncles.  The family torch has now been passed to a new generation.  May Dottie rest in peace in the hands of her heavenly father.

Prayer for Today

O God, we thank you for all the saints, including Aunt Dottie, who have passed from this life to the next and can now rest from their labor. Uphold them and each one of us with the sure and abiding truth that life does not end with death, but begins its new adventure within your eternal presence.  Amen.   

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 09:35 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, October 21 2015

A Mercedes TV commercial a few years ago showed a Mercedes crashing into a concrete wall during a safety test. An engineer in a white lab coat walks over after the crash and kneels down to examine the damage, which is minimal. A reporter then asks the engineer about the Mercedes' energy-absorbing car body. After the engineer tells all about the unique design, the reporter asks him why Mercedes doesn't enforce their patent on the design -- a design evidently copied by several other companies because of its success. The engineer then replied matter-of-factly, "Because some things in life are too important not to share." (From a sermon by Steve Jackson, "Come and See") "Some things in life are too important not to share." From time to time, I will hear someone express just the opposite sentiment: "Oh no, I could never share that with anyone. It is too important to me to share with someone else."

I was wondering if there is anything in my own life I would consider "too important" to share with someone else. If someone really needed it, would I be gracious enough to give it away and trust God with the outcome? I hope so -- but if I did, I know it would not be because I was a naturally generous person. I am not. Left to my own devices, I am probably as selfish as the next person - maybe more so. But because of God's grace at work in my life, I am more willing to share with others what has been passed along to me - even things I consider very important. What gives me the freedom to share is the belief that all I have really belongs to God. I am simply a steward put in charge of it, called to take care of it, and asked to use it wisely for the work of God's kingdom. My role is to share it with others. On my better days, I do that. So, may God give us the willingness to share with others the "things in life too important not to share."

Prayer for Today

Thank you, God, for sharing the most important thing with us - the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. May that grace be at work in our lives so that we can then be your "grace dispensers" in our world. 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, October 20 2015

Mercy. What does that word mean to you? What images or situations come to mind when you think about it? 

I would invite you to take a moment, breathe in and breathe out, saying the word, mercy, a couple of times. In what ways do you experience mercy with God?

I'm going to bring them back from the north; I will gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the disabled, expectant mothers and those in labor; a great throng will return here. With tears of joy they will come; while they pray, I will bring them back. I will lead them by quiet streams and on smooth paths so they don't stumble. I will be Israel's father, Ephraim will be my oldest child. -Jeremiah 31:8-9

In this passage, Jeremiah is sharing a vision for how God will care for and show mercy towards God's people after the destruction that takes place. I can sense God's merciful care after I have gone through a challenging season or difficult situation. I notice that there were times when God led me by quiet streams and smooth paths during the restoration process.

Can you identify a time when God cared for you and helped you experienced mercy? What were the quiet streams or smooth paths in your situation?

I would invite you to notice opportunities where you can show mercy towards others this week. God's love and mercy are shown to us even when we are undeserving. How can you share this with those you encounter?

Prayer for Today

Compassionate God, 
Remind me that I have received your mercy, and help me to look to you as my guide. In Christ's Name, Amen.
 

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 07:31 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, October 19 2015

"As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will send you out to fish for people.' At once they left their nets and followed him."   -Matthew 4: 18-20

Maybe it was another one of those bad days fishing. Why else would Peter and Andrew drop their nets so quickly to follow after a man whom they had just met; a man named Jesus. The fish must not have been biting.

A while back, when my son Michael was a young boy, he and I were fishing at a friend's pond in Mississippi. Michael set his pole down and replied that he was done fishing. My friend, Doug Boone, asked Michael why he was stopping and Michael replied he was done because he wasn't catching any fish. Doug looked Michael in the eyes for a teaching moment and said, "If fishing were easy Michael they would call it catching."

As disciples of Christ, we are all called to be fishers of men and women and let's face it, the catching takes a lot more patience and perseverance.

Well, I want to tell you about a fun way to be a fisherman/woman that has the potential to reap a large catch. My friend and fly fishing mentor, Joe Araoz, has developed an incredible outing for becoming both fishers of trout and people! Joe has arranged with the owners of Fern Valley in Clarkesville, Georgia to host a monthly outing where half of the proceeds go back to JCPC Missions! Each month, four fishermen/women will sign out to go fly fishing; complete with a guide who will provide all the gear and teach and mentor. Joe says that this Fly Fishing Mission will change the world one fish at a time!

