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.
[Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God.
"You gotta have faith," people say. But what does that mean? Is any faith good faith?
"Believe in yourself and all that you are," wrote one positive thinker a century ago. "Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle." As nice as that may sound, it falls to pieces when it crashes into reality. We need a faith in something bigger than ourselves.
Abraham's faith was in something far bigger than himself
- the one and only God.
God promised Abram he would have a multitude of descendants (Genesis 15:4-5). so he faced a huge obstacle - he was old and childless. When he and Sarah got tired of waiting for God to make good on His promise, they tried to overcome that obstacle on their own. As a result, they fractured their family and created a lot of unnecessary dissension (see Genesis 16 and 21:8-21).
Nothing Abraham did in his own strength worked. But ultimately he became known as a man of tremendous faith. Paul wrote of him, "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, 'So shall your offspring be"' (Romans 4:18). This faith, said Paul, "was credited to him as righteousness" (verse 22).
Abraham's faith was in something far bigger than himself - the one and only God. It's the object of our faith that makes all the difference.
Prayer for Today
Lord, I want a strong faith in You, not just faith in myself or my abilities or in others. I am nothing without You. Amen.
"Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks." Luke 12:35-36 (ESV)
In a movie from many years ago, a certain British character falls in love with a lovely young Portuguese woman who cleans his vacation cottage. She speaks no English and he speaks no Portuguese. They part company without ever exchanging any meaningful words, but developing a real bond. In the climax of the film, you see him taking classes and learning Portuguese to go and see her. Before a gathered crowd in her hometown, in the restaurant where she works, he confesses his love in broken and grammatically incorrect grammar and asks for her hand in marriage.
She responds happily to his badly worded proposal in her own broken English. As they embrace and beam at each other and the crowd cheers, he says, "You learned English." And she smiles and says, "Just in cases."
Much of our young lives is filled with an education that may or may not be directly useful to our future careers and lives. We are left asking, "When will I ever use this?" And often, we are right. Some of the knowledge we acquire is later useful, makes us good citizens, informed, or is useful in daily life or work, and some is not. And sometimes, we take the same approach to our Christian education and spiritual formation. When will I ever use this? When we should perhaps be more like Aurelia, the young Portuguese woman... Just in cases...
What if our mindset was hope? What if our outlook was that at any moment, someone we love or are called to love will walk in the door, and the things we have learned will help to bring us together? What if because we know every person in this world is our brother or sister and learning the words to speak to them in love would make all our lives that much better? Bible study and worship and retreats and our classes and study and interactions, would we approach them with hearts and minds open to learn? Just in cases...
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to be eager to delve into your truth for my life eagerly so that I may be ready to be and do what is needed for those who come into my life with open arms. Give me a heart to learn and to grow and be ready... just in cases. Amen.
Whenever we serve food for meals around JCPC, Nancy Siegman seems to be involved. We sometimes wonder in advance if we will have enough food. But usually it all works out and Nancy comments, "Loaves and fishes" -of course she is making reference to the Bible story of the feeding of the 5,000. A little boy brings his loaves and fishes to Jesus who blesses them and shares them. Miraculously, there is enough to feed 5,000 people -- with food left over!
Sunday a week ago, we had our first church-wide luncheon to celebrate the new building. Bill McLeish prepared an amazing meal and a wonderful group of volunteers helped to serve it. If you were here, you know what a great time of food and fellowship it was.
However, there was plenty of food leftover. Not wanting any of it to go to waste, we contacted the good folks downtown at the Atlanta Union Mission who said they would be glad to take the food. One night last week, our leftover food provided a lot of meals for those who are homeless and in need of food. Thanks be to God! I love "loaves and fishes" stories - especially ones in which both the fortunate and less-fortunate are fed.
