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.
When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. -John 16:13
As I boarded the airplane to study in a city a thousand miles from home, I felt nervous and alone. But during the flight, I remembered how Jesus promised His disciples the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus' friends must have felt bewildered when He told them, "It is for your good that I am going away" (John 16:7). How could they who witnessed His miracles and learned from His teaching be better off without Him? But Jesus told them that if He left, then the Advocate - the Holy Spirit - would come.
We who have accepted God's offer of new life have been given this gift of His Spirit living within us.
Jesus, nearing His last hours on earth, shared with His disciples (in John 14-17, today known as the "Farewell Discourse") to help them understand His death and ascension. Central in this conversation was the coming Holy Spirit, an advocate who would be with them (John 14:16-17), teaching (John 15:15), testifying (verse 26), and guiding them (John 16:13).
We who have accepted God's offer of new life have been given this gift of His Spirit living within us. From Him we receive so much: He convicts us of our sins and helps us to repent. He brings us comfort when we ache, strength to bear hardships, wisdom to understand God's teaching, hope and faith to believe, and love to share.
We can rejoice that Jesus sent us the Advocate.
Prayer for Today
Heavenly Father, You sent Your Son to save us and Your Spirit to comfort and convict us. May we bring You glory as we thank You for Your goodness and love. Amen.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.
It's about that time, Mother's Day. And like Father's Day, or Valentine's Day, it offers a different moment for each person to reflect on love and relationships and the one who gives us both. As we reflect, we experience the range of emotions from gratitude to frustration, from wholeness to estrangement, from joy to loss. If you've ever experienced a rough Valentine's Day and wished others could understand your difficulty or loneliness in the midst of their contentment and joy, you can also relate to anyone who has struggled with days like Mother's Day because of a difficult relationship with their parents or a loss of a parent or child.
I was blessed with an amazing mother, two wonderful grandmothers, a plethora of aunts and great aunts... all were truly great... and mother figures amongst my church and friends. They not only shared their love, but their stories. And I learned a lot about what being a mother and being mothered means. And I learned at a young age that if we are all made in God's image, then an important part of who God is and how God loves us is as a mother. Passages in the Old Testament where God holds us close to God's bosom, or in Jonah when he bemoans God's compassion - literally the Hebrew compound word he uses is "womb-love," love only a mother can have for a child. Or when Christ stands above Jerusalem before Holy Week and wishes to gather them together as a mother hen gathers her chicks.
When I experience great joy in relationships, or as a son, or as a father, and when I experience great anguish, I know God has experienced those things too and experiences them in those moments with me. And so I know on days like this Sunday, we know God better through our good mothers, and we can be confident our good God loves us like those mothers. We know with full assurance that God has loved and lost, danced with Miriam and pondered with Mary, and wept with Rachel.
This Mother's Day, I hope you'll do something to support or thank a mother, maybe your own, to be aware of those for whom this day is hard, and to share your joys and struggles as a mother or caregiver or teacher that you may be. Like any holiday that honors love, I hope you'll share yours.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to see mothers in my life, to share my love, and to take comfort in the love God offers us all. Amen.
Last Sunday I talked about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who encountered the resurrected Jesus on the evening of that first Easter. I mentioned how writer Frederick Buechner described Emmaus as representing that place we go in life just to get away from it all. There were some more thoughts of Buechner's I did not have time to share in worship, but I wanted to share them with you here:
I believe that although the two disciples did not recognize Jesus on the road to Emmaus, Jesus recognized them, that he saw them as if they were the only two people in the world. And I believe that the reason why the resurrection is more than just an extraordinary event that took place some two thousand years ago and then was over and done with is that, even as I speak these words and you listen to them, he also sees each of us like that. In this dark world where you and I see so little because of our unrecognizing eyes, he, whose eye is on the sparrow, sees each one of us as the child in red. And I believe that because he sees us, not even in the darkness of death are we lost to him or lost to each other. I believe that whether we recognize him or not, or believe in him or not, or even know his name, again and again he comes and walks a little way with us along whatever road we're following. And I believe that through something that happens to us, or something we see, or somebody we know - who can ever guess how or when or where? -- he offers us, the way he did at Emmaus, the bread of life, offers us a new hope, a new vision of light that not even the dark world can overcome.
May the hope and light of the risen Christ overcome whatever darkness you face in life!
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, thank you for viewing us through your eyes of love as if we were the only person in the world. Thank you for recognizing us as one of your children even when we fail to recognize you. Thank you for the new hope and new vision of light you offer us. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 03:51 pm
This morning I was reading a devotion directed towards moms, but as I read the words it seemed to be to address all of us as disciples of Jesus Christ. The below quote is from Proverbs 31 ministries and where you see the word motherhood, I would replace it with "being a disciple of Jesus Christ".
