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Reflections

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

Friday, July 29 2016

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 
-Galatians 5:14

An anthropologist was winding up several months of research in a small village, the story is told. While waiting for a ride to the airport for his return flight home, he decided to pass the time by making up a game for some children. His idea was to create a race for a basket of fruit and candy that he placed near a tree. But when he gave the signal to run, no one made a dash for the finish line. Instead the children joined hands and ran together to the tree.

When asked why they chose to run as a group rather than each racing for the prize, a little girl spoke up and said: "How could one of us be happy when all of the others are sad?" Because these children cared about each other, they wanted all to share the basket of fruit and candy.

Because He cares for us, we care for each other.

After years of studying the law of Moses, the apostle Paul found that all of God's laws could be summed up in one: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Galatians 5:14; see also Romans 13:9). In Christ, Paul saw not only the reason to encourage, comfort, and care for one another but also the spiritual enablement to do it.

Prayer for Today

Father, thank You for the love You shower on us day by day. Teach us, in turn, to care for others. Open our eyes to see their need and respond as You want us to.
Amen.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 07:17 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, July 28 2016

"Abraham believed God . . . ," and he was called God's friend.  
-James 2:23

One of the pieces of wisdom I have come to appreciate is my dad's often-repeated statement, "Joe, good friends are one of life's greatest treasures." How true! With good friends, you are never alone. They're attentive to your needs and gladly share life's joys and burdens.

Before Jesus came to earth, only two individuals were called friends of God. The Lord spoke to Moses "as one speaks to a friend" (Exodus 33:11), and Abraham "was called God's friend" (James 2:23; see 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8).

Lord, I am thankful that You have called me Your friend.

I am amazed that Jesus calls those of us who belong to Him friends: "I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15). And His friendship is so deep that He laid down His life for us. John says, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (v. 13).

What a privilege and blessing to have Jesus as our friend! He is a friend who will never leave us or forsake us. He intercedes for us before the Father and supplies all our needs. He forgives all our sins, understands all our sorrows, and gives us sufficient grace in times of trouble. He is indeed our best friend!

Prayer for Today

Lord, I am thankful that You have called me Your friend. May I ever be grateful for the privilege!  Amen.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 07:15 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, July 27 2016

Be patient, bearing with one another in love.  
-Ephesians 4:2

As I ventured out several weeks after shoulder surgery, I was fearful. I had become comfortable using my arm sling, but both my surgeon and physical therapist now told me to stop wearing it. That's when I saw this statement: "At this stage, sling wear is discouraged except as a visible sign of vulnerability in an uncontrolled environment."

Ah, that was it! I feared the enthusiastic person who might give me a bear hug or the unaware friend who might bump me accidentally. I was hiding behind my flimsy baby-blue sling because I feared being hurt.

Being honest about our struggles allows us to help each other.

Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable can be scary. We want to be loved and accepted for who we are, but we fear that if people truly knew us, they would reject us and we could get hurt. What if they found out we are not smart enough . . . kind enough . . . good enough?

But as members of God's family, we have a responsibility to help each other grow in faith. We're told to "encourage one another," to "build each other up" (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and to "be patient, bearing with one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2).

When we are honest and vulnerable with other believers, we may discover we have mutual struggles battling temptation or learning how to live obediently. But most of all, we will share the wonder of God's gift of grace in our lives.

Prayer for Today

Dear Lord, many times my fear of being hurt keeps me from being honest about my struggles. Help me to remember how much You love me, and help me to be patient and loving with others. Amen.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 07:14 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, July 26 2016

Remember that the Sabbath Day belongs to me. You have six days you can do your work, but the seventh day of each week belongs to me, your God. No one is to work on that day...
-Exodus 20:8

We live in a place where everyone wants you to work hard. Teachers, parents, bosses, coaches, and children all have expectations for what we should do with our time each day. This commandment is very familiar, but often challenging to follow through with in our day to day pace of life. Often, we think about Sabbath as rest and worship. What else do you do with your Sabbath? How do you find time to connect with God in a deeper way?

