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.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
-Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
-James 1:17 KJV
This Sunday, we will be singing a favorite hymn of many, Great is Thy Faithfulness. Two years ago, when we did a survey of our congregation's favorite hymns, Great is thy Faithfulness and Blessed Assurance were tied as the #5 most requested hymn at JCPC, unless you counted that one person listed Great is Thy Faithfulness three times on their survey!
The author of the text, Thomas Obadiah Chisholm, was born in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky. During his career, he was a schoolteacher, an associate newspaper editor, office editor and business manager, a Methodist minister, and finally a life insurance agent. He wrote more than 1200 poems, many of which became prominent hymn texts. In 1941, he wrote, "My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness."
And in 1923, Chisholm sent several poems to Rev. W. M. Runyan, and the rest is history: Runyan later wrote, "This particular poem [Great is Thy Faithfulness] held such an appeal that I prayed most earnestly that my tune might carry over its message in a worthy way, and the subsequent history of its use indicates that God answered prayer. It was written in Baldwin, Kansas, in 1923, and was first published in my private song pamphlets."
It became a favorite hymn of the Moody Bible Institute, and then became world-famous during the Billy Graham Crusades, often sung by George Beverly Shea. If you want to hear his version, click here.
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with thee.
Thou changest not; thy compassions they fail not.
As thou has been thou forever wilt be.
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning, new mercies I see.
All I have needed thy hand hath provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.
Throughout the Bible, we read account after account of God keeping his promises to his people. God's love, mercy, and compassion overflow from the pages of scripture. As you join us in singing these praises to God this Sunday, remember all that God has done for you, and in thanksgiving, seek ways to extend that kindness and mercy to others.
Prayer for Today
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God our Father. Open our eyes to your great faithfulness, mercy, and love. Bless us that we may be a blessing to others. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
A few weeks back, I was at a high school football game as a band parent volunteer. After half time, I went for some food at the concession stand. The lines had not abated. It was the opposing team’s homecoming. Many kids were beautifully dressed in gowns or the cadet uniforms of the young men who escorted the ladies of homecoming court. It was a bit of a happy mob at the concession counter, excited teenagers all a buzz over the night. A group of friends were in line behind me gossiping about who was asking who out and who liked someone else. The line was taking a very long time to move. Then one of the teens behind me noticed their other friends at the front of the line and made a suggestion.
“Why don’t we go up there with them and skip all these people.” And just as quickly as the bad idea was vocalized, and I braced to wait even longer, a voice of reason rang through. One young lady said, “I don’t think that’s how lines work.” I almost turned to high five her. The other kids giggled and agreed. And they remained where they were.
It’s just so easy in our world to justify small ways to break the rules. We can so easily not pick up trash we don’t get quite into the bin, not return a shopping cart, lie about not seeing a stop sign or turn signal or someone trying to merge. And our kids are constantly watching those choices and those of strangers. It’s so easy that we forget that those moments are also the easy ones to witness to a deeper truth, a way of life that puts others first over and over, a way that says we are loved first and choose to love others. Those are the countless opportunities we have to point to that way of life and draw others to that light, to inspire them and make them curious.
This week, keep your eyes open. You’ll encounter dozens of moments to let someone pass you in line, a break in traffic, a door held, a kindness shown, a comment or comeback you don’t say, or maybe speaking up when something wrong is suggested. We light up the darkness one spark at a time. Shine through this week every chance you get. Light up the darkness.
Prayer for Today
Lord, when little opportunities come my way, help me see them and lead with love, so I may be ready for the big ones too. Amen.
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”. . . “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” – John 6:5,9 NIV
These verses come from the story of the feeding of the five thousand. In John’s version of the story, when Jesus asks Phillip where they will get enough bread to feed the hungry people, John identifies who it is with the five loaves and two fish -- a boy right there in their midst. There was a need and God provided someone very unexpected to meet that need -- someone who was apparently there all along.
We have shared with you that we are in transition with our Christian Education staff. While our Personnel Committee is trying to discern our staffing needs, both now and in the future, it was clear that we needed someone to help us bridge the gap until we find the right person(s). Our Personnel Committee began looking at local seminaries to see if there might be someone who could step in on an interim basis. But right in our midst we realized we had someone with experience and training who could fill that role. One could say that's the definition of an interim -- someone who steps in as a bridge to fill the gap.
