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.
The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.
The film Amazing Grace was set in the late 1700s. It tells the story of William Wilberforce, a politician who was driven by his faith in Christ to commit his money and energy to abolishing the slave trade in England. In one scene, Wilberforce's butler finds him praying. The butler asks, "You found God, Sir?" Wilberforce responds, "I think He found me."
The Bible pictures humanity as wayward and wandering sheep. It says, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6). In fact, this wayward condition is so deeply rooted in us that the apostle Paul said: "There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside" (Romans 3:10-12). That is why Jesus came. We would never seek Him, so He came seeking us. Jesus declared His mission with the words, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10).
Wilberforce was exactly right. Jesus came to find us, for we could never have found Him if left to ourselves. It is a clear expression of the Creator's love for His lost creation that He pursues us and desires to make us His own.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.
Earlier this summer at the Great Escape Middle School Conference our youth attended, one song essentially became our theme song as they played it over and over again, Shut Up and Dance with Me by Walk the Moon. We even learned an energizer dance to accompany it. From day one, I loved it. This was one of those songs that immediately causes your body to just start dancing. Now I hear it everywhere I go, it seems. You could call it the song of the summer!
Here are the lyrics:
A backless dress and some beat up sneaks,
My discothèque, Juliet teenage dream.
I felt it in my chest as she looked at me.
I knew we were bound to be together,
Bound to be together
She took my arm,
I don't know how it happened.
We took the floor and she said,
"Oh, don't you dare look back.
Just keep your eyes on me."
I said, "You're holding back, "
She said, "Shut up and dance with me!"
This woman is my destiny
She said, "Ooh-ooh-hoo,
Shut up and dance with me."
Whether you realize it or not, we are on the dance floor of life. There are countless suitors out there vying for our attention trying to catch our eye. We look for the perfect dance partner darting our eyes back and forth. But really there is only one Lord of the dance. Our God approaches us with outstretched arms. His smile lights up our universe. Our heart beats a million miles a minute. We backpedal and make excuses. We say, "I'm not good enough. Don't really know how to dance. Wouldn't you rather pick someone else? I'm scared. I'll step on your toes. I'll embarrass myself." And the list of excuses continues.
But then God draws near, takes your hand, and with a hearty laugh, shouts from the mountain top, "Shut up and dance with me!"
And so you do...all night along...all the way through eternity.
And David danced before the Lord with all his might.
-2 Samuel 6:14
This is the second week of our new series of messages on "perfectionism" and my tweeting on Twitter. Thanks to all of you who already "follow" me, and I invite others to join in -- Gray Norsworthy@GrayNors. It has been fun to watch this growing online dialogue in which folks are doing things like sending me some great articles they found on the struggle to be perfect. Others have commented on Sunday's sermon and the worship service. Still others have passed along their thoughts sparked by something they heard.
While I was working on my sermon yesterday, a thought crossed my mind. Here it is: We are perfecting ourselves to death. So, I decided to tweet it out to see what people thought. Actually, it could mean a lot of things. For example, does it mean we are so caught up in trying to be perfect all of the time and that is burning us out? Are we too caught up in self-help books and programs that promise Ten Steps to Having the Perfect . . . you fill in the blank? Are we constantly comparing ourselves to someone else who appears to be "perfect" in some way - looks, relationship, lifestyle, kids? Is trying to keep up with them killing us? Or, is there something deeper that connects being perfect with taking up our cross and dying to sin?
As we talked about last Sunday, the words of Jesus to "Be perfect" are not some impossible ideal no one can attain, but an on-going, life-long maturing process filled with ups and downs. As we will say again and again in the coming weeks, No one is perfect . . . except Jesus. So, unless our name is "Jesus the Christ" then neither are we. But, we are loved by God and that is all that really matters.
If you have some thoughts about this you want to put out there, then go to #beyeperfect on Twitter and start a conversation with others. Together, we imperfect people might have some wisdom and encouragement we can share with each other. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. -1 Thessalonians. 5:11, NIV
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, only Jesus was perfect - and that was enough. Help us to love one another as we echo Your perfect love for us. In the strong name of Jesus the Christ we pray. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:38 am
After a busy season in the year or following the completion of a big project, I feel excitement mixed with exhaustion. Sometimes I ask myself, "What does God really want me to do with my life? What is my purpose?
