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.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth . . .
- Isaiah 43:19, ESV
These words recorded by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah are spoken by God. They remind us that God is in the business of doing new things. Sometimes it seems like we get stuck in our thinking about God. We think that God is only a God of the past and that anything God did happened a really long time ago. But these words remind us that God is not relegated to the past; God is alive here and now, and God continues to "do new things" all of the time!
This past Sunday was Brian Daoust's first day with us. Brian is now "the new guy" around here. It was good to have Brian help lead worship, but it was even better on Sunday evening when I came back for the JCPC Youth Back to School Bash. I showed up a little after 5:00 p.m. (it did not start until 5:30 p.m.), but when I arrived, the new youth space (which use to be Friendship Hall) was already filled with people. Styrofoam darts filled the air as Christian music blared way in the background. It was nice to see such a vibrant group of youth, youth sponsors, and parents -- all helping to welcome Brian and kick off the new school year.
Later after dinner, energizers, a group interrogation of Brian (How long have you had a beard?), and a cool presentation on what the youth space will eventually look like -- everyone went outside on the field for tosses at the dunk tank (Brian was the first to get dunked), volleyball, soapy slip and slide, and snow cones.
I want to give a shout out to the parents and youth advisors who made this kick-off event and welcome of Brian such a success. Now as we enter a "new" season of youth ministry under Brian's leadership, I can't wait to see all of the "new things" God is going to do!
Prayer for Today
Thank you, God, for all of the "new things" you are doing in our lives. Help us to pay attention so that we might see these new things. Especially we thank you for bringing Brian to us as our new Associate Pastor for Youth. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 08:44 am
This morning I had the privilege of spending some time with our Preschool teachers at their meeting. They are preparing for a new school year that begins on Thursday. This group of 40 women is a real gift to our church and our Preschool ministry in this community.
I shared these words with them from Matthew. Jesus said, "Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth... Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand - shine! Keep an open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:13-16, The Message)
This passage in the Message version of the Bible brought Jesus' words to me in a new way. I hope that you heard something new in this passage too. As you go through your day, find ways that you can be generous with your life. Open up to others. I know that when I do this, others are more willing to open up to me and deeper relationships happen.
Be God's salt-seasoning and light-bearers this week.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, Thank you for the gifts of salt and light in our lives. Help us to be open to the ways you will use us today to share your love with the world. In Christ's Name, Amen.
Life review is an essential part of proof reading your life. Rather than looking for errors in the proof reading of our lives; however, we often look at the body of work written to date and remember. We create ritual times for life reviews during weddings, funerals, and anniversaries.
Today is a special date for me. I was ordained as minister of word and sacrament in the Presbyterian Church on August 29, 1982. As I am writing this reflection I am reviewing the order of service on that sacred day in my life. The Old Testament reading was Jeremiah 1:1-10. You will remember that Jeremiah was a very young prophet and while I was no Jeremiah, I was very young.
"Now the word of the Lord came to my saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. Then I said to the Lord, 'Ah Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.' But the Lord said to me, 'Do not say, 'I am only a youth..." -Jeremiah 1:4-7
My friend and mentor David G. Buttrick preached. Before the service, I spoke to him with fear and trembling saying I didn't know how to be a minister. He said bluntly, "You'll learn!"
I set out to learn. Five years following my ordination and installation at Iroquois Presbyterian Church, I departed on my journey to deepen my understanding on how to counsel.
Reading through a memory book given to me by the loving congregants of Iroquois, I read these words written to me from Robin Whitehouse:
"Dear Neal, you say you feel so inept in trying to help people with their problems. You are supposed to feel inept. You haven't lived very much life yet. You are adept in another way. You're adept at being young-ENERGETIC, ENTHUSIASTIC, HUMOUROUS, CARING, AND SHARING...by the time you accumulate your life's experiences and become adept at being a wise sage, you will be somewhat inept at being young."
