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.
Over the past month, my life has been filled with significant change. Between mid-May and mid-June we lost two very important men in our families, Chap's grandfather and my Dad. These two men had a significant impact on the lives of their families and all who knew them. Moving into a season of transition without these two men on earth with us has been challenging.
Many of you can relate to losing someone significant in your life and the season of change that takes place after they are gone. As I begin each new day, I take many life lessons with me that my Dad instilled through the way that he lived. He was always excited about new adventures, open to new things and willing to embrace new challenges. His overflowing joy for life is woven into the fabric of my being. So much so, that I don't even realize that I am often the one bringing the positive perspective or optimistic point of view to a situation until someone brings it to my attention.
So how do I now cope with these life changes? How do I appreciate each day God has given me now? These words from Paul's letter to the Romans resonate with me as I remember the way that my Dad lived his life.
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. -Romans 15:13
Dad was overflowing with this joy and hope that comes from the Holy Spirit and as I enter into this season of change, I will start each day with these words as his benediction to me.
As you experience significant changes in your life, I invite you to take some time to consider what your daily benediction will be? What words will guide you as you enter into your day?
Here's a glimpse of some of Dad's joy in a picture with both of his grandsons at Thanksgiving last year.
Prayer for Today
Creator God, Open our minds and hearts to experience the joy and peace that come from trusting in you. In Christ's Name, Amen.
One of the draws of Facebook for me is the pictures that get posted that catch me by surprise. Today, my cousin updated her picture, so of course, I wanted to see where she was and what she was doing. It wasn't surprising that she had uploaded another photo, she does so regularly. What surprised me this time was that I saw three different posts with pictures of three different men who played a significant role in my life. The occasion for the posts was Father's Day and each was paying tribute to these men who had died.
There was a picture of Ben, my neighbor in Auburn, Indiana. Though small in stature, Ben was larger than life to me and he always greeted me as if I was a long lost friend. As a kid, I took comfort in having such a welcoming neighbor as Ben. Another picture was of Rev. William Heimach who was my pastor growing up at the Auburn Presbyterian Church. The day we moved next door to Ben, Rev. Heimach came over to welcome us to town and invited me to his son's birthday party the next day. The third man pictured was my best friend Michael who welcomed me to his home when we moved back to Atlanta. I can still hear him say, "Hi pal" whether he was greeting me into his home or calling me on his way home from the airport. These three men, in their own unique way, taught me the power of a welcoming spirit.
Jesus was welcoming. The gospel witness of Christ is that he greeted people with open arms or curious questions and always seemed to take delight in those who sought him out. He didn't turn people away. People did that themselves if they didn't like what they heard him teach. To follow Jesus is to welcome.
Who will you welcome into your life today, this week, and this year?
Prayer for Today
Open our hearts to welcome the stranger, O Lord, and show us the power of the welcoming spirit, so that we may be true evangelists for your gospel. Amen.
Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. Galatians 5:1 (The Message)
Christ set us free from the yoke of the rigorous demands of Old Testament law as the means for gaining God's favor - an intolerable burden for sinful man. Likewise, the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 lifted the yoke of human slavery for all persons held as slaves. With the recent tragic event in Charleston and subsequent fallout prominent at every turn, I am reminded of an inspirational story of nine young people who found hope in their new life of freedom.
Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, opened its doors in 1866, at the close of the Civil War, as the first American university to offer a liberal arts education to "young men and women irrespective of color." It was one of the schools established for liberated slaves by the American Missionary Association.
Among the professors was a New Yorker, a white man named George White. As music instructor, he taught his students classical cantatas and patriotic songs, but he was particularly intrigued by the old plantation melodies he overheard in the dorms and among the students between classes. White had trouble coaxing his students to sing those songs for him; it seemed a particularly private type of hand-me-down music. There were no written scores or words - just plaintive strains passed voice to voice between the generations.
Five years later, Fisk University found itself in dire financial straits, without even money to buy food for its four hundred students. Regretfully, the Missionary Association decided to close the school. When White approached the trustees suggesting a series of fundraising concerts, the board refused. White decided to try anyway. "I'm depending on God, not you," he told the board.