When I stop and reflect I realize that there is work that God needed to do in me before he could completely work through me. I need an inside tune-up, a fresh touch of the Holy Spirit working in my life -- helping me to find the answers I desperately need.
When I find myself in need of renewal, I sometimes remember the story of Elijah running for his life from Jezebel in 1 Kings 19:3-21. Elijah was physically, emotionally, and spiritually spent. His in-ergy was exhausted. God gave him specific instructions to recharge his spirit.
First, the Lord instructed Elijah to lie down and sleep, then to eat. When we face a crisis in our life, God gives us practical advice for getting the things our bodies need: rest and nourishment.
The second piece of advice that the Lord gave run-down Elijah was to get someone to help. Take some time to look around you and realize that you are not in this alone and God has provided a community of faith to support you on your journey.
I would invite you today, to stop and take a few moments to ask yourself:
Do I need rest and nourishment?
Have I asked for help and support when I need it?
Prayer for Today
God of Creation and Giver of Life, Thank you for the gifts you provide for us in times of crisis and times of exhaustion. Help us to continue to be open to the ways you are taking care of us. In Christ's Name, Amen.
I imagine many of you have been eyeballing the month of August. The beginning of school is just around the corner and August bears the distinction of marking the end of summer vacation and the beginning of the next phase in our children's growth. Endings and beginnings belong together. One door opens and another door closes. The future becomes the past to make room for the future.
Back in the day, I listened to The Moody Blues and one of their lyrics of a song has stayed with me; our arms around the future with our backs up against the past. Face it, life is lived forward but understood backwards. All this came to mind this morning as I re-read notes my wife has taped to her mirror. They are love notes from Maryneal. Each marked a significant life event and each highlighted her love for her mother. This coming August 11 we will be moving Maryneal into her dorm room at UGA to begin her college career. Our arms are around the future with our backs up against the past!
We aren't perfect parents and we never will be; however, we tried as best we could to be consistent in sharing love with our children. The love notes taped on the mirror serve as reminders that love is the most important way in which we share our lives. Gray offered that insight in his sermon on Sunday when he explained that Jesus' teaching to be perfect as God in Heaven is perfect is not a directive to the impossible, but rather encouragement to share your love as best you can. We are in process which means our arms are around the future with our backs up against the past.
As you launch your children into the next phase of their growth take the time to remember the love that you shared in the past and bless them with the love that helps to dream them into their future!
Prayer for Today
Eternal God, thank you for the gift of love which guides us, shapes us, and leads us into the future into which you are calling. Help us to remember these gifts so that we can enter into the future faithfully; embracing the promise of your future while resting on the knowledge of your providential care in the past. Amen.
Having arrested Jesus, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest's house. But Peter followed at a distance.
When I hear stories about young people who have been bullied, I notice there are always at least two levels of hurt. The first and most obvious comes from the mean-spirited nature of those actually doing the bullying. That's terrible on its own. But there's another, deeper hurt that may end up being even more damaging than the first: The silence of everyone else.
It hurts the one being bullied because they're stunned that no one will help. That often makes bullies more brazen, leading them to intensify their meanness. Worse, it heightens the embarrassment, false shame, and loneliness of the victim. So it is imperative to speak up for others and speak out against the behavior (see Proverbs 31:8a).
Jesus knows precisely what it feels like to be bullied and to be left to suffer completely alone. Without cause, He was arrested, beaten, and mocked (Luke 22:63-65). Matthew 26:56 says that "all the disciples forsook Him and fled." Peter, one of His closest friends, even denied three times that he knew Him (Luke 22:61). While others may not understand fully, Jesus does.
When we see others being hurt, we can ask Him for the courage to speak up.
Prayer for Today
Make us brave, Lord, for those who need our courage. Help us to speak for others and show them that You know their hurt and loneliness. Amen.
