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Reflections

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

Friday, April 28 2017

It is to one's honor to avoid strife.
-Proverbs 20:3

One morning in Perth, Australia, Fionn Mulholland discovered his car was missing.  That's when he realized he had mistakenly parked in a restricted zone and his car had been towed away.  After considering the situation, even the $600 towing and parking fine - Mulholland was frustrated, but he decided not to be angry with the person he would work with to retrieve his car.  Instead of venting his feelings, Mulholland wrote a humorous poem about the situation and read it to the worker he met at the tow yard.  The worker liked the poem, and a possible ugly confrontation never took place.

The book of Proverbs teaches, "It is one's honor to avoid strife" (20:3). Strife is that friction that either simmers under the surface or explodes in the open between people who disagree about something.

Dear God, give me self-control through the power of Your Holy Spirit.  God has given us the resources to live peacefully with other people.  His Word assures us that it's possible to feel anger without letting it boil over into rage (Ephesians 4:26).  His Spirit enables us to override the sparks of fury that prompt us to do and say things to strike out at people who upset us. And God has given us His example to follow when we feel provoked (1 Peter 2:23).  He is compassionate, gracious, and slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness (Psalm 86:15).

Prayer for Today

Dear God, Please help me to manage my anger in a way that does not lead me into sin. Give me self-control through the power of Your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 12:23 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 27 2017

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
-Philippians 4:4 (NRSV)

Joy is a curious thing.  The older we get, the less often we are caught in an outburst of joy it seems.  Author and storyteller Mark Yaconelli often asks adults, "when was the last time you danced?"  For most adults, unless they do it for a living or take lessons (or teach them), we might have to think back to a recent wedding or perhaps back to college or high school.

When was the last time you danced?  Spontaneously.  For joy.  When was it?  David danced before the Lord.  Jesus is the Lord of the Dance.  We have dances for specific occasions, and tradition holds that the first thing a married couple does in front of all their loved ones at a reception is to dance.  Dancing can be couples, it can be groups, and even solo.  It can be rehearsed, but even then, a rehearsed dance or dance move can be spontaneous.

As Neal and I walked down the hall today, we happened by little girls from the preschool who were hand in hand in a circle, dancing and singing.  It was not an organized activity.  They were not being instructed to dance.  It wasn't part of a game.  They were simply delighting in one another.  Someone has said, "I dance because I do not have the words to describe my joy."  And Maya Angelou said, "A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song."

This week, look for moments of joy, and don't keep them to yourself.  Allow yourself to be childlike for a moment.  Sing.  Dance.  Forget you're an adult for a moment.  When the young people of this faith community share their statements of faith, do not be afraid to take joy and delight in them and sing a little louder, dance a little as we sing, and put a little oomph in your call to worship when there's an exclamation point.  Rejoice in your life.  Rejoice in them.  Rejoice in the Lord.  And again, I say rejoice.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to rejoice.  Help me to sing.  Help me to dance.  Send your spirit to move in me so I can remain neither still nor silent.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Brian Daoust AT 07:39 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, April 26 2017

"Remember your baptism."
- Martin Luther 
(2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.)
 
This Sunday is what we call "Confirmation Sunday" at JCPC. It is the day we set aside to receive some of our young people who have been attending our Confirmation Class and are ready to publically profess their own faith in Jesus Christ in our worship service. We are just having one worship service this Sunday at 11:00 a.m. in the Great Hall because we want to do something special we can only do in that room. It is somewhat of a surprise, so you will just have to come to find out what it is.
 
I did not grow up in a church tradition that had a confirmation program. In our church, you simply walked down the aisle at the end of the worship service during the singing of the last hymn and told the pastor you were ready to be a Christian, be baptized, and join the church. I was about seven years old when I did that - which was young, even in that tradition. But after meeting with one of our pastors who quizzed me about why I wanted to do this - he later told my parents, "For a seven-year-old he understands things about as well as a seven-year-old can about becoming a Christian." So, the next Sunday I was baptized in a black marble baptismal pool.
 
