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.
This past Sunday afternoon, I came home to recover after two wonderful Kirkin' o' the Tartan worship services. I ate lunch and watched the Falcons play another inspired game. But then I changed the channel and started watching the Pope's Mass in Philadelphia. Almost a million people were gathered outside to attend this event.
I have to admit I was not expecting that much when it came to the Pope's visit to the U.S. But something special took place this past week. I have not seen anything like it in my lifetime. The Wall Street Journal created a whole section dedicated to the Pope's visit. Every page talked about what he was saying and what it all meant. I can't recall ever seeing that much coverage of the positive side of the Christian faith.
Listening to Pope Francis' simple but profound words moved me to tears. I am not exactly sure why. Maybe it
was the hope that people would hear these words of Christ coming from such a genuinely authentic person, and folks would be open to taking the next step in their faith journey -- coming closer to God.
I was amazed at how almost all of the media coverage was so positive. For a period of time, everyone focused on things that really matter. Positive comments came from a wide range of folks - Catholics and Protestants -- but also those who did not seem to be particularly religious, yet found something appealing and winsome in how the Pope shared and lived out his message.
Philadelphia's streets were packed with smiling faces of people who seemed glad simply to be there. When the Pope invited folks to "pass the peace" -- everyone reached out with a handshake or a hug to greet each other. The walls that often divide us appeared to come down -- if only for a while.
I am grateful for how this Pope models the love of Christ. I want to learn from him how to do that better. I hope you will pray with me that what we are seeing is the working of God's Spirit changing our world for the better!
Prayer for Today
Thank you God, for your servants like Pope Francis, who show us the humility of Christ in how they serve others. Help us all to do the same. In Christ we pray. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:02 pm
"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? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?' Then he said to him, 'Rise and go; your faith has made you well." (Luke 17:15-19)
Out of the group of 10 lepers that Jesus healed, only one came back to say thank you. I also noticed that Luke made a point to mention that a Samaritan, a foreigner, was the one that came back. He was extremely grateful for the healing he received and immediately wanted to share his deep gratitude with Jesus.
Each day I experience kindness, compassion and hospitality from different people around me. Sometimes I take notice and express my gratitude and other times I continue moving through my hectic to do list of responsibilities for that day. This story in Luke reminds me that I need to be more intentional about taking a moment to say thank you.
As you travel through your day, be open to the kindness, compassion and hospitality shown to you today. How can you express your gratitude? Who will you say thank you to?
Jesus reminds us that we grow in our faith as we are mindful of situations where we need to say thank you. We have received a priceless gift Christ's sacrifice for us. I think of my life as a daily "thank you note" to God for this amazing gift. With this in mind, how might you live differently?
Prayer for Today
For this new morning and its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For every gift His goodness sends,
We thank you, gracious Lord. Amen.
I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus . . . whom you sent to take care of my needs.
Many charities that help people with various needs depend on donations of unwanted clothing and household items from those who have more than enough. And it's good to give away unused things so they can benefit others. But we are often more reluctant to part with things of value that we use every day.
When Paul was imprisoned in Rome, he needed continuing encouragement and the companionship of trusted friends. Yet he sent two of his closest comrades to help the followers of Jesus in Philippi (Philippians 2:19-30).
"I hope in Lord Jesus to sent Timothy to you soon...I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare" (verses 19-20). And "I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs" (verse 25). Paul freely gave to others what he most needed himself.
When we serve the Lord, He is honored, others are helped, and we are blessed.
Whatever we feel is "most Valued" in our lives today could be of great benefit to someone we know. It may be our time, friendship, encouragement, a listening ear, or a helping hand. When we give away what the Lord has given to us, He is honored, others are helped, and we are blessed.
Prayer for Today
Lord, show me what I cling to. If someone needs it, open my heart and my hands and help me give it away today. Amen.
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven - A time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
Fall is here! Cooler temperatures, crisp morning air, trees beginning to drop their leaves which float slowly down to the ground. It won't be long before a palette of orange, yellow, and gold will burst all around us! Autumn is my favorite season, but I know others for whom the gradual dying of nature is associated with loss and melancholy.
