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.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Early in our marriage, I struggled to figure out my wife's preferences. Did she want a quiet dinner at home or a meal at a fancy restaurant? Was it okay for me to hang out with the guys, or did she expect me to keep the weekend free for her? Once, instead of guessing and deciding first, I asked her, "What do you want?"
"I'm fine with either," she replied with a warm smile. "I'm just happy you thought of me."
At times I've wanted desperately to know exactly what God wanted me to do - such as which job to take. Praying for guidance and reading the Bible didn't reveal any specific answers. But one answer was clear: I was to trust in the Lord, take delight in Him, and commit my way to Him (Psalm 37:3-5).
That's when I realized that God usually gives us the freedom of choice - if we first seek to put His ways before our own. That means dropping choices that are plainly wrong or would not please Him. It might be something immoral, ungodly, or unhelpful toward our relationship with Him. If the remaining options please God, then we're free to choose from them. Our loving Father wants to give us the desires of our hearts -hearts that take delight in Him (v. 4).
Prayer for Today
Teach me, O God, to put You first in everything I do. Show me how to take delight in You, that my heart will be transformed to be like Yours. Amen.
In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness
My sister shared with us recently how she'd taken my nephew to preschool for the first time. He was not upset when she left and couldn't wait to go back. She felt that twinge of him exercising his new found independence, a life away from parents. My mother said to her, "I was told by one of my darling toddlers when I dropped her off for her first day of school, 'Well, mom, you'll just have to get a life.'"
I had forgotten that story entirely, but we all had a good laugh. It always comes full circle. But in remembering that story and walking the halls of our preschool in our first weeks as kids adjust to being away from mom and dad, I'm reminded of the importance of this first step. Our society is encouraging greater and greater entanglement of the lives of our young people, stymying their ability to become self-sufficient. The notable exception being on their phones and social media.
It's all the more important to remember that one of the best parenting (and grand-parenting and aunting and uncling and mentoring) practices is to have your own life that is one of example. It is one thing to make a child attend school. It's another to read and study and take courses as a life-long learner. It's one thing to take them to Sunday school and another to go to an adult Sunday school every week or a small group or Bible study. It's one thing to send them on a mission trip and another to go with them or go on your own. Our children learn best by emulating us, rather than only hearing us. So, we are well reminded by a child to go get our own lives... and live them well.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to appreciate the life you have given me and use it to set an example. Set me apart and help me lead through that example as I follow your son's life as mine. Amen.
A Wall Street Journal article focused on why we engage in dishonest behavior. It told the story of a man who was locked out of his house and called a locksmith to help him get in. The man was surprised at how easily the locksmith was able to open the door. The locksmith said that locks are only on doors to keep honest people honest. He added that 1% of the people are honest and will never steal. Another 1% will always be dishonest. He said the purpose of locks is for the 98% of mostly honest people who might be tempted to try your door . . . if it had no lock.
In order to test the factors why people are dishonest and cheat the system, researches created a controlled experiment. Folks were given a number of math problems to complete in a given time. Then one group was told to put their answer sheets in a shredder and to simply tell the person up front how many they got right. They were paid for how many they reported getting right.
However, the shredder did not really shred the test, so that the researchers could compare how many the person said they got right with how many they actually got right. Those who had the shredder reported on average of a third more correct answers than those who did not shred theirs.
The researchers then looked at factors that might lead someone to be less honest about their results. In one case, they split 450 participants in half. With the first group, they simply asked them to recall the Ten Commandments before taking the test. In the other group they asked them to recall ten books they read in high school. With those who recalled books they had read, there was no difference - they cheated the same amount. But, for those who were asked to recall the Ten Commandments - there was no cheating whatsoever! This applied to self-declared atheists, as well. Simply remembering that there was a moral code had a profound effect.
Prayer for Today
Loving God, help us to remember that You have graciously given us guidance for how to live our lives with our neighbors fairly and well. In the strong name of Jesus the Christ we pray. Amen.
Love enters the world of its own accord, for its own reasons. And love is always accompanied by light. That is, love always illuminates the space it occupies. Watch this week for love to enlighten your world. Look to see what new understanding you have in the presence of love.
God promises love to us and shares love with us. In Jeremiah 31, God says, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you."
How do you respond to God's great love for us in your day to day choices? How do you share this love with others?
Most of us can think of special times in my life when this was very evident. It may be the day you were confirmed. The day you graduated from high school or college. The day you were married. The day your children were born. The day when your children were baptized. When I look back at pictures of these, I can see the way that love is evident through the joy and glow that those moments exude. You can see it in the expressions of family members' faces.
I would invite you to look for that great love everyday. It's not just in the special milestones where we will see it. It's also in each day. I notice it with an early morning hug or greeting from my son. I notice it when we try something new together as a family. Where do you notice love illuminating spaces in your life?
Prayer for Today
Loving God, you have demonstrated your love for us throughout our lives. Open our eyes to see the love and light that you bring into our lives. Help us to share it with those we meet. In Christ's Name, Amen.
Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
-Teresa of Avila
This past weekend, Kay Royal, Jenny Ridnour, and I attended the CanCare Volunteer Conference in Houston, Texas. As members of our CanCare Atlanta leadership team we wanted to both participate and represent at the conference. We were excited as CanCare revealed our new website and branding.
Here is the new CanCare logo:
Our new motto is "A survivor by your side." Since the formation of CanCare in 1990 at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, CanCare's mission has been to assure that no one has to endure cancer alone. We have aspired to live by the quote of Teresa of Avila and serve as the body of Christ through sharing the gift of survivorship. St. Paul encourages us in a similar fashion:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.
-Romans 12: 1-3
How we participate in and represent the body of Christ in our world is through using our bodies. In the CanCare logo, look for the human figure in the middle. You will see a person extending their arms to bring two separate entities together. Through the faithful participation of JCPC in the mission of CanCare we have helped to extend the arms of Christ to many difference parts of our country. This year, two of our CanCare trainers helped to establish chapters in Colorado Springs and Charleston! There are more to come.
On a final note, CanCare Atlanta is partnering with Emory Johns Creek Hospital to discuss the newest cancer treatment: Immunotherapy. Click here if you are interested.
Prayer for Today
Help us be the arms of Christ, O Lord, to embrace our world. Teach us to be the eyes of Christ so that we see the needs of our world. Inspire us to be the feet of Christ so we will take your good news out into our world. Amen.
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! -Isaiah 55:1
As we distributed snacks for children at a Bible School program, we noticed a little boy who devoured his snack. Then he also ate the leftovers of the children at his table. Even after I gave him a bag of popcorn, he still wasn't satisfied. As leaders, we were concerned as to why this little boy was so hungry.
It occurred to me that we can be like that boy when it comes to our emotions. We look for ways to satisfy our deepest longings, but we never find what fully satisfies us.
The prophet Isaiah invites those who are hungry and thirsty to "come, buy and eat" (Isaiah 55:1). But then he asks, "Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?" (v. 2). Isaiah is talking about more than just physical hunger here. God can satisfy our spiritual and emotional hunger through the promise of His presence. The "everlasting covenant" in verse 3 is a reminder of a promise God made to David in 2 Samuel 7:8-16. Through David's family line, a Savior would come to reconnect people to God. Later, in John 6:35 and 7:37, Jesus extended the same invitation Isaiah gave, thus identifying Himself as the Savior foretold by Isaiah and other prophets.
Hungry? God invites you to come and be filled in His presence.
Prayer for Today
Father, I long to know You more. Only You can satisfy my deepest desires. Amen.
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
As our leaders seek to find a new justice for the Supreme Court, I've read again so many stories of past justices who disagreed in their interpretations of the law, but managed to form deep abiding relationships and friendships. The pursuit of peace, mutuality is at the heart of such relationships, a humility. I often wonder if this lack of humility in our modern society is a reflection of Christianity losing its influence or Christians forgetting it's a tenet of our faith. And this week, I saw a children's cartoon that inspired me. In the first frame, a wolf encounters a sheep.
And the sheep decides to see the wolf as something other than a predator. And this humility, this kindness and compassion becomes an invitation for the wolf to see the sheep as something other than prey. What if we see people who are different from us as worth our time, as beloved to God and not a predator or our prey... could we begin to walk together? In God's kingdom, it says in scripture that even the wolf will lay with the lamb. In the final panel, the wolf is still a wolf, and the lamb is still a lamb, but perhaps Paul is trying to tell us we can be at peace when our hearts have changed, and not our minds.
Prayer for Today
Lord, as I read and interpret your Word, send your spirit to guide me, and send me fellow believers to challenge me, and help me grow, as we pursue peace. Amen.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
- The words of Jesus found in
Matthew 11:28, NIV
Yesterday I had lunch with my good friend, Dr. George Wirth, who will be leading our Men's Retreat this weekend. George was the Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta for over twenty years and now works with the Cousins Foundation.
I am so excited after talking with George about what we planned for the retreat. Our theme is "Our Search for Civility." George will be using the parables of Jesus to underscore this idea: "United We Stand, Divided We Fall." Our sessions will focus on this truth as it relates to life and family, church and the city/community, and the nation and the world. We will finish up on Sunday morning with our communion worship service and George's message, "A Case for Civility." Each session will give us time to learn from George's wisdom and group discussions.
In addition to all of this, we will enjoy the mountains of north Georgia, and the fellowship of friends - both old and new. We will have time to hang out or hike the trails. We will get to view and discuss the movie, "Won't You Be My Neighbor" in which George Wirth appears. We will get to ask him what that was like and about his friendship with Fred (Mr.) Rogers. And, we will get to enjoy the excellent food served by Amicalola's Lodge. It should be a great weekend!
Retreats give us time to take a break from the normal routine of life. They are extended "sabbaths" that can provide rest for our souls. We all need to practice sabbath -- from weekly worship and fellowship, to daily prayer and reflection, to more extended sabbaths like retreats and vacations. God designed us in a way that we not only enjoy sabbaths, we need them to find renewal so we can be our best.
Please pray for those of us going on the retreat this weekend - that we may experience God's renewing presence in all that we do. My hope is that this time of spiritual nourishment will not only renew us, but bring us new ideas, insights, and energy to share with others!
Prayer for Today
Thank you, God, for times of rest and renewal. Help us to take time to draw closer to you each day, each week, and whenever we have the opportunity. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
I can recall many childhood fears related to being in the dark or what happens when it's dark.
I recently listened to a podcast interview with Barbara and was moved by her words from her book, "Learning to Walk in the Dark". She reflects on her experience and says, "I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light. Things that have saved my life over and over again. So that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light."
As I reflected on the meaning of today, September 11 and all the memories that come flooding back of that day in 2001, this quote struck me in a different way. Often on this day we take time to remember the tragedy and where we were when it happened. Keeping Barbara's words in mind today as I do that, I also realize how much I have learned in those dark days surrounding September 11 and since then.
What can we learn about the ways of God when we cannot see the way ahead, are lost, alone, frightened, not in control or when the world around us seems to have descended into darkness? What carries you through to the times in the light?
As you reflect today, I invite you to consider these words from Barbara, Dr. King, and the Apostle Paul.
"God is more present to our vulnerable, open night-time selves than to our pre-occupied daylight selves."
-Barbara Brown Taylor
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
2 Corinthians 4:6, "For God who said, 'Let there be light in the darkness' has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ."
Prayer for Today
Prayer from Thomas Merton:
"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone." Amen.
It was a cold, icy winter's day, and my mind was focused on getting from my warm vehicle to a warm building. The next thing I knew I was on the ground, my knees turned inward and my lower legs turned outward. Nothing was broken, but I was in pain. The pain would get worse as time went by and it would be weeks before I was whole again.
Who among us hasn't taken a spill of some sort? Wouldn't it be nice to have something or someone to keep us on our feet all the time? While there are no guarantees of surefootedness in the physical sense, there is One who stands ready to assist us in our quest to honor Christ in this life and prepare us to stand joyfully before Him in the next.
Every day we face temptations (and even false teachings) that seek to divert us, confuse us, and entangle us. Yet, it's not ultimately through our own efforts that we remain on our feet as we walk in this world. How assuring to know that when we hold our peace when tempted to speak angrily, to opt for honesty over deceit, to choose love over hate, or to select truth over error-we experience God's power to keep us standing (Jude 1:24). And when we appear approved before God when Christ returns, the praise that we offer now for His sustaining grace will echo throughout eternity (v. 25).
Prayer for Today
Father, thank You for Your constant care for our souls. Amen.
[God] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
-2 Corinthians 1:4
Sometimes this journey through life can be so difficult that we're simply overwhelmed, and it seems there's no end to the darkness. During such a time in our own family's life, my wife emerged one morning from her quiet time with a new lesson learned. "I think God wants us not to forget in the light what we're learning in this darkness."
Paul writes this same thought to the Corinthians
(2 Corinthians 1), after describing the terrible difficulties he and his team endured in Asia. Paul wants the Corinthians to understand how God can redeem even our darkest moments. We're comforted, he says, so we may learn how to comfort others (v. 4). Paul and his team were learning things from God during their trials that they could use to comfort and advise the Corinthians when they faced similar difficulties. And God does that for us as well, if we're willing to listen. He will redeem our trials by teaching us how to use what we've learned in them to minister to others.
Are you in the darkness now? Be encouraged by Paul's words and experience. Trust that God is right now directing your steps and that He's also stamping His truths on your heart so you can share them with others who are in similar circumstances. You've been there before, and you know the way home.
Prayer for Today
Father, help those who are hurting today so they may see and know Your loving presence in their darkest hours. Amen.