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Reflections

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

Friday, June 28 2019

It can be difficult when we're told "no" or "not now," especially when we sense God has opened a door for us to serve others. Early in my ministry, two opportunities came my way where I thought my gifts and skills matched the churches' needs, but both doors eventually closed. After these two disappointments, another position came along, and I was selected. With that ministry call came thirteen years of life-touching pastoral labors.

 

Twice in Acts 16 Paul and company were redirected by God. First, they were "kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia" (v. 6). Then, "When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to" (v. 7). Unknown to them, God had other plans that would be right for His work and workers. His no to the previous plans put them in a position to listen to and be confidently led by Him (vv. 9-10).

 

Who among us hasn't grieved what we initially thought to be a painful loss? We've felt wounded when we didn't get a certain job, when a service opportunity didn't materialize, when a relocation got derailed. Though such things can momentarily be weighty, time often reveals that such detours are actually divine diversions that God graciously uses to get us where He wants us, and we are grateful.

 

Prayer for Today

Father, I praise You that in Your wisdom You know how to best arrange my life. Thank You for protecting me through Your detours.  Amen.

Posted by: AT 01:45 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, June 27 2019

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

-Galatians 3:28

 

I will depart this Sunday morning with our youth mission team for Mexico at 5:00 AM. You're welcome to come see us off. We head there amidst a challenging year of US/Mexico relations. We will serve in a border region that has been populated for many years by the poorest of Mexico and their southern neighbors who have fled poverty, oppression, drugs, and violence and can go no further north. We go because so much of God's word to us in scripture and God's son and prophets tell us that these people are our brothers and sisters, that these children are our children, as sure as the blood members of our immediate family.

 

While non-believers and those of any faith might take pity on those of other nationalities when they see their plight, we are compelled as believers to answer God's repeated calls to see each person as God's beloved child and our brother or sister and to see their children as our very own. God devotes the first four commandments to our relationship with God and the next six to our relationships with our brothers and sisters. And then spends hundreds of years, all the judges, prophets, kings, apostles, Christ and his parables, and men and women of the early Church to explain who our brothers and sisters are.

 

If we take these countless lessons seriously, we may be people of any nation and location proudly, but never at the cost of our faith and our obedience to our Lord and king. There can be no such thing for us as someone else's people or someone else's children. If they are people, they are us. There are no people not made by our God. And so we go. We serve. We build. We feed. We clothe. We give drink. We visit. And we love. Pray for us this week as we live out the command to love one another as Christ loved us, as brothers and sisters, unconditionally.

 

Prayer for Today

God of creation and compassion, help me to remember that we are all your precious children and that we are to see all children as precious, all people as our brothers and sisters, and their children as our children, here, and in all places. Amen.

Posted by: AT 01:41 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, June 26 2019

A while back, I asked these questions in a sermon: Do you believe people can be physically healed supernaturally by God? According to research by the Barna group, 66% of Americans believe people can be physically healed supernaturally by God. I also asked this: How many people would say that they themselves have experienced a physical healing that could only be explained as a miraculous healing and not solely as a result of a natural process, medical procedure, or the body healing itself? According to Barna's survey 27% of those surveyed said that they themselves had experienced a supernatural, physical healing.

 

This Sunday is our first "Fifth Sunday" worship service. We are having a time for healing and wholeness as a part of our regular 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. services. I asked those questions to give us a sense of how people in general might think about healing by God. We call this time, "A Service for Healing and Wholeness." We use that language in the Presbyterian church because we think that what God may choose to do extends beyond simple faith healing. I like these words about the meaning of healing:

 

In their ministry to the sick, the community of believers first offer intercession for healing and wholeness. They pray in response to what they have heard in scripture and sermon. Opportunity is given to pray for specific needs of any who are present. In the laying on of hands upon the sick, those who take part can see an outward sign of their prayer of faith that God will come in healing grace. Even if the sick are absent, they are still part of the community gathered for worship. This suggests that friends or relatives be encouraged to receive the laying on of hands representatively for the sick for whom they pray.

 

I have led services like this before, but I have noticed that last line about coming forward to represent someone for whom we are praying. I hope you will make plans to be here Sunday as we pray for those we care about and ourselves. I know you will be glad you came!