A friend once told me that the fall season reminds her of the death Christ experienced, and that even though this "time of dying" is absolutely beautiful, she struggles with feelings of sadness and is at a loss to explain why. Conversely, she views the springtime as the season of Easter, the Resurrection, and new life abounding!
Yet, the author of Ecclesiastes, from the perspective of his own understanding, writes that God has ordered all things according to his own purposes, and that man's role is to accept these as God's appointments, a time for every event under heaven, even a time to die.
Because God created us, I believe God knew we would experience many ups and downs, seasons of "fall" in our lives. Perhaps that is why God gave us the gift of glorious warm hues as a whole new sensual dimension. The cyclical nature of the seasons is a slow continuum. We can appreciate the autumn tapestry of beauty and accept the death of nature in the fall, even in the middle of days that seem to be "falling apart," because we know that spring will come once again.
Prayer for Today
Omnipotent God, guide us and help us to seek you in the seasons of our lives. Help us to always find renewed hope in the awe-inspiring beauty of autumn, the assurance of your love for us in the dark of winter, the magnificence of new life in the spring, and the warmth of heavenly sunlight in the summer. Amen.
The lovable, legendary New York Yankee Yogi Berra died Tuesday at the age of 90. The Hall of Fame catcher played in more World Series games than any other major leaguer leading the Yankees to ten titles, and he was a three-time American League Most Valuable Player. For all his athletic exploits, however, I suspect he was more known for his amusing "Yogi-isms," short proverbs that didn't always make a lot sense, but did always make you chuckle.
Here are some examples:
It ain't over 'til it's over.
Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.
I never said most of the things I said.
It's déjà vu all over again.
You can observe a lot by watching.
If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.
A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore.
Pair up in threes.
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded.
I always thought that record would stand until it was broken.
The future ain't what it used to be.
Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel.
It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much.
You should go to other people's funerals; otherwise they won't come to yours.
I don't know (if they were men or women fans running naked across the field). They had bags over their heads.
If the world were perfect, it wouldn't be.
Slump? I ain't in no slump...I just ain't hitting.
You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six.
You wouldn't have won if we'd beaten you.
Indeed we lost a national treasure, a truly jovial prophet, whose homespun "wisdom" made you laugh. Here is some wisdom from another prophet, words that may not make you laugh, but words to live by:
Trust in the Lord with all your hearts,
and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
-Proverbs 3:5-6 Prayer for Today
O God, may we truly trust in you with all our hearts. May we acknowledge you as Lord and Savior that you might make our paths straight. Amen.
Monday I was asked to welcome our golfers to the JCPC Missions Golf Classic. That morning I began thinking about golf in light of our recent series of messages: Three Things That Will Last Forever. The three things we have talked about that were present from the beginning in the Garden of Eden are order, beauty, and abundance.* When sin and brokenness entered our world, we saw the opposite of these three in chaos, ugliness, and scarcity. Today, God calls us as Christians to extend God's order, beauty, and abundance in the world.
But Monday I thought about those three things giving insight to this question: Why do so many of us enjoy golf?
I think it may all go back to something deeply ingrained in us. At creation, God brought order out of chaos when God made the world. God then invited Adam and Eve to expand that order as they took care of the garden. Golf courses seem to me to be another place where we can see order extended in God's creation. Someone had to design the golf course so that others can enjoy playing outdoors in God's creation. Golf courses reflect order.
They also reflect beauty. Golf is one of the few sports that you have to play outside. When you do, you get to enjoy God's beautiful creation. In addition, there is beauty when someone hits a really good shot. Recently someone commented to me how amazing it is to attend a professional tournament and see a great golfer hit a shot that is truly a thing of beauty. (Occasionally, we may even do the same!)
Lastly, I talked about how golf courses are the result of abundance. Golf courses do not have to exist. Golf is something we do out of our abundance. It is something we enjoy with others. The folks who played golf Monday shared out of their abundance, so that others without the same abundance might simply survive. I thanked the golfers for sharing from their abundance. There is my answer as to why we enjoy golf so much - Golf reflects the order, beauty, and abundance of God's creation.