This Sunday we have another "loaves and fishes" opportunity. It is World Communion Sunday. It is a day when Christians all around the globe will be celebrating communion as symbol of our oneness in Christ that transcends cultures. Here at JCPC, we gather with our brothers and sisters from the New Vision Presbyterian Church for worship at 11:00 a.m. We will then move to our new Great Hall and share a meal. Everyone is invited to bring their own food for the celebration. Each year our Korean friends bring some amazing, catered Korean food. The rest of us also bring something to share. Check out "Connections" or the fliers around the church to find out what you need to bring. Make plans to come this Sunday to share, eat, and fellowship as together we live out our own version of "loaves and fishes."
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, you take what we have to offer, as meager or as bountiful as it may be, and you use it to do something miraculous! Thank you for giving us something to share, and for letting us be a part of your amazing grace at work in our world. We pray this in strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:32 am
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
Lord, you have been our home since the beginning.
I was recently reminded that God is not far away or up there, but rather as close to us as our home. Moses in his prayer in Psalm 90 reminds us that God is our home and has been since the beginning. We find comfort in the roof and four walls of our homes. Familiar furniture, special keepsakes, and lasting memories are some of the things that make my house feel like home. What makes your house feel like home?
Remember that God is with us in the presence of the Holy Spirit anytime and anywhere. God can be equally familiar to us, like our homes. Max Lucado says it well, "with time you can learn to go for nourishment, where to hide for protection, where to turn for guidance. Just as your earthly house is a place of refuge, so God's house is a place of peace."
As you spend time in your home this week, think about the ways that you can invite God into every aspect of your life. Put your trust in God knowing that he goes before you, stands beside you and walks behind you.
Prayer for Today
Loving God, Thank you for the comfort and security that you bring into our lives. Help us to see you in every part of our day. In Christ's Name, Amen.
There are two words I hear religiously when I'm listening to the radio while driving. These two words seem to be the most popular words in the marketing lexicon; easy and simple. You know how it goes. A pleasant toned pitchman or woman tells you how easy and simple using their product or service will be. If there's any hint of Murphy's law, whatever could go wrong will go wrong, then we won't buy.
Sometimes I wish that life was that easy and simple. But would it be true to life or even life itself if it were easy and simple. When I hear these two words I find myself asking, "What are you trying to sell."
However, when I think of the word easy a Bible passage comes to mind.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
-Matthew 11: 28-30
Sometimes this passage is used by good hearted people in an attempt to bolster the faith of the downtrodden; "God won't give you more than you can handle." However, the faithful often reply, "I know God won't give me anything I can't handle. I just wish he didn't trust me so much."
Jesus shared this teaching at what seemed to be an incredibly difficult time in his ministry. He constantly faced grousing and rejection as he shared the good news. Read Matthew 11 in its entirety for the context in which Jesus taught.
Jesus wasn't saying life is to be easy and simple. Rather, when we yoke (partner) with him in our difficulties we can experience peace and rest.
At JCPC, we provide Stephen Ministry support if you are feeling that life is getting the best of you. A Stephen Minister will partner with you in a fashion that you can unburden your heart and regain some peace and rest for your soul.
Prayer for Today
Thank you Father for the yoke of Jesus which is easy and lightens our burdens. Bring peace into my day and rest for my soul. Amen.
The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.
A few days after his father died, 30-year old C.S. Lewis received a letter from a woman who had cared for his mother during her illness and death more than two decades earlier. The woman offered her sympathy for his loss and wondered if he remembered her. "My dear Nurse Davison." Lewis replied. "Remember you? I should think I do."
Lewis recalled how much her presence in their home had meant to him as well as to his brother and father during a difficult time. He thanked her for her words of sympathy and said, "It is really comforting to be taken back to those old days. The time during which you were with my mother seemed very long to a child and you became part of home."
Help me to speak words of hope and encouragement to others.
When we struggle in the circumstances of life, an encouraging word from others can lift our spirits and our eyes to the Lord. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote, "The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary" (Isaiah 50:4). And when we look to the Lord, He offers words of hope and light in the darkness.