To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?
-Isaiah 40:25, NIV
CNN calls a derivative of graphite a "miracle material" that could revolutionize our future. Only one atom thick, graphene is being hailed as a truly two-dimensional material in a 3-D world. One hundred times stronger than steel, it is harder than diamond, conducts electricity 1,000 times better than copper, and is more flexible than rubber.
In and of themselves, such technological advances are neither moral nor evil. But we are wise to remember the limitations of anything we make for ourselves.
Isaiah spoke to a generation who found themselves carrying into captivity gods they had made with their own hands. The prophet wanted the Israelites to see the irony of needing to care for the silver and gold idols they had crafted to inspire, help, comfort, and protect them.
What was true of Israel holds true for us as well. Nothing we have made or bought for ourselves can meet the needs of our heart. Only God, who has been carrying us "from the womb" (Isaiah 46:3-4), can carry us into the future.
Prayer for Today
Father, thank You for the miracle of relationship with You. Help us not to rely on our own efforts, strength, or possessions but instead sense Your loving care for us. Amen.
One of my weeks I take off during the summer is dedicated to continuing education. This year I did two things. First of all, I participated in a four-day spiritual retreat at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit out in Conyers. Many folks have no idea there is a Trappist monastery so close to Atlanta. If you have never been, I encourage you to go and spend the day. There is a great museum, an amazing gift shop, and you can attend one of the worship services in the Abbey that take place five times a day. You can even spend the night at the retreat house if you want a quiet time for reflection. My retreat was called "The Spirituality of Imperfection" -- which was perfect for me. Starting this Sunday, I will be sharing a series of messages I am calling "Perfect Imperfection." We will explore how to face perfectionistic tendencies gracefully.
The second goal of my continuing education time was to discover how to expand my digital presence. In today's world, I am aware of how many of us connect digitally. I asked my social-media savvy adult kids and my wife to advise me as to my options. I chose to start "tweeting." (Go to Twitter online if you don't know what is.) If you are on Twitter, you can follow me: "@GrayNors". I will be sending out regular messages such as recommended articles or books, inspiring quotes, or updates related to JCPC. I hope to get as many "followers" as I can. When we break ground this fall on the new multipurpose building, it will be a great way to keep folks up-to-date on the daily progress of the construction.
I am grateful to be able to go away for a time of spiritual renewal, knowing that we have such a fine staff here at JCPC. When I leave, I have no doubts that our staff will handle things well in my absence. Next time you see one of our staff members, I hope you will thank them for their faithful service.
Below is a prayer I saw displayed when we visited the Chapel of the Angels at the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force just outside of Savannah.
Prayer for Today
Almighty God, Who has blessed us with the will and energy to do our duty, we praise You for our comrades whose death kept freedom living. We praise You also for giving us the years we have lived since their departure. We pray that You will strengthen and sustain our devotion to truth and justice, so that we may be faithful benefactors of their sacrifice. Continue Your mercy to our comrades; keep them in Your care; and bring us at least into Your presence there to rejoice eternally. Amen.
-Very Reverend Robert C. Martin
Dean of the Cathedral, Retired
God has given each of us seasons of waiting and days of anticipation. Despite the incessant rush of our lives and the world around us, there are still moments when things stop, and all that we can do is wait. God invites us to wait faithfully, anticipating joyfully what is to come. Since Thursday, we have been waiting on my niece to be born. She was due to arrive last week, but has decided that we needed to wait a little longer to meet her. Today as we continue to wait, I would invite you to take a moment now to think about a situation in your life where you are waiting for something and pause now to faithfully wait with God.
Often when I spend time waiting, I experience some type of blessing or renewal after that period of time. What if we spent more energy looking forward to the times when we feel refreshed and renewed?
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
Isaiah, with poetic words, invites us into just such a space. We ask what the world renewed might look like, and the prophet answers with healed bodies dancing and singing, with a desert becoming a place of cooling, life-giving water. How do you imagine the world renewed? Where do you catch glimpses of it already? Know that God is working in us and through us to make all things new and whole.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, Help us to look for the new things you are doing in and around us. Help us to see what this world can be so that we can dance and sing with joy while working with you to make that vision real. In Christ's Name, Amen.