"Motherhood is saying no to the clanking cadence of selfishness and yes to the quiet rhythms of love. It's relinquishing pride and persisting in prayer, surrendering greed and growing in grace... Quite simply, motherhood is a daily decision to paint the ordinary moments of our days with the extraordinary love of Christ. And this kind of love may not resemble a bouquet of golden giggles or blossoms of bright pink hugs. It may look more like a batch of brown blooms tucked in a shoebox. Or like our Savior hanging from a rugged cross." (Alicia Bruxvoort)
I was reminded of this scripture from 1 John:
"This is how we've come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves." (1 John 3:16)
So as you go through your day and your week, how can you "say no to selfishness and yes to love"?
How will you "relinquish pride and persist in prayer"? How can you surrender "greed and grow in grace"?
I think these are some tough questions to tackle and involve a daily decision to live differently than many of the messages we hear/see in our media and culture around us. Love is not always a perfect picture, but love is a perfect sacrifice. Christ set an example for us and calls us to live a life of love, prayer, and grace.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, Help us to be imitators of your love in what we say and do. In Christ's Name, Amen.
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
- Psalm 90:12
Over the last few years, two members of my family have faced life-threatening diagnoses. For me, the hardest part of supporting them through their treatments has been the constant uncertainty. I am always desperate for a definitive word from a doctor, but things are rarely that straightforward. Instead of being given clarity, we are often asked to wait.
It's hard to bear the burden of uncertainty, always wondering what the next test will reveal. Will we have weeks, months, years, or decades before death separates us? But regardless of disease and diagnosis, each of us will die one day - things like cancer just bring our mortality to the forefront instead of letting it hide in the recesses of our minds.
How can we best spend the time we've been given?
Faced with sobering reminders of our mortality, I find myself praying words that Moses once prayed. Psalm 90 tells us that though our lives are like grass that withers and fades (verses 5-6), we have an eternal home with God (verse 1). Like Moses, we can ask God to teach us to number our days so we can make wise decisions (verse 12), and to make our brief lives fruitful by making what we do for Him count (verse 17). Ultimately, the psalm reminds us that our hope is not in a doctor's diagnosis, but in a God who is "from everlasting to everlasting."
Prayer for Today
We can face the reality of our own mortality because we trust in God. Amen.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Our experiences of loss and disappointment may leave us feeling angry, guilty, and confused. Whether our choices have closed some doors that will never reopen or, through no fault of our own, tragedy has invaded our lives, the result is often what Oswald Chambers called "the unfathomable sadness of 'the might have been'." We may try to suppress the painful memory but discover we can't. Chambers reminds us that the Lord is still active in our lives. "Never be afraid when God brings back the past," he said. "Let memory have its way. It is a minister of God with its rebuke and chastisement and sorrow. God will turn the 'might have been' into a wonderful place of growth for the future."
The Lord's forgiveness can transform our sorrow
into confidence in His everlasting love.
In Old Testament days when God sent the people of Israel into exile in Babylon, He told them to serve Him in that foreign land and grow in faith until He brought them back to their home.
God urged them not to ignore or be trapped by events of the past but instead to focus on Him and look ahead. The Lord's forgiveness can transform the memory of our sorrow into confidence in His everlasting love.
Prayer for Today
Father, thank You for Your plans for us, and for the future that awaits us in Your love. Amen.
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Driving to school this morning, NPR was playing in the background. The story came on about a suicide bomber in the capital city of Afghanistan. Vincent asked, "What are they talking about? What's the story about?"
I said that there was a lot of violence in Afghanistan and bombings. And then he asked, "What is suicide?"
Now I have been thinking a lot about this topic because of the recent Netflix show about it. As a staff, we have had meaningful conversations about how we believers can show love to people struggling with this sort of pain and anxiety. And I've had many conversations with parents recently. So I did my best to explain that suicide is when someone ends their own life. That it happens because something in their brain is lying to them. That depression is when your brain is sick and tells you that things are not going to get better or that you are all alone. And that it's very scary for people. And as we pulled up to the curb, I turned around and told him, "You are never ever alone."
And then I did our little ritual that we do every morning when I drop them off. I had him repeat after me... "I am good. I am smart. I am loved." And I say, "Yes you are." And then I make the sign of the cross on his forehead and tell him God loves him and everyone he will meet.
And he turned to me and said, "You know how you said I'm never alone? The proof was the cross on my forehead." Big grin.
In that moment, I was reminded that Christ's promise to always be with us is present in the Holy Spirit and the ways we are Christ-like to one another. Christ keeps his promise spiritually so that none of us is ever alone, and bodily in how we show and speak love to those around us, deliberately. My prayer today is that each of you will find ways to help every hurting person in your life feel not alone, to remember that almost everyone is hurting, and to know that you are loved more than you know. The world can lie, pain can lie, and even your own mind can lie. But the truth is you are never alone. The proof is in the cross.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me remember I am never alone and to always reach out in love so everyone I meet never feels alone either. Surround us in your spirit. Amen.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.
-I Peter 4:10, NIV
Over the years, one of my favorite fast food restaurants to visit is known for its excellent customer service. In fact, whenever one of the employees finishes a sale, they have been trained to say, "My pleasure." What a great choice of words! I have to admit I flinch when I thank someone for giving me the food I purchased and they say, "No problem." So, how do we interact with others - especially when we are serving them in some way? Do we think of serving others as "My pleasure" or "No problem?"
For three of the next four Sundays, I will be sharing a new series of messages called, "Those Who Serve - Teachers, Mothers, and Soldiers." Each week we will be looking at what it means to serve. We will also look at those teachers, mothers, and soldiers who serve so well.
When it comes to service, I don't think serving comes naturally to many of us. Even for those who do it well and seem to enjoy it, my guess is that unless it happens to be their spiritual gift, someone taught them how to joyfully serve others somewhere along the way. Yet, as followers of Christ, Paul says in the words above that each one of us "should use whatever gift" we have received "to serve others . . ." Jesus says that when we do these kinds of things, especially for "the least of these" -- it is as if we are doing them for Jesus himself.
Serving others is usually a choice we can make. Sometimes it is pride that gets in the way of our willingness to serve. We may think we are better than this. But, then we remember that Jesus is the greatest example of one who chose to serve others in the name of love.
Prayer for Today
(This is part of a prayer by Mother Teresa)
Sweetest Lord, make me appreciative of the dignity of my high vocation, and its many responsibilities. Never permit me to disgrace it by giving way to coldness, unkindness, or impatience. And O God, while you are Jesus my patient, deign also to be to me a patient Jesus, bearing my faults, looking only to my intention, which is to love and serve you. . . . Amen.
Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 11:14 am
We are approaching the final month of this school year and many of us are in the rhythm of learning, testing, studying, and reading. Even if you aren't a student, parent of students, or a teacher, we all can be reminded that education is not just a process that happens for the young, learning is a process that happens throughout your life.
Jesus lived on this earth as God in the flesh and even he took time to learn everything he could. There was one time early in his life, when he said to his parents, "Why were you looking for me? Didn't you know that I had to be here, dealing with the things of my Father?" But they had no idea what he was talking about. So he went back to Nazareth with them, and lived obediently with them. His mother held these things dearly, deep within herself. And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people."
As you wrap up this school year, what new things has God taught you? How have you been challenged? What have you been teaching others about who God is through your words and actions? I would encourage you to take what you are learning and let it fill your mind, and also your heart and spirit.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, I'm going to look for you every day this final month of school. I expect I'll see you around. Give me a heart that's open to your mysteries so that I can see and hear your work happening right before me. In Christ's Name, Amen.
This time of year truly is the season of growth. I've been wowed by all the graduation notices, prom pictures and confirmation ceremonies. Yesterday's confirmation Sunday here at JCPC was special in so many ways and of course symbolizes growth. Here is a fun way to think about what it means to grow:
I'm grateful for the faith the confirmands shared and their ability to inspire us. It was difficult to keep a dry eye when I gazed at the parents and knew that this moment was both a culmination of so, so many moments and the swelling up of joy for their child's growth in faith. I think our minds opened up to possibilities for each of the confirmands and we wondered together about the contributions they will be making in their adult lives. GROW; it has a nice ring to it.
I completed confirmation class at Auburn Presbyterian Church in 1969. I'm thankful for all those who helped me grow in the faith, both through intentional and unintentional ways. I still have my red bible that Rev. Bill Heimach gave me and the words of inspiration he inscribed.
A few years later, unbeknownst to me, Rev. Heimach approached members of my family to encourage me to go to seminary. He said he felt that I was called to ministry. Not one of them mentioned that to me until after I had finished seminary and had entered into ordained ministry. In some ways, I'm happy they restrained themselves because at that time in my life I was more inclined to want to make my own decision. Looking back, did I really...
Prayer for Today
Loving God, help us to remember with grateful praise the gift of faith. Keep us open to your word so that we will be filled with wonder and follow you where you lead us. Amen.