I'm humbled that God called me to serve His people long before I knew how and I'm thankful for the wise ones you placed on my path who helped guide my inept/adept young self. To God be the glory!
Prayer for Today
Loving God, renew our call to be your servant and place in our lives the ones who will help to equip us on the journey of faith. Amen.
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession.
-1 Peter 2:9
While delivering a well-publicized speech, a respected leader and statesman got the attention of his nation by declaring that most of his country's honorable Members of Parliament (MPs) were quite dishonorable. Citing lifestyles of corruption, pompous attitudes, unsavory language, and other vices, he rebuked the MPs and urged them to reform. As expected, his comments didn't go well with them and they dispatched counter-criticisms his way.
We may not be public officials in positions of leadership, but we who follow Christ are a "chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession" (1 Peter 2:9). As such, our Lord calls us to lifestyles that honor Him.
We honor God's name when we call Him our Father and live like His children.
The disciple Peter had some practical advice on how to do this. He urged us to "abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul" (v. 11).
Although he didn't use the word honorable,
he was calling us to behavior worthy of Christ.
As the apostle Paul phrased it in his letter to the Philippians, "Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things" (Philippians 4:8).
Indeed, these are the characteristics of behavior that honor our Lord.
Prayer for Today
Lord, when we are honest with You, we understand how often we fall far short of honorable behavior. We know how much we need You. By Your Spirit, help us replace any selfish thoughts, words, and actions with things that please You and draw others to You. Amen.
I have hidden your word in my heart.
One difficult part of growing older is the fear of dementia and the loss of short-term memory. But Dr. Benjamin Mast, an expert on the topic of Alzheimer's disease, offers some encouragement. He says that patients' brains are often so "well worn" and "habitual" that they can hear an old hymn and sing along to every word. He suggests that spiritual disciplines such as reading Scripture, praying, and singing hymns cause truth to become "embedded" in our brains, ready to be accessed when prompted.
In Psalm 119:11, we read how the power of hiding God's words in our heart can keep us from sinning. It can strengthen us, teach us obedience, and direct our footsteps (vv. 28, 67, 133). This in turn gives us hope and understanding (vv. 49, 130). Even when we begin to notice memory slips in ourselves or in the life of a loved one, God's Word, memorized years earlier, is still there, "stored up" or "treasured" in the heart (v. 11esv, nasb). Even as our minds lose the keen edge of youth, we know that God's words, hidden in our hearts, will continue to speak to us.
Nothing-not even failing memories-can separate us from His love and care.
We have His word on it.
Prayer for Today
Lord, You are such an amazing comfort to us. Thank You that our salvation and spiritual well-being does not depend on our failing minds and bodies, but on You and Your faithfulness to Your Word. Amen.
The Lord will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore.
- Psalm 121:8, NIV
These words from one of my favorite Psalms are often used to give comfort to those going on journeys. It has been called "The Traveler's Psalm." As summer comes to an end, most of us are finishing up our trips and vacations. Others of us may be traveling with our work or to visit a relative or a friend. This weekend I will be thinking and praying for someone who is leaving his home and coming to our area to join us as a part of our church family. The Rev. Brian Daoust has been called by our congregation as our new Associate Pastor to work with our youth and young adults. After months of searching for the person we believe God has led us to choose, Brian will be here this Sunday, August 28!
I hope you will make a special effort to be here so that you can meet Brian after worship and show him a warm, JCPC welcome. On Sunday night our Youth will have a special time to welcome Brian during their "Back-to School-Bash." This event kicks off the new school year for our middle schoolers and senior highs. If you are a youth, or you are the parent of a youth, or you know of other youth both inside and outside of our church -- invite them to come this Sunday night at 5:30 p.m. to have fun and meet Brian! We will also be meeting for the first time in our new youth space. It is not all the way finished, but you can get a glimpse of how it will be when they finish it in a few short weeks.
For Brian, he will be "going" from his previous church and "coming" to join us here. Please be in prayer for Brian and his family during this time of transition. And don't forget to show him a warm, JCPC welcome!