Not only is this mission outing a wonderful way to raise mission funds and share great fellowship, it also allows you to invite a friend so that you can introduce them to JCPC. 

Please click here to find out more.

Prayer for Today

Call us anew to be your disciples, O Lord, so that we might lay down our nets and follow you.  Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 09:07 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, October 16 2015

This is not a sacred song, but rather a once-popular country ballad.  Nonetheless, my all-time favorite secular song lyrics speak for themselves ... and this is my prayer for you today, friends!

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never taken one single breath for granted,
God forbid love ever leave you empty-handed.
 
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean.
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens.
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,
I hope you dance!
 
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance.
Never settle for the path of least resistance.
Living might mean taking chances, but they're worth taking.
Loving might be a mistake, but it's worth making.
 
Don't let some hell-bent heart leave you bitter.
When you come close to selling out, reconsider.
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,
I hope you dance!
 
Time is a wheel in constant motion
Always rolling us along. 
I hope you dance!
Tell me who wants to look back on their years
And wonder where those years have gone?
I hope you dance!

Prayer for Today

A Prayer for You
 
May you always hear God's call on your life -
May you rest in the peace of God's presence as you journey
May you choose to remain true to yourself -
Hold on to your dreams,
And when you get the chance - dance!
I hope you'll always choose to dance!

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 07:18 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 15 2015

I've been leading a small group of Senior High on Wednesday nights studying 1 and 2 Samuel, as Israel transitions from a loose confederation of tribes ruled by judges (theocracy) to a nation-state ruled by kings (monarchy).  We've had an inspiring time doing traditional Bible study seeing God at work among the Israelites and reflecting on what that means for us today. 

Last night's study, however, created some new challenges for us as a group.  We looked at the stories of how King Saul fell out of favor from God because he didn't completely comply with God's command to kill all the Amalekites, including all the women, children, and even animals (1 Samuel 15).  We admitted having some uneasiness with a God who orders the wholesale slaughter of a people.  We also struggled with God's confession that God "grieved" or "regretted" that he made Saul king.  Does God make mistakes, we wondered. 
 
We then flipped over to 1 Corinthians 14, Paul's instruction to women that they are to be silent in church and not allowed to speak.  How do such words apply to our modern 21st Century world, we wondered.  We discussed inerrancy and what we mean when we say that the Bible is God's word, which at times, we admitted, takes a lot of courage to do.
 
Sometimes when we engage Scripture, answers come easy, and implications are clear.  But other times, wrestling with Scripture creates more questions than answers. Sometimes, instead of always looking for answers, maybe we should simply focus on the direction that the Bible leads us.  I find a good question to ask is:  how does this scripture point us to Jesus? 
 
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. 
-Psalm 119:105

Prayer for Today

O God, help us to understand your Word, especially those passages that at first glance don't seem to connect with life here today.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 11:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, October 14 2015

How do you react when you are afraid? Human beings seem to be hardwired to react in one of two ways: fight or flight. It goes back to the reptilian part of our brain - the amygdala - that is programmed to either attack or run away when we feel threatened. This may have been very useful when our ancestors heard the roar of a lion out in the wild, but today it often gets in the way and causes us to react in fight or flight - neither of which may be helpful.

Skye Jethani, author of the book Futureville, which we talked about in our recent "Three Things That Last Forever" sermon series, recently blogged about how Christians have reacted to the perceived downturn in our culture by either getting in political fights to try to change the culture, or by choosing to withdraw when the culture seems headed away from Christian values. However, Jethani suggest a third way - STAY. Stay engaged and a part of this world -- even if it seems to be moving in the wrong direction.
 
Maybe we need to remember the words from the Bible that tell us, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son . . ." (John 3:16) If God chose not to give up on our world, then maybe neither should we. When it comes to fear and feeling threatened, there may be a few occasions when fight or flight are the best options, but most of the time I believe we are called to stay engaged. There are better choices in the face of fear than only fight or flight. And remember the words of Psalm 23: "Even though I walk through valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because you are with me."

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, when we face fear, give us the wisdom to know when we should move beyond our most basic reactions of fight and flight. Help us to remember we can trust you and not give into our fears. Give us the courage to stay, stand strong, and show the love of Christ - even to our enemy. And by your grace, may our enemies be transformed into our friends. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus - our Friend. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 11:01 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, October 13 2015

Usually my reflections start with thoughts and scripture, this morning I'd like to start with a prayer.

