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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.

Tuesday, January 31 2017

God is good to one and all; everything he does is suffused with grace. Creation and creatures applaud you, God; your holy people bless you. They talk about the glories of your rule, they exclaim over your splendor, Letting the world know of your power for good, the lavish splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is a kingdom eternal; you never get voted out of office. God always does what he says, and is gracious in everything he does. God gives a hand to those down on their luck, gives a fresh start to those ready to quit. All eyes are on you, expectant; you give them their meals on time. Generous to a fault,    you lavish your favor on all creatures. Everything God does is right-the trademark on all his works is love. (Psalm 145:9-17, The Message)

When I first read Psalm 145, many of the words or phrases seemed to be familiar to me from other Psalms or prayers. Then I read this passage in the Message version and saw this prayer in a new light. Some of the things that struck me in this reading...

"Everything God does is suffused with grace." Suffused is not a word I use very often, maybe never. It means to gradually spread through. What would it look like for you to experience God's grace as being gradually spread through your life, rather than just at times when we needed it the most in large doses? I had to sit with that thought for a moment. God's grace in our lives is spread throughout each aspect of our being, day by day, moment by moment. What a gift!

"God always does what he says, and is gracious in everything he does." What would it look like for us to live in such a way that we are gracious in everything that we do? What a way to share God's love in the world through our daily choices and actions.

"The trademark on all his works is love." How can we share God with others leaving this trademark of love with them?

Maybe some of the other phrases in this section of Psalm 145 took on a new meaning for you by reading it in the Message version. I hope that you find a few moments to let it sink in how much love God has for you, embrace that gift and let it gradually spread through each aspect of your life.

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, open our eyes, ears, hearts and minds to experience your grace and love this day. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 07:46 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, January 30 2017

Good news! At times it seems as if you really have to look hard to find good news.

A few weeks back I mentioned that I had discovered a tab on my web browser for good news and I'm happy to report that it's still active. With all of the uproar of sensational news, my soul needs to connect with goodness. How about yours?

Well this weekend, I didn't have to hit the good news tab on a web browser because good news seemed to be all around. The Will-to-Live annual 5K fun run had a record number of participants. Over 1,700 runners, joggers, and walkers braved the cold January morning to share hope in a world of despair. At the doorways of River Trail Middle School, John and Susie Trautwein displayed a mental health kiosk the Will to Live Foundation donated to The Summit Counseling Center. This kiosk will provide mental health screening throughout the community. Our community rallying together to support mental health is heart-warming good news.

On Youth Sunday, our worship was both uplifting and inspiring. The scripture passage concerning the fruits of the spirit was brought to life by our wonderful youth group led by Brian Daoust. Focusing on the fruits of the spirit can truly connect us through God's Holy Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. -Galatians 5: 22-23

As a congregation, the youth challenged us to practice the fruits of the spirit. When we do so, we don't have to look too far for good news. Through God's Holy Spirit, we become the good news.

Prayer for Today

Pour you spirit upon us, Dear Lord, so that we will bear much fruit for your kingdom's sake. Grant us love, joy, peace, forebearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 07:45 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 27 2017

Stories in the Bible can make us stop and wonder. For instance, when Moses led God's people into the Promised Land and the Amalekites attacked, how did he know to go to the top of the hill and hold up God's staff? (Exodus 17:8-15). We aren't told, but we learn that when Moses raised his hands, the Israelites would win the battle, and when he lowered them, the Amalekites would win. When Moses got tired, his brother Aaron and another man, Hur, held up Moses' arms so the Israelites could triumph.

We aren't told much about Hur, but he played a crucial role at this point in Israel's history. This reminds us that unseen heroes matter, that supporters and those who encourage leaders play a key and often overlooked role. Leaders may be the ones mentioned in the history books or lauded on social media, but the quiet, faithful witness of those who serve in other ways is not overlooked by the Lord. He sees the person who intercedes daily in prayer for friends and family. He sees the woman who puts away the chairs each Sunday in church. He sees the neighbor who reaches out with a word of encouragement.

God is using us, even if our task feels insignificant. And may we notice and thank any unseen heroes who help us.