Prayer for Today
Thank you, Lord, for leading us to Brian and for leading Brian to us. As we begin a new journey together in youth ministry, we ask your blessing on Brian. We thank you for his many gifts in ministry that he will be sharing with us. Help us to support him in the coming days so that together we can make a positive impact in the lives of our youth and our world. We ask this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 08:15 pm
But even there, if you seek GOD, your God, you'll be able to find him if you're serious, looking for him with your whole heart and soul. -Deuteronomy 4:29
The writer calls for us to seek God with all our being-heart, soul, and body. That's no small task. But if we actively search for God in our everyday lives, we will find God. God isn't hiding from us, like in a game of hide and seek.
Where are some places that you have experienced God's presence recently? Where were you? Who were you with?
As we begin a new year with classes and small groups I have been reflecting on ways that we can prepare a space for people to be open to experiencing and learning more about God's great love for us. Often times, my most meaningful experiences or "aha" moments happened when someone else had prepared a space where I was open to listen and look for God working in my life. They helped me to feel comfortable to ask questions and challenged me to open up my heart to encounter God.
Take the risk to find God today in your life. Search, and you will find God in unexpected places.
Every single encounter with God holds the promise of a new direction; a new perspective; a change of heart and mind. Go now resolved that your life will be different, transformed, made over again by the overwhelming grace of God.
Prayer for Today
God, help us to be bold in searching for you in unexpected places today. Surprise us with finding you in the actions and words of friends and strangers. Help us to find you today. Make your presence known to us in a real, tangible way. In Christ's Name, Amen.
Proof reading; just saying it makes me gag. Yet proof reading is one of the most important steps in writing a document, paper, or book. I imagine most of you have had the experience of thinking a document you had completed was ready to submit only to find a typo, misspelled word(s), or some other grammatical faux pas.
David Haynes who is a childhood friend and now an editor for the Milwaukee Sentinel once comforted me when I told him that I wasn't able to catch all my mistakes when I was proof reading a workbook I was writing. "Neal, he said graciously, "at our paper we have three different sets of eyes read an article before it goes to print. Even then, our proof reading isn't perfect. We still miss some mistakes!"
I now have a common practice of having three different sets of eyes proof read an important document to which I sign my name. Even though I detest proof reading, because I know it will both point out some flaws in my work as well as identify the ones I hadn't even seen, I realize how important the practice is for the finished product.
So I began to think recently, if proof reading is important in my work, just how much more important can proof reading be to my faith. Think of it with me.
What would it mean to regularly proof read your life and your faith? What might you be missing that is right before your very eyes? What would it be like to have three sets of other eyes reviewing your faith with you; not to judge, but rather to enhance your faith and therefore your life?
At JCPC, we have many different sets of eyes that can help in proof reading your faith. Worship, Bible studies, and small groups all provide a different look from which to view your faith.
In the upcoming weeks, I'm going to explore in more detail what it can mean for us to take the time to proof read our lives. I'm not looking for typos; mind you, but rather offering a different set of eyes to enhance your living human document!
Prayer for Today
Creative God, you know our words before we speak and you have discerned our thoughts before we think. Help us to proof-read our lives in such a way that we can make the corrections and additions necessary to glorify your holy name. Amen.
Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?-Matthew 20:15
Thomas J. DeLong, a professor at Harvard Business School, has noted a disturbing trend among his students and colleagues-a "comparison obsession." He writes: "More so than ever before, . . . business executives, Wall Street analysts, lawyers, doctors, and other professionals are obsessed with comparing their own achievements against those of others. . . . This is bad for individuals and bad for companies. When you define success based on external rather than internal criteria, you diminish your satisfaction and commitment."
Comparison obsession isn't new. The Scriptures warn us of the dangers of comparing ourselves to others. When we do so, we become proud and look down on them (Luke 18:9-14). Or we become jealous and want to be like them or have what they have (James 4:1). We fail to focus on what God has given us to do. Jesus intimated that comparison obsession comes from believing that God is unfair and that He doesn't have a right to be more generous to others than He is to us (Matthew 20:1-16).