A number of years later when my son was about ten, they demolished that church.  It was on the front page of the newspaper. It was a Friday, my day off, and I remember taking my son downtown to see the church building I had grown up in demolished. When we got there they had already knocked a hole in the right side of the sanctuary. Looking through the hole I could see the black marble baptismal pool where I had been baptized. Of course I had mixed feelings, but I also remembered this: my baptism was not based on where it happened, but that it happened. From that point on, I was marked as a child of God. Remember that in your baptism, you, too, are marked as a child of God - forever!

Prayer for Today

Loving God, thank you for our baptism - a sign of your grace that reminds us you love us forever! We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 07:39 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, April 25 2017

God has given each of us seasons of waiting and days of anticipation. Despite the incessant rush of our lives and the world around us, there are still moments when things stop, and all that we can do is wait. God invites us to wait faithfully, anticipating joyfully what is to come. We are currently in a season of waiting for our nephew to arrive. He is due in early May and each week we have been anticipating a call or text from my brother or sister in law to tell us they are headed to the hospital. Today as we continue to wait, I would invite you to take a moment now to think about a situation in your life where you are waiting for something and pause now to faithfully wait with God.
Often when I spend time waiting, I experience some type of blessing or renewal after that period of time. What if we spent more energy looking forward to the times when we feel refreshed and renewed?

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. 
Isaiah 35:5-7

Isaiah, with poetic words, invites us into just such a space. We ask what the world renewed might look like, and the prophet answers with healed bodies dancing and singing, with a desert becoming a place of cooling, life-giving water. How do you imagine the world renewed? Where do you catch glimpses of it already? Know that God is working in us and through us to make all things new and whole.

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, Help us to look for the new things you are doing in and around us. Help us to see what this world can be so that we can dance and sing with joy while working with you to make that vision real. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 07:38 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, April 24 2017

These words from John's gospel that were read at our Easter service still resonate in me:
 Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"   -John 20: 17

Ascension always involves departing and letting go. We want to hang on to the good times, the epiphanies and the Camelot times in our lives, but there are more building blocks necessary for a launching pad into the next chapter in life.

I'm looking out the glass door of my office watching the 
preschool children climbing the play set and squealing with delight. O how I long for the days when my little ones were little and they climbed the play set and shrieked with delight. Now they are ascending other structures such as a career and college.  No matter how I wanted to hold on to my little ones it was not meant to be; it never was. Each phase of growth and development comes to an end with a commencement and letting go.

The first weekend of May our family is traveling to Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi to participate in Michael's commencement ceremony. O my how it seems just like yesterday that he was climbing on the play set. As we celebrate his ascension to the next level of life it's a mixed bag. With joy we celebrate him, bless him into his future and let go even more. How can the heart smile and ache at the same time?

Many of you are preparing for upcoming commencement ceremonies. God's blessings on you all as your child(ren) ascend to new heights and you experience the rather strange blessing of letting go.

Prayer for Today

Bless all our students, O Lord, who are preparing to take their next steps into the glorious futures you have planned for them. For those of us who are letting go, allow us to remember with grateful hearts while experiencing the comfort and assurance of your spirit. Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 07:37 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, April 21 2017

(JCPC elder Rob Dowd shared this last Monday night for our Session's devotion.)

If you ask people, Christian or other, what is the most important holiday in the Christian faith, most would probably say Christmas. And you can make a compelling argument that it is.  It is the beginning of Christ's short time on earth with us -- a sort of first day of school.
 
To this day we read and study scripture of the life and times of Jesus.  The scripture has it all.  There are amazing stories to entertain, parables to teach, even poetry to inspire.  But without the three days from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, what would we have?  Would the church have endured these two thousand years?  Would the whole story be about another interesting historical figure?  Maybe a book?   An hour show on the History Channel?  Perhaps a Spielberg movie. But with the death and resurrection everything changes. 
 