Prayer for Today
Heavenly Father, help me to hear Your word of hope today. And help me to speak words of hope and encouragement to others, pointing them to You. Amen.
"Therefore as you go, make disciples of all nations... baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
This Sunday, we recognized a young man in second grade, following our tradition of giving him his very own Bible to read with his family and here at church. What I loved was how he came running down the aisle to receive it, and then went running back down the aisle to show it to his parents.
As with much of what children do in wonder, awe, enthusiasm, and delight, we can notice things we have forgotten about ourselves as we settle into adulthood. How many of us come running to God on Sunday morning, or any morning? While many of us do rush out the door to get to church, how often is it to spend time with God and to hear from God's word for us? And once we have received God's Word, how many of us are running out to share it?
I'm grateful for this young man and his enthusiasm. It is always our hope as believers, and mine as a pastor and teacher, to inspire our young people, to impart faith, and the love, hope, peace, and joy that come with it. But, I think Christ tells us over and over again that it's the children who we must look to as adults to be inspired to pursue our callings, not just diligently as disciples, but enthusiastically as children of God.
The scripture above is wonderful in the Greek, and challenging. The command is not "to go." The command is to make disciples. The verb form of the motion at the start indicates Christ is saying, "AS YOU GO." Jesus already told the disciples there is need in the world and that his teachings already demand we run to that world to help. His command is to serve. When we are called to worship this Sunday, I hope you'll remember this young boy, and as you read the words, I hope you'll say them as one who has come running to God, and is ready to run to the world.
Prayer for Today
Oh Lord, we know that you wait for us, that you long for us to come in prayer and worship and the reading of your holy word. We pray that we come to it with the enthusiasm of a child, and that your Spirit would fill us with your love and wisdom, eager to be driven out to the world, to go running to those in need. In your son's name, amen.
Doing well and doing good are more than just choices we have to make when trying to get our grammar correct. A number of books have been written recently about the idea of what it means to do well while doing good. At the JCPC Golf Tournament for Missions, Rob Dowd had the line of the day when he told all of the golfers as they headed out to the course, "Even if you don't do well, you will still be doing good." Well said!
For the golfers, the doing well part referred to how proficiently they played the round of golf. Some golfers were great at driving a golf ball a long way. Others were good on the greens -- sinking putts from a long way off.
Each year we award our George Bridges Trophy to the team with the best score. Other golfers received gift certificates for the longest drive or the one closest to the pin. But everyone did something good simply by showing up and playing or providing a sponsorship!
The money goes to support missions. Last summer we sent twenty youth and their advisors to Arkansas so they could minister to children and youth in need. It was not only life-changing for the kids from Arkansas, but for our own JCPC Youth Mission Team, as well.
We are already putting together a mission experience outside of the country for next year. On Sunday, October 16, at 10:00 a.m., we will have an informational meeting talking about the different places we might go. We want you to attend and give your input about which location God may be calling us to in 2017.
But you don't have to go somewhere else to do good. Every day God puts opportunities in our lives for us to make a difference in the lives of others. We simply need to be open and willing. Jesus reminds us that when we do things "for the least of these", it is as if we are doing it for Jesus. Today, find a way to do good while you are trying to do well!
Prayer for Today
Good and gracious God, open our eyes to see your face in the faces of these we meet today. Help us to do what is good while we strive to do well. We pray this in strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 08:33 am
This week marks the first day of fall. Over the weekend, I started to notice the longer nights beginning to creep in, the cool mornings and warm afternoons. Spending time outdoors watching the leaves change colors is one of my favorite parts of fall. I am looking forward to enjoying this change over the next month or so. It's easy to fall in love with God's creation this time of year when the weather is mild and the colors are vibrant. I enjoy this time of the year, the changes that occur and the time to reflect on how God continues to work in us.
