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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.

Tuesday, March 31 2015

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.  John 15:9-11

These words from Jesus bring a deeper meaning this week during Holy Week as we prepare our hearts for the events leading up to Easter Sunday and the resurrection. God provides us with commandments to help us abide in God's love. It's better for us to love our enemies than to hate them. It's better to tell the truth than to lie. It's better to take a day of rest each week than to work without stopping. God knows that when we live by these commandments, we are not only living in the way that is safer and more productive for us, we are living in a way that allows us to experience God's love more deeply.
By living the way that God has told us to live, we are more open to God's light and love - and that is where true and deep joy comes from.


God's love for us is never more evident than in the crucifixion and resurrection. Take some time today to reflect on your perspective and behavior. Do you take time to rest or work without stopping? How do you respond to God's great love for us in your day to day choices?
 
Prayer for Today
 
God, you have called us to live in ways that at times seem difficult and even impossible to do. Remind me each day that as I live in the way you have instructed, I am moving closer and closer to you. Make my joy complete, O God. Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 08:24 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, March 30 2015

The number is 74. The future looks hopeful and encouraging. Reaching goals opens the future to possibilities that require planning, extra effort and a deep belief of what can be. I was thinking about the number 74 this week and I began to reminisce about the year 1974. I was entering my senior year in high school and had a dream of earning a college scholarship in football. My childhood dream was to be a football player and even though I wasn't all that big, nor was I all that fast, somehow I not only thought I could be one, I planned on it. All-Conference, All-State honors were followed by a scholarship to play football. The number 74 was important in my life, but I was thinking about 74 in the present and looking to the future.

Plans change and the future takes shape in ways mysterious and unknown to us. The number 74 means something much greater to me now. That number represents the number of CanCare Volunteers we have trained since April, 2012. We completed our fourth Atlanta training a week ago at Emory Johns Creek Hospital and have begun planning for our next class of cancer survivors and caregivers who want to "give back."

In 1974, I didn't have a clue that I would be involved in a ministry which is much more important than playing football. The number 74 not only points to how far we have come in a few short years with our development of CanCare, but it also points to a hopeful future and a belief that God is powerfully moving in our lives. Our mission of improving the quality of life for cancer patients and their families is in full swing and I can only imagine what the number 74 will grow into.

You have an important role in CanCare. We will be holding our third annual In Harmony for Cancer concert and silent auction on Saturday, May 2nd. Visit www.inharmonyforcancer.com to purchase your tickets or make a donation. Also, please share the link to the website with your friends!
74 is only the beginning!

Prayer for Today
 
Pour your Spirit upon us, O Lord, and comfort us in our troubles. Prepare us to share this comfort with those whom we know, so that we can comfort them as you have comforted us. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 09:50 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, March 27 2015

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.  For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.  -Isaiah 30:18 (NRSV)
 
One of Garth Brooks' most popular recordings is a song titled Unanswered Prayers, a single that hit #1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs in 1991. 
 
The context of the song is that a man runs into his high school sweetheart at a football game in their hometown.  As he introduces her to his wife, he reminisces about that past relationship and how he had once prayed so fervently that this girl would be his significant other forever.  He realizes that both of them have changed and then looks to his wife and realizes that God knew what he was doing all along.
 
How many of us have ever wondered why God doesn't answer some prayers?  Much like the psalmist, we cry out to the Lord in times of distress.  Waiting for God to help us or those we love is not easy.  Waiting can be difficult, but patience is a virtue.  If we trust in the Lord and his goodness, then waiting for God's answer and provision is a testament of faith. 
 
Often blessings cannot be received unless we go through the trial of waiting.  We must wait for the Lord to provide for our needs, healings, and hopes.  As the prophet Jeremiah wrote, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 
 
We must pray for God's will to be done in our lives, and then be patient, have faith, and not give up hope!  We must trust that God loves us and knows what is best for us.  Though we may not realize it in the moment, some of God's greatest gifts are indeed unanswered prayers.