Selecting nine students, White and his wife sold their jewelry and personal belongings to finance the first tour. On October 6, 1871, the singers boarded a train in Nashville for the Midwest. It was a hard trip, and at times the young people had to relinquish their seats to white folks. Other times they were evicted from trains or hotels. Sometimes the little group, braving threats, insults, obscenities, and indignities, sang in nearly empty halls and churches.
At the National Council of Congregational Churches meeting in Oberlin, Ohio, some of the delegates protested giving time to the "colored students from Fisk University." With the pressing nature of denominational business, their slate was full. But George White wouldn't be denied, and what happened next changed the course of American music.
Delegates were weary from the dismal weather of the day and long business sessions. When the meeting recessed, singers from Fisk filed quietly into the choir loft and began to sing. Delegates stopped talking, and every face turned toward the music. "Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus," came the song in beautiful, brooding harmony. After a moment of stunned silence, the convention burst into wild applause.
Among the delegates was Henry Ward Beecher, a noted pastor from Brooklyn who immediately begged the group to cancel its tour and come directly to his church in New York. Unable to do that, George White offered the group for a December concert. Knowing the importance of this engagement, White agonized about naming his group; and in Columbus, Ohio, after spending much of the night in prayer, he found the answer. They would be the Jubilee Singers, the biblical year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25 being a time of liberation for slaves.
On December 27, 1871, the Jubilee Singers sang at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn. Rev. Beecher, deeply moved, stood and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to do what I want every person in this house to do." He turned his pockets inside out, giving all the money to the Jubilee Singers. That night the offering was $1,300! Newspapers picked up the story, and soon the Jubilee Singers had engagements around the world.
In 1872, they sang at the World Peace Festival in Boston, and at the end of that year, President Ulysses S. Grant invited them to perform at the White House. In 1873, the group grew to eleven members and toured Europe for the first time. Funds raised that year were used to construct the school's first permanent building, Jubilee Hall, designated a National Historic Landmark by the US Department of Interior in 1975 and one of the oldest structures on campus. The beautiful Victorian Gothic building houses a floor-to-ceiling portrait of the original Jubilee Singers, commissioned by Queen Victoria during the 1873 tour as a gift from England to Fisk.
Thanks to the Jubilee Singers, Fisk University is still training young people today - and still sending out its Jubilee Singers to churches and concert halls across America and around the world.
Prayer for Today
Lord, we give you thanks for the beautiful music of American spirituals, for the brave souls who introduced them to the world, and for the freedom we enjoy to sing them today. Amen.
Two down and one to go! What a glorious time to be in youth ministry at Johns Creek. I've just completed back to back weeklong trips with our Senior High to Montreat and then with our Mid High to the Great Escape, and now today is our first full day on our Senior High Jamaica mission trip here in central Jamaica in the town of Mandeville. We are ready to serve and love and be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. I look forward to preaching about the experience next Sunday on July 5th.
Meantime, here is a video from last week's Great Escape (compliments of Mason Lord) with some of the most rambunctious and loveable middle schoolers anywhere. As one of our young people said during our last family time together, "Before this trip, I didn't want to come, but my mom made me come. Now that I am here, I don't want to leave. I love being here, the worship, the message, the people."
O God, thank you for opportunities to get away from the routines of life to come together in Christian community to explore what it means to love and be loved by you and one another. May each of these trips this summer change lives! Amen.
Many of us are heading out for some much-needed vacations in the coming days. Studies show that Americans are actually taking fewer vacations these days, but I hope you get some time off if you need it. Whenever we get ready for vacation, we have a list of thing to do that includes packing and things like that. We also have to plan for what goes on back home while we are away. Having two dogs means that we need to recruit someone to come over to feed and water Ginger and Chica. It also means getting someone to bring in the newspapers and the mail.
I am not sure what your routine is as you plan to take some time off, but I want to ask that you include one more item on your list. Could you take a few moments to plan to continue your giving to God's work through JCPC while you are gone? Around the church, we refer to this time of the year as "the summer slump" because folks are out of town. Worship attendance and giving usually decrease until school starts back. However, the ministry and mission of the church continues on while we are gone. In fact, some aspects of what we do are at a high point during the summer months and your giving is what makes that possible.