Finding time for rest and worship can be challenging during those first days and weeks of a new school year.

As we prepare to begin a new school year, I am realizing my need to be more aware of God at work in my life and the ways that I can slow down and appreciate the blessings of each day.  I know that this passage and message may be challenging at this time of year. When we experience drastic life transitions like this, I find it renewing to be able to just start fresh and build in some new practices.

I would like to invite you to take one or two minutes this week to think about how you will find time to uphold this fourth commandment as we begin a new school year.

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, Thank you for the blessings we experience when things change. Open our minds and hearts to the ways that we can experience rest and worship as we begin a new school year. In Christ's Name,  Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 07:13 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, July 25 2016

Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 
-Psalm 139: 1-6

The title of our VBS this year was SUBMERGED and it was based in Psalm 139. 
I must admit that this is one of my favorite psalms and it takes me to the depths of God's love.

This psalm consistently brings a smile to my face and so did the wonderful settings created to bring children and adults alike into the awesome wonder of God's love.

I know that scores of volunteers were responsible for the entire event, but I want to share a picture of three very important leaders that assured everyone involved felt God's presence:  Billie Bothwell, Sheila Cooley and Allison Shearouse.

Thank you from all of us for your leadership and countless hours of preparation!

Jesus teaches us to "let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Having watched the excitement, happiness, love and devotion experienced at SUBMERGED, I imagine the Lord said, "Now that's what I'm talking about!!!"

Well done good and faithful servants!

Prayer for Today

Thank you for your Word, O Lord, that reminds us that your love is so great that no matter what our age and no matter where we are, you hem us in with your everlasting love so that we can find our rest and peace in you merciful graces. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 07:09 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, July 22 2016

[Jesus] said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." -Mark 6:31

The alarm clock goes off. Too early, it seems. But you have a long day ahead. You have work to do, appointments to keep, people to care for, or all this and more. Well, you are not alone. Each day, many of us rush from one matter to another. As someone has wittily suggested, "That's why we are called the human race."

When the apostles returned from their first mission trip, they had a lot to report. But Mark did not record Jesus's evaluation of the disciples' work; rather, he focused on His concern that they rest awhile. Jesus said, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest" (6:31).

Lord, I thank You today for all You have given me to do.

Ultimately, we find true rest through recognizing the presence of God and trusting Him. While we take our responsibilities seriously, we also recognize that we can relax our grip on our work and careers, our families and ministry, and give them over to God in faith. We can take time each day to tune out the distractions, put away the tense restlessness, and reflect in gratitude on the wonder of God's love and faithfulness.

So feel free to stop and take a breath. Get some real rest.

Prayer for Today

Lord, I thank You today for all You have given me to do. Help me to truly rest in You-physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Amen.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 01:25 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, July 21 2016

The Lord replied, "Is it right for you to be angry?"  
-Jonah 4:4 

It became painfully clear the first time my wife and I collaborated on a writing project that procrastination was going to be a major obstacle.  Her role was to edit my work and keep me on schedule; my role seemed to be to drive her crazy.  Most times, her organization and patience outlasted my resistance to deadlines and direction.

I promised to have a certain amount of writing done by the end of one day. For the first hour, I plugged away diligently.  Satisfied with what I'd accomplished so far, I decided to take a break.  Before I knew it, my time was up.  In trouble for sure, I thought of a way out.  I set about doing a couple of chores my wife despised and which always netted me praise when I did them.

My plan failed.  Are you dodging duties God makes clear He wants you to tackle?

I sometimes play the same games with God.  He brings specific people into my life He wants me to serve or tasks He wants me to accomplish.  Like Jonah, who went another way when God gave Him an assignment (Jonah 4:2) I need to set aside my own feelings.  I often try to impress God with good deeds or spiritual activity when what He really wants is obedience to His priorities.  Inevitably, my plan fails.