Prayer for Today

Dear Father, thank You for creating me and gifting me in my own unique way. Help me to serve You and others faithfully and to appreciate those You have sent to help me. Amen.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 08:31 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, January 26 2017

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 
-Romans 12:10 

Is your team winning?  Has your chosen side or team or party or movement scored the most points this week or trolled the most people or schooled them on social media?  The most likes or forwards or open letters or clever videos?  Are you winning?  Should you be trying to?

We are simultaneously headed into Super Bowl season (and then March Madness and then, and then...) and the first few months of a contentious new presidential administration.  Never has there been more to fight over passionately, some good-natured and frivolous, some heated and substantive, life or death even.  I've spent the last few years making myself aware of what I contribute to and absorb from the fray of social media.  I take care to try not to be inflammatory or reactive, to add positive, encouraging, and inspiring posts, and to follow pages and groups that regularly share stories and pictures of inspiring people.  And, I attempt to cull my own news feed of toxic people, posts, and rhetoric, unfollowing and unfriending people who are hateful, demeaning, or cruel.  It's a difficult process of discernment to strain the negative, but retain that which is challenging to me, as not to create my own little bubble of like-minded people and news sources.  I value the diversity and the way God uses those encounters to mold me into a new creation.

I am struck by the events of this week (not the playoffs).  I am struck by the spectrum of people I know and love.  Some of them are exhausted by politics in general.  Some were at the inauguration, some were at marches.  Some were angry at the inauguration AND the marches.  Some were apathetic.  My favorites were those who just kept posting pictures of kittens to keep the peace.

But amidst all of this, I did something that always seems to cut through all that, I spent time with my teenagers in our Sunday school class after the lock-in Saturday night.  I asked them how many of them had friends who vehemently disagree with them on important topics.  They all raised their hands.  I asked if they had ever had their mind changed by one of those friends.  Again, they all raised their hands.  I asked them if they thought this was normal.  They did.  You see, studies show that young people, with their young minds, are more able to hold that tension.  For all our talk about teenagers and young people thinking they know everything... most of them know enough to be open to ideas and growth and understanding and disagreement.  Most of them could teach us a lot about how to see our opponents as brothers and sisters in the Lord. 

I encouraged them to understand that believers can come to very different conclusions about their world, their country, its leaders and policies.  I implored them to understand that while some of their friends may chant support or opposition or apathy, that they could still be friends, be kind, and raise their own voices in truth that shows love.  And I hope all of us can learn to be a little more like they know how to be, child-like... and not child-ish.  Because at the end of your week, our posts shouldn't reflect who "schooled" who or who blasted who on Twitter, but that we have tried to outdo one another in showing honor.

Prayer for Today

Lord, may the words I read and the words I share be holy, showing affection and honor to witness to your love for all people.  Help me to outdo no one in anything but showing kindness.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Brian Daoust AT 08:30 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, January 25 2017

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 1:3-6, NIV

These are some of the great words of thanksgiving found in the Bible. Paul is writing to the church at Philippi. He gives thanks every time he remembers them. When he prays he feels joy. He is confident that the work God began in them will be completed.
 
I also give thanks -- every time I think of CanCare. This incredible ministry to those facing cancer has been one of the highlights of my ministry here at JCPC. In five short years, we have made great progress toward the goal in our last Long-range Plan of meeting human need and becoming known in metropolitan Atlanta as the church that brought CanCare. Neal Kuhlhorst and our amazing team of volunteers have made this happen. Hundreds of lives have been touched by our trained caregivers. God has used us to do some amazing things!
 
On February 25, you too can give thanks for what God has done by supporting and attending our CanCare Fifth Anniversary "Victory for Hope" Dinner. The catered meal in our Great Hall will be excellent. Our guest speaker, cancer survivor Barbara Dooley, is one of the best around. Because of the generosity of our corporate partners, the cost of the event is already underwritten, therefore ALL the money raised will go to support the important work of CanCare.
 
I am asking you to do something right now. Please click the link below and make your reservation. The cost is $125 and all of that goes to support CanCare. Don't come to the dinner simply because this might be an entertaining and inspiring evening - which it will. Come because of someone you care about who has lost their battle with cancer. Think of that person right now. This is one very simply but important step you can take to make a difference in memory of someone you care about. The link to make a reservation is below. Thank you for your generous support!

