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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.

Wednesday, July 31 2019

A few years ago, I heard the late Steve Hayner, who was the president of Columbia Theological Seminary, share a prayer he repeated every day. I don't remember all of it, but it was both simple and profound. Over the years, I have tried to create things like that - prayers and personal affirmations of faith that I know by heart. I begin most days repeating them to myself or praying them to God. I find they ground me as I face daily challenges. One of the prayers I have used recently goes this way: "Lord, give me the insight to see what is really going on, the wisdom to know what I need to do, and the courage and perseverance to do it." Each part of that prayer speaks to something I believe is important.

 

 

I first ask God for insight to see what is really going on around me and in the world. So much appears to be taking place, but on closer inspection, we find that things are not the way they seem. Not only that, we each have our own biases and filters that affect how we perceive things. While I know we each distort what we see, I still believe that there is a sense in which things really are a certain way - at least to God. The closer we get to God, the better able we are to see things from God's perspective.

 

The second part of my prayer focuses on wisdom to know what I need to do in response to what is going on around me. Sometimes seeing what is going on is not as hard as knowing what I can do about it - if anything. There are often many ways I could respond - even if I am trying to do the right thing.

 

My final request is for courage and perseverance - to do the right thing and to keep on -- especially when it gets hard. Each part builds on the others. I will keep praying this until I get the hang of it - which may take a lifetime!

 

 

Prayer for Today

 

Lord, give us the insight to see what is really going on, the wisdom to know what we need to do, and the courage and perseverance to do it. Amen.

Posted by: AT 03:36 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, July 30 2019

How do you prepare for the day? When you wake up in the morning, what are some regular practices that are a part of your routine? Each day often brings its own set of blessings and challenges. Some mornings you may be filled with energy, in need of courage, wake up with anxiety, in need of self-control or in need of peace and calm.

 

We are embarking on the start of a new school year and that includes all of that the "First Day of School" brings to children, youth, teachers, administrators, school staff, parents and so many others.

 

I would invite you this week to take some time each morning to reflect and ask yourself: What significant things are happening in the day ahead? What do I need?

 

Take a moment to decide which one of these things might represent something that you need today from God and from others: Love, Grace, Peace, Joy, Kindness, Friendship, Patience, Mercy, Self-Control, Courage, Compassion, Honesty, Calmness, Energy.

 

Let this word sit with you for a moment, lift up your concerns to God in prayer and then take the word with you throughout the day. Then as you begin your day, consider these words from Lamentations:


"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23

 

This Sunday we will take some time as a congregation in both worship services to pray a blessing over all of those in our church family that are starting a new school year. I would invite all of our students (preschool through graduate school), teachers, administrators, and school staff to join us in worship with your backpacks, briefcases or tote bags. During the children's sermon, you will be invited to come forward and participate in a blessing.

 

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, Help us to remember that every day is a new day. Guide us as we seek to glorify you with our words and actions. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: AT 02:24 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, July 29 2019

I'm wondering how many of you have been as intrigued as I have been watching and reading accounts of the moon landing which took place 50 years ago. I imagine many of you can remember where you were when Neil Armstrong proclaimed,

"this is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind!"

 

Fifty years ago, the summer of 1969, was a tumultuous time, and a time that shaped my destiny. That summer was dubbed the Summer of Unrest as race riots continued to flare up. The hippies gathered at Woodstock, peacefully, and America was declared the winner of the space race with the Soviet Union.

 

Another seminal event that was personal to me was that I completed catechism class at the Auburn Presbyterian Church and I placed my hands on my own Bible for the first time. Rev. William Heimach inscribed these words to a very young me:

 

Dear Neal-I hope you will take some time each day from football, basketball, etc. to read a few verses in this Bible. It will prove to be an incomparable guide and influence. May God keep you well in body, mind and spirit. Your friend and minister, Rev. Heimach. 1 Corinthians 9:24

 

The Bible passage says this: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize."

 

In a most mysterious fashion, the blessing of Rev. Heimach and the blessing of Neil Armstrong fused in my soul. This striving to win the race, the running to get the prize always includes God. Faith and science don't have to be at odds. The Russian astronaut, Yuri Gargarin , mocked faith when he looked out his capsule window and stated, "I see no God up here!" in 1961.

Eight years later, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins provided a very different view. More on that next week.

In 1969, whether it was foot prints on the moon or my finger prints on my first Bible faith in God was both awesome and mysterious!