Colleen Moore, one of our church members, has the gifts and the willingness to serve as our Interim Christian Education Coordinator. She has already been involved in our education program helping lead Vacation Bible school (she is also a good guitarist!), teaching adult Sunday School classes, and serving on our Worship Ministry Team. She has taught sociology at the college level and is also a Commissioned Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church. That required two years of training which enables her, as a Presbyterian elder, to serve churches in a wide range of capacities. Colleen will be our interim until the Personnel Committee finds the right person(s) to lead us in the coming years. I'm grateful for God sending us someone in our midst to fill the gap!
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, you promised to provide all we need to do your work in our world. Thank you for providing Colleen and bless her time of interim ministry with us. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
The three-wheeled taxis of Sri Lanka, known as “tuk tuks,” are a convenient and delightful mode of transport for many. Lorraine, a resident of the capital of Colombo, also realized that they’re a mission field. Hopping onto a tuk tuk one day, she found the friendly driver more than happy to engage in conversation about religion. The next time, she told herself, she would talk to the driver about the good news.
The book of Romans starts with Paul declaring himself as “set apart for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1). The Greek word for “gospel” is evangelion, which means “good news.” Paul was essentially saying that his main purpose was to tell God’s good news.
What is this good news? Romans 1:3 says that the gospel of God is “regarding his Son.” The good news is Jesus! It’s God who wants to tell the world that Jesus came to save us from sin and death, and He’s chosen us to be His mode of communication. What a humbling fact!
Sharing the good news is a privilege all believers in Jesus have been given. We’ve “received grace” to call others to this faith (vv. 5–6). God has set us apart to carry the exciting news of the gospel to those around us, whether on tuk tuks or wherever we are. May we, like Lorraine, look for opportunities in our daily life to tell others the good news that is Jesus.
Prayer for Today
Jesus, thank You for making me Your mouthpiece for Your good news. May Your Spirit give me the courage and love to share about You today. Amen.
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
- 1 Peter 2:4-5, NIV
The Session unanimously passed a motion recommended by the Health Team that vaccinated small group members may meet in small rooms without masks and eat meals during meetings. Non-vaccinated small group member should continue to wear masks and not eat. This will apply to groups of ten or less meeting in the small rooms, and groups of up to twenty individuals meeting in the Small Dining room, Calvin room, or Youth Garage.
The Session unanimously passed a motion from the Mission Ministry Team to donate $31,250, which is one half of the $62,500 anonymous special gift, to support the Duluth Co-op Motel to Home proposal. This new program helps struggling families bridge the gap from residency in a hotel to an apartment.
The Mission Ministry Team continues to evaluate supporting the Memorial Drive mission work with refugees from Afghanistan.
The Session reviewed survey questions which will be sent to the congregation for input related to a new church directory.
Payment of mission support to JCPC mission partners Habitat for Humanity, the Dominican Republic Maranatha Church, and Youth with a Mission Mexico mission house -- were all approved for disbursement.
The Stewardship Ministry Team shared that cost estimates for the retaining wall may now be in excess of $100,000.
Christmas Eve schedule will be a Drive-in worship service at 5:00 PM and a traditional Candlelight Communion service in the Great Hall at 7:00 PM.
There will also be only the online service on Sunday, January 2, 2022.
Operating income for September totaled $89,763 with expenses of $80,728 resulting in a positive difference of $9,035. Year-to-date income totaled $746,045. The year-to-date expenses totaled $750,370. The year-to-date difference is a negative $4,325.
Stewardship Dedication Sunday is this coming Sunday, the 31st.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, we thank you that we can come together as the body of Christ in this place to do your work and to share the love of Christ in our world. Amen.
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
-1 Peter 2:1-3
The passage above opens with a fairly straightforward charge. Of course, we are to rid ourselves of this list of negative habits and behaviors, and I hope that most people would agree that these actions are not good for our society or for ourselves. Take a moment right now to think about the last time you acted in a way that was malicious, deceitful, hypocritical, envious, or slanderous. I can think of a few recent examples from my own life, almost too easily… In these trying times amidst an ongoing, everchanging pandemic, how can we work to keep ourselves from acting out in negative ways?