Are you dodging duties God makes clear He wants you to tackle?  Trust me: Real contentment comes from doing it in His strength and in His way.

Prayer for Today

Loving Father, help us to recognize our busyness and distractions for what they so often are-disobedience and inattention to the work You have given us to do.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 01:23 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, July 20 2016

Did you hear about the four young boys who were wild with energy, especially when they went to church? One Sunday when the pastor preached on "turning the other cheek," he got the boys' undivided attention. The pastor stressed that no matter what others do to us, we should never try to "get even." That afternoon the youngest boy came into the house crying. Between sobs he told his mother he had kicked one of his brothers, who had kicked him in return. The mother said, "I'm sorry you're hurt, but you shouldn't go around kicking people." The tearful child responded, "But the preacher said he isn't supposed to kick me back." (As told by Jane Vajnar, "Lite Fare," Christian Reader.)

A story like that makes us smile, in part because we can picture that happening to children. However, if we think about it in terms of adults, or even groups of people, or whole nations --  the tendency to "get even" and hit back even harder is still very tempting. But can we ever make it all "even" and balance out? Or, do we just keep kicking back and forth until someone gets really hurt?
 
I am pretty sure Jesus was talking about our everyday encounters in life when we have to turn the other cheek. But, I also think he was contemplating the same kinds of encounters between adults, groups of people, and even nations. Do I think it is much more complex when it comes to nations responding to being "kicked?" Yes, of course. But, I also believe we need to consider what Jesus would do - even when it comes to nations. Today, I want to ask you to pray for all the leaders in our world -- that they would have the wisdom and courage to respond like Jesus.

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, none of us likes being "kicked" in life. Most of the time we want to kick back even harder. We know that sometimes we need to stop the abuser or the oppressor and protect the weak. We also know that other times we just want revenge. Give us the ability to discern what is your will and how we should respond to the challenges of life. Give us the courage to do the right thing, even if it is hard. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 01:21 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, July 19 2016

Then Christ will live in your hearts because you believe in him. And I pray that your love will have deep roots. I pray that it will have a strong foundation. May you have power with all God's people to understand Christ's love. May you know how wide and long and high and deep it is. And may you know his love, even though it can't be known completely. Then you will be filled with everything God has for you. 
Ephesians 3:17-19

In Paul's letter to the church at Ephesus, we hear that to know and be rooted in Christ's love, is to more fully be the people God has created and is calling us to be. We are empowered to be the best versions of ourselves. This passage reminds me of our call to pass on this message to the children and youth in our church as they are in the beginnings of their faith journey. Often a child's first experience of God's love is through the love of a parent. At baptism, we promise to partner with parents in planting the seeds of faith and nurturing them to establish deep roots.  

This week I have been able to experience an immediate connection between our promises at baptism and then living them out. On Sunday morning at the 9am worship service, we experienced the baptism of two Preschool boys. The next day, these boys entered our church buildings with over 100 other children for a week of Vacation Bible School. Each day at Vacation Bible School we are able to plant seeds of faith and continue to nurture them.

Each one of us has the opportunity to help others experience the width, length, height and depth of God's love. What can you do to share God's love that is deeply rooted in you? Who has been a teacher or mentor along the way for you? What did they do that made an impact on your journey?

In a world where the pressure to succeed is high and many hear that they are only loved for as much as they can perform, Paul's reminder to us is even more relevant. We are called to share that God's love is unconditional and far exceeds the limits of this earth. 

Prayer for Today

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

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 01:18 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, July 18 2016

I was pleased to receive many electronic well wishes on my birthday earlier this month. My heart smiled knowing that I was being remembered by loved ones. There was one message however; that really stood out and brought a different type of smile to my face. It came to my work email and said "FROM THE LORD."