Dinner Reservations 

Prayer for Today

Thank you, God, for all of those who have made a difference in our lives, but are no longer with us. May we live today and every day inspired by the good example of those who have gone before us. In the strong name of Christ we pray. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 02:16 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, January 24 2017

What does love look like? Those who have experienced God before us provide snapshots of God's love for us. This love speaks through their words. It speaks through their actions.

As different as their lives and cultures were from ours, God's love remains the same. Love speaks to us on our darkest days and in our brightest hours. Love speaks to us through stories and snapshots. Love speaks to us through actions and words.

Who in your life has helped you to better understand the love that Jesus calls us to, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:30-31

In Jesus' early days of ministry, he read from the scroll of Isaiah and told the people that God's love was about to bring good news to the poor, freedom to the captives, sight to the blind, relief to the oppressed, and proclaim God's goodness in the year of the Lord.

How does your love for God and your neighbor speak through your actions and words?

Prayer for Today

Loving God, Help us to teach other about your love through our words and actions today. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 07:43 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, January 23 2017

Our Sunday school class is studying Christianity and we began a section highlighting the three major branches; Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. The lecturer, Luke Timothy Johnson, began by saying that Christianity has an ideal of unity. This ideal of being one in Christ is an ideal, a goal, which historically is difficult to attain.

St. Paul faced the challenge of creating unity within the earliest churches; the Corinthian and Galatian churches serve as prime examples. He writes this encouragement to the Ephesians:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  -Ephesians 4: 1-6

How can we be one in the midst of diversity and differences?

As I pondered this question in our Sunday school class, my mind went to our worship. Each Sunday when the children gather with Gray for the children's sermon we share a ritual together. In unison, the congregation states the following:

God loves you and God loves me!

This simple ritualistic expression has mighty theological implications. To bring about unity you put self at the end. When we sing Jesus loves me this I know...we are focusing on the assurance of God's love for the self, but the unity of the church requires the outward focus on the other. God loves you! In this knowledge we can view the differences of others less as threatening and more as a gift of God's love.

God loves you and God loves me! To God be the glory!

Prayer for Today

Loving God, we thank you that you call us to be one with our Lord through our faith. Keep us mindful that you come visiting us in strange and unexpected ways; especially through others; always others. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 07:42 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 20 2017

Then the Lord God . . . breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.  -Genesis 2:7

On a cold and frosty morning, as my daughter and I walked to school, we enjoyed seeing our breath turn to vapor. We giggled at the various steamy clouds we could each produce. I received the moment as a gift, reveling in being with her and being alive.

Our breath, which is usually invisible, was seen in the cold air, and it made me think about the Source of our breath and life-the Lord our Creator. For He who formed Adam out of the dust of the ground, giving him the breath of life, also gives life to us and to every living creature.(Genesis 2:7). All things come from Him-even our very breath, which we inhale without even thinking about.

Jesus, we praise You and stand in awe of You.

We may be tempted, living with today's conveniences and technology, to forget our beginnings and that God is the one who gives us life. But when we pause to remember that God is our Creator, we can build an attitude of thankfulness into our daily routines. We can ask Him for help and acknowledge the gift of life with humble, thankful hearts. May our gratitude spill out and touch others, so that they also may give thanks to the Lord for His goodness and faithfulness.

Prayer for Today

Dear heavenly Father, what an awesome and powerful God You are! You created life by Your very breath. We praise You and stand in awe of You. Thank You for Your creation. Amen.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 07:41 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, January 19 2017

Wake up! Why do You sleep, Lord?! Arise! Do not abandon forever! Why do You hide Your Face? Why do You forget our persecution and our oppression? For our souls have been pounded into the dirt, our stomachs are stuck to the ground. Get up! Help us! Redeem us for the sake of Your gracious love.
-Psalm 44

I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.  Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.
-Psalm 145

I've really gotten excited about our sermon series this month. Music is a passion of mine, as it is for so many of us. And I find so much of my faith life is tied to the music in my life, both spiritual and secular. If you can actually separate those categories. In fact, I think it's problematic to do so. And in listening to the radio in my travels this week and reflecting on this series, my mind began to stir. 