"You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.  We are witnesses of this." (Acts 3:15) If Jesus had stayed among us there would surely be faithful followers, but would there be leaders?  Would there be heroes?
 
"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded of you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" (Matthew 28:18-20)
 
If Christmas was the first day of school, then with Easter, school is out. I have always believed that the most patriotic days in the U.S. were days like December 8, 1941, September 12, 2001.  If that is true then certainly there can be no day more demanding of us as Christians than Easter plus 1. 
 
"With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all." (Acts 4:33)

Prayer for Today

Dear God, we celebrate the resurrection and commit ourselves to love you above all, to love one another, and to share our faith by helping our fellow man in your name.  Guide our hearts and our hands in all that we do. Amen. 

Posted by: Rob Dowd AT 03:10 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 20 2017

Train children in the right way, 
and when old, they will not stray.
-Proverbs 22: (NRSV)

When I was a kid, my favorite part of church was when we would baptize someone.  Usually, it was a infant or young child.  As early as middle school, I loved when my pastor would ask us, the whole church, if we would help raise this little one in the faith, to make sure they knew the story, that they knew they were loved, that they knew they were part of this proud tradition of following God's call and changing the world.  I knew it was a huge responsibility and that the question was meant for all of us.

I remembered those baptisms and when I would see those kids growing up in the church, I would do my best to fulfill that promise.  The opportunity to baptize children and new believers in the faith was the first whisper that I heard of God's call for me to ministry, years before I recognized it.  And it's still my favorite part of worship.  And alongside my commitments to my family, it is still a commitment I honor and take seriously in my life.  I am eager to answer yes, and eager to say yes to anything that shows our young people how very much they are loved.

I have found in my life and my calling that so many of my fellow believers feel this way too.  Sometimes those opportunities to answer yes, to show love to our young people are quite obvious.  A call to be a mentor to one of our Confirmands, or a call to be a Sunday school teacher or chaperone on a trip.  Some are easy to keep, like showing up to church on Youth Sunday during your regular worship time or writing your check for your pledge.  Sometimes, that call is less obvious.  Sometimes it means making the effort as a congregation to train and raise up young people to be church elders, lay readers, or members of our ministry teams.  Sometimes it's undertaking renovation projects for the spaces they gather.  Sometimes getting up at the earliest hours of a Sunday morning over and over to show them what it means to commit to serving the least of these.  Sometimes, it's being a prayer partner for them on their mission trip, or writing a check for the mission project.

I have the privilege of seeing so many quiet saints look for these less obvious ways to fulfill the vows they make at baptisms.  I see the men and women who work tirelessly to create space for the youth and their voices and the experiences where they will learn and grow and serve.  Each time we serve with joy, or give generous of our time and money and words of affirmation, we are raising a child up in our shared faith and showing them the love we were first shown by our creator, sustainer, and redeemer.  How will you live into those vows in the weeks to come?  I hope you'll be there as we baptize and confirm new believers at the end of April.  I hope you'll respond yes as youth ask for you to come to Chick-Fil-A to support the mission trip.  I hope you'll look for ways to pray for them and support them financially, and with your presence.  I hope you'll tell them you love them by teaching them and showing up.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to pour out your love on the young people in my life with a generosity of spirit, and by saying yes.  Often.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Brian Daoust AT 03:22 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, April 19 2017

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, 'It is the LORD!' 
-John 21:7a, NIV                                        

Someone told me recently that a pastor had said to him there was one thing you could always be sure of - the Senior Pastor would NOT be preaching the Sunday after Easter. Most of the time he is right. Those of us who preach most every Sunday look forward to a break at the end of Lent and the many services of Holy Week. But this coming Sunday after Easter, he would be wrong! I am preaching this Sunday -- and not because I have to, but because I really want to!
 