*Inspired by the book, Futureville, by Skye Jethani
Prayer for Today
Creator God, we thank you that you give us order, beauty, and abundance in our world. Help each one of us to find at least one way today to extend that order, beauty, and abundance to one other person. We ask this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:25 am
I was recently reading a blog post from Mary Ann McKibben Dana (Presbyterian minister, author, and mom of three) and this quote from her caused me to consider some questions. She says "I've preached on the story of the Hebrew people as slaves in Egypt and how Pharaoh heaped more and more work on them. I said, 'Sabbath isn't about being well rested so you can go back to Pharaoh's job site. Sabbath is about realizing that you don't want to make those bricks anymore."
So when you take time for Sabbath it's not just about the rest and renewal that you experience, but rather the perspective that you gain from giving your brain and body a break or diving into things that re-energize you. Given Mary Ann's perspective, how would you re-evaluate your "work" and your "Sabbath"? What are the things in your work load that could be done differently or taken off of your plate? How can you spend time in Sabbath so that you gain perspective on how you spend the hours and days in your week? What are you being called to do with each day?
She went on to share a quote from Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs", "The happiest people I've met over the last few years have not followed their passion at all-they have instead brought it with them." So wherever you are in work life and family life, bring your passion and joy for life with you. These thoughts can be helpful and frustrating when you try to apply them to the day to day. What if you're trying to set goals for your future and they aren't coming together? What if you feel called to something, but you're not finding a place to do that?
These words in Isaiah can bring some comfort on the journey,
"But now, God's Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel: "Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you. I've called your name. You're mine.
When you're in over your head, I'll be there with you. When you're in rough waters, you will not go down. When you're between a rock and a hard place, it won't be a dead end-
Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That's how much you mean to me! That's how much I love you! I'd sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you." (Isaiah 43:1-4, The Message)
Prayer for Today
Comforting and Sustaining God, Be with us on this journey. Open our minds and hearts to our calling in each day. In Christ's Name, Amen.
Anyone who is among the living has hope. -Ecclesiastes 9:4
When I first began working in the small office I now rent, the only inhabitants were a few mopey flies. Several of them had gone the way of all flesh, and their bodies littered the floor and windowsills. I disposed of all but one, which I left in plain sight.
That fly carcass reminds me to live each day well. Death is an excellent reminder of life, and life is a gift. Solomon said Anyone who is among the living has hope. -Ecclesiastes 9:4
Life on earth gives us the chance to influence and enjoy the world around us. We can eat and drink happily and relish our relationships (verses 7 and 9).
Gladness and purpose can be found by relying on God's strength.
We can also enjoy our work. Solomon advised Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might (verse 10).
Whatever our vocation or job or role in life, we can still do things that matter, and do them well. We can encourage people, pray, and express love with sincerity each day.
The writer of Ecclesiastes says, Time and chance happen to them all...No one knows when their hour will come (verses 11-12). It's impossible to know when our lives on earth will end, but gladness and purpose can be found in this day by relying on God's strength and depending on Jesus' promise of eternal life. -John 6:47
Prayer for Today
Dear God, help me to manage my time well and enjoy the gifts of this world today. Thank you for the promise of eternal life through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the Lord. Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem." Psalm 122:1-2
Psalm 122 is a hymn of joy over Jerusalem, sung by one who delights for having joined the pilgrimage to the city. It expresses the psalmist's deep joy over the city and his prayer for its welfare. As he journeys from whence he has come, he is called as a worshiper to be a part of the annual festival throng in Jerusalem. He is called to the temple, the house of the Lord.
Think about the last time you were excited about going somewhere. The anticipation of going somewhere special is a great feeling, isn't it? I very much enjoy high school football, and I am looking forward to the game tonight. I know that I will congregate with many other fans excited to be there. I will cheer on our team and enjoy my Friday night under the lights as the band plays the fight song, the team bursts through the huge banner to take the field, and the announcer roars, "Are 'ya ready for some football?"
In Psalm 122, the psalmist expresses gladness in anticipation of going to the house of the Lord. Do you look forward to your Sunday morning journey to the temple? Is it because of the great music, studying the Word, or inspiring preaching? Worship is all of that, and more, but it is also a time to draw near to God as a body of believers. It is a time to enter a sacred space, apart from the world with its frantic pace, to pray, reflect, and seek God's grace.