By God's grace, we can overcome comparing ourselves with others.
By God's grace we can learn to overcome comparison obsession by focusing on the life God has given to us. As we take moments to thank God for everyday blessings, we change our thinking and begin to believe deep down that God is good.
Prayer for Today
I need a better focus, Lord. Help me to keep my eyes off others and instead on You and Your good heart for all of us. Amen.
The people of Judah were victorious because they relied on the Lord, the God of their ancestors.
-2 Chronicles 13:18
As the convoy waited to roll out, a young marine rapped urgently on the window of his team leader's vehicle. Irritated, the sergeant rolled down his window. "What?"
"You gotta do that thing," the marine said. "What thing?" asked the sergeant. "You know, that thing you do," replied the marine.
God will never turn away whoever turns to Him in faith.
Then it dawned on the sergeant. He always prayed for the convoy's safety, but this time he hadn't. So he dutifully climbed out of the Humvee and prayed for his marines. The marine understood the value of his praying leader.
In ancient Judah, Abijah doesn't stand out as a great king. First Kings 15:3 tells us, "His heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God." But as Judah prepared for war against Israel, outnumbered two to one, Abijah knew this much: Faithful people in his kingdom of Judah had continued worshiping God (2 Chronicles 13:10-12), while the ten tribes of Israel had driven out the priests of God and worshiped pagan gods instead (vv. 8-9). So Abijah turned confidently to the one true God.
Surely Abijah's checkered history had caused grave damage. But he knew where to turn in the crisis, and his army won soundly "because they relied on the Lord, the God of their ancestors" (v. 18). Our God welcomes whoever comes to Him and relies on Him.
Prayer for Today
I know that prayer isn't a good-luck charm. But I come to You now, Lord, because there's no one better to talk to. I trust You with all of my circumstances today. Amen.
Here at JCPC we are entering day three of having no internet or telephones. I think about the commercial on TV that shows a family without internet for only a few minutes going crazy. So you can imagine in our day and time what it is like to have no internet or telephones at the church for what will probably be day four before it is fixed. The best guess at the present time is that we took some kind of lightning hit to our cable during the storms on Sunday night.
Not being connected obviously has its disadvantages. We can't contact others and they can't contact us. Messages others thought were getting through to us at the church are stuck in internet limbo. It has been very frustrating.
On the other hand, not being connected can give you some quiet time to work on things that might normally get interrupted or preempted by email or other messages. It is kind of like a Sabbath period - though not one we might normally choose. Yet, sometimes we need that enforced period of rest and renewal.
Staying connected to God is something we also need. Yet I find it more and more of a challenge for me to disconnect from the digital world in order to reconnect with God. My smartphone constantly overwhelms me with so much information that I feel like I don't have enough bandwidth to process it all. Given that, how do we find any time to make room for God?
Of course it just takes time and intentionality -- making it a priority throughout our day to reconnect with God through moments of prayer, or for being open to God's presence around us. Frederick Buechner calls this "paying attention to your life."
So whether or not you have internet today, I want to invite you to plan to make time to connect with God. Put it in your calendar. Treat those moments with God as a priority. It is one way to find the rest for your soul that Jesus says we can find when we come to him.
Prayer for Today
Loving Jesus, you have told us in scripture, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:29) This day, even now, we come to you to reconnect -- to find the Sabbath rest for our souls that we all need. Thank you for the gift of your refreshing, renewing Spirit! In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 07:14 pm
I tell you not to worry about your life. Don't worry about having something to eat, drink, or wear. Isn't life more than food or clothing? Look at the birds in the sky! They don't plant or harvest. They don't even store grain in barns. Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them. Aren't you worth more than birds? Can worry make you live longer? Why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow. They don't work hard to make their clothes. But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth wasn't as well clothed as one of them. God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow. He will surely do even more for you! Why do you have such little faith? -Matthew 6:25-30
For some of you these may be a familiar passage and for others these words may be something new. As I was recently reflecting on the times during the day that I worry, I remembered these words from Jesus in the gospel of Matthew. Sometimes I find myself being overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities of life and wonder how everything and everyone will be cared for. I sometimes lose sight of these promises from Jesus that God will provide. As I look through my life, I see the many places where God provides for me and my family again and again. Each day I am challenged to overcome my worries and put my trust in God as my provider.
