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.
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
I headed into the post office in a big hurry. I had a number of things on my to-do list, but as I entered I was frustrated to find a long line backing up all the way to the door. "Hurry up and wait," I muttered, glancing at my watch.
My hand was still on the door when an elderly stranger approached me. "I can't get this copier to work," he said, pointing to the machine behind us. "It took my money and I don't know what to do." Immediately I knew what God wanted me to do. I stepped out of line and was able to fix the problem in ten minutes.
The man thanked me and then left. As I turned to get back in line, it was gone. I walked straight to the service counter.
My experience that day reminds me of Jesus's words:
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. -Luke 6:38
My wait seemed shorter because God interrupted my hurry. By turning my eyes to others' needs and helping me give of my time, He gave me a gift. It's a lesson I hope to remember, next time I look at my watch.
Prayer for Today
Heavenly Father, all of the time I have is in Your hands, a gift from You. Please show me how to use it to bring glory and honor to You. Amen.
Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living;
but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
This photo appeared in my Facebook feed this week from a dear friend from a church I served some years ago. It hit me the way you hit your funny bone. It feels funny, but far too familiar. And just like hitting my funny bone, I wanted to ignore it till the feeling went away. But, God in God's wisdom (or sense of humor) called me and wired me to be a pastor. So I responded... The body or the soul? My Sundays look different than a lot of people because of which one I'm feeding and resting.
It's rare among my contemporaries, xennials like myself and the younger millennials, as well as folks from my parents' generation to be committed to weekly worship attendance. It's not strictly the hard work or commitment that's lacking. Many follow TV programs "religiously" or have season tickets to pro and college sports. Some are even more dedicated to the sports or academics and arts of their teenagers or even their tots. Some are very dedicated to their morning gym routine or weekend tennis or Starbucks run. The faith and commitment are there.
Our family does not live in a vacuum, and we definitely hear the call to these same commitments to be busy in many places. We do commit to the academics, activities, and scouting our boys love and will help them succeed. But we find ourselves talking often about how to keep them from becoming a greater priority than our faith community and the spiritual nurture of our souls. My wife and I grew up in families that put weekly worship and the nurture of youth group and Christian education as a first priority and we feel it has served us above all other things. I hope you'll join us with your family as the busy school year begins so that together we can all help each other keep this commitment.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to establish and prioritize a sabbath each week for me and the ones I love so I may better serve you and those in need with my whole week and my whole self. Amen.
In recent days I have been amazed at all of the press coverage surrounding the loss of Senator John McCain. He served his country faithfully in so many ways. I think one of the reasons so much is being said about him is because we seem to be at a time when individuals with integrity are becoming more and more scarce. In recent years we have lost some great men and women.
There is so much you could say about John McCain, and I will not try to sum it all up here in a few short sentences. However, I do want to highlight one of his amazing qualities that people are talking about. He had the ability to connect with those with whom he strongly disagreed. He knew how to "reach across the aisle" to forge partnerships and even friendships. As he reminded us in some of his speeches -- we are all in the this together. We need each other. We need to find ways to build bridges with one another, even if we disagree. As McCain showed us, you do not have to give up your strong convictions and the things you value most to work with those who believe differently - especially if we focus first on what we share in common!
In recent days I have heard that John McCain's battles for what he believed was right were never personal. And if he later decided he was wrong, he had the integrity and humility to reach out to the person with whom he had disagreed and say something profound and lacking in our day: "I was wrong. I am sorry."
Two passages from the Bible come to mind in thinking about the kind of person John McCain was: "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for a friend." (John 15:13, NIV)
And "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:43-45, NIV)
Prayer for Today
Thank you, God, for men and women who lay down their lives for their friends, and who even go as far as to love and pray for their enemies. Help us to do that today and every day. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus -- who laid down his life for the whole world! Amen.
Yesterday I had the privilege of spending some time with our Preschool teachers at their meeting. They are preparing for a new school year that begins on Thursday. This group of 38 women is a real gift to our church and our Preschool ministry in this community.
I shared these words with them from Matthew. Jesus said, "Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth... Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand - shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:13-16, The Message)
This passage in the Message version of the Bible brought Jesus' words to me in a new way. I hope that you heard something new in this passage too. As you go through your day, find ways that you can be generous with your life. Open up to others. I know that when I do this, others are more willing to open up to me and deeper relationships happen.
Take a moment to think about those you are called to love... shine a light... share in leadership this week. Be God's salt-seasoning and light-bearers this week.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, Thank you for the gifts of salt and light in our lives. Help us to be open to the ways you will use us today to share your love with the world. In Christ's Name, Amen.
Honest scales and balances belong to the Lord; all the weights in the bag are of his making.
How do you live a balanced life? For most of us, this is a question that we ask ourselves with regularity. Am I getting a balanced diet? Am I able to have a healthy balance between work and home life? Am I getting the proper balance of activities that includes rest?
I call this desire for balance the faithful struggle for balance.We strive for balance in our lives but so often we feel like we're out of balance. If we were to apply the wisdom of Proverbs 16:11 we might say it like this; "I'm cheating on my diet. I'm short changing myself of rest. I'm overscheduled with work with less to give at home." Ouch!!! The scales don't lie and we know it so it becomes for most of us the faithful struggle for balance. "Honest scales and balance belong to the Lord."
If you are like me, sometimes it feels like my life hangs in the balance. Here is how that looks:
Where would you like to strive for balance in your life this week? Take time to pray and ask for God to grant you the wisdom to discern where you need to get back in balance; rest, diet, friendship, home life, or something else.
Hang in there and bring some balance back into your life. You might enjoy getting off the ledge!
Prayer for Today
Faithful God, restore in me the balance you desire for my life so that my soul will be restored and my spirit will be a living testimony to your goodness. Amen.
They came to Philip . . . with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus."
As I looked down at the pulpit where I was sharing prayers at a funeral, I glimpsed a brass plaque bearing words from John 12:21: "Sir, we would see Jesus" (KJV). Yes, I thought, how fitting to consider how we saw Jesus in the woman we were celebrating with tears and smiles. Although she faced challenges and disappointments in her life, she never gave up her faith in Christ. And because God's Spirit lived in her, we could see Jesus.
John's gospel recounts how after Jesus rode into Jerusalem (see John 12:12-16), some Greeks approached Philip, one of the disciples, asking, "Sir, . . . we would like to see Jesus" (v. 21). They were probably curious about Jesus' healing and miracles, but as they weren't Jewish, they weren't allowed into the inner courts of the temple. When their request was passed along to Jesus, He announced that His hour had come to be glorified (v. 23). And by that, He meant that He would die for the sins of many. He would fulfill His mission to reach not only the Jews but the Gentiles (the "Greeks" in verse 20), and now they would see Jesus.
After Jesus died, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in His followers (14:16-17). Thus as we love and serve Jesus, we see Him active in our lives. And, amazingly, those around us too can see Jesus!
Prayer for Today
Lord Jesus Christ, I am humbled and amazed that You would come and live in me. Help me to share this amazing gift with those I meet today. Amen.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
He has the right to criticize who has a heart to help.
Judgment is a natural human tendency. It is important, necessary for survival even. We spend our whole childhood and adolescence developing the prefrontal cortex of our brain, where decisions are made. And in the meantime, our society and families and faith groups help to protect us from bad judgments. But that same part of us that we need for choosing good friends, deciding when to cross the street, what is safe and what is dangerous, can work overtime.
We don't just judge if things are safe or not, but also if they are true, good, interesting, fun, important, disgusting, and more. Then, inevitably, we take the next step. We choose to ignore, praise, or criticize. And that's an important step. As believers, we are called to involve our faith in that judgment, to allow our understanding of Christ and the leading of the Spirit to influence our thoughts and actions. Much of scripture is dedicated to righteous thoughts and actions, the orientation of our hearts.
With social media, never has it been easier to respond to the world with criticism. And they are named appropriately. A Tweet is something a bird does mindlessly all day long and intended to be pleasant more than deeply communicative. A Yelp is an automatic sound made in response to pain. The wise words from Galatians remind us that restoring a person or responding to injustice requires a spirit of gentleness... because there is a temptation to the opposite, which is where we make a transgression ourselves. In a world where you can respond to anything in an instant, it is a spiritual practice to move slowly, to respond with gentleness and love, and to practice a pause and reflect. Pause more today. If following your tweet, comment, or post with #gentleness seems disingenuous, maybe rethink your response.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to think longer about the ways I respond to the world and the people in it. By your spirit, give me a heart ready to help before a mouth ready to criticize. Amen.
Last Saturday evening was a great time in the life of Johns Creek Presbyterian Church. I know we say that "worship is the most important thing we do" -- and it is, but it is not the only thing we do. We also GIVE, GO and LIVE as ways of serving others in the name of Christ.
However, last Saturday was a night of FELLOWSHIP. We had an excellent turnout as we gathered in our Great Hall to share a meal - delicious burgers grilled outside served with wonderful side dishes and desserts. I particularly enjoyed watching the smiling faces of our members and the guests they brought, as they visited around the tables.
Then we were treated to some of the wonderful talent in our church family. In our recent "Dare 2 Dream" Long-rang Plan, we talk about "intergenerational ministry." If you wonder what that looks like, one example would be what we enjoyed last Saturday night. We had folks from all of our generations come together -- enjoying each other's company, food and talents. It was a snapshot of our extended family of faith.
In addition to those in the audience, we also had most of the generations represented on stage. We had the younger generation providing comic relief like, "What do you call a bear with no teeth? A gummy bear!" We had a youth soloist, as well as a youth singing "Alleluia" as they strummed along with guitars and ukuleles. There were young adults performing jazz and blues standards. We even had a Broadway showtune - "Blue Skies." But perhaps the most unusual act was an end-times/apocalyptic parody (with visuals) to the tune of Jimmy Buffet's "Volcano."
In addition, the JCPC House Band and Guitar Army led everyone in sing-alongs like "Country Roads" and "Aimee." Interspersed were some of the band's favorites from the Beatles, Santana, and Linda Ronstadt. Now that's what I call FELLOWSHIP! Our "Dare 2 Dream" plan is to have one church-wide, intergenerational event each month. Make plans now to be at the next one - the evening of September 20, featuring a concert by the Maranatha Band from the Dominican Republic!
Prayer for Today
Thank you, God, for giving us each other as your extended family of faith. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
From an early age I enjoyed listening to stories, then reading them, and later telling them. My elementary school had a special storytelling program where a few students from each grade worked with our media specialist to memorize a children's book. We then had to be able to tell the story in an engaging way to an audience of students in our school. Once we learned our story for that year, we had many opportunities to share it.
The one place in life where I was shy and reserved was at school. Being a part of the storytelling club was a powerful tool to help me gain confidence to speak in front of a group of my peers and teachers. One of the main reasons that I continued to participate in this club each year, was the media specialist who led us. She was a very engaging story teller as well as gifted encourager. She had the ability to inspire me and helped me find the courage to be myself.
I recently read this quote shared by a colleague, author Philip Pullman said, "After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world." It reminded me what a powerful thing it is to share stories with one another.
In Matthew 5, we are reminded of how the disciples were called away from their everyday life and the comforts of the familiar to join Jesus in sharing the Gospel. As followers of Christ we are still responding to the same call. We also live in a culture where many people now claim their identity as "spiritual but not religious," or "none".
So how do we help children, youth and adults in our community find themselves within the Christian story?
What if this was the guiding principle behind how we share our faith? What would it take to make our faith "sticky" to others? What is the "story" we have to tell to our community and how are we helping them name or find their own place within that story?
Prayer for Today
I give thanks, Gracious God, for all of those people over two thousand years who have inspired others and played their part in passing on to generation after generation the living heritage of their faith. Especially I give thanks for those who lived their faith through difficulties and blessings. I pray that I may continue to grow in my faith and love through good times and bad. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
-Hebrews 10: 23-25
If I were to be pushed to describe my Christian conviction in three words I believe I would choose faith, hope, and love. I might also say Jesus is Lord. What three words would you choose to describe your Christian convictions?
The passage above is part of what I think is a pep talk to Christians of that time and place and it remains one for us. See how the author weaves together the three words; faith, hope, and love.
The Apostle Paul uses these three words to encourage the Corinthian Church.
And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. -1 Corinthians 13: 13
Here's how you can able these three words in your daily life so that your life will be in alignment with God.
Faith in Christ
Hope for God's will to be done
Love so that you are reflecting the love of Christ in the world.
When I format the three words like this I realize that the model looks very much like the way that I write prayers. Faith in God through Christ is announced and the hope for God's will to be done through petition and supplication (big word meaning asking for). A strong prayer will always include a call to action. This call to action takes on the form of encouraging us to love so that...
Therefore; could it be that our life is a form of worship when we practice faith, hope and love? You tell me.
Prayer for Today
Grant us the power of your Holy Spirit, O God, so that our faith will be strong, our hope for your kingdom come will be our guiding light, and that we will love as Christ loves us. Amen.
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
Sometimes life gets busy - classes are hard, work is exhausting, the bathroom needs to be cleaned, and a coffee date is on the day's schedule. It gets to the point where I force myself to read the Bible for a few minutes a day and tell myself I'll spend more time with God next week. But it doesn't take long before I'm distracted, drowning in the day's tasks, and forget to ask God for help of any kind.
When Peter was walking on water toward Jesus, he quickly became distracted by the wind and waves. Like me, he began to sink (Matthew 14:29-30). But as soon as Peter cried out, "immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him" (verses 30-31).
I often feel as if I have to make it up to God after being so busy and distracted that I lose sight of Him. But that's not how God works. As soon as we turn to Him for help, Jesus reaches out without hesitation.
When we're unsettled by the chaos of life, it's easy to forget that God is standing in the middle of the storm with us. Jesus asked Peter, "Why did you doubt?" (verse 31). No matter what we're going through, He is there. He is here. Next to us at that moment, in this moment, ready to reach out and rescue us.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to turn to You in the midst of my busyness and life's distractions. Thank You for always being here, ready to catch me. Amen.
Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children.
Although we often read on scripture about parent-child relationships, we can often forget how frequently grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins appear as well. One of the blessings of living in our modern world and this country is that life expectancy allows most children to grow up knowing at least some of their grandparents and great grandparents. Our sons have half a dozen great grandparents in their life. However, that same modernity and technology has taken many of us far from family. Children with large extended families rarely live near them all.
I mention this because as believers, our understanding of family is much fuller. We are all an extended family of faith in Christ and through baptism, we are welcomed to that family. When we have a birth or baptism, often family members of those at JCPC travel from around the country or world to visit. But these occasions should also be for us a reminder that we are all surrogate aunts and uncles and grandparents for the children, youth, and young parents in our midst. The youth and children of our church have very few biological extended family to support them and the family ministries, which means we all get the opportunity and responsibility to step in.
As we begin the new school year, the children and youth ministries of this church are also getting started and extending an invitation of family. Typically, youth parents take turns serving the dinner on Sunday night for the youth group. This year, once a month, we will have an informal gathering for the youth parents concurrent with youth group. We would love to have folks who are grandparents, empty nesters, surrogate aunts and uncles, or maybe a small group prepare a meal on that night. We will have a sign up list. It will give parents a night off to gather and take sabbath, and give more of us the chance to support our families and young people. I hope you'll sign up for a dinner this year. There will be perhaps seven of them. And thank you.
Prayer for Today
Lord of all generations, we give thanks for the blessing of so much family, more than the stars of the sky. Help me be as family to all your sons and daughters as they have need. Amen.
This morning I was reading through Psalm 39 for my devotions. Even after being a pastor for many years and a Christian for many more years beyond that, I will read a passage from the Bible and something new jumps out at me. I have probably read the passage numerous times over the years, but as I read the words one more time, there is something I have never noticed before. This verse from Psalm 39 was like that for me this morning: "Show me, O Lord, my life's end and the number of my days . . ." (Psalm, 39,4a, NIV)
The Psalmist appears to be praying to God -- asking to know how long his life will be. It started me thinking about whether I would want to know how many days my life would last, if I had the chance. What would that be like to know exactly how long you will live? Now aside from the obvious and very practical concerns like whether or not you would need life insurance or funds for retirement, I wonder how it we might approach life if we had that knowledge.
If we had a shorter time to live, would it make us focus on those things in life that are really important, or would we just "grab for all the gusto" in life and think only about ourselves and having a good time? Or, if we found had we were going to live an unusually long time, would we make plans for how to live each day -- reflecting the values we thought most important? Or, would we live only for ourselves most of the time, and then try to change our ways as we approached the end of life? Finally, where would we see God at work in all of that?
Those are a lot of pretty deep questions. However, since we rarely know the actual number of our days, I think we can take insight from the Bible that encourages us to live each day as if Jesus were coming back soon. Live that way each day and I believe things will be okay.
Prayer for Today
Thank you, God, for the gift of life and for the gift of this day. Help us to live each day reflecting the same love to others and you have shown us. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
As we begin a new school year, these days are often filled with making new commitments and promises. How many commitments do you think you make in the course of 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. 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?
One way that we continue to grow into our covenant with God is through our study of God's Word. Each year we take time to share about the many opportunities where you can connect and grow in this relationship at JCPC.
Join us this Sunday as we gather for breakfast and fellowship in the Great Hall starting at 10:00 a.m. and then connect with our Sunday School teachers and small group leaders for all ages. This is a time of year when we make commitments to grow in our faith through the Education ministry at JCPC. At our 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. worship, we will commission all of those who have made the commitment to teach and lead this year in many of these Education ministry groups and classes.
Take some time not only to 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.
What's in a name? The answer to the question could be explained as meaning and purpose. When we named our first child Katherine we did so because we thought it was a strong name and we dreamed that she would be determined. She is both strong and determined. Each year parents name their newborns and hope that their given name will provide both meaning and purpose to their child's life.
In 2018, the top five names for girls are reported to be Emma, Charlotte, Sadie, Violet, and Kennedy. These names seem to me to be filled with character.
I began to think again about the power of naming after a trip to the kitchen at JCPC. Here is what I saw that was the catalyst for my thoughts on the power of naming.
I hope you are laughing right now because this picture still gives me a belly chuckle. There is no doubt to whom this cooler belongs. Thank you choir for making my day!!! What really struck my fancy was the transformative power of naming. This is the first and perhaps only time I will see a Styrofoam YETI cooler such as this!!!
Naming this cooler a YETI opened up an entirely new way of relating to the cooler. It is now distinctive and determined to greatness.
In the Bible we witness the power of naming. At the very beginning of the book of Genesis we see that God grants humankind the gift of naming:
The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. -Genesis 2: 18-19
What if we took the transformative power of naming more seriously in our daily lives? How could it transform our lives? Rather than naming the day as awful we might name it the day that the Lord has made and perhaps rejoice and be glad in it. What if we changed the name of the driver on Hwy 141 from jerk (this Reflection is rated PG) to neighbor who wants to get home to his family? If a Styrofoam cooler can become a YETI...What if?!!
Prayer for Today
Each day grant us the knowledge that our words matter, O Lord, and teach us the power of naming our day as well as the wisdom of graciously naming others, so that your glory is reflected through our words. Amen.