It's typical on our American radio stations to have genre stations. Top 40 Pop, classic rock, oldies, jazz, classical, rap/R&B, foreign language, news/sports/talk, country, and a new one to me as I was driving through SC... Christian country? And more choices if you have subscription radio or Pandora and so forth. And some stations proudly advertise playing "anything." What has always struck me is how easy it is to know exactly what station I'm listening to within seconds, especially a "Christian station." Because as we look at scripture, it's much harder to tell because scripture contains a broad catalog of genres. 

Can you imagine the same crew of folks presiding over what gets included in the Bible made up of people from a Christian radio station programming committee? "Job, we just can't play your stuff. It's too Emo! And who on earth wrote these Lamentations?! This is worse than death metal. Don't get us started on Song of Solomon! What are we, 50 Shades of something?"

As we encourage you to read, pray, and memorize Psalms, I hope you will notice and embrace the variety of genres among them, their themes and tones. And I hope you will notice and appreciate that variety in the rest of scripture. As you appreciate a wide variety of music because of your personality or mood or circumstances in life, I hope you'll recognize the blurred line between secular and sacred. I hope you'll find that themes and messages of affirmation and resonance will be present in your favorite 'secular' songs and various scriptures. I hope you'll share your favorites with me and they will be a part of your prayer life and reflections. 

Prayer for Today

Lord, as I listen to music and read scripture, help me to be guided, comforted, and challenged to a deeper relationship with you and your people, growing in wisdom and knowledge, and expressing myself in ways that bring glory to you. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Brian Daoust AT 07:39 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, January 18 2017

So today is my birthday. On top of that I am now 60! 

I am still not sure how I got here so fast. I joke that in my mind I am still about 28. On the other hand, in my body . . . well, that is another story. Our Old Testament book of Job hints that our days are numbered: "A person's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed." (Job 14:5, NIV) When you have birthdays as an adult that end in a zero, you wonder how far along you are. Some folks live to be more than a hundred and they get their pictures on the "Today" show, but not everyone. I am not sure I really want to live to be a hundred, but if I live to be ninety-nine, I may have other ideas.
 
As human beings we have the capacity to be aware of our lives and the limits of our existence. Some philosophers have suggested this is the cause of the "angst" we may feel in life. Maybe. But as we continue to look at the Psalms - the Songs That Can Save Your Life - I am reminded that God is present with us throughout our lives. Last Sunday we looked at Psalm 121, which ends with that great promise: "The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore." (Psalm 12:8, NIV) So whether our "going" is today or a hundred years from now, God is always watching over us. That's good news - whether or not it is your birthday!

Prayer for Today

Loving God, you gave each one of us life. You know all things -- including how long we will live on this earth. Help us to live one day, one hour, even one minute at a time. Help us to trust you so that we can face life without fear - even the fear of death. Thank you for watching over us. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 07:37 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, January 17 2017

God, the one and only- I'll wait as long as he says. Everything I hope for comes from him, so why not? He's solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, an impregnable castle: I'm set for life. My help and glory are in God -granite-strength and safe-harbor-God- So trust him absolutely, people; lay your lives on the line for him. God is a safe place to be.
-Psalm  62:5-8 (The Message)

The imagery in this translation of Psalm 62 was very reassuring to me. Deep down, I know that God is a safe place to be. Often, I get so caught up in my own agenda that I don't take the time to enjoy that wonderful gift.

What would happen if we, in every part of our lives, took time to breathe or pause, to take time to respond and see what happens? Where is the silence in our lives that gives us space to trust in God who speaks in the silence and guides us in how we respond?

While there are times we need to respond quickly, there are other times when it's best to slow down, take a few breaths, offer a prayer, and then act. I would invite you to find a moment or two to slow down today so that you can listen and pray.

Think about how you respond, when you have to make a quick decision... and when you have time to think it through. What would you do differently? How can you invite God into that process?

Stop. Take a few breaths. Take a few more. Listen. Wait. Pray. Then respond.

Prayer for Today

God, I am listening to you in this place of rest. Open my eyes, ears, hands, and heart to respond to your calling. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 07:37 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, January 16 2017

I was listening to WSB radio on my drive into work this morning. Neal Bortz shared a story that was focused on violence and he ended his commentary asking, "When are we going to address the culture of violence?" Being a disciple of Christ, I said an "Amen" to his rhetorical question. I hardly finished my "Amen" when a commercial began to play. It was targeted towards commuters who are stuck in traffic on our roadway messes. The commercial promoted audio books for your slow ride to and from work so I was getting ready to say another "Amen" because we can all us some relief in traffic.