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. -2 Timothy 2:3
Having served in World War I,
C. S. Lewis was no stranger to the stresses of military service. In a public address during the Second World War, he eloquently described the hardships a soldier has to face. "All that we fear from all the kinds of adversity . . . is collected together in the life of the soldier on active service. Like sickness, it threatens pain and death. Like poverty, it threatens ill lodging, cold, heat, thirst, and hunger. Like slavery, it threatens toil, humiliation, injustice, and arbitrary rule. Like exile, it separates you from all you love."
The apostle Paul used the analogy of a soldier suffering hardship to describe the trials a believer may experience in service to Christ. Paul-now at the end of his life-had faithfully endured suffering for the sake of the gospel. He encourages Timothy to do the same.
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
-2 Timothy 2:3
Serving Christ requires perseverance. We may encounter obstacles of poor health, troubled relationships, or difficult circumstances. But as a good soldier we press on-with God's strength-because we serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who sacrificed Himself for us!
Prayer for Today
Dear Father, help me to be faithful in my service to You. Thank You for the strength You provide to help me persevere through suffering. Amen.
All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless you. They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power. -Psalm 145:10-11
This inspiring hymn of praise, found in nearly every hymnal, was originally written in 1225 by one of the most interesting figures in all of church history. Giovanni Bernardone, better known as Saint Francis of Assisi, was a mystic, medieval monk who spent his lifetime as an itinerant evangelist, preaching, and helping the poor people of Italy.
Saint Francis was born in Assisi, Italy, in 1182. After an early indulgent life as a soldier, he reformed his ways dramatically at the age of 25, and determined to serve God by imitating the selfless life of Christ in all that he did. Although his family members were people of considerable means, Francis scorned the possession of material goods, denounced his inherited wealth, denied himself everything but the most meager necessities, and devoted himself completely to moving about his area as Christ's representative.
"All Creatures of our God and King" is from one of Saint Francis' writings entitled "Canticles of the Sun," said to have been written one hot summer day in 1225, one year before his death, while Francis was very ill and suffering the loss of his eyesight. Throughout his life, Saint Francis made much use of singing and believed strongly in the importance of church music. In all, he wrote more than 60 hymns for use in the monastery. This beautiful expression of praise is one that has survived the passing of several hundred years.
Prayer for Today
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is discord, unity.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is error, truth.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is sadness, joy.
Where there is darkness, light.
O divine master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console.
To be understood, as to understand.
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving, that we receive.
It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned.
It is in dying, that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
Yesterday I came upon a story of someone with an interesting tattoo. It was a semicolon. That was it. Her explanation was that a semicolon is a place in a sentence where the author has the decision to stop with a period, but chooses not to. A semicolon is a reminder to pause and then keep going.
She went on that she had been diagnosed with depression, which had taken so much out of her, helping to destroy her GPA in college, her friendships, and her involvement with life, all this in spite of the fact that she was the perfect picture of a 20 year old sorority girl at an SEC school. As she described it, "I called 250 women on my campus by the name of sister, but I was still lying at the bottom of a lake, unable to breathe while, effortlessly, everyone around me grew gills."
Every 16.2 minutes, someone takes their life, and still we shame and stereotype and stigmatize the people who need the most help with the thinking that they should feel bad about even asking for help when in reality asking for help is an amazing act of great courage.
Hardship and heartbreak are inevitable in life. It is part of being human. For some, however, simply getting out of bed is a struggle, so let's all do what we can to help people find the strength to carry on. We don't want periods in life. We want semicolons.
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Prayer for Today
O God, we pray especially for those who struggle just to get out of bed each day. Give them strength, purpose, and joy, and use us as instruments of great love. Amen.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. -Proverbs 4:23
During the early 1970s in Ghana, a poster titled "The Heart of Man" appeared on walls and public notice boards. In one picture, all kinds of reptiles-symbols of the vile and despicable-filled the heart-shaped painting with the head of a very unhappy man on top of it. In another image, the heart-shape was clean and serene with the head of a contented man. The caption beneath the images read: "What is the condition of your heart?"