Prayer for Today
 
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side; bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; leave to thy God to order and provide; in every change he faithful will remain.  Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly Friend, through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.  Amen.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 09:19 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 26 2015

Last Monday at 9:30 p.m., our little Maltese, Max, died. He collapsed while I was giving him his evening walk. Our hearts ache. It is truly amazing how much love one can lavish upon a dog for over 13 years. He has been a part of our family through good times and bad. One moment he could be found barking ferociously at a big dog in the neighborhood, and the next he would be snuggling up to Madison or Jackson on the couch. Without fail, he would always walk us to the door as we left and he would be standing there as we returned, wagging his tail. Such a big dose of love, understanding, patience, and gentleness could always be found in our little snowball of a dog. 
 
As one esteemed theologian (Mark Brooks) once said, "God gave us dogs to show us the meaning of unconditional love.  God gave them a shorter lifespan than we to show us the meaning of loss."  As another theologian and esteemed preacher's wife (Pam Mason-Norsworthy) once said, 
"All dogs go to heaven.  It's in the Presbyterian Book of Order."  I'm still trying to find that exact reference!
 
I figure our love for our pets gives us just a little glimpse into the depth of God's love for us.  As our pets have been "adopted" into our families, so too have we been adopted into God's family.  And, as I once heard, there is nothing we could do to make God love us more.  There is nothing we could do to make God love us less.  God's love for God's family is deep and wide and without condition, a reality for which I am eternally grateful.

You will forever be in our hearts, Maxidoodle! May you rest in peace.  
 
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.
-1 John 3:1

Prayer for Today
 
O God, we thank you for our pets for they are a part of our families.  May their presence teach us about life, loss, and especially love. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 09:40 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, March 25 2015

Monday night we had the first meeting of our revised New Building Committee. This is the group of talented folks who will help us complete the vision for our new multipurpose building and then repurpose the Friendship Hall for youth space. It is a very talented and experienced group of folks. It is "revised" because we have added a few new folks while others have decided to "retire" as we enter this next phase of our work.
 
We began our meeting by introducing ourselves. We talked about who we were, how long we had been a part of this church, what experience or expertise we may bring to this work, and whether we had served on a building committee before. Roy Davey, one of our members, introduced himself by sharing that he is an architect by training. However, he shared with us that the reason he went to study architecture was this: when he was a young boy, he watched his church build a new building. He told us that he used his Brownie camera to take pictures of the progress. His experience of watching that church building go up affected him for the rest of his life. Roy says he still has those pictures stored somewhere.
 
I love to hear people share stories about why they have chosen a particular path in life. I wonder what stories you have that inspired you to do something. Think about something that happened along your path in life and how that changed your direction in life. If it was for the good, I believe God was at work there - whether we realized it or not. God uses the events of our lives to bring about something good and meaningful. I think this is especially true when it comes to creating something good. My son recently completed a program to learn how to write computer code, and the motto of the program is this: "Make Beautiful and Meaningful Things." I think it would be great if we all found ways, whatever our callings in life may be, to make beautiful and meaningful things that give glory to God!
 
Prayer for Today
 
God of all creation, you made this world beautiful and you called it "good." Help us to learn from your example to make beautiful things in our lives today. We pray this in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:07 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, March 24 2015

Ask and you'll get; Seek and you'll find; Knock and the door will open. Don't bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need.
-Luke 11:9-10 (The Message)

This verse may be a familiar one to you. I read it this morning as it was the passage chosen for today on my desk calendar. These words were a helpful way for me to reflect on prayer and how I talk with God. Can you think of a time in your life when your conversations with God came from the perspective of making a bargain? Were there other times in your life when your conversations have been more direct? What parts of your circumstances influence the way you interact with God in your prayers?
 
I can imagine that each of us experience seasons in life that are challenging and raise significant questions about God's role in our lives. Even when we are direct in our prayers and ask for what we need, there are still times when we are surprised by the outcome of a particular life situation. I believe this is because God sees the big picture that we just can't see. God guides us and provides us with what we need when we need it, but that doesn't mean it matches up with what we think is needed.
 
I can look back on many situations in life and see how God's love is woven through those experiences. There were times in the midst of those situations where it was very challenging to see that same love, but now I can.
 
I would invite you to take to heart these words from the gospel of Luke in Jesus' message on how to pray. He gives the words to the Lord's Prayer and follows it with this very direct teaching. May these words of Jesus go with you today and help to guide you in your prayer life.
  