If you could take the time before you head out of town to drop your check in the offering plate, put a check in the mail, come by the church office, go online to our church website to give (www.jcpcusa.org), or download our mobile app, it would really help. Maybe now is the time to try giving online and see if that works for you.
Let me say how much I appreciate the giving of all of our members. Your generous giving transforms lives! In the past three weeks we have had 29 senior high youth and advisers attend the Montreat Youth Conference, 22 middle schoolers and advisers attend The Great Escape youth conference, 21 youth and advisers attend the Jamaica mission trip, and 16 attend the Montreat Worship and Music Conference. Your giving helps make each of those life-changing events happen. Thank you!
Prayer for Today
God of the Sabbath, we know you made each one of us with a need for rest, in addition to work. We thank you for times of Sabbath rest in which we can find renewal for our bodies and our souls. Give us all the rest we need so that we might serve you more faithfully. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. -2 Corinthians 9:7
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:39 am
He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.
My son Liam loves to pick dandelions for his mother. To date, she hasn't wearied of receiving them. One man's weed is a little boy's flower.
One day I took Liam shopping with me. As we hurried past the floral section, he pointed excitedly to an arrangement of yellow tulips. "Daddy," he exclaimed, "you should get those dandelions for Mommy!" His advice made me laugh. It made a pretty good Facebook post on his mother's page too. (By the way, I bought the tulips.)
Some see in weeds a reminder of Adam's sin. By eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve brought on themselves the curse of a fallen world-relentless work, agonizing birth, and eventual death (Genesis 3:16-19).
But Liam's youthful eyes remind me of something else. There is beauty even in weeds. The anguish of childbirth holds hope for us all. Death is ultimately defeated. The "Seed" God spoke of in Genesis 3:15 would wage war with the serpent's offspring. That Seed is Jesus Himself, who rescued us from the curse of death (Galatians 3:16).
The world may be broken, but wonder awaits us at every turn. Even weeds remind us of the promise of redemption and a Creator who loves us.
Prayer for Today
Help us, Father, to find You even in the midst of all life's pain and aggravations. Forgive us for so often overlooking the beauty You have planted everywhere. Amen.
Almighty God, our gathering together for worship and prayer is, this day, both an offering of praise and a show of courage. We come to this sanctuary mindful that even sacred spaces are not necessarily safe spaces. We bow our heads remembering our brothers and sisters in Christ whose last earthly act was prayer. We give thanks for the lives of your faithful servants: Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Susie Jackson, Daniel Simmons and Depayne Middleton Doctor. Comfort their families and friends and strengthen them in the difficult days that are ahead. We pray, too, because Christ commands us to, for Dylan Roof and his family. Bring peace, transform hearts, show us again your resurrection power in places we cannot imagine it can come.
You tell us, Lord God, that perfect love casts out fear and the families of the victims of Mother Church and the people of Charleston have shown us what loving fearlessness looks like. Forgiveness has been extended, hands have been held, hymns have been sung, prayers have been lifted, unity has been demonstrated. The Goliath of hate and racism has not and will not win.
People of faith and prayer, slain after extending Christ's welcome in God's house, have left a legacy that cannot be gunned down. Their lives of love and grace have begat love and grace. The gifts of the Spirit that you gave them - gifts of love, joy, peace, gentleness and goodness - appeared defeated on Wednesday night, but on Thursday when people came together and sang, "We Shall Overcome," and on Friday when words of forgiveness were spoken and a vigil packed a coliseum, and on Saturday when crowds gathered in solidarity to say that symbols have consequences, and today as we and countless others pray for peace and commit to being peacemakers, we recognize the gifts you gave those nine are unstoppable, exponential, inevitable and victorious.
God of justice and compassion, you sent your Son for the sake of the world you love. He was murdered, his last words a prayer for forgiveness. Three days later he rose from the dead, his first words ones of reassurance, telling us not to be afraid because even death had been defeated.