 

Prayer for Today

Mighty God, you rise with healing in your wings, to scatter all enemies that assault us. As we wait in hope for the coming of that day when crying and pain shall be no more, help us by your Holy Spirit to receive your power into our lives and to trust in your eternal love, through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Posted by: AT 01:38 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, June 25 2019

"Sing to God a thanksgiving hymn,

play music on your instruments to God, Who fills the sky with clouds,

preparing rain for the earth,
Then turning the mountains green with grass, feeding both cattle and crows. He's not impressed with horsepower; the size of our muscles means little to him. Those who fear God get God's attention; they can depend on his strength. "

-Psalm 147:7-11


This morning, I worshipped and am surrounded by amazing scenery. I continue to give praise and thanksgiving for the beautiful creation God has made.

 

This week, I am on a pilgrimage experience to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico where I am surrounded by this beauty and am being immersed each day into different religious communities and traditions to connect with God in a new way. I would invite you to consider your surroundings this week and connect with God through creation... may it be near a river or ocean, a mountain or valley, somewhere in your backyard or a nearby park... what might it be for you?

Take a deep breath and experience the gift of this day.

 

This is my morning view.

 

 

Prayer for Today

Creator God,

Thank you for the gifts around us. The mountains, mesas, peaks and valley are a blessing to us this day. Open our hearts to see your creation. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: AT 01:35 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, June 24 2019

This coming Sunday's worship will focus on healing and wholeness. Here is a prayer for peace.

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

 

At other times, we need some discomfort to become the instruments of peace God desires.

 

May God bless us with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that we may live from deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger

At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of God's creations

So that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with just enough foolishness
To believe that we can make a difference in the world,
So that we can do what others claim cannot be done:
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and all our neighbors who are poor.
Amen.

Please pray these prayers this week and notice what God brings into your life.

Posted by: AT 01:34 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, June 21 2019

I was intrigued when I noticed a tattoo of a bowling ball knocking down pins on my friend Erin's ankle. Erin was inspired to get this unique tattoo after listening to Sara Groves's song, "Setting Up the Pins." The clever lyrics encourage listeners to find joy in the repetitive, routine tasks that sometimes feel as pointless as manually setting up bowling pins over and over again, only to have someone knock them down.

 

Laundry. Cooking. Mowing the lawn. Life seems full of tasks that, once completed, have to be done again and again. This isn't a new struggle but an old frustration, one wrestled with in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. The book opens with the writer complaining about the endless cycles of daily human life as futile (1:2-3), even meaningless, because "what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again" (v. 9).

 

Yet, like my friend, the writer was able to regain a sense of joy and meaning by remembering our ultimate fulfillment comes as we "fear [reverence] God and keep his commandments" (12:13). There's comfort in knowing that God values even the ordinary, seemingly mundane aspects of life and will reward our faithfulness (v. 14).

 

What are the "pins" you're continually setting up? In those times when repetitive tasks begin to feel tiring, may we take a moment to offer each task to God as an offering of love.

 

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father, thank You for giving value to the ordinary activities of life. Help us to find joy in the tasks before us today. Amen.

Posted by: AT 01:32 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, June 20 2019

All of you together are Christ's body, and each of you is a part of it.

 

 

 

It's mission week, and what an incredible week it's been already. On Tuesday night, volunteers from our youngest kids to the greatest generation came to pack well over 400 sandwiches for kids who receive Smart Lunches over the summer. The very next morning, a half dozen youth showed up to help me load the bus and make the delivery to Mountain Park UMC in Stone Mountain. And after this, several more joined us for Bible Study, as we discussed the ways we can be believers and serve our city in a modern Corinth.

In addition to our mission workers, many came and walked the Labyrinth and prayed for our mission teams this week and those traveling soon on the youth mission trip to Mexico. There are so many ways to pray and go and serve. Those prayers mean the world to our mission teams and they connect us as one body.

Today, our team visited Hands of Christ. They unloaded landscaping supplies, did outdoor beautification projects and indoor cleaning. Our volunteers worked hard to make Hands of Christ feel like home for all who visit. And tomorrow, our teams will head to Dreamweavers to do more beautification and sorting of clothes. I hope you'll join us. And then more will head to the Atlanta Food Pantry on Saturday. You can still sign up to help. And if your family volunteers ANY where this summer or in the months to come, post your pictures on social media with #JCPCgiveGoLive so we can follow your adventures in serving too and share them.