Heed the call and journey to the temple with happy feet, dancing as part of a festival throng! Listen to God's voice, saying, "Come away with me. Come away."
Prayer for Today
Lord, help us to anticipate with gladness the next time we will go to the house of the Lord. Let our visits be frequent, and let our love for you grow as we congregate for worship. Amen.
Last Wednesday while leaving a nearby gas station, I unknowingly and boneheadedly dropped my debit card in the parking lot.
Within an hour, someone found the card and brought it safely to church. Here is the note that came with the card unedited except for the removal of the person's name:
Mr. Huie, I am a 23 year old student at UGA.
I commute to and from Athens every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Today I happened to be walking out of Racetrac and getting into my car and saw your debit card. Upon googling your name, I saw someone familiar-Neal Kuhlhorst. Neal has helped my family over the years in various struggles. The last time I spoke to Neal was over a year ago, amidst a struggle with addiction. I have not had a drink in over 12 months. It is and was only possible that I deal with this struggle through a growing, conscious connection with God. Every day I remind myself that what I am doing is not me-it is His working through me. In short, I do not feel like I picked up your card today by mistake. Kinda funny how the big man upstairs works sometimes, huh? God bless.
And God bless that young man for his faithfulness, and God bless Neal Kuhlhorst in his good work through our counseling center. God does work in amazing ways.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Prayer for Today
O God, we thank you for the goodness in people and for your renewing work in our lives. Amen.
You may have heard the story of how railroad tracks came to be their present width. According to one tradition, the United States standard railroad gauge derives from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman chariot which was 4 feet, 8.5 inches. This happened because the U.S. railways were built by English expatriates. The English built them like that because the original width (4 feet, 8.5 inches) went back to Roman times, when the ruts in the "English" roads were made by the chariots used by the Romans. So rather than deciding to do something new, the traditional width was just passed down from age to age. The problem is that according to snopes.com, this is probably not true! The fact that this is probably not the way it happened only underscores the idea that along the way, people figure out from time to time how to do some things better. In other words, we don't always have to do it "the way we have always done it before."
A few weeks ago I attended a conference sponsored by the Macedonian Ministries which chose as its theme, "We've Never Done It That Way Before." The week was devoted to a number of excellent presentations on how churches are dealing with the changing world by trying some new things. However, many of the presenters noted how anxious we tend to get when we are asked to consider change and try something new. The tension and anxiety are real.
In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, God says, "I am about to do a new thing . . ." (43:19, NRSV) God is in the business doing "new things." In life, there is often this tension between honoring the past and being open to the "new things" God may be doing in our midst. But remember that God is not surprised by the changes. And God promises to be with us -- leading us through the changes we face in life. Jesus said, "I will never leave you or forsake you" -- and that is good enough!
Prayer for Today
Consistent and loving God, when we face this ever-changing world, help us to remember your faithful, un-changing love for us. Give us the courage to recognize and lean into the "new things" you are doing, as well as the strength to hold on to those pillars that anchor our faith. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:00 am
The hustle and bustle of a new school year is underway. For many your rhythm and routine have changed. As you are wading through or rushing past, take a moment today to think about how you will make time for God? When will faith formation happen?
In Deuteronomy 6:5-7, we are reminded to, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."
Here are some ways to make time for God and faith formation in this new school year:
*Keep talking about faith. What did you hear in worship on Sunday? What did you hear?
*Pick up a Bible or children's Bible and read together daily.
*Use the time in the car, at a sports practice, or during a lazy Saturday morning at home or on vacation to wonder together about God.
*Adventure outside together looking for signs of God's love and creation.
*Find an outreach project you can participate in together, and help your child understand the connection between helping others and following Jesus.
*Pray together as a family.
*Write down some of the things your children say about faith or experiences you share.
What will you do? We have started a new year of classes, small groups and studies. Come join us this Sunday at 10am to discover opportunities to learn and grow in your faith for all ages.
Prayer for Today
Creator God, open our eyes and ears to the way you are teaching us throughout our week. In Christ's Name, Amen.