Prayer for Today
 
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 11:44 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, March 23 2015

I remember a story I heard a while back that still touches my heart each time I think about it. A young boy had developed a friendship with an older couple in his neighborhood. It reminds me of the friendships the children in our neighborhood have with the adults; trusting, nurturing, and engaged. When word that the wife in this couple suddenly died, sadness enveloped the neighborhood.  The husband wasn't seen for a while as his grief was too much to bear. He secluded himself.
 
One day, the boy noticed his neighbor walk out of his house and into his backyard. The boy missed his neighbor and wanted to reconnect and say hello, so over to the neighbor's house he bounded and followed his neighbor into the back yard.
 
After some time, the boy returned home. His mother asked him where he had been and the boy said that he had gone over and visited with his neighbor. "What did you two talk about?" the mother inquired. "Oh we didn't talk that much" the boy replied, "He sat on a bench and cried a lot." Anxiously, the mother asked, "what did you do?" The boy replied, "I sat next to him and cried too."
 
What great faith this young man displayed! The Apostle Paul encourages us to carry each other's burdens and fulfill the law of Christ.   -Galatians 6:2
 
I wonder if he grew up to become a Stephen Minister in his church. If you have a heart for serving God and caring for others, perhaps you have been wondering what it takes to become a Stephen Minister. If so, there will be an Introduction to Stephen Ministry on Saturday, April 18 that you might consider attending. The national office for Stephen Ministry has chosen our neighbors, Johns Creek United Methodist Church as the Atlanta host site for this introduction. If you want to learn more you can contact Roy Davey, Rebecca Eldridge, or myself.
 
Prayer for Today
 
Open our hearts to carry the burdens of those who are burdened, O Lord, so that we will both share our faith with those who are troubled and deepen our faith through sharing our care. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 10:07 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, March 20 2015

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.  Matthew 13:22 (NIV)
 
I love to garden, and I look forward with great anticipation to the spring planting of my favorite annuals.  Clearing out the winter muck and preparing the beds for planting, on the other hand, does not make the cut of my top ten favorite things to do. 
 
As I left home this morning, I noticed that the leaves of my variegated liriope plants are seriously weathered from the harsh cold of winter, covered in brown spots, and in much need of a haircut.  I tried to ignore the emerging weed sprouts and keep walking, but they too were calling my name, reminding me of Jesus' parable of the sower.
 
When Jesus spoke of the seed that is sown among thorns, he was talking about ground that is embedded with weeds.  However unsavory the thought of weeding, it is an essential part of gardening.  Those ratty weeds will grow alongside my beautiful flowers and, left unchecked, will eventually hinder the growth of the good seed planted in my garden.
 
Jesus is the master gardener.  Though we know the truths he has planted in our hearts, we sometimes allow the "weeds" of life to sprout and multiply.  We waste precious time worrying about earthly matters, but cannot seem to set aside that same amount of time to cultivate our spiritual health. 
 
We value secular entertainment and sporting events over attendance in worship.  Working longer hours to attain more stuff becomes more important than spending time with our families.  There is little or no time for personal devotion, reflection, and prayer because our social calendars are overly booked.  We exhaust ourselves.
 
When things on earth become more important than treasures stored up in heaven, is it any wonder that our own priorities are choking us?  What unhealthy worries and desires for wealth or stuff are crowding out growth in your life?  What is keeping your garden full of weeds?
 
Prayer for Today
 
Lord, we know that you alone can offer the fruitful lives for which we yearn.  Help us to be willing to let you pull the weeds from our lives.  Amen.
 

 

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 08:07 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 19 2015

It has now officially hit us, this social phenomenon known as March Madness.  The tournament starts today with 64 teams squaring off leading up the national championship April 6th in Indianapolis.  It is college basketball at its finest. 

Watch out for my Alma mater Davidson Wildcats, who this year received their first at large bid in the school's history as they finished as the regular season champions of the Atlantic 10 in their very first season in the league.  Like the Atlanta Hawks, they play great team basketball with lots of motion and pick and rolls and shoot the lights out from the three point line. 

