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Welcome to the JCPC Daily Reflections Blog. Reflections are daily devotionals authored by JCPC pastors, staff and members and provide insight, guidance and comfort to help you make it through each day. If you’d like to receive Reflections each day via email,  provide your email address.

Friday, January 29 2016

Alicia Taylor

Take time to be holy, speak often with God.  Find rest in him always and feed on his word.  Take time to be holy, the world rushes on; much time spend in secret with Jesus alone.

The lyrics of "Take Time to Be Holy" were written about 1882 by William Longstaff, a wealthy Englishman who served as treasurer of the Bethesda Free Chapel in Sunderland, a port city in Northeast England.  The hymn was prompted by a sermon William heard on the text, "Be holy, for I am holy."  1 Peter 1:16.
But what does it mean to be holy?  Striving to lead a holy life doesn't mean we are perfect - "holier than thou."  Rather, we are a set-apart people completely dependent on God's grace.  We are made holy in our hearts "... by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace."  2 Timothy 1: 8b-9a. 
As followers of Jesus Christ, we live under the New Covenant.  Jesus died in our place and took our sin upon himself; thus, we are temples where God's Holy Spirit dwells.  As the current sermon series has illustrated beautifully, there can be no "holy life" without a thriving connection to God through worship, prayer, and service to others. 
The Lord is our strength, our hope, our joy, our peace.  As we take time to be holy, spending time with God in prayer, we are changed.  As we read God's Word, we are strengthened for what lies ahead.
Paul says we are "called" to a holy life, which implies action on our part.  What about you?  What do you do each day to purposely and intentionally cultivate a more holy life?  What specific ways do you hear God calling you to be set apart for his purposes?
I invite you to "take time to be holy" for the next three minutes and twenty seconds.  Click on the link, listen to the beautiful music, and ask God to show you the way.

Prayer for Today

Loving God, show us how to live this holy life to which you call us.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 09:13 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, January 28 2016

This past week I received an email that brought me much delight.  One of my former youth from my last church, who also was my intern for a year, just announced that she will be entering seminary this year and going into the ministry.  Yea!  By my count, she is at least the seventh former youth of mine who has gone-or is planning to go-into the ministry, including both our present youth intern, Mikey and our last one, Kaytlin.

One of the pure joys of a long term youth ministry is seeing the fruit of one's labor.  In other words, the wonder of youth ministry is not just the immediate gratification of being with young people in this pivotal time in their lives, but it is also anticipating what is to come.  This past Sunday during Youth Sunday I was so proud of our young people as they shared their gifts in worship, the singing, the dramatizing, the praying, the ushering, the speaking, all capped off by three of our seniors sharing God's word so beautifully.  It was a service that truly glorified God.  As I soaked it all in, I began to envision the young adults that these youth are in the process of becoming.  It brought a big, big smile to my face.
As I once heard, youth ministry is about building cathedrals.  Cathedrals aren't built overnight.  It takes years, decades, even centuries.  You may feel like you are just a bricklayer mundanely laying bricks for some walls.  But the reality is, you are not just laying bricks for a wall; you are building a cathedral, whose finished product, even if you don't live to see it, is indeed something splendidly exquisite.
Likewise, the process of growing children into faithful disciples of Christ takes time.  You don't always see the fruit of your labor.  In fact, there are times you may feel like you labor in vain.  But then as the years pass, you eventually see the "finished product," and you can't help but rejoice and give thanks to God.

One "cathedral" in front of another, first in Russia and then in Spain!
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
-Ephesians 2:10

Prayer for Today

O God, we pray for our youth and give thanks for them.  They are a blessing from you.  Help us to remember that, especially in tough times.  You are not done with them yet-or us as well.  Assist us, we pray, in that sacred task of raising them to love you and others and find their calling in life.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 09:11 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, January 27 2016

Some of you know that my youngest daughter, Maggie, is heading to Vietnam this semester for study abroad. When I am asked by folks, "What does Maggie want to do after college?" I half-jokingly say, "She wants to save the world." Maggie has a passion for trying to make things better - especially between people of different cultures. I am interested to see what she will end up doing, but I believe that, in her own way, she will end up helping to make this world a better place for all of us.