I've been reading Richard Rhor's book, Everything Belongs, which illustrates how prayer can help us see God's activity in our lives. One suggestion he offers is to adapt the position of using our beginner's mind. He likens this to Jesus' teaching that we must see like a child sees; seeing without all of our adult filters. After all, our adult filters often put God in our boxes and restricts seeing what is right before our eyes.
On Wednesday, Warren Bright of CanCare shared an experience he had using his beginner's mind to see God's activity in his life. Warren is experiencing side-effects from his chemo-therapy and his energy level is affected. On a recent good day, he invited his wife, Beverly, to go to the movies. It was Labor Day and the parking lot of the theater was packed. They couldn't find a parking spot close by and he really needed a spot up front. Warren was persistent in looking for that one spot to come open and finally, a man waved to Warren to enter the spot he was vacating. Warren told me that he didn't think God was so small that God was concerned about getting him a parking space, but then he said, "...but I do think God was working to make that space available for me."
Warren's adult filters were on as he told me this and so were mine. I've been taught to avoid using magical thinking regarding God. Children use magical thinking and I don't believe that if I want something God will magically make it happen. I don't believe Jesus has magical thinking in mind when he says we need to see like a child.
Perhaps Warren and this man were connected by the Spirit of God. After all, patience and kindness are fruits of the Spirit. When I use my beginner's mind to see God at work with this parking spot I can see a patient man continuing to look and a kind man looking to do a good deed. God's Spirit brought them together. God truly is good!
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, help us to see your hand working in our lives and open our eyes to the many miracles that happen around us through the work of your Spirit. Amen.
And God said, "I have set my rainbow in the clouds; it is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth ..." -Genesis 9:12-13
Many of you have probably already seen the incredible photo of the rainbow that painted the sky over One World Trade Center yesterday, seemingly emanating from the structure itself. What a beautiful sight to behold!
For most Americans, today is a day of remembrance. No matter how full our schedule, most of us will pause for reflection at some point today, perhaps offering prayers of supplication to bring an end to violence in our world or to comfort those who continue to grieve. On the radio this morning, I heard one mother describe the loss of her daughter 14 years ago "as real today as if it were yesterday." Needless tragedy.
Trials and tribulation are a part of life and are unavoidable. Christians are not immune to adversity. Magical rainbows do not appear without first having lived through the storm. God doesn't promise that our days will be filled with blue skies forever; however, the Lord does promise to be with us always to the end of the age.
For today, we can give thanks, just as Moses did, that we journey in the shelter of the Lord, a dwelling place for all generations. Even in the face of evil, we can hold fast to the covenant commitments of God. Though the grass withers and the flower fades, the word of our God stands forever. The plans of the nations will fail, but God is from everlasting to everlasting.
Prayer for Today
O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
be thou our guard while life shall last,
and our eternal home. Amen.
Watching the horrifying images of Syrian refugees pouring into Europe is heartbreaking and reminds one that the world is not yet what it was meant to be. Especially gut-wrenching was the lifeless body of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach.
In such a seemingly hopeless situation, how do we Christians respond? Two things come to mind. First we support organizations that do international relief, such as Presbyterian Disaster Relief and the International Rescue Committee. Second, we pour out our prayers to God. As Isaiah prayed during the Babylonian Captivity, so too can we earnestly pray today during this "Syrian Captivity":
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
(O God), so that the mountains would quake at your presence. -Isaiah 64:1
Indeed may God come down and may God use us as instruments of God's peace.
And now instead of closing with prayer, today I leave you with a Franciscan blessing that I recently came upon that seems particularly relevant in light of recent crises around the world.
Prayer for Today
A FRANCISCAN BLESSING
May God bless you with discomfort,
At easy answers, half-truths,
And superficial relationships
So that you may live
Deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression,
And exploitation of people,
So that you may work for
Justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears,
To shed for those who suffer pain,
Rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand
To comfort them and
To turn their pain to joy
And may God bless you
With enough foolishness
To believe that you can
Make a difference in the world,
So that you can do
What others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness
To all our children and the poor. And the blessing of God - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be with you and remain with you forever.