 

Prayer for Today

Lord, make me your hands and feet. Send me to serve. Help me build your kingdom in love. Amen.

Posted by: AT 01:29 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, June 19 2019

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

-1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV

 

Yesterday afternoon, we gathered in The Great Hall to begin a time of prayer using the prayer labyrinth. We are doing this during Missions Week to pray for those missions supported by Johns Creek Presbyterian Church. But before we prayed, Jamie Traylor, one of our elders, led about eight of us in a time of preparation and transition. It was a ritual to acknowledge that we were moving into a time of prayer. Jamie provided each one of us with a handbell to ring as we walked around the labyrinth three times, in honor of our triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

Then we each entered into a time of prayer. Each of us did it in the way he or she chose. Some walked slowly around the labyrinth, following the ancient path imprinted on the floor. The gently curving lines have a way of guiding one deeper in reflective prayer as it calms your soul. Some of us sat in the chairs and prayed for the different mission partners supported by our church. We also prayed for our mission teams - especially the Youth Mission Team heading out to Mexico this Sunday. Among their tasks will be to build a home for a family in need of one.

 

I think we live in a ritual-starved culture. We have very few rituals which carry meaning. Rituals like the prayer walk are one way of doing something with others. Rituals remind us of things that have great meaning in our lives. Without significant, well-conceived rituals such as prayer and worship, we sometimes find ourselves drawn to less healthy rituals to fill the void. For example, instead of genuine fellowship and community, we can drift into tribes. But, God invites us to tear down walls that divide us. Remember that God so loved the whole world, that God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn it, but to save it!

 

Prayer for Today

Lord, help us to find ways to pray throughout this day so that every aspect of life can become a ceaseless prayer. We ask this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: AT 01:25 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, June 18 2019

Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with celebration! Come before him with shouts of joy! Know that the Lord is God- he made us; we belong to him. We are his people, the sheep of his own pasture. 

-Psalm 100:1-3

 

The writer of this Psalm was mostly likely a young shepherd, David. He was probably sitting on the rocky terrain outside the desert and looking over the land. Over this land there were animals scattered that would have provided food and a living for his family. The sheep required great care and protection. A typical day for a shepherd included counting, watching, listening, and even defending. Taking care of sheep requires constant, focused attention. Sheep are incredibly valuable and worth every effort. Consider what the shepherd may have been thinking about when he wrote this Psalm. It is a prayer of thanksgiving. David was realizing how God, our shepherd, must feel about each one of us, his sheep.

 

This afternoon, from 3:30-8:30 p.m. you have an opportunity to spend some time in prayer and reflection using a labyrinth in the Great Hall. I would invite you to experience the labyrinth as a time of renewal, prayer, and a way to lift up the sheep we care for through our mission partners locally and internationally.

 

As you go through your day, consider how much God loves you and seeks to take care of you. In return, how can we care for others?

 

Prayer for Today

Caring and Loving God, You count each one of us and notice us as we wander through our days seeking attention, care, and protection. Thank you for these gifts and the way that you value us. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Posted by: AT 01:24 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, June 17 2019

I hope that you fathers out there had a memorable Father's Day! I saw the following phrases in a print ad that really caught my eye; "Don't just get Dad a Tie, Spend the Whole Day with him! He was your original ride-share. Now say thanks by planning a day with Dad."

 

This ad is so clever and I especially like that the word whole was used. The ad said "spend the whole day with him!" It could have said spend the entire day with him; but it didn't. Why use the word whole?

 

What does the word whole mean to you?

 

At our most recent caring team meeting we were discussing the upcoming worship services on Sunday, June 30. We are planning a different type of worship experience which is called a healing and wholeness service.

 

One of our members asked the question; "what does the word whole mean exactly?"

 

When I think of wholeness my mind goes to the Hebrew wordshalom. I was taught that meaning was peace, completion, harmony, and wholeness.

 

I think most of us desire shalom in our lives. The prophet Isaiah paints a beautiful image of the peace, harmony, wholeness, and completion of shalom this way:

 

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra's den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. -Isaiah 11:6-9

 

Hey I have an idea. Let's extend Father's Day to include worship on Sunday, June 30. Why not spend the whole day with God?!!!