 
 
 

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, fill us with awe and wonder as we contemplate your ways. Help us to search for you in your Word and throughout the works of your creation. Amen.

Posted by: AT 02:21 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, July 26 2019

In the documentary Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry, author Berry spoke of how divorce describes the state of our world. We're divorced from one another, from our history, from the land. Things that should be whole are split apart. When asked what we should do about this sad fact, Berry said, "We can't put everything back together. We just take two things and put them together." We take two things broken apart and make them one again.

  

"Blessed are the peacemakers," Jesus tells us (Matthew 5:9). To make peace is to bring shalom. And shalom refers to the world being set right. One theologian describes shalom as "universal flourishing, wholeness and delight. . . . [It's] the way things ought to be." Shalom is taking what's broken and making it whole. As Jesus guides, may we strive to make things right. He calls us to be peacemakers, to be the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world" (vv. 13-14)

 

There are many ways to be peacemakers in the world, but with each may we engage brokenness rather than surrendering to it. In God's power, let's choose to not allow a friendship to die or let a struggling neighborhood languish or yield to apathy and isolation. Let's look for the broken places, trusting God to give us the wisdom and skill to participate in making them whole again.

 

Prayer for Today

There are many broken things around me, God. I don't know where to begin. Will You show me where to start?  Amen.

Posted by: AT 02:18 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, July 25 2019

Bobby's sudden death brought home to me the stark reality of death and the brevity of life. My childhood friend was only twenty-four when a tragic accident on an icy road claimed her life. Growing up in a dysfunctional family, she had recently seemed to be moving forward. Just a new believer in Jesus, how could her life end so soon?

 

Sometimes life seems far too short and full of sorrow. In Psalm 39 the psalmist David bemoans his own suffering and exclaims: "Show me, Lord, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere hand-breadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure" (vv. 4-5). Life is short. Even if we live to see a century, our earthly life is but a drop in all of time.

 

And yet, with David, we can say, "My hope is in [the Lord]" (v. 7). We can trust that our lives do have meaning. Though our bodies waste away, as believers we have confidence that "inwardly we are being renewed day by day"-and one day we'll enjoy eternal life with Him (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1). We know this because God "has given us the Spirit . . . guaranteeing what is to come"! (5:5).

 

Prayer for Today

Thank You, Lord, that this life is not all there is! You have eternity in store for all who believe in You. Help us to spend our numbered days here in service to You.  Amen.

Posted by: AT 02:16 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, July 24 2019

I am back in the office after two weeks of vacation. During part of that time, Pam and I were in Montana. I was there to perform the wedding for my first cousin who lives in Billings. We arrived a few days early and drove to see Mount Rushmore - the first time for both of us. (I discovered that the man who completed the carving of Mount Rushmore was actually the first carver of Stone Mountain, but he was fired before it was completed!)

  

It was very beautiful there in the park as we walked among the evergreens and saw different views of the carving. I was amazed to learn that no one was killed in the carving process - it looked like very dangerous work.

 

As much as I enjoyed and needed the time off, I was actually ready to come back to work on Monday - which I think is a good thing. Part of it may be the new sermon series I am working on to begin this Sunday. I am calling it "A Time for Everything." It is based on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 - which is probably the only passage most of us would recognize from Ecclesiastes. The words were made popular in a song written by Pete Seeger, but performed by The Byrds called, "Turn, Turn, Turn." Ecclesiastes 3:1 goes this way: "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:" (NIV)

 

The series will focus on finding balance in our lives today. Most of us probably need more balance. The words from someone who is called "The Teacher" paint a picture of what a balanced life can look like. Sunday we will also talk about the purpose of having a balanced life. So, plan to be here for this new series, and invite a friend to meet you here, too!

 

Prayer for Today

Eternal God, help us find the balance and time in life to do what you want us to do - knowing that is the way to serve you and to enjoy this life fully! We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: AT 02:14 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, July 23 2019

After a busy season in the year or following the completion of a big project, I feel excitement mixed with exhaustion. I often have lots of questions about what's next or what direction God is calling me into. As we concluded Vacation Bible School last week, I was feeling both of these emotions.

 

When I stop and reflect I realized that there is work that God needed to do in me before God could completely work through me. I experienced a fresh encounter with the Holy Spirit working in my life last week through the over 150 children, youth and adults that joined us last week.