O Lord, calm me into a quietness that heals and listens, and molds my longings and my passions, my wounds, and wonderings into a more holy and human shape. Amen. 
(Todd Loder, Guerrillas of Grace, 1984)

During the month of October, I am spending time reading articles and participating in discussions with a group of Christian Educators in an online class with Columbia Seminary. Last week, our articles focused on spirituality in children. One came from the perspective of care from nurses in medical settings. The author of this article helped nurses assess a child's spiritual health as well as their medical health and talked about the ways that research has shown that these two parts of our being are very intertwined. When our spirit is in distress as a result of a medical crisis, it effects how healing takes place.

We live in a time where many physical ailments are answered with medical treatment. Modern medicine continues to amaze me in the way that it is progressing. However, I have also seen what real care of the spirit looks like in the midst of those physical ailments. It makes a big difference. My Dad's 4 year experience with colon cancer is one of those examples for me. He was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. The care he received from his church and the time spent caring for his spirit was directly connected to the 4 extra years we had with him. My dad had the most positive outlook on life of anyone I have known even in the midst of a difficult battle with cancer.

He understood what it meant to go to God and experience this calmness of the spirit that can bring healing. The words in this prayer are the types of things my Dad would pray for.

As you enter into your week, I would invite you to pray this prayer. Remember taking care of our spirits is just as important as taking care of our bodies physically with exercise and healthy eating.

Prayer for Today

O Lord, calm me into a quietness that heals and listens, and molds my longings and my passions, my wounds, and wonderings into a more holy and human shape. Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 10:42 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, October 12 2015

When I'm asked what type of church JCPC is, I say that we are a missional church whose arrows are pointed out in the community.

The picture above features Sue Dodd and Jenny Ridnour who served as ambassadors of both CanCare and JCPC a week ago at the Johns Creek Expo. Great job team! Arrows out!

However, this Reflections isn't about CanCare; but rather about the table you don't see pictured. The invisible table is the neighboring table that featured Toastmasters. If you don't know, Toastmasters is a group that meets weekly at JCPC and is a mission of our church. The mission of Toast- masters is to promote the development of communication and leadership skills.
  
Jenny shared a touching story with me that I want to share with you. The Toastmasters' table was staffed by Michelle who is the contact person for JCPC. She shared with Sue and Jenny how grateful Toastmasters is for the use of JCPC meeting space for their cause. Michelle mentioned that many of the participants hail from countries where Christianity doesn't have much exposure. She stated that for many of their group, this is the first time they have entered a church! The hospitality shown Toastmasters is a much needed form of evangelism for our day and time.
  
Our pastor's Sunday School class is exploring Phillip Yancey's work, Vanishing Grace, as we attempt to understand why a large percentage of our culture is beginning to look suspiciously at Christianity. The subtitle of his work is "whatever happened to the good news?" In the second chapter entitled "What can we do" Yancey says that our hospitality is one of the best ways to share the good news of the gospel.

Remember the invisible table in this picture. JCPC is serving Christ through our hospitality in our community and to those who may feel invisible in our culture, our hospitality is reflecting the open armed love of Christ!
  
When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don't take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am GOD, your God.
-Leviticus 19: 33-4

Prayer for Today

Thank you for the hospitality of grace, O Lord! Keep us mindful of the opportunities with which you line our days to share the welcoming grace of Christ our Lord. Amen.

Posted by: Rev.Neal Kuhlhorst AT 09:10 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, October 09 2015

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. -Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

Each year, at least once during the month of October, I receive an email forward that tells the story about how being a Christian is much like being a pumpkin.  Reading it always reminds me to try to slow down and view the entire holiday season through the eyes of a child.  After all, we are all children of God, and much of the child-like wonder and magic of the holidays get lost somewhere in a sea of to-do lists.  If you have never seen the email, the story goes like this ...

Being a Christian is much like being a pumpkin.  God lifts you up, takes you in, and washes all the dirt off of you.  He opens you up, touches you deep inside, and scoops out all the yucky stuff -- including the seeds of doubt, hate, and greed.  God then carves you a new smiling face and puts the light of Christ inside you to shine for the whole world to see. 
 
Simple enough for a youngster to understand, but an applicable reminder even to adults!  This was passed on to me from another pumpkin.   Now, it is your turn to pass it to a pumpkin.  I liked this enough to send it to all the pumpkins in my patch!