 I pick them to go all the way...not really.  It's only wishful thinking.  Like so many others, I have Kentucky winning it all, making a clean, undefeated sweep into the annals of college basketball history.  But I do expect tiny Davidson (with a student population under 2,000) to beat Iowa in the first round upset!  My brackets are set, and I am convinced that this is my year to win my bracket challenge (you are going down, Sam Napier!). 
 
Calling it "March Madness" is appropriate for a college hoops fan.  After all, "madness," according to Webster's Dictionary, is "showing strong liking and enthusiasm."  
As I and many of you are mad about sports, it begs the question, am I also mad about the Lord?  Do I truly have a strong liking and enthusiasm for my God.
 
The apostle Paul surely did.  We see that through the book of Acts as he shares the good news about Jesus throughout the Roman world. He is driven, determined, and passionate, and we the church today are beneficiaries of his "madness." 
 
In one of Paul's last conversations before being sent to Rome where his life ends, Paul is speaking with Governor Festus and King Agrippa in Caesarea.  He shares his faith and tells of his own conversion. He then gets to the heart of the faith saying, Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, to do works befitting repentance.
-Acts 26:19,20
 
His words nearly convert the king.  Who knows, maybe eventually the King did become a Christian.  But there is no doubt that Paul's "madness" for  his Lord did so much to help start the Christian church. 
 
During this season of Lent, may we hear the three keys for being "mad" for God that Paul shared with the King:  repent, turn to God, do works befitting repentance.  May it be so as we continue our journey to the cross-and to "March Madness."

Prayer for Today
 
O God, during our Lenten journey, may "March Madness" remind us of our need to be utterly mad for you.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 10:27 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, March 18 2015

Did you wear something green yesterday? I did. I noticed most people wore some article of green clothing in honor of St. Patrick's Day. For most folks, the day is a fun celebration of Irish traditions - even if we aren't Irish. It is has been said jokingly that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day. My guess is that most of us forget who St. Patrick really was.

Born sometime in the late fourth century on the coast of England or Scotland, Patrick was captured by Irish pirates at age sixteen and kept as a slave for six years. He spent most of that time out tending his master's herds. It was outside in the woods and mountains that he learned to pray -- often beginning before dawn. Some days he would pray as many as a hundred prayers when "the spirit was fervent within."
 
Eventually he escaped, found his family again, and felt a call to the priesthood. When he finished his training, the pope sent him back to Ireland as a missionary. He travelled all over the country founding churches and monasteries. He was perhaps the major influence in sharing the good news of God's love with the people of Ireland.
 
There is an ancient prayer attributed to Saint Patrick called "The Breastplate." I invite you to use this version of it as your prayer today.

Prayer for Today
 
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, 
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 10:14 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, March 17 2015

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story- those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south. 

-Psalm 107:1-3
 
What does it mean to endure something? What does endurance look like? Where do you find strength and courage when you are enduring a challenging situation or season in your life?
 
Look around you today, and think about what endurance has meant for you in your set of life experiences. Take a picture (either mentally or literally) of an image that expresses your definition of endurance.
 
God's love is one that is unconditional, always present and endures forever. During this Lenten season we reflect on the many trials and challenges that Christ endured on our behalf. Take a moment to lift up prayers of thanks to God today as you remember Christ's ultimate example of endurance.
 
Prayer for Today
 
Gracious God, Help us to look deep within for your love that fuels our endurance. Guide us as we face today's challenges. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 07:48 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, March 16 2015

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort-we get a full measure of that, too.
2 Corinthians 1: 3-5 (The Message)
 
This weekend we will be conducting our fourth CanCare volunteer training class in Johns Creek. It will actually be the 70th training overall for CanCare. JCPC hosted our inaugural Atlanta class in April of 2012 and when this current class has completed its training, we will be just shy of having trained 80 CanCare volunteers. All praise to God and Father of our Master!
 
The passage I quoted above was written close to 2,000 years ago, but the truth of the words lives on through the power of survivorship. Nothing says hope more than a cancer survivor coming alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.
 
Gray brought this message home yesterday in his sermon as he preached about Death Valley and the valleys we all must travel. Having someone who has been there to go along side with us can make all the difference in the world. Hope and love are meant to be shared.
 