As you go through your week, I would invite you to hold onto these words from Jesus reminding us that we do not have to worry.
Prayer for Today
Creator and Sustainer God, Open our hearts and minds to see the ways you continue to provide for us. Help us to put our trust in you. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Several weeks ago, flash floods swept through Maryland. I was stunned when I saw how quickly nature can turn harmony into chaos. However, in the midst of this destructive chaos, salvation was taking place. A woman was rescued from her car by the collaborative power of a human chain.
Moved by these men's compassionate bravery to risk their own lives to save another's, I remembered a Biblical story of a human chain. The story is when Jesus healed a paralytic man whose friend created a human chain in order to lower him down to the Master through the roof of a house. The doorway was blocked, so the paralytic's friends formed a human chain so that he could be healed by Jesus.
Have you ever been part of a human chain? Think about it. To be a part of a human chain doesn't necessarily mean you put your life in harm's way such as the rescuers in Maryland. At the heart of the human chain is sacrificial service; giving of yourself to lift up (or lower down through a roof) another who is in need.
We have many opportunities for service at JCPC. Holy Hands in Prayer meets on Tuesday mornings to create a human chain of prayer. Meals and More provides essential meals during times of crisis and need. The Knit Wits and their blessed knitting needles stitch together loving prayer shawls that warm the bodies and spirits of hospital patients. Stephen Ministry offers the ministry of caring presence for those needing a compassionate friend to walk along side of them during a rough time.
Speaking of Stephen Ministry the next training is scheduled to begin on September 16th. If you are interested in training to become a Stephen Minister, let me know.
God forms our human chains as part of his plan for salvation. Take some time to reflect upon the people that God used to form a human chain to save you. Perhaps it's time to return the favor!
Prayer for Today
We thank you, O Lord, for the men and woman of faith that you have placed in our lives to help us in times of struggle. Bless us with your Holy Spirit, so that we will become that man or woman who heeds your call to give of ourselves through sacrificial service. Amen.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
When Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase "the medium is the message" in 1964, personal computers were unknown, mobile phones were science fiction, and the Internet didn't exist. Today we understand what great foresight he had in predicting how our thinking is influenced in this digital age. In Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, he writes, "[The media] supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I'm online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles."
I like J. B. Phillips' paraphrase of Paul's message to the Christians in Rome: "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity" (Romans 12:2). How relevant this is today as we find our thoughts and the way our minds process material affected by the world around us.
Let God's Spirit, not the world, shape your mind.
We cannot stem the tide of information that bombards us, but we can ask God each day to help us focus on Him and to shape our thinking through His presence in our lives.
Prayer for Today
Father in heaven, still and focus my mind, quiet my heart, and fill me with Your thoughts throughout this day. Amen.
The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid." -Luke 2:10
Nearly every time an angel appears in the Bible, the first words he says are, "Do not be afraid"
(Daniel 10:12, 19; Matthew 28:5; Revelation 1:17). Little wonder. When the supernatural makes contact with planet Earth, it usually leaves the human observers flat on their faces in catatonic fear. But Luke tells of God making an appearance on earth in a form that does not frighten. In Jesus, born in a barn and laid in a feeding trough, God finds at last a mode of approach that we need not fear. What could be less scary than a newborn baby?
Puzzled skeptics stalked Jesus throughout His ministry. How could a baby in Bethlehem, a carpenter's son, be the Messiah from God? But a group of shepherds in a field had no doubt about who He was, for they heard the message of good news straight from a choir of angels (2:8-14).