I want to finish up the "Passion Is . . ." series of messages we began at the start of Lent. When I first looked at these different stories from John's Gospel, I knew I wanted to talk about the story when Jesus appeared to the disciples after they had returned to fishing on the Sea of Galilee following that first Easter.
 
One of the main reasons I wanted to preach on this story is because of what it means to me personally. I will be talking more about that this Sunday, but it all has to do with what happened when I visited the place on the Sea of Galilee which is traditionally thought to be where Jesus appeared to the disciples and told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. It was only then that they recognized the resurrected Jesus.
 
This past Easter Sunday we talked about what it would be like to encounter the resurrected Jesus. I can tell you that my experience by the Sea of Galilee was perhaps the closest I have ever come to experiencing the resurrected Jesus myself.
 
While there is the tendency after Easter to go back to doing what we were doing before - like the disciples did when they went back to fishing on the Sea of Galilee - my hope is that we will keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open for the spirit of the risen Jesus in our lives each and every day. See you Sunday!

Prayer for Today

Risen Jesus, open our eyes, ears, and hearts -- so that we might recognize you in the everyday events of our lives. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 03:21 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, April 18 2017

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
Luke 24:13-16

Each year on Easter Sunday, we remember, hear, and celebrate some life changing news! Jesus Christ is Risen! It is a day filled with joy and excitement. We are invited to go out and share this Good News just like the women did when they found the empty tomb.  But, the Good News is not old news. Just because it's two days after Easter, don't forget that the resurrection story continues on.

Because after Easter morning, new life continued to move through villages, through rooms that had been filled with grief, through homes where windows were thrown open to ask, "Did we really hear this amazing news?" Because just after Easter morning, two friends of Jesus were just beginning to understand what it would mean to truly follow Jesus Christ. They were learning what it would mean to love God in a new way. On their way to Emmaus, these two men comforted themselves and worked their way through an unbelievable turn of events by talking to each other about everything that had happened.

I would invite you to take a moment today to tell yourself the Easter story again. Tell yourself how it happened. Remind yourself that your life has been changed. Because you, like the two disciples, have been joined by Jesus.

Prayer for Today

Loving God, make way in my busy moments for me to remember the story. Give me the words to fill my heart and mind with the wonder of your son, Jesus Christ. Help me open my path today to make way for Jesus. Let my life be interrupted by his presence. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 03:19 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, April 17 2017

Happy Easter! The Lord is risen!

Resurrection faith focuses on how and where we encounter the Risen Lord. As Presbyterians we are taught that we encounter the Risen Lord at the communion table during the Lord's Supper. This theology is a foundation experience in Luke 24 which has a story we call the road to Emmaus. Another way of encountering the risen Lord is through personal conversion.  In Acts 9 we witness the conversion of the Apostle Paul.
I'm fascinated that in both of these stories the where of encountering the Risen Lord is on the road. Perhaps the pathways we travel are as important to encountering the Risen Lord . Think of it this way; the pathways we walk are where faith and footwear join together.

In 2015, Alice Ann Nilsen championed a mission here at JCPC called "Give a Sole to Help a Soul."  With Alice Ann's leadership, the congregation collected 111 bags of shoes that were then purchased by an organization named Funds2orgs. From this effort $1,058.40 was raised for the missions of JCPC.

Once again, Alice Ann, Pam Lord, and their team will be championing our second "Give a Sole to Help a Soul" collection beginning April 23.

When was the last time (or even your 1st time) that you thought of your shoes as a vehicle of faith? I have to confess that until I experienced "Give a Sole to Help a Soul" I hadn't given my shoes a second thought. The only time I thought of them as being holy was when, well you know, when I wore out the soles.

The goal this year is ambitious; 100 bags filled with 25 pairs of shoes each. Word on the street is that some folks have already begun collecting shoes; I have five pairs at this time.

It's a funny thing how a pair of shoes can touch so many lives on our walk of life. Faith meets footwear; I kind of like the sound of that. Will you give a sole to help a soul?