Prayer for Today

Today's prayer is one that you can recite with your children or grandchildren as you carve your pumpkin this year.
 
Dear God, as I carve my pumpkin, hear my prayer:

Open my mind so I can learn about you;
(cut the top of the pumpkin)

Take away all my sin and forgive me for the wrong things I do;
(clean out the inside)

Open my eyes so your love I will see;
(cut the eyes out in heart shapes)

I'm so sorry for turning up my nose to all you've provided for me;
(cut a nose in the shape of a cross)

Open my ears so your Word I will hear;
(cut the ears shaped like a Bible)

Open my mouth so I can tell others about Jesus;
(cut the mouth in the shape of a fish)
 
Let your light shine in all that I say and do!  Amen.
(place a candle inside your pumpkin and light it)

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 07:26 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 08 2015

One of the greatest discoveries that you and I can make is that each day of our lives bestows a 24-hour gift of time.  What time is it in your life? Time to go to college? Get a job? Get married?  Move to California?  Invest in the stock market?  Or is it simply time to eat?

The book of Ecclesiastes has the benchmark reading on the passage of time in all of literature.  It's a challenging and mysterious book.  At first glance, it's a book that you sometimes wonder how it actually made it into the canon with all its cynical talk about, "life is vanity." But then one stumbles upon the third chapter, the beloved list of things for which there is a proper time.  It is the poetic gem that touches on common everyday experiences that we all go through from cradle to grave.
 
How are we to perceive all the ups and downs in life?  Is life a random, arbitrary process, or is it a gift from God?  Does God truly make everything "beautiful in its time"?  Come to worship this Sunday ready to explore these probing questions as I preach on these timeless words.  Life is indeed a roller coaster ride.  Can we enjoy the ride?

Prayer for Today

O God, thank you for the various seasons of our lives-for the moments of exhilaration that put pep into our step, but also for the moments of challenge that enable us to learn and grow.  Through all the ups and downs of life, mold us into the people you have called us to become.  Amen.
 
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven...God has made everything beautiful in its time. -Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 10:41 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, October 07 2015

Last weekend was unusual for me. After getting home on Saturday from unloading pumpkins, Scott Huie called me and said he had an extra ticket to the Georgia - Alabama football game, and did I want to go. I said "Sure" -- so off I went to rendezvous with Scott somewhere between our houses and Athens. I haven't been to a game in Athens in a very long time. While it was a pretty miserable day if you were a Georgia fan or didn't like lots of rain, I was fascinated by how loud it was - at least until the game got out of hand. Georgia fans are intense! At one point the giant video screen showed some UGA fans dressed in red and black war paint, wearing what looked like a cross between Viking clothes and costumes from the movie Mad Max.

The next day I came home from church and got a text from a former youth pastor who worked with me at another church. He said he was driving down to Atlanta from Charlotte and he had an extra ticket to the Foo Fighters concert at 7:00 p.m. So I jumped on MARTA and joined 20,000 other rain-soaked folks for the concert. (It was a very wet weekend!) Again, I was amazed at the enthusiasm of the crowd as fans went crazy when the band launched into some of its hits. But, after standing for two hours, I decided to call it quits and head home.
 
Earlier, I had been watching a TV special about E.O. Wilson who teaches at Harvard. His theories on sociobiology suggest that humans sometimes act like nests of ants - as more of a large, single organism than as individuals. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama, so they showed one of their football games as an example of this group behavior. Wilson says we are hardwired to do some things in groups -- maybe like tribes.
 
This past Sunday, it was great to be part of another bigger group -- not only as we worshipped with the New Vision Presbyterian Church, but also as we joined with Christians around the globe, celebrating World Communion Sunday. You can't get a crowd much bigger than that! Sometimes it is good to be part of a big crowd.

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, we are reminded in scripture you "so loved this world", that you sent your only son, Jesus -- not to condemn the world - but to save it. (John 3:16-17) Thank you for caring about this big world! Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 07:54 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, October 06 2015

Then he looked up at his disciples and said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.  
Luke 6:20-21

I'm amazed at the way people who would be considered poor by my standards show me something entirely new. They show me delight, they show me contentment, they show me a zest for life that I often miss in my daily life. Jesus' words remind us that the poor can show us something big; they show us the Kingdom of God. I believe that in reading Jesus' message to us from Luke chapter 6, we hear the message that was at the core of Jesus' ministry while on earth. We are called to not only proclaim the good news, but also to be an embodiment of God's love and Christ's message each day.
How would your life be different if you started letting the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the captive, the oppressed, and the left-out lead you into the Kingdom of God?