In Jesus, God comes close to us.
Why did God take on human form? The Bible gives many reasons, some densely theological and some quite practical; but the scene of Jesus as an adolescent lecturing rabbis in the temple gives one clue (v. 46). For the first time, ordinary people could hold a conversation, a debate, with God in visible form. Jesus could talk to anyone-His parents, a rabbi, a poor widow-without first having to announce, "Don't be afraid."
Prayer for Today
I'm humbled, Lord, that You would come near to me. But I'm grateful. Thank You. Amen.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. - 1 Corinthians 12:27, NIV
Every year I schedule my annual physical to check up on my general physical health. It is not that exciting, but it is a good thing to do. This Sunday, September 14, we will have our Annual Congregational Meeting at 10:00 a.m. in the Chapel. Our Annual Congregational meeting is kind of like the annual checkup for the "body" of the church. St. Paul talks about the church as being a body - the body of Christ. Each one of us is part of that body and has a part to play.
Now comparing our Annual Congregational Meeting to an annual physical may not be the best strategy to try to get you to come. ("Come to the Annual Congregational Meeting - it's better than a physical!") But in the same way that our physical is necessary for the on-going enjoyment of a healthy, productive life -- our Annual Congregational Meeting can help us understand the great things God is doing here at Johns Creek Presbyterian Church.
At Sunday's meeting we will . . .
Receive a written copy of the Annual Report that you can take home and read later. It gives an overview of the highlights of the mission of JCPC during the last year.
Elect the committee that will receive names from the congregation for folks you think would be good elders to lead our church.
Learn about five semi-annual themes our Session adopted to guide the work of our church in the coming years.
Receive an update from our New Building Committee about where we are as we approach completion in the near future.
Hear about the generosity of our congregation through both our Capital Campaign and our ministry and mission giving.
Outline the exciting events we have planned to celebrate and dedicate our new building throughout the month of September.
I look forward to seeing you there this Sunday!
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, thank you for calling us together as the body of Christ to make a difference in the world. As we look back over the past year, and as we look forward to the days to come, may we be made aware of your presence in our midst. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 04:31 pm
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul. And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.
I recently listened to an instrumental version of this song while I was working on some children's curriculum plans. The song is so familiar that the words came to me as I was listening to the instruments.
These words are the first and last verses of the hymn, It Is Well With My Soul. This hymn was written at a time when the writer had experienced some recent tragedies in his life. When I experience life changing situations or tragic events, it takes me a while to get to the point of expressing my faith like the writer of this hymn. There is a grieving process that takes place before I can say, "it is well with my soul".
Each time I hear the words in the last verse of this hymn, I experience deep emotion. I do look forward to the day when my faith shall be sight. Until that time, I continue to experiences glimpses of God in my life each day.
I would invite you to look around today and notice the places, people and experiences where you see glimpses of the day when our faith shall be sight.
For we live by faith, not by sight. -2 Corinthians 5:7
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, Thank you for the gift of each day. Open our eyes that we may see you at work in our lives and open our hearts that our faith may grow deeper. In Christ's Name, Amen.
I'm afraid of heights. It may go back to when I was a young boy and my brother coached/coaxed me to jump off the front steps of a neighborhood church. He did so by instructing me to construct a make shift parachute by holding onto the ends of a blanket. I fell to the earth with a thud! I'm afraid of heights.
My childlike faith in my brother was sorely, and I mean sorely, tested. You can imagine my amazement when I read about Luke Aikin's leap of faith that was recently televised. In a nut shell, Aikin jumped out of an airplane flying at 25,000 feet. Below on the desert floor was constructed a 100 x 100 foot net suspended 200 feet off the ground. Aikin was aiming to land on the net. The challenge was he jumped out of the airplane without a parachute or wingsuit. His 2 minute free fall was televised live. What a leap of faith!