In Matthew 15:18-19, Jesus explained what pollutes a person. "The things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts-murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander" (NIV). That is the condition of a heart separated from God-the situation ancient Israelites found themselves in when their sins forced them into exile (Ezekiel 36:23).
God's promise in Ezekiel 36:26 is beautiful: "I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart" (NLT; see also 11:19). God will take away our stubborn hearts that have been corrupted by all kinds of evil and give to us a clean heart that is responsive to Him. Praise God for such a wonderful gift.
Prayer for Today
Father in heaven, thank You that when we confess our sin to You, You give us a new heart and a new life. I pray that the life I live reflects the goodness of Your gift and that others may see the difference a new heart has made in me. Amen.
Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. - Matthew 9:38, NIV
In the late 19th century, William Carey felt a call to travel to India as a missionary to share the good news of Jesus. Pastors around him scoffed: "Young man, if God wants to save [anyone] in India, He will do it without your help or mine!" They missed the point of the partnership. God does very little on earth with the likes of us.
As partners in God's work on earth, we insist that God's will be done while at the same time committing ourselves to whatever that may require of us.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done. Jesus taught us to pray. -Matthew 6:10. These words are not calm requests but holy demands. Give us justice! Set the world aright!
When we extend mercy to the broken, we reach out with the hands of Christ Himself.
We have different roles to play, we and God. It is our role to follow in Jesus' steps by doing the work of the kingdom both by our deeds and by our prayers.
We are Christ's body on earth, to borrow Paul's metaphor in Colossians 1:24. Those we serve, Christ serves. When we extend mercy to the broken, we reach out with the hands of Christ Himself.
Prayer for Today
Lord, You have called us Your friends. In some small way, help us to show Your love to this hurting world so they will know You.
Karen Jordan greeted me on Sunday morning as I was entering the Welcome Center to prepare for worship. The morning was July sultry so I joked that it would be nice to have A/C where she was standing. What happened next took me by surprise. As I entered the Welcome Center I walked into the mountains and I literally felt the temperature in my body drop. How could this be?
Billie Bothwell, Allison Shearouse, and their creative team had transformed the Welcome Center, Narthex, and Sanctuary into a Mt. Everest adventure for VBS this week at JCPC. Their work had a parabolic action of taking the expected, in this case the ritual of Sunday morning, and by adding a different type of story, the Everest adventure, creating an entirely new reality. I must confess that I felt like a child viewing the mountains, tents, camp fires, and so much more. I became giddy!
Jesus' parables worked this way. He takes a common story such as a sower sowing seeds, a woman baking bread, or a shepherd watching sheep and by adding a new element to the story he invites us to see an entirely new reality; one he calls the Kingdom of Heaven.
This coming Sunday, through my preaching I'm going to invite you to see God's Kingdom through the story of the mustard seed. Many of you know this story well; a small mustard seed grows into a magnificent tree where all the birds build their nests. This parable; however, has a surprising quality that is meant to transform our understanding of the Kingdom of Heaven, just as the mountain peaks of VBS transformed my experience of Sunday morning. Join me this coming Sunday as we explore the question, "what does it mean to have mustard seed faith in the land of mega-churches?" The tiny mustard seed invites us to peak into the new reality God has for us.
Prayer for Today
Surprise us with your good news, O Gracious God, so that we may see your kingdom in our midst, live as faithful disciples of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and share his love in
joy-filled ways. Amen.
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40(NIV)
Our closing hymn this Sunday is titled "When the Poor Ones." The hymn text is a paraphrase of Jesus' parable of the great judgment recorded in Matthew 25:31-46, and there is also a suggestion of the road to Emmaus story (Luke 24:13-35) in the refrain. The hymn is a result of the combined efforts of J.A. Olivar and Miguel Manzano, both former priests from Madrid, Spain.