Her flight was this past Monday morning. We thought we left early enough to get there with plenty of time to spare, but for some reason the traffic heading south on 400 was unusually slow. It took us an hour just to get from our house to the North Springs MARTA station! We had not planned to ride on MARTA, but after seeing the traffic, we decided it was our best option. At least we knew how long the ride would take.
When we finally reached the ticket counter, Maggie tried to check in with her passport. She needed to check her enormous bag filled with four months of all you need to live. But the check-in screen said she was too late to check a bag. At that point, one of the airline employees came over and repeated that we were too late to check a bag. He said Maggie could not fly out until the next day, at best. (I can't tell you how difficult that would have been.) He then asked if she had any liquids packed - which of course she did. Her only option was to pull them all out and try to check her bag at the gate. She pulled the liquids out, ran through security, and somehow boarded the plane with only minutes to spare. Yesterday I got a message from her -- after 24 hours of travel she had checked into her hotel in Vietnam.
So my message today is this - thank you to everyone who was praying for Maggie. Your prayers worked!

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, you invite us to share the large and small concerns of our lives. While we know that all things work together for the good of those who love you, we are especially grateful when our prayers are answered in ways we can see right now. And give us patience to wait for your answers to our prayers when they are not so apparent. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 05:07 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, January 26 2016

For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have done.How great are your works, Lord, how profound your thoughts! Psalm 92:4-5

The words of this Psalm have recently become a part of my prayers. As I go through each day, I continue to become more aware of the great works of God. Where have you noticed God's great works in the last couple of weeks?

This verse from Hebrews came to mind as I thought about the experiences over the past year.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2a)

I can think of many people that have brought me to this place in my faith journey.I am grateful for the cloud of witnesses that have challenged, shaped and brought growth to my faith and beliefs. I am reminded that each of us as a part of this community of faith makes the commitment at baptism to nurture our children and youth as they grow in their faith. May you find ways to share in this journey of faith with our children and youth.

I would invite you today to take a moment to lift up prayers to God for those that have been a part of your cloud of witnesses.

Prayer for Today

Creator God, Thank you for the gift of life and the ways you bring people into our lives to help challenge, shape and bring growth in our faith. Help us to be open to the ways you will call on us to use our gifts. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 05:51 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, January 25 2016

I just signed up to pray during our 6th annual Prayer Vigil which is scheduled for February 12-13.

Before you read any further in this Reflection, please click this link: and sign up for your hour of prayer.

Seeing the time segments and the names of those who have signed up to pray, my mind went to Scripture. Paul encourages us to pray without ceasing in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Typically, I have viewed this imperative as an impossible standard to reach. I'd be fooling myself if I believed that I could pray without ceasing in any given day. My mind darts from idea to idea to idea and most of these ideas aren't related to praying. How in the world can I pray without ceasing?

Well, Paul isn't writing this to an individual, he is sharing this encouragement with the church. Perhaps the one time a year that we faithfully fulfill Paul's challenge to prayer without ceasing is during our  Prayer Vigil. Perhaps Paul is sharing a secret with us; when we are unified together in prayer we are more aligned with God's will. During our Prayer Vigil, we are praying for those in need. We are praying for direction. We are praying for our church, our nation, our neighbor, ourselves.

Through an unbroken chain of prayer, we are actually doing what Paul instructs in verse 15 of the same chapter:  "See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people."

If you chose to read this Reflection without clicking the link to sign up for the Prayer Vigil please do so now

We are much better at seeking what is good for all when we all are in prayer together!

To God be the glory.