This quote says it all:
We are all cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.
-R. Bradbury

Please keep our trainees and trainers in your prayers this week. I trust the beautiful stuff will overflow!

Prayer for Today
 
Comfort us in our troubles, O Lord, so that we will know how to comfort others in their trouble and through the comfort we share, hope will have its day. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 09:15 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, March 13 2015

Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.   -Romans 12:13 (NRSV)

Paul's epistle to the people of the church at Rome concludes with an appeal to the readers to work out their Christian faith in practical ways, both in the church and in the world.  In the passage above, Paul clearly defines that Christians have social responsibility not only to believers, but to all people - even strangers.
 
Neal delivered a wonderful homily during our Ash Wednesday service several years ago, encouraging us to rethink "giving up" something for Lent, but instead to "give of ourselves" to make a difference in the lives of others.  That message struck a resounding chord with me, and the focus of my Lenten journey since that time has been to give of myself, hopefully making a difference in the life of even one person.
 
The great irony over the years has been that the person whose life was most changed by my acts of service was my own, and the rewards tremendous.  With every encounter, a newfound friend; for every hour spent volunteering, my spirits increasingly lifted.  Who was reaching whom?
 
Last Friday, a group from our church served a meal to the homeless men who gathered at the Central Night Shelter. 
I was blessed to be counted among the volunteers that evening.  As we were serving dessert, an elderly man approached me and asked if he could have just a small amount of milk on his pound cake. 
 
Ever the rule follower, I knew that the milk in the back of the refrigerator was intended for breakfast the next morning.  But without asking (I would beg forgiveness later), I opened one of the gallons and poured about a quarter cup of milk into the bowl, taking care to distribute the small amount evenly over the top of his cake.  As I handed the bowl back to the gentleman, he thanked me profusely, adding that it would now taste "just like momma always made it."
 
Gray preached in a recent sermon that at the end of our lives, when all is said and done, most of us hope only that our time here on earth somehow made a difference, that our lives mattered.  I will likely not ever be that person who develops a cure for millions, but I thank God for that brief moment in time when a smattering of milk afforded warm memories to one of God's children.
 
Prayer for Today
 
Lord, show us how to meet the needs of those around us in a loving and useful way.  Amen.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 09:13 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 12 2015

I'm heading off tomorrow with the confirmands on our annual confirmation retreat to the Calvin Center down in Hampton, Georgia. There is something special about getting away from the normal routines of life to be with friends and explore the deeper reaches of our souls, to be still (and at times not so still) and to know that God is God and we are not. 

This weekend our focus will be on the sacraments, baptism, and the Lord's Supper.  A sacrament is an outward, visible sign of an inward, divine grace.  Baptism is about our adoption into the family of God, our dying and rising with Christ, who washes away our sin.  The Lord's Supper is about our being fed spiritually as we look back to see what Christ did 2,000 years ago.  Look around to see what he is doing today, and look ahead to anticipate the glorious feast we are promised in God's very presence.

This weekend as I am sharing communion with around 80 young people at an outdoor amphitheater, many of you will be here in the JCPC chapel participating in the baptism of Will Shearouse.  In both our places of worship, may we all realize the earth-shattering, spine-tingling, God-infused power that accompanies these sacred acts.  This ain't no dress rehearsal!

"Baptism enacts and seals what the Word proclaims: God's redeeming grace offered to all people.  Baptism is God's gift of grace and also God's summons to respond to that grace.  Baptism calls to repentance, to faithfulness, and to discipleship.  Baptism gives the church its identity and commissions the church for ministry to the world." (Book of Order W-2.30006)

"The Lord's Supper is the sign and seal of eating and drinking in communion with our crucified and risen Lord.  During his earthly ministry Jesus shared meals with his followers as a sign of community and acceptance and as an occasion for his own ministry." (Book of Order W-2.4001a)
 
Prayer for Today
 
Lord, help us to understand that the sacraments aren't just rituals that help us understand what you did a long time ago, but rather acts of your real and powerful presence today.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 10:05 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, March 11 2015

By now many of you know that when I walk around the campus of JCPC, I often find baseballs on or around the church ballfield. My collection continues to grow as I keep them on a bookshelf in my office until I find some reason to give them away. Monday I was out walking the campus between meetings and I made my way over to the ballfield, expecting to find at least one baseball. But when I looked across the brown grass of the outfield and the red clay dirt of the infield, there were no baseballs. Not even one! I was surprised and disappointed. I had come to assume that there would always be at least one.