How could I ever resist opening up an email FROM THE LORD? It was what I expected, a scam from a Mrs. Lillian Abba who wanted to donate her inheritance fund to me; the entire fund amounting to $6, 800,000. Boy could I use that money. I could pay off the entire new building and have enough left over on which to retire. So I contacted her immediately; NOT.

Matthew 7: 21 says, "Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."

There will always be false prophets who have a special message for us FROM THE LORD. Just because someone says their message is FROM THE LORD doesn't make it so; especially when their special message somehow is to their benefit.

Sometimes I do wonder what it would be like if the Lord would email me the message so I didn't have to hear it from someone else. Would he tell me to repent? Would he tell me to pick up my pallet and walk? Would he tell me about a wonderful inheritance just waiting for me to claim? I suspect that the answer is yes to all three of these questions.

Face it, the Word FROM THE LORD comes from others but it is to be heard through the reading, preaching, and teaching of scripture with the people of God working together to discern His Word.

I think next time an email says FROM THE LORD I'll delete it and reach for my Bible. I'm sure to find one of the thousands of messages waiting for me to open.

Prayer for Today

Thank you Lord for your living Word found in Scripture, preaching, and teaching. Help us to do your will here on earth by knowing your ways found in the Bible, heard in sermons, and learned in faithful study. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 01:16 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, July 15 2016

Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. -Matthew 10:39

In the midday heat of summer, while traveling in the American South, my wife and I stopped for ice cream. On the wall behind the counter we saw a sign reading, "Absolutely No Snowmobiling." The humor worked because it was so unexpected.

Sometimes saying the unexpected has the most effect. Think of this in regard to a statement by Jesus: "Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 10:39). In a kingdom where the King is a servant (Mark 10:45), losing your life becomes the only way to find it. This is a startling message to a world focused on self-promotion and self-protection.

Nothing is really lost by a life of sacrifice. -Henry Liddon

In practical terms, how can we "lose our life"? The answer is summed up in the word sacrifice. When we sacrifice, we put into practice Jesus's way of living. Instead of grasping for our own wants and needs, we esteem the needs and well-being of others.

Jesus not only taught about sacrifice but He also lived it by giving Himself for us. His death on the cross became the ultimate expression of the heart of the King who lived up to His own words: "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13).

Prayer for Today

Loving Father, teach me the heart of Christ, that I might more fully appreciate the sacrifice He has made for me and be willing to sacrifice myself for others. Amen.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 08:58 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, July 14 2016

He has sent me . . . to bestow on [those who grieve] a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning.
-Isaiah 61:1,3

"We're cutting your job."  A decade ago those words sent me reeling when the company I worked for eliminated my position.  At the time, I felt shattered, partly because my identity was so intertwined with my role as editor.  Recently I felt a similar sadness when I heard that my freelance job was ending.  But this time I didn't feel rocked at my foundation, because over the years I have seen God's faithfulness and how He can turn my mourning to joy.
Though we live in a fallen world where we experience pain and disappointment, the Lord can move us from despair to rejoicing, as we see in Isaiah's prophecy about the coming of Jesus (Isaiah 61:1-3).  The Lord gives us hope when we feel hopeless; He helps us to forgive when we think we can't; He teaches us that our identity is in Him and not in what we do.  He gives us courage to face an unknown future.  When we wear the rags of "ashes", He gently gives us a coat of praise.

God can bring times of growth out of our times of heartache.

When we face loss, we shouldn't run from the sadness, but neither do we want to become bitter or hardened.  When we think about God's faithfulness over the years, we know that He's willing and able to turn our grief to dancing once again - to give us sufficient grace in this life and full joy in heaven.