In stanza one, we encounter the poor, the thirsty, and the crippled or weak. In stanza two, those who suffer and those who hope even when they are tired of hoping are lifted up. In stanza three, we realize that happiness has nothing to do with acquiring things, but with loving simple things. Finally, in stanza four, abundance is associated with making peace and welcoming the stranger. Each stanza begins with "when" and concludes with "God still walks that road with us." When you encounter "the least of these," you encounter Christ.
The central teaching is the classic liberation motif that God in Christ is seen and experienced in the plight of the rejected of society - the homeless, the poor, and the orphans. In life's journey, we are closer to God when we love them and share from our abundance of food, clothing, and shelter.
As we sing this beautiful hymn on Sunday, may we all be reminded that Jesus said, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in; I needed clothes and you clothed me; I was sick and you looked after me; I was in prison and you came to visit me." (NIV)
Prayer for Today
When the poor ones who have nothing share with strangers,
When the thirsty water give unto us all,
When the crippled in their weakness strengthen others,
Then we know that God still goes that road with us.
Thanks be to God!
And the king will answer them, Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. -Matthew 25:40
A few years ago, pop singer Joan Osborne famously sang, "What If God were one of us, a slob like one of us?" Look around right now. Could God be among us slobs you encounter this week? It's an intriguing, perhaps scary, perhaps exciting proposition.
Matthew 25 raises such a question, as it suggests that as we treat others, especially those often ignored and overlooked, the down and out, it is as if we are treating God himself. How do we measure up to this standard? Do we serve others in order to gain favor with God, or do we serve others very simply because that is a natural expression of who we are? Are our lives marked by actions of care for the "least of these"? Or to put more crudely, are you a sheep or are you a goat?
We'll consider these questions and more in my sermon this Sunday as we look at Jesus' last "sermon" according to the gospel of Matthew. If Jesus saved this one for last, then surely it's one he wants his followers to remember! Bring a friend to church, especially one who has no church home. Better yet, come join us this weekend as we seek to be faithful to Jesus' call upon us in this story, at either of our two mission experiences, Saturday as we volunteer at the Atlanta Community Food Bank (from 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., bring closed-toe shoes and lunch money for the Varsity) and Sunday as we serve the homeless at First Presbyterian Atlanta (5:45-9:15 a.m. - you can even make it back for the early service!).
Prayer for Today
Help us, O God, to be faithful and to serve others, especially those less fortunate than we. Amen.
When you hear the word mission, what you do you think of?
Our mission can be most tangible in the ways that we live together as community and the activities to which we give our time and treasure. With this understanding, everything from worship, to small group gatherings, to serving at the local food bank have the potential to be mission-focused.
In Luke 4:14-30, we find Jesus' journey back to his hometown and his reading from Isaiah in the synagogue.
How might this text helps us understand what Jesus believed his mission to be? What did he feel called to do? Why did the people of his hometown reject his mission? What might this tell us about the challenges of participating in God's mission in our community and in our world?
Mission "is not what we do but what we are." Mission is the proclamation of the Church to the world about our deepest values, the most important parts of our identity, and who we are at our core. It's our witness -- what we profess to be to the world.
How would you sum up your mission in a word or phrase? What would you declare your witness to be? Take a moment to write a word or phrase expressing what you find is your mission and calling.
Prayer for Today
Thank you for calling us to be a part of your mission for our community. Guide us to continue to share your Good News through our words and actions. Open our eyes to the ways we can serve you. In Christ's Name, Amen.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. -Romans 12:1
As I was listening to the Bridge committee report on their progress yesterday, I began to think of Paul's words to the church; "offer your bodies as a living sacrifice...this is your spiritual act of worship."
The Bridge committee steers the numerous work teams, consisting of 35 individuals, who are shepherding our dream of new facilities here at JCPC into reality. The amount of time each member has given, the attention to detail they have slaved over, and learning the answers to the questions they didn't even know how to ask when they first began work is breath talking and inspiring. These faithful servants of Christ are the embodiment of being a living sacrifice.