For some reason, I began to think about this in terms of grace. As a preacher, I tend to look for hidden meanings in everything - it is an occupational hazard. I thought about how often I had found baseballs when I did not expect them. But here I was expecting and even assuming I would find one, and there were none.
 
In life I have come to realize that grace comes most often when it is not expected. It is God's unmerited, and I would add unexpected favor. Grace is not something you assume - it is pure gift - and often unexpected. I think that if the gift were something we expected God to give us - then it would not be grace. I am not sure what it would be, but I don't think it would be grace.
 
The interesting thing is that after I thought about this gift of baseballs in terms of grace, I came to the belief that I would probably not be finding any baseballs that day. Then lo and behold, I came across a bunch of them - when I did not expect it! Again, grace usually happens when we do not expect it.
 
This Sunday, as we continue to talk about the 23rd Psalm during the season of Lent, I am reminded of one of our hymns based on that Psalm which says, He brings my wandering spirit back when I forsake my ways, and leads me, for his mercy's sake, in paths of truth and grace. (My Shepherd Will Supply My Need) May God lead you in paths of truth and grace this day!
 
Prayer for Today
 
Gracious God, we often wander off the right paths and forsake your ways. Lead us back to your paths of truth and grace, that we may live fully this day the life you desire for us. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 10:50 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, March 10 2015

Then Christ will live in your hearts because you believe in him. And I pray that your love will have deep roots. I pray that it will have a strong foundation. May you have power with all God's people to understand Christ's love. May you know how wide and long and high and deep it is. And may you know his love, even though it can't be known completely. Then you will be filled with everything God has for you.

-Ephesians 3:17-19
 
As I was reading this familiar passage this morning, this part really stuck with me, "I pray that your love will have deep roots." What image comes to mind when you think of love having deep roots? Do you have a particular tree or plant that comes to mind and you can visualize how deep the roots go into the ground? Is it an oak tree or a mustard bush?
 
In Paul's letter to the church at Ephesus, we hear that to know and be rooted in Christ's love, is to more fully be the people God has created and is calling us to be. We are empowered to be the best versions of ourselves. This passage reminds me of our call to pass on this message to the children and youth in our church as they are in the beginnings of their faith journey. Often a child's first experience of God's love is through the love of a parent. At baptism, we promise to partner with parents in planting the seeds of faith and nurturing them to establish deep roots. This Sunday, we are excited to share with you in Will's baptism at the 11:00 a.m. service. We have been overwhelmed with gratitude for the ways that our church family has already begun teaching him what God's love looks like.
 
Each of us has the opportunity to help others experience the width, length, height, and depth of God's love. What can you do to share God's love that is deeply rooted in you? Who has been a teacher or mentor along the way for you? What did they do that made an impact on your journey?
In a world where the pressure to succeed is high and many hear that they are only loved for as much as they can perform, Paul's reminder to us is even more relevant. We are called to share that God's love is unconditional and far exceeds the limits of this earth.
 
Go through your day knowing this good news and sharing it with all those you encounter.

Prayer for Today
 
Gracious God, Thank you for your gift of love. Help us to be open to experience your love and allow it to take root in our lives. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 07:07 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, March 09 2015

I have been sharing thoughts with you about re-igniting your passion in your faith. I promised to share four dynamics which are integral to the process. The first three were; invitation, service, and commitment. Today, I will introduce the fourth with a passage from Luke's gospel.

 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him-and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."  -Luke 17:11-19.
 
This story of the cleansing of the ten lepers has all four dynamics for re-igniting your passion in your faith. See if you can identify the three I mentioned above; invitation, service, and commitment.
 
The fourth dynamic is the crescendo; namely worship! In this story all of the lepers did what they were told to do. However, one returned to Jesus and praised God.
 