The Lord is risen and rumor has it he is walking the road to somewhere; perhaps your somewhere.

Prayer for Today

We thank you O God, for the gift of Jesus and his call to discipleship. Help us to experience the Risen Lord in both expected and unexpected places. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 09:08 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, April 14 2017

Surely this man was the Son of God!
-Mark 15:39

In the church I attend, a large cross stands at the front of the sanctuary.  It represents the original cross where Jesus died - the place where our sin intersected with His holiness.  There God allowed His perfect Son to die for the sake of every wrong thing we have ever done, said, or thought.  On the cross, Jesus finished the work that was required to save us from the death we deserve (Romans 6:23).

The sight of a cross causes me to consider what Jesus endured for us.  Before being crucified, He was flogged and spit on. The soldiers hit Him in the head with sticks and got down on their knees in mock worship.  They tried to make Him carry His own cross to the place where He would die, but He was too weak from the brutal flogging.  At Golgotha, they hammered nails through His flesh to keep Him on the cross when they turned it upright.  Those wounds bore the weight of His body as He hung there.  Six hours later, Jesus took His final breath (Mark 15:37).  A centurion who witnessed Jesus' death declared, "Surely this man was the Son of God!"  (verse 39).

Jesus, thank You for taking care of my sin 
when You died on the cross. 

The next time you see the symbol of the cross, consider what it means to you.  God's Son suffered and died there and then rose again to make eternal life possible.

Prayer for Today

Dear Jesus, I can't begin to thank You enough for taking care of my sin when You died on the cross. I acknowledge Your sacrifice, and I believe in the power of Your resurrection. Amen.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 09:06 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 13 2017

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
-John 13:34-35 (ESV)
 
"Go check on them."  That was the response of a little girl, named Sophia, when her special needs teacher asked what to do when you're feeling sad.  Sophia was born with a hole in her heart and has to wear a trach full-time.  She didn't take her teacher's question to be about what she does or needs when she is sad, but as how she responds to others.  Christ doesn't just tell us he loves us.  He tells us to love one another, just as he loved us.

It's Maundy Thursday, a day when we remember that Christ's one command to us in the Gospel of John is to love one another as Christ showed us throughout his life and ministry.  In our everyday lives, this is lived out mostly by checking on people.  Our loved ones, our community of faith, and strangers.  When the teacher questioned his student, she answered, "Go check on them.  See if they're ok."

The life and ministry of Jesus Christ's example of love that is our model, our guide for HOW to love others as he loved us, is marked by Jesus checking on people.  He checked on the woman caught in adultery, the woman at the well, Zacchaeus in his home, Lazarus, Mary and Martha, and countless others mentioned.  Even his most memorable parables record those who go to check and see how people are doing... the Good Samaritan, the Good Shepherd, the widow who lost her coin, and so on.

We remember the important words of the Great Commission... to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, to visit the sick and in prison.  They are specific.  Loving one another, the MANDATE of Christ, from where we get "Maundy" Thursday, is vague enough that we often choose to ignore it or water it down.  But it's as simple as going to check on people.  When we find them, we will then know if they need our love, our care, our visit, our food, our clothes, or just to be included as we go to check on others.

Today, as you search for ways to live out this new commandment, to love one another as Christ loved us, go check on people.  Be prepared to do whatever is needed.  But go check.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me this day to see people as you see them, to go and check on them, and see if they're ok.  Help me to be like Sophia, wise enough to love through our actions.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Brian Daoust AT 09:05 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, April 12 2017

This is Holy Week. One of the things I find so meaningful about it is the juxtaposition of light and darkness. Tomorrow night we have our Maundy Thursday/Tenebrae service here at the church. "Tenebrae" actually means "darkness." One reason the service is so powerful for me is that as we look at the last week of Jesus' life, ending with his death on the cross, it all feels very dark. During the service we literally turn out all of the lights to remind us of this. But that is not the final word. On Easter morning we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. For the most part, it is a time of light. But, if you read John's account of the resurrection, it doesn't begin that way. John writes, "Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark . . ." (John 20:1a, NIV) As the women make their way walking in the dark, the resurrection has already taken place. And the resurrection happened when it was still dark.