Today we remember and proclaim: Violence and hate do not have the last word. The love of God made known to us through Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, always has the last word. The Spirit's crop of goodness and love and joy and peace and gentleness will not stop growing. Now is the time for us - people of faith, brothers and sisters of every race and background - to recognize these unshakable truths and in the midst of the storm, trust the power of the One in the boat with us.
We yield ourselves to you, Triune God, knowing you bring redemption, reconciliation and resurrection. Make us your witnesses. May your perfect love in us and shown through us, cast out fear and help transform the world.
Prayer for Today
The prayer for today was the Reflections. If you would like the link for this, click here.
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.
2 Corinthians 3:5 (KJV)
You don't often think of hymns being written by a 37-year-old homemaker, mother of three, from Brooklyn, but that's the story of this hymn.
At a very early age, Annie Sherwood displayed a gift for writing verse and by the age of 14 was contributing poetry regularly to various newspapers. She wrote more than 400 poems, though this hymn text is the only one still in common usage.
In 1857, she married Charles Hawks, and they established their home in Brooklyn, joining Dr. Robert Lowry's Hanson Place Baptist Church. (Dr. Lowry wrote many hymns, most famous of which is "Shall We Gather at the River.") With Lowry's encouragement, Annie began writing Sunday school songs for children, and he set many of them to music.
"I Need Thee Every Hour" was written on a bright June morning in 1872. Annie later wrote, "One day I was busy with my regular household tasks. Suddenly, I became so filled with a sense of nearness to the Master that, wondering how one could live without Him, either in joy or pain, the words 'I Need Thee Every Hour' were ushered into my mind, the thought at once taking full possession of me. Seating myself by the open window in the balmy air, I caught up my pencil and the words were soon committed to paper."
The next Sunday, Annie handed the words to Dr. Lowry, who wrote the tune while seated at the organ in the living room of his Brooklyn parsonage. Lowry also added a refrain as he had the conviction that a chorus was necessary for any hymn to provide an opportunity for children to be part of congregational singing. Later that year, the hymn was sung for the first time at the National Baptist Sunday School Association meeting in Cincinnati, and published in a hymnbook the following year.
When Annie's husband died 16 years later, she found that her own hymn was among her greatest comforts. Hawks reflected, "It was not until years later, when the shadow fell over my way, the shadow of a great loss, that I understood something of the comforting power in the words which I had been permitted to give out to others in my hour of sweet serenity and peace."
God often allows each of us to learn in the sunshine what we will need to lean on in the darkness.
Prayer for Today
(From Psalm 86:1-4)
Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer; answer me, for I need your help. Protect me, for I am devoted to you. Save me, for I serve you and trust you. You are my God. Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am calling on you constantly. Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to you. Amen.
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill knew how to bolster the spirits of the British people during World War II. On June 18, 1940, he told a frightened populace, "Hitler knows that he will have to break us . . . or lose the war. . . . Let us therefore brace . . . and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire [lasts] for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour!' "
We would all like to be remembered for our "finest hour." Perhaps the apostle Peter's finest hour was when he proclaimed, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 6:69). Sometimes, however, we let our failures define us. After Peter repeatedly denied that he knew Jesus, he went out and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75; John 18).
Like Peter, we all fall short-in our relationships, in our struggle with sin, in our faithfulness to God. But "failure is not fatal," as Churchill also said. Thankfully, this is true in our spiritual life. Jesus forgave the repentant Peter for his failure (John 21) and used him to preach and lead many to the Savior.
Failure is not fatal. God lovingly restores those who turn back to Him.
Prayer for Today
Dear Father, thank You for Your forgiveness. Thank You that Your mercy and grace are given freely through the shed blood of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.
This past Sunday morning, I wanted to show a card trick for the Children's sermon. I had time before the early worship service, so I jumped in my car and ran up to Walgreen's. I asked the young guy behind the counter if they had any playing cards. With a little help from the store manager, we were able to find them. When I placed the cards on the counter to pay, the young man behind the counter said, "It must be nice to play cards for a living." (It was 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning and I was wearing my tie and a dress shirt, so I guess I must have looked like someone who needed to play cards for a living.) I laughed and told him I was a preacher and I needed them for my Children's sermon in just a few minutes.