I try to be open and ready for things to change and embrace new challenges. As a Florida native, who has lived in South Carolina or Georgia for the past 12 years, I am still not ready for the change that happens in a few months when winter moves in.
So how do I cope with these changes? How do I appreciate God's creation when it becomes uncomfortable in a few months with winter temperatures? I pull out the scarves and gloves, make chili in the crock pot, and look for the blessings in each day. What do you do to cope with change? God has blessed us with the changes in seasons and the colors in creation.
As we begin to transition into fall, I want to invite you to take a moment each week to think about creation and its blessings in Genesis 1 in a new way through the words of this poem by James Weldon Johnson:
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And He spat out the seven seas;
He batted His eyes, and the lightnings flashed;
He clapped His hands, and the thunders rolled;
And the waters above the earth came down,
The cooling waters came down.
Then the green grass sprouted,
And the little red flowers blossomed,
The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the oak spread out his arms,
The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the sea;
And God smiled again,
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around His shoulder.
Then God raised His arm and He waved His hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And He said, "Bring forth! Bring forth!"
And quicker than God could drop His hand.
Fishes and fowls
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said, "That's good!"
Prayer for Today
God our Creator, you made the great lights in our sky: the sun to rule in the day, and the moon and the stars in the night all because your great love lasts forever. Our sun and moon and the stars that you call by name all give you praise, because they do what they were created to do. Lead me, to reflect the light of Christ your Son and so live fully as, in your love, you created me to do. Amen.
I'm tired of the 90 degree heat! Are you like me wondering when the relief of Fall temperatures will arrive?
Two weekends ago I was attending parent's weekend at UGA and celebrating my daughter Maryneal's sophomore year. The day began at her sorority house, Sigma Kappa, with a breakfast buffet and the buzz of excitement for the Bulldog kick-off at noon. We began our trek to the stadium and quickly realized we were beginning to fatigue as the sun beamed down on us.
Shade was at a premium at 11:30 a.m. with only little slivers of relief offering refuge from the heat of the day. Standing in line under direct sunlight I wondered if I would faint in the noon day sun. Even the street preacher who was chastising the masses for turning away from God didn't provide relief. I saw my goal inside the gates of the stadium and it was a large area of shade sheltering hundreds of people. Ahhhh...shade! Thankfully, I remember many times that I sought out the relief of shade.
At times like these, my mind often turns theological and my heart yearns to understand God. I was reminded of scripture and how God provides shade.
"If I lift up my eyes to the mountains where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip, he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will never slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you; the Lord is your shade at your right hand..." Psalm 121: 1-5
My prayer for you is that God will be a shade in your times of trial.
And yes, I pray for shade for all of our golfers today in our JCPC Golf tournament.
Prayer for Today
Gracious and loving God, thank you for offering us the relief and refuge of shade. When our lives become overheated by stress, anxiety, and troubles help us to always look to you as our help. Amen.
We are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ.
-2 Corinthians 2:15
A perfumer who works in New York declares that she can recognize certain combinations of scents and guess the perfumer behind a fragrance. With just a sniff she can say, "This is Jenny's work."
When writing to the followers of Christ in the city of Corinth, Paul at one point used an example that would have reminded them of a victorious Roman army in a conquered city burning incense (2 Corinthians 2:14). The general would come through first, followed by his troops and then the defeated army. For the Romans, the aroma of the incense meant victory; for the prisoners, it meant death.
Paul said we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ's victory over sin. God has given us the fragrance of Christ Himself so we can become a sweet-smelling sacrifice of praise. But how can we live so we spread this pleasing fragrance to others? We can show generosity and love, and we can share the gospel with others so they can find the way to salvation. We can allow the Spirit to display through us His gifts of love, joy, and kindness (Galatians 5:22-23).
Do others observe us and say, "This is Jesus' work"? Are we allowing Him to spread His fragrance through us and then telling others about Him? He is the Ultimate Perfumer - the most exquisite fragrance there will ever be.