Prayer for Today

Father God, You turned Jesus' pain on the cross into our best gift ever. Deepen my faith that I may welcome Your life-changing love into my life. Amen.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 08:55 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, July 13 2016

Do you sometimes wish you could always get an immediate answer from God? Yesterday I was reading the book Reclaiming Conversation by MIT professor Sherry Turkle. She was talking about how texting has transformed courtship. She interviewed a number of people who talked about the "new rules" for things like the right amount of time before one should respond to a text message intended to begin a romantic encounter. According to those interviewed, the worst thing about relationships and texting is that you can respond by simply saying NOTHING - which you would rarely do in person. According to Turkle, that tends to drive people crazy. (However, you are not supposed to let the other person know it drives you crazy.) Yes, these are really the rules!

 
But, I wonder if our growing experience with texting affects how we connect with God through prayer? Do we want an immediate answer from God to whatever request we make? How long should we be expected to wait for God to answer? Notice that the word "immediate" contains the word "media." One of my seminary professors told us more than once that all revelation from God is mediated. He was not talking about the Book of Revelation, but the belief that God always comes to us through something else - some media. Sometimes it comes through words of scripture, through the events of our lives, through an internal conversation going on in our heads, or through a piece of music we hear. These are just some of the ways God is mediated to us. But if our primary experience of digital media is always fast, flashy or entertaining - what happens when God is mediated to us in other ways?
 
Remember that God says things like, "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10) And how often does God tell people in the Bible to wait? When God doesn't come to us immediately, maybe we need to wait and slow down -- rather than assuming God is not going to answer. We might just sense the God who moves according to God's timing.

Prayer for Today

God of past, present and future - help us to wait, be still, and slow down -- so that we can be present for you. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 08:54 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, July 12 2016

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; God is the one who will keep you on track.  -Proverbs 3:5-6

What places do you expect to experience God? Maybe it's church, or nature, or the graveside of a loved one, or in our very selves. As we are over halfway through the summer, what if we looked for God at in our summer destinations, our home, or our work? Does God show up during your first cup of coffee that you may enjoy at the break of dawn, or in that early morning wake up from your child, on a brisk morning walk with your dog or even in the long first meeting of the day?

It's important to expect God to show up in all kinds of places. What are some unexpected places where you can look for God this week?

Jacob had an experience where he recognized God's presence, "then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place-and I did not know it!" And he was afraid, and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." Genesis 28:16-17
Jacob woke up with an awe that hit him deeply. "Surely the Lord is in this place-and I did not know it!" God is there in all of these places. So let's not be nearly as surprised as Jacob. I would invite you to "listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go."

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, I'm going to look for you every day that's left in my summer. I expect I'll see you around. Give me a heart that's open to your mysteries so that I can see and hear your work happening right before me. 
In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 08:52 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, July 11 2016

Pour coffee into your mug until it is half-way full. How much do you have? No I'm not asking whether you see the coffee mug as half empty or half full. Perhaps you have 8 oz. or maybe 10 oz. So if you hold the coffee cup up between a few sips your arm wouldn't get fatigued. However, if you held the cup up for 5 minutes, your arm would begin to get heavy and burdened. What if you held the cup up all day long? Your arm would begin to feel paralyzed.

What's my point in sharing this illustration with you? I was thinking about the power of Jesus' teaching in the Beatitudes; "blessed are those who mourn, they will be comforted." The painful truth of life is that we all grieve so experiencing loss and grief is not an option. Another painful truth is that none of us wants to experience grief; rather our initial reaction to grief is to avoid the emotions that come with it. I think this is because we feel weak and none of us like feeling weak.

According to those who study grief there is a difference between grieving and mourning. Grief is an inward experience while mourning is a set of outward behaviors. When we feel our grief, we are much more likely to hold those feelings in because as I mentioned above, none of us likes feeling weak. The problem arises much like in the coffee cup illustration. As we hold onto the painful emotions of grief, we become fatigued, burdened and often times paralyzed.

No wonder Jesus instructs us to mourn. He wants us to experience the blessing of comfort that can only come through mourning. When your grief arises, image the coffee cup. Take a few sips from the cup and experience the grief because when you do, the feelings will pass. Then set the cup down and allow yourself to breath and rest. Better yet, find a trusted friend and share a cup of coffee together.

Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted!

Prayer for Today

Loving God, when we grieve bless us with your comforting Spirit and grant us the peace that passes all understanding, so that we will experience healing and wholeness as we mourn our losses. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 08:50 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, July 08 2016

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. -John 14:6

When a British scholar called on the world's religions to work together for worldwide unity, people everywhere applauded. Pointing out that the major religions share a belief in the Golden Rule, she suggested, "The chief task of our time is to build a global society where people of all persuasions can live together in peace and harmony."

Jesus cited the Golden Rule in His Sermon on the Mount: "Do to others what you would have them do to you" (Matt. 7:12). In the same sermon, He said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (5:44). Putting those radical commands into practice would indeed go a long way toward peace and harmony. But immediately following the Golden Rule, Jesus called for discernment. "Watch out for false prophets," He warned. "They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves" (7:15).

Our respect for others is vital to winning their respect.

Respect for others and discernment of the truth go hand in hand. If we have the truth, we have a message worth telling. But God extends to everyone the freedom to choose Him or reject Him. Our responsibility is to lovingly present the truth and respect the personal choice of others just as God does.

Our respect for others is vital to winning their respect. It's an important step in gaining an opportunity to convey the message of Jesus, who said, "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6).

Prayer for Today

Father in heaven, help us to see each individual as uniquely made in Your image and worthy of our love and respect. Show Your love through our lives in some small way today.  Amen.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 07:02 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, July 07 2016

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. -Deuteronomy 6:6

Anthropologist Anthony Graesch says that the outside of a refrigerator reveals what's important to people. During a research study of families in Los Angeles, Graesch and his colleagues noted an average of 52 items posted on the fridge-including school schedules, family photos, children's drawings, and magnets. Graesch calls the refrigerator "a repository of family memory."

The Lord may use a tangible item like a photo, keepsake, or Scripture verse to remind us of His faithfulness and the call to obey His Word. When Moses addressed the Israelites just before they entered the land of Canaan, he urged them to keep all the commands God had given them. "Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road . . . . Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates"  (Deuteronomy 6:7, 9). 

Daily blessings are reminders of God's faithfulness.

Giving God's Word a visible place of honor in their homes and lives was a powerful daily reminder to "be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you . . . out of the land of slavery" (v. 12).

Today the Lord encourages us to remember that as we obey His Word, we can depend on His faithful care for all that lies ahead. 

Prayer for Today

Father, we are grateful for every reminder of Your faithfulness and loving care. May we honor You by obeying Your Word. 

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 07:01 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, July 06 2016

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
 - Matthew 5:6, NIV

Last Sunday we talked about what it means to hunger and thirst for God's righteousness. In the sermon I spoke more about hunger than about thirst. But yesterday I was thinking more about thirst. The lack of water was not my own, but that of my front lawn. With the recent near-drought conditions, my lawn has been turning brown because of the incredible heat and the lack of rain. I tried watering it a few times, but it didn't seem to help that much. But then yesterday it finally rained! As the clouds moved in, I was hoping this might be a day we actually got some rain. When it started to come down hard, I was excited and relieved. I even enjoyed listening to the thunder that accompanied the showers.
 
The Psalmist writes about his thirst this way: "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God." (Psalm 42:1, NIV) Do you ever feel like your soul is thirsting for God? Yesterday on the way to work, I saw a deer walking next to the woods on 141 just north of the church. It looked thirsty - maybe it was searching for water. Sometimes it seems like my soul is dry and I need God to quench the thirst of my spirit. I long for the rains of God's grace to fall upon my soul like the showers we experienced yesterday.
 
I have come to learn that our spiritual lives have rainy seasons and dry seasons just like our weather. Sometimes it feels like I am going through a drought. But then something happens unexpectedly and I become aware of the grace of God present in my life. Sometimes it comes through the words of a song. Sometimes it happens as I am reading my Bible. Sometimes it is a kind word from a stranger. It may even come as I watch the sun setting behind the evening clouds. So, may God quench your spiritual thirst soon!