Of course, Luke Aikin didn't leap blindly; but rather, he followed intricate planning and was as prepared as he could be. While I can say that I will never, and I mean never, take the leap of faith that Aikin made, can I say the same about the preparation needed to grow in faith?
As Gray has preached each of the "Blessed are..." in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, I became deeply inspired to re-read and pray the Psalms and the prophet Isaiah. Each of the blessings echoes the psalmist and the prophet and reminded me how Jesus learned them as a boy. Yes, as God's son he knew them, but as the Son of Man, one of us, he learned them. His leap of faith that led to Calvary was facilitated by the years of preparation in the synagogue and then the years of ministry proclaiming the good news of God's Kingdom.
Perhaps you can foresee a time when you will be making a leap of faith. No better time than now to get back into scriptures. Might I suggest Matthew 5, the Psalms, and Isaiah? Look before you leap!
Prayer for Today
We thank you for your Word, O Lord. Teach us your ways and speak to our inner most being through your scriptures, so that we might know you better and understand more fully our next leap of faith. Amen.
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous.
No matter where the athletes of the 2016 Olympics go in the city of Rio de Janeiro, they can see Jesus. Standing high above this Brazilian city and anchored to a 2,310-foot-high mountain called Corcovado is a 100-foot-tall sculpture called Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). With arms spread wide, this massive figure is visible day and night from almost anywhere in the sprawling city.
As comforting as this iconic concrete and soapstone sculpture may be to all who can look up and see it, there is much greater comfort from this reality: The real Jesus sees us. In Psalm 34, David explained it like this: "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry" (v. 15). He noted that when the righteous call out for His help, "The Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (vv. 17-18).
God oversees our lives, and He hears the cries of those who trust Him.
Just who are the righteous? Those of us who place our trust in Jesus Christ, who Himself is our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). Our God oversees our lives, and He hears the cries of those who trust Him. He is near to help in our greatest times of need.
Jesus has His eyes on you.
Prayer for Today
Sometimes, Lord, life seems out of control and I don't know exactly which direction to take. Thank You for overseeing my life and prompting me in the right way through Your Word and Your Spirit. Amen.
I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. -Romans 7:18
In his book Jumping Through Fires, David Nasser tells the story of his spiritual journey. Before he began a relationship with Jesus, he was befriended by a group of Christian teens. Although most of the time his buddies were generous, winsome, and nonjudgmental, David witnessed one of them lie to his girlfriend. Feeling convicted, the young man later confessed and asked for her forgiveness. Reflecting on this, David said that the incident drew him closer to his Christian friends. He realized that they needed grace, just as he did.
We don't have to act like we're perfect with the people we know. It's okay to be honest about our mistakes and struggles. The apostle Paul openly referred to himself as the worst of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). He also described his wrestling match with sin in Romans 7, where he said, "I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out" (v. 18). Unfortunately, the opposite was also true: "The evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing" (v. 19).
We don't have to be perfect.
It's okay to be honest about our mistakes and struggles.
Being open about our struggles puts us on the same level with every other human alive-which is right where we belong! However, because of Jesus Christ, our sin will not follow us into eternity. It's like the old saying goes, "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven."
Prayer for Today
Dear Jesus, I worship You as the only perfect human ever to live. Thank You for making it possible for me to have victory over sin. Amen.
The last time Pam and I visited Washington, D.C. our kids were much younger. Last week we spent time in D.C. with our daughter Maggie who has an internship before her senior year in college. Obviously seeing her was the highlight of the trip, but we also had time each day she was working to visit many of the museums and historical sites. We saw the Holocaust Museum which was deeply moving. We spent a whole day in the Newseum which was dedicated to all forms of telling the news, as well as the news events that were covered. And we went through the almost-completed Museum of the American Indian. We also visited the Vietnam War Memorial, as well as the World War II War Memorial.