Prayer for Today

Teach us to pray without ceasing, O Lord, and fill us with the power of the Holy Spirit so that we can be persistent in seeking out the common good for all people. In Christ name, Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 09:12 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 22 2016

Service with a Smile

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.  Ephesians 4:11-12

Jesus is our greatest example of selflessness.  Scripture is full of examples of Christ serving others - from going out of His way to talk to the woman at the well, to healing lepers, to washing His disciples' feet, to the ultimate sacrifice of giving His life.  "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many."  Mark 10:45
The Ephesians passage above has its ultimate meaning when applied to Christ as the ascended Lord, who Himself has given gifts.  Spiritual gifts are for the building of the body, the church, and are not to be exercised individualistically.
Opportunities to serve are all around us, and God gives us plenty of ways to exercise our spiritual gifts, sharing the good news of the gospel and being the light of Christ in the world.  We can hold the door for a busy mom pushing a stroller, help an elderly neighbor rake their yard, or offer to get someone a refill while at a restaurant.
This Sunday is Youth Sunday, and the theme of the worship service is ... S-E-R-V-I-C-E.  In my Bible, the twelfth chapter of Romans is titled "Dedicated Service," a chapter in which Paul encourages all Christians to obedient spiritual service, not merely ritual activity but the involvement of heart, mind, and will.  And from a little book I keep on my desk, "Excellence Is Never An Accident," I share with you the following inspirational quote:
Service is love made visible.
Friendship is love made personal.
Music is love made audible.
Kindness is love made tangible.
Giving is love made believable.

God will put people in our paths whom we can serve today.  Let's consider their needs and serve them gladly, cultivating a friendship with a smile, and offering kindness without reservation!  GIVE, GO, LIVE!

Prayer for Today

God, help us to remember that you love us just the way we are today, but that you love us too much to let us to stay that way.  In our service to the church, help us to cultivate friendships that matter, to make music in our hearts to your glory, to offer kindness to everyone we meet, and to give of our time, talents, and treasures according to your will.  Restore us each new day according to your perfect plan for our lives.  In Jesus' name we pray.  Amen.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 09:14 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, January 21 2016

I hate Youth Sunday.  At rehearsals, kids show up late, some leave early, and some forget to come at all.  While there, kids are on their cell phones and chit-chatting amongst themselves. They bring food into the chapel and do most anything other than listen to their youth pastor trying to direct a rehearsal.  I suppose it's kids being kids, but it makes me want to scream.

But also...I love Youth Sunday. In spite of all the challenges that give me gray hair, I find Youth Sunday to be an absolute delight, one of the highlights of the year.  Our youth bring their vibrant, burgeoning fresh faith to church
ready to share their gifts with the body of Christ.  I think it is safe to say there is not a Sunday like it, and I can't wait!  I love our youth.
This year's theme is Service, which is part of the ongoing sermon series on the Habits of Highly Effective Christians.  We serve one another very simply because God in Christ Jesus has served us and given his life for us.  With some 40 young people involved, it promises to be quite a production.  So bring friends to church this Sunday, and may God be glorified.     
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross!  -Philippians 2:5-8

Prayer for Today

O God, we give you thanks for Youth Sunday, and we pray for something to happen in worship that is transcendent.  May your Spirit be felt throughout the congregation, such that our lives are impacted way past noon.  Amen.    

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 03:54 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, January 20 2016

As you come to him, the living Stone-rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him-you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. - 1 Peter 2:4-5, NIV

These words from the Bible are some of my favorite verses. They talk about Jesus being "the living Stone" who is like a cornerstone and the foundation of a building. It also says that we, as followers of Christ, are like "living stones" whom God is building into a "spiritual house" - which is the church. But, Jesus is the foundation and the solid rock on whom our faith rests.