Moses, Jesus, and an old bearded man were out playing golf one day. Moses pulled up to the tee and drove a long one. It landed in the fairway, but rolled directly toward a water trap. Quickly, Moses raised his club, the water parted and it rolled to the other side safe and sound. Next, Jesus strolls up to the tee and hits a nice long one directly toward the same water trap. It landed directly in the center of the pond and kind of hovered over the water. Jesus casually walked out on the pond and chipped it up onto the green. The third guy gets up and sort of randomly whacks the ball. It heads out over the fence and into oncoming traffic on a nearby street. It bounces off a truck and hits a nearby tree. From there it bounces onto the roof of a nearby shack and rolls down into the gutter, down the downspout, out onto the fairway and right toward the aforementioned pond. On the way to the pond, it hits a little stone and bounces out over the water and onto a lily pad where it rested quietly. Suddenly, a very large bullfrog jumped up on the lily pad and snatched the ball into his mouth. Just then, an eagle swooped down and grabbed the frog and flew away. As they passed over the green, the frog squealed with fright and dropped the ball which bounced right into the hole for a beautiful hole-in-one. Moses turned to Jesus and said, "I hate playing with your dad."
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to play golf with God? We might think that God would resort to a trick shot like the one described above. On Monday, September 21, you may not be able to golf with God, but you can play golf for God by playing in our annual Missions Golf Classic. Your participation will make a difference in the life of someone. And, you will have a great time doing it! Sign up now online and change the world with your golf swing: www.jcpcgolf.com
Prayer for Today
Lord, help us to be more holy by shooting for a hole-in-one for you. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 10:25 am
As we begin a new school year, these days are often filled with making new commitments and promises. How many commitments do you think you make in the course of one day? How many people have you promised your time, effort, gifts or service?
The scriptural meaning of covenant is to make a lasting agreement with God. Take a moment to think about these characteristics of covenanting and how they are different from other agreements or promises we make today:
Covenants are always centered in God.
Covenants are never broken by God.
Covenants are always permanent. They cannot be adjusted or amended, only broken.
Throughout scripture we see the story of God's faithfulness in covenanting with us. God remained faithful to the covenants made with Noah (Genesis 9:1-17), Abraham (Genesis 12:1-9) and Moses (Deuteronomy 5:1-21). Even when God's people were disobedient, God offered a lasting and saving covenant through Jesus Christ.
What does it mean to you that God loves you so much that God would make a covenant with you to provide both salvation from sin and peace in life?
In what kinds of situations would a covenant be more appropriate than a simple contract or promise?
One way that we continue to grow into our covenant with God is through our study of God's Word. Each year we take time to share about the many opportunities where you can connect and grow in this relationship at JCPC.
Join us this Sunday as we gather for breakfast & fellowship in Friendship Hall starting at 9:45 am and then connect with our Sunday School teachers and small group leaders for all ages. This is a time of year when we make commitments to grow in our faith through the Education ministry at JCPC. At 9am and 11 am worship, we will commission all of those who have made the commitment to teach and lead this year in many of these Education ministry groups and classes.
Take some time to not only to make new commitments and promises, but to renew our covenant with God.
Prayer for Today
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew my spirit. Guide me into your presence and lead me each day to remain true to our covenant.
In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Happy Labor Day! I hope you all have had a safe weekend and wonderful holiday.
If you attended the congregational meeting on August 30, you heard an inspired presentation from the new building committee; specifically Tom Traylor and Jeff Arnold. Among all the impressive information they shared, one statistic was met with a collective wow. This committee has logged over 2,000 hours of service for our congregation. I am reminded of St. Paul's words to the Romans:
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 true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. -Romans 12: 1-8
Here is a picture of this sacrificial group cheerfully offering their bodies in the service of our Lord:
Prayer for Today
Thank you Lord for the labor of others who strive to serve you! Help us to remember to be thankful and to share our gratitude as we all work to be your faithful disciples. Amen.
Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: they were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself.
They gave offerings of whatever they could-far more than they could afford!-pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians. This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 - The Message
Giving ourselvesfirst to the Lord is the true principle of all Christian giving. These Macdeonian Christians are an amazing example to the church in every age of the dynamic difference that God's grace makes in the lives and attitudes of followers of Christ. The gracious work of giving on the part of believers is more than matched by the self-giving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To quote Thomas Merton, "To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything God has given us - and God has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of God's love, every moment of existence a gift of grace." Gifted first by God, we are called to offer up ourselves in praise and thanksgiving, heeding God's direction in our daily labors.