 

 

Prayer for Today

Father, I thank You for the gift of Your Spirit and the privilege of prayer. Help me to lean on Your Spirit in moments when I don't know how to pray. Amen.

Posted by: AT 01:21 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, June 14 2019

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

-Romans 8:26

 

While traveling in Asia, my iPad (containing my reading material and many work documents) suddenly died, a condition described as "the black screen of death." Seeking help, I found a computer shop and encountered another problem-I don't speak Chinese and the shop's technician didn't speak English. The solution? He pulled up a software program in which he typed in Chinese, but I could read it in English. The process reversed as I responded in English and he read in Chinese. The software allowed us to communicate clearly, even in different languages.

 

At times, I feel like I'm unable to communicate and express my heart when I pray to my heavenly Father-and I'm not alone. Many of us struggle sometimes with prayer. But the apostle Paul wrote, The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God.  -Romans 8:26-27

 

How amazing is the gift of the Holy Spirit! Better than any computer program, He clearly communicates my thoughts and desires in harmony with the Father's purposes. The work of the Spirit makes prayer work!

 

Prayer for Today

Father, I thank You for the gift of Your Spirit and the privilege of prayer. Help me to lean on Your Spirit in moments when I don't know how to pray. Amen.

Posted by: AT 05:31 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, June 13 2019

Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself as an example of those who believe.

-1 Timothy 4:12

 

Where in the world is Pastor Brian this week?  It's week two of the summer and I'm with our middle school youth at the Great Escape.  It's been an incredible week to learn and grow and have way too much food and fun and silly games.  We have had a wonderful time in worship all week, and yesterday, the band leading worship joined us for a visit to the Aquarium.  Our kids got a backstage pass to getting to know young people who have committed their lives to serving others and spreading God's love.

 

 

Each week, the Great Escape hosts hundreds of kids, many of whom are friends of our church kids or new to church and faith in some way.  Mid-week, they're encouraged to make a commitment in their home church or group to deeper faith or a profession of faith.  As Presbyterians, our process for this step is confirmation.  So on that night, we go out after worship for tacos and talk about our process, our questions and curiosities, and how they'll be able to undergo that process soon.

 

I hope you'll be praying this week for our amazing kids and leaders.  This time is holy.  It's fun and gross and hard, but it's also holy.  It builds memories and community, but especially faith.  Ask our young people about the trip and encourage them to keep going.  You are their family of faith.

 

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me give challenge and support to our young people growing in faith and to say yes when and where I'm needed to support their ministry.

Posted by: AT 05:29 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, June 12 2019

Water is found in many places in scripture, including in tears. John 11:32-36 reminds us that Jesus experienced weeping, "When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"

 

When you hear difficult news of a tragedy or loss I am often overcome with emotion and questions. Are there places in your life of hurt or sadness? What are the tearful places? Change? Transition? Gratitude? Loss?

 

I would invite you to take a moment to identify some of the parts of your life where there are tears. Listen to them and then place them before God.

 

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." -Romans 8:26

 

Prayer for Today

Holy Spirit, thank you for praying for us when we can't. Thank you for praying for us deeply and meaningfully. Hear our prayer... In Jesus' name. Amen.

Posted by: AT 05:28 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, June 11 2019

Water is found in many places in scripture, including in tears. John 11:32-36 reminds us that Jesus experienced weeping, "When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"

 

When you hear difficult news of a tragedy or loss I am often overcome with emotion and questions. Are there places in your life of hurt or sadness? What are the tearful places? Change? Transition? Gratitude? Loss?

 

I would invite you to take a moment to identify some of the parts of your life where there are tears. Listen to them and then place them before God.

 

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." -Romans 8:26

 

Prayer for Today

Holy Spirit, thank you for praying for us when we can't. Thank you for praying for us deeply and meaningfully. Hear our prayer... In Jesus' name. Amen.

Posted by: AT 05:23 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, June 10 2019

"Don't ever miss the chance to show your babies the moon!" she said. Before our mid-week prayer service began, a group of us talked about the previous night's harvest moon. The full moon was striking, as it seemed to sit on the horizon. Mrs. Webb was the eldest voice in our conversation, a gray-haired lover of God's grand creation. She knew my wife and I had two children in our home at the time, and she wanted to help me train them in a way worth going. 