In Matthew 7:24-27, it talks about the importance of building our lives on the solid rock foundation that results from doing the things Jesus tells us to do. And only a few verses before that, Matthew records Jesus' words about the importance of prayer, culminating in The Lord's Prayer. (Matthew 6:5-13)

In the very beginning of Mark's gospel it tells us how Jesus got up early in the morning to go off alone and pray. (Mark 1:35)  Prayer formed the foundation of his day and deepened his relationship with God the Father.

As we begin the construction of our new Multipurpose Building, we are asking folks to fill out a "JCPC New Building Foundation Prayer Card." The plan is that we will take these prayers and place them in the foundation of the new building. This will express our hopes to God for what will happen in these new buildings, our church, and our lives. The foundation is actually being poured the week of January 25, so we need your prayers as soon as possible - by this Sunday, January 24 at the latest. You can pick up these Prayer Cards in the Welcome Center and place them in the box right there. Or, you can email them to
May your life be grounded in Jesus Christ -- the solid rock on whom we stand!

Prayer for Today

Thank you, Lord, for providing a firm foundation that can help us withstand the storms of life. We especially thank you for sending Jesus - the solid rock. As the hymn reminds us, when "all other ground is sinking sand" we know we stand "on his unchanging grace." Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 01:35 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, January 19 2016

How long will God's love endure?"

It's much easier to accept and experience God's love when we are in a positive place, great things are happening and we feel our life has meaning. How would you answer this question during a difficult day, when you are embarrassed by your behavior or frustrated with how you treated someone? How does God feel about us then?

This scripture from Paul to the Romans is a helpful reminder during those days when we aren't so happy with ourselves or confident in our choices:

"Nothing... in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:39

God answers our question in a very real way. Max Lucado's words say it best:

"God answered our questions before we asked it. So we'd see his answer, he lit the sky with a star. So we'd hear it, he filled the night with a choir; and so we'd believe it, he did what no man had ever dreamed. He became flesh and dwelt among us. God placed his hand on the shoulder of humanity and said, 'You're something special.' (In the Grip of Grace)

May you go through this day and every day knowing that you are something special in the eyes of God. Live each moment in response to this incredible gift.

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, Thank you for the gift of your love and grace. Guide us in our actions to share these gifts with others. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 05:17 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, January 18 2016

Happy Martin Luther King Holiday!

Fifty three years ago, there was not a holiday for the acclaimed civil rights leader, but rather a struggle that would shape his generation and generations to come in this country.

Fifty three years ago, Susan McLeish's father was a young pastor who made the long trip to Washington D.C. to take part in what became a historic march. His pilgrimage shaped his ministry as it did for many clergymen of that era and brought to life the prophet Micah's marching orders for people of faith.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? -Micah 6:8

Please click here to read Rev. Doyne Michie's moving recollection of that seminal event whose ripples are still being felt in this great land of ours.

Prayer for Today

Merciful God, may your justice flow like a river. Open our hearts to the call to love kindness and to walk humbly with you, so that, we will glorify your name through loving our neighbor as our self, yea even loving our enemy beyond what we thought was possible. In Christ name we pray, Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 05:16 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 15 2016

Alicia Taylor

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful, yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.  -Hebrews 12:11

Early in the month of December, I accepted an 8-week fitness challenge from one of our church members.  Since that time, four mornings per week I arrive at the gym at 5:30 AM to meet with Andrew, our trainer.  His job is to keep us all inspired to meet our fitness goals, to make sure we exercise with correct form so we won't injure ourselves, and to crank up the music when the going gets really rough!

Each week, Andrew writes an inspirational message, a personal reflection, or a "fitness riddle" on the white board to carry us through the week.  One of his recent riddles went like this ... "Five frogs were sitting at the edge of a pond.  Three frogs decided to jump into the pond.  How many frogs remained at the edge of the pond?" 
As we continued our planks, reverse lunges, and goblet squats, all the while pondering the riddle, Andrew went on to explain that five frogs remained at the edge.  Just because three had decided to jump in didn't mean they actually splashed into the water.  He used this analogy to discuss the numbers of folks who make New Year's fitness resolutions, but then lack the discipline to carry through with their resolve.