 

When I find myself in need of renewal, I sometimes remember the story of Elijah running for his life from Jezebel in 1 Kings 19:3-21. Elijah was physically, emotionally, and spiritually spent. He was exhausted. God gave him specific instructions to recharge his spirit.

 

First, the Lord instructed Elijah to lie down and sleep, then to eat. When we face a crisis in our life, God gives us practical advice for getting the things our bodies need: rest and nourishment.

 

The second piece of advice that the Lord gave Elijah was to get someone to help. Take some time to look around you and realize that you are not in this alone and God has provided a community of faith to support you on your journey.

 

I would invite you today, to stop and take a few moments to ask yourself:

  • Do I need rest and nourishment?
  • Have I asked for help and support when I need it?
 

Prayer for Today

God of Creation and Giver of Life, Thank you for the gifts you provide for us in times of crisis and times of exhaustion. Help us to continue to be open to the ways you are taking care of us. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: AT 02:12 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, July 22 2019

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.  Know that the Lord is God.  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

-Psalm 100

 

Psalm 100 came alive last week during VBS. Pictured below is Karla Arnold, our in-house Psalmist.

 

 

 

Have you ever noticed how often children roar with shouts of joy?!! Their roaring is a playful reminder that joy is one way to approach a wild and dangerous world. I'm reminded of the classic children's book, Where the Wild Things Are written by Maurice Sendak. In the story, Max has thrown a tantrum. A child's tantrum (as well as our adult tantrums) accentuates that life is wild which most often is met with angry and aggressive impulses. Max traveled to the land where the Wild Things are and along with the Wild Things, he roared his terrible roar and gnashed his terrible teeth through play. In the book, you can see the joy he expressed and experienced and it was his joy that tamed his tantrum and his rage.

 

When we have our wild days it's important to remember Psalm 100. This reminder that God is good, at all times and in all things, especially in our troubles, can ground us in the knowledge that this too shall pass. Realizing this expression of faith often takes shouts of joy and here's a mind bender. Often, we have to roar our terrible roar and gnash our terrible teeth to tame our inner beast and when we do, we remember again that the Lord is good, and his love endures forever.

 

Prayer for Today

Keep us mindful of your love, Merciful God, because life is wild. Grant us the ability to shout for joy and open ourselves to your calming presence. Amen.

Posted by: AT 02:10 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, July 19 2019

On our way home from our honeymoon, my husband and I waited to check in our luggage at the airport. I nudged him and pointed to a man standing a few feet away.

My spouse squinted. "Who is he?"

I excitedly rattled off the actor's most notable roles, then walked up and asked him to take a photo with us. Twenty-four years later, I still enjoy sharing the story of the day I met a movie star.

 

Recognizing a famous actor is one thing, but there's Someone more important I'm thankful to know personally. "Who is this King of glory?" (Psalm 24:8). The psalmist David points to the Lord Almighty as Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of all. He sings, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters" (vv. 1-2). In awestruck wonder, David proclaims God is above all, yet intimately approachable (vv. 3-4). We can know Him, be empowered by Him, and trust Him to fight on our behalf, as we live for Him (v. 8).

God provides opportunities for us to declare Him as the only Famous One truly worth sharing with others. As we reflect His character, those who don't recognize Him can have more reasons to ask, "Who is He?" Like David, we can point to the Lord with awestruck wonder and tell His story!

 

Prayer for Today

Lord, thanks for blessing us with the pleasure and privilege of seeking You and giving us opportunities to share You with others every day.  Amen.

Posted by: AT 07:03 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, July 18 2019

For thus Amos has said,

"'Jeroboam shall die by the sword,

and Israel must go into exile away from his land.'" And Amaziah said to Amos, "O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom."

-Amos 7:11-13

 

 

For the first time in many years and only the second time ever, I spent Independence Day in another country this year. This meant I got to skip the uncomfortable (but important) tension of how much our national pride influences worship and how much our faith should inform and shape our personal patriotism. Scripture is full of reminders that our leaders should be guided by their morals and faith as they seek to serve as humble public servants. However, we sometimes forget that it contains warnings about the encroachment of our secular governments into our houses of faith. 

 

If Jesus Christ is Lord of all, he's lord of every part of our lives. This has been dangerous to princes and powers throughout history when our faith challenged the evils of slavery, genocide, racism and sexism, and more. However, if our rulers become rulers of everything, they can begin to set the rules and endanger our faith. It can challenge the articles of our faith like everyone being a beloved child of God or love for our neighbors, our enemies, for all. I was thinking about the Fourth of July when I chose to study Amos for our youth bible study this week. I wasn't prepared for how relevant its exact words would become by the time I taught the lesson yesterday.