At JCPC, the first principle that we list under our guiding principles is that "worship is the most important thing we do." The lepers were "doing their duty" by practicing their faith and showing to the priests that they had been healed. All healing comes from God. However, one had his passion re-ignited through worship.
 
Have you been in a rut as of late? Doing all the right things (at least most of them) yet, not quite feeling it? Come join us for worship and re-ignite your passion!

Prayer for Today
 
Thank you Lord for the healing you bring into our lives. Fill us with your Holy Spirit so that we may praise your holy name and feel alive in our faith. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 09:03 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, March 06 2015

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.   

-1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
 
Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass ... it's about learning to dance in the rain.  I recently saw this quote on the wall of my physician's office, and reading it brought to mind the above-mentioned scripture passage.  "Rejoice and give thanks for the bitter cold of today ... pray for the homeless, be grateful for your coat, and rejoice that there will be fewer mosquitoes this summer," I thought to myself.
 
Life is messy!  At times the journey is smooth sailing, wind at our back, blue skies in the distance as far as the eye can see.  But every life path encounters bumps in the road, gray clouds, pain, and sometimes even despair.  Thankfully, the Christian's joy is not dependent on circumstances. 
 
Constant rejoicing stems from giving God the glory for the great things he has done!  In the Christian's walk, Thanksgiving is not a once-per-year novelty accompanied by stuffing and cranberry sauce.  We are to give thanks in all things, not some things, not the great and oh-so-wonderful things, but in everything.
 
Does this mean I was to be thankful my car was totaled last month?  Well, I can be grateful that I wasn't seriously injured in the accident.  What about the really difficult life circumstances - losing a job, a home in foreclosure, the break-up of a marriage, or the death of a loved one? 
 
I think we would all agree it is more difficult to give thanks with a grateful heart in the midst of sorrow.  I don't believe that God is saying to be thankful that something awful has happened.  Our Creator God knows we get hurt, lose hope, and suffer grief as a natural consequence of living.
 
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are blessed with a hope that does not disappoint.  God promises to comfort us in seasons of distress, never leaving or forsaking us, even in our darkest hours.  Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.  -Psalm 30:5c  
 
God turns our mourning into joyful dancing!  I hope you dance!

Prayer for Today
 
Loving God, we give you thanks for your never-ending love for us, a love that does not fail.  Help us to dance, even in the rain.  Amen.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 11:06 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 05 2015

Raising teenagers in today's world is both an exquisite privilege and a monumental challenge.  Recently I've been reading Foster Cline and Jim Fay's groundbreaking book,

Parenting Teens with Love and Logic.
 
I commend it highly.  The thesis is that neither hovering like a "helicopter parent" nor drilling like a "drill sergeant parent" will prepare teenagers for the real world because they learn responsibility like they learn everything else: through practice. That's where love and logic come in.  Love means that parents give their children opportunities to be responsible and empower them to make their own decisions.  Logic means that teens be allowed to live with the natural consequences of their mistakes and shown empathy for the pain and disappointment that they will inevitably encounter.

Using such love and logic seems to be win-win in my book.  Here parents love in a healthy way without resorting to anger, power struggles, and threats, and teens logically learn responsibility by solving their own problems and acquiring the skills needed to cope with real life in the real world.
 
Yes, easier said than done, but still a great principle to live by.  May we who are parents all be blessed with such wisdom as we raise our children to be strong, independent, happy, and faithful.
 
The real world doesn't operate on punishment.  It operates on consequences.  Teens must never be allowed to think that the consequences of their poor decisions will be 'Mom and Dad will get angry.' They should be thinking of the natural consequences of their actions.  Whenever we lay something on a teenager that doesn't happen in the real world, it's a punishment and not a consequence.
-From chapter 8, Parenting Teens with Love and Logic
 
Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.
-Proverbs 22:6

Prayer for Today
 
Lord, in this day and time it is so tough to be a parent.  
We pray that you would give us all the fruits of the Spirit, including patience, that we might faithfully raise our children to be productive citizens and more importantly faithful disciples.  Amen.  

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 11:23 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, September 12 2014

My son drives a 1988 Cadillac Deville. It is actually one year older than he is. It used to belong to his grandfather. The car has now reached the age that it no longer has to pass state emission tests because it is so old. But it still runs - most of the time.