In the Book of Hebrews, the author writes of a father's discipline as an analogy to God's discipline as evidence that we are God's children.  Far from being a reason for despair, however, discipline is a basis for encouragement and perseverance.  When received submissively, discipline is wholesome and beneficial.

Did you make any New Year's resolutions related to your spiritual health?  Gray's current sermon series "The Five Habits of Highly Effective Christians" may have stoked in you a renewed commitment to attend worship each week or to set aside time for daily prayer.  Perhaps you have decided to join a small group Bible study, or simply to find a time each day for personal reflection.

Just as a runner concentrates on the finish line, we should concentrate on Jesus, the goal and objective of our faith.  How many times have we set out to accomplish our goals with vigor and vim, only to find ourselves distracted by week's end?  When the confines of life overtake us and we find ourselves weary and tempted to be discouraged, we should remember, indeed, what a friend we have in Jesus!
Deciding to make changes for the better is like hopping on one foot - only halfway commitment and hard to maintain for very long.  Actually making the leap forward on both feet will assure a much smoother landing on solid footing - so say a little prayer and JUMP!

Prayer for Today

O God, be with our college kids and young adult children as they launch out into the world.  Help us to let go and let you be in charge.  Amen.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 05:42 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, January 14 2016

Monday evening I took my daughter Madison, a junior at Presbyterian College, to the airport for her to catch a flight to Madrid, Spain for a spring semester studying abroad.  She will be gone for five months. 

Will she have enough money?  Will she be able to carry all her luggage herself?  Will she know how to get where she is going?  Will there be problems with her visa?  What if she doesn't like being there?  Will she not be so trusting of strangers?  Does she remember watching the movie, "Taken"?  Will her dad stop worrying?  As I returned from the terminal to my car, I was proud, excited, sad, and admittedly a little nervous.

It didn't help things to find out an hour later that Madison was actually not allowed on the flight because she had a "buddy pass" and the flight was overbooked.  Ugh.  More worry!  However, she herself worked out a solution of her flying to New York City for a night, where she could stay with her boyfriend's sister, a flight attendant, and the next day she would have more opportunities to continue the flight to Spain. 

Sure enough Madison not only made the last flight out, but this was the text I received upon her boarding, "Dad, I made it onto the flight, FIRST CLASS BABY! Now I'm eating chicken roulade, fennel puree and cupolo l'onion brulee for dinner.  Trying to act like I fly like this all the time but it's hard to not freak out about all this awesomeness." 

Madison made it to Madrid, and all is well as she is settling in with a host family with classes starting today.  Her dad can breathe again. 

While it may be a hackneyed phrase, there is much truth in the saying, "Let go and let God."  I recently heard that it was the parents' job to give their children two things:  roots and wings.  I like that.  As parents, our job with God's help is to lay a solid, healthy, loving foundation upon which a child can freely grow and eventually launch out on her own.  I suppose this is another one of those steps toward giving her "wings."  Delta may be "ready when you are."  I'm just not sure Madison's dad is ready.  Oh well, ready or not!
Train up a child in the way she should go: and when she is old, she will not depart from it.  -Proverbs 22:6

Prayer for Today

O God, be with our college kids and young adult children as they launch out into the world.  Help us to let go and let you be in charge.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 05:41 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, January 13 2016

This past Sunday, I was standing at the back of the sanctuary shaking hands. A couple came through the line I did not recognize and they told me this was their first time visiting with us. He shared with me that he is a retired Presbyterian pastor who has just moved to this area with his wife. He then told me a little bit about their story - where they moved from and some of the places they had lived and served. I always enjoy hearing someone's story. Each one of us has our own story which we can share with others.