Suddenly the audio book's narrator next words were the confessions of an assassin who had just killed a man! Neal Bortz gets it right by saying we need to address the culture of violence while seconds later his host radio station and their commercial sponsor glamorize violence. You can't make this stuff up!

Violence is so embedded in our culture that it is a marketing tool to get us listening and watching. On the ride home from work the night before I was listening to sports radio and the commentator asked us about the Falcon's match-up with the Seahawks. "What scared you about the game and who do you hate?" We can dismiss this as rivalry talk or perhaps it's a slick way to keep us listening.

"When are we going to address the culture of violence?"

Jesus' life can be understood as God's way of addressing the culture of violence. The times of Jesus' life were extremely violent, but our Lord was the embodiment of God's Word and according to God's Word, God is love. When you were an outcast, Jesus invited you in. When you were put-down, Jesus lifted you up. When violence and evil thought they had their way with Jesus, he died and then rose above the culture of violence to become Lord of Lord and King of Kings.

On this Martin Luther King holiday focus on this simple yet profound teaching of Jesus:

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God."

Prayer for Today

Bring peace into our world, O Lord, and make us instruments of your peace. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 07:35 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, January 12 2017

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
 -II Corinthians 9:6 

I was reminded of this verse from II Corinthians when I saw this picture. So much of what 2017 holds, and each new year, is what we make of it. Lots of people out there make a living or hobby out of telling you what you can or should expect of 2017. Some will tell you it will be incredible. Others will tell you to expect calamity. 

But this little cartoon reminds us of the truth we find in scripture dozens of times. If we seek to sow righteousness and justice and mercy through our humble lives of love through serving those in need, as individuals and as the body of Christ, we will build the kingdom. Like the gardener, we can be confident that flowers will grow. Not because the gardener is an optimist. But because the gardener knows that well-tended seeds grow into flowers. 

He knows a truth we do. We will reap as we sow. If we seek a world of justice and mercy, we will be just and merciful and teach our children by our example. Our friends, our opponents, our enemies, they are our brothers and sisters and we will build the kingdom with them. This year. And every year. 

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me each day to sow justice and mercy through my humble walk with you. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Brian Daoust AT 07:50 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, January 11 2017

So, we survived the snow and ice. On the one hand, it wasn't as bad as "Snowmageddon 2010" in which people were stranded in their cars overnight - thank goodness! But there was not a lot of snow where I lived - much more ice. Saturday I made my way up to the church -avoiding all the places I thought might be on a hill or in the shade. After arriving safely, I looked around at the grounds. Some places were clear, but there was a lot of ice on the sidewalks and the road way behind the church.
 
Over the years I have been the kind of person who resists calling off Sunday worship for any reason - but this past Sunday I could envision folks slipping on the ice and getting hurt. Also there was no way for us to get it all cleaned up before Sunday morning. Interestingly, I have not had one church member complain yet of us not having worship this past Sunday - though some of our members from up north chuckled at how we react to snow down here in the south.
 
So, is it better in life to "play it safe" or to be a risk-taker? Playing it safe can reflect a certain amount of wisdom, but it could also result from a lack of courage. Being a risk-taker could demonstrate the willingness to be bold - perhaps even to step out in faith and trust God. But sometimes risk-taking is simply being foolish - endangering not only your own well-being, but the well-being of others.
 
So which is it? Well, I think, like many things in life, this is one that requires a degree of balance and discernment - knowing when to wait and when to go boldly. It is not always easy to decide which is best - if it were then this would not be a problem. As Christians, we not only get direction from places like experience and the wisdom found in scripture, we are also promised God's Holy Spirit who lives within us and provides the guidance we need in life. So, may God's Spirit guide you today in whatever decision you have to make!

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, as we face decisions in life, help us to know when to step out in faith and when to wait. Make your way clear to us. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 07:49 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, January 10 2017

How often in your daily conversations do you use the words time or busy? When you use them, what are the phrases they are included in? Take a moment to write down a phrase that you often use that includes either the word time or busy.