 

Our youth immediately recognized the words from the corrupted priest Amaziah to the prophet Amos in the words we read. In their recall, "Go back where you came from back in Judah. You're not a real Israelite, if you challenge our behavior and our king. This is his temple." He says it's the royal temple, implying it is not God's. (Bethel, the place Jacob had seen angels ascending and descending from heaven literally means "House of God") When our houses of worship echo the words of our secular leaders over those of God's word, they become royal temples, government property. Not God's house. It is clear that this challenge is not new and that we are called like Amos to say what may be unpopular - a message of love for all - even our enemies.

 

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to see your image in all of your created and beloved children, to listen and engage, rather than to shun or expel. Amen.

Posted by: AT 07:02 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, July 17 2019

When Xavier McCoury put on the glasses Aunt Celena sent for his tenth birthday, he burst into tears. Born colorblind, Xavier had only ever seen the world in shades of gray, white, and black. With his new EnChroma glasses, however, Xavier saw color for the first time. His euphoria at witnessing the beauty around him made his family feel like they'd beheld a miracle.

 

Witnessing God's colorfully radiant brilliance also evoked a powerful reaction in the apostle John (Revelation 1:17). After encountering the full glory of the resurrected Christ, John glimpsed "a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. . . . From the throne came flashes of lightning" (Revelation 4:2-5).

 

In a different time, Ezekiel had a similar vision, seeing "what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli," with a figure above the throne who "looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire" (Ezekiel 1:26-27). This magnificent figure was surrounded with rainbow-like radiance (v. 28).

 

One day we will meet Christ face-to-face. These visions give us just a hint of the magnificence that awaits us. As we celebrate the beauty of God's creation here and now, may we live in anticipation of the glory yet to be revealed.

 

Prayer for Today

Father, words fail us when we try to imagine what we will experience when we meet You face-to-face. Thank You for the small hints of Your beauty You have placed in our world. Amen.

Posted by: AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, July 16 2019

It's that wonderful week of the year again, Vacation Bible School. As I look back over the past 6 years, the word that comes to mind is thanksgiving. I am grateful for the warm welcome that we received upon moving here. I am thankful for the constant support that this church family and extended family provides during this week each year. I am blessed to have the opportunity to grow in my faith with this community of believers.

 

I believe that thanksgiving is all about what God has done. Since faith is our response to God's presence in our lives, then expressions of thanks are at the heart of our spiritual lives.

This time of year I am so grateful for the team of adults and youth that made Vacation Bible School happen. There are many people who work diligently behind the scenes in the spring through this week to make this a life changing experience for so many children.

 

What would you write in your thank you note to God today? Over the past few hours, days, weeks or months, what are you thankful for?

 

Many of the Psalms provide prayers and songs of thanksgiving. I was reading Psalm 100 recently and found it to be meaningful prayer of praise and thanksgiving.

 

"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Amen."

 

Prayer for Today

Thanks be to you, Gracious God, for all the benefits which you have given me. O most merciful Redeemer, may I know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, July 15 2019

Have you heard of the 3 A's of human behavior?

 

The 3 A's are Approach, Attach, and Avoid. When we feel safe and engaged in collaborative activities we enter into Approach behaviors. The other two behaviors occur when we are in the fight/flight stress reaction; we either Attack or Avoid.

 

When I read the gospels, I see the 3 A's as people seek out Jesus. When people, who were aware that they needed healing Approached Jesus, he engaged them with interest and they experienced health and salvation in his presence. The key was that they were open and sought his help.

 

Other people, namely Pharisees and Sadducees sought out the Lord, their purpose was to make a point, their point, in order to win an argument. Matthew 16:1 states, "The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him..." This is Attack. Later, they would Avoid Jesus as Matthew 26:3 describes, "Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name is Caiaphas..."

 

In our own lives, we are no strangers to the 3 A's. Whenever we are out to make our point, we stray into Attack or Avoid and tend to miss each other. But when we are open and want to ask for help or offer help, we practice Approach.

 

Jesus shows us the better way to relate to each other through Approach behaviors. Be open, curious, engaged, and interested when others approach. They just might see Jesus through your behavior toward them!