After talking about these things, he went on to talk about how warm and welcoming this church family was. As a pastor, he said that he was particularly attuned to things like this, and that the folks here had been very welcoming and responsive to them. He also went on to say how meaningful the whole worship experience was to him and his wife. Being a Presbyterian, he found the ordination and installation of our elders particularly moving.
I wanted to share this with you and say, "Well done!" When we have guests here at Johns Creek Presbyterian Church, whether or not they experience our church as a warm and caring place is one of the main factors in determining if they will come back again. So, nice job in going out of your way to make our guests feel welcomed last Sunday!
We call this "Christian Hospitality." It means that whenever we are here and we see someone who we don't know, we reach out to them, introduce ourselves, and make a connection with them. It may require that we move out of our comfort zone. It is always easier to focus on the friends we know. But as Christians, we are called to "welcome the stranger." Keep up the good work as you share the love of Christ with those you encounter.
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. - Hebrews 13:1-2, NIV

Prayer for Today

Loving God, we have all been strangers from time to time. We know what it feels like not to be known. Thank you for reaching out to us with your love so that we might know and be known by you. Help us to love others as we would love you. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 05:39 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, January 12 2016

After spending some time with Luke 5:1-11 (the calling of the first disciples), I have been asking myself this question, What story do I have to tell?

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." When they had done so, they caught such a large number  of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" For he and all his companions were a stonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will fish for people." So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
-Matthew 5:1-11
The disciples were called away from their everyday life and the comforts of the familiar to join Jesus in sharing the Gospel. As followers of Christ we are still responding to the same call. We also live in a culture where many people now claim their identity as "spiritual but not religious," or "none".

So how do we help children, youth and adults in our community find themselves within the Christian story?
What if this was the guiding principle behind how we share our faith?  What would it take to make our faith "sticky" to others? What is the "story" we have to tell to our community and how are we helping them name or find their own place within that story?

Prayer for Today

I give thanks, Gracious God, for all of those people over two thousand years who have inspired others and played their part in passing on to generation after generation the living heritage of their faith. Especially I give thanks for those who lived their faith through difficulties and blessings. I pray that I may continue to grow in my faith and love through good times and bad. In Jesus' Name, Amen. 

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 06:42 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, January 11 2016

Education is at the heart of the Christian faith. The scripture below highlights the ever-present opportunities to shape souls through the education process.

You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. "You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,...
-Deuteronomy 11: 18-20

The scripture doesn't specifically mention bulldozers and dirt piles, but if you want to catch a child's imagination I'm not sure there is any better way. Check this picture out.

What do you imagine was going through the minds of these JCPC preschoolers as they watched the heavy machinery move mountains of dirt as our building project literally "hit the ground?"

At JCPC, education has served as bedrock for the growth of our church. Our preschool, directed by Pris Horne, was the first mission of our church and was providing world class education in our community even before the church was officially chartered. The call to impress God's word and love upon the hearts and souls of our children is in the DNA of JCPC.

If I were one of those children watching the bulldozers move dirt, I imagine the words of Dr. Seuss might come to life in my mind. Perhaps my preschool teacher had just read Oh, The Places You'll Go!

"You're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So...get on your way!"

May God of promised future lead us on our way as our hearts and souls are shaped as the Word of God is shared from one generation to the next! Oh, the places we'll go! To God be the glory.

Prayer for Today

Impress your word upon our hearts and souls, O God of grace and God of glory, and by your spirit, lead us into your promised future. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 06:40 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 08 2016

Alicia Taylor

The words "water" and "waters" are mentioned almost 800 times in the Old and New Testaments.  The Word of God connects water with birth, death, renewal and cleansing, with the Trinity, with creation and community, and with baptism.  I invite you to read the text from the Gospel of Luke 3:15-17 and 21-22.

In the first passage, when John the Baptist was asked whether he was the Christ, "John answered and said to them all, 'As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.'"

And in the second passage, the recording of the baptism of Jesus, "Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, "'You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.'"