Prayer for Today

Loving God, as the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. Please fill me with your living water this day. In the strong name of Christ we pray. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, July 05 2016

Have you ever heard someone say, "Don't just go to church, be the church"? I have heard this phrase from keynote speakers and read it in books or articles over my years in ministry.

We all take time to go to church to worship, learn and grow in our faith on a regular basis. But, what does it mean to you to be the church? I believe that a church is not the buildings it gathers in, but the people that gather together. Most of us have likely thought that we need to go to a church that meets our needs and will help us. While that is true, it implies that church is a destination and we simply go to it. The church is actually God's chosen vehicle to meet-through other human beings-people's true needs. Did you catch the difference? It's us that God uses to meet one another's needs. We are the church, God's hands and feet here on earth.

How is God calling you to be the church in Johns Creek, GA and in this world?
I believe that being the church, means living out God's call for our lives to share the love, grace and forgiveness with the world. God so freely gives these to us, and the only way I can find to express my gratitude is by sharing these gifts with others.

This passage in 1 Peter reminds us that, "as you come to him, the living Stone- rejected by men 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... But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises to him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:4-5, 9)

We are the living stones that join together to become the church in this world.

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, Thank you for bringing us into community to worship, grow and serve. Guide us as we seek to be "living stones" ready to be used to meet the needs of others. Open our minds and hearts to the ways that you need us to share your love, grace and forgiveness with everyone that we encounter. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 06:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, July 04 2016

I trust that you are relaxing and enjoying a meaningful 4th of July holiday. 

As we celebrate our independence and the gifts of freedom, I found a prayer that I want to share with you. I think this prayer could/should be prayed every 4th of July.  It is a congressional 4th of July prayer and notice the date.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. -Psalms 33:12

Happy Independence Day!

Prayer for Today

Eternal God, stir Thou our minds and stimulate our hearts with a high sense of patriotism as we approach the Fourth of July. May all that this day symbolizes renew our faith in freedom, our devotion to democracy, and redouble our efforts to keep a government of the people, by the people, and for the people truly alive in our world.

Grant that we may highly resolve on this great day to dedicate ourselves anew to the task of ushering in an era when good will shall live in the hearts of a free people, justice shall be the light to guide their feet, and peace shall be the goal of humankind: to the glory of Thy holy name and the good of our Nation and of all mankind.  Amen.

(Offered by Chaplain, Reverend Edward G. Latch on Wednesday, July 3, 1974.)

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 06:58 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, July 01 2016

To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his. -Job 12:13

In desperation, a woman called the housing assistance center where I worked. A heating problem had turned her rental home into a freezer with furniture. Panicked, she asked me how she would care for her children. I hurriedly replied with the scripted official response: "Just move into a hotel and send the landlord the bill." She angrily hung up on me. 

I knew the textbook answer to her question, but I had completely missed her heart. She wanted someone to understand her fear and desperation. She needed to know she wasn't alone. In essence, I had left her out in the cold.

Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit so that we will never be alone.

After Job had lost everything, he had friends with answers but little understanding. Zophar told him all he needed to do was live wholeheartedly for God. Then "life will be brighter than noonday," he said (11:17). That counsel wasn't well received, and Job responded with scathing sarcasm: "Wisdom will die with you!" (12:2). He knew the dissatisfying taste of textbook answers to real-world problems.

It's easy to be critical of Job's friends for their failure to see the big picture. But how often are we too quick with answers to questions we don't truly understand? People do want answers. But more than that, they want to know we hear and understand. They want to know we care.

Prayer for Today

Father, help us to be a friend first before we offer advice to others. Thank You for the privilege of sharing our hearts with You in prayer. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit so that we will never be alone.  Amen.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 06:25 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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