He looked at me kind of quizzically and said, "So, what's the good word?" I thought about my sermon for the day and tried to sum it up in one sentence: "When we try to keep our life and our gifts to ourselves, we end up losing it all. But if we share them with others, we end up getting it all back." He then asked, "What do you mean by sharing?" I tried again, "Sharing our lives and God's love by how we act with kindness toward one another - something like that." He smiled. That answer seemed to make more sense. I asked him his name. He pointed to his name tag and said, "Mitch." I shook his hand and told him mine. He said he hoped I have a blessed day. I told him I hoped he had a good day, as well.
When I left, I found myself thinking about how here was someone who wanted to know "the good news" - he was asking for it! So often it is hard to get anyone to listen to the good news, but here was someone who really wanted to know the good news. I hope what I said was what he needed to hear that day.
Prayer for Today
Loving God, help us to pay attention this day for the opportunity to share your good news with someone we meet - either by what we do or what we say. And help us to do it in the right way. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 10:05 am
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.
After Estella Pyfrom retired from teaching, she bought a bus, decked it out with computers and desks, and now drives the "Brilliant Bus" through Palm Beach County, Florida, providing a place for at-risk children to do their homework and learn technology. Estella is providing stability and hope to children who might be tempted to throw away their dream for a better tomorrow.
In the first century, an avalanche of suffering and discouragement threatened the Christian community. The author of Hebrews wrote to convince these followers of Christ not to throw away their confidence in their future hope (2:1). Their hope - a faith in God for salvation and entrance into heaven - was found in the person and sacrifice of Christ. When Jesus entered heaven after His resurrection, He secured their hope for the future (6:19-20). Like an anchor dropped at sea, preventing a ship from drifting away, Jesus' death, resurrection, and return to heaven brought assurance and stability to the believers' lives. This hope for the future cannot and will not be shaken loose.
Jesus anchors our souls, so that we will not drift away from our hope in God.
Prayer for Today
Jesus, in the face of all kinds of trouble and uncertainty, help me to have a confident expectation that is grounded in Your unfailing love for me. Amen.
I've just returned from my vacation at the beach; New Smyrna Beach to be specific. I've always thought of the beach as a place where the eternal and the everyday join together in a mysterious fashion. The beach is an example of how the essence of life co-mingles with existence. Essence has an eternal quality to it that transcends the need for description. When I tell folks I went to the beach for vacation, they nod their heads with approval as if the beach is a known. Which beach doesn't seem to matter, it's the beach.
While the eternal essence of the beach doesn't seem to change, the everydayness of existence changes non-stop. The beach's existence is always changing as the surf ebbs and flows; so too our lives.
Back in the day, summer vacation road trips were a time of beating back the boredom in the car until we arrived. Remember the games that you played in the car to help pass the boring hours of travel? One of the games that I played with my siblings was competing to see who could be the first to spot the license plates on cars from different states. I'm not sure that game is played much these days. As Debbie and I were traveling in the car, she had her I-Pad fired up and we conversed about neat discoveries she was making as we whizzed down I-75. Remarkable! Our lives are like the beach, ever changing and in constant motion. We didn't use a Rand McNally Road Atlas to find our way to new places; rather, Debbie asked Siri (an I-Phone app.) where the destination was located and Siri guided us along. Twenty years ago, I wouldn't have been caught dead without my trusted Atlas.
Walking on the beach I reflected on God's word with both its eternal and everyday qualities. The essence of the Word is eternal and its existence changes in mysterious ways in order to meet us where we are at in our lives; whether counting license plates or asking Siri for directions. The eternal Word has everyday applications.
Prayer for Today
Speak your Word to us, Eternal God, so that we may know your eternal truth and experience your loving grace in our daily walk with you. Amen.
In due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
Cooking can become tedious work when I do it three times a day, week after week. I get tired of peeling, cutting, slicing, mixing, and then waiting for food to bake, grill, or boil. But eating is never tedious! It's actually something we truly enjoy even though we do it day after day.