A godly life is a fragrance that draws others to Christ.
Prayer for Today
Do others recognize the work of God in my life? Am I spreading the fragrance of Christ? How?
Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger;
There are lots of fun details I remember from Gulliver's Travels from many years ago. I remember the land of giants where he was very tiny and the land of Lilliputians where he was very large. But the most memorable to me was the land of the talking horses. They, though wild, were wise. In fact, they had a custom that whenever two of them who were strangers met for the first time, there was a very long silence before either spoke, as to make a good impression and to be intentional in their words. We should all be so wise.
Recently, I began to make coffee using a kettle, a coffee bean grinder, and a French press. It now takes me nearly 10 minutes to make coffee instead of 3 or 4. It seemed to take so much more time and energy at first, but on reflection, the time is not significant, and the result is pleasing to me and anyone who shares the fruits of this labor of love.
It goes very much against the grain of our culture to take our time in any endeavor. We value efficiency and speed above quality and intentionality. It's perfectly acceptable to ask how one is doing without expecting a real answer. However, it is confusing to our brothers and sisters from Africa and Asia especially to learn this through experience. These are places where perhaps not coincidentally, both the practices of slow preparation of coffee and tea, and of real care and concern in greeting one another and inquiring how one is doing are still practiced. Maybe, we could learn something from them.
Maybe, we too, can slow our lives by a few minutes or moments to the benefit of our relationships with those in our lives and the strangers we encounter. Maybe love is just the time and space we carve from our days and give to others.
Prayer for Today
Lord, we have carved this time from our day to speak with you, knowing you will meet us in every moment we call. Help us to slow down, to seek to be generous and intentional in our time devoted to others and their needs, so we may be known as people who love. Send your spirit to soften our hearts to the awareness of the needs of time and care around us. In the name of your son, whose ministry was time spent with those in need, we pray. Amen.
What an amazing day in the life of JCPC! I did not want Sunday to end. Sitting in worship and seeing our new Great Hall filled with people was incredible. Thank you to all who made a special effort to be there. Dr. Tom Tewell's message, which told of his experience at his church on September 11, 2001, was especially moving to me. The choir was large and excellent. The special guests added to the occasion. And the bagpipes and tartans reminded us of our Presbyterian roots. It was one of the highlights of my ministry!
One of our church members told me afterward how she appreciated our theme that wove itself through the dedication service - this new building is "Not For Us Alone." Sure, we will enjoy it -- but we see it as a way to reach out and serve those in our community. Our hope is that this new building will create a welcoming and sacred space that is safe for people to enter into and encounter God and each other. That will continue to be our guiding vision for this new building.
I am so appreciative of all who made the new building possible. Our New Building Committee worked long hours for two years. By the responses I am hearing to the new building, everyone thinks they did a great job! Our "Bridge to the Future" Capital Campaign Committee helped us create and articulate the vision of what we believe God is calling us to do. But this was made possible because of you and all of the other individuals who gave so generously so that we might realize this dream. Thank you for your generous gifts!
Sunday I mentioned that the best way to finish strong is for all of us who made a financial commitment to complete our pledges. Others of us may not have had a chance to give, but want to join in now. We welcome your support!
During September we will see the final roll out of all that needs to be completed. May God continue to bless the good work at JCPC!
Prayer for Today
Thank you, God, for working through us to do your work in this place. Bless all who have labored so well in creating this new building. Again, we dedicate it all to your glory! Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:01 am
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Recently, I was listening to this familiar hymn, Be Thou My Vision. I first heard this song, when it was sung by a young Christian artist, Ginny Owens. Ginny was discovering melodies on the piano almost before she could complete a sentence. Songs began to emerge from her fingers as the vision began to leave her eyes by the age of three. A degenerative eye condition left her completely blind. Despite her physical challenge, she pursued a music career.