The next verse gives us a hint at how to work on this. But have you ever been on a diet where, after the initial cravings for donuts, cake, and cookies subsides, you actually lose your cravings for the “bad” foods? Have you ever felt a lack of craving for “pure spiritual milk”? If the desire for God is even remotely like our cravings for food, then there will always be times when the desire is lacking. But maybe it can be like a healthier food option sitting in the fridge beside the cake. Yes we may crave that cake, but knowing that a deeper relationship with God can give us even more meaning, peace, and joy than any dessert can give us the motivation to “reach” for a “slice” of God.
Which leads us to the next verse… have you ever “tasted that the Lord is good”? It may seem like a strange phrase to use, but we find it in Psalm 34 as well. One of many ways we can “taste” God is through active membership in church. While attending (in your car, online, or in person) worship is important, it is only the first step. I encourage you to try out some of the many small groups we have at JCPC – including the Handbell Choir and Chancel Choir! During this Stewardship Season, I hope you will consider all that God is calling you to do, both financially and time-wise. God calls each of us in different ways, but God never stops calling. Are you answering the call?
Prayer for Today
God of Mercy, as you call us over the crashing waves of our lives, help us to hear your gentle voice. Guide us down the paths you have set before us and open our hearts with abundance to share what you have graciously given to us. Inspire in us an ever-present desire for you, and let us take refuge in you, the unwavering foundation of life. Amen.
Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
-I Timothy 4:12
This past Sunday, I was invited back to the church I served last in North Carolina. They were celebrating their 200th anniversary and many of the former pastors, educators, and staff returned. One of the real treats for me was to see the youth and families with which I’d worked and hear what they do and who they’ve become. Some are in college, some in careers. One has become a Marine JAG lawyer, another has worked in the mission field. One is preparing to move to this area and seeking a church and I was excited he wanted to visit ours. One of them, who crossed paths with youth from JCPC in college is living outside DC and doing important consulting for the government. It’s a great fit for one of the most responsible kids I’ve ever had in youth.
I told the young lady I still tell stories about her and what a leader she was among her peers, one story in particular. I always collect contact info, shirt sizes, and grade levels from the youth before a big trip. I typically put an example at the top of the page so the youth and parents have an example to follow. I usually put “Jesus” and fill in his mom and dad’s name etc. A good example is easy to follow, right? Well, one summer, Anna, my responsible senior at the time, filled in her information. She followed Jesus’ example perfectly, including copying his answer for grade level... adult... instead of her own grade... 12. The kicker was that everyone else followed HER example because no one could imagine Anna doing anything wrong. I had to track down each youth for a grade level afterwards. We still laugh about it.
Anna taught me something in that moment. One lesson was that we can have a powerful influence on our peers when they know we try hard to follow Jesus. And the second is that following Jesus doesn’t always mean being identical. Most parents would hope we don’t sneak off alone by ourselves at age 12 on family vacation. Not all of us are called to be preachers or teachers. Simultaneously, the lessons are that being known as a Jesus follower can be highly influential, and we must take care that example is one of guidance and wisdom, rather than mimicking only. We can copy Jesus or quote Jesus perfectly, but that’s not what we are called to do. Jesus calls us to follow, to walk with him, not mirror or mimic. He calls us to show his love to those in our lives who need it. Whether we are teachers, missionaries, lawyers, or consultants, we are called to love people where we are and lead them to a deeper relationship with a God who loves us.
Prayer for Today
Lord, make me a doer of your word and follower of your way and not just a copier and a quoter only. Deepen my faith and make me a humble leader. Amen.