Prayer for Today

Merciful God, in the flesh and bone of Jesus Christ you became poor and weak to show us a better way to live, a way of life not defined by wealth or status but by contentment and freedom in serving other people. Help me to see the poor and the outcast leading the way to your heart and your ways. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 03:09 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, October 05 2015

Show me, Lord, my life's end. -Psalm 39:4

At the age of 59 my friend Bob Boardman wrote, "If the 70 years of a normal life span were squeezed into a single 24-hour day, it would now be 8:30 in the evening in my life. . . . Time is slipping by so rapidly." 

The difficulty in admitting that our time on earth is limited inspired the creation of "Tikker"-a wristwatch that tells you what time it is, calculates your estimated normal life span, and displays a running countdown of your remaining time. It is advertised as the watch "that counts down your life, just so you can make every second count."

In Psalm 39, David grappled with the brevity of his life, saying, "Show me, Lord, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is" (v. 4). He described his life span as no longer than the width of his hand, as only a moment to God, and merely a breath (v. 5). David concluded, "But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you" (v. 7).

The clock is ticking. Now is the time to seek God's power to help us become the people He wants us to be. Finding hope in our eternal God gives meaning for our lives today.

In what ways am I wasting time? In what ways am I making my days count? In what areas do I need to make changes?

Prayer for Today

Father in heaven, please help us to believe that our forgiveness is as real as the price You paid for our rescue. Amen.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 07:07 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, October 02 2015

I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build. -Joshua 24:13

The young mother sighed as she scraped together lunch for her 3-year-old daughter. Spying the empty fruit basket on the table in their tiny kitchen, she sighed and said aloud, "If we just had a basket of fruit, I would feel rich!" Her little girl overheard her. 

Weeks passed. God sustained the small family. Still, the struggling mom worried. Then one day her little girl bounded into the kitchen. "Look, Mommy, we're rich!" she exclaimed, pointing at the full fruit basket on the table. Nothing had changed except that the family had purchased a bag of apples.

When Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, was about to die, he shared a message from the Lord that recounted all God had done for them. And he noted, "You lived in the wilderness for a long time" (Josh. 24:7). Then he said, "[God] gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant" (v. 13). Joshua set up a large stone to remind Israel of God's provision (v. 26).

Like the Israelites, after a time of challenge and scarcity, that family now lives in a different place and enjoys fruit trees in a spacious yard, planted years earlier by a previous owner. If you visit them, you'll find a bowl of fruit in their kitchen. It reminds them of God's goodness and how a 
3-year-old infused her family with faith, joy, and perspective.

Prayer for Today

Thank God for how He has provided in the past. Thank Him for what He will do. Ask Him what He wants you to do. Then trust Him.  Amen.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 11:21 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 01 2015

This morning I read a very fascinating study called the "Blue Zone" by Gianni Pes and Michael Poulain. This study identifies demographic and/or geographic areas of the world where people live measurably longer lives.  The regions with the highest concentration of male centenarians ("Blue Zones") include Okinawa (Japan); Sardinia (Italy); Nicoya (Costa Rica); Icaria (Greece); and the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. Why do these people live healthier and longer lives?  According to their study, there are nine keys:

  1.      Moderate, regular physical activity.
  2.      Life purpose.
  3.      Stress reduction.
  4.      Moderate calories intake.
  5.      Plant-based diet.
  6.      Low alcohol intake, especially wine.
  7.      Engagement in spirituality or religion.
  8.      Engagement in family life.
  9.      Engagement in social life.

Looking over the list, I realize that being an active member of Johns Creek Presbyterian Church can enhance nearly all nine keys, so maybe our church property could be considered a "Blue Zone."  After all, life here at church is about engaging people of all ages in community, where we heavy-laden people lay our burdens at the feet of Jesus as we worship and serve together.  Church is a place where we seek to perfect the art of loving and finding purpose in our daily work.  Church is where the concept of "family" is expanded.  We even have a ball field where we can engage in recreational activity.  I suppose the one area that could use some work here is #4 and #5, as we Presbyterians love to eat, especially when there is fried chicken at the church pot luck!  So raise a glass to long, happy lives!
 
An old Sardinian man
 
Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."                                                     
-John 10:7-10

Prayer for Today

O God, help us to have long, healthy, abundant lives as we commit ourselves to your community, the church.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 07:58 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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