Our baptism means that we are joined to Jesus Christ forever!  As we are baptized with water, he baptizes us with his Spirit, washing away all our sins and freeing us from their control.  Our baptism is a sign that one day we will rise with him in glory, and may walk with him even now in newness of life.

May you see and experience this week, in a new way, the living waters of God's Word at work in the world.  Filled up with the Spirit, may we nourish one another to serve in Jesus' name.

Prayer for Today

Merciful God, you have baptized us into one body.  Living Water, now cleanse and renew us.  Sanctify us, we pray, that God's Word we obey, and to Christ may we ever be true.  Amen.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 06:41 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, January 07 2016

Rev. Scott Huie

This past Sunday I preached on "making the right choice."  I challenged our congregation to make a 2016 resolution to choose to worship God alone, and shun false idols. As Joshua proclaimed, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."  If you are looking for ways to do that, my best buddy in my Kappa Alpha fraternity, who is also a Presbyterian minister, recently came up with 26 verbs to live by from A-Z! I share them with you here.

Accept people for who they are and not for who they should be.
Bend over backward to help people get closer to Jesus.
Crave God's word.
Dive in/Dare to do something daring in 2016.
Express my faith in ways that draw people closer to Jesus.
Forgive and Fear not.
Give of my time, talent and resources.
Hug, hug and hug some more.
Initiate conversations and relationships.
Jump into life with both feet.
Kneel before the Lord in prayer.
Love and Laugh often.
Make someone's day, every day.
Nurture other's relationship with Jesus.
Open my arms and heart.
Pursue a deeper relationship with Jesus.
Question, do not assume.
Run to the problem, not run away.
See God at work every day.
Taste God's presence and Trust God with everything.
Understand people rather than seeking to be understood.
Validate everyone as a child of God.
Xecute plans, goals and dreams (Don't execute people).
Yearn for deeper relationships with God and others.
Zamboni people! Take their chips and divots and smooth them out with the living water of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer for Today

O God, help me this year to choose you over all false gods and idols in my life.  Help me to take my faith to a new level and put it into action.  May my worship and my living become an abundance of verbs that lead to the transformation of life.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 05:04 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, January 06 2016

Over 25 million copies of the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey have been sold since its publication twenty-five years ago. I remember reading it when it first came out and it changed my life. I am in the process of re-reading it and I am amazed how much practical wisdom is contained in the book. Many of its insights have become a part of our culture. It is a "classic" in the best sense of the word.

This Sunday I am starting series of messages called "The Five Habits of Highly Effective Christians." We will be using Covey's framework as a springboard to think about how can make our lives more effective. Now there is a difference between living a life that is effective as opposed to one that is efficient. Efficiency is more about doing lots of things. Effectiveness is about choosing to do the right things.
I think most of us would like to live effective lives - lives that make a real difference in the world. As Christians, there are choices we can make to focus on creating healthy habits in our lives which allow us to be more effective. I hope you will make a special effort to come this Sunday as we begin this series. I also want to ask you to think of someone you might invite who could benefit from this series of messages.
Also, during time between worship services, Neal Kuhlhorst and I will be leading a class on Islam. We plan to use a series of videos by a university professor who specializes in this. With some of the challenges in our world today, most of us need to learn more about one of the largest religions in the world. I hope you will join us at 10:10 a.m. in the Calvin room. There will be plenty of time each week for questions and discussion.

Prayer for Today

God of all creation, we thank you for the world you made. We are struggling to know how to make peace in so many places. Help us to find the real peace you wish for us all. We pray this in the name of Jesus -- the Prince of Peace. Amen.

Posted by: Dr. Gray Norsworthy AT 07:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, January 05 2016

Water is a source of life. Take a moment to think about the importance of water in your own life. Think about how it might represent God's presence. As you go through your day, take notice of times when you pour water over your hands. Each time you encounter water today, consider these questions:

What memories come to mind as you feel the water? Baptism? Jesus washing the feet of others? Washing your hands before a special meal?