 

Prayer for Today

Loving God, help us to be imitators of Christ; loving our neighbor, being gracious to our enemies, and asking for help rather than thinking we need to be right. Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:58 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, July 12 2019

When Xavier McCoury put on the glasses Aunt Celena sent for his tenth birthday, he burst into tears. Born colorblind, Xavier had only ever seen the world in shades of gray, white, and black. With his new EnChroma glasses, however, Xavier saw color for the first time. His euphoria at witnessing the beauty around him made his family feel like they'd beheld a miracle.

 

Witnessing God's colorfully radiant brilliance also evoked a powerful reaction in the apostle John (Revelation 1:17). After encountering the full glory of the resurrected Christ, John glimpsed "a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. . . From the throne came flashes of lightning" (Revelation 4:2-5).

 

In a different time, Ezekiel had a similar vision, seeing "what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli," with a figure above the throne who "looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire" (Ezekiel 1:26-27). This magnificent figure was surrounded with rainbow-like radiance (v. 28).

 

One day we will meet Christ face-to-face. These visions give us just a hint of the magnificence that awaits us. As we celebrate the beauty of God's creation here and now, may we live in anticipation of the glory yet to be revealed.

 

Prayer for Today

Father, words fail us when we try to imagine what we will experience when we meet You face-to-face. Thank You for the small hints of Your beauty You have placed in our world. Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:57 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, July 11 2019

For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.

-Hebrews 3:4

 

I've spent the week combing through picture and video footage of our youth and parents in Mexico last week. This year, we had the privilege of using a time lapse camera gifted to us by a generous JCPC member. It captured the building of the exterior of this small house over two days. And we used other cameras to capture the changes from the inside. It's incredible to see the transformation inside and out in just three days with the work of a dedicated community.

 

 

 

This is the second build in three years for our youth group and about half the group worked on the last house. We got to visit that house and that family, which was so inspiring. Their lives have stability and joy like never before. But it is just as incredible to me as their leader to see how much our youth have transformed in those intervening years. The youth who were just rising sophomores and juniors back then walked onto the foundation and the roof as seasoned rising seniors and college freshmen. They taught younger youth the skills they would need this week and did so with new maturity and wisdom. They worked harder and with greater purpose. Like the house, they've been transformed inside and out through time and people dedicated to making disciples of them.

 

This Sunday, our youth will tell you their story and share pictures and experiences of the week-long trio serving in Mexico at both 9 and 11. I hope you'll make time to be at one or both services and see and hear how they and the people we have served have been transformed. Maybe, one day you can join us in the mission field or at the shelter or for a Sunday evening. Help us build God's kingdom. 

 

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to be a builder for eternity by being your hands and feet, ready to serve. Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:55 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, July 10 2019

When Denise began dating her boyfriend, she attempted to maintain a slim figure and dress stylishly, believing she would be more attractive to him in that way. After all, it was what all the women's magazines advised. It was only much later that she discovered what he really thought: "I liked you just as much when you were heavier and didn't worry about what you wore."

 

Denise realized then how subjective "beauty" was. Our view of beauty is so easily influenced by others. It's often focused on the external, forgetting the value of inner beauty. But God sees us in only one way-as His beautiful, beloved children. I'd like to think that when God created the world, He left the best for last-us! Everything He created was good, but we're extra special because we're made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

 

God considers us beautiful! No wonder the psalmist was filled with awe as he compared the greatness of nature with humans. "What is mankind," he asked, "that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" (Psalm 8:4). Yet God chose to give mortals a glory and honor that nothing else had (v. 5).

 

This truth gives us an assurance and reason to praise Him (v. 9). No matter what others think of us-or what we think of ourselves-know this: We are beautiful to God. 

 

Prayer for Today

Father, You know how insecure we can feel about ourselves. Thank You for the assurance that You love us!  Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:54 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, July 09 2019

Have you ever been really thirsty? What is it like to take a cold drink of water when you are very thirsty? Think about that feeling for a moment.

 

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, "Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water." (John 7:37-38)

 

What are some of the dry or thirsty places in your life? Take a moment to identify them and place them before God.

 

Are you in need of a drink? Are you in need of living water? Are there people in your life who are in need of it as well? What would living water look like for them?