The above scripture passage brings to mind a praise song popular in the mid-80's titled "We Are an Offering."
We lift our voices, we lift our hands.
We lift our lives up to you, we are an offering.
Lord use our voices, Lord use our hands.
Lord use our lives they are yours, we are an offering.
All that we have, all that we are, all that we hope to be, we give to you.
Prayer for Today
O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to thee;
For thou, in thy atonement, didst give thyself for me;
I own no other master, my heart shall be thy throne,
My life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for thee alone. Amen.
Woohoo, we are 24 hours away from Labor Day Weekend, the last gasp of summer where some of us might be making our last visit to the lake, beach, or mountains before the grind of fall hits us. In that spirit, this Sunday in worship for those of us "left behind," we will consider the work that God has given us and reflect on its meaning. I suppose I feel a little like the Grinch who stole Christmas preaching about work on a weekend normally set aside for play.
As I look at my own life, both the present and past, I am truly grateful that I have fulltime work, and I love what I do both as a minister and as an entertainment booking agent. In the past over the years, I have mowed lawns, babysat, done construction, worked for a local news station, sold t-shirts on a rock n' roll tour, and DJed all sorts of parties. Even though for the most part I have loved it all, there have been days frankly when I wished I could simply have hit the permanent snooze button and lived a life of leisure. Why is there so often such a love/hate relationship with our work? Is the work we do just a job, or could it be a calling, or are ministers the only ones who receive "calls"? How are we to do our work?
Come to worship this Sunday to explore these questions and more. And bring a friend with you. And then you can make a mad dash for the lake on Monday! And if by chance you are gone for the entire weekend, make sure you come back with a church bulletin signed by the pastor of the church you are visiting!
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the father through him. -Colossians 3:17
Prayer for Today
O God, thank you for the work you give us, be it fulltime or part-time, be it blue collar or white collar, be it at home or in the office. If we presently don't have work, help us find the right job that brings meaning and provision. Help us to find joy in what we do, that it might be more than a "job," but rather a calling. Amen.
Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
Two workmen were asked what they were building together. One said he was building a garage. The other replied that he was building a cathedral. A day later there was only one man laying bricks. When asked where the second was, the first replied, "Oh, he got fired. He insisted on building a cathedral instead of a garage."
Something similar happened on the ancient worksite of Babel. A group of people decided they would build a city and a tower that would reach to the heavens and unite their world (Genesis 11:4). But God didn't want them working on a grand, self-centered plan based on the idea that they could rise to the heights of God and solve all of their own problems. So He came down, stopped the project, scattered the people "over all the earth," and gave them different languages (vv. 8-9).
God wants us to see Him as the solution to our problems.
God wanted people to see Him as the solution to their problems, and He revealed His plan for them to Abraham (12:1-3). Through the faith of Abraham and his descendants, He would show the world how to look for a city "whose architect and builder is God". -Hebrews 11:8-10
Our faith does not rise out of our own dreams and solutions. The foundation of faith is in God alone and what He can do in and through us.
Prayer for Today
Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for focusing on my own schemes and dreams. Help me to look to You for guidance in all that I do. Amen.
Have you enjoyed a recent celebration with family or friends? A birthday? A wedding? A new opportunity?
You might think of the Scriptures as one huge invitation to a celebration with God. I would invite you to take some time today to find a good reason to join the celebration.
In Paul's letter to the Romans he reminds us that, Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. -Romans 10:17
We have the opportunity to grow in our faith through our encounters with God's Word in scripture. Listen for God's word to you in the midst of your current circumstances and challenges of this week.
It takes at least two to celebrate, but you know, the more the merrier! God has made all the preparations and now awaits your response. Why not join all the many others who have also joined the party? It's the best celebration ever!
Prayer for Today
Loving God, we know that we are not perfect. We know we'll make mistakes. Help us to celebrate our successes and accept when we fall short. Give us faith in you and in ourselves. Grant us peace today. In Christ's Name, Amen.