But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you —see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
– 2 Corinthians 8:7, NIV
One person tells the story of what happened at a concert in November 1995 -- when the violinist Itzhak Perlman performed at the Lincoln Center in New York City. Perlman had polio as a child and walks with crutches. The audience waited patiently as he made his way slowly across the stage to his chair, sat down, put his crutches on the floor, removed the braces from his legs, settled himself in his characteristic pose, one foot tucked back, the other pushed forwards, bent down to pick up his violin, gripped it with his chin, and nodded to the conductor to indicate he was ready. “‘Just as he finished the first few bars,’ the Houston Chronicle music critic recalls, ‘one of the strings on his violin broke. You could hear it snap – it went off like gunfire across the room. There was no mistaking what that sound meant. There was no mistaking what he had to do.’ It was obvious – he had to put down his violin, replace his braces, pick up the crutches, heave himself to his feet, make his laborious way offstage and either get another violin or restring his crippled instrument. “He didn’t. He closed his eyes for a moment, and then signaled the conductor to begin again.
Everyone knows it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings . . . . but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that. He played with such passion and such power and such purity…You could see him modulating, changing, and recomposing the piece in his head…At one point it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get…sounds from them they had never made before.
When he finished there was an awed silence, and then the audience rose, as one. We were all on our feet, screaming and cheering – doing everything that we could to show him how much we appreciated what he’d done. He smiled, wiped the sweat from his brow, raised his bow to quiet us, and then he said, not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone, “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music he can still make with what he has left.”
You don't have to be a genius in order to excel, you just have to keep at it. And excelling at the grace of giving is something each one of us can choose to do. Thank you to those who have already made pledges. If you have yet to make one, please make plans to do so as one way to excel in your generosity. You can make your pledge in worship, on our website, through the mail, or using our drop box outside the Welcome Center.
Prayer for Today
Generous God, help us excel at the grace of giving. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus, who gave it all. Amen.
In February 2020, as the COVID-19 crisis was just beginning, a newspaper columnist’s concerns struck me. Would we willingly self-isolate, she wondered, changing our work, travel, and shopping habits so others wouldn’t get sick? “This isn’t just a test of clinical resources,” she wrote, “but of our willingness to put ourselves out for others.” Suddenly, the need for virtue was front-page news.
It can be hard to consider others’ needs while we’re anxious about our own. Thankfully, we’re not left with willpower alone to meet the need. We can ask the Holy Spirit to give us love to replace our indifference, joy to counter sadness, peace to replace our anxiety, forbearance (patience) to push out our impulsiveness, kindness to care about others, goodness to see to their needs, faithfulness to keep our promises, gentleness instead of harshness, and self-control to lift us beyond self-centeredness (Galatians 5:22–23). While we won’t be perfect at all of this, we’re called to seek the Spirit’s gifts of virtue regularly (Ephesians 5:18).
Author Richard Foster once described holiness as the ability to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. And such holiness is needed every day, not just in a pandemic. Do we have the capacity to make sacrifices for the sake of others? Holy Spirit, fill us with the power to do what needs to be done.
Prayer for Today
Holy Spirit, fill me afresh today and make me a person of virtue. Amen.
I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. – 2 Corinthians 8:8, NIV
As a child growing up in the sixties, one of my vivid memories has to do with watching our black and white TV and seeing the TV program interrupted, followed by a strange symbol that looked like a squared-off bullseye. A voice would come over the TV that said these words: “This is a test. This is only a test." And then it would warn of the loud tone that would sound for the next sixty seconds. At the end was another message about what would have happened if this were not a test. But those words, “This is a test. . . .this is only a test,” still stick with me today.
On some level, I think that is what Paul is saying in the words above to those members of the church at Corinth. If you were here last Sunday, you know we began our “Give, Go, Live – Again!” Stewardship Season by talking about Paul’s letter. Paul is writing to the Corinthians, asking them to take up a special offering for the poorer Christians in the Jerusalem church. He has told them about the churches in Macedonia who have undergone their own tests or trials. Yet, in spite of their own poverty, they have “begged” Paul to be able to give to those in need.
Paul is continuing that thought as he invites the Christians in Corinth to do the same. And in looking at the opportunity, Paul says to them in essence, “This is a test.” But Paul does not add the phrase, “This is only a test.” For Paul, this test is not a “practice run” – it is the real thing! This test is actually a way to demonstrate the genuineness of the Corinthians’ love for God and their faith in Christ. If our financial giving to God’s work were a test indicating our love for God, what would it say? May God give us the grace to show the sincerity of our love through our giving!