As I was thinking about when I use these words, I discovered some helpful insights from Barbara Brown Taylor in her book, An Altar in the World. She writes, "The great Swiss theologian Karl Barth wrote, 'A being is free only when it can determine and limit its activity.' By that definition, I have a hard time counting many free beings among my acquaintance. I know people who can do five things at once who are incapable of doing nothing. I know people who can decide what to do without being able to do less of it. Since I have been one of those people, I know that saying no is a more difficult spiritual practice than tithing, praying on a cold stone floor, or visiting a prisoner on death row."

Do you think that our culture talks about time in a way that encourages us to be more frantic? Are there terms we need to let go of so we can think about time in a more gracious way?

Take a moment to watch this brief video. In it, you will find some questions and thoughts that may provide some guidance about how to revise the way we use the words busy and time. 
http://vimeo.com/album/2528237/video/74475982

As you continue to consider how you might use these words differently, listen to the words of the Psalmist, 

"Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:1-2, 4, 12)

Prayer for Today

Creator God, you are the Maker of everything that exists, the Author of the world of nature and of all living things. You are the Creator of both space and time. Without you there would be no past, present or future; no summer or winter, spring or autumn, seed-time or harvest; no morning or evening, months or years. Because you give us the gift of time we have the opportunity to think and to act, to plan and to pray, to give and to receive, to create and to relate, to work and to rest, to strive and to play, to love and to worship. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 07:48 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, January 09 2017

"That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop-a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." Matthew 13: 1-8

Jesus' parable is so true in ministry. On February 25th we will be celebrating CanCare's 5th anniversary of providing cancer support in Atlanta. Initially, the idea for cancer support began as a conversation about starting a support group at JCPC. We realized that wasn't a big enough plot of land to sow God's seeds in our community. JCPC decided that God was calling us to be the farmer that throws the seeds all about to see where they would take root and grow. Some of those seeds didn't take root, others did but quickly died out, while others landed in places we didn't even know they were tossed and yielded a bushel full. God is good!
Five years of tossing seeds and nurturing their growth has resulted in thousands of lives being touched, deep healing occurring in unimagined ways and a community growing together through hope, understanding and encouragement!
Saturday, February 25th in our great hall we will be hosting a community celebration; Victory for Hope. Click here to view the promotional flyer.

We hope you will attend and celebrate the wonders of Jesus' parable come to life in our community!
Advanced purchase of tickets is required due to limited seating so visit http://atlanta.cancare.org today.

Prayer for Today

We thank you, Gracious God, for the gift of ministry and missions. We praise you for cancer survivors and caregivers who offer the gifts of hope, understanding and encouragement to those whose lives are touched by cancer. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 07:47 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 06 2017

Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth.
-Psalm 96:1

New year. New song. First let me wish you happy new years!

Have you made your resolution(s) for 2017? The beginning of a new year motivates us to sing a new song to use the quote from Psalm 96. Notice I'm not specifically talking about diets and exercise even though they might be new songs. What I'm alluding to is that a new song is a song of joy. What songs of joy will you sing in 2017?

Resolutions are based in the dynamic of holding on and letting go. An example is the life altering resolution of I'm going to let go of using the phrase I hate... and instead practice the phrase I love... When you let go of what you hate and resolve to think more about what/who I love you won't hold onto as many resentments and annoyances. Resolve to sing a new song in 2017. You will experience more joy.

For those of you who resolve to bring more order into your messy lives you might like reading, "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. Rather than suggesting that you purge what you don't need, she offers a helpful guide line utilizing the power of joy. Kondo recommends taking time to go through everything you own and take a moment to ask "does this spark joy?" If so then hold onto it. If not, let it go. This method can serve as a metaphor for life. It can also connect your soul with the power of singing to the Lord a new song.

To quote Kondo, "the question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life." This is true whether ownership is of possessions, beliefs, emotions, or habits.

Sing to the Lord a new song and may you have a blessed 2017.