Author Barbara Brown Taylor has written about the value of darkness to our spiritual lives in her book Learning to Walk in the Dark - which I highly recommend to you. She writes, "Darkness is shorthand for anything that scares me - either because I am sure that I do not have the resources to survive or because I do not want to find out." But in the end, Brown says, "I learned things in the dark I could never learn in the light . . . . I need darkness as much as I need light." As counterintuitive as that may seem to us, I think that is true. So I want to invite you to experience both the darkness and the light this week through our Maundy Thursday/Tenebrae service at 7:30 p.m. and on Easter Sunday. Since reading Brown's book, I have found I actually enjoy walking in the dark much more than before. Maybe you will, too!

Prayer for Today

God, you created the day and the night. Remind us that you are present with us always - even in the dark. Help us to trust you, even when we can't see our way. We pray this is the name of the Risen Christ. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 09:03 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, April 11 2017

Have you experienced moments when you are reminded that each day is a gift? This morning was one of those days where I became extremely grateful for the gift of this day. I was involved in an accident this morning while traveling to church. A car hit me from behind. Some major damage, and no significant injuries to me or the other people in the vehicles.

Knowing that each day is a gift, how do you want to live your life? Always busy, working on the next project, chore, or errand? Or with an attitude of unhurried trust and joy being immersed in the current moment?

This verse stuck with me in the midst of this morning's event, God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present help in trouble. -Psalm 46:1

Some of the images that I look to and am reminded of this refuge God provides are found in the empty cross. This week we will remember the events of the crucifixion and then the resurrection. Many of the significant crosses that I see on a regular basis have been a Celtic Cross. My church growing up had a wooden one hanging in our sanctuary that was cut and carved by our minister's son. Another is a picture hanging in my office of one I encountered on a Heritage trip to Scotland while in college.

What images remind you of God being your "refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble"? Take some time to look at them today and remember the gift of this day.

As you contemplate the events of Holy week, we are providing an opportunity for prayer and reflection with our Labyrinth at church. Starting today through the end of the day on Friday, the Labyrinth will be set up downstairs in the Youth Garage. The practice of walking the labyrinth as a way to pray, has been very meaningful to me. I would invite you, if you are able to walk it this week.

Prayer for Today

Oh Lord, my refuge, my strength, in times of trouble you are my help. Bring me peace. In stillness and silence you are with me; My heart rejoices in your presence. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 03:06 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, April 10 2017

A week ago Sunday, Gray introduced us to the University of Virginia head basketball coach, Tony Bennett's five pillars. Bennett's father, also a basketball coach "borrowed" these pillars from scripture in an attempt to identify what creates a solid foundation for life. The five pillars are humility, passion, unity, servanthood, and thankfulness. Would you say these are pillars that uphold your life?

The same weekend Gray preached his sermon other pillars came crashing down. Can you believe that it's only been a week since sections of I-85 came tumbling down as a result of a fire set by three people smoking crack. It's a graphic image of what damage can be done in life when you aren't practicing the five pillars of humility, passion, unity, servanthood, and thankfulness.

The Apostle Paul wrote of these pillars when addressing the church in Ephesus.

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.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  This is why it says:

When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.

(What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?  He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. -Ephesians 4: 1-13

Prayer for Today

Holy God, pour your spirit upon us during this Holy Week, so that we may be one in the spirit, humble, gentle, patient, and above all loving. In Christ name we pray. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 03:03 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 06 2017

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. 
-Psalm 27:4 

I had the opportunity this week to go home to my home church in Charlotte, NC. My mother and I began going there when I was 3, and soon after my father started going and my little sister came along. I was first nurtured there and introduced to God's love in the three year old class. I went to preschool there. I listened to countless sermons by the same pastor for years. I sang in the youth choir. And I had one very faithful youth pastor for all those years too. I even went back in college for the college Sunday school class. 