 

As you have read over the past couple of weeks, I spent some time in the desert. It was dry and water was important. I noticed my skin and body experienced something different from the humid and warm climate here. Each time I encountered a cup of ice-cold water on our adventure it was so welcome. I also encountered two rivers on our experiences during the week, the Chama and Rio Grande. We spent some time near the banks of the Chama river before we encountered a native pueblo community, Ohkay Owingeh, on their feast day. I can visualize these encounters with water and they remind me of the ways that God nourishes us and the creation around us with water.

 

Find a time and place this week when you can stop, take a drink of water and consider places in your life where you need God's living water to flow. I hope that you will be refreshed and renewed so that you can share this good news with those around you.

 

Prayer for Today

Creator God, 

Thank you for promising to satisfy our thirst, to fill our cup, and to cause it to run over. Thank you for giving us living water that comes from the well of Your Son, from the river of Your Spirit, and from the water of Your Word. 

In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: AT 05:45 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, July 08 2019

Barbara grew up under the care of the British government in the 1960s, but when she turned sixteen, she and her newborn son, Simon, became homeless. The state was no longer obligated to provide for her at that age. Barbara wrote to the Queen of England for help and received a response! The Queen compassionately arranged for Barbara to be given a house of her own.

 

The Queen of England had the right resources to help Barbara, and her compassionate assistance can be seen as a small picture of God's help. The King of heaven knows all of our needs and sovereignly works out His plans in our lives. As He does, however, He longs for us to come to Him-sharing our needs and other concerns-as part of our loving relationship with Him.

 

The Israelites brought their need for deliverance to God. They were suffering under the burden of Egyptian slavery and cried out for help. He heard them and remembered His promise: "God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them" (Exodus 2:25). He instructed Moses to bring liberty to His people and declared that He would once again release them "into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey" (3:8).

 

Our King loves it when we come to Him! He wisely provides what we need, not necessarily what we want. Let's rest in His sovereign, loving provision.

 

Prayer for Today

Loving God, thank You that I can bring my needs to You. Help me to be content in whatever paths and provisions You choose.  Amen.

Posted by: AT 05:43 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, July 05 2019

Pastor and writer Eugene Peterson had the opportunity to hear a lecture by Swiss physician and highly respected pastoral counselor Paul Tournier. Peterson had read the doctor's works, and admired his approach to healing. The lecture left a deep impression on Peterson. As he listened, he had the feeling that Tournier lived what he spoke and spoke what he lived. Peterson chose this word to describe his experience: "

 

Congruence. It is the best word I can come up with."

Congruence-it's what some refer to as "practicing what you preach" or "walking your talk." The apostle John stresses that if any of us "claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister," then we're "still in the darkness" (1 John 2:9). In essence, our lives and our words simply don't match up. John goes further to say such people "do not know where they are going" (v. 11). The word he chose to describe how incongruence leaves us? Blind.

 

Living closely aligned to God by allowing the light of His Word to illuminate our paths keeps us from living blind. The result is a godly vision that gives clarity and focus to our days-our words and actions match up. When others observe this, the impression is not necessarily that of someone who knows everywhere they're going, but of someone who clearly knows who they're following.

 

Prayer for Today

Jesus, I want my words and actions to match up. There are times I fall short, but my desire is to grow more consistent each day. Help me, please, so that everyone listening and watching my life will be drawn to You. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:48 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, July 04 2019

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

-Jeremiah 29:11 

 

This week, 16 youth and 8 adults from JCPC have labored in Rasarito, Mexico to build a house for a single mom, Ita, and her three beautiful sons.

 

Today, while the family is out shopping for groceries, the team is assembling new furniture and setting the kitchen to make that house a home, ready for that family.  

 

The youth and adults have worked, talked, and laughed with the Apreza family for three days.  Today is the day we call, "the day we cry."  We will welcome the family back to the site, present them with gifts and the keys to the house, each of us taking a turn to share heartfelt words of gratitude, memories, and hopes.

 

There is a plan for the house and its construction, the needed materials, and all the workers necessary, as well as our master builders who lead us.  However, there is room for creativity and personalization.  The family chose where to place the windows and door, various personal details, and then...from us, a few surprises.  The builder helped us craft an overhang for the front door.  Several of our guys and girls constructed and decorated a flower box for the front window.

 

We have a few more days ahead of ministry work that includes a visit to the family whose house we built 2 years ago, an orphanage, a rehabilitation ranch, and service breakfast at the mission in Tijuana to the homeless population.

 

Pray for the people we serve, our team, and that God's love and hope will shine in the days ahead.  Thank you for your prayerful and financial support.  Thank you for helping us realize God's plans and our creative answer to God's call.