Prayer for Today
Thank you, God, for loving us so much that you sent Jesus to save us and our world. Help us to demonstrate our love sincerely and earnestly through our giving of what you have entrusted to us. In the strong name of Christ we pray. Amen.
“I don’t get it!” My daughter slapped her pencil down on the desk. She was working on a math assignment, and I’d just begun my “job” as a homeschooling mom/teacher. We were in trouble. I couldn’t recall what I’d learned thirty-five years ago about changing decimals into fractions. I couldn’t teach her something I didn’t already know, so we watched an online teacher explain the skill.
As human beings, we’ll struggle at times with things we don’t know or understand. But not God; He’s the all-knowing One—the omniscient One. Isaiah wrote, “Who can . . . instruct the Lord as his counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13–14). The answer? No one!
Humans have intelligence because God created us in His own image. Still, our intelligence is just an inkling of His. Our knowledge is limited, but God knows everything from eternity past to eternity future (Psalm 147:5). Our knowledge is increasing today with the aid of technology, but we still get things wrong. Jesus, however, knows all things “immediately, simultaneously, exhaustively and truly,” as one theologian put it.
No matter how much humans advance in knowledge, we’ll never surpass Christ’s all-knowing status. We’ll always need Him to bless our understanding and to teach us what’s good and true.
Prayer for Today
Jesus, I praise You as the One who knows everything. Teach me what You want me to learn, and help me to love You with all my mind. Amen.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
-Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 (NIV)
Week before last, Rev. Brian Daoust preached and talked about the Jewish tradition of the Mezuzah (Muh zoo zah). For those of you who might have missed it, the Mezuzah is a parchment called a klaf a specially tanned skin of a kosher animal contained in a decorative case and is inscribed with specific verses in Hebrew from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21. It is affixed to the door post according to the Jewish Law. Whenever passing through the doorway, people may touch a finger to the mezuzah as a way of showing respect to God. Many people also kiss their finger after touching it. Brian shared that he had a Mezuzah as a reminder to listen to others upon entry, the Message Bible translation reads “attention”.
Brian’s sermon really peaked my interest as recently in our Monday Men’s group, while listening to a lecture by Rev. N.T. Wright on the New Testament theology of Paul, Rev. Wright made a particular reference to this passage. The verses 4-5 are part of a prayer called Shema Israel or simply known as the Shema. Observant Jews consider the Shema to be the most important part of their daily prayers and teach their children to say it before they go to sleep. Shema is recited aloud beginning with "Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is One” and continues with the above referenced passages from Deuteronomy as well as with Numbers 15: 37-41.
Rev. Wright as one of the foremost Biblical scholars reasons that Paul’s theology is not an elite activity it is an every-member occupation. He testifies that in his experience of teaching scripture “that once you get into this stuff you will never be bored again”. Rev Wright urges that Paul’s theology has to be reworked for each generation to apply our 21st century circumstances to 1st century Christianity and not the 15th century. In this process, at its center is prayer, as prayer and theology are not two separate things. They have got to flow in and out of everything.
Rev. Wright believes that Paul has taken the Shema prayer and in writing in First Corinthians he has discovered the crucified risen Jesus in the heart of it. In other words the heart of Christian prayer is rooted in the Jewish tradition and is reworked as the heart of Christian theology.
Prayer for Today
Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
When Anita passed away in her sleep on her ninetieth birthday, the quietness of her departure reflected the quietness of her life. A widow, she had been devoted to her children and grandchildren and to being a friend to younger women in the church.
Anita wasn’t particularly remarkable in talent or achievement. But her deep faith in God inspired those who knew her. “When I don’t know what to do about a problem,” a friend of mine said, “I don’t think about the words of a famous preacher or author. I think about what Anita would say.”
Many of us are like Anita—ordinary people living ordinary lives. Our names will never be in the news, and we won’t have monuments built in our honor. But a life lived with faith in Jesus is never ordinary. Some of the people listed in Hebrews 11 were not named (vv. 35–38); they walked the path of obscurity and didn't receive the reward promised to them in this life (v. 39). Yet, because they obeyed God, their faith wasn’t in vain. God used their lives in ways that went beyond their lack of notoriety (v. 40).