When I returned this week, after several years away, my boys and I visited the 3 year old class, where my same teacher is still teaching a lesson I still remember, with the same pictures. My preschool director handed me a bulletin. My same pastor delivered the sermon and asked me forward to serve communion. And I served that communion to my college Sunday school teacher, my former choir director, his son...and to his wife, my youth pastor's daughter, and their daughter. 

As I offered the bread of life to these people who shaped my life and helped me find and answer my call, I thought about my boys and the people around them who help shape their faith. I think about the Sunday school teachers and the pastors, the older youth, the volunteers, the mentors. I think how important they are and will be in the years to come, people who have chosen to serve the Lord by being there so dependably every week for months, years, or even decades. If you're reading this, you probably have touched the lives of more of your peers and young people than you can count. I hope you will continue to faithfully serve, teach, nurture, and lead by an example of love, and dwell in the Lord's house all your days. 

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to dwell in your house always, to never grow weary of my call, and to always find joy and delight in showing others love when they come to me.  Amen. 

Posted by: Rev. Brian Daoust AT 02:27 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, April 05 2017

Monday night I stayed up to watch the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game. Because one of the teams playing was from the west coast, the game did not start until after 9 p.m. For a morning person who gets up with the dog around 6 a.m. it was a real challenge for me just to stay awake.
 
On top of that, it was not the most well-played or well-refereed game. There were star players on both sides who did not play well. Add to that an inordinate number of fouls called on both teams, and referees who went to the video review too often to make sure they made the right calls, and you get a game that lost much of its luster.
 
And yet, in spite of the sloppy play, the star players sitting on the bench, and the many delays - at the end of the night one team was still crowned the champion! For at least one of the teams, something very good resulted. Isn't it interesting that even out of a messy, less-than-perfect game - something outstanding can still emerge?
 
That makes me think about how God is at work in our lives and in the world. There are times in my own life when I feel like I am not playing the game of life anywhere near the level I should be. Other times I look around at our world and it seems like one big mess - filled with too many "fouls" and a lot of missed shots. And yet somehow God manages to bring something good out of all that mess.
 
Maybe that is one way to think about grace. When our less-than-perfect actions in life deserve a mediocre outcome, God intervenes and brings something good out of the mess. I hope you perform well today, but even if you don't - know that through God's grace, something good will come out in the end! Paul puts it this way: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, sometimes our life seems like a big mess. Yet we believe that you can work for our good in all things. This day, work your good in our lives. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 12:39 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, April 03 2017

Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
-Colossians 3:12

Seven of us were attending a musical production at a crowded amusement park.  Wanting to sit together, we tried to squeeze into one row.  But as we did, a woman rushed between us.  My wife mentioned to her that we wanted to stay together, but the woman quickly said, "Too bad," as she and her two companions pushed on into the row.

As three of us sat one row behind the other four, my wife, Sue, noticed that the woman had an adult with her who appeared to have special needs.  She had been trying to keep her little group together so she could take care of her friend.  Suddenly, our irritation faded.  Sue said, "Imagine how tough things are for her in a crowded place like this."  Yes, perhaps the woman did respond rudely.  But we could respond with compassion rather than anger.

Compassion is understanding the troubles of others.  

Wherever we go, we will encounter people who need compassion.  Perhaps these words from the apostle Paul can help us view everyone around is in a different light - as people who need the gentle touch of grace.  "As God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience."  (Colossians 3:12)  He also suggests that we "bear with each other and forgive one another" (verse 13).

As we show compassion, we will be pointing others to the One who poured out His heart of grace and compassion on us.

Prayer for Today

Your compassions never fail, Father. May we mirror Your heart by showing compassion to others.  Amen.

Posted by: Our Daily Bread AT 12:38 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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