Don't ever miss the chance to show your babies the moon!

Mrs. Webb would've made a good psalmist. Her brand of attentiveness is reflected in David's description of the heavenly bodies that "have no speech . . . . Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world" (Psalm 19:3-4). Neither the psalmist nor Mrs. Webb had any intention of worshiping the moon or the stars, but rather the creative hands behind them. The heavens and skies reveal nothing less than the glory of God (v. 1).

 

We too can encourage those around us-from babies and teenagers to spouses and neighbors-to stop, look, and listen, for declarations and proclamations of God's glory are all around us. Drawing attention to the work of His hands in turn leads to worshiping the awesome God behind the whole show. Don't ever miss the chance.

 

Prayer for Today

Dear God, help us to slow down and notice the work of Your hands right now.  Help me to encourage others to do the same.  If we stop, look, and listen, we'll see creation declaring God's glory.  Amen.

Posted by: AT 05:22 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, June 07 2019

"Don't ever miss the chance to show your babies the moon!" she said. Before our mid-week prayer service began, a group of us talked about the previous night's harvest moon. The full moon was striking, as it seemed to sit on the horizon. Mrs. Webb was the eldest voice in our conversation, a gray-haired lover of God's grand creation. She knew my wife and I had two children in our home at the time, and she wanted to help me train them in a way worth going. 

Don't ever miss the chance to show your babies the moon!

Mrs. Webb would've made a good psalmist. Her brand of attentiveness is reflected in David's description of the heavenly bodies that "have no speech . . . . Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world" (Psalm 19:3-4). Neither the psalmist nor Mrs. Webb had any intention of worshiping the moon or the stars, but rather the creative hands behind them. The heavens and skies reveal nothing less than the glory of God (v. 1).

 

We too can encourage those around us-from babies and teenagers to spouses and neighbors-to stop, look, and listen, for declarations and proclamations of God's glory are all around us. Drawing attention to the work of His hands in turn leads to worshiping the awesome God behind the whole show. Don't ever miss the chance.

 

Prayer for Today

Dear God, help us to slow down and notice the work of Your hands right now.  Help me to encourage others to do the same.  If we stop, look, and listen, we'll see creation declaring God's glory.  Amen.

Posted by: AT 05:11 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, June 06 2019

Most of all, let love guide your life, for then the whole church will stay together in perfect harmony. Let the peace of heart that comes from Christ be always present in your hearts and lives, for this is your responsibility and privilege as members of his body. And always be thankful.

-Colossians 3:14-15

 

 

This week, I'm in Montreat, NC with our high school youth. We are in small groups, worship, recreation, and reflection times on this beautiful mountain campus, nestled in what we call a thin place, a place where we seem to experience God in very close and personal ways all week. Some groups are as large as 60 and some as small as 3, so ours of about 20 is medium, and yet mighty. 

 

The theme for the week is "Let Love Lead." Not only are we resoundingly enthusiastic, but we are leading. The youth who lead worship are a small group of 8-10 youth and 2 of them are ours. And last night, communion was served almost entirely by ordained youth who are elders and deacons at their home churches. And of those dozen youth, 2 were our girls, our first and now second ordained youth. And our group all went forward to be served by them. It was a first for me to be led in worship and served sacrament entirely by my youth and to participate only as a worshiper and not a pastor. 

 

I think that for many of us, we mark the transition from our children's childhood to adulthood (or try to ignore it) in various ways. Sometimes it's varying degrees of financial independence, perhaps when they cook the dinner for the family, or when they host us in their first home. But I think it's when we let love lead. When they take on the most important roles in our lives, leading and serving us in worship. These youth have much more to learn, but they are our love embodied, our love living and serving and leading. And when they come home to JCPC and go to our world in need, we are called to let that love lead.

 

Prayer for Today

Lord, give me your love and wisdom to nurture and tend to young people that they may grow in spirit and truth and then lead in love. Amen.