Recently, its battery has not been able to hold a charge, so we took it into the shop where they said that the alternator had gone bad. To replace it and fix it would be about $300. So, my son and I go through our routine every time something goes wrong with a car this age. We ask things like this: Is this worth it? How much more money do we want to invest in this car, or is it time simply to let it go and sell it? On the other hand, what can we get for $300? If it still runs (and it does have the most comfortable ride of any car we own) should we hold on to it for a little longer?
 
I wonder what NPR's "Car Talk" experts would say. They almost always tell folks to fix the old car - unless it is hopeless. And when it comes to it, our 1988 Cadillac Deville is not hopeless - at least not yet. I know "hope" is a theological term, but here I guess we mean something practical - there is a reasonable hope that we will get some more use out of this car.
 
But maybe that is what hope is always about - the idea that there is still the possibility something good might come out of a situation where that seems less than likely. In our lives, we all face times where it looks like we have reached the end. Sometimes that end is real, but other times something (or Someone) nudges us to "hang in there." Maybe God is at work in a way we can't yet see, but give it one more chance to see what God can do. The Bible puts it this way: 

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
-Romans 12:12, NIV

Prayer for Today
 
From Romans 15:13, NIV
 
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:25 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, March 03 2015

I have often heard the phrase, "God is as near as your every breath." What does that mean for you? How often do you notice your breathing throughout the day? When it's so quiet, that it's the only sound you hear... or when it's more pronounced like when you are exercising (on purpose or when you are trying to hurry). I would invite you today to be more aware of your every breath, and when you do, remember that God is near to you. This prayer was shared with me as a part of a Lent devotion recently. It's a prayer that helps you focus on your breathing while you pray. Take this prayer with you as you continue your day, remembering God's spirit abides in each of us. The prayer from Jack Levison shared below is one that helps us remember to breathe and pray.

 Holy Spirit,
I've forgotten how to breathe deeply, fearlessly, joyfully. Afraid as I am that life will come and knock the wind right out of me...
 
Take a breath...
So I breathe in small gasps, quick huffs, short sighs. Afraid as I am that life will come and knock the wind right out of me.

Take a breath...
Gather a windstorm from the four corners of the earth. Rattle my tired bones. Stretch my weary sinews. Renew my parched flesh. And bring me back, Holy Spirit back to life, back to living, back to hope.

In Christ's Name, Amen.

The Spirit of God made me what I am, the breath of God Almighty gave me life!  -Job 33:4

Prayer for Today
 
The prayer for today is included above.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 11:45 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, March 02 2015

Today we will explore commitment, the third of four dynamics involved in reigniting passion for your walk of faith.

 On Scout Sunday, Steve Simpson shared a Greek proverb which illustrates the conviction of commitment. It goes like this:
 
Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.
 
This proverb runs In the face of our culture. In our I want it now immediate gratification culture, why would I do something that I might not enjoy immediately or I might have to make a sacrifice?
 
Thank goodness JCPC supports Scouting programs that don't buy into this nonsense. One of the greatest experiences you can have in life is to commit yourself to somebody or somebodies who are not yourself and the process involves sacrifice.
 
Scott Stanley writes about the power of commitment and he identifies dedicated commitment as the bond that makes relationships great. He says that dedicated commitment looks to the future with a sense of us and finds great satisfaction in sacrificing for this future. This sounds a lot like the inaugural speech of President John F. Kennedy when he challenged the nation,  Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!  Commitment moves us beyond our own wants and needs to bond us to something or someone we want to share our future with and we are willing to make the sacrifices necessary.
 
During our capital campaign, I have heard many in our congregation share visions of the future that have this form of dedicated commitment as the foundation. JCPC remains dedicated to ministering to our community and the world. Jesus commanded his disciples (that includes you and me)
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. -John 13: 34.
 
This type of love, sacrificial love, requires commitment. As Paul said to the Corinthian Church, go after love as if your life depends on it...because it does!
 
Prayer for Today
 
Loving God, you call us to be followers of Christ, May we dedicate our lives to his service so that people will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, so they will know we are Christians by our love. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 09:08 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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