 

Prayer for Today

God, be with our team serving in Mexico.  Open my eyes and ears and heart to answer your call and live and serve into your plans for my life.  Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:46 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, July 03 2019

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come buy and eat!

-Isaiah 55:1, NIV

 

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July. We will see many symbols that remind us to give thanks for our nation and all that is good about it. One of the symbols we often see this time of year is the Statue of Liberty. It stands there in New York City and for years it has welcomed those seeking a new country. It has welcomed those who were looking for a new start, or for those who valued the principles on which this country was built.

 

 

In 1883 Emma Lazarus wrote a poem that was largely ignored for many years. It was a sonnet to the Statue of Liberty that was discovered after her death. A patron arranged to have the last five lines become a permanent part of the statue itself. By 1945, all fourteen lines of the poem were placed over the Statue of Liberty's main entrance. The last five lines go this way:

 

            Give me your tired, your poor,

            Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

            The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,

            Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

            I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

 

I think about how those words sound similar to the words of Isaiah: "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come buy and eat!" (Is. 55:1, NIV) What would it be like for us to become a nation that focused on what really mattered? What would it be like to open our arms to those in need, in the same way the words of that poem inspire us to think about? Maybe in response to God's amazing grace, we need to refocus our lives on those things that really matter - the things that show God's love and grace to all who thirst. Jesus said, "For 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." (Matthew 25:35, NIV)

 

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, we thank you for quenching our thirst for you. Use us to quench the thirst of others in your name. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:45 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, July 02 2019

All of the decisions and plans that happen during the busy seasons of the year can feel like a huge mountain to climb. In an effort to encounter these times with a different mindset, I began to ask myself these questions:

  • Do you feel that each day is overscheduled? 
  • Have you ever had to collect your scattered self so that you could make an important decision? 
  • Do you ever lay awake at night thinking about all you have to do? 
  • Do you ever ask why your life is so full?

Simplicity may sound like an oasis in the desert during this time of year. I spent last week in the high desert of New Mexico on a pilgrimage exploring the landscapes and religious communities near Abiqui, New Mexico and Ghost Ranch Presbyterian Retreat Center. On our last day there, we traveled to Plaza Blanca (The White Place), made famous for some by Georgia O'Keefe's art of this geologic landscape. It is a unique landscape of sculptures of volcanic ash that has been eroded by wind and water for a long time. Long before I arrived and long after I left. This was one place that was an oasis in the desert for me last week.

 

My time there reminded me that living simply is not about deciding to get your life under control but about giving control of your life to God.

 

I think that in times like these, God calls us to assess our situation and take some time to retreat for a few hours, a day, or a weekend to reflect and prepare for all that the busy seasons of the year require. I would invite you to reflect on when Jesus talks about wealth and worries in Matthew 6, his message is simple: seek God, trust God, and receive God.

 

How can we live simply in a consumer focused culture?

In the midst of all of the busyness, how can we focus our lives on seeking God, trusting God and receiving God?

How might these responses effect the way we enter into this day or then next busy season of our lives?

 

 

  

 

Prayer for Today

Direct my steps, O God, toward the actions You want me to take to help someone in need. Thank You for allowing me to be a part of Your work on earth. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:43 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, July 01 2019

Thomas knew what he needed to do. Having been born to a poor family in India and adopted by Americans, upon a return trip to India he witnessed the dire needs of the children in his hometown. So he knew he had to help. He began making plans to return to the US, finish his education, save a lot of money, and come back in the future.

 

Then, after reading James 2:14-18 in which James asks, "What good is it . . . if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?" Thomas heard a little girl in his native country cry out to her mother: "But Mommy, I'm hungry now!" He was reminded of the times he had been intensely hungry as a child-searching through trash cans for food. Thomas knew he couldn't wait years to help. He decided, "I'll start now!"

 

Today the orphanage he began houses fifty well-fed and cared-for children who are learning about Jesus and getting an education-all because one man didn't put off what he knew God was asking him to do.

 

James' message applies to us as well. Our faith in Jesus Christ provides us with great advantages-a relationship with Him, an abundant life, and a future hope. But what good is it doing anyone else if we don't reach out and help those in need? Can you hear the cry: "I'm hungry now"?

 

Prayer for Today

Direct my steps, O God, toward the actions You want me to take to help someone in need. Thank You for allowing me to be a part of Your work on earth. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:42 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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