The song gains meaning for me as I learned this part of Ginny's story, since we are called to walk by faith, not by sight. -2 Corinthians 5:7
The original writer of Be Thou My Vision refers to God by many descriptive titles. The song encourages our focus and devotion to be Christ. In the hymn lyrics, the poet expresses his adoration of God through the many titles he uses: Vision, Wisdom, Word, Great Father, Power, Inheritance, High King of heaven, Treasure, bright heaven's Sun, Ruler of all.
Today, we continue to sing the words of this hymn, echoing the poet's response to God's many names, Thou my best thought,.. Thy presence my light.
I would invite you to travel through your day taking notice of how your faith and trust are connected with your ability to see. Listen for ways that you can redirect your thinking to have faith without always seeing first. May your vision be closely connected with God's call for your life.
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart.
Prayer for Today
God of Glory, I want to honor you with my daily choices. I want my life to glorify you. Open my eyes, ears, and heart to your vision for my life. In Christ's Name, Amen.
Proof reading is an essential part of the creative process. From brainstorming to creating a structure with a logical flow and thoughtful points of view, proof reading is employed every step of the way. Most of us, when we see the finished product aren't aware of all the time and effort that goes into the creative process. That is if it's not our own.
When I look at creation I see the splendor of our Creator. I see the finished work but wonder about everything that went into designing this wonderful world. Genesis lists a six day process with each day ending with "and it was good." Did God proof read what he had created before making that statement?
Over the past several years we have participated in a creative process that moved from little red dots on white sheets of paper to a magnificent new structure that we dedicated to the glory of God yesterday. For most in our congregation, it was the first time you had entered the new building. I imagine you had a sense of awe. I certainly did and still do!
Behind the scenes, a team of people dedicated themselves to the creative process. If you ask Tom Traylor or Jeff Arnold, I'm sure they would tell you that they went through thousands of proof reads to get us to yesterday's glorious celebration. Their process was more than 6 days, but if you attended the dedication worship service you could hear the declaration "it was good!"
Earlier in the week, this is what the great hall looked like:
Here is what it looked like yesterday:
Thank you to all who took part in this creative labor of love.
To God be the glory!
Prayer for Today
O God our Creator, we thank you for the gift of your Spirit which inspires us in creative ways. Bless all who hear your call and respond in sacrificial tasks, for in hearing and doing we become part of your new creation. Amen.
He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. -1 John 4:9
As Jesus' beloved disciple John grew older, his teaching became increasingly narrowed, focusing entirely on the love of God in his three letters. In the book Knowing the Truth of God's Love, Peter Kreeft cites an old legend which says that one of John's young disciples once came to him complaining, "Why don't you talk about anything else?" John replied, "Because there isn't anything else."
God's love is certainly at the heart of the mission and message of Jesus. In his earlier gospel account, John recorded the words, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16
Thank You, O Lord, that Your love is rich and pure, measureless and strong!
The apostle Paul tells us that God's love is at the core of how we live, and he reminds us that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 8:38-39
God's love is so strong, available, and stabilizing that we can confidently step into each day knowing that the good things are gifts from His hand and the challenges can be faced in His strength. For all of life, His love is what matters most.
Prayer for Today
Thank You, O Lord, that Your love is rich and pure, measureless and strong! Amen.
Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
-1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NRSV)
This Sunday, I was sitting on the front pew and all the kids came forward to sit for the children's message. When asked one of the questions in this time, one little girl raised her hand and gave an excellent answer. But it wasn't the question or the answer that struck me. It wasn't even that this little girl had an answer, a very good one. What struck me was her sister's response. As soon as she said it, her big sister in a matching dress tapped her on the knee and gave her a quick thumbs up and a big smile. I could tell right away that it was important to her to recognize this special moment. I could also tell this was a habit and a joy.
As I sat there, I thought about what is developing in this young girl, the hours her parents have spent teaching her and affirming her in this sort of encouraging behavior and kindness that make this her natural and joyful response to seeing her sister succeed. And then I thought about all our young children and youth and us as adults. Do we practice and affirm those moments in which we share joy, encourage others as they do good things? Do we take every opportunity to be kind and to build one another up? Do we take time to intentionally pass this to our children and those we teach and for whom we set an example?