Each of these places made an impression on me. I thought about how blessed we are to have a city where we can be reminded of some of the most important things in life that have shaped us as individuals and as a country. Spending time thinking about the sacrifices brave men and women have made for others reminds me of the verse in the Bible that says, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13, NIV)
I was also moved by how much human suffering there is in the world. Beginning with the Holocaust Museum and moving through others that tell the stories of how people have been mistreated, you are almost overwhelmed at the brokenness in our world and how unkind we can be to one another. It reminded me that our world is in genuine need of a real savior, not just someone to help us do a little better. In his letter to Rome, Paul writes, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (5:8, NIV) We need God's love and grace so that we can all make this world a better place!
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, we thank you for those who sacrificed so that we might live and thrive. Help us to serve one another in the same way Christ chose to serve us. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 08:03 pm
When was the last time you received an invitation- email, snail mail, hand-delivered or face-to-face?
It's amazing the meaning that we find in the simplest of invitations. It often means somebody who knows you wants to hang out with you, spend time with you, and get to know you better.
God has an invitation for you as well. God wants to spend time with you and wants your relationship to grow. Take some time to sit with this for a minute and find a way to accept it.
In this letter of Hebrews, we are reminded of the ways that God's people through the ages have been invited and put their faith in God.
"By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise." Hebrews 11:8-11
Abraham received a special invitation from God and lived in a tent for a long time. He was waiting on God's leadership. What about you? What are you waiting on? Living in a tent for so long taught Abraham that he could trust God. Living in a tent increased his hope for a house with a real floor.
So, trust God to take you from where you are to something better. Zip up that sleeping bag; a real bed is on the way! Toss out that water bottle; a water cooler is on the way! Abraham trusted God big time. God invites you and me to do the same!
I would like to invite you to come and experience some of the good things God is doing here at JCPC. On August 21, we will have a church wide breakfast from 9:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m. for all ages to kick off our new year of Sunday School. As a part of this fellowship time, we will also share with you the opportunities we will offer for children, youth and adults during Sunday School this year.
You are invited to encounter God in this place through a variety of new classes. Come on August 21 to hear a little more about them and then on August 28,
I would like to invite you to come and experience one of the classes.
Prayer for Today
God, thank you for the invitation. Today I promise to trust in you like I never have before, knowing your blessings are more than I can imagine. In Christ's Name, Amen.
Something I always look forward to following worship is when I receive a "Taylor hug." That is when Taylor Dowd gives me a big hug and then tells me about the stuffed animal/friend that she has brought with her to church. Two Sunday's ago, Taylor was carrying Pikachu in her arms and enthusiastically told me how she was enjoying the new Pokemon Go game.
If you have raised children the past 20 years you probably know something about Pokemon. My son Michael would get lost for hours in his imagination collecting all the Pokemon cards and having battles. He seemed to be experiencing true joy, so when Taylor told me about her excitement playing Pokemon Go, I was all in.
If you have been watching the news or listening to the radio you no doubt have heard about the Pokemon Go craze. Players use their smart phones to collect all the Pokemon characters in a type of scavenger hunt. Our technology has moved so far past the hula hoop craze, hasn't it?!!!
What would it be like to experience such excitement in your faith again? What if your faith became child-like again in its enthusiasm and pure joy? Matthew's gospel ends with the words, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." What would it look like for you to play the modern gospel game named Faith-Go?
I played Faith-Go this morning when I drove to North Fulton Hospital to visit with a parishioner. In my possession was one of my most prized pastoral gifts. It wasn't the gift of listening nor the gift of presence, though those are both wonderful gifts to use while playing Faith-Go. The gift was a prayer shawl knitted by our beloved Knit Wits.
Entering the hospital room, I was greeted by a warm smile.
When I shared the gift of the prayer shawl, pure joy filled the room.
I left the visit filled with energy; spirit-filled energy, and I realized
once again that when I play Faith-Go, I come alive.
I imagine you do too!
Prayer for Today
Thank you for the gift of faith, O Lord, and the call to share the gospel throughout the world. Fill us with the Holy Spirit so that we may be fully alive in the love you call us to share. Amen.