If you feel discouraged about the seeming ordinary state of your life, remember that a life lived by faith in God has an impact throughout eternity. Even if we’re ordinary, we can have an extraordinary faith.
Prayer for Today
Faithful God, please help me to trust and obey You always. Amen.
But in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.
-I Peter 3:15
For most of my life, autumn kicked off with the sales of Scout popcorn. We still have that season with the boys. It’s not just a time for the boys to learn how to be entrepreneurial, to learn sales and goal setting, but also to learn how to approach and speak to adults, be respectful, keep commitments, and be trustworthy with the money and goods of others. But perhaps one of the most important skills they must hone is crafting a good sales pitch. Scouts have to learn to describe the products, and... the cause. They have to find a way to share their passion about Scouting. With so many alternative options for much better prices or less hassle, they have to convince folks of the worthiness of their organization and movement. And so do we.
Peter is telling us that we have to be prepared with our own sales pitch, in a way, a far more personal and profound one. He says we need to be ready, prepared like Scouts, to give a defense for the hope we have. Like a Scout explaining the value of Scouting for all the Scouts and the families and communities it serves, we must be prepared to explain how the Church, our faith, and our Lord and Savior give us hope, our families, and the people we serve. We learn skills and receive nurture. We receive love. And we learn how to share that love with all in need. But Scouting doesn’t provide a generic sales pitch. They encourage Scouts to personalize their ask. And here, Peter encourages us to do that too.
As believers, we are called to be a witness. A good lawyer helps a witness prepare, but ultimately, they must speak to what they’ve seen and heard and experienced. Each of us must reflect on our lives, the love and discipleship we’ve received, and the hope we have. It’s vital we be ready to share that with those who ask. It’s far more important than a sales pitch. We have the hope of eternal life to offer. Today, when you finish reading this, find a friend in the faith, text or call them. Tell them you want to share your hope, your faith story. Tell them you want to boil it down to a short story you can tell a stranger when asked or a fellow believer in times of struggle. Practice. Offer to be a listener for them to do the same. Perhaps they’ve practiced their own. And be prepared to share it.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help be prepared to share my story of hope. Amen.
I am reminded of the story of three military recruiters who showed up to address some high school seniors. Graduation was only a few months away, and the military men were there for the obvious – to articulate to these graduating young men and women some of the options and benefits that military service would provide them. The meeting was to last forty-five minutes. Each recruiter – representing Army, Navy, and Marine Corps – was to have fifteen minutes. Well, the Army and Navy recruiters got carried away. When it came time for the Marine to speak, he had two minutes. So, he walked up with two minutes to make his pitch. He stood utterly silent for a full sixty seconds – half of his time. Then he said this: “I doubt whether there are two or three of you in this room who could even cut it in the Marine Corps. I want to see those two or three immediately in the dining hall when we are dismissed.” He turned smartly and sat down. When he arrived in the dining hall, there was a mob of students interested in the Marines.
Last Sunday, we began receiving elder nominations. We will be accepting names for the next three weeks. There will be a bulletin insert you can use if you attend worship on campus. However, you can also go to our website (jcpcusa.org) and click the button that says “Elder Nominations” to do it all online. On both the nominating form and the website is a description of what an elder should be.
But I have a little secret to share with you -- in recent years it has become progressively harder to get individuals to serve as elders. When asked, many say “no.” In my experience, it used to be that most, if not all, of those asked to serve said “yes” -- but that has changed.
Friends, I believe we are in need of strong, wise, Christ-centered leaders who have demonstrated faithfulness to God's work through Johns Creek Presbyterian Church. I think the challenges for all churches are only going to increase in the near future, so we need our “best and brightest” to step up and serve at this time.
So, I'm asking two things: First, that you would take time in the near future to nominate women, men, and youth, who have demonstrated mature Christian faith in service to God's work through JCPC -- especially during this challenging time of the pandemic. Second, if you are asked to serve, that you would say “yes.” We need you now! I think many of us today are looking to make a difference with our lives.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, send us women, men, and youth to serve as elders and lead us to do your faithful and challenging work that will change lives and make a difference in our world. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ, who gave himself for us and for the whole world! Amen.