This week, take note of when someone is succeeding, whether it's doing well or doing good. Encourage them that what they did has merit and is appreciated and needed. Go out of your way to lend that encouragement in word or in a handwritten note, signed or anonymous. I can't guarantee what effect it will have. But I can tell you there's one little girl who is growing up a better person for being encouraged by a sister who takes joy in her. And I know there's someone above who delights in us when we are all we are called and hope to be.
Prayer for Today
Oh Lord, as your Spirit encourages me in my daily life, send me to be an encouragement for others and teaching young believers in word and example. Amen.
IT'S ALMOST HERE! Five years ago we adopted our Long-range plan called Sharpening Our Focus: Putting God's Vision Into Action. The fifth and final goal of the plan was to "Explore the feasibility of constructing a multi-purpose facility that would enhance opportunities for fellowship, recreation, education, and worship." This Sunday, September 11, 2016, we dedicate our new building. I believe God has been at work throughout this process. There were many times this could have gone off the rails -- but somehow, through God's grace, it just kept moving forward. God must really want this building completed.
Join us Sunday at 11:00 a.m. at the Great Hall for worship. There will be no
9:00 a.m. service this Sunday, but there will be the regular Sunday Classes at 10:00 a.m. It is also our Kirkin' o' the Tartans service, so there will be bagpipes, drums, tartans, and even a few kilts. Our guest preacher, Dr. Tom Tewell, has spoken here before and at our Men's Retreat. He is one of the best around! Tom was pastoring the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church on September 11, 2001, when the planes struck the World Trade Center Towers. Tom will be sharing what it was like that day in his message entitled, "Where Do You Turn When the Walls Come Tumbling Down?" You will not want to miss it and I encourage you to invite some friends join you.
Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m., The Maranatha Band from the Dominican Republic will once again join us on their North American fall tour. These are not only gifted musicians, they are dedicated Christians who share the love of Christ in inspiring ways. Please make plans to come as one way to support the mission outreach of JCPC. We need you there! Again, bring a friend to join you. You will be glad you did and it will mean the world to our friends from the DR.
See you Sunday!
Prayer for Today
We thank you, God, that when we get the chance to get up on the mountaintop and look back over the past years, we can see your handiwork. Thank you for leading us to this time of celebration in the life of our church. Help us to make a difference in Johns Creek and beyond. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 08:51 am
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. -1 Corinthians 5:16-21
This passage may be familiar to you, specifically verse 17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! But the rest of this section in Paul's letter to the Corinthians reminds us that because we are made new, then we accept the challenge that we are called to be Christ's ambassadors to share the gospel and the message of reconciliation. I believe that each day when we learn and grow in our relationship with Christ, we are continuing to be made new.
So when you go through your day living into the gift of being made new, how do you share your faith and belief in God in our daily lives? If each day we experience this gift of forgiveness and being made into a new creation, what is our response?
We have been experiencing many new things over the course of the past few weeks and this Sunday, we will join together to worship at one service in our new building. God continues to open up new doors for growing in our own faith and reaching out to those in the community to share the message of Christ's love and forgiveness.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, Thank you for your gifts of love, grace, and forgiveness. Help us to share these gifts as new creations today. In Christ's Name, Amen.
One of the patterns of life which consumes much of our waking hours is work, our labor. Our work has the ability to either be a blessing or a curse. In the Bible, work has both a blessing and a curse quality as found in Genesis 3. What makes work a blessing is when if fulfills the higher goals in life.
Today is Labor Day, so I imagine you are in the mood for a bit of a light-hearted reflection. Here is a tale about the importance of setting meaningful goals in life.
A farmer had a dog who used to sit by the roadside waiting for vehicles to come around. As soon as one came he would run down the road, barking and trying to overtake it. One day a neighbor asked the farmer "Do you think your dog is ever going to catch a car?" The farmer replied, "That is not what bothers me. What bothers me is what he would do if he ever caught one." Many people in life behave like that dog who is pursuing meaningless goals.
Well, I hope you aren't chasing cars today, but rather are enjoying a more relaxed holiday. When your work resembles the pursuit of meaningless goals, take time to perform an inventory of what in life is important to you. Many times in our jobs it might seem like we are chasing cars, so reflect on the higher purpose of your labor. There you will find your blessing.
Prayer for Today
Bless us, O Lord, with the higher calling of labor. May our work be meaningful, may our tasks be productive, and may our efforts find favor in your will. Amen.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.
My wife, Carolyn, and I met Phipps Festus Bourne in 1995 in his shop in Mabry Hill, Virginia. Bourne, who died in 2002, was a master wood carver whose carvings are almost exact replicas of real objects. "Carving a duck is simple," he said. "You just look at a piece of wood, get in your head what a duck looks like, and then cut off everything that doesn't look like it."
So it is with God. He looks at you and me-blocks of rough wood-envisions the Christlike woman or man hidden beneath the bark, knots, and twigs and then begins to carve away everything that does not fit that image. We would be amazed if we could see how beautiful we are as finished "ducks."
Growing in Christ comes from a deepening relationship with Him.
But first we must accept that we are a block of wood and allow the Artist to cut, shape, and sand us where He will. This means viewing our circumstances-pleasant or unpleasant-as God's tools that shape us. He forms us, one part at a time, into the beautiful creature He envisioned in our ungainly lump of wood.
Sometimes the process is wonderful; sometimes it is painful. But in the end, all of God's tools conform us "to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:29).
Do you long for that likeness? Put yourself in the Master Carver's hands.
Prayer for Today
Father, You are the craftsman who shapes me. You are the one who knows what shape my life should take. Thank You for carving me into the image You have planned. Help me to trust that the pieces and parts that You shave from me are the right ones. Amen.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
-John 13:35, NRSV
Wherever you go, preach the Gospel. But only when necessary use words.
-St. Francis of Assisi
It's long been a favorite quote of mine. But it's important to remember that this quote holds us to a much higher expectation of Christian Discipleship, rather than a lower one. It's tempting to think this lets us off the hook for sharing our faith verbally. The temptation is to think, "All I have to do is live the Gospel. People will notice."
And that, brothers and sisters, is the challenge of St. Frank's words. People do indeed notice the Gospel lived out. It's radical, it's different, it gets people's attention. But it doesn't look anything like ordinary living. It looks like the kind of person who comes to mind when people want to point to an example of kindness or generosity or hospitality lived out. It looks like someone who balances their responsibilities so well that they always have time to stop and ask about the joys and struggles in your life or take a phone call or meal. It doesn't have to be all of those things, but a life lived by someone who is known by even one of those exemplary traits is enough to open a door to share the Good News.
This week at youth group, I noticed a boy wandering during the energizers and wanted so much for him to feel included. I whispered to a group of brothers to go ask him to join us. They could easily have shrugged it off or made some token effort. Instead, they went as a group straight to him, asked him to join, and brought him back to the group to participate alongside them. I was really moved. And it challenged me to consider this, a question a pose to us all this week... What have I done this week that would make anyone take notice and say, "what is it that makes them love like that?" Anything? Just once this week? This month?
Not everything we do will be noticed. Not everything should be. But if we aren't living lives so full of love for those in our lives that people know us by our love, perhaps our week could well be spent trying to be a little louder with our actions.
Prayer for Today
Lord, send your Spirit to open my eyes this week to see every opportunity to love, to give me the wisdom to know how to respond in love, the energy and mercy to do it, and the opportunity to share good news with those who yearn for it. Help me to be a witness to your love in my life. Amen.