Prayer for Today

I sing your praises, O Lord, and my soul sings a new song; rejoicing in the many blessings you have bestowed. Help me to let go of the things that dampen my joy and embrace the new life you stand ready to offer. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 08:23 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, January 05 2017

For I will be merciful regarding their wrong deeds, and I will never again remember their sins.
-Hebrews 8:12 (International Standard Version)

Over Christmas, gathered for an extended family dinner, the kids were finishing up to rush off to open stockings. The rule was to have a clean plate before stockings. Our oldest is one to savor a meal. Every bite. He was eager to join his cousins. The rule was repeated to him. A sympathetic uncle nudged him and offered his own clean plate, "let's switch," he winked. 

Our son looked aghast, "that would be lying to my mother!" Surprised, the uncle inquired, "have you ever told a lie?"

Looking very ashamed and devastated, he replied looking down at his lap, "I did. But it's in my past."

A better understanding of grace, I could not give. I'm convinced children have a much better understanding of it than we do. Perhaps because they encounter it, or the need for it, with such frequency. But as we enter the new year and look forward and make our resolutions, it's both fitting and necessary, to remember the birth of Christ, who came to show us a gift of grace and love. 

The mistakes of our previous year we have made, and those made by others that hurt us... those are in our past. When we come to God, scripture tells us that God will remember our wrongs no more. God will not just forgive them. God will choose to not even have a memory of them. Your mistakes are a part of your past. Not a part of your present or future. Not a part of who you are. A part of your past. We are alive in love in grace. Happy NEW year. 

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to remember your promises of love, and your promise that you will remember my sins no more. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Brian Daoust AT 08:23 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, January 04 2017

As a teenager, I can remember talking with my friends in school about the music we liked. We would ask each other this question:

Suppose you were on a desert island and could only listen to ten albums for the rest of your life - what would be on your list? We would call this our "Desert Island" list. It was our way of asking what our ten favorite albums were - our "Top Ten" list.
 
This Sunday I am starting a new series of messages called "Six Songs to Save Your Life." I want to ask you to start thinking of your "Desert Island" list of the six songs you would choose if you could only have those to listen to for the rest of your life. What would you put on that list? I am finding that my list changes from day to day. I think I have my six songs, but then another one comes to mind and I wonder if it is better than the last song on my list.
 
When it comes to songs that could "save your life" -- we may wonder what that means. Maybe a song that is a cry for help? Or a song that gives hope when we feel hopeless? Or perhaps it would be a song that expresses in just the right words and musical notes how we really feel about something.
 
Beginning this Sunday I am going to be talking about one song each week that can infuse us with LIFE - the kind of life that is filled with the energy of God! These songs have brought that kind of vibrant life into the lives of people like you and me for thousands of years. Today we know them as the Psalms. These are God-inspired words that speak honesty of both the joys and the struggles of human existence. Learning to pray these songs can shape and transform us into beings who are more fully alive. God can literally use these songs to save our lives from the challenges we face. So come this Sunday and invite a friend to join you - you will be glad you did!
 
Sing to the LORD a new song.
- Psalm 96:1a, NIV

Prayer for Today

Creator God, at the beginning of time, you spoke - you sang this world into being - and it was good! Sing your love into our hearts this day - that we might be your music in the world. Fill us with your song of love and grace! We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 08:22 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, January 03 2017

As we begin a new year, these days are often filled with making new commitments and promises. How many commitments do you think you make during one day? How many people have you promised your time, effort, gifts or service?

The scriptural meaning of covenant is to make a lasting agreement with God. Take a moment to think about these characteristics of covenanting and how they are different from other agreements or promises we make today:

  • Covenants are always centered in God.
  • Covenants are never broken by God.
  • Covenants are always permanent. They cannot be adjusted or amended, only broken.

Throughout scripture we see the story of God's faithfulness in covenanting with us. God remained faithful to the covenants made with Noah (Genesis 9:1-17), Abraham (Genesis 12:1-9), and Moses (Deuteronomy 5:1-21). Even when God's people were disobedient, God offered a lasting and saving covenant through Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to you that God loves you so much that God would make a covenant with you to provide both salvation from sin and peace in life?
In what kinds of situations would a covenant be more appropriate than a simple contract or promise?

In the early days of this New Year, let's take some time to not only make new commitments and promises, but to renew our covenant with God.

Prayer for Today

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew my spirit. Guide me into your presence and lead me each day to remain true to our covenant. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 08:21 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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