As Hannah Wilberforce (aunt of British abolitionist William Wilberforce) lay dying, she wrote a letter in which she mentioned hearing about the death of a fellow believer in Jesus: “Happy is the dear man who is gone to glory, now in the presence of Jesus, whom unseen he loved. My heart seemed to jump for joy.” Then she described her own situation: “Myself, better and worse; Jesus, as good as ever.”
Her words make me think of Psalm 23, where David writes, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley [the valley of the shadow of death], I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (v. 4). Those words leap from the page because it’s there, in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death, where David’s description of God turns deeply personal. He moves from talking about God in the beginning of the psalm—“the Lord is my shepherd” (v. 1)—to talking to Him: “for you are with me” (v. 4, italics added).
How reassuring it is to know that almighty God who “brought forth the whole world” (90:2) is so compassionate that He walks with us through even the most difficult places. Whether our situation turns better or worse, we can turn to our Shepherd, Savior, and Friend and find Him “as good as ever.” So good that death itself is vanquished, and we will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (23:6).
Prayer for Today
My Shepherd, thank You for Your perfect faithfulness and kindness to me. Help me to stay near You today. Amen.
Recently, I found an old photo of myself and my sister. As I looked at it, I did not see myself - I saw a little boy... a little boy that had not specific purpose, no responsibilities, nothing to worry about.
I had a home (shelter), plenty of food to eat, and loving parents - nothing to worry about. I look at that picture again and wonder what has changed. Why have I become so obsessed with looking at that picture? What is that little boy trying to tell me? Can it be that we often look to Bible verses about children for guidance and encouragement? Is this what my inner childlike self is telling me?
Paul reminds us that we are to continue in Christ exactly the same way we began in dependence, surrender, and the admission that we can't do it, but HE can.
The Lord God will lead the way. He will fight on our side, just as He did when we saw Him do all those things to the Egyptians. And you know that the Lord has taken care of us the whole time we've been in the desert, just as you might carry one of your children.
God, your love is so precious! You protect people as a bird protects her young under her wings. They eat the rich food in your house. You let them drink from your river of pleasure.
For You have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.
The kingdom of God belongs to the children. What is blocking you from finding your way into Jesus' arms today? Or not just you, a family member, friend, coworker, even a stranger looking for guidance.
When we sense anyone being hindered from coming nearer to Christ, we must intervene. We must place our trust in God and rely on God.
Prayer for Today
It has been so easy to get caught up in the "adult" life; with responsibilities and day to day functions. Sometimes we forget to let you guide our life and act as if we are in control. Please remind us, help us to be more "child-like" and remember You have us under your wing. You are in control and guiding us. Remind us constantly to look towards you when we need reassurance and protection. May we learn to take refuge in the shadow of your wings. We lovingly embrace that You are the one that does the heavy lifting in our lives. Amen.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen!" (Revelation 7:9-12 ESV)
I believe this passage from the book of Revelation describes the ultimate worship service. Right now, Christians gather weekly to worship all around the world, and we do our best to praise and glorify God with everything we have. We've all seen some pretty impressive worship services at some pretty impressive cathedrals or mega-churches or revivals.
But can you imagine this scene from Revelation that talks about worship at the actual throne of God? What will that be like??? According to this text, there will be worshipers including Israel (read earlier in the chapter), angels, elders, the four living creatures, and a great innumerable multitude from EVERY nation, ALL tribes, ALL peoples, and ALL languages, falling on their faces before the throne, and praising God with a loud voice!! What an amazing picture!!!
This Sunday, we are celebrating World Communion Sunday. Music will be sung in many languages at both services (come early to hear the extended prelude!). At the 11:00 a.m. livestream/in-person service, our friends from Casa Brasil and Crossings Community Church will be joining us and offering their musical gifts as we worship together. And of course, we will all celebrate communion together as we look forward to the great marriage feast of the Lamb!
So if you are coming to drive-in worship (9:00 a.m.) or in-person worship, come early! And if you are worshiping with us online, get your bread and juice (or wine) ready, and celebrate with us this Sunday!
Prayer for Today
Salvation indeed belongs to you, Lord, and to the Lamb! Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen!