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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.

Thursday, January 31 2019

The Lord has done Super Duper things for us; we are glad.

-Psalm 126:3 (paraphrase)


A few years ago, I took a tram of youth to Columbia, South Carolina to help with flood relief. As we worked to clear debris in a neighborhood, a man approached my kids in orange vests and gloves. He began asking them questions about who they were and why they were helping out. They revealed they were from a church in North Carolina. He responded, "Y'all with God?!? He does super duper things!"


He was right of course. And we never forgot that moment. It wasn't nearly as relevant in that moment that we were from another state or that most of our crew were high school students. It was most relevant that we were with God. This has been a comfort to me in every trip since as I prepare to encounter new people in another city or even country. It matters little who I am, or my group. It matters who I'm with, and who is with me.


As our adult mission trip prepares for a mission trip to the DR in one week, I remember that man's words. We are a group of ten Presbyterians, some life-long Georgians, some from North Carolina, some from Canada, and Ghana. But most importantly, we are with God. And God does super duper things. Please be praying for our team to be humble servants helping where we've been called. Thanks.

Prayer for Today

Lord, make me your servant. Help me to go where you call, trusting in the promise that you go with me and that you will do super duper things. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:05 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, January 30 2019

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

-Psalm 100:5, NIV


Yesterday morning I was reading my Bible. I was using the guide we handed out in the fall of 2016 when we dedicated our new buildings. Dr. Tom Tewell preached that day and we shared commemorative bookmarks that contained "Fifty Passages from the Bible." These were some of Tom's favorite passages that were first shared in Tom's home church in New York City, following the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. (You can still pick one up in the church office.) The passage I read yesterday was Psalm 100 which begins with those great words, "Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth." Another translation says, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord." (I always found comfort in those words for those of us who don't sing that well!)


However, the verse that caught my attention this time was the one above that ends, "his [God's] faithfulness continues through all generations." We had been talking in our staff meeting about the intergenerational emphasis of Johns Creek Presbyterian Church. Our "Dare 2 Dream" long-range plan focuses on being a church in which people from all generations come together for worship, fellowship, and service. This is at the core of who we are - our identity as a church. I have found that people who are looking for this kind of connection and community are drawn to a church family like ours.


We had a great example of intergenerational church life last Sunday night with our Chili Cook-Off and Talent Show. For the first time in a while, twice as many people showed up as made reservations! The Great Hall was full, the food was great, and I saw people smiling as they visited around the tables -- talking with friends old and new. On stage we saw talent from some of our youngest, to our youth, to those in the middle of the age spectrum, to some who have lots of life experience. People cheered for everyone in such an enthusiastically supportive way. I am so grateful that God's goodness and love could be seen "through all generations."

Prayer for Today

Thank you God, for this intergenerational family of faith. Thank you that together we can live and laugh and love - all because of your love for us. Amen.

Posted by: AT 12:39 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, January 29 2019

I recently watched an interview with Bob Goff, author of Love Does and Everybody Always. He asked this question that really stuck with me, "How extravagant are you going to be with your love to people that you don't know?"

He went on to share the text from Matthew 25:35-36, that may be familiar to you, 

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

Jesus invites us to be aware of how we are sharing love with the least of these. This invitation from Jesus is a challenging one in a day and time where we are increasingly more safety aware and skeptical of those in need. I believe that we live at a time when it is even more important for us to share the love of Christ in an extravagant way. 

As you go through this day, consider how you can push yourself to be more extravagant with sharing love today. Be open to how God might be opening a door or inviting you into a conversation with someone.

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, Thank you for the gift of your love. Open our hearts to share it in an extravagant way today. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: AT 12:38 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, January 28 2019

At the end of Sunday's worship we sang a rich hymn entitled In the Bulb There Is a Flower also known as Hymn of Promise. The opening verse goes like this:


"In the bulb there is a flower, in the seed, an apple tree; in cocoons, a hidden promise; butterflies will soon be free! In the cold and snow of winter there's a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see."

Implied in this lyrical wisdom is the providence of God and the promises God has for our lives. Theologian John Calvin said it in a more direct manner, "All events are governed by God's secret plan." This plan or promise is most often"unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see."


Debbie and I again find ourselves in one of these promised seasons as our third and youngest child, Maryneal, completes her final semester at UGA. I remember how she wanted UGA decorations and memorabilia to adore her room when she was in elementary school. The promise then was that someday she would be admitted to UGA to become a Bulldog. Now she prepares to graduate and a new season is upon her; a hidden promise that has its own season in which to be revealed.


We trust that God's Spirit, which we believe has guided her upon her path, will blow in new directions that God alone knows will lead. This Spirit of God is like the wind, Jesus told Nicodemus in the 3rd chapter of John:


"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." John 3: 8

Of course pictures illustrate what lyric and verse open our hearts and minds to see. Taking a stroll with her beloved dog Cowboy on the UGA campus, Maryneal shared this picture.



The wind blows wherever it pleases...unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

Prayer for Today

Help us to see your Spirit at work in our lives, O God, so that the hidden promises you have for us will come to light and we will know you more fully in the ways you know us.  Amen.

Posted by: AT 12:36 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 25 2019

During the television coverage of the inauguration of the first African-American president of the US, the camera showed a panoramic view of the enormous crowd of the nearly two million people who had gathered to witness the historic event. CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer remarked, "The star of this show is the wide shot." Nothing else could capture the multitude stretching from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol.

Scripture gives us a glimpse of an even larger throng, united by their faith in Jesus Christ: "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation . . . that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9).

This is not an image of the privileged few, but of the ransomed many from "every tribe and language and people and nation" (Revelation 5:9). Today we are scattered across the globe, where many feel isolated and suffer for their allegiance to Jesus. But through the lens of God's Word we see the wide shot of our brothers and sisters in faith standing together to honor the One who redeemed us and made us His own. 

Let's join together in praise to the One who brought us out of the darkness and into the light! 
Prayer for Today

We are in agreement, Lord, that You are worthy of all praise! We, Your people, are in awe of You. Amen.

Posted by: AT 12:35 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, January 24 2019


So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision - you'll see it yet! 

-Philippians 3:15 (the Message paraphrase)
The other night, we had a Super Blood Wolf Moon.  I know because scientists said so and my wife and son told me the next morning.  I went to bed a few minutes before it occurred.  I stayed up with them till almost time.  Someone then said this week, "You missed the best part!"  They were wrong though.

For me, the best part wasn't the Super Blood Wolf Moon.  It was sitting with my family by the cold storm door, that I kept fussing at our son not to kick open.  The best part was his excitement and my wife's.  The best part was the utter confusion of the cats and sitting with one in my lap.


It's really easy to gear up for an event or to get focused on the exciting things and miss out on the ordinary ones.  In the moment, I was thinking about how late it was and how cold, how early I'd be getting up for work and how cold it was by the front door.  In hindsight, I was not at all sad to miss the astronomical event and have the time with family.  This week, my hope is that we can all spend some time in the spiritual practice of focus.  Taking time to focus so we can be intentional about our time and who we spend it with.

Prayer for Today

God, the branches of life can obscure or view and our own sight can fail us.  Help us to slow down, to focus, and to see clearly.  Amen.

Posted by: AT 12:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, January 23 2019

Jesus said, "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 5:44, NIV


So much has been in the news about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the past few days because of his birthday celebration on Monday. I think that one of the best examples of facing persecution in a Christ-like way was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


A while back, Susan McLeish, one of our members, shared with me some original papers that belonged to her father, the Rev. Doyne Michie, who died not too long ago. Doyne was involved in the civil rights movement in Mississippi in the early 60s. It was a difficult time. But in his papers is a copy of the principles for non-violence that were passed out to those who were trying to bring about positive change. These are some of those guidelines for the protestors:


Love your enemy. This sounds like a paradox, but it works. You are not up against a deep-eyed villain but only a man who has done wrong. Even though you are striving to undo that wrong, show good will to him no matter what he does . . . Let him know at all times that you are out to establish justice, not to defeat him. . . . Give your opponent a way out.


The approach of Dr. King was to give people a way out of their sin. Whether it was a call to do things differently so that those being wronged can find a way out of their suffering, or whether it was trying to help someone see not only the errors of their ways, but that there is always a better way - we all need to find a way out of the sin and brokenness in our world. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. help us find our way out. They also challenge us to give others a way out of their sin, rather than simply judging and condemning them.

Prayer for Today


Loving God, we all "fall short of the mark" and sin. Yet, you reach out to us first, and you forgive us. You invite us to follow you and to forgive others - even our enemies. Thank you for giving us a way out of our sins. Give us the wisdom to help others find the way out of their sin, too. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:52 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, January 22 2019

Usually my reflections start with thoughts and scripture, this morning I'd like to start with a prayer.


O Lord, calm me into a quietness that heals and listens, and molds my longings and my passions, my wounds, and wonderings into a more holy and human shape. Amen. 
(Todd Loder, Guerrillas of Grace, 1984)


I have learned that in some medical settings, nurses assess a person's spiritual health as well as their medical health and research has shown that these two parts of our being are very intertwined. When our spirit is in distress as a result of a medical crisis, it effects how healing takes place.


We live in a time where many physical ailments are answered with medical treatment. Modern medicine continues to amaze me in the way that it is progressing. However, I have also seen what real care of the spirit looks like in the midst of those physical ailments. It makes a big difference. My Dad's 4 year experience with colon cancer is one of those examples for me. He was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. The care he received from his church and the time spent caring for his spirit was directly connected to the 4 extra years we had with him. My dad had the most positive outlook on life of anyone I have known even in the midst of a difficult battle with cancer.


He understood what it meant to go to God and experience this calmness of the spirit that can bring healing. The words in this prayer are the types of things my Dad would pray for.


As you enter into your week, I would invite you to pray this prayer. Remember taking care of our spirits is just as important as taking care of our bodies physically with exercise and healthy eating.

Prayer for Today


O Lord, calm me into a quietness that heals and listens, and molds my longings and my passions, my wounds, and wonderings into a more holy and human shape. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:52 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, January 21 2019

When I was a 6 year old boy, I remember watching on TV, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver a speech at the Washington Monument. I was spell bound by his cadence, sincerity and confidence. Fifty years later, I'm not sure that I have ever heard a more inspirational speech. My heart still pounds when I hear the closing words of his speech, "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, We are free at last!"


My favorite part of the speech; however is when Dr. King shifted into the "I have a dream" refrain. He had used that refrain in four previous speeches, but it wasn't in the draft he had prepared for that day. As he read through his written manuscript, a voice from behind him began to prod the orator to go in a different direction. Gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, encouraged Dr. King to shift into a new gear by saying, "Please Martin, tell them about the dream." Fortunately for us all, he paid heed to her plea.


Today, we honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his prophetic witness to civil rights and social justice. I search the horizon for future leaders who are able to speak God's word and inspire as he did and wonder when God will raise up one such as him. Until then, we do well to read his writings and listen to his speeches.


Here is one of my favorite parts of his dream: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Amen and Amen.


Prayer for Today


God of Mercy and Compassion, we pray for freedom for all people in our world. Put an end to hatred, bigotry and prejudice and lead us in paths of righteousness for your name sake. In Christ our Lord, we pray. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:49 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 18 2019

It's not uncommon during a long (or short!) trip for someone in a group of travelers to ask, "Are we there yet?" or "How much longer?" Who hasn't heard these universal queries coming from the lips of children and adults eager to arrive at their destination? But people of all ages are also prone to ask similar questions when wearied because of life challenges that never seem to cease.


Such was the case with David in Psalm 13. Four times in two verses (vv. 1-2), David-who felt forgotten, forsaken, and defeated-lamented "How long?" In verse two, he asks, "How long must I wrestle with my thoughts?" Psalms that include lament, like this one, implicitly give us permission to worshipfully come to the Lord with questions of our own. After all, what better person to talk to during prolonged times of stress and strain than God? We can bring our struggles with illness, grief, the waywardness of a loved one, and relational difficulties to Him. 


Worship need not stop when we have questions. The sovereign God of heaven welcomes us to bring our worry-filled questions to Him. And perhaps, like David, in due time our questions will be transformed into petitions and expressions of trust and praise to the Lord (vv. 3-6). 

Prayer for Today


Lord, thank You that I don't have to stop worshiping when I have questions; I can worship You with my questions. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:46 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, January 17 2019

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea-for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

-Matthew 4:18-20


If you've been through the Welcome Center recently, you may have noticed the new bulletin board. The board highlights our mission efforts at JCPC and was done by one of our multitalented youth. It will feature the scripture from above, our calling to be fishers of people. If you've ever been wishing or even understand the concept, while it makes an excellent metaphor, fishing for fish and making disciples are not similar skill sets at all. Jesus isn't calling qualified men to come be his staff of disciple makers. He's calling ordinary people to join an extraordinary mission and be transformed by it. 


Why do I mention this? I'm glad you asked. The church is full of mission and education and care opportunities to serve. Often, I think we follow the model of the world. We ask ourselves what we are good at doing and pursue it as a living or hobby. But Jesus is clear in the calling of the disciples. Some of our greatest callings can be to things we never considered or feel not at all qualified to attempt. And yet, we trust that God doesn't call the qualified but qualifies the called. From stuttering Moses to terrified Abraham and Sarah to Deborah to every disciple, prophet, priest, nun, saint, and Sunday school teacher, and most of us parents, aunts, and uncles. 


This year, in 2019, you're likely to receive a call. God will call you by tugging on your heart or your sleeve. You'll get a phone call or a tap from me or Allison or one of our youth. And they'll say, "it's time. The Lord has need of you." My hope and prayer is that you'll prepare yourself now to say yes and open to God making you ready for this moment. Not qualified. Ready. Willing. Let's go be fishers. 

Prayer for Today


Lord, send your spirit to make me ready for a call, ready for a tug or a tap, ready and willing to serve. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:44 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, January 16 2019

Pray without ceasing. 

-1 Thessalonians 5:17


As we look forward to remembering Dr. King's 90thbirthday, his wife, Coretta Scott King, writes these words in her book called Standing in the Need of Prayer:


Prayer was a wellspring of strength and inspiration during the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout the movement, we prayed for greater human understanding. We prayed for the safety of our compatriots in the freedom struggle. We prayed for victory in our nonviolent protests, for brotherhood and sisterhood among people of all races, for reconciliation and the fulfillment of the Beloved Community. For my husband . . . prayer was a daily source of courage and strength that gave him the ability to carry on in even the darkest hours of our struggle.


I remember one very difficult day when he came home bone-weary from the stress that came with his leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In the middle of that night, he was awakened by a threatening and abusive phone call, one of many we received throughout the movement. On this particular occasion, however, Martin had had enough. After the call, he got up from bed and made himself some coffee. He began to worry about his family, and all of the burdens that came with our movement weighed heavily on his soul. With his head in his hands, Martin bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud to God: "Lord, I am taking a stand for what I believe is right. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I have nothing left. I have come to the point where I can't face it alone."


Later he told me, "At that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced Him before. It seemed as though I could hear a voice saying: 'Stand up for righteousness; stand up for truth; and God will be at our side forever.'" When Martin stood up from the table, he was imbued with a new sense of confidence, and he was ready to face anything.

Prayer for Today


Thank you, Lord, for hearing and answering our prayers. We especially thank you for Dr. King and the prayerful example he set for us all. When we are at the end of our rope, help us to sense your divine presence that will see us through whatever we face in life. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus, our Good Shepherd. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:43 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, January 15 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer for Today


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

Posted by: AT 11:41 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, January 14 2019

Lessons on faith can come from unexpected places-like the one I learned from my 110-pound, black Labrador retriever, "Bear." Bear's large metal water bowl was located in a corner of the kitchen. Whenever it was empty, he wouldn't bark or paw at it. Instead, he would lie down quietly beside it and wait. Sometimes he would have to wait several minutes, but Bear had learned to trust that I would eventually walk into the room, see him there, and provide what he needed. His simple faith in me reminded me of my need to place more trust in God.


The Bible tells us that "faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1). The foundation of this confidence and assurance is God Himself, who "rewards those who earnestly seek him" (v. 6). God is faithful to keep His promises to all who believe and come to Him through Jesus.


Sometimes having faith in "what we do not see" isn't easy. But we can rest in God's goodness and His loving character, trusting that His wisdom is perfect in all things-even when we have to wait. He is always faithful to do what He says: to save our eternal souls and meet our deepest needs, now and forever.

Prayer for Today


Almighty Father, thank You for Your faithfulness to always take care of me. Help me to trust You and to rest in Your perfect love today. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:37 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 11 2019

Races are on my mind. So of course my mind traverses to one of my favorite scripture passages from the letter to the Hebrews.


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

-Hebrews 12: 1-3


Now the reason races are on my mind is that two very important races are happening soon. Locally, the Where There's A Will There's a Way 5K is scheduled for Saturday, January 26. I know that a number of you will be participating. If you would like to participate and need more information here is a link.


There's another race, this one being Sunday, January 20th that you might not be aware of, but you should know that one of our very own, Elizabeth Uhles will represent us in. Elizabeth is traveling to Houston, Texas to run in their sold out mini-marathon. Now why on earth would Elizabeth travel all that way to run a race of perseverance you might ask?


Elizabeth's father is a cancer survivor and he and his family are running the race with perseverance. As many of you know we lean on our faith, are supported by other's faith, and at time question the strength of our faith while being on the cancer journey. Elizabeth has written a short testimonial about her race and I encourage you to read it at 


Please keep Elizabeth in your prayers as she travels to Houston to run the race. And if you would like to donate to her cause you can do so at the link above. Go Elizabeth!!! We won't be there in person but we can be a part of your cloud of witnesses!

Prayer for Today


Surround us with a cloud of witnesses, Most Faithful Lord, so that as we are tested by life's challenges, we would not lose faith, but rather be filled with the inspired encouragement of the faithful. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:34 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, January 10 2019

He says, 

Be still, and know that I am God;

    I will be exalted among the nations,

    I will be exalted in the earth.

-Psalm 46:10


I took an unintended sabbatical from my phone this week. It died last Friday. It's replacement just arrived. And although it has caused some minor work inconveniences and delays, it has actually been a nice respite, especially since I've been sick off and on over the holidays.


Oftentimes, cold and flu can occur because we have run too hard or too much or not had time to rest, and then we are forced to do so, conveniently timed or not. A break from the world, from social interaction, social media, school, or work can be good, a welcome sabbath. And when we return, we can be refreshed and renewed. We can spend time in rest and silence to hear new voices and become all the more appreciative of time with people and our tools for communication.


I'm glad to be back communicating with the world and all the more thankful for the gift it gives me to teach, and to reach people. I hope to see you Sunday. I hope you'll have some sabbath time this weekend. And I hope you'll spend some time with your family of faith and in silence and stillness. 

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to be still in my days and listen for you. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:33 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, January 09 2019

Last Sunday we began our new sermon series "Who Am I? I AM . . ." We are focusing on the questions of our identity. Our Bible passages will come from the seven "I Am" sayings of Jesus found in John's gospel. I think that as Christians, we discover who we are by first looking at who Jesus is. Because we are created in the image of God, then there must be something about Jesus, who is God in the flesh, that can help us know who we are.


In the sermon, I began by talking about a tweet I received with a quote and a short video of Trevor Lawrence, the freshman quarterback of Clemson - who just led them to a national championship. In response to an interview question about how he seems to calmly handle the expectations put on him by others, he said this, "I put my identity in what Christ says, who He thinks I am and who I know He says that I am." As I said on Sunday, I don't know who taught him that or how he learned it, but what he said was really good! In fact, it is at the core of what we plan to talk about in this sermon series.


In staff meeting this past Monday, Lisa Lucas mentioned the sermon and added that she had talked with a friend who turned out to be one of Trevor Lawrence's Sunday School teachers when he was younger. Maybe Lisa's friend was the one who taught Trevor that - who knows? In case you did not get to see it Sunday, or want to hear it again and pass it along - here is the link to this sixty second video. Enjoy!

Prayer for Today

We are grateful, God, that you have made us all in your image. Help us never to forget that about ourselves, and help us to treat one another as persons who are also made in the image of God. When we fall short of the mark, as we all do, forgive us through your amazing grace. And help us to forgive one another. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:31 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, January 08 2019

What are you doing to start a new year? I have two words that keep coming back to me, simplify and delight, as focus for this year. God has already begun to weave these words into my story this year.


Yesterday when Will woke up and looked out the window he said, "Mommy, look at the sunrise. It's beautiful." On our way to school this morning he said, "Tonight after dinner, let's go outside and look at the stars and see what shapes we can find." This is delight. I encourage you to find some time this week to delight in God's creation in nature, in people, and in the blessings of your life. I think the delight part will come to me in regular reminders from Will this year and will be one way to enjoy each day.


Simplify is one that will be more difficult for me. I am taking some time over the next month to attempt some daily practices that will simplify my surroundings and routines. Simplify for me means finding what's important and making that the priority for what I see around me and what I do with my time.


Weaving faith into your daily routine seamlessly can be challenging at times. Our faith in Jesus Christ is at the center of our lives, but sometimes finding a way for it to be "seamless" can be challenging.


One of the prayer practices that Traci Smith suggests in her book Seamless Faith, is a Photo Prayer. Set aside 5 minutes at the very beginning or the very end of your day. We have chosen to put all of the Christmas cards we received in a basket on our kitchen table. Each night at dinner, we pray for the one on top. You may choose to walk around your home and stop each time you pass a picture of one of the special people in your life. Take a moment to say a simple prayer for that person. This practice has brought about the delight in knowing more about who is in the pictures as Will asks questions and seamlessly integrating faith into our daily routine.


With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

-2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, Guide us into this new year. Open our minds and hearts to how you will use us. Thank you for the gift of the community of faith around us that prays for one another. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:29 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, January 07 2019

People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

William Carey was a sickly boy, born to a humble family near Northampton, England. His future didn't look too bright. But God had plans for him. Against all odds, he moved to India, where he brought incredible social reforms and translated the Bible into several Indian languages. He loved God and people, and accomplished many things for God.

David, son of Jesse, was an ordinary young man, the youngest in his family. He was seemingly an insignificant shepherd on the hills of Bethlehem (1 Samuel 16:11-12). Yet God saw David's heart and had a plan for him. King Saul had been rejected by God for disobedience. While the prophet Samuel mourned Saul's choices, God called Samuel to anoint a different king, one of Jesse's sons.

When Samuel saw the handsome, tall Eliab, he naturally thought, "surely the Lord's anointed stands here before the Lord" (v. 6). However, God's strategy to select a king was much different than Samuel's. In fact, God said no to each of Jesse's sons, except the youngest one. Selecting David as king was definitely not a strategic move from God's part, or so it seemed at first glance. What would a young shepherd have to offer his community, let alone his country?

How comforting to know that the Lord knows our hearts and has His plans for us.

Prayer for Today

Dear Lord, thank You that You care more about my heart's attitude toward You than my outward beauty, possessions, or achievements. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:32 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 04 2019

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  -John 1:4

Darkness descended on our forest village when the moon disappeared. Lightning slashed the skies, followed by a rainstorm and crackling thunder. Awake and afraid, as a child I imagined all kinds of grisly monsters about to pounce on me! By daybreak, however, the sounds vanished, the sun rose, and calm returned as birds jubilated in the sunshine. The contrast between the frightening darkness of the night and the joy of the daylight was remarkably sharp.

The author of Hebrews recalls the time when the Israelites had an experience at Mount Sinai so dark and stormy they hid in fear (Exodus 20:18-19). For them, God's presence, even in His loving gift of the law, felt dark and terrifying. This was because, as sinful people, the Israelites couldn't live up to God's standards. Their sin caused them to walk in darkness and fear (Hebrews 12:18-21).

But God is light; in Him there's no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). In Hebrews 12, Mount Sinai represents God's holiness and our old life of disobedience, while the beauty of Mount Zion represents God's grace and believers' new life in Jesus, "the mediator of a new covenant" (vv. 22-24).

Whoever follows Jesus will "never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). Through Him, we can let go of the darkness of our old life and celebrate the joy of walking in the light and beauty of His kingdom.

If you're a believer in Jesus, how has your life changed since He came into it? What are some ways you'd like to grow in your faith?

Prayer for Today

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for bringing me out of darkness into Your marvelous light. Help me to avoid the darkness to continue walking in the light toward eternity. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:31 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, January 03 2019

Yom Teruah: Day of Shofar Shouts


On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a sacred assembly. You are to do no laborious work. It is for you a day for sounding the shofar.

-Numbers 29:1


It is the new year! Welcome 2019. Our Jewish friends, our ancestors of faith, celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the first of their two high holy days. Many people take on New Years resolutions in January, and those can be excellent opportunities for spiritual renewal and practices. Some choose to take on the challenge of a new language, especially those wishing to travel or learn more about people or places that interest them. As believers, we should all seek ways to travel deeper in our faith and get to know the author, our extended family of faith, and grow in knowledge and wisdom. And one way we can do that is with language.


So, whether or not studying a new language was one of your resolutions, I'm going to offer some new words this year in my reflections for your study and spiritual toolbox. I'll start today with Rosh Hashanah - literally: the head of the year. It had an even more fun name in scripture... yom teruah (literally - the day of shouting or blasting). The new year is still announced in Jewish communities with the blowing of the shofar and we ring in ours with fireworks and music all over the world. Now you know some more Hebrew!


We share an important link to millions of other people of faith whose traditions flow from our Old Testament. It is important that we understand it as our shared story and common heritage. It is a constant reminder of our shared humanity as children of one God who loves us. This year, my hope is that we all resolve to make the world a better place as we work to become better people, better disciples, and better neighbors.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to learn, to grow, and to be more. By your spirit, teach me, renew me, and call me to your work. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:28 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, January 02 2019

The beginning of a new year invites us to look back at the events of the past year, as well as look forward to the year to come. In looking back at 2018, I think one of the buzzwords was "identity." Add to it the word "politics" (as in "identity politics") and you could probably find an argument on Twitter looking to hook you in. So, I want to begin 2019 talking about identity -- not from a political perspective, but from a Biblical viewpoint.


The main question we often ask about our identity is this: Who Am I? How would you answer that question? Would you describe your age, vocation, gender, race, politics, location, or religious beliefs? There are endless ways we could answer that key question of identity - Who am I?


In John's gospel there are seven different sayings in which Jesus tells us who he is, and each one is different. These are sometimes called "The Seven 'I Am' Sayings of Jesus." This Sunday I am beginning a new series of messages on these seven "I Am" sayings of Jesus. I want to invite us to look at the Bible and see how we might find some answers to that question. For example, maybe we need to remember who God says we are - that we are all made in the image of God. Or, that we are also sinners saved by God's grace. Even in the Bible, there is not just one answer to the question, "Who am I?"


I think that we can better answer the question "Who Am I?" when be begin with knowing how Jesus might answer that question. Because we are made in the image of God, and because Jesus is the best way for us to know what God is like - then the more we know about who Jesus is, the more we can know about who we are and who we should become.


I also want to recommend the book, "The God We Can Know - Exploring the 'I AM' Sayings of Jesus" by Rob Fuquay for your Small Groups or for personal devotions during this series. This Sunday we are focusing on "I Am the Bread of Life."


Also, I am asking you to come join me and support our amazing, interactive Mission Fair this Sunday at 10:00 a.m. in the Great Hall during the Sunday School hour. You don't want to miss out on this!

Prayer for Today

Thank you, God, for making all of us in your image. May we live as those made in your image. Help us remember to treat each person as someone made in your image and loved by you. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus, who is God incarnate. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:27 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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