As we enter into a new year, often this is the time when we remember the story of Jesus' baptism and we take some time to reflect on our own experiences with baptism. We had the blessing of making promises with the Lyles family this past Sunday during the baptism of their son.

Jesus then appeared, arriving at the Jordan River from Galilee. He wanted John to baptize him. John objected,
"I'm the one who needs to be baptized, not you!" But Jesus insisted. "Do it. God's work, putting things right all these centuries coming together right now in this baptism." So John did it.

The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the skies opened up and he saw God's Spirit - it looked like a dove - descending and landing on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: "This is my Son chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life."  -Matthew 3:13-17

Sometimes I share John's confusion when I feel God calling me. There are times when I don't know why God is using me. Even when I'm hesitant and feel unworthy, I try to do what God wants me to do. God has carried me through confusing times in my life before and that gives me hope for the future.

Think about times in your life when you put aside your own doubts and insecurities and walked towards God. What happened? How was God's faithfulness and love for you revealed?

Every day brings something new. And every day is a holy day when you claim your baptism again.

May you be filled again with desire, to be filled by God and God alone, and baptized to walk the disciple's road.

Prayer for Today

God, grant me courage to do your will. Guide my path and may your presence empower me to show the world your love. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 07:09 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, January 04 2016

Happy New Year! With each year comes the annual tradition of making predictions and 2016 is no exception. Some pundits say that we will experience something new in the presidency; either our first female president or Latino president. We shall see. On the economic front, some pundits predict that we will be facing a new economic crisis after the stock market closed 2015 on the losing end. We shall see. The Cubs will win the World Series! We shall see!

Each New Year is rung in with predictions about what the year will hold for us and for what we should prepare. This year is no exception and all I can say is we shall see.
Christian faith has a focus on the new and the future, but it isn't about predictions, but rather about the new works that God is doing. When I become anxious about the future, I look to scripture not as prediction, but as of promise; God's promise of a new creation. Here are three of my favorite passages of hope and promise:
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!  -Isaiah 42: 18-19

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!  -2 Corinthians 5: 17

Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" 
-Revelation 21: 1-5

Regardless of 2016 predictions, I trust these promises of God!

Prayer for Today

God of promise, bless us with hope as we enter the New Year. Calm our anxious thoughts and grant us the eyes of faith to see your hand working actively in our lives for you make all things new in Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 06:23 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 01 2016

Making the right choice.  Whether we are speaking about choosing a mate, choosing a job, choosing a church, choosing whatever, how we choose and what we choose can have a long reaching impact.  Did you ever wonder what your life would be like today had you chosen to marry that girl or boy you dated in high school?  Or where would you be now had you decided to major in Mechanical Engineering in college instead of History?  Or what if you had moved to Charlotte instead of to Johns Creek a decade ago?  As the Green Goblin says, "We are who we chose to be."  Our choices reflect our interests, our priorities, our values.  In a deeper sense, they reveal who we are. 

Turning to scripture, as Joshua and the Israelites have finally captured the Promised Land, Joshua gathers the people together and declares that they have a choice to make, a choice that will have far-reaching consequences, a choice that could change the world. "Choose this day whom you will serve..." (Joshua 24:15) he proclaims. 
We today are confronted by the same choice in a world of multiple choice: whom this day will we serve?  As we enter 2016, the answer to that question could make for the most meaningful new year's resolution ever.  So come to church this Sunday as I preach on this powerful passage as we wrestle with this challenge together.  Hopefully, our resolution will be more than to exercise more, stop cursing, and/or cut out fast food from our diets!  And be sure to bring a friend to church as well.  Happy New Year!

Prayer for Today

Lord, guide us to put first things first in our lives.  May our priorities always center in your purposes for us.  May we who have been baptized into Jesus Christ seek to fulfill our discipleship in all our thoughts, words, and deeds. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 06:25 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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