Posted by: AT 05:09 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, June 05 2019

When he [Jesus] had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

- Luke 24:50-53, NIV

 

On my Presbyterian planning calendar, it noted that last Thursday (May 30) was the day to remember the "Ascension of the Lord." The Bible story above tells about that event. When we read this passage and think of Jesus going "up" as he ascended, this has caused problems for those who take it as a very literal direction or place Jesus went to. In April of 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the earth a few times. After he landed, he declared that he had disproved the existence of God. He said he had been up there and had seen no sign of God. According to one source, his actual words were, "I looked and I looked but I didn't see God."

 

Of course, when the world is round, where "up" is can be problematic - depending on your place on the globe. I think this is where language is inadequate to fully explain where Jesus "went." I believe Jesus went to be in the presence of God, which is "heaven" - where God's will is always being done. And as our Lord's Prayer reminds us -- God's will occurs when things are done "on earth as in heaven." The ascension was the end of the earthly, post-resurrection encounters with the risen Jesus. Jesus returns back to heaven - at least until his return at the Second Coming. The Holy Spirit, which is the spirit of the Risen Christ - was sent to fill us and empower us to do our part in God's mission here and now.

 

What I found most intriguing in the story from Luke's gospel is what the disciples did in response to this ascension -- they worshiped Jesus with great joy and continued that in the Temple in Jerusalem. Worship is the core of what we do. It also sustains us and propels us out into the world to do God's work - our mission! So, may God's Spirit fill you as you do your part of God's mission today!

 

Prayer for Today

Fill us today, Lord, with the power of your Holy Spirit - the spirit of the Risen Christ - so we might joyfully complete our mission in the world. We pray this in the strong name of the Risen Christ. Amen.

Posted by: AT 05:07 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, June 04 2019

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

-John 14:27
 

Darnell entered the physical therapist's office knowing he would experience a lot of pain. The therapist stretched and bent his arm and held it in positions it hadn't been in for months since his injury. After holding each uncomfortable position for a few seconds, she gently told him: "Okay, you can relax." He said later, "I think I heard that at least fifty times in each therapy session: 'Okay, you can relax.' "

 

Thinking of those words, Darnell realized they could apply to the rest of his life as well. He could relax in God's goodness and faithfulness instead of worrying.

 

As Jesus neared His death, He knew His disciples would need to learn this. They'd soon face a time of upheaval and persecution. To encourage them, Jesus said He would send the Holy Spirit to live with them and remind them of what He had taught (John 14:26). And so He could say, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (v. 27).

 

There's plenty we could be uptight about in our everyday lives. But we can grow in our trust in God by reminding ourselves that His Spirit lives in us-and He offers us His peace. As we draw on His strength, we can hear Him in the therapist's words: "Okay, you can relax."

 

Prayer for Today

Teach me, Jesus, to trust Your faithfulness, to know Your presence, to experience Your peace-to relax. Amen.

Posted by: AT 05:06 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, June 03 2019

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown."  When he said this, he called out, "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear." 

-Luke 8: 4-8  

 

I must confess that I love this parable of a farmer using out of the ordinary planting methods. After all, the Kingdom of God shows up in our midst in some ordinary ways. An element of growing seeds that doesn't get mentioned in the parable yet is essential to growth is the watering of the seeds. 

 

I was reminded of this when I caught Lisa Lucas in the act of watering young plants that will be grown in the new preschool garden.

 

The act of watering is what I call the wisdom of hope. It's one thing to fling seeds all around and hope that they will grow. I think that is more wishful thinking. The knowledge of growth; however says that it's wise to faithfully water the seeds and continue watering as they develop into mature plants.

 

As a gardener myself, I believe that it is wise to have a calendar of planned watering. Rain comes and it doesn't as we have all found out this spring. Hope has a consistent schedule for watering.

 

Speaking of schedule, I hope that you have a copy of our Quarterly Brochure which lists all the scheduled watering for the Kingdom of God. Here are a few: Soles for Souls Shoe Drive; Youth High School Trip to Montreat; Middle School Youth trip to the Great Escape and our Mission Week. To learn more read the Quarterly Brochure of Activities at JCPC and water your growing soul.  Click here for Quarterly Brochure.

 

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, you offer so many opportunities to grow in our faith. Move us to participate in the activities of your Kingdom offered through the programs of JCPC and by doing so may our faith increase to your glory. Amen.

Posted by: AT 05:03 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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