Growing up, I was taught that the church is not the building, rather; the church is the people. Listening to the Bridge committee's presentation gave me a whole new appreciation for buildings. In some ways, buildings look like people. What I mean is that when you look at a person, you see their outward appearance. However, what you are seeing is the untold story of the sacrificial love that has gone into the shaping of this person. Every aspect of our new building has been labored over, prayed over, assessed, re-assessed, and deliberated over. In Paul's terms, the process is a spiritual act of worship! Our new building is so much more than brick and mortar. It is the collective representation of living sacrifice that is truly a spiritual act of worship.
The first guiding principle here at JCPC is that worship is the most important thing we do. With Paul's help, we can see that worship is so much more than the one hour on Sunday mornings that we traditionally share as worship.
Please continue to pray for the women and men who are
offering their bodies as a living sacrifice and contact these Bridge committee members to hear more about the exciting news: Dawn Melin, Rich Shuler, and Rick Zellmer.
Prayer for Today
We thank you, gracious God, for the women and men who are offering themselves as living sacrifices to further your gospel and bear witness to your saving grace. Help us to encourage them and keep them in our daily prayers. Amen.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
-2 Timothy 4:7
For more than two decades Andrew Carroll has been urging people not to throw away the letters written by family members or friends during a time of war. Carroll, director of the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University in California, considers them an irreplaceable link to tie families together and open a door of understanding. "Younger generations are reading these letters," Carroll says, "and asking questions and saying, 'Now I understand what you endured, what you sacrificed.' "
When the apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome and knew his life would soon end, he wrote a letter to a young man whom he considered a "son in the faith," Timothy. Like a soldier on the battlefield, Paul opened his heart to him: "The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
When we read the letters in the Bible that the heroes of the Christian faith have left for us and grasp what they endured because of their love for Christ, we gain courage to follow their example and to stand strong for those who come after us.
Prayer for Today
Lord, give us strength for the spiritual battles we face today, knowing that You have won the ultimate victory and that we will one day live eternally with You. Amen.
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt.
Where I come from in northern Ghana, bush fires are regular occurrences in the dry season between December and March. I've witnessed many acres of farmland set ablaze when the winds carried tiny embers from fireplaces or from cigarette butts carelessly thrown by the roadside. With the dry grassland vegetation, all that is needed to start a devastating fire is a little spark.
That is how James describes the tongue, calling it "a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one's life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell" (James 3:6 niv). A false statement made here or backbiting there, a vicious remark somewhere else, and relationships are destroyed. "The words of the reckless pierce like swords," says Proverbs 12:18, "but the tongue of the wise brings healing" (niv). Just as fire has both destructive and useful elements, so "death and life are in the power of the tongue" (18:21).
For conversation that reflects God's presence in us and pleases Him, let it "always be with grace" (Col. 4:6). When expressing our opinions during disagreements, let's ask God to help us choose wholesome language that brings honor to Him.
Prayer for Today
Guide my conversation today, Lord. May the words I choose bless and encourage others and build them up rather than tear them down. May You be pleased with what You hear. Amen.
God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. -John 3:17
The St. Olaf Choir from Northfield, Minnesota, is renowned for making beautiful music. One reason for its excellence is the selection process. Applicants are chosen based not only on how well they sing but also on how they sound as part of the whole. Another reason is that all members agree to make the choir their first priority and commit to a rigorous rehearsal and performance schedule.
One of the things that intrigues me the most about this choir is what happens during rehearsals. Whenever members make a mistake, they raise their hand. Instead of trying to hide the blunder, they call attention to it! This allows the conductor to help each singer learn the difficult part, and it increases the likelihood of a flawless performance.
I think this is the kind of community Jesus was establishing when He told Nicodemus that God sent His Son into the world to save it, not condemn it (John 3:17). Shortly after this conversation, Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman at the public well. He made it easy for her to admit failure by promising her a better way of life where she could enjoy His forgiveness (John 4).
As members of Christ's body on Earth, we should not fear admitting our wrongs but welcome it as an opportunity to together experience and rejoice in the forgiveness of God.
Prayer for Today
Lord, it's our tendency to hide our sins and flaws. May we come to You in full honesty, understanding that we are loved and forgiven by You. Amen.