Paul used the illustration of sowing and reaping because he knew that doing good can be tiring (Galatians 6:7-10). He wrote, "Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart" (v.9). It's difficult to love our enemies, discipline our children, or pray without ceasing. However, reaping the good we have sown isn't tedious! What a joy when we do get to see love conquering strife, or children following God's ways, or answers to prayer.
While the cooking process can take hours, my family usually finishes a meal in 20 minutes or less. But the reaping that Paul talks about will be eternal. As we have the opportunity, let's do what is good and wait for the blessings in God's timing. Don't lose heart today as you go about following God's ways. Remember that joy is guaranteed for more than a lifetime.
Prayer for Today
Dear Lord, help me not to become weary of doing good today. I'm thankful that some day I will be with You for a joy-filled eternity! Amen.
In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.
Early in my Christian life the demands of commitment made me wonder if I could make it past a year without returning to my old sinful ways. But this Scripture verse helped me: The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. -Exodus 14:14, NIV
These are the words Moses spoke to the Israelites when they had just escaped from slavery in Egypt and were being pursued by Pharaoh. They were discouraged and afraid.
As a young believer, with temptations engulfing my world, this call "to be still" encouraged me. Now, some 37 years later, remaining still and calm while trusting Him in the midst of stress-laden situations has been a constant desire for my Christian living.
Be still, and know that I am God, the psalmist says. -Psalm 46:10
When we remain still, we get to know God, our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. - Verse 1
We see our weakness apart from God and recognize our need to surrender to Him. When I am weak, then I am strong, says the apostle Paul. -2 Corinthians 12:10
Prayer for Today
Daily we grind through stress and other frustrating situations. But we can trust that He will be faithful to His promise to care for us. May we learn to be still. Amen.
We just got back from vacation. Our three kids are now at the age that it is very difficult to get our entire family together at the same time for vacation. It has been a while since we were able to do that, but it was really nice.
We had never been to Cozumel before -- an island off the Mexican coast known for its underwater coral reefs. With our hotel packages, some of us could take a "Discovery Scuba" lesson, so our three kids decided to. It was a little unnerving to watch the three of them descend beneath the surface of the ocean for the first time and not immediately resurface. Then they started to head out into deeper water. (I thought it would only a few minutes.) Almost thirty minutes later they emerged from the water - alive. Yea!
They decided to take a longer, second dive later in the week, so Pam and I decided to go snorkeling at the same time. We all left from the same pier on different boats -- not knowing where the others were going. Pam and I were out snorkeling, enjoying some amazing views of fish that we had never seen before, when all of the sudden I looked at the bottom of the ocean floor beneath us and saw four scuba divers moving along. Then I realized it was our three kids and their diving instructor! I tried to call to them and wave, but that didn't work too well underwater.
Yet, I had a certain feeling of parental pride as they disappeared into the deeper water on their own. I wonder if that is how God, as our loving parent, views us from time to time - especially when we do something new on our own. Does God take a healthy pride in seeing his children mature and become the followers God created us to be? Well, I think God does. So today, remember how God delights whenever you do the amazing things God created you to do.
For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
-Ephesians 2:10, NIV
Prayer for Today
Loving God, you made each one of us in your image for a purpose. Thank you for giving us life. Thank you for this day. Help us to grow into the man or woman you designed us to be so that we might do your good works. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 10:02 am
This summer so far we have experienced lots of days with rain. I would invite you to take a moment, in the midst of these encounters with rain or if you are near the ocean, a lake or a river, to watch the water. Listen to the noise it makes as it rushes through the gutters and down the hills or over rocks. It is noisy. It is busy. It moves quickly. Pause for a moment and watch.
"On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, 'Let us go across to the other side.' And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?' He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be Still! Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, 'Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?' And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?'' (Mark 4:35-41)
At the beginning of the story, Jesus leaves the crowd to go out in the boat. As you have experienced summer so far, have you left behind crowds to go on vacation or retreat? What are those crowds for you?
What is the noise in your life? At home? Worries? Things you have to do? Busyness? Hurt? Anger? Fear? Change? Take time to identify them one by one. Then remember the words of Christ, "Peace! Be Still! Let God still the stormy waters within you. Let God turn off the noise and give you peace.
Prayer for Today
Creator God, Thank you for the water that cleanses and refreshes us. Open our minds and hearts to experience your peace and stillness. Guide us as we seek to grow in our faith even in those difficult times. In Christ's Name, Amen.
Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love.
I often find myself thinking back to the years when my children were young. One particular fond memory is our morning wake-up routine. Every morning I'd go into their bedrooms, tenderly call them by name, and tell them that it was time to get up and get ready for the day.
When I read that Abraham got up early in the morning to obey God's command, I think of those times when I woke up my children and wonder if part of Abraham's daily routine was going to Isaac's bed to waken him-and how different it would have been on that particular morning. How heart-rending for Abraham to waken his son that morning!
Abraham bound his son and laid him on an altar, but then God provided an alternate sacrifice. Hundreds of years later, God would supply another sacrifice-the final sacrifice-His own Son. Think of how agonizing it must have been for God to sacrifice His Son, His only Son whom He loved! And He went through all of that because He loves you.
If you wonder whether you are loved by God, wonder no more.
Prayer for Today
Lord, I am amazed that You would love me so much that You would sacrifice Your Son for me. Teach me to live gratefully in the embrace of Your unfailing love. Amen.
Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.
-Isaiah 26:4 (NASB)
Some days are easier than others. In the words of the old cliché, "when the going gets tough, the tough get going." Or do they? When we are at a loss for answers to life's dilemmas, should we plow through full steam ahead? Or do we retreat, pray, and listen for God's leading?
Trust and Obey, a favorite gospel hymn of mine as a youth, has long been cited as a choice example of a balanced biblical view of a believer's faith in Jesus and the resultant good works that should then be evident as a disciple of Christ. Professing our faith is the first step, and then we spend the rest of our lives seeking to obey God's will in our daily living.
The inspiration for this hymn came at a D.L. Moody evangelistic meeting in Brockton, Massachusetts. Daniel Towner was the song leader that night in 1886, and he asked those congregated there to share their faith stories. Several stood and spoke of certain salvation. But then a young man rose and said, "I am not quite sure, but I am going to trust, and I am going to obey."
Towner couldn't forget that simple testimony. He jotted it down and sent it to John Sammis, a Presbyterian minister who had recently left a career in business to enter the ministry. Upon receiving Towner's request, Rev. Sammis first composed the familiar lines of the refrain, which then became the capsule thought for the verses.
Trust and obey, for there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. We know we love God's children if we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. -1 John 5:1-3
Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief nor a loss, not a frown nor a cross,
But is blest if we trust and obey.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help us to know the joy of trusting where we cannot trace, and leaning hard upon your promise of sufficient grace. Amen.
Dad died this past Saturday. Wade Huie was a great man of prodigious passion, faith, and love. I lost my earthly "rock." Yesterday we held his funeral in Decatur. We mourned his loss, but beyond that we celebrated his life and the God my father adored. Hundreds of family and friends came to worship and showed incredible support. I will never forget yesterday.
Little did I know a month ago when I decided on my text for this Sunday's sermon that my father would die this week and request precisely the same gospel reading for his funeral. What are the chances! Jesus' words from his Farewell Discourse were spoken to his disciples to give them peace in troubling times. They had cast their lot with this Jesus and given up most everything to follow him, and now here he was telling them that he would soon no longer be with them. In such an environment, Jesus began his final talk with these words, Do not let your hearts be troubled, and then went on to reassure them that he was going to prepare a place for them.
I firmly believe that God has prepared a place for my father...and for each one of us. That place could only be described very simply as home. I see Dad now dancing with Mom, giving a bodacious bear hug to his grandson Ryan, and bowing before his Lord, as he hears the words, Well done, good and faithful servant. -Matthew 25:21
Sunday in worship we will explore what it means that God has prepared a place for us. Bring a friend, especially one who has no church home. Meanwhile, remember to pray for our youth ministry these next four weeks as we have Montreat, the Great Escape, and our mission trip to Jamaica back to back to back. May God be glorified through it all.
Prayer for Today
O God, we thank you for the saints, those who have especially been touched by your grace to impact the world. Help us all to hear your call and respond with obedient faith and give us your peace, especially when the chips are down. Amen.
We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
It was only scrap wood, but Charles Hooper saw much more than that. Salvaging old timbers from a long-abandoned corncrib, he sketched some simple plans. Then he felled a few oak and poplar trees from his wooded property and painstakingly squared them with his grandfather's broadax. Piece by piece, he began to fit together the old lumber with the new.
Today you can see Charles and Shirley Hooper's postcard-perfect log cabin, tucked away in the trees on Tennessee Ridge. Part guesthouse, part museum for family heirlooms, the structure stands as an enduring tribute to Charles' vision, skill, and patience.
Writing to a Gentile audience, Paul told the church at Ephesus how Jesus was creating something new by bringing together Jewish and non-Jewish believers as a single entity.
"You who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ," Paul wrote (Ephesians 2:13). This new structure was "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord" (vv. 20-21).
The work continues today. God takes the brokenness of our lives, artfully fits us together with other broken and rescued people, and patiently chips away our rough edges. He loves His work, you know.
Prayer for Today
Lord, we can't thank You enough for Your passionate love for us. Help us to see that You bring us together in this beautiful body of believers known as Your church. Amen.
Over the last week or so, the news has unfolded on TVs, phone screens, and radios about the events surrounding the flooding in Texas. When natural disasters like this hit, we are filled with questions, many include, "why?". I think the "why" questions are at the heart of our searching as human beings. We are constantly searching for the meaning and purpose in the experiences of our life.
I would invite you to take a moment today to listen for God. Be still. Feel your heart beat. Sense the life that is running through you.
Then listen to the words of Psalm 46, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Be still and know that I am God.
May the words of Psalm 46 travel with you today and in the coming days as you listen for God's comfort and respond to God's call.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, you are our comfort and strength in times of sudden disaster, crisis, or chaos. Surround us now with your grace and peace through storm or earthquake, fire or flood. By your Spirit, lift up those who have fallen, sustain those who work to rescue or rebuild, and fill us with the hope of your new creation; through Jesus Christ, our rock and redeemer. Amen.
How many times have you found yourself wondering where time has gone? Time flies. Time's a wasting. Time waits for no one. Time marches on. This week I was acutely aware of the passing of time. Mostly it had to do with my daughter, Maryneal, graduating from high school. As you are reading this Reflection, I am at her college orientation at UGA. Go Bulldogs!
Sitting in the Gwinnett Civic Center on Wednesday evening I saw with my very eyes how time marches on as the Lambert High School senior class of 2015 received their diplomas. It seemed like only yesterday that my precious daughter was a toddler following me wherever I traveled; whether in a backpack, a jogging stroller (leading me as I pushed) or following in my footsteps. Debbie affectionately called her, "Daddy's little shadow." She is my shadow no more and hasn't been for many years, but graduations are a time to reminisce. Now she was striding across the stage, walking her own path that she has chosen. UGA will be her home for the next four years. I couldn't have been any prouder as Maryneal processed into her future. I know all of you who had children graduate feel a similar type of pride.
Throughout the week, I found myself looking at pictures of our children when they were younger. The pictures seem to be of a time so long ago now, but serve as reflections in the waters of time that were filled with such faith, hope, and love.
When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church, his 13th chapter serves as a reminder that while we have the time, we should strive for a life of love. He assures us that love never dies. Though the passing of time is something we all must experience, the staying power of love, especially God's love will not only sustain us, but lead us into our future as time marches onward.
Where has all the time gone?!!! As I reflect on the passing of time, whether it's looking at childhood pictures or watching my daughter march into her future, I find myself resting in God's Word and finding great peace in gifts that God gives; faith, hope, and love.
Prayer for Today
Holy God, you are the Lord over all time and space. Keep us mindful of your gifts of faith, hope and love, so that we will find our strength